Tim Griffin

  • Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams

    WHAT WOULD TRON LOOK LIKE in a carbon-dioxide-filled IMAX theater, with a digitized Jeff Bridges hovering above the steep vertebrae of seats buried in ancient snowfalls of calcified crystal? The question is never asked outright in Werner Herzog’s foray into 3-D moviemaking, Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010). But such petrified futures come to mind the moment viewers put on oversize, battery-powered glasses and then, in the opening scene, find themselves—instead of having to dodge a glowing Frisbee or the flailing limbs of the Kraken—greeted by an idyllic vineyard whose protruding tree

  • the 29th São Paulo Bienal

    SOME THREE DECADES AGO, writing in the context of Transavanguardia’s emergence on the global scene, Jean-François Lyotard famously railed against a “period of slackening” in art typified by what he deemed a kind of realism: work that adhered precisely to our expectations for it, neatly aligning with the aesthetic demands set by institutional frameworks and categories that would circulate and distribute it—or, for that matter, render it legible as “work” in the first place. Arguably, we are in a similar period of artistic repose—but we also seem to be witnessing an increasing desire among certain

  • “Today I Made Nothing”

    For the past decade and a half, increasing numbers of artists have devoted themselves to considering the radically altered relationship between work and leisure in contemporary society, which makes a great deal of sense, given that art occupies a uniquely privileged, paradoxical position precisely at the point of overlap between these two spheres. Even so, too often people resort to an old, clichéd trope: The very possibility of art (as an object of contemplation, as a thing produced and circulated) exists only by virtue of leisure time. And yet such leisure time spent in making and looking at

  • interviews November 23, 2010

    John Baldessari

    Relentlessly innovative and influential over the course of a five-decades-long career, John Baldessari (b. 1931) was a progenitor of conceptual art and among the first to explore the possibilities and implications of appropriation—constantly isolating and re-cropping images from television and film both to underline the elasticity of their meaning in changing contexts.

    On the occasion of his traveling retrospective, on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York through January 9, 2011, as well as his solo exhibitions at Marian Goodman Gallery in New York (through December 4) and the

  • Babette Mangolte

    In Calico Mingling, 1973, a film by Babette Mangolte featuring a four-person performance on New York’s Robert Moses Plaza at Fordham University (choreographed by Lucinda Childs), there are moments when the deep focus of the director’s lens renders the dancers’ movements entirely ambiguous. Facing the camera, the performers are clearly all in motion (each with one foot stepping ahead of or behind the other); yet which of them move forward in space and which backward remains strangely unclear. As when a lens contracts, pulling the ground into the same plane as any figures within it, so the

  • Manifesta 8

    Manifesta has arguably become as much a meditation on curating itself, introducing new terms for site-specificity, while pressing the traditional framework of art to engage other fields, from education to governance.

    Created in 1996 as a roaming curatorial consideration of an expanding Europe’s swiftly changing relationships with regions abroad, Manifesta has since arguably become as much a meditation on curating itself, introducing new terms for site-specificity, while pressing the traditional framework of art to engage other fields, from education to governance. In this spirit, Manifesta 8 brings together three teams of organizers to plumb the social ties between Murcia and northern Africa. The vast majority of the artists’

  • Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster

    More than futuristic imaginings or dystopian scenarios, what works of science fiction valuably convey to their readers is an acute awareness of materialist contingency. With sci-fi, at its best, everything from civilization to subjectivity is deeply vulnerable to changes (whether natural or man-made) in the greater environment, and therefore as susceptible to erosion or extinction as any common mineral or diminutive life-form. Even words and ideas—the very substance of culture, the science-fiction writer will suggest—are just another part of the organic world. The notion of psychogeography, in

  • Tim Griffin

    AMONG THE MOST INTRIGUING ASPECTS of conversations around contemporary art is the language most commonly used to describe the unprecedented expansion of its field. More and more often, in this context, one hears references to democracy and democratization, and doubtless such terminology is prompted today by the increasing number and diversity of audiences migrating to museums and galleries around the world. And, of course, these words seem all the more fitting as art-world institutions increasingly present works steeped in performance and participation, with the distance between art and audience


    FOR YEARS, I’ve periodically wondered about the merits of organizing an issue of Artforum around a single, relatively straightforward question: What is art today? That project never came to pass, of course, for reasons probably easy enough to imagine. The subject of inquiry is at once much too simple and much too complex, very specific and yet so broad and abstract as to seem nearly impossible to tackle. Most important, however, the question by itself induces no small amount of embarrassment. It requires that we make no assumptions and take nothing for granted regarding generally agreed-on


    AMONG THE MORE STRIKING aspects of interviews with William S. Burroughs—Beat author and theorist par excellence of addiction in all its iterations—is a strong and prescient Malthusian streak running through his words. Time and again, his interlocutors would pose questions about writerly craft only to discover that Burroughs refused to discuss his fiction apart from the larger forces that both generate and are shaped by the “top-heavy” societies responsible for dwindling natural resources (and, he was wont to add, for financial cataclysm in turn). His fiction, it seems, was for him


    LAST MONTH, I was invited to participate in a round-table celebrating the legacy of Semiotext(e)—that small press begun in 1974 and responsible for introducing so many European theorists to American readers—on the occasion of its archives’ donation to Fales Library at New York University. My prescribed task was straightforward enough: to discuss the imprint’s influence on art during the past three decades. As luck would have it, however, I fell victim to a flu, and so instead of conveying my thoughts to an assembled audience, I found myself ruminating on the subject at home in bed,


    ON ITS SURFACE, curator Daniel Birnbaum’s essay about Keren Cytter in this issue might seem counter-intuitive, inasmuch as it credits the artist with being “emblematic of our moment” while it describes a practice that bears uncanny similarities to works we’ve known in the recent past. In Cytter’s theatrical productions, a male character might become a female who suddenly finds herself a man once more; in her films, an actor is apt to fall abruptly and totally out of character, turning and speaking directly to the audience. Larger narratives, too, invariably come apart at the seams, with passages


    I REMEMBER MY FEELING seven years ago, on first arriving at Artforum, that the situation of art could best be described using a relatively simple triangulation—a course any art magazine calling itself relevant would have to chart. First, there were critically engaged artists, writers, and historians: those for whom the idea of art’s possessing a discursive character (perhaps even a dialectical one) was a given, and for whom, one hoped, art was supposed to generate new and revealing ways to encounter, grapple with, and understand the world around them. Second, there were those who still

  • 1000 WORDS: DANH VO

    WHEN ARTFORUM first approached Danh Vo about his pending reinstallation of Elena Filipovic’s comprehensive survey “Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Specific Objects Without Specific Form” at Wiels Contemporary Art Center, Brussels,† the Vietnamese-born, Berlin-based artist was decidedly reticent to discuss it, feeling that any full exposition of his own ideas would run counter to the project’s spirit. Indeed, he feared the very meaning of his gestures would be irrevocably altered by their public articulation and contextualization; and this, of course, is the very dilemma posed by Gonzalez-Torres’s work and its display. As Vo points out in conversation, the late artist’s pieces often take, and require audiences to take, more circuitous paths, their significance becoming evident only as one moves around them, encountering anew the objects—and often the individuals—that have occupied their different spheres. And herein lies a paradoxical task: If a retrospective is supposed to have a clarifying effect when it comes to an artist’s oeuvre and its qualities, how then should one present work whose meaning always stands at a remove or resides in an opacity that also connotes potential? At Wiels, Vo will put Gonzalez-Torres’s work on view so that it offers many partial reveals and gives (unannounced) access to areas of the institution that are usually off-limits—yielding knowledge of work even while withholding certain of its aspects, allowing for the possibility of alternative routes, both actual and interpretive. Vo will, in other words, illustrate by example and perhaps even provide additional examples by analogy, much as he has done in the passages offered here. —Tim Griffin
    †“Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Specific Objects Without Specific Form,” organized by Elena Filipovic, opened at Wiels Contemporary Art Center, Brussels, on January 16. The retrospective will be reinstalled by a different artist at each of three venues: by Danh Vo at Wiels (March 5–April 24); by Carol Bove at the Fondation Beyeler, Basel (May 21–August 29); and by Tino Sehgal at the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (January 28–April 25, 2011).

    PÈRE LACHAISE CEMETERY is the site for an ongoing battle among dead stars using their life dramas, fighting to attract the attention of myriad pilgrims from around the world. The overdose of Jim Morrison; the trial of Oscar Wilde; the execution of the Communards; the accidental strangulation of Isadora Duncan, whose scarf got caught by the wind and the wheels of her cabriolet while she was escaping with her young lover. This was definitely not a place I wanted to miss during my stay in Paris.

    I bought a map by the cemetery entrance, wanting an overview of the grounds in order to chart my path.


    SOONER OR LATER, anyone working in the sphere of contemporary art has the dawning awareness that someday all this will fall away: The projects and dialogues that are so familiar now, however resonant or even crucial in the present context, will inevitably sink into obscurity or become opaque, their salience lost, only to be reconstructed in approximations by scholars and other enthusiasts decades from now (and that’s the best-case scenario). Perhaps even more disquieting is the occasional sense that such opacity already exists everywhere around us, and that the stories of contemporary art, in

  • Cyprien Gaillard

    This survey features the artist’s already-familiar studies of post-Soviet fight clubs and housing-project demolitions, along with newer works that will undoubtedly evidence an expanding cartography.

    The classic anthropologist’s eye encounters the YouTube ethos in Cyprien Gaillard’s photographs and videos, whose streams of stitched-together footage seem at once fragmentary studies of alien cultures and rough-hewn compilations of amateur travelogues—forcing audiences to ask themselves time and again, “Is all this real?” Curiously, such a building air of instability intersects with a sense of unsteadiness in Western cultures, as Gaillard, conquistador with a digital camera, tours lands of lost modernism worldwide, from Kiev to Cancún. This survey features the


    WRITING IN THIS ISSUE about the current traveling retrospective of the work of James Castle (1899–1977)—a deaf and mute artist who, over the course of some seventy years, produced thousands of handmade objects and drawings while living in the care of his family in Idaho—curator Lynne Cooke describes a historical schism in the reception of such endeavors that were never intended to traverse the established distribution networks of art-world institutions. For much of the past century, Cooke says, these productions were understood to be (and were valued for being) totally transgressive,


    NOT MORE THAN FORTY-EIGHT HOURS after Artforum’s October issue hit the stands did I receive an e-mail from a friend and colleague expressing some ambivalence about the magazine’s inclusion of excerpts from Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Commonwealth. Absolutely, he said, it’s great to find the political philosophers’ ideas in these pages—but can we in all seriousness share their enthusiastic belief, suggested in a preamble to those excerpts, that the art world today might offer us a reservoir of experimentation “revealing the limits of our imagination and at other times fueling it”? The


    INTRODUCING MICHAEL HARDT AND ANTONIO NEGRI’S newest publication, Commonwealth—two extended selections from which make their debut in this issue—curator Okwui Enwezor looks back at the cultural context surrounding the arrival of the theorists’ earlier philosophical disquisition Empire and recalls that volume’s (and the day’s) somewhat paradoxical quality. Published in 2000, the book ostensibly set out to describe a political and social logic emerging as the binary codes of the cold war finally gave way to decentralized networks forged by capital and marked by regional conflict—in


    SEPTEMBER MARKS A FULL YEAR since our encounter with economic cataclysm prompted many in the art world to suggest that seemingly retardataire notions of critique, resistance, and transformation—often easily dismissed as abstract or archaic—were now not so highfalutin. Rather, it was suggested, at a historical juncture when dynamics in finance were clearly rattling the very foundations of the global economy, even the most speculative conceits of art assumed a pragmatic air. Such dizzying questions as “How do we want to be governed?”—to cite just one matter raised in this publication