Brecht’s influential essay considers the artistic use of methods of chance in a broader cultural context, framing examinations of Dadaism, Surrealism, Jackson Pollock, and John Cage, among others, in a discussion of parallel historical developments in the sciences and elsewhere. Speaking to the essay’s importance in the context of sixties avant-garde, a 1966 Something Else Press description of the essay calls it “a basic document in the technique of the new art and in the thinking behind it.”
Originally published by Something Else Press between 1965 and 1967, the Great Bear Pamphlet series was envisioned by founding editor Dick Higgins as a “poor man’s keys to the new art,” or a means of exposing the most vital work of the time to a mass-market audience, and vice versa. The series made uncompromisingly radical work maximally accessible, with slim, chapbook-like publications of a mostly uniform, pared down design. Taken together, the pamphlets constitute a firsthand survey of the sixties avant-garde (Higgins, Barbara Moore, and Emmett Williams all had a hand in the editorial process) that is both sweeping and utterly unique, transmitting a still-vibrant signal of expanded possibility in art, music, and poetry. Presented here in a facsimile edition, the Great Bears epitomize the utopian vision of Higgins and Something Else.