TABLE OF CONTENTS

TOP TEN

Nikolas Gambaroff

Nikolas Gambaroff is an artist based in New York and Los Angeles. A show of his collaborative work with Ei Arakawa will open this November at Galerie Meyer Kainer in Vienna.

  1. “MARCEL BROODTHAERS: A RETROSPECTIVE” (MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK, 2016)

    Broodthaers has become a reference for legions of young artists working within a self-reflexive practice, trying to update an approach to institutional critique without falling prey to an overly academic outlook. The long-overdue New York retrospective offered varied possibilities for understanding and experiencing his work in person. His legendary (and completely misunderstood) idea of “inventing something insincere” proves to be a catalyst to reinvent what art could be—in objects and in thought.

  2. PETER SLOTERDIJK, CRITIQUE OF CYNICAL REASON (UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA PRESS, 1988)

    Sloterdijk’s treatise investigates cynicism as the central mind-set of contemporary society and traces its history from the Kynics of Greek antiquity to modern-day philosophy and literature. In Sloterdijk’s terms, the contemporary cynic is attempting to cope with the pressures of modern society, to maintain participation within a system that is already understood as being wrong. Cynicism becomes an easy out, a position from which any practice can morph into an endless stream of participation for participation’s sake, imbued with the false consciousness that one is actually assuming a radical position of critique.

    *Illustration from Peter Sloterdijk’s _Critique of Cynical Reason_* (University of Minnesota Press, 1988). Olaf Gulbransson, _Russian Secret Police_, 1909. Illustration from Peter Sloterdijk’s Critique of Cynical Reason (University of Minnesota Press, 1988). Olaf Gulbransson, Russian Secret Police, 1909.
  3. PHILIP MIROWSKI, MACHINE DREAMS: ECONOMICS BECOMES A CYBORG SCIENCE (CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2001)

    Mirowski investigates one of the pivotal moments of the twentieth century. He traces the radical reformulation of neoclassical economics in the aftermath of World War II—and its restructuring via the military-industrial complex—with in-depth discussions of the Cowles Commission and RAND Corporation. The digital computer and “cyborg sciences” (fields such as cybernetics and artificial intelligence) softened the boundary between organisms and machines to create the Homo economicus—the dominant economic construction of the individual—privileging, and so producing, a mindless, selfish subject. The immense connectivity, quantification, and economization of social life through likes, swipes, and followers deepen this dark outlook on the fabric of our realities.

  4. “DAVID HAMMONS: FIVE DECADES” (MNUCHIN GALLERY, NEW YORK, 2016)

    Hammons’s last three shows at 45 East Seventy-Eighth Street triangulate into a sort of chamber play of his more than fifty-year career. Posited against the backdrop of the posh surroundings (and financier pedigree) of Mnuchin, the first two exhibitions were received as epitomes of the successful art show—bangers, so to say. Critics, artists, and the market seemed to embrace them equally. The third, a self-organized retrospective, was a perverse double entendre. In mounting his overview at this haven for blue-chip work, instead of at a museum, Hammons questioned the idea of freedom within an institutional framework that evades its relationship to market forces, while enjoying the coveted freedom to structure one’s own rhythm of creation and curation.

    *View of “David Hammons: Five Decades,” 2016*, Mnuchin Gallery, New York. From left: _Fur Coat_, 2007; _Untitled_, 2014. Photo: Tom Powel. View of “David Hammons: Five Decades,” 2016, Mnuchin Gallery, New York. From left: Fur Coat, 2007; Untitled, 2014. Photo: Tom Powel.
  5. CHRIS KRAUS, I LOVE DICK (SEMIOTEXT[E], 1997)

    In light of an upcoming Amazon adaptation (directed by Jill Soloway), I thought Chris Kraus’s book needed to appear here, though probably not for the first time. I Love Dick remains a touchstone for me and for uncountable peers. Kraus combined rigorous thought with an angstless yet vulnerable display of intimacy and emotion, all laid bare for dissection, a particularly daunting task within the critical milieu of academic-know-it-all post-1968 New York.

  6. RAYMOND HAINS (GALERIE MAX HETZLER, 2015)

    Simultaneous shows of Hains at Hetzler’s three gallery spaces (two in Berlin, one in Paris) provided a much-awaited reintroduction of his work to an international art context. Hains’s art is emblematic of an open, unclassifiable practice, constantly refueled by language games, coincidence, and personal experience. He remains invested in an idea of form through recurrent structural and visual motifs that could not be further from the “personified abstraction” that he skeptically described during his Nouveau Réaliste years—a true master of the dérive.

  7. HARRY MATHEWS, MY LIFE IN CIA (DALKEY ARCHIVE PRESS, 2005)

    Mathews’s autobiographical novel is set in Paris in 1973, a time when anti-imperialist sentiment was high and the memory of the ’68 student movement still fresh. The author is unwittingly suspected to be an undercover CIA agent embedded in the city’s leftist literary scene. After his repeated denials make his friends and colleagues more suspicious, Mathews starts, in true Oulipian fashion, to inhabit the role. Through the invention of this real-life game, the book shifts from memoir to thriller, opening up a dense web of truth, fiction, and ideological subterfuge.

    *Cover of Harry Mathews’s _My Life in CIA_* (Dalkey Archive Press, 2005). Cover of Harry Mathews’s My Life in CIA (Dalkey Archive Press, 2005).
  8. WILLIAM N. COPLEY, PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG DEALER (CENTRE GEORGES POMPIDOU, 1977)

    This short book is the account of Copley opening a gallery in Beverly Hills in 1948. During his brief time as a dealer (less than a year), he was only able to sell two works of art. Though the Copley Galleries showed many Surrealist greats, it was to a rather unengaged audience. As Jonathan Griffin recently wrote, “the only people who seemed remotely interested were a gang of ten-year-olds who regularly came to study the paintings and were ‘quietly, seriously, profoundly mesmerized by the fantasy of Max Ernst. It was a mini version of the success we’d dreamed of.’” The sincerity with which Copley opened the space and the fleeting time frame add to its special status.

    *View of “Objects by Joseph Cornell,” 1948*, Copley Galleries, Los Angeles. © The Estate of William N. Copley. View of “Objects by Joseph Cornell,” 1948, Copley Galleries, Los Angeles. © The Estate of William N. Copley.
  9. THOM ANDERSEN, LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF (2003)

    A detailed look at how Hollywood represents Los Angeles, this 169-minute epic undertaking runs through the city’s geography and architecture as shown and instrumentalized in movies. It is at once an engaging documentary and one of the most insightful treatises on representation in recent times. Sites and geographies become the actors in an insightful and multifaceted reflection on a city within which the cinematic apparatus has become synonymous with its own identity.

    *Thom Andersen, _Los Angeles Plays Itself_, 2003*, video, black-and-white and color, sound, 169 minutes. Thom Andersen, Los Angeles Plays Itself, 2003, video, black-and-white and color, sound, 169 minutes.
  10. TRISHA DONNELLY (MATTHEW MARKS GALLERY, LOS ANGELES, 2015)

    Donnelly’s show presented an unsolvable riddle, defying the ways in which the contemporary art world seeks to overefficiently describe, categorize, and circulate anything in its orbit. Donnelly sidesteps this mode of operation completely without taking the contemporaneity out of her art. Presented was a display of uncharted possibilities, at times dark and abject, but strongly footed in a realm beyond language. The only light was provided by the dance of a blackout tarp flapping under a large skylight. In an otherwise-pitch-black room, it flooded the space with short glimpses of what felt like warm bright optimism against the dead blue hues of digitally projected, nearly static images that also fluttered on the walls, unable to illuminate the room at all.