David Joselit

  • COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS: A ROUNDTABLE

    TO MAP THE SHIFTING COORDINATES OF IDENTITY—and difference—in culture today, critic and art historian HUEY COPELAND moderates a roundtable with artist EMILY ROYSDON; film theorist KARA KEELING; Artforum’s editor, MICHELLE KUO; and some of the foremost thinkers on globalism, postcolonialism, and art: scholars DIPESH CHAKRABARTY, DAVID JOSELIT, and KOBENA MERCER.

    HUEY COPELAND: Is identity politics back? Did it ever truly go away? In either case, what does the term mean now and how do we think about the ways in which new understandings of identity are arising?

    One thing that characterizes this particular moment, I think, is the critical mass of artists and writers and critics and curators and viewers in and beyond the art world who are coming from positions that had previously been excluded, oppressed, or unacknowledged. But there is also, more broadly, a much greater awareness that’s been brought about by multiculturalism and identity politics, in all

  • “International Pop” and “The World Goes Pop”

    POP “WAS THE BIRTH OF THE NOW”: So claim curators Darsie Alexander and Bartholomew Ryan in the catalogue for their sprawling and ambitious show “International Pop” at the Walker Art Center, thus positioning the movement as a progenitor of our so-called post-Internet condition. Indeed, the curators write, Pop artists “were modeling behaviors that then seemed radical, but now are second nature: the image world as an extension of the self, the individual curating information via status feed, the rise of social media that is one of the most profound changes of our time.”

    What is striking about this

  • MATERIAL WITNESS: VISUAL EVIDENCE AND THE CASE OF ERIC GARNER

    BY NOW, IT'S A TRUISM to say that there are more images than ever before, a digital flood of pictures that shows no signs of slowing. But what about all the images that are blocked, elided, or destroyed? What about the resurgence of a kind of iconoclasm—the annihilation of the image? Such an assault on the visual was apparent when stark video footage of Eric Garner being arrested and put in a choke hold in Staten Island, New York, seemingly made no difference in the case against the police who killed him; and it was all too clear when, just before this issue went to press, the artists and journalists of Charlie Hebdo in Paris were the victims of horrifying violence.
     
    Here, art historian DAVID JOSELIT takes up the case of Garner and its challenge to the very concept of visual evidence or representation—and its denial of images and objects as evidence of fact. Joselit considers the possibility of critical and artistic practices that may counter such failures of representation, instead staging a refusal of representation—a refusal perhaps nowhere more potent than in the performances of WILLIAM POPE.L, whether the artist is literally ingesting and expelling information, in Eating the Wall Street Journal, 1991–2000, or, in Foraging (Asphyxia Version), 1993–95/2008, covering his head with a white plastic bag that he clutches tightly below his chin. Is this act of self-erasure a gesture of annihilation, as the word asphyxia suggests, or is it a strategic subtraction of the body from a sphere in which that body cannot be represented anyway—cannot be visible or evident, or is subject to censure and repression?

    THE FAILURE IN DECEMBER 2014 of a Staten Island grand jury to indict the policeman who choked Eric Garner, an African American man accused of selling loose cigarettes on the street, delivered another kind of indictment: an indictment of post-Conceptual art. If the excruciating video showing Garner seized and relentlessly piled on by the police could not convince a jury, how can forms of aesthetic critique based on research and visual evidence be any more effective with a general public? While the life-and-death exigencies of American race politics should not be glibly equated with art’s more

  • passages January 24, 2014

    Karin Higa (1966–2013)

    CRITICISM AND SCHOLARSHIP that makes a difference grows out of palpable conviction—a belief that the stakes of an art practice go beyond professionalism, expertise, and mastery of a subfield. Karin Higa’s exhibitions and essays possessed that special quality. In part this is because her path-breaking curatorial projects like “The View from Within: Japanese American Art from the Internment Camps, 1942-1945,” 1992, bore links to her own heritage as a Japanese American. But such biographical connections aren’t sufficient to explain the special intensity Higa had as a leader in the field of contemporary

  • TIME ZONES: THE RECENT WORK OF THOMAS EGGERER

    IN THOMAS EGGERER’S RECENT PAINTINGS, figures enter thickets of agitated brushstrokes and zones of candy color, impossible landscapes of painterly marks. These figures appear in two distinct ways: as cutouts, dislocated from the canvas by a narrow, encircling border of contrasting color; and as pentimenti, palimpsests of drawn and redrawn human contours emerging out of (or falling back into) fields of paint. But cutouts and pentimenti could not be more different. They represent two opposing poles in the possible relation between a figure and a ground. The first strategy suggests alienation, as

  • CATEGORICAL MEASURES: EXHIBITING THE GLOBAL

    WHAT IS THE PROPER UNIT of measurement in exhibiting the history of a global art world? Is it the individual artist, shuttling between her place of origin and various metropolitan centers while participating in exhibitions throughout the world? Or are movements better building blocks? After all, mobility is built into the very term movement. Tendencies such as Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism, and Fluxus, to name only a few modern examples, encompassed networks even as they affirmatively called those networks into being by putting philosophical positions and corollary aesthetic formats into wide

  • the 2012 Busan Biennale

    WHAT KIND OF EXHIBITION might reestablish art’s capacity to engage in, even generate, a genuine public sphere? This is asking a lot, of course: Assembling artworks that thematize various forms of injustice does not necessarily meet the challenge (and exhibitions that do often simply preach to the converted), nor does the arch form of “participation,” wherein experiences are preplanned for compliant viewers, and which characterizes the worst of relational aesthetics. In fact, one of the biennial format’s most nefarious effects (whether intended or not) is to simulate social benefits—such as

  • TRANSFORMER: GREGORY BATTCOCK

    IN APRIL 1970, Gregory Battcock appeared in his underwear on the cover of Arts Magazine, the publication he would briefly lead as editor some three years later. Like “Andy Warhol’s Travel Piece,” the three-page spread it announces, the cover’s design, credited to Warhol, looks unfinished. Battcock is pictured in a Polaroid photo, its black jacket still attached, which has fallen at an informal angle on the gridded layout form used for the magazine’s pasteup. In the midst of this arch disarray, the critic—a notoriously handsome, sexually voracious bon vivant who was particularly fond of

  • Carsten Höller

    CARSTEN HÖLLER’S “EXPERIENCE” at the New Museum was perfect—perfectly wrong. If the artist’s goal was to embody the values contested by the most important social justice movement of our present moment, Occupy Wall Street, he succeeded brilliantly. For the “experience” furnished to visitors was uncompromisingly private—typically involving sensory and/or physical isolation—while the museum’s institutional responsibility was disavowed. Höller’s two main rides and environments, a sinuous slide traversing two floors of the museum and an enormous sensory-deprivation tank filled with

  • Nicolás Guagnini’s The Panel Discussion, the Tennis Match, and a Bodegón

    NICOLÁS GUAGNINI’S The Panel Discussion, the Tennis Match, and a Bodegón, 2011, centers on a long plywood table that holds two groups of miniature wooden figures, one at either end. The back row, commissioned from a professional caricature wood-carver, represents a panel discussion that, according to the press release, features “an American publisher and art dealer, . . . a well known German artist, . . . and a well known German professor of Art History,” who are flanked by a facsimile catalogue from the Nazis’ 1937 “Entartete Kunst” (Degenerate Art) show propped on a miniature easel. It takes

  • TRUTH OR DARE: THE ART OF WITNESSING

    IN AN INTERVIEW published when his 2008 work Das Auge (The Eye) was installed at the Power Plant in Toronto earlier this year, Thomas Hirschhorn declared: “I want to give a form which resists facts, which resists opinion and which goes beyond actuality, which reaches beyond information—that is why I invented the motif ‘eye and its capacity to see everything red. . . . The eye doesn’t need to know—the eye just sees and that’s what counts.”¹ Coming from an artist famous for his impassioned political engagement, this statement is surprising, if not shocking. Hasn’t a great deal of

  • SIGNAL PROCESSING: ABSTRACTION THEN AND NOW

    I. CONVERTIBLE SIGNS

    Jackson Pollock’s The She-Wolf, 1943, was the first painting one saw on entering “Abstract Expressionist New York” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York this past winter. As a compendium of signs, this canvas was an apt introduction—practically a manifesto—for a movement dedicated to producing signs that function as distinctive artistic “trademarks” and yet are open to multiple and sometimes infinite optical trajectories. In The She-Wolf, the layers of signification that Pollock would synthesize in his mature style remain distinct. A diagrammatic red arrow that

  • Hans Haacke’s “Weather, or Not”

    THE NAME HANS HAACKE has become synonymous with institutional critique. And with good reason—Haacke pioneered a singularly acute practice in which the economic and political conditions of art’s marketing and display function as an aesthetic medium. In this regard, his MoMA Poll of 1970 is exemplary: The artist asked museum visitors whether “the fact that Governor Rockefeller has not denounced President Nixon’s Indochina policy [would] be a reason for you not voting for him in November.” The question was far from innocent, given the Rockefeller family’s prominent role as founders and patrons of

  • David Joselit

    COMPUTERS ARE WIDELY CREDITED with transforming architecture: Digital tools have changed even the most basic day-to-day design practice, largely replacing the rigors of the drawing board with the screen’s more flexible capacities for spatial projection, and leading to an explosion of delirious abstract structures by such celebrity architects as Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Rem Koolhaas. But while these stand-alone sculptural monuments are exciting, they seem to contradict the fundamental conditions of the digital era, which is characterized by networked systems of distribution based not on

  • the politics of images

    I CAN THINK OF NO BETTER definition of celebrity than a widely circulating image derived from but not identical to a person—in short, an avatar. As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama was criticized as just such an image. A notorious television ad likened him to celebrity-without-a-cause Paris Hilton and everyone, it seems, called him a rock star. In spite of the Republicans’ own strategy of wrapping their candidates in the guise of sainted POW and avenging hockey mom, the 2008 election pitted illusory, image-based “celebrity” against the “real” policies attributed to John McCain (and let’s

  • “Mike’s World” and “Air Kissing”

    ANDY WARHOL went to a lot of parties. In Andy Warhol’s Party Book, posthumously published in 1988, he gives a good explanation why: “Sex and parties are the two things that you still have to actually be there for—things that involve you and other people.” This assertion occurred to me while visiting “Mike’s World: Michael Smith & Joshua White (and other collaborators),” a retrospective that was recently on view at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas (and travels to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, in April). During the late 1970s and early ’80s, Michael Smith—an

  • Richard Serra

    RICHARD SERRA HAS BEEN HEADLINED in recent years by both the New York Times and the New Yorker as a “Man of Steel,” and indeed, like Superman, he seems to be everything to everyone. The most eminent art historians have brilliantly analyzed his art; he enjoys major commercial success; his work is in demand at museums worldwide; and his thrilling, architecturally scaled curvilinear sculptures have at least for the past decade been enormously popular among general audiences. Few contemporary artists have succeeded so well on so many fronts. Why Serra? The Museum of Modern Art’s “Richard Serra

  • images and sovereignty

    IN ORGANIZING “Manet and the Execution of Maximilian” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, a recent exhibition that united all five representations by Édouard Manet of the notorious demise of Napoleon III’s puppet emperor of Mexico, curator John Elderfield intended an explicit if muted political gesture. As he writes in his catalogue introduction, “Some readers will wonder whether it is purely accidental that an exhibition and publication appearing in 2006 are devoted to works that depict the baleful consequences of a military intervention and regime change. It is not.” What was accidental

  • Jenny Holzer and “Consider This . . .”

    IF INFORMATION is supposed to be “public” property, Jenny Holzer’s redaction paintings, on view last spring at the Cheim & Read gallery in New York, offer a spectacle of its foreclosure. These works reproduce documents related to the persecution of war in Iraq—ranging from government memos to the sworn statements of soldiers—that are just as shocking for their copious deletion of names, phrases, and passages as they are for recounting atrocities in the bland idiom of bureaucratic forms. It is not surprising that a government that arrogates the right to review “private” streams of

  • Matthew Barney

    LIKE SO MANY ASPECTS of Matthew Barney’s practice, the title of “Drawing Restraint”—a series of works in several media that have occupied the artist since 1987—may be read in contradictory ways. Because the earliest of these works, included in a comprehensive retrospective this past summer at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, involved physical procedures (often redolent of the gymnasium or the rock-climbing wall) impeding the artist’s efforts at mark making, the title is generally understood to denote “restraints placed on drawing.” But drawing restraint also signifies the delineation, or