Books

  • Stan Brakhage’s Metaphors on Vision

    Stan Brakhage, Metaphors on Vision, edited by P. Adams Sitney. New York: Anthology Film Archives and Light Industry, 2017. 212 pages.

    IN THE INTERVIEW with P. Adams Sitney that opens Metaphors on Vision, a collection of essays first published as the Fall 1963 issue of Film Culture, Stan Brakhage rejects the suicide that ends his 1958 film Anticipation of the Night, seeing it as too bound up in the dramatic conventions he would subsequently seek to excise from his practice. Leaving behind such psychodrama, he set out on a quest to find filmic realization for the adventure of vision itself.

    There

    Read more
  • Thomas Crow’s No Idols

    No Idols: The Missing Theology of Art, by Thomas Crow. Sydney: Power Publications, 2017. 144 pages.

    ALTHOUGH THIS BOOK—accurately described as a “polemic”—is written with a sense of the shortcomings of contemporary art discourse, the starting point of its questioning is a blind spot at the advent of art history: We have too easily taken for granted the “secularization of all the Crucifixions, Madonnas, miracle-workings and Bible stories that make up such an enormous proportion of Western art before the modern era.” In the comparatively recent shift to looking at “religious behaviour

    Read more
  • ON DEMAND

    Reclaiming Art/Reshaping Democracy: The New Patrons & Participatory Art, edited by Estelle Zhong Mengual and Xavier Douroux. Paris: Les Presses du Réel, 2017. 432 pages.

    UPON ITS PUBLICATION in 2012, Nato Thompson’s exhibition catalogue Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991–2011 was duly recognized as a landmark roundup of the participatory, dialogic, and relational experiments of the preceding twenty years. Reclaiming Art/Reshaping Democracy: The New Patrons & Participatory Art—a productively expanded English edition of an anthology that appeared in French in 2013—stands as

    Read more
  • FREE ENTERPRISE

    Cultural Revolution: Aesthetic Practice After Autonomy, by Sven Lütticken. Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2017. 184 pages.

    ONE OF THE DRIVING FORCES of the historical avant-gardes—Futurism, Dada, Surrealism, Constructivism—was the determination to fuse art with life. Embracing the new technologies of media and mobility, artists from Marinetti to Hans Richter, André Breton to Vladimir Mayakovsky, famously wanted to abolish the distance between “art” and “life” by a variety of means: a form of direct activism that involved group movements and manifestos; happenings; the invitation of chance;

    Read more
  • Dominique Goblet’s Pretending Is Lying

    Pretending Is Lying, by Dominique Goblet; translated by Sophie Yanow. New York: New York Review Comics, 2017. 149 pages.

    THE RAW EMOTION of Pretending Is Lying, a memoir by the Belgian cartoonist Dominique Goblet, is already hinted at in the book’s introductory story. A child—the author as a young girl—is injured in a tumble on the sidewalk and tended to in a moment of parental magic: Goblet’s mother instantly repairs the torn knees of her daughter’s stockings by having Goblet simply put them on backward. The winsome anecdote ends brightly, but the strip is rendered in sharp red lines

    Read more
  • Damion Searls’s The Inkblots

    The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing, by Damion Searls. New York: Crown, 2017. 416 pages.

    IT’S IMMEDIATELY RECOGNIZABLE: a black-and-white inkblot, symmetrical across the vertical axis, depicting nothing in particular and thus anything at all. Or maybe not quite anything. Because even though it’s silly, we can’t help thinking about genitals. Or rather, we think we probably should be thinking about genitals, that that’s what the image wants from us, but we also feel like we probably shouldn’t, because this can’t actually be serious, can it? Funny thing, the

    Read more
  • Summer Reading

    GLENN LIGON

    Stuart Hall (1932–2014), the Jamaican-born British theorist who was one of the founders of the field of cultural studies, gave a series of talks at Harvard in 1994. The Fateful Triangle: Race, Ethnicity, Nation (Harvard University Press), edited and introduced by Kobena Mercer with a foreword by Henry Louis Gates Jr., draws from those lectures and promises to be essential reading for those seeking to understand Hall’s tremendous impact on scholars, artists, and filmmakers on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Glenn Ligon is a New York–based artist.

    ASMA NAEEM

    Because of Deepak Unnikrishnan’s

    Read more
  • Jean Louis Schefer’s Ordinary Man of Cinema

    The Ordinary Man of Cinema, by Jean Louis Schefer, translated by Max Cavitch, Paul Grant, and Noura Wedell. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2016. 224 pages.

    CINEMA IS THE SOLE EXPERIENCE where time is given to me as a perception.” This statement, cited by Gilles Deleuze in the second chapter of Cinema 2: The Time-Image (1985), seems to clarify and crystallize the thesis of his book: Cinema does not just represent time but can allow us to perceive a direct presentation of time—in Proust’s words, “a little bit of time in a pure state.”

    The films that have watched our childhood.” In an essay written

    Read more
  • Lisa Robertson’s 3 Summers

    3 Summers, by Lisa Robertson, with artwork by Hadley+Maxwell. Toronto: Coach House Books, 2016. 120 pages.

    THE BOOK’S pink-and-yellow ombré cover—depicting that dazzling moment of the sky at sunrise or sunset—offsets a pair of white-framed spectacles with rose-colored lenses. The air here is so smooth and flat that the title can be scribbled onto it with a broad-tipped blue marker. In “Rose,” the final poem of Lisa Robertson’s newest collection, we learn that the speaker dons such glasses to an ambivalent outcome: “Yet after a full week of rosy vision, I remained surly and withdrawn as

    Read more
  • the collected essays of Luigi Ghirri

    The Complete Essays 1973–1991, by Luigi Ghirri; edited by Michael Mack and Izabella Scott; translated by Ben Bazalgette and Marguerite Shore. London: MACK, 2016. 239 pages.

    IS IT PARADOXICAL for a photographer to resent modernity? Perhaps, and yet the late Italian marvel Luigi Ghirri (1943–1992) sometimes did, or so he implied. In a newspaper column from 1989, he recounts one of his frequent driving excursions in Emilia-Romagna, a region thick with the then rapidly industrializing rural vistas that populate many of his images. He ruminates on the high-tension wires threading the roads between

    Read more
  • Peter Gidal and the London Film-Makers’ Co-operative

    Shoot Shoot Shoot: The First Decade of the London Film-Makers’ Co-operative 1966–76, edited by Mark Webber. London: LUX, 2016. 288 pages.

    Flare Out: Aesthetics 1966–2016, by Peter Gidal; edited by Mark Webber and Peter Gidal. London: The Visible Press, 2016. 288 pages.

    IT WAS NOT a shot heard round the world. It was more like a birth announcement, couched in playfully telegraphic syntax and supposedly cabled to Jonas Mekas, a founder of the New York Film-Makers’ Cooperative, in 1966: LONDON FILM-MAKERS COOP ABOUT TO BE LEGALLY ESTABLISHED STOP PURPOSE TO SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT STOP NEVER

    Read more
  • Jonas Mekas’s Movie Journal

    Movie Journal: The Rise of the New American Cinema, 1959–1971, by Jonas Mekas. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016. 496 pages.

    I BEGAN READING Jonas Mekas’s Movie Journal column in the Village Voice in 1961, three years after it first appeared and roughly around the time I saw his first feature film, Guns of the Trees (1961), at the eclectic New York film showcase Cinema 16. Chalk it up to callow youth and an inchoate sense that women were most valued as muses or if they filmed flowers, but I was not receptive to the emerging movement that Mekas would dub the New American Cinema and certainly

    Read more