PRINT December 2016

Hal Foster

Walter Ohlson, Bridge Over Troubled Waters (detail), ca. 1960, poster, 30 × 40". From “The Hidden World,” in “Jim Shaw: The End is Here.”

THERE IS SO MUCH about the political culture of this country that, as a pointy-headed intellectual, I don’t get. During this election year, then, the two best shows for me—best as in most instructive—were Jim Shaw’s “The End Is Here” at the New Museum and Tony Oursler’s “The Imponderable Archive” at Bard College. (Imponderable is the title of a related book and film; the latter is screening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York through April 16, 2017.) Each exhibition was a wild ride through the fringe worlds of weird belief, occult practice, and conspiracy theory—fringe worlds that appear more and more mainstream by the minute.

Let me focus on the collections assembled by the artists, not on the artwork inspired by them, and, in the case of Shaw, on one archive in particular. “The Hidden World” (as the artist calls it) is his gathering of promotional, pedagogical,

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