Douglas Crimp

  • Douglas Crimp

    1 JULIUS EASTMAN (THE KITCHEN, NEW YORK; CURATED BY TIONA NEKKIA MCCLODDEN AND DUSTIN HURT) When I heard tenor Julian Terrell Otis sing Eastman’s Prelude to the Holy Presence of Joan d’Arc (1981) at the Kitchen, I was blown away. I’d gotten used to Eastman’s powerful baritone singing the monologue on Unjust Malaise (2005), the three-disc set of archival recordings of Eastman’s music. And then came another tour de force, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble’s rendition of the ten-cello Holy Presence itself. The Kitchen’s tribute to this incomprehensibly obscure, pugnaciously gay black

  • “An Early Clue to the New Direction: Queer Cinema Before Stonewall”

    This month, the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York presents “An Early Clue to the New Direction: Queer Cinema Before Stonewall” (April 22–May 1), organized by the FSLC’s newly appointed programmer at large, THOMAS BEARD. In anticipation of this comprehensive survey, Artforum invited art historian and critic DOUGLAS CRIMP to speak with Beard about the series’ revisionist take on queer cinema before the gay liberation movement.

    DOUGLAS CRIMP: You talked to me about the “Queer Cinema Before Stonewall” series well before your recent appointment as programmer at large for the Film Society of

  • “William Forsythe: The Fact of Matter”

    With Artifact (1984) and Steptext (1985), William Forsythe made ballet postmodern. Can you think of another ballet master given to citing Foucault? Though American, Forsythe has been based in Europe for more than forty years—as a dancer for the Stuttgart Ballet, as director of Ballett Frankfurt and then of the Forsythe Company, and now as associate choreographer of the Paris Opera Ballet. In addition to choreography, Forsythe has been an innovator of dance analysis and notation, improvisation techniques, lighting design, and works for exhibition, including those he

  • Elad Lassry at The Kitchen

    ELAD LASSRY remade the Kitchen’s gallery space for his “Untitled (Presence).” Entering through a parabolic arch, you immediately confronted a wall with a long rectangular opening at eye level. Beyond that stood a medium-height wall whose top was scalloped and painted bright pink and green. (Lassry has an unfailing sense for hideous colors.) Through the scallops you could catch glimpses of photographs on the back wall. These deliberately clunky framing devices were presaged in the room demarcated by the arched and slotted walls. There, projected directly on the gallery wall, was a looped 16-mm


    IN 1981, Louise Lawler took a photograph of a matchbook propped in a common restaurant ashtray— a photograph that appears to ask the question printed on the matchbook’s cover: WHY PICTURES NOW. Nearly twenty years later, the photograph appeared as the final reproduction in Lawler’s book of photographs An Arrangement of Pictures (Assouline, 2000). There is little doubt that Lawler thought the question she had asked in 1981 needed to be asked again. Why Pictures Now poses its question not least to itself. It asks, in effect, “Why does this work take the form of a picture?” And: “Why am I—Louise

  • Cindy Sherman

    Since the mid-1970s, Cindy Sherman has been continually reinventing and photographing herself––as a paper doll or a movie character, wearing Comme des Garçons or displaying too many nips and tucks.

    Since the mid-1970s, Cindy Sherman has been continually reinventing and photographing herself––as a paper doll or a movie character, wearing Comme des Garçons or displaying too many nips and tucks. Whatever guise she assumes, whether looking gorgeous or weird, Sherman is always and never herself. At the time she made her “Untitled Film Stills,” 1977–80, she was persona non grata at the Museum of Modern Art’s Photography Department; when MoMA acquired the full set of “Stills” in 1995, they had become canonical postmodern artworks––thanks in large part to the thoughtful

  • “Gran Fury: Read My Lips”

    In 1993, the AIDS-activist art collective Gran Fury produced a modest poster that asked four simple questions––among them, DO YOU TRUST HIV-NEGATIVES? and WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?

    In 1993, the AIDS-activist art collective Gran Fury produced a modest poster that asked four simple questions––among them, DO YOU TRUST HIV-NEGATIVES? and WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? It was a despairing time: ACT UP? was in disarray, no treatment breakthroughs were on the horizon, friends were dying. Two years later, the development of protease inhibitors changed everything for many of us, with the result that the present generation is mostly ignorant of that terrible time. Now Gran Fury has reunited to mount a comprehensive survey of the works that,

  • “Sherrie Levine: Mayhem”

    When New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art staged “The Pictures Generation, 1974–1984” in the spring of 2009, New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl couldn’t seem to find enough words of opprobrium for the work exhibited—“menacingly cynical,” “brittle,” “pitiless,” “alien.” Sherrie Levine’s work was singled out as encapsulating the Pictures approach with “diabolical efficiency.” Indeed, Levine has, over the years, been cast as both the purest and the most heartless of the appropriation artists. The Whitney Museum’s overview of her career from the


    ON THE FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY of the Summer of Love, the Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival celebrated the “spirit of the ’60s” with a series of concerts by musicians Dave Brubeck, Arlo Guthrie, and Pauline Oliveros and performances by choreographers Trisha Brown and Paul Taylor. The Trisha Brown Dance Company’s evening ended on a poignant note with a performance of PRESENT TENSE, 2003, whose set and costumes were designed by Elizabeth Murray. Murray had died on August 12, 2007, just two days before the performance—so seeing her immediately recognizable painted forms behind dancers so

  • Callie Angell

    IN JANUARY 2000, Callie Angell, curator of the Andy Warhol Film Project at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, e-mailed me to wish me happy New Year. “I’ve been traveling a lot, out to PA nearly every week,” she wrote, referring to the site of MoMA’s Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center in Hamlin, Pennsylvania, “but I seem to be finished with the films out there for the time being (hard to believe).” She went on to detail what she’d been working on:

    I just finished cataloguing the most incredible Warhol film: the 105 Screen Tests he shot of Philip Fagan, his lover, over 105 days, each


    SINCE 1964, Merce Cunningham has been staging what he terms “Events”: productions that assemble fragments of dances from throughout his company’s historical repertory, repurposed for specific venues, from Grand Central Station to Persepolis. On the occasion of Cunningham’s continuing series of Events taking place at upstate New York’s Dia:Beacon—where his dancers and musicians have performed amid works by Nauman, Serra, and Warhol, among others—Artforum asked art historian Douglas Crimp to reflect on this newest offering from the choreographer, whose capacity for creating beauty even while challenging traditional modes of spectatorship has made him one of the foremost artists of the postwar era.

    Each person is in the best seat.

    —John Cage, “2 Pages, 122 Words on Music and Dance,” 1957

    THE MERCE CUNNINGHAM DANCE COMPANY’S third Beacon Event was dedicated to Robert Rauschenberg, who died less than a week before. Rauschenberg had been Cunningham’s regular set and costume designer and stage manager from 1954 to 1964, and during that period he designed some of the company’s most memorable productions, including Minutiae, 1954; Antic Meet and Summerspace, both 1958; Story, 1963 (a different set, constructed of material found on-site at the venue, for each performance); and Winterbranch, 1964.


    IN DECEMBER 1973, a highway repair truck laden with asphalt crashed through the elevated West Side Highway between Little West Twelfth and Gansevoort Streets, closing forever the section of highway south of the collapse. Fifteen years elapsed before the structure was fully dismantled, and in the meantime it stood as a ghostly barrier between “civilized” Manhattan and the Hudson River. For those willing to cross underneath it, the abandoned and dilapidated industrial piers on the other side presented extraordinary opportunities for experimentation and mischief. Most famously, in 1975 Gordon


    ABOUT A THIRD OF THE WAY into Yvonne Rainer’s AG Indexical, with a Little Help from H. M., which premiered at Dance Theater Workshop’s “Sourcing Stravinsky” program in the spring of 2006, the dancer Sally Silvers rolls a television monitor onto the floor. Watching it, she tries, comically, to imitate the saraband of George Balanchine’s Agon. Thus Rainer showed her audience how she remade Balanchine’s late-modernist ballet—by depending on video documentation instead of a dancer’s kinesthetic memory. It’s worth noting that the saraband is danced by a male dancer in the original, which uses “four boys and eight girls” in a suite of baroque dance forms updated in Stravinsky’s serial score. Rainer, for her part, worked with four women (only one of them a ballet dancer, the others modern), the same four who are now dancing her RoS Indexical. It takes all four of them to dance Agon’s pas de deux: The three modern dancers support the ballerina, manipulating her body into the choreography’s extreme extensions. When the dancers return to the opening quartet (“four boys”) to end the ballet, Rainer makes a characteristically goofy substitution: Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther theme for Igor Stravinsky’s original fanfare.DTW’s “Sourcing Stravinsky” program included a lobby wall chart of the many versions of Stravinsky’s ballets. The list for The Rite of Spring included, following Vaslav Nijinsky’s, versions by Léonide Massine, Lester Horton, Mary Wigman, Maurice Béjart, Kenneth MacMillan, John Neumeier, Glen Tetley, Pina Bausch, Angelin Preljocaj, and Shen Wei. And now Rainer. Not surprisingly, she changes the rules of the choreographic game, and she does it, again, with television. The Rite of Spring is famous for all sorts of reasons—Stravinsky’s rhythmically pulsating polytonal score, Nicholas Roerich’s primitivist sets and costumes, Nijinsky’s pigeon-toed, thumping dance steps. But Rite is more famous still for the scandal it caused. It has become the cliché of the avant-garde work as shocking to its audience, such a cliché that the BBC made a docudrama about Rite’s sensational opening night replete with jitters backstage and jeers out front. Rainer’s substitution of the TV program’s sound track for Stravinsky’s music as RoS Indexical’s score signals her intention to mock the hallowed status the scandal bestowed on the ballet. Still, the music is audible over the ruckus, and Rainer’s dancers replicate enough of what we know of the original choreography to make it clear that RoS Indexical is also an homage—to Nijinsky, to Millicent Hodson’s scholarly reconstruction of his choreography, and to the Joffrey Ballet and Finnish National Ballet dancers who have made it comprehensible. But Rainer has no stomach for the primitivist fantasy of the Chosen One, a virgin whose sacrifice supposedly guarantees the stability of man and nature. Could this be why?: When Massine’s 1930 version of Rite premiered in America, Martha Graham danced the Chosen One, about which she later said, “I’ve always felt that if you become an artist, you are the Chosen One.” Aargh! —DOUGLAS CRIMP

    ROUGHLY TWO YEARS ago I was in London visiting a friend who, for some reason, had recorded this BBC dramatization called Riot at the Rite (2005), a fictionalization of the making of The Rite of Spring. All the characters in the historical episode appear in it, from Stravinsky and Roerich to Nijinsky, and the story culminates on that night in 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris—with the dance performed for the BBC version, remarkably, by the Finnish National Ballet. The perspective cuts back and forth throughout between the stage and the riotous audience, which is fictional here, of

  • Gran Fury

    DOUGLAS CRIMP: One of your members, Mark Simpson, is no longer with us. Perhaps we can officially dedicate our remarks here to his memory. When did Mark die?

    TOM KALIN: Mark died of AIDS on November 10, 1996.

    DC: Okay, let’s begin with a work that seems appropriately sad. Ten years ago a few of you in Gran Fury made a poster with four questions, the last of which was, “When was the last time you cried?” Was that the final work done under the auspices of the group?

    LORING McALPIN: Well, after that we did the flyer Good Luck . . . Miss You for “Temporarily Possessed” at the New Museum. That was meant