PRINT November 2011


Adam Pendleton, System of Display, L (LIGHT/Godard, Made in U.S.A., 1966), 2010, silk-screen ink on glass and mirror, 48 7/8 x 48 7/8 x 3".

. . . the continuous present of and or of either or experience of e.g. history

—Joan Retallack, Memnoir (2004)

If [history] were the past, it would not matter. . . .History is the present.

—James Baldwin, A Rap on Race (1971)

WE USED TO THINK OF HISTORY as the realm of the settled, as an inalterable past, as a nightmare. That was the legacy bequeathed us by the past century’s catastrophes, and we are still inclined to adopt its melancholic responses—to gaze back, like Walter Benjamin’s angel of history, on the ruins as they have piled up, as on the inexorable logic of some tragedy. But while we can never redeem what has been lost, versions of the past are forever being reconstructed in our fabrication of the present. The current fascination with conjectural histories and what-if scenarios bespeaks a profound desire to imagine not only other pasts but other potential presents,

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and receive the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the November 2011 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.