Joe Scanlan

  • FAIR USE: AN ARTIST'S PROJECT

    I CHOOSE to consider writing as a useless labor, apolitical and of little moral significance. Urged on by some base inspiration, I confess I would experience a kind of pleasure at being proved wrong. A guilty pleasure, since it would be at the expense of the victims, those who thought I was right.

    For Tino Sehgal, other people’s writing on his work would appear to function as notary to the juggernaut that is the artist’s career, a kind of amicus brief in which the content is irrelevant so long as its signature achieves the necessary gravitas. All that really matters in this moment of writing,

  • THE USES OF DISORDER: THE ART OF FELIX GONZALEZ-TORRES

    REMEMBER FELIX GONZALEZ-TORRES? The question isn’t meant to be facetious. Rather, it’s meant to point out how much the workings of politics and culture have changed since his first exhibitions in the late 1980s—and to start a debate on the role his work has played, if any, in our experience of those changes. I say start a debate because, to my mind, Gonzalez-Torres’s work has never really been challenged: It never had to convince skeptics over an extended period of time that it was worth looking at, thinking about, or participating in. In retrospect, it seems that his billboards, light strands,

  • Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Specific Objects Without Specific Form

    Remember Felix Gonzalez-Torres? The question is not facetious. As the universe spins us further away from his time on earth, one of the better questions is: Whose memories, whose records, will shape the artist’s legacy in years to come?

    Remember Felix Gonzalez-Torres? The question is not facetious. As the universe spins us further away from his time on earth, one of the better questions is: Whose memories, whose records, will shape the artist’s legacy in years to come? Will it be the institutions that administer his eternally mutable sculptures? The nameless viewers who set them in motion? Or the generation of artists eating cucumber sandwiches in his cool, conceptual shade? Elena Filipovic has an exquisite response: Assemble some fifty pieces of Gonzalez-Torres’s work made between 1986 and the mid-’90s,

  • MODEST PROPOSALS

    Industry, commercialism and the bourgeois are very much with us. This whole notion of trying to form a cult that transcends all this strikes me as a kind of religion-in-drag, you might say. I’m just bored with it, frankly. —Robert Smithson¹

    AS THE LAWRENCE WEINER RETROSPECTIVE at the Whitney Museum fades to white under multiple coats of Kilz and latex paint, and his various exuberant ephemera take up residence at LA MoCA before wending their way back to their rightful property owners; as Tate Modern and the ICA London emerge from momentary spells of whispered headlines, random sketching, streams of consciousness, and face slapping; as New York’s New Museum concludes its vestigial assault on the Work of Art, not to mention the etiquette of proper spacing, and as visitors to the new building experience the worst case of buyer’s

  • social space and relational aesthetics

    WHAT MAKES relational aesthetics so boring? I’ve been wondering a lot lately why an approach to artmaking dedicated to social interaction has generated so much underwhelming art. Perhaps the fact that relational aesthetics is dependent on site contingency, collaboration, and contrived indeterminacy makes it feel a little too much like the 1960s and is therefore dulled by nostalgia, or worse, academicism. Or perhaps it was that Nicolas Bourriaud’s book Relational Aesthetics, first published in French in 1998 and translated into English in 2002, seemed like Pierre Bourdieu’s theories on cultural

  • Walead Beshty

    In 1969, a nightly TV-news anchor named Fred Van Amburg was troubled by his declining ratings, which he believed were due to the unbearable daily reports of protests and body counts. Having limited control over world events but much control over their packaging, Amburg decided that the news wasn’t the problem, its presentation was. A somber, solitary journalist delivering the news directly into the camera—and, by extension, into people’s living rooms—made viewers feel responsible for it, and the only way to avoid that feeling was not to watch. Amburg’s innovation, dubbed “Happy Talk,” forever

  • ARTIST CURATES: DIY

    Although many artists can be said to contemplate mortality in their work—usually in a veiled, Robert Frost kind of way—a clearheaded few have cut through the allusive haze and made their contemplation plain. Whether natural selection, mercy killing, or suicide, intimations of death have gotten artists through many a hard night. Sensing her failing beauty and waning political influence, the Countess Castiglione posed for The Foot, one of her most touching and sardonic images. Kazimir Malevich designed and painted his own coffin without compromising his aesthetics or his politics. This austere