PRINT Summer 1989


Ida Panicelli

Last summer in the country, some friends and I began to play a game: we asked each other to list what we considered the wonders of the contemporary world. Our combined roster soon grew large and various, with choices ranging from works of architecture to the flights of astronauts, from the spectacle of the mass media to the accomplishments of science, from the “miracles” that modern medicine has worked on the body to out-of-body experiences. From this game, which proved so stimulating and surprising, I began to question the concept of wonder itself, a concept, it seemed to me, that embraces both ancient beliefs and contemporary speculations.

Growing more and more passionate about this idea, I asked two regular contributors to Artforum, Suzanne Bloom and Ed Hill, to begin an article about it. Soon we decided that the subject was rich enough to warrant exploration from many angles. For is wonder, we wondered, a subjective experience? A social construct? An eternal need or a historical dinosaur? In what, we all seemed to agree, are decidedly “unwonderful” times, is wonder even possible? Beyond that, is it even useful or desirable? Doesn’t the word “wonder” say as much about we who use it as it says about the objects, people, or events to which we assign it, and couldn’t exploring a territory of such uncertain boundaries serve as the opportunity to mark out some new understandings?

From this was born the idea of an issue of Artforum dedicated to the theme of wonder: a Wonder Issue. Over the next few months, the entire editorial staff of the magazine took up the theme, discussing conceptual frameworks, debating viewpoints from which we might explore the concept, and identifying writers 82from a range of countries, perspectives, and disciplines whom we might ask to contribute. One thing we knew from the beginning was that our interests went beyond creating an issue that merely prescribed and described a list of objects and accomplishments that we might call the wonders of the world for the end of the millennium. Instead, after offering some of our own general and particular questions, we left writers free to follow their own paths. Many of these paths, starting from radically different points, cross and crisscross each other intriguingly; we offer them to you here in all their provocative independence and suggestive interaction.

As you will see, no article focuses particularly on the field of art. Instead, we asked over 200 artists to respond to the word “wonder” by supplying us with an image, a statement, or both. The replies that we received, and that you see in this issue, were not designed as illustrations of the articles, then, but operate as a kind of independent text, with the world of art speaking for itself, in the first-person voice of many voices. And to create an issue as unpredictable in its actual form as wonder itself, we commissioned each of five artists—Ida Applebroog, Robert Barry, Joseph Kosuth, Matt Mullican, and Kiki Smith—to design an 8-to-12-page section of the magazine. We would like to extend special thanks to them—and to all the writers, artists, and friends of Artforum who wandered through wonder with us.

And so our journey begins on this month’s cover, a project by Robert Ryman. As we see it, Ryman’s “painting” offers—in the media of bare paper stock and a slightly askew ”brushstroke" of varnish beneath the Artforum logo—a kind of screen on which, or through which, you, our readers, are invited to project your own notions of wonder.

Ida Panicelli and the editors