COLUMNS

  • Socialist Media

    AGENTS OF ABSTRACTION, BY ANA OFAK. MIT Press, 2019. 389 pages.

    BLAME IT ON THE SPOMENIKS. All asymmetrical concrete stems, rippling aluminium wings, and bold swooping bodies, these massive monuments read more like Starfleet spaceships, crash-landed amid the forests of former Yugoslavia. Often sited in remote rural areas, these abstract memorials were commissioned primarily in the 1960s and ’70s as part of a nationwide push—yes, one fronted by charismatic president Josip Broz Tito (who tends to get the sole credit for “Tito’s monuments”), but, in keeping with Yugoslavia’s signature emphasis on

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  • Notes on Cant

    Composed over the past decade, Masha Tupitsyn’s Picture Cycle (2019) is a book of essays that considers the shift from analog to digital as an analogy for the psychic turn to binary, reactive, accelerated, and impatient spectatorship. Expanding the style of her 2007 book, Beauty Talk & Monsters, Tupitsyn combines criticism, philosophy, and autobiography to create pathways out of our current melancholic replay and media narcissism. Deftly recording the cultural loss of the cinematic sensibility in culture, she simultaneously confronts lost time, lost desire, and lost love. Tupitsyn’s singular

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  • GHOSTS IN THE MACHINE

    Haunted Bauhaus: Occult Spirituality, Gender Fluidity, Queer Identities, and Radical Politics, by Elizabeth Otto. MIT Press, 2019. 296 pages.

    THE TANTALIZING TITLE of Elizabeth Otto’s new book brings to mind the maverick scholar Mel Gordon’s Voluptuous Panic (2000) and Horizontal Collaboration (2015), pictorial studies of the sexual countercultures of Weimar Germany and occupied Paris, respectively. Published on the one hundredth anniversary of the school’s founding, Otto’s book isn’t as wiggy as those precursors, but it does humanize what she calls the “paradigmatic movement of rational modernism”

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  • FAST COMPANY

    Robert Williams: The Father of Exponential Imagination, by Robert Williams. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2019. 484 pages.

    THERE’S NO SUCH THING as a “popular imagination,” but some artists do access and describe localized dreamworlds comprising popular icons, histories, and lore shared if not by an entire populace then by sizable groups. Robert Williams is one such mythologist, his devotion to the arcana of twentieth-century culture suffusing narrative paintings indebted as much to 1950s Benzedrine-powered cartooning as to classicism. Like other practitioners of a hyperbolic figuration whose perversions

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  • TALES FROM THE CRYPT

    The Glen Park Library: A Fairy Tale of Disruption, by Pamela M. Lee. New York and San Francisco: No Place Press, 2019. 112 pages.

    IN OUR NEOLIBERAL GILDED AGE, it has become commonplace, even banal, for tech barons and venture capitalists to style themselves “disruptors” and “revolutionaries.” Both designations trade on heroic machismo to repackage corporate greed as the glorious stuff of myth. Flash points and pivots are sexy, after all, and even better when inflated with historic consequence. But culture, too, succumbs to the seductive cast of epoch-making violence; “disruption” is also the

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  • ODE INFINITUM

    Frame by Frame: A Materialist Aesthetics of Animated Cartoons, by Hannah Frank. Oakland: University of California Press, 2019. 256 pages.

    IT’S NOT EVERY DAY that a posthumously published Ph.D. thesis nudges the world of cinema studies off its axis. All hail Frame by Frame: A Materialist Aesthetics of Animated Cartoons (2019), by Hannah Frank, who completed the book shortly before her tragic death in 2017, at age thirty-two, from an illness believed to have been pneumococcal meningitis.

    Frank is not the first theory-minded cine-historian to suggest that with the advent of CGI the history of motion

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  • Strange States

    AMERICA: FILMS FROM ELSEWHERE, EDITED BY SHANAY JHAVERI. The Shoestring Publisher, 2019. 616 pages.

    THE IMAGES DRIFT BY: water coursing under ice, steam rising from rapids, a herd of antelope running in the cold, rivers so blue they seem electric, an “orange splash on the sagebrush.” In voice-over, Babette Mangolte—the French-born filmmaker responsible for this radiant footage of the American Southwest—takes turns reading a dense, digressive text with her collaborators Bruce Boston and Honora Ferguson. With some interruptions, she had spent the better part of a decade in the United States by the

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  • Speak, Vivian

    VIVIAN, BY CHRISTINA HESSELHOLDT, translated by Paul Russell Garrett. Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2019. 186 pages.

    SHE SHOT FROM THE HIP—or the heart, or the gut. From a child’s vantage, most often: the better to go unspotted. For Vivian Maier, whose status as one of the twentieth century’s foremost photographers was only recognized a decade ago, the desire for privacy was bound up with the yearning for information: visual, journalistic, human. Or was it? Our knowledge of Maier is patchy. We know that she split her adolescence between France and her native Manhattan, then spent most of her life working

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  • Ask Me, Ask Me, Ask Me

    The vibrant Toronto-based magazine Impulse ran from 1971 to 1990 and focused on primary texts from cultural creators, such as Kathy Acker, Patti Smith, Joyce Wieland, and Dennis Oppenheim. In the case of nonvisual artists, these appeared in the form of interviews. Impulse[b]—a publishing house that serves as a conceptual continuation of Impulse—recently published a facsimile anthology of Impulse interviews, including discussions with Sylvère Lotringer, Blondie, Paul Virilio, Michel Foucault, and Wim Wenders. Below, Tatum Dooley speaks with Eldon Garnet—the former editor of Impulse—about the art

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  • URBAN LEGENDS

    Tales of the Floating Class: Writings, 1982–2017, by Norman M. Klein. Valencia, CA: Golden Spike Press, 2019. 303 pages.

    IS IT POSSIBLE for critical theory to be anachronistic and prophetic at the same time? Norman M. Klein’s Tales of the Floating Class: Writings, 1982–2017, a compendium recently rereleased by tiny Los Angeles–based publisher Golden Spike Press, compels an affirmative answer, with the ongoing duel—the small initial 2018 printing quickly sold out—between cultural memory and its constant erasure acting as a perpetual catalyst. In other words, the future would be clear enough if we

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  • 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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