“You might say that a people or a movement must be constituted musically before it can be constituted politically.” This was one argument among many declared by Michael Denning, a professor of American studies and English at Yale University, during a talk for his new Verso book, Noise Uprising: The Audiopolitics of a World Musical Revolution. Denning, however, made it clear that the music culture during the brief period of time studied in his book—from the widespread use of electrical recording in 1925 to the early years of the Great Depression—was not revolutionary politically.
There’s a special kind of ordinary that folks in the art world love. Artists, curators, and critics often fall over themselves to praise the everyday, elevate the banal, and highlight the overlooked, momentarily relegating what normally would be banal to a distinct realm of interest and reflection. But sometimes the ordinary is, well, simply unremarkable. The discussion that took place during “Blonde Art Books: Artist Conversation and Launch” was ordinary in that unexceptional sense.
The legendary artist Robert Morris doesn’t often participate in live interviews, whether in public, in person, or on the phone, so a recent appearance by him at the New York Public Library was a rare treat. Indeed, as the scholar and curator Jeffrey Weiss noted at the outset, “Agreeing to speak is not something he does too freely.” But when Morris, Weiss, and the art historian Julia Robinson gathered in celebration of Weiss’s new book, Robert Morris: Object Sculpture, 1960–1965, the ensuing conversation was a frustrating affair.
To celebrate the paperback edition of The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography, the author, critic, and professor Lyle Rexer led a panel of four contemporary artists: the Canadian Jessica Eaton, the Finnish Niko Luoma, and the Americans Yamini Nayar and Mitch Paster. The woman who introduced Rexer pronounced The Edge of Vision—originally published in 2009 and accompanying a touring exhibition of the same name—the first book on the history of abstraction in photography. If her claim is true, then it is an accomplishment. If not, then the book’s subject and the curatorial conceit would seem to provide a good if overly broad survey.
At the end of the first chapter of 9.5 Theses on Art and Class, the New York–based art critic and editor Ben Davis writes that a “theory of class might provide the missing center of the debate about art.” Indeed, the use, value, and status of art—especially in relation to politics and economics—have been the subject of a constantly flailing conversation since the Occupy moment, since the Great Recession, since the Bush years, since the rise of the biennial, since the Culture Wars, since Reagan, since Conceptual art, since Duchamp—okay, you get the point. It’s exactly this kind of exasperating, roundabout conversation that Davis wants to displace, and his new book does exactly that with resounding success.
Clearly the editors of a new comics anthology heard the phrase “I’m a feminist, but…” one too many times. Taking a firm stance against the equivocal and perhaps self-deprecating attitude, Shannon O’Leary, a critic, editor, and author of Fortune’s Bitch, and Joan Reilly, an illustrator and comics artist, began work on The Big Feminist BUT: Comics about Women, Men, and the IFs ANDs & BUTs of Feminism. They commissioned more than forty creators—including a handful of men—to produce work exploring the multivalent meanings and critical relevance of feminism today.
This panel celebrated and promoted the release of a new anthology called Contemporary Art: 1989 to the Present (2013), edited by the event’s moderators, the art historians Alexander Dumbadze and Suzanne Hudson. Published by Wiley-Blackwell, Contemporary Art: 1989 to the Present is a collection of short essays by critics, curators, historians, theorists, and collectives on discursive themes such as biennials, participation, and activism, with three essays on each topic. The contributors—four of whom spoke on the panel—are names familiar to anyone who regularly reads Artforum, October, and related cultural journals.
The Kitchen invited Hal Foster, a historian, critic, and professor of art at Princeton University, to discuss his two recently published books. After an introduction by Tim Griffin, director and chief curator of the venerable institution, the soft-spoken Foster established the evening’s agenda: he would read from the books before being joined by Griffin (and then the audience) for a Q&A. The following narrative draws from both parts.
When you give a provocative title to a “book reading and discussion” like the organizers of this event did, and then carve out a three-hour block for it, your audience might expect some juicy, heavy-duty discussion and debate with leading thinkers and theorists over sentient robots, furry cyborg creatures, and digital memory implants. Scanning the room, I certainly saw enough bespectacled fanboy types with long, stringy hair and ill-conceived goatees who have likely memorized the entire Battlestar Galactica reboot to make this happen.