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PRINT March 2003

OTHER VOICES: FOUR CRITICAL VIGNETTES

Left to right: Cover of Artforum, Summer 1981. Slide of Richard Prince, Untitled, 1979. Cover of ZG no. 3 (1981). Cover art: Robert Longo.

I FIRST ENCOUNTERED THE ART CRITICISM OF THE ’80S around 1996, which made me a bit late to the party. By that time the party had moved to university seminar tables across the country and been neatly parsed for the syllabi, so that students like me could admire how Sherrie Levine plumbed the depths of originality (week 2: “Appropriation”) and Cindy Sherman slyly turned the camera on herself (week 5: “The Gaze: Basics”). Little did I realize, though, that I had nearly missed the party altogether, because just two years later the syllabus, previously titled “Critical Theory and Visual Practice Since 1980,” was repackaged as “Visual Theory as Inventiveness,” an attempt to stave off what was now seen as the embattled state of theory (with an extra week of queer studies thrown in for good measure). In those two short years, the critical apparatus of the ’80s had clearly lost some of

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