Encyclopaedia Da Costa
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The publication was meant to coincide with the Le surréalisme en 1947 in Paris, but due to printing delays, the Encyclopedia was not distributed until months after the exhibition ended. Ironically modeled after the format of a conventional encyclopedia, it lambasted social and individual conventions with an unprecedented fervor, as well as putting forth more obscure ideas.
Perhaps its most insolent entry was the "License to Live", a faux governmental form requesting vital statistics from the bearer in order to enforce its legal fiat; the penalty for failing to keep the document "in order" was death. The license was likely an invention of Marcel Duchamp, typographer for the Encyclopaedia Da Costa, and was a gesture that, in keeping with the best of Surrealism, had no obvious relationship to the art object as it is commonly known. A precursor to "License to Live" appears in an earlier note in Duchamp's Green Box, published in 1934 but written 20 years earlier, where he imagines a society in which people must pay for the air they breathe.
By the end of the century the encyclopedia fell into obscurity, partly because those who created it actively discouraged interested parties from procuring copies.