COLUMNS

  • social space and relational aesthetics

    WHAT MAKES relational aesthetics so boring? I’ve been wondering a lot lately why an approach to artmaking dedicated to social interaction has generated so much underwhelming art. Perhaps the fact that relational aesthetics is dependent on site contingency, collaboration, and contrived indeterminacy makes it feel a little too much like the 1960s and is therefore dulled by nostalgia, or worse, academicism. Or perhaps it was that Nicolas Bourriaud’s book Relational Aesthetics, first published in French in 1998 and translated into English in 2002, seemed like Pierre Bourdieu’s theories on cultural

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  • art and competitive consumption

    MOCKING TITTERS AND condescending volleys erupted from the culturati in January when the big-box, membership-only retailer Costco offered an authenticated Picasso drawing for the strategically irresistible price of $39,999.99. The source of dismay was obvious. Costco is home to everything from institutional-size cans of tomato sauce to billboard-size plasma screens—not fine art. In highbrow discussions one heard an incipient, disdainful qualification: This was a late Picasso drawing, one of those “doodles” jotted off in Saint Tropez when the Master was feeling the need to raise some quick capital.

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  • Mark Godfrey on the artist as curator

    In the book that accompanies “An Aside,” the “exhibition without an idea” that Tacita Dean has curated as part of the Hayward Gallery’s National Touring Exhibitions program, Dean tells a story that explains both the formation of her curatorial strategy and her first choice of a work. Two years ago, watching Lothar Baumgarten’s There I Like It Better Than in Westphalia, El Dorado, 1968–76, she was taken by the way Baumgarten had photographed the slides and recorded the sounds over a considerable period of time without knowing what the final form of the work would be. Dean adopted this model for

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  • the “Postartist”

    ON A PANEL IN THE EARLY ’90S, I said that art critics come in three types: goalies, cartographers, and evangelists. Goalies—most often reviewers for the popular press—play “defense,” preventing undeserving art from being considered good. While goalies are generally regarded by the art world as either congenital dyspeptics (like me) or political cranks (Hilton Kramer), the best ones aren’t trying to defeat artists. Rather, they encourage artists to raise their games. They defend not against success but against sloppy, indulgent, imitative, witless, and expedient art. Bad goalies, on the other

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  • Lynda Benglis

    “Vulgarity is gendered, of course.”1

    —T.J. Clark

    WHEN I TEACH AMERICAN ART of the 1970s, there is one work that always stops the class cold: Lynda Benglis’s ad from the November 1974 issue of Artforum. College students who respond matter-of-factly to other controversial works from the period––Vito Acconci masturbating beneath the floorboards of the Sonnabend gallery or Chris Burden’s having himself shot with a .22-caliber rifle––are visibly (and, on occasion, audibly) taken aback by the image of Benglis, naked and greased with oil, extending a dildo from her vagina. In contrast to the photographs

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  • Jeff Wall

    THINKING ABOUT Jeff Wall’s most recent exhibition in New York, a show of light-box pictures at Marian Goodman Gallery last spring, has led me to reflect on the more philosophical or, say, ontological turn his work has taken during the past four or five years. The central image in the show was Fieldwork. Excavation of the floor of a dwelling in a former Sto:lo nation village, Greenwood Island, Hope, University of California at Los Angeles, working with Riley Lewis of the Sto:lo band, 2003. For all the information the title provides, it doesn’t quite say everything. The picture offers us a largely

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  • David Rimanelli on giving his class homework

    FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS I have given “Make Your Own Nan Goldin” as an assignment to the undergrads in my “Contemporary Art” survey course at New York University’s Steinhardt School. At the beginning of the semester I juxtaposed two contemporaneous and archetypal photographic series of the late ’70s and early ’80s, Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency and Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills.” The emphasis on Goldin and Sherman derived in part from my impression that these artists were familiar to even the greenest (or most blinkered) BFA candidates, whereas Jeff Wall or Richard Prince weren’t

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  • RoseLee Goldberg on historicizing performance

    IMAGINE STARTING OUT as a painter and having no recourse to twentieth-century paintings: no Matisse, no Pollock, no Guston. Now, imagine starting out as an artist who thinks of sound, space, movement, and the body as raw material and who lacks access to the works of Yves Klein, Joseph Beuys, or Joan Jonas. It’s unimaginable for the artist who works in paint but standard for the artist who works in performance.

    But is this necessarily so? Is this disconnect from history an inevitable component of performance, because the practice is by nature ephemeral? Or is something else at issue—lack of access

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  • Lost in Translation and Kill Bill

    AT FIRST GLANCE, Sofia Coppola’s melancholy love story Lost in Translation and Quentin Tarantino’s brazen splatterfest Kill Bill: Vol. 1 don’t seem to have much in common beyond their similarly lavish Oscar campaigns. But then a peculiar set of coincidences begins to emerge. Both are set in a dreamlike, poppalette Tokyo, the action in both pivots on the marital troubles of a female protagonist, and the films each sport a key scene in which the heroine rides along a hospital corridor in a wheelchair. Even some of the finer points are identical, like both films’ featuring a minor Japanese character

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  • Nico Israel on artists on the Iraqi front

    DURING THE NAZI OCCUPATION of Paris in the early 1940s, Picasso’s atelier at 7 rue des Grands-Augustins was regularly visited by Gestapo agents in search of inflammatory material and hidden Jews. Once, an officer noticed a sketch of Guernica pinned to a wall, and he asked the artist, “Was it you who made this?” Picasso replied succinctly, “No, it was you.”

    Whether or not the anecdote is true—Picasso supposedly told it to a Newsweek reporter shortly after the liberation of Paris—it reveals a great deal about the art of war. Picasso had never visited the Basque town of Guernica y Luno; he learned

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  • Top Ten

    When “Real Life Rock”—Greil Marcus’s Top Ten column—first appeared in these pages in 1990, his epic, pop-inflected diary on a dizzying range of subjects was perfectly suited to an art world obsessed with heterogeneity. But what does this critical format provide us today, when the Top Ten’s radical juxtapositions seem as natural as the weather? On the occasion of our “Best of 2003” issue, I asked Marcus to revisit the early days of his Top Ten and to reflect on the virtues and vices of a column that became a genre. —TG

    IN ’78 I STARTED WRITING a column on pop music called “Real

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  • Weighty Madonna

    MADONNA GOES THROUGH INCARNATIONS the way the rest of us go through tubes of toothpaste. When last season’s soigné, spiritual Madonna appeared on Larry King Live in October, one marveled at how she constantly evolves: from her breakthrough MTV “Like a Virgin” moment, writhing on the floor in a wedding gown in 1984, to her more recent, mature work, writhing on the floor sporting a cabala tattoo in the “Die Another Day” video. Her latest avatar is now enshrined at Deitch Projects: I saw it as an allegory of forces within the buff megastar, where Darkness and Light battle 24/7, and she literally

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