Despite publishing nearly forty books between 1963 and 2003, Jeff Nuttall remains
a minor figure in the history of the International Underground of the long
1960s. Drawing on his uncatalogued papers at the John Rylands Library, this
article seeks to recoup Nuttall as one of the key architects of the
International Underground. In so doing, my article argues that Nuttalls
contributions to global counterculture challenge the critical consensus that
British avant-garde writers were merely imitators of their US counterparts. By
exploring the impact of Nuttalls My Own Mag (1963–67) and Bomb Culture(1968), it
can be shown that Nuttall was a central catalyst of, and contributor to, the
International Underground. As a poet, novelist and artist, Nuttalls
multidisciplinary contributions to art were at the forefront of avant-garde
practices that sought to challenge the perceived limitations of the novel as a
social realist document and visual art as a medium confined to canvas.
The exhibition Off Beat: Jeff Nuttall and the International Underground (8
September 2016 to 5 March 2017) showcases the archive of Jeff Nuttall
(1933–2004), a painter, poet, editor, actor and novelist. As the exhibition
illustrates, Nuttall was a central figure in the International Underground
during the 1960s through to the early 1970s. During this time he collaborated
with a vast network of avant-garde writers from across the globe, as well as
editing the influential publication My Own Mag between 1963 and 1967.
‘conscious avant-garde’ exercises power on behalf of the passive multitude and leverages ‘the most severe compulsion’ to reeducate mankind from above in the paradoxical hope of thereby creating a ‘free stateless life.’ In contrast, the Left Socialist Revolutionaries believed in a ‘conscious majority ’ capable of acting as its own agent in the social revolution and considered this to be the only approach consistent with the revolutionary goal of freedom (Steinberg 1921 ).
Steinberg's solution consisted first in distinguishing between political and