The Positions and Situations Project

The Positions and Situations Project: Back-to-the-Land Letters

The Positions and Situations Project was recently awarded a grant from the East Bay Fund for Artists at the East Bay Community Foundation! The EBFA grant is a match fund grant, which means I need to fund raise the $7500 award amount through my fiscal sponsor Pro Arts Gallery before I can receive the grant. Please consider donating to the project today to help reach my match by November 30th! All donations are tax deductible.

  • All donations will receive a limited edition Risograph print and a credit in Volume 3:1975-1976.
  • Donations of $100 or more will receive a copy of Volume 2: 1974-1975, released in October.
  • Donations of $200 or more will receive a copy of Volume 2: 1974-1975 and Volume 3: 1975-1976 (release early 2019).

As of September 7th, I’ve raised $1,900 and have $5,600 to go! Thank you to everyone who has donated so far!

Thank you for your support!


arzt studio.jpg

Full project site: www.backtothe.land
The Positions and Situations Project is a series of 100 letter correspondences between artist Alex Arzt and individuals who placed classified ads in 1970s magazines published as resources for back-to-the-landers such as The Mother Earth News, whose classifieds were called “Positions and Situations.”

The magazines are a product of what is known as the Back-to-the-Land Movement of the 1970s. After the tumult of the 1960s counterculture, many young people were disillusioned with the political system, the Vietnam War, consumerism, and pollution and were looking for both a way out and an alternative. Many were seeking land and a community to test out the ideals and experiments they cultivated during the counterculture and hippie years. From the late sixties through the mid seventies, one of the largest urban to rural migrations in American history occurred. Progressive minded twenty-somethings left the cities in droves for rural areas to start homesteads and join communes.

The ads were “designed to help would-be back-to-the-landers get in touch with folks already out there” and were required to have a “country slant.” The 100-word P&S ads are vignettes into the dreams, goals, and desires, both practical and impractical, of a cohort of people in their twenties seeking the lifestyle The Mother Earth News promised. Full names, addresses, and ages of the ad-placer are often listed, and Alex used that information to search for their current address on public records search sites. Her initial letter form to the ad-placers has evolved as her own situation has changed and as the project developed, but from the beginning, it has asked two questions: What came of the ad? Did you find what you were looking for the year the ad was placed? The letters encompass the failures and accomplishments of the back-to-the-landers in imagining and creating alternatives to a society they understood as fundamentally broken.


Book: Volume 1: 1968-1973

Printed on a Riso RZ390UI
9 colors
142 pages
9.5 x 11.75 in
Perfect bound
Cougar Natural Smooth paper
Edition of 60 + 2 artist proofs

22 ads
20 letters
2 interviews

This volume was printed on a Risograph, whose lineage comes from the Mimeograph and Gestetner, two processes once used to print underground and alternative newsletters, magazines, and posters. Looking a lot like a copy machine, the Riso offers a do-it-yourself, economical process that prints one color of ink at a time using a thermal cut screen from a digital image. 

Volume 1 was recently reprinted in a black & white open edition and is available for purchase here.

Given the size and scope of The Positions and Situations Project, it will be printed in three separate volumes. Volume 2 will cover years 1974 to 1975, and Volume 3 will pick up the rest of 1975 and finish up in 1976, the final year of the Positions and Situations section and the beginning of the end of the Back-to-the-Land Movement. 

Follow along on Instagram: @positionsandsituations:

Subscribe to the P&S Project mailing list

* indicates required