T. J. Clark

  • Photo: Brian Green

    Ciaran Carson's Still Life

    The poet Ciaran Carson, who died of lung cancer in October 2019, was master of the long line, and chronicler of his hometown’s civil war. Books like Belfast Confetti (1989) will survive. Still Life, whose title is similarly painful, was published in Ireland in the month of Carson’s death, and in the US this past February (Wake Forest). It bids farewell to life in a sequence of seventeen poems about paintings and prints, all of them treasured, one or two of them—a still life of a bowl by Jeffrey Morgan, a print by James Allen—in the poet’s possession.

    Many poets write poems about paintings; few,

  • T. J. Clark

    Phil Cohen’s cantankerous, meticulous, jam-packed investigation of the coming of the 2012 Olympic Games to East London, On the Wrong Side of the Track? East London and the Post Olympics (Lawrence & Wishart), took me by surprise. It is the kind of guide to present-day Spectacle I had been waiting for. Back in the 1960s, Cohen was the most brilliant of the early English readers of French Freud and the structuralists. I remember pages of his impatient handwriting peppered with Lacanian algorithms aiming to reconcile, or at least analogize, the structures of unconscious repression with differential


    Thirteen scholars, critics, writers, and artists choose the year’s outstanding titles.

    T. J. CLARK

    No great surprise about my book of the year. I had been waiting for Michael Fried’s The Moment of Caravaggio (Princeton University Press) ever since hearing him present an early version of its opening ideas in Berkeley years ago, and when the volume arrived it took me by storm. I have never understood the churlishness of so much mainstream art history when confronted with the latest episode in Fried’s lifelong research project, but no doubt there will be the usual rolling of eyes in certain quarters




    I turned to Psyche: Inventions of the Other, Volume I (edited by Peggy Kamuf and Elizabeth Rottenberg; Stanford University Press) in connection with my attempts to look differently at what is made of thinking (and writing) in the art of Hanne Darboven, whose work has often been regarded (to my mind erroneously, or mostly erroneously) as an instance of “Conceptual art.” Psyche—which comprises translations of the first sixteen essays from a volume of Jacques Derrida’s writing that originally appeared

  • the best books of the year

    Twelve scholars, critics, and artists choose the year's outstanding titles.


    A book like Alastair Wright’s Matisse and the Subject of Modernism (Princeton University Press) is enough to rekindle my faith in the future of art history as a discipline. (Here I could also mention two other such rare pearls from 2005: Maria Gough’s The Artist as Producer: Russian Constructivism in Revolution [University of California Press] and Christina Kiaer’s Imagine No Possessions: The Socialist Objects of Russian Constructivism [MIT Press]). The first amazing trait of Wright’s book is that it manages

  • Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War, by Retort (Iain Boal, T. J. Clark, Joseph Matthews, and Michael Watts). London and New York: Verso. 224 pages. $16.

    T. J. Clark on Retort

    Days before the fourth anniversary of the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, art historian and activist T. J. Clark spoke with Artforum about Retort, Afflicted Powers, and world politics since 9/11.

    Retort is a group of thirty or forty people—writers, artists, activists—who have been meeting for close to two decades in the Bay Area. It’s very informal, not a membership-driven political organization—very deliberately not—but rather a forum in which people discuss a wide range of topics with a certain ground of shared Left politics. At various points we have produced brochures and