Stick to Your Gunns

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When Tim Gunn was writing his first book, the designer Diane von Furstenberg told him to never lose his voice as an educator. Gunn, a fashion consultant and the cohost of the television program Project Runway, had been struggling with the assignment of writing a self-help, makeover-oriented book instead of a history of fashion, which he originally wanted to do. He hated dressing books and body types. Gunn must have taken the advice he often gives to others—trust your gut and your instincts and know who you are—and he pulled through. In other words, he made it work.

“Crisis” in Criticism: Report #2

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Anticipating yet another version of the standard critic’s disclaimer, “We have no power and no one reads us, anyway,” I found the New School’s auditorium overflowing with an expectant audience, which, as Barbara Rose put it, did not look “as if they were about to ask the usual 1960s question, ‘How do I make it?’” Did this imply that the audience looked successful? Secure? Sophisticated? Shrewd? Savvy? I did see a lot of familiar faces.

“Crisis” in Criticism: Report #1

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The New School auditorium is an antiseptic affair after the historic Great Hall at Cooper Union and the raunchy amphitheater at the School of Visual Arts, but its acoustics are much kinder to amateur speakers. If that suggests I’m reviewing these programs as entertainment, I am. Douglas Davis remarked that the panel is itself now “a generic form.” It’s also a form of entertainment with aspects of performance, social arena, soap box, forum, and lately, gathering of lost lambs. This time, though, Barbara Rose came down like the wolf on the fold: “If you publish in an art magazine … you are writing ad copy,” she said, “and if you don’t know that, you’re stupid.”

A Crisis of Critique

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Lately I’ve thought about the difference between a work of art that is about a particular subject and one that is a critique of that same subject. Many in the art world operate with the mindset that an artwork dealing with a political, social, or economic issue actually critiques that issue, usually from a leftist perspective, but rarely does the work transcend the kind of factual commentary that states “there’s this thing going on in the world that you should know about” or “my work is about this thing going on in the world.” While I don’t recall Mika Tajima specifically referring to her work as a critique during her artist’s lecture at Parsons the New School for Design, others have noted the approach.

How We Would Give Talks

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“What’s going on here?” is first thought a person might have on first encountering a painting by Dana Schutz. One might do well, of course, to ask that same question when viewing any work of art, but because Schutz has spent ten years plus creating pictures that, while largely figurative and representational, are highly unusual or improbable, extraordinarily goofy, and charmingly awkward.

“Some of my best friends are humans”

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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.

Grrrl Power

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In a new publication devoted to modern and contemporary art, my writing the first essay on Riot Grrrls may seem amiss, but considering that a passion in music preceded my interest for art by a year or two—and also that it developed much more rapidly from ages fourteen to twenty-four—the topic fits. Besides, a nonfiction forum at the New School on Sara Marcus’s Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution (2010) led off the fall calendar for In Terms Of.