COLUMNS

  • THE ZINE AGE

    Yeah, edited by Tuli Kupferberg. New York: Primary Information, 2017. 342 pages.

    NOW LET US PRAISE the less famous Beats. Naphtali “Tuli” Kupferberg was born in 1923 into a Yiddish-speaking, secular Jewish family on Cannon Street in New York, five blocks from the East River on the madly congested eastern edge of the lower Lower East Side. He died eighty-six years later, only a mile and a half west, having spent most of his life in the city.

    A Beatnik bard and a hippie sage, a Young Communist turned anarcho-pacifist, noted in Allen Ginsberg’s 1955 poem “Howl” for having jumped off the Brooklyn

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  • UP THE ANTI

    Dada: Art and Anti-Art, by Hans Richter, introduced and annotated by Michael White. London: Thames & Hudson, 2016. 376 pages.

    IN HIS INTRODUCTION to Dada: Art and Anti-Art (1964), a book that fifty years later still frames much of our understanding of the movement, Hans Richter claims that without a few vigilant ants among the “carefree grasshoppers” who constituted most of Dada’s main characters, proof of its uninhibited provocations might not exist. Richter’s allusion to the classic fable suggests at least some respect for the diligent ants, and perhaps even—contra Aesop—a rapprochement

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  • THE WHOLE IS THE FALSE

    Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War, by Hito Steyerl. London and New York: Verso, 2017. 256 pages.

    ARTISTS WHO WRITE are nothing new, but recent years have seen the emergence of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink interdisciplinarity that goes far beyond the traditional mixture of art and art criticism. The growing profile of theory in art schools and a sense of urgency in the face of both technological change and political instability has led artists such as Hito Steyerl not only to broaden their artistic practice but also, increasingly, to play the role of the public intellectual.

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  • the life and legacy of Thing

    IN 1991, at “SPEW: The Homographic Convergence”— a showcase of queer zines, T-shirts, videotapes, and performance that took place at the Randolph Street Gallery in Chicago—Robert Ford described Thing as a “black gay and lesbian underground arts journal and magazine kind of thing.” The publication, which he founded in 1989 with Trent Adkins and Lawrence Warren, highlighted what Ford called a “black sensibility” in the underground. Published “capriciously”—typically every three or four months—it featured original interviews, writing, and photographs by artists, musicians,

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  • Elise Archias’s The Concrete Body

    The Concrete Body: Yvonne Rainer, Carolee Schneemann, Vito Acconci, by Elise Archias. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 240 pages.

    THE INVOLUNTARY EXPRESSIONS and accidental actions of bodies are at the center of Elise Archias’s account of 1960s and early-’70s performance. Taking three New York–based protagonists as her guides, Archias argues that Yvonne Rainer’s choreography of pedestrian movement, Carolee Schneemann’s material treatment of sensation, and Vito Acconci’s self-assigned feats of physical endurance all shared a capacity to make visible unintended behaviors on the part of their

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  • Naum Kleiman’s Eisenstein on Paper

    Eisenstein on Paper: Graphic Works by the Master of Film, by Naum Kleiman. London: Thames & Hudson, 2017. 320 pages.

    IN HIS MEMOIR, Beyond the Stars, Sergei Eisenstein opens the chapter devoted to his drawings with an admission that is both candid and deeply ironic: “In the first place, I never learned to draw.” His formal art education was, indeed, limited. More important, however, over the course of his life, the Russian director actively tried to unlearn academic “rules,” seeking to develop his own, more authentic way of creating pictures, and to reconceive the role drawing played in his

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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;

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  • 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

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  • 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

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