Tim Griffin

  • 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

  • Left: John Baldessari, Noses & Ears, Etc.: Blood, Fist, and Head (with Nose and Ear), 2006, three-dimensional digital print with acrylic paint, 43 1/4 x 52“.  Right: John Baldessari, Kiss/Panic, 1984, gelatin silver prints with oil tint, mounted to board, in eleven parts, 80 x 72”.
    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

  • Museo Hidráulico los Molinos del Río y Sala Caballerizas.

    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

  • Visitors to Marina Abramović’s exhibition “The Artist Is Present,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2010. Photo: Carolina A. Miranda.


    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

  • Jean Baudrillard giving a Whitney Museum of American Art Distinguished Lecture on American Art and Culture, Asia Society, New York, 1987. Photo: Jeanne Trudeau.


    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,

  • Keren Cytter, Four Seasons, 2009, still from a color video, 12 minutes.


    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

  • James Cameron, Avatar, 2009, still from a color HD video, 162 minutes. Jake (Sam Worthington, left) and Quaritch (Stephen Lang, right).


    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