Saul Anton


    Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War, by Hito Steyerl. London and New York: Verso, 2017. 256 pages.

    ARTISTS WHO WRITE are nothing new, but recent years have seen the emergence of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink interdisciplinarity that goes far beyond the traditional mixture of art and art criticism. The growing profile of theory in art schools and a sense of urgency in the face of both technological change and political instability has led artists such as Hito Steyerl not only to broaden their artistic practice but also, increasingly, to play the role of the public intellectual.

  • Paul Sietsema

    You might think that an artist based in Los Angeles would be concerned, at least minimally, with entertainment value. Not so with Paul Sietsema, whose 16 mm film Empire, 2002, currently on view as part of the Whitney’s Contemporary Series, is blissfully content to fly in the face of not only Hollywood’s categorical imperative but also the gesamtkunst hydraulics of Matthew Barney, the social allegories of Steve McQueen and William Kentridge, and the psychological noir of Eija-Liisa Ahtila. But if the thirty-four-year-old artist’s oblique homage to Warhol’s far longer film of the same name turns


    “Talking is the only meaningful activity we’re capable of.” Thus spake Kutlug Ataman when we met in New York recently. Curious words for someone trained in “narrative film” at UCLA’s graduate film program, a Hollywood conduit where cinema is considered the presentation of actions, not words. Not so for this Turkish filmmaker and artist, whose “video vérités,” shown at biennials in Istanbul, Berlin, and Venice, as well as at Documenta 11, are centered on individuals who do little more than speak. This speech, however, is no ordinary ramble. In it, we witness something extraordinary. In works such

  • Rachel Harrison, The Honey Collector (detail), 2002, polystyrene, cement, Parex, acrylic, color photograph, and honey, 65 1/2 x 41 x 32". Photo: Oren Slor.

    Bear Necessities

    In the dimly received 2002 Whitney Biennial commentators from diverse, even rival camps found one bright spot: RACHEL HARRISON’s slipshod constructions that serve both as sculptures and as supports for found photos and objects. Former editor SAUL ANTON offers his take on the surprise critical accord as well as his thoughts on an art that plays one medium off another.

    It’s snotty, I know, but I tend to become that much more interested in an artist if, say, a journalist from one of the glossies turns to me and says: “I don’t get it. I mean, isn’t this just plain ugly?” Of course, you


    A guy wearing an unkempt wig and thick glasses steps out from behind the red curtain into the spotlight. He smiles nervously, clears his throat, and launches into a joke. Silence. He blurts out another one. This time he gets a snicker or two, but the audience is already digging in its heels. You sit there and think, This poor schmuck, someone really ought to tell him. He manages to squeeze a few titters out of the crowd, but ultimately the groans overpower the giggles, and, finally, the comedian bows. Everyone claps weakly, out of pity, relieved that the show’s over. Few things in life are more

  • Francis Alÿs, Cuando la fé mueve montañas (When faith moves mountains), 2002. Performance view, Lima, Peru, April 11, 2002.


    “IN MY CITY EVERYTHING is temporary,” writes Francis Alÿs. And indeed, the ephemeral is the central aesthetic principle for this artist, who is perhaps best known for his “walks”—like The Collector, 1991–92, which entailed his pulling a magnetic toy on wheels through the streets of Mexico City, picking up bits of metal along the way; or Narcotourism, 1996, for which Alÿs traversed Copenhagen over the course of seven days under the influence of seven different drugs. Such works chart a literal and figurative path through an urban, social, or discursive space. One might say that Alÿs has invented


    When Lawrence Rinder was named curator of contemporary art at the Whitney two years ago, he inherited one of the toughest gigs in the world of art: the Whitney Biennial. Because the biennial remains contemporary art's best-known survey, hosted by one of the art world's most visible venues it's the show critics love to hate. We asked three Artforum regulars, Bob Nickas, Bruce Hainley, and George Baker, for their takes. ( editor Saul Anton adds a new-media footnote.) The only constant: the carping, of course—and one stray note of triple consensus.

  • Saul Anton

    Data visualization, hypertext narrative, software art, alternative browsers, and games—adjunct curator of new media art Christiane Paul's Biennial roundup casts the Net wide, despite its modest (ten-work) size. Though she presents a useful overview of the dominant genres in the field, Paul's survey suffers from some of the same touristic eclecticism that plagues the broader show, even as her selections favor heuristic demonstrations of technological possibilities and a certain data formalism-two common—pitfalls for new-media art.

    Some of the work in the show avoids these traps, for

  • news September 21, 2001



    Among the victims of last Tuesday's disaster at the World Trade Center were the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's two studio programs, Worldviews and Studioscape. The programs were housed on the 91st and 92nd floors of the north tower.

    All but one of the fourteen artists currently in the programs are safe. Thirty-eight-year-old sculptor Michael Richards remains missing, having likely spent the night at the studio, according to those who last spoke with him. Like that of so many others, Richards’s photo can now be found on the makeshift bulletin boards set up in Union Square, placed there by LMCC

  • news June 10, 2001



    The winners of the 49th Venice Biennale ( prizes were announced on Saturday, June 9. The Golden Lion for best national pavilion was awarded to German artist Gregor Schneider, who had his childhood home transported and reconstructed inside the German pavilion. The jury called the project a “transformation of authoritative and monumental architecture into an obsessive labyrinth of rooms that reflect secretive conditions of discomfort as well as possibilities of freedom,” but long lines outside the pavilion prevented many people from visiting the exhibition during the opening


    If it had been possible to build the Tower of Babel without ascending it, the work would have been permitted.
    —Franz Kafka, Parables and Paradoxes

    Spencer Finch hardly looks up as I step into his unusually tidy studio. Bent over, dabbing paint onto what seems to be a large polka-dot drawing, he blurts out a casual “Hi” as he circles his cinemascope-shaped work like a chess master scrutinizing the position of his opponent. A minute later he finally straightens up and looks at me. “You see this color here? It's the color of that chair,” Finch says, pointing to a rust orange piece of furniture


    “EAVESDROPPING ON ONLINE DISCUSSIONS ABOUT digital and Net art, I always have a panic-attack feeling that the air has been sucked out of the room. Let's face it, a lot of this stuff is deeply sucky.” Strong words from self-styled tech maven Mark Dery, but the provocation mirrors a common enough skepticism when it comes to the marriage of art and digital technologies. As Saul Anton, Artforum's new website editor and the moderator of this roundtable, pointedly observes, such reserve is “inversely proportional to the exuberant embrace of all things digital in our culture at large.”

    Still, the ongoing