COLUMNS

  • Slant

    Queer Nation

    OVER COCKTAILS, at gallery openings, during street protests, and in darkened auditoriums, we have become accustomed to invoking what cultural critic Kobena Mercer has tellingly dubbed “the mantra” (say it with me now): “class-race-gender-sexuality. Class-race-gender-sexuality.” Mercer’s evocation of the nearly evangelical fervor with which so many of us name difference recognizes that our naming is at once perfunctory and guilt-ridden. But he also serves us a provocation, a call to disentangle overlapping systems of oppression. Careful social and cultural analysis, as literary theorist Eve

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  • Slant

    Czechered History

    It’s been a long time since the Rolling Stones have mattered enough to rock the body politic. Once, through music and otherwise, they seemed to be saying something serious, even in their habits of consumption—as in the 1967 marijuana and uppers bust that made Jagger and Richards symbolic foci of a new generation’s new life and of the establishment’s reaction to it. Attacking the heavy sentence (later overturned), a London Times editorialist was moved to ask, “Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?,” adding his brick to a romantic construction inside which everything the band did had weight. But then

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  • Books

    Notes on the Underground

    Notes on the Underground: An Essay on Technology, Society, and the Imagination, by Rosalind Williams. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990, 265 pp., 17 black and white illustrations, $19.95.

    JUST AS the historian of religion Mircea Eliade argued that the Neolithic shift from a pastoral, nomadic way of life to a settled, agricultural civilization precipitated a phase of profound upheaval and spiritual breakdown, so Rosalind Williams contends in her new book, Notes on the Underground, that the apprehension of losing the natural world to a predominantly technological one has triggered deep mourning

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  • Books

    The Art of the Insane

    The Discovery of the Art of the Insane, by John M. MacGregor. Princeton: at the University Press, 1989, 390 pp., 29 color and 168 black and white illustrations.

    THIS BOOK IS A treasure trove of information, a masterpiece of detective work and intellectual archaeology: John M. MacGregor has undoubtedly succeeded in his “historical reconstruction of the process” whereby the art of the insane “entered consciousness for the first time as a reality of scientific and aesthetic significance.” Of special interest to an art audience is MacGregor’s theory of the psychiatrist Etienne Georget’s influence on

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  • Slant

    The Deadman

    A DEAD MAN LIES NAKED, sprawled across a bed. From somewhere there’s the oppressive drone of a buzzing fly; a nearly naked woman flees the scene. Peggy Ahwesh’s and Keith Sanborn’s take on Georges Bataille’s story “The Deadman” begins like art-house pulp, an adults-only Kiss Me Deadly, but it quickly becomes something less comfortable. This is not warmed-over noir, it’s sex—raw, erotic, pornographic, maybe even feminist. So strong you can smell it.

    During the ’70s, feminist intellectuals here and abroad—Laura Mulvey wrote the landmark “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” in 1973—established a

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  • Slant

    The Autobiography of Eve

    A MIND OF MY OWN is the autobiography of Chris Costner Sizemore, better known as “Eve.” Sizemore was the case study upon which The Three Faces of Eve, a popular 1957 movie directed by Nunnally Johnson, was based. Joanne Woodward played Eve, winning an Academy Award for her virtuoso performance as a woman under the influence of a mental illness, Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). In the movie Woodward metamorphosed, before the camera and without special effects, from Eve Black, “the party girl,” to Eve White, “the mother/wife,” to Jane, “the intellectual woman,” enacting a female Jekyll, Jekyll

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  • Books

    Graphic Design in America

    Graphic Design in America: A Visual Language History, ed. Mildred Friedman and Phil Freshman. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, and New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1989. 264 pp.

    THE QUAKER OATS MAN, the tech-type IBM logo, and the generic Woman on the ladies’ room door—we all know these images. But who invented them, and when? Produced for the public eye, works of graphic design become so familiar it’s hard to think of them as having authors or histories. The slick surface of design effaces both the marks of these icons’ production and the continual process of renewal and revision that is needed

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  • Books

    Liberals at War

    Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, by Paul Fussell (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 330 pages, 18 black and white illustrations.

    ACCORDING TO PAUL FUSSELL, the picture of frontline life in World War II that was piped back to the Allied homelands was a massive snow job. A vast separation was enforced between what the fighting felt like, smelt like, and what the American and British publics were led to imagine about it. The received information, the censorings and distortions that were pop-fed to the folks at home, in the name of some kind of ideological

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  • Books

    Remedios Varo

    SURREALISM, A MOVEMENT THAT valorized a “feminine” position while at the same time defining this position in traditional terms as irrational and unconscious, gave us Woman as no-longer-placid muse. But this Ophelia unbound took flight only through her impersonation by male artists who, while they valued imagination, could not imagine female subjectivity. As in the movie Tootsie, in which the best woman is a man, or in Jacques Derrida’s privileging of the feminine position of the reader so long as femininity is not specifically ensconced in a female body, the best madwoman was a sane male Surrealist

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