COLUMNS

  • Open City

    Cosmopolitan Radicalism: The Visual Politics of Beirut’s Global Sixties by Zeina Maasri. Cambridge University Press, 2020. 342 pages.

    TWO WHITE WOMEN IN BIKINIS, feet planted in the froth of the Mediterranean, backdropped by Beirut’s iconic Raouché rocks. Bannered across the top left corner of the photograph, in yellow, an unlikely milestone—THE DAY THEY ABOLISHED WINTER—accompanied by looks of self-satisfaction, as if the pair had done it themselves. This image appeared in a December 1969 issue of The Economist, in an ad placed by the National Council for Tourism in Lebanon (NCTL). Backed by

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  • Open Plan

    TO DO 9/7/20 

    -Bleach tub

    -Eradicate fly infestation

    -Investigate whether or not I am being ghosted by my CSA

    -Forgive former sex partners

    -Don’t be hurt by freshman indifference over Zoom

    ACTIVIST-COMEDIAN MORGAN BASSICHIS'S The Odd Years is an inspirational guide for anyone seeking a model of (modest) art-life practice in the midst of a shitstorm, which I’ll leave as an opaque reference as it's simply too tiring or redundant at this point to enumerate the contents of our shared mess. Comprised of to-do lists recorded every Monday in the years 2017 and 2019—note 2018 is missing, thus the clever

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  • REALITY TESTS

    What Comes After Farce?, by Hal Foster. New York: Verso, 2020. 224 pages.

    SURVEYING OUR CULTURAL LANDSCAPE through the prepositional prism of after is hardly a new approach among critics and historians writing on art during the past quarter century. Yet, as articulated in the title of Hal Foster’s new book, the premise is newly intriguing for being tethered to—and eclipsed in blunt rhetorical force by—the sad comedy of “farce.” Here Foster borrows the term from Marx’s famous adage regarding the French bourgeoisie’s willingness in 1851 to cede democratic values to a second Bonaparte emperor some

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  • Red Score

    STOCKHAUSEN SERVES IMPERIALISM, BY CORNELIUS CARDEW. New York: Primary Information, 2020. 126 pages. 

    CORNELIUS CARDEW’S SOLO PIANO INTERPRETATION of the Chinese Cultural Revolution anthem “Sailing the Seas Depends on the Helmsman,” from his 1974 record Four Principles on Ireland and Other Pieces, is spry and cheery, a toe-tapping minute-and-a-half frolic across the ivories. Though its folky character shines, Cardew’s featherweight playing belies the song’s heavy ideological underpinnings. Its lyrics: “The revolutionary masses cannot do without the Communist Party / Mao Zedong Thought is the sun

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  • Nothing Happens

    ELEMENTARY POETRY, BY ANDREI MONASTYRSKI, translated by Brian Droitcour and Yelena Kalinsky. Preface by Boris Groys. Ugly Duckling Presse and Soberscove Press, 2019. 328 pages.

    ON FEBRUARY 1, 1981, a group of ten artists trekked off into the snowy woods outside Moscow. When they reached a clearing, they huddled around a wooden board studded with ten spools of white thread. Each participant—Ilya Kabakov, Oleg Vassiliev, and Yuri Albert among them—was instructed to take up the loose end of his or her thread and walk two hundred to three hundred meters into the forest, until they could no longer

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  • SENSES OF HUMOR

    Saturn and Melancholy: Studies in the History of Natural Philosophy, Religion, and Art, by Raymond Klibansky, Erwin Panofsky, and Fritz Saxl. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019. 632 pages.

    ACCORDING TO AN ANCIENT TEXT attributed to Aristotle, black bile “can induce paralysis or torpor or depression or anxiety when it prevails in the body; but if it is overheated it produces cheerfulness, bursting into song, and ecstasies and the eruption of sores and the like.” Such “fits of exaltation” were believed to be conducive to creative achievement. “Maracus, the Syracusan,” the text tells

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  • INFORMATION WAR

    The Detroit Printing Co-op: The Politics of the Joy of Printing, by Danielle Aubert. Los Angeles: Inventory Press, 2019. 240 pages.

    A YEAR AFTER the May 1968 uprisings in France, essayist Maurice Blanchot defended the revolt—which, beginning as a student movement, had culminated in a near-cataclysmic general strike—as an expression of social treason: “In the so-called ‘student’ action, students never acted as students but rather as revealers of a general crisis, as bearers of a power of rupture putting into question the regime, the State, society.” In breaching the norms of the ruling order, this

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  • Empire Records

    Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism, by Ariella Aïsha Azoulay. London and New York: Verso, 2019. 634 pages. 

    INSTITUTIONAL EFFORTS to de-imperialize museum collections over the past several years have offered technocratic solutions to an existential problem. Following French President Emmanuel Macron’s 2017 commitment to repatriate Sub-Saharan African objects housed in French museums and the subsequent, widely publicized report by Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy proposing that the restitution of cultural property should be implemented on a state level, the British Museum has announced that

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  • COSMIC CONSCIOUSNESS

    Expanded Cinema, by Gene Youngblood. New York: Fordham University Press, 2020. 464 pages.

    WHAT IF FILM CRITICISM could be read as science fiction? The thought crossed my mind as I was revisiting Gene Youngblood’s influential 1970 survey, Expanded Cinema. Republished by Fordham University Press on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary after decades out of print, it’s a book that functions as history and augury at once. Youngblood offers, as the title suggests, an integrative approach to some of the most radical nodes of moviemaking in the 1960s, bringing together bodies of work that might

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  • LEAVES OF GRASS

    SCROLL WAS FIRST USED AS A VERB in the 1600s to describe a particular method of writing. Its current definition, having more to do with the navigation of text than with its creation, was introduced in the early 1970s, at the same time that Michelle Stuart finished her first banner-like frottage of a patch of ground—in this case, in Woodstock, New York. In the contemporary context, scrolling is so effortless—requiring just the touch of a finger to touch pad or screen—that it hardly seems to qualify as an action. But centuries ago, it might have involved slowly unwinding yards of parchment from

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  • Marina Vishmidt

    In a social order held together by the bones of those who didn’t survive it, cancer can act as a lenticular tool to hold our fates in high resolution. The uninsured and underinsured suffer, decline, and die quickly, mostly; the insured suffer, decline, and undie, ideally. But to undie is not quite the same as to live, even if the terminal shadow takes on iridescence with every day that marks your distance from it. Anne Boyer’s The Undying (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), her concatenated memoir of undergoing treatment for aggressive breast cancer, has at its core “the most optimistic form of

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  • Morgan Bassichis

    Last winter, Gregg Bordowitz, ever the yenta, gave me and Douglas Crimp a copy of the Bible, because neither of us had read it. (For the sake of “Best of 2019,” let’s call it Robert Alter’s The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary [W. W. Norton]. In our shared ignorance—Douglas’s because of his devout skepticism of religion, and mine because of an evangelical loyalty to television—we started where it literally all began, in the Book of Genesis. We took turns reading to each other about humans trying and failing to be better, shouted at the misogyny of blaming Eve for everything, tried to

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