PRINT December 2009

Hal Foster

Jon Kessler, The Palace at 4 AM, 2005, mixed media. Installation view, P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York. Photo: Rick Haylor.

NO CONCEPT COMPREHENDS THE ART OF THE PAST DECADE, but there is a condition that this art has shared, and it is a precarious one. Almost any litany of the machinations of the last ten years will evoke this state of uncertainty: a stolen presidential election; the attacks of 9/11 and the war on terror; the deception of the Iraq war and the debacle of the occupation; Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, and rendition to torture camps; another problematic presidential election; Katrina; the scapegoating of immigrants; the health-care crisis; the ecological disaster; the financial house of cards . . . For all the discussion of “failed states” elsewhere, our own government came to operate, routinely and destructively, out of bounds. It is little wonder that the concept of the “state of exception” (developed by Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt) was revived, that this state once again appeared to be (as

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