COLUMNS

  • Jean Fisher. Photo: James De Quesada. www.jeanfisher.com/. www.jamesdequesada.com/.

    Jean Fisher (1942–2016)

    WRITERS OFTEN SAY THEY WRITE TO FORGET, and as I sat down to write this tribute to my beloved friend Jean Fisher, a conversation that we had about Fernando Pessoa’s posthumously published The Book Of Disquiet came back to me. We were at a dinner in Lisbon with the quixotic art gallerist Luís Serpa, mercilessly teasing him as he tried to get us to agree that without an ending, all narratives are essentially the same, as they come to the same end: to death, to nothing. Pessoa’s book, which solidified his reputation as Portugal’s greatest writer, is a series of fragments, not a book at all, really,

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  • Jean Fisher. Photo: James De Quesada. www.jeanfisher.com/. www.jamesdequesada.com/.

    Jean Fisher (1942–2016)

    I WAS PRIVILEGED TO WORK WITH JEAN FISHER at the Royal College of Art in London while I was head of the department: curating contemporary art. Jean had been teaching art and globalization since the mid 1990s, and I was able to make this a cornerstone of my take on curatorial education. She was an unwavering supporter of our short-lived but extremely successful positive action program, Inspire, which provided scholarships to curators from minority backgrounds. She had no truck with fellow traveling academics who refused to speak truth to power in our struggles within the institution—her excoriating

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  • Jean Fisher. Photo: James De Quesada. www.jeanfisher.com/. www.jamesdequesada.com/.

    Jean Fisher (1942–2016)

    I REMEMBER GOING AROUND to my dear mentor Jean Fisher’s house on an average bleary London night to get my education. This wasn’t the education of textbooks or customary art history but a journey into the late 1980s and early ’90s in Britain, where many a queer writer and artist had spent time sitting in the very same seat as me. Hamad Butt and Stuart Morgan were but two examples whom Fisher cited as close. After Butt died from AIDS-related causes, she fought tooth and nail, lobbying the art world to get his archive and artworks into the Tate’s collection.

    Now that tragic time has come, and Jean

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  • Peter Blundell Jones, 2009. Photo: Peter Lathey.

    Peter Blundell Jones (1949–2016)

    PETER BLUNDELL JONES WAS A RARITY: an architectural historian who could read technical drawings. This ability wasn’t simply a hangover from his professional training at the Architectural Association in London in the late 1960s, but an important aspect of the kind of historian he was. Peter believed in history as a means to enlighten the present moment. He believed that the study of the past could provide a wide-angle view critical for understanding the fluctuating but enduring responsibilities of architecture, to ultimately make it better. Early in his career he brought to the attention of

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  • Peter Blundell Jones, 2014. Photo: Jan Woudstra.

    Peter Blundell Jones (1949–2016)

    PETER BLUNDELL JONES was an important architectural historian who died from cancer at the age of sixty-seven following a short illness. PBJ—as he was fondly known—is widely recognized for bringing an alternative history of twentieth-century architecture to public attention. The standard histories of modern architecture shuffle the same pack of cards—Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Gropius, Mies, et. al.—in various orders according to stylistic and formal preferences. PBJ’s version of architectural history does not concentrate on form or style, but investigates the social purpose of architecture.

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  • Abbas Kiarostami, Doors Without Keys (detail), 2015, fifty digital prints on canvas, audio, dimensions variable.

    Abbas Kiarostami

    ABBAS KIAROSTAMI’S grievously premature death this past July transformed two of his final works, the art installation Doors Without Keys, 2015, and the film Like Someone in Love (2012), into inadvertent requiems. To discern portents of mortality in the last creations of artists whose expiry is untimely—Mozart’s unfinished Requiem being the most famous and vexing example—is a perilous game, but that has never stopped critics from reading Fassbinder’s Querelle (1982) or Pasolini’s Salò (1975) as auguries of their makers’ own willed demise. Though Kiarostami’s optimistic humanism, his

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  • Walter Darby Bannard. Photo: Kathleen Staples Bannard.

    Walter Darby Bannard (1934–2016)

    How can we demonstrate that Mozart is “better” than Salieri or, for that matter, better than Elton John? Well, we can’t. . . . Mozart thrills me. . . . Elton John does not thrill me. . . . I suppose all we really can have is a Mozart fan club, which will grow or diminish with time.

    —Walter Darby Bannard, artcritical, 2002

    WALTER DARBY BANNARD WAS BORN TO WIN. He was the perfect American, a taller, more physically imposing but equally charming version of Warren Beatty, smiling and savvy, brilliant but mischievous. He could have been a movie star, a tennis pro, or at the very least a successful

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  • Marwan, 2012. Photo: Dietmar Bührer.

    Marwan Kassab-Bachi (1934–2016)

    THE PAIN OF LOSS seems to pervade every corner of my life at the moment. Everything feels more precarious than ever before. I sat and watched the US election results from a hotel room in Berlin after having spent the day shivering in a bitter-cold forest fifteen miles outside of the city, where Marwan had just been buried.

    Marwan Kassab-Bachi, known simply as Marwan, was an artist whose imagination captured the minds and hearts of many. But he also moved beyond the limits of art, the limits of painting or canvas, indeed the limits of our imaginations.

    I will begin by explaining how I met Marwan.

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  • Tony Feher, 2011. Photo: Ellen Labenski.

    Tony Feher (1956–2016)

    WHEREVER HE WENT, Tony Feher transformed space, not only through his work but also through his presence; nothing ever felt or looked the same once he had his way with it. He was compelled to leave gifts, whether he was invited as an artist to create or show work in a museum setting or simply as a friend to spend time at someone’s home. He couldn’t help seeing and seizing opportunities to make his mark and leave it up to his host, institutional or private, to decide whether to keep these small treasures once he or the show moved on.

    We conceived of our work together as the planning of a midcareer

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  • Tony Feher, 2010. Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

    Tony Feher (1956–2016)

    MY FIRST COLLABORATION WITH TONY FEHER took place in the summer of 1995, in a group exhibition titled “Thresholds/Limiares” at Fundação de Serralves in Porto, Portugal. The curatorial premise was for each artist—including Tony, Lewis deSoto, R. M. Fischer, Kristin Oppenheim, Paul Ramirez-Jonas, Diana Thater, Meyer Vaisman, and Millie Wilson—to present two works: one within the stately family house and the other in the surrounding gardens. When Tony explained to me that everything he needed for his indoor work would be in his checked luggage, that his total materials and production budget on-site

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  • Jaime Davidovich, 1976.

    Jaime Davidovich (1936–2016)

    “AND ONE LAST THING: AVOID ASSHOLES,” Jaime Davidovich deadpanned, in a final piece of advice to my art students when, in the summer of 2015, we met him in his Bronx Museum retrospective, “Adventures of the Avant-Garde.” Coming from this singular Argentinean artist, who moved to New York in 1963 and participated in post-Minimalist and video-art experiments before becoming one of the pioneers of public-access cable in the late 1970s, this was no empty provocation or joke. It is a challenge to summarize the many twists and turns of Jaime’s career, but he was, above all, a profoundly ethical artist,

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  • Benjamin Patterson, Paper Piece, 1960. Performance view, Hypokriterion Theater, Amsterdam, June 23, 1963.

    Benjamin Patterson

    THE COMPOSER, performer, and visual artist Benjamin Patterson was one of the founding figures of Fluxus, the massively interdisciplinary international art movement that emerged in the early 1960s, encompassing music, text-sound, sculpture, video, Conceptual art, and what later came to be known as performance art. Another cofounder, the artist and entrepreneur George Maciunas, drew the name from a standard dictionary definition for flux: “any substance or mixture . . . used to promote fusion,” or “an excessive discharge, from the bowels or other part.”1

    Patterson was a classically trained

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