COLUMNS

  • Hand in Glove

    LIKE WRITING, fisting is both a replicable skill and a rarefied art form. Performance improves with practice; preparation is necessary; and the deeper you go, the closer you get to the heart of the matter. “The movements of manipulating a pen were not so different from what I did to manipulate a man’s innards. One activity made the other possible,” says the nimble, perspicacious narrator of I’m Open to Anything, the first novel by the artist, filmmaker, and writer William E. Jones. The protagonist comes to this realization near the end of the book, finally learning something useful about himself

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  • After Life

    Rotimi Fani-Kayode, the protean “contemporary Yoruban artist,” is known for his photographs—approximately one hundred of them, taken over a mere six years—investigating queerness and the African diaspora. Born in Nigeria, he traveled to Washington, DC, New York, and London, where he participated in the sexual and punk subcultures of the 1980s before his death in 1989 at the age of thirty-four from AIDS-related complications. Here, Grant Johnson talks about the artist with Ian Bourland, whose Bloodflowers: Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Photography, and the 1980s is the first monograph dedicated to the

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  • STET! IN THE NAME OF LOVE

    Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, by Benjamin Dreyer. New York: Random House, 2019. 278 pages

    I DIDN’T TAKE ENGLISH IN COLLEGE. I tested out of it. And I was stoked. Filling out financial-aid forms, backing into a cop car, and getting ringworm all seemed infinitely preferable to reading about how to parse a sentence, and thus I did all of the former and none of the latter. Eventually I landed a series of jobs that required me to at least be able to explain what a dangling participle was; still, every time I look at a style book, I do so through wrath-narrowed eyes.

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  • GHOST IMAGE

    Nearly twenty years ago, artist Adam Putnam came across the photographs of Alfred Cook in the archives of the Frick Collection. Recently, he edited together a selection of Cook’s images for ASMR4, a publishing project Putnam launched in collaboration with fellow artists Dan Torop, Victoria Sambunaris, and Katie Murray. Here, Putnam and Jennifer Krasinski discuss the mysterious Cook, and why these photographs have haunted him for so long.  

    JK: What is known about Alfred Cook?

    AP: Almost nothing. Susan Chore, an archivist at the Frick Collection, sent me as much information as she could find, but

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  • CRITICAL MASS

    Vile Days: The Village Voice Art Columns 1985–1988, by Gary Indiana, edited by Bruce Hainley. New York: Semiotext(e). 600 pages.

    THE FIRST THING to say about Gary Indiana as an art critic is that he was humane. His harshest judgments were arrayed against various forms of cruelty, lifelessness, and greed. That cruelty might be found in the glib sadism of a work like Tom Otterness’s Shot Dog Film, 1977, in which the artist executed an animal he got from a shelter; lifelessness, in the practice of exhibiting art in bank lobbies in the manner of a Chanel display (even if no fault of the work itself),

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  • ALTERNATIVE MATH

    IN HER 1979 TREATISE on language’s limited capacity for communication, “An Inscription / / / A Work in Progress,” Swedish-American polymath Catherine Christer Hennix invokes Sylvia Plath’s radio play Three Women: “It is these men I mind. They are so flat that they want the whole earth flat.” Such resistance might well characterize Hennix herself, whose work, spanning mathematics, music, sculpture, and poetry, is anything but one-dimensional. Though she played a central role in the development of minimalist music in the late 1960s, Hennix has neither performed nor exhibited much since 1976, when

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  • Jeaneology of Morals

    THE JEAN FREEMAN GALLERY DOES NOT EXIST, BY CHRISTOPHER HOWARD. MIT Press, 2018. 416 pages.  

    FOR SEVEN MONTHS IN 1970–71, a young artist named Terry Fugate-Wilcox promulgated the existence of a fake art gallery at a nonexistent address on Fifty-Seventh Street, then the main drag of the New York art world. Fake artists, fake works, a fake director with a Pynchonesque name: You get the gist. He promoted this enterprise, the Jean Freeman Gallery, by purchasing space in a few art magazines for seven ads featuring images of Earthworks-y pastiche; sending out press releases to luminaries such as Lucy

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  • Ralph Lemon

    In early 2018, I read three books at the same time, all of them propositions for freedom, all contemplating its seeming impossibility and the inspired labor of working toward the impossible—of believing.

    From J. Krishnamurti’s On Freedom (1991): “Freedom is not from something. It is an ending [of knowledge]. Do you follow?” No, not quite. But since I was eighteen I’ve trusted, without submitting to, most of what Krishnamurti has written. (I fashion that I am an innocent.) Angela Y. Davis’s Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement (2016) is

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  • Heike Geißler

    Anne Boyer is an expert in fresh ruptures, new avant-gardes, manifestos, and life (or some such thing). Her book A Handbook of Disappointed Fate (Ugly Duckling Presse) helps me to regain focus when my sight is blurred. It helps me to believe again in tenderness when I shout for radicalization and acts of revenge. Anne Boyer writes: “Many lambs work for years to steal fire but do not know what use a lamb has for flames.” I am such a lamb. Forlorn. Misled. Raised on its predators’ rules. But it is never too late to learn when we have the right handbooks. The handbooks that perform their knowledge,

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  • Dodie Bellamy

    In The Assassination of Kathy Acker (Guillotine), artist and writer Matias Viegener chronicles and grapples with Kathy Acker’s death as well as with her legacy. Viegener, who was close to Acker but never lived in the same city as she did, attended to her on her deathbed and agreed to become her literary executor. Acker’s dying consumes Viegener. Of sitting beside her in the hospital he writes: “She is so absolute to me. Every pore of me reads every pore of her. I read her with a passion beyond sex. I see everything. We’re merged.” The two enter into a sort of spiritual marriage. Although he’s

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  • Sukhdev Sandhu

    The premise of Syeus Mottel’s delightful, disorienting CHARAS: The Improbable Dome Builders (Pioneer Works Press/The Song Cave) is the stuff of retro-futurist fantasy. First published in 1973 and brought back into circulation this year, the book is an account of how Chino Garcia and Angelo Gonzalez Jr., both New York gang leaders, decided to take on the system they believed was killing their communities in the mid-1960s. Ditching their initial plan to organize a mercenary army to invade Cuba, they formed the Real Great Society and, from their headquarters on East Sixth Street, set about supporting

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  • Momtaza Mehri

    Wendy Trevino’s Cruel Fiction (Commune Editions) tells the truth about life as we know and endure it, restlessly picking at the hangnails of both history and heartbreak. Trevino posits race as a “cruel fiction,” nationality as its attendant mythology. Trevino asks: How do we resist these fictions without reproducing their murderous, hierarchical logics? For Trevino, “poetry is not enough” as long as we are not enough. Trevino’s insurgent colloquialism is a sleight of hand. Cruel Fiction speaks plainly but never simply. Trevino reflects on the lies with which we arm ourselves to refute the lies

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