COLUMNS

  • D. A. Miller’s Hidden Hitchcock

    Hidden Hitchcock, by D. A. Miller. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 208 pages.

    ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S FILMS have always invited what Freud called “wild analysis.” (“You Freud, me Jane?” Tippi Hedren’s character says to Sean Connery in Marnie [1964], as he forces her to free-associate.) Indeed, it’s hard to think of any other filmmaker who has been called on to prove so many points by so many critics. And it’s hard to think of any other filmmaker who has embarrassed us quite so thoroughly, by showing us, time and again, that we aren’t nearly as clever as we thought we were. “The New Yorker

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  • Douglas Crimp’s Before Pictures

    Before Pictures, by Douglas Crimp. New York: Dancing Foxes Press; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 308 pages.

    IT STARTS LIKE a classic bildungsroman from the mighty island-city: It’s 1967, and a young writer from a beautiful, bigoted town called Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, escapes to Manhattan to find himself. A decade later, he’s made his mark: It’s called “Pictures,” and it alters the course of art and its discourses.

    What makes Douglas Crimp’s Before Pictures so remarkable is not just its subject—the art historian and AIDS activist’s early years leading up to the epoch-defining 1977

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  • Charles Musser’s Politicking and Emergent Media

    Charles Musser, Politicking and Emergent Media: US Presidential Elections of the 1890s. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2016. 288 pages.

    EVERY FOUR YEARS, the world gets hooked on two competitive extravaganzas—the Summer Olympic Games and the US presidential elections. The similarities are obvious; in fact, the only real difference is size. The elections take place on a larger scale: They go on for longer, their two displays of stadium-based pageantry last a week rather than a night, they are even more dominated by Americans, and their television coverage is even more dismal.

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  • Peter Eisenman’s Palladio Virtuel

    Palladio Virtuel, by Peter Eisenman, with Matt Roman. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015. 288 pages.

    PETER EISENMAN’S LATEST BOOK offers a provocative interpretation of Andrea Palladio’s reinvention of classical order that has as much to say about the present predicament of architectural practice as it does about the sixteenth century Veneto in which the celebrated Renaissance architect lived and worked. Eisenman’s analysis of this “virtual” Palladio—which, as the author explained in a recent lecture about the project, reflects the virtu (power of invention) of the humanist architect

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  • Brian Chippendale’s Puke Force

    Puke Force, by Brian Chippendale. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2015. 120 pages.

    NOISE IS IN THE EAR OF THE BEHOLDER—a “catchall phrase for overwhelming stuff with abstract elements or ‘energy,’ elements involving harsher tendencies,” as Brian Chippendale said in a 2012 interview with The Believer. Noise, as a category and a descriptor, is frequently used to characterize Chippendale’s music: the pummeling drum lines and incoherent vocals of the two-man band Lightning Bolt. But it’s in the eye of the beholder, too: The term is often deployed as a shorthand description of the style of his

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  • Aidan Koch’s After Nothing Comes

    After Nothing Comes, by Aidan Koch. Toronto: Koyama Press, 2016. 112 pages.

    AIDAN KOCH’S exquisitely drawn comics in this collected volume of six zines exist in the space between the seen and the obscured, memory and amnesia, speech and silence, comics and “fine art.” Koch’s visual and textual vocabulary is full of palimpsests, fragments, snippets of conversation, and partial landscapes. Her experimental pieces can be called comics insofar as they are contained by a grid on the page (usually) and combine text with images. But their sequential structure is harder to pin down, and the stories do

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  • Marvel’s Black Panther

    Black Panther (issues 1 and 2) by Ta-Nehisi Coates (writer) and Brian Stelfreeze (artist), with Laura Martin (color artist). New York: Marvel, 2016. 36 and 28 pages, respectively.

    THIS WAKANDA looks a lot like Dubai to me. The African kingdom is, we are told, “the most technologically advanced society on the globe,” and yet in the new edition of Marvel’s Black Panther, the imperial guard is still using spears—albeit ones that also discharge some kind of electric ray. Likewise, hologram-projecting beads just don’t inspire the sense of awesomeness and wonder one might reasonably expect from

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  • SUMMER READING

    NAOMI BECKWITH

    My life in Chicago has taken on a Teutonic tinge, so I’ve become more engaged in arcane Germanic topics—and I’m keen to read the novel Black Deutschland by Darryl Pinckney (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), an erudite essayist and chronicler of the black literary tradition. Whereas that tradition’s engagement with Europe generally pivots around a New York–Paris axis, Pinckney’s novel sends a young, queer, aspiring writer from my hometown to seek refuge in Cold War Berlin, hoping to resuscitate the libertine spirit of Weimar Germany. I imagine disappointment for the protagonist but

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  • Sophie Mayer’s Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema

    Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema, by Sophie Mayer. London: I. B. Tauris, 2016. 272 pages.

    THESE DAYS, feminism doesn’t always look or sound the way you think it will. In British film scholar and activist Sophie Mayer’s new book, Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema, fourth-wave feminism is digital, transnational, transsexual, anticolonialist, and multiplatform. It is also occasionally “cisgender,” “Two-Spirit,” and—perhaps most regrettably—“merqueer.” As the aforementioned list suggests, getting with the program might require not only recognizing some unexpected political

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  • Susan E. Cahan’s Mounting Frustration: The Art Museum in the Age of Black Power

    Mounting Frustration: The Art Museum in the Age of Black Power, by Susan E. Cahan.Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016. 360 pages.

    WHEN THE EXHIBITION “Art AIDS America” was on view last winter at the Tacoma Art Museum in Washington, black activists decried the paltry number of black artists in the show: five out of 107, a low percentage that registered as wildly incommensurate to the disproportionately high rate of HIV infection and AIDS-related deaths among African Americans. On December 17, the Tacoma Action Collective staged a die-in: Protesters lay down on the ground in the museum, red

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  • SUMMER READING

    NAIRY BAGHRAMIAN

    The Art of Freedom: On the Dialectics of Democratic Existence by philosopher Juliane Rebentisch (Polity Press) is a book that only conditionally has to do with art, and more to do with ethics and politics. But to imagine their exclusion from the discourse of art would be unconditionally unthinkable.

    Nairy Baghramian is an artist based in Berlin.

    CARISSA RODRIGUEZ

    When Hilton Als invited viewers to read Brenda Shaughnessy’s captivating collection Our Andromeda as part of his incisive exhibition at the Artist’s Institute in New York that so generously attests, “My art has always been

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  • David Bordwell’s The Rhapsodes

    The Rhapsodes: How 1940s Critics Changed American Film Culture, by David Bordwell. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 176 pages.

    A COMPARATIVE SURVEY of the writings of four American movie critics whose careers overlapped in the 1940s—Otis Ferguson, James Agee, Manny Farber, and Parker Tyler—might seem the perfect setup for a narrowly specialized monograph. In the hands of David Bordwell, however, there is no subject, filmic or otherwise, that cannot yield gleams of pleasurable understanding. For decades, whether alone or in collaboration with Kristin Thompson, Bordwell has

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