Lauren Sedofsky

  • Alain Badiou in his home, Paris, 1989. Photo: Sophie Bassouls. © Sophie Bassouls/Corbis.


    Alain Badiou has arrived at what is perhaps the crowning moment of his career. His magnum opus of 1988, Being and Event, was finally published in English this year. His much-anticipated sequel, Logiques des mondes (Logics of Worlds)—his first major philosophical work in eighteen years—appeared in France in March. And in February, Century, transcriptions of the seminar Badiou gave at the Collège International de Philosophie between 1998 and 2001, will be published in English translation. Taking advantage of the occasion to revisit his ideas and their evolution, we invited Badiou once


    THE UNDERLYING INDETERMINACY OF THE PHYSICAL WORLD, AND PERHAPS ALL THE more so our experience of it, reserves a rebuke for any kind of graphic fixity. It is a rebuke that Roni Horn has embraced, interrogated, and accommodated in an especially diverse body of work. Nowhere, though, does the figure of mutability appear quite so enigmatic as in her photo-based portrait series. That the effects derive from an element in some sense external to the multiple takes should come as no surprise; Horn’s sets, series, and multiwork installations invariably involve a repercussive relay of allusions and

  • “Ce qui arrive . . .”

    The gnawing question raised by “Ce qui arrive . . .” (What happens . . . , officially translated as “Unknown Quantity”), the exhibition at the Fondation Cartier conceived by technology theorist Paul Virilio and cocurated by Leanne Sacramone, is how this trial run for Virilio’s prospective “Museum of Accidents” could possibly have fixed on the destruction of the World Trade Center as the exemplary case. Yet at the core of this show, labeled “The Accident,” five extemporaneous recordings of the event by Tony Oursler, Moira Tierney, Jonas Mekas, and Wolfgang Staehle established an unequivocal center

  • Hanne Darboven

    Recognized for three decades but never really reckoned with, Hanne Darboven’s work remains very much an unknown quantity. The full measure of her proliferative practice and the terms it sets for contemporary art has been all too easily obscured by art criticism’s unstoppable romance with authentic subjectivity, the private, the personal, and the autobiographical. True, the literature is surprisingly scant and suspiciously slight. Nearly all of it, however, sidesteps Mel Bochner’s 1967 avant-garde of impersonal systemizers, paying its dues instead to Lucy Lippard’s signal redemption of Darboven’s


    The possibility of a new taxonomy for the art of this century, most especially an unruly one, carries with it a strong charge, a genuine kick. It’s doubly appealing when it promises to thrust aside a dominant, seemingly unquestionable presupposition and bring its repressed opposite into full view, not just as a theoretical hypothesis, but as an unsuspected historical reality for decades. Of all the art-historical insurgencies against the high ideals of Modernism, then, few seem so radical or so far-reaching in their ambition to turn the tables as the Centre Georges Pompidou’s summer 1996 exhibition “L’Informe: mode d’emploi” (The formless: instructions for use). Taking as its paradigm Georges Bataille’s enigmatic postulation of the informe—a term that admits of no definition, defies definitions as such, even denies essentially that things have “definition”—the show subverts the presumed sine qua non of art, the making of form, with a shift to an art predicated on form’s undoing. That some two hundred pieces of evidence should be laid out in a manner that squelches such habitual curatorial principles as style, period, oeuvre, and theme is a mere by-product of the informe’s declassifying power. The exhibition functions instead by way of the informe’s “instructions for use,” a set of “operations,” permeable and provisional, proposed to do violence as much to the precepts of Modernism as to form itself.
    The show’s cocurators are Rosalind Krauss, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History at Columbia University, and Yve-Alain Bois, Joseph Pulitzer Jr. Professor of Modern Art at Harvard. If their credentials are academic, their loosing of the informe on artistic practice, discernible in their work for a number of years, is decidedly not. From Passages in Modern Sculpture to The Optical Unconscious, from her contributions to Artforum in the ’60s and ’70s to the founding and stewardship of October, Krauss’ repudiation of Clement Greenberg’s formalist line has permitted her to observe the evolution of contemporary art, to nab it and tag it, with a Darwinian precision and intelligence. Her rereading of Modernism in its reciprocal relations with contemporary production, especially via the paradigm of “the photographic,” has made her contemporary art criticism’s principal force to contend with. Carrying commensurate European intellectual baggage of the post-Structuralist/October variety, Bois has been more closely associated with the austere regions of abstraction: Constructivism, Mondrian, Barnett Newman. Yet the vision of painting’s capacity to induce thinking expressed in his Painting as Model no doubt explains the resilience with which he has encountered Lucio Fontana’s expressionism, or with which he has passed from abstraction to the issue of noncom-position. Both Krauss and Bois have indicated that Bataille’s informe surfaced in their work at first because of its heuristic interest. With “L’informe: mode d’emploi,” it now designates a corpus, as well as a grid for reading it.

    LAUREN SEDOFSKY: You’ve chosen as the title of your show “L’Informe.” The word is untranslatable, indefinable, opaque. Is this a form of provocation?

    YVE-ALAIN BOIS: In a way it is. The word’s untranslatable, but you can find approximations: formless or formlessness. But it’s not a concept. Indeed, it’s an anticoncept. Were you to define it as a concept, it would be the concept of undermining concepts, of depriving them of their boundaries, their capacity to articulate the world. It’s provocative in the sense that we wanted to undo some categories, and we recognized the capacity of the informe


    Café Beaubourg’s indisputable victory over Café Costes—once the ne plus ultra of the ultra-now, today a Naf Naf boutique—constitutes a Parisian cautionary tale of contemporary architecture. A decade ago, in the environs of the Centre Pompidou, Philippe Starck’s Café Costes is what you “discussed”; Christian de Portzamparc’s Café Beaubourg was where you went. The consensus then, as now, favors such outmoded values as comfort, calm, and civility. Countering Starck’s insolent playfulness, Portzamparc had cannily displaced a tried-and-true model: salon-style seating in two column-protected aisles


    No consideration of photography can any longer pretend to credibility without a full recognition of photography’s imminent eclipse. Our end-century vintage prints are destined to be the last. The digital image, with its electronic and algorithmic matrix, has made chemicals, even to a degree optics, obsolete. Its binary logic has pinned down the pulverized world of light-sensitive granules, convened luminosity, color, and tonal gradation into measurable, calculable bits of information. What hasn’t budged, though, is a basic story of activating energy. At some point, no doubt, we will acknowledge


    ALAIN BADIOU IS AN ANOMALY. What he has attempted has all the allure of the obviously impossible. That’s the fascination of the thing. Judge it retrograde or eminently contemporary, aberrant or a stroke of genius, but take it squarely for what it is: the painstaking effort on the part of an Althusserian Marxist, longtime Maoist, and unanalyzed disciple of Lacan to quit the confines that several generations of “limit-makers” have erected around philosophical practice.

    Wittgenstein’s fragmentary sophistics is merely a symptom. Revolutionary political theorizing, the various positivisms, and the


    NOTICE HOW THE SEEMINGLY neutral observation that the photographic image retains a trace of something real has evolved in the course of the century into an exquisite thanatology. No sooner is the brevity of this real physical contingency evoked than reality is given up for dead and buried, withdrawn into a vanished past, irretrievable. The mourning and melancholia of Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida is only the most sustained, perhaps delirious, example of an understanding of photography as the experience of mutability. It is as if the ideals of Modernism and a radical epistemological pessimism