COLUMNS

  • the writings of Marcel Broodthaers

    AT SOME POINT, perhaps as early as the 1940s, Marcel Broodthaers—then a café poet and used-book dealer who had yet to publish a volume of his own—wrote a line he liked so much he used it in two of his later poems: “mélancolie aigre château des aigles” (melancholy bitter castle of eagles). The proximity of the key French words aigre and aigle undergirds the surreal disjunction of terms with a material logic. In fact, Broodthaers would famously go on to establish a Département des Aigles in his fictive Musée d’Art Moderne of 1968, an impermanent collection of objects brought together

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  • Semiotext(e)’s Schizo-Culture

    There’s always an energy that is slightly to the side, and vast. And without fees or tariffs. Not to say that it’s without cost. Think of Tesla’s scheme of harnessing electricity freely from the surrounding atmosphere. Rhizomatic years. Where are we now? The ’60s were a grand movement called counterculture, perhaps ending in ’68, or maybe in ’69. . . . The ’70s were the beginning of the rhizome years. Counterculture broke up. You cannot overestimate the effect of infiltration, COINTELPRO. Everyone had to proceed under the assumption that there was no integrity to their group, that movements were

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  • Laurence Rickels’s SPECTRE

    I CONFESS THAT I have always found James Bond somewhat dull, but apparently that was the idea. Ian Fleming, author of the Bond novels, conceived his hero as a boring character, a cipher, around whom interesting things happened. Indeed, he lifted the moniker James Bond from an ornithologist of the time, for its exemplary blandness. Betraying his own preferences, theorist Laurence Rickels has titled his new study of Fleming’s spy novels SPECTRE, not after Bond or Fleming but in honor of the Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion, Fleming’s fictional United

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  • T. J. Clark’s Picasso and Truth

    IN 2009, T. J. Clark delivered the fifty-eighth installment of the A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Those six talks have now been published under the title Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica, and together they constitute an exemplary lesson in art criticism and the significance of the act of looking.

    In his book, Clark cites various thinkers for whom he feels a special affinity (and whose ideas, he believes, are keys to understanding Picasso’s work). Prominent among them are Nietzsche and Wittgenstein. What attracts him to the latter

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  • Making Art Global

    AROUND THE TURN OF THE MILLENNIUM, books dealing with the relatively new art-historical subgenre of exhibition history were few and far between. The category pretty much comprised the anthology Thinking About Exhibitions (Bruce W. Ferguson et al., 1996), Bruce Altshuler’s The Avant-Garde in Exhibition (1998), and Mary Anne Staniszewski’s The Power of Display (1998). These methodologically disparate works had little in common beyond their obscurity: Simply being aware of them felt like being part of an esoteric minority seeking cult knowledge. Since the late 2000s, however, as institutionally

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  • Alain Badiou and Jacques Rancière

    ALAIN BADIOU has likened the relation between philosophy and art to that between master and hysteric in Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytic terms. The hysteric seeks a master to explain to her who she is and to convert her unprocessed truth into a form of transmissible knowledge. But the hysteric—or art—is never satisfied with what she is told. Philosophy’s answers always fall short or miss the mark, and his own status as master is ultimately called into question.

    To preserve his authority, philosophy has three choices. He can, taking decisive measures, as Plato proposed should be done with

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  • Mary Ann Caws’s Modern Art Cookbook

    The Modern Art Cookbook, by Mary Ann Caws. London: Reaktion Books, 2013. 256 pages.

    “CAN YOU TASTE / WHAT I’M SAYING?” asks poet Philip Levine. It is this everyday intermingling of the senses that literary and art historian Mary Ann Caws explores in The Modern Art Cookbook. This is where I come across Levine’s question, and his corresponding reply, which demonstrates that synesthesia—the effect one sense can have on another—is able to open up otherwise unknown labyrinths of sensual knowledge:

    It is onions or potatoes, a pinch

    of simple salt, the wealth of melting butter, it is obvious,

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  • Didier Eribon’s Returning to Reims

    Returning to Reims, by Didier Eribon. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e)/Foreign Agents, 2013. 240 pages.

    TO READERS who followed America’s culture-war shoot-outs of the 1980s and ’90s, Didier Eribon will forever be linked to Michel Foucault and Claude Lévi-Strauss. In his biography of the former and book-length interview with the latter, Eribon brought a journalist’s clarity to works that were models of intelligence leavened with implicit critical admiration. In the decades since, he made the transition from journalist to academic, but he never ceased to act as a dynamic mediator of worlds. In a country

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  • Peter Osborne’s Anywhere or Not at All

    Anywhere or Not at All: Philosophy of Contemporary Art, by Peter Osborne. London: Verso, 2013. 282 pages.

    WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE CONTEMPORARY? As a rule, it means to miss a great deal. A visitor to the Sistine Chapel circa 1525—barely a decade after Michelangelo finished painting it—referred in his diary to what is today perhaps the most famous image in the Western world as one “of an old man, in the middle of the ceiling, who is represented in the act of flying through the air.” The diarist in question (the bishop of Nocera) should not be judged harshly for not recognizing God, since,

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  • Jonathan Crary’s 24/7

    24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep, by Jonathan Crary. Verso, 2013. 144 pages.

    JONATHAN CRARY’S dark, brilliant book 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep analyzes the nonstop demands of the contemporary global capitalist system and laments the damage we suffer from being caught up in the fascination and relentless rhythms of its technological production and consumption. This brief volume’s central claim is not that we are always awake—although Crary notes the growing prevalence of insomnia and use of neuropharmaceutical sleep suppressants and alertness aids—but rather

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  • trans-American modernism

    BY NOW, WE’VE COME TO UNDERSTAND MODERNISM as a far more hybrid affair than the likes of Clement Greenberg would have it; one defined, even, by a kind of border crossing that broke down traditional categories and subsequently reinvented art’s situation. Less often told is the story of modernist exchange across actual geographic boundaries, as explored in two recent publications: Making Art Panamerican: Cultural Policy and the Cold War by Claire F. Fox, and Mexico and American Modernism by Ellen G. Landau.

    Positioning art as the site and the arbiter of a complex twentieth-century narrative of

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  • Elizabeth Peyton

    ELIZABETH PEYTON

    I was going to write about two books I got at the bookstore yesterday: Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880–1918 (Vintage) and Janet Malcolm’s Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), which both look like great, engrossing reads, but . . . then I was reminded that I still haven’t even gotten around to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s “David Bowie is” catalogue. Edited by the exhibition’s curators, Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh, the volume includes so many amazing writers—Jon Savage, Camille Paglia,

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