Tim Griffin


    What Comes After Farce?, by Hal Foster. New York: Verso, 2020. 224 pages.

    SURVEYING OUR CULTURAL LANDSCAPE through the prepositional prism of after is hardly a new approach among critics and historians writing on art during the past quarter century. Yet, as articulated in the title of Hal Foster’s new book, the premise is newly intriguing for being tethered to—and eclipsed in blunt rhetorical force by—the sad comedy of “farce.” Here Foster borrows the term from Marx’s famous adage regarding the French bourgeoisie’s willingness in 1851 to cede democratic values to a second Bonaparte emperor some


    RECENTLY, I was in conversation with a film-studies professor who expressed consternation over her unanticipated difficulty convincing an incoming class of students of Dogme 95’s importance during the 1990s. More precisely, this professor was finding it nearly impossible to render for a younger generation just how transgressive this Lars von Trier–led group had been when it eschewed the staid conventions of studio camerawork in their films for an unfixed point of view. For these students, as she observed to me, it was simply proving hard to grasp how such technical shifts might ever have been


    FOR ME, few things in art have ever been so enjoyable as a conversation with Okwui—no doubt because however benignly one of our discussions began, it would inevitably end up, as he told me once while bursting out in laughter, “really trying to get to the bottom of things.” In part, I am certain, this pleasure arose just by virtue of a good relationship between editor and author; we worked together on different texts at Artforum and elsewhere for the better part of ten years. Yet the beauty of Okwui’s exhibitions was always underlined and enhanced by how their sweeping ambition—whether to “crack

  • Vito Acconci

    I FIRST MET VITO ACCONCI sometime late in the year 2000. By happenstance, a couple of local galleries had organized secondary-market exhibitions of his performance photography from the 1970s, and as a young writer then working for Time Out New York, I thought of going directly to the artist for comment. Acconci had recently forgone—or lost, depending on whom you asked—all gallery representation, having publicly declared his departure from the field of art for the disciplines of architecture and design. In light of such bold pronouncements (perhaps, I surmised, a polemical holdover from

  • HBO’s The Young Pope

    NEAR THE BEGINNING of The Young Pope, Pius XIII—the freshly elected pontiff played by Jude Law in this new HBO series directed by Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino—is asked to meet with the Holy See’s chief marketing strategist, who expresses her deep alarm that the church has not yet begun production on its greatest piece of merchandise: the pope himself, whose likeness would generate billions in income through its appearance on everything from plates and ashtrays to key chains. Pius, however, refuses to allow his image to be exploited, suggesting that it cannot harbor such significance

  • Tim Griffin

    IF ROLAND BARTHES had a standard practice when it came to his theoretical writings, it was to engage an earlier period’s cultural production whenever he sought critical perspective on the culture of his own time—utilizing the distance afforded by considering, say, Racine’s ideation of literature in order to gain a fuller sense of the prejudices hidden within (and the historical debts owed by) contemporary formulations of writing. Such a contrapuntal approach would afford a new generation of theorists and scholars a genealogical grasp of their chosen discipline—as well as of its

  • Tim Griffin

    FOR MORE THAN A DECADE, the art world has been fascinated with Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello’s New Spirit of Capitalism (1999), making all the more striking the degree to which that volume’s single chapter devoted to art—more specifically, to the fate of artistic critique—has been ignored. For the predicament of critical models in contemporary art still finds a clear corollary in the authors’ description of corporate culture in France after May 1968.

    As Boltanski and Chiapello propose, corporations operating in the wake of that populist uprising genuinely sought to satisfy protesters’

  • Guillaume Nicloux’s Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq

    TO TAKE THE NARRATORS of his various novels at their collective word, author Michel Houellebecq would seem to think few things are so banal—or, perhaps more accurately, so much a thing of the past—as people. In the opening pages of his first published volume, Whatever (1994), the writer deplored how “the world is becoming more uniform before our eyes,” such that “human beings are often bent on making themselves conspicuous by subtle and disagreeable variations, defects, character traits, and the like.” His most celebrated novel, The Elementary Particles (1998), subsequently portrayed

  • “Monika Sosnowska: Architectonisation”

    If the angel of history looks perpetually back at the accumulating wreckage of the past, Monika Sosnowska is undoubtedly that seraph’s guide for the last century. The artist repeatedly takes up the figures of modernism and their gestures toward utopia through art, architecture, and design, only to mark their fateful passing and our ever-increasing distance from them in time. Yet in this survey of both large-scale installation projects and smaller objects dating from between 2003 and 2014 (including the complete set of sculptures making up the “Market” series, 2012–14),

  • Tim Griffin

    LOCATED AT THE VERY HEART of Christopher Williams’s retrospective, “The Production Line of Happiness,” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York was an image that stood apart for seeming at once so incongruous and yet utterly representative of the artist’s oeuvre. Like so many of Williams’s works, this photograph takes its title from an exhaustive inventory of the circumstances of its making, beginning with TecTake Luxus Strandkorb grau/weiß/Model no.: 400636—naming the branded model of a beach chair and the online store from which it was purchased—before moving to the chair’s materials

  • True Detective

    RARE IS THE CELEBRATED TELEVISION SERIES that owes its reputation almost entirely to its inaugural episode’s first twenty minutes, but such is the case with True Detective. Indeed, the HBO program—penned by Nic Pizzolatto and starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as detectives Marty Hart and Rust Cohle, respectively—might even be said to have created a media frenzy based on a single conversation between its protagonists. Driving away from a ritualized murder scene deep in rural Louisiana, Cohle rebuffs his partner’s attempt to bond over the horrific nature of what they’ve

  • “Douglas Gordon: The Only Way Out is the Only Way In”

    It is sometimes difficult to recall that in the decade just before artists became fixated on the little screen’s splintering fields of information, what prevailed instead was an obsession with the big screen: immersive art installations offering a kind of high-end notation for phenomenological shifts happening throughout culture as digital technology took hold. Few artists are so crucial to this history as Douglas Gordon, whose landmark works lent pop iconicity to the editing of experience. This slender but astute survey will pair a recent effort with five others from

  • Tim Griffin

    PROBABLY MOST STRIKING about curator Philipp Kaiser’s incisive retrospective exhibition “Jack Goldstein x 10,000”—originally organized for the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach, California—is the uncanny extent to which the artist, seen from our distance today, still proves able to shape the reception of his work. Indeed, such coding in advance was forthrightly thematized here by Portfolio Performance, 1976–85/2001. In this group of nine large prints, each panel features a single archival image of a piece executed by Goldstein in the years referenced, accompanied by an

  • Rodney Ascher’s Room 237

    BY SO MANY MEASURES, Room 237 is a diminutive film. Directed by Rodney Ascher (reputed for his 2010 short, S from Hell), it is restricted in scope to the interwoven commentaries of five devotees of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 classic, The Shining, whose day jobs range from ABC correspondent (Bill Blakemore) and history professor (Geoffrey Cocks) to experimental musician (John Fell Ryan), playwright (Juli Kearns), and professional “conspiracy hunter” (Jay Weidner). The remarks of these aficionados are laid over corresponding clips from Kubrick’s film, in addition to occasional passages from the

  • Tim Griffin

    WRITING DURING A VERY DIFFERENT MOMENT IN ART, scholar and critic Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, seeking to construct a genealogy for contemporary conceptual practices, famously asserted that the artist Robert Morris irrevocably altered the reflexive constitution of artmaking after modernism by introducing linguistic theory into his engagements with sculpture. In so doing, Buchloh suggested, the sculptor necessarily extended the parameters of art about itself outward to include the very architectural surfaces and frames that provided any artwork with its physical syntax and, for later generations, the

  • Tim Griffin on art and artifical life

    CLASSIC WITHIN THE GENRE of science fiction is the figure of the replicant, or android—a wholly synthetic being who is nevertheless, for all immediate intents and purposes, distinctly human, possessing the capacity for emotion and memory, and even for a kind of personal evolution while navigating the ever-shifting terrain of lived experience. And yet more definitive of this figure, within the narrative paradigms of science fiction, is how he or she is nearly always subjected to a melancholic twist of fate that introduces an irreparable fissure between engineered and organic worlds. At some

  • Tim Griffin

    THE TEMPORALITY OF ART’S DISPLAY has always been in dialogue with that of the surrounding culture, and, more acutely, with that of commerce and its cycles of production and consumption. If, for example, during the workers’ reform movements of the 1800s the great expositions saw an extension of exhibition hours to make it possible for popular audiences to visit after the factory day shift, by the end of the nineteenth century encyclopedic institutions such as New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art would be attuned to shoppers’ attention spans. (When people visited either the encyclopedic museum


    AMONG THE MORE PUZZLING PREOCCUPATIONS of dialogues around art during the past five years has been “the contemporary,” a seemingly self-evident description that, to date, has operated largely in reverse—that has been put forward, in other words, as a meaningful denomination and subject of inquiry in advance of any actual, deductive relationship to the surrounding world. The hope, it would seem, is that the term employed by itself, and evocatively, will help tease out some general understanding of the conditions for artmaking and its reception today. Yet, unlikely as this might be, the

  • William Leavitt

    IT MUST HAVE BEEN A THRILL when poststructuralism hit the scene in Los Angeles in the early 1970s: Hardly a picture, it seems, could pass through an artist’s studio without a new kind of caption being affixed, totally altering that image’s sense. For In Search of the Miraculous (One Night in Los Angeles), 1973, Bas Jan Ader endowed dim snapshots with romantic grace, scribbling snatches of song lyrics at their bases. Five years later, in his series “Blasted Allegories,” John Baldessari paired snapshots of televised imagery with single words, prompting (by making, for example, angst seem like

  • Matt Mullican

    While other artists during the 1970s were busy exploring how media imagery marks our distance from the world, Matt Mullican was considering the ways such representations are inevitably part of it.

    While other artists during the 1970s were busy exploring how media imagery marks our distance from the world—to use the parlance of the Pictures generation—Matt Mullican was considering the ways such representations are inevitably part of it. In fact, he decided to become a representation himself, regularly performing under hypnosis so that the often arbitrary conventions by which we evaluate experience became all the more apparent. As this retrospective seeks to organize nearly four decades of work that delves so deeply into the question of how we organize