Category: Print Content

Vik Muniz’s Pictures of Garbage and the Aesthetics of Poverty

This essay focuses on Brazilian–American artist Vik Muniz’s 2008 Pictures of Garbage and the pendant 2010 documentary on their making, Waste Land, directed by Lucy Walker. Muniz enlists a group of Brazilian garbage pickers as subjects and participants in the construction of their own portraits, using garbage picked from a landfill outside of Rio de Janeiro. The use of garbage as a material draws attention to global patterns of exploitation that produce both the waste itself and the poverty of the garbage pickers. However, this essay argues that Muniz’s social aims are undermined by formal incoherences within the portraits and … Read more

Juan Downey’s Ethnographic Present

Recorded between 1976 and 77, Juan Downey’s video experiments with the Yanomami people have been widely celebrated as offering a critique of traditional anthropology through their use of feedback technology. This article argues, however, that close attention to the different feedback situations the artist constructs with the group reveal a more complex relationship between Downey and that discipline. In the enthusiasm he manifests for synchronous, closed-circuit video feedback in many of his statements about his Yanomami project, Downey in fact tacitly affirms some of the most problematic principles of traditional anthropology. In his emphasis on the real-time quality of this … Read more

Pop on the Move

In International Pop, the curators Darsie Alexander and Bartholomew Ryan propose a new reading of Pop that establishes a set of relationships marked by difference. Theirs is a world riven by disconnection over flow, in which migrations and networks are frequently translated, blocked, or interrupted. While the US mass media provided source material for many artists it was often reworked to other ends. While many narratives of Pop have stressed distance and irony here we witnessed a new version of the moment that made a virtue out of intimacy, politics, and desire.

The Student Movement of May 1968 and the Fine Art Students

This text introduces the translation of Amir Esbati’s essay “The Student Movement [Revolt] of May 1968 and the Fine Art Students,” first published in Labour and Art in Tehran in 1980. In the midst of the Iranian Revolution political and aesthetic upheaval, Amir Esbati, a member of the Marxist Group 57 student organisation, observed the following in the local revue Labour and Art in December 1978: “The walls of the city have become like the pages of a popular history book, so specific that we can tell the date and time of each sign or inscription.” This introduction looks at … Read more

Colophon as a Marginal Witness

“Graphic design” was not a proper term until the beginning of the twentieth century. This led to confusion in credits/authorship for book covers, typography, which was exacerbated by the fact that printers, in addition to being in charge of the production process of books, were also making decisions regarding their finishings. Venezuela presents an interesting chapter in the history of publishing in the world given the hybrid character of publishing in the country in which traditional national artists, illustrators, and publicists comprised a mix of European and North American immigrants. The lack of current bibliographic material inspired me, as a … Read more

The Politics of Color in the Arctic Landscape: Blackness at the Center of Frederic Edwin Church’s Aurora Borealis and the Legacy of 19th-Century Limits of Representation

American painter Frederic Edwin Church’s monumental oil painting Aurora Borealis (1865) presents a stark contrast to the dominant Western tradition of representing the Arctic as monochrome and static. This article discusses how the impressive palette of Aurora Borealis and its black semi-circle in the center allow for a revisionist understanding of Church’s contributions to a rich history of Arctic representation, including in an age of climate change and rapidly melting ice. The article connects Aurora Borealis to emerging lens technologies—especially photography and astronomy, and later the cinema and composite satellite imagery, to argue for circumpolar north as globally connected—then, and … Read more

Oscar Bony’s La Familia Obrera: The Labor and the Work

This article analyzes Oscar Bony’s work La Familia Obrera (1968), in which a working class family sat on view in the gallery of the Instituto Di Tella in Buenos Aires. What might be read from the transformation of a working class family into a work of art? How was Bony’s own artistic labor reconfigured in the process? How did Bony’s display of a working class family engage with both the context of the Instituto Di Tella—an extension of Argentina’s most prominent industrial company—and the demands for productivity made by the developmentalist dictatorship of Juan Carlos Onganía? In other words, how … Read more

Mute Cries: Louis Althusser Between Roberto Álvarez Ríos and Wifredo Lam

This introductory essay examines the role of two articles on the Cuban painters Roberto Álvarez Ríos and Wifredo Lam, “A Young Cuban Painter Before Surrealism: Álvarez Ríos” (1962) and “Lam” (1977), in the French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser’s writing on art. It argues that these largely ignored articles offer snapshots of two key shifts in Althusser’s thought: his transition, during the early 1960s, from Hegelian Marxism to structural Marxism, and, during the late 1970s, from structural Marxism to so-called aleatory materialism. It contextualizes the articles in the social and political milieu of French philosophy during the 1960s and 70s and … Read more

Memorialization and Presence: Capturing the Legacies of the Young Lords in New York

This essay reviews the three-venue exhibition ¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York, which opened in July of 2015 at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio and the Loisaida Center in the Lower East Side. It assesses the three significantly different approaches of these institutions to capturing the visual and performative legacy of the Young Lords, a radical decolonial Nuyorican group of the early 1970s whose political activism engaged communities to transform space through artistic practices. In critically surveying these three approaches, this essay means to explore the cultural, art-historical, and political stakes of exhibitions like … Read more

Homebound: The Art of Public Space in Contemporary Cuba

Despite the home’s long history as a locus of cultural and political action in Cuba, serious studies of its informal residential culture are only now beginning to emerge. This article explores how the exhibition of art in private homes intervenes in debates about public space in Havana. It situates these exhibition practices historically with respect to the spatial politics of the Cuban Revolution of 1959, while mapping the reorganization of official and unofficial cultures after the demise of the Soviet bloc. Bringing into relief how these home exhibits problematize state and market alliances in the postsocialist context, I argue that … Read more

The Regime of the Visible

The Regime of Visible, in the form of a pocket map, introduces two ways of exploring Cannerberg, a small hill situated between Maastricht, the Netherlands, and Kanne, Belgium. One side of the map traces the ownership of land by mapping cadaster parcels and their corresponding buildings and underground tunnel structures. The other side traces varied sources from the history and geology of Caestert plateau with a focus on Cannerberg. From Neolithic times, continuous mining of flint nodules and later limestone created a complex network of underground tunnels around Maastricht, popularly called “the caves.” Flint nodules were used to make tools … Read more

Images Taken Not for Their Images

This project is part of my practice of resisting aspects of visual culture and deconstructing images that is partly indebted to 1960s conceptual text-based artists, letterism, and Situationists, but also correlated to orthodox attitudes towards the image. It examines restrictions that Israel places upon Palestinian telecommunications in the West Bank, such as the locations of radio masts placed within Israel, the height Palestinian networks are permitted to build their masts, and that illegal Israeli settlers living illegally inside Palestine enjoy 3/4G coverage while Palestinians receive 2G. These technological infringements inhibit the movements for everyone in the West Bank and Gaza … Read more

The Provincialism Problem: Then and Now

Published in the September 1974 Issue: of Artforum, my article “The Provincialism Problem” argued that a world art system, centered on the New York artworld, condemned artists elsewhere to misleadingly perceive their situation as necessarily subservient, and their art as lesser, secondary, and dependent. In fact, this system condemned all involved, including New York based artists, to a vicious cycle of mutual inequity. The article called for artists, critics, and curators to radically reimagine these relationships. Often cited in the decades since then, in recent years it is frequently used as a foil to demonstrate how, within the international artworld, … Read more

The Preter-National: The Southeast Asian Contemporary and What Haunts It

Southeast Asian modern art has thus far been historicized largely within national historical frameworks. The region’s contemporary art has been pulled, sometimes unwillingly, into those national frameworks, even as it enters a global market and takes part in a more transnational dialogue. What is the geography proper to contemporary art? And what insights might a regional perspective afford about art that speaks to a world beyond the nation, but resists outright assimilation under the rubric of ‘the global’? This essay proposes a calibration of three art historical frames – national, regional and international. I argue that far from meaning transcendence … Read more

Otto Neurath’s Visual Politics: An Introduction to “Pictorial Statistics Following the Vienna Method”

This text introduces a programmatic text of Otto Neurath on the educational use of the method of pictorial statistics. Neurath emphasizes the importance of a visual method to transfer scientific knowledge to popular audiences. At the same time, his Vienna Method attempts to adapt the popular educational strategy to an increasingly visual modernity. The specific educational interest of Neurath’s Vienna Method consists in political education, in transferring basic knowledge about the general structure and dominant developments of society. His program thus echoes his contemporaries’ debates on the possibilities of social realism. To understand the historical significance of Neurath the introductory … Read more

Pictorial Statistics Following the Vienna Method

This text introduces a programmatic text of Otto Neurath on the educational use of the method of pictorial statistics. Neurath emphasizes the importance of a visual method to transfer scientific knowledge to popular audiences. At the same time, his Vienna Method attempts to adapt the popular educational strategy to an increasingly visual modernity. The specific educational interest of Neurath’s Vienna Method consists in political education, in transferring basic knowledge about the general structure and dominant developments of society. His program thus echoes his contemporaries’ debates on the possibilities of social realism. To understand the historical significance of Neurath the introductory … Read more

To Defend the Revolution Is to Defend Culture—but, Which Version?

In tracing the development of Cuban cultural policy between the years of 1959 and 1976, Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt conceptualizes that history, and its ideas about the role of culture in society, as a potential “antidote” to contemporary, neoliberal policy paradigms. However, in its intense focus on the positions articulated by the revolutionary leadership, her account of that history shortchanges the ideas of those who held critical or opposing views. This review locates Gordon-Nesbitt’s approach in the context of debates about early revolutionary cultural policy, and in relation to the current tendency in cultural policy, which thoroughly instrumentalizes creativity and culture.

Art, Society/Text: A Few Remarks on the Current Relations of the Class Struggle in the Fields of Literary Production and Literary Ideologies

“Umetnost, družba/tekst” was an editorial published in the Slovenian journal Problemi-Razprave (Problems-Debates) in 1975. The journal was the central outlet of the so-called Slovenian Lacanian school and as such the most important place for the reception of French anti-humanist philosophy in the former Yugoslavia. The concept of the journal was based on interpreting French post-structuralism in the spirit of the Tel Quel magazine, anti-humanist Marxism in the spirit of Louis Althusser, theoretical psychoanalysis in the spirit of Jacques Lacan and his followers, as well as on a special blend of Lacanian psychoanalysis and Althusserian ideology critique, which characterised the French … Read more

Surrealism Is a Thing: Rubrics and Objectivation in the Surrealist Periodical, 1924–2015

What links the existing international surrealist movement—a network of groups who publish their essays and collective experiments in an array of print and online periodicals—to the 20th-century Surrealism of art history textbooks is, to a large extent, its periodical publishing practices. This article pays particular attention to the periodical rubric (defined as a heading or category under which a certain kind of text or image serially appears) and contextualizes its surrealist use within a broader poetics of “objectivation.” In Surrealism, objectivation is the creation of a “thing,” which is to say a form of doing or thinking that acquires a … Read more

Introduction: Art Periodicals Today, Historically Considered

The Introduction to the Special Issue: entitled Art Periodicals, Historically Considered sketches an outline of the advent of periodicals in the context of the Enlightenment demand for the public use of reason, and situates the emergence of art periodicals in the context of the advent of autonomous art since the 19th century. The article introduces the contributions to the Special Issue: and opens up a way to reposition the question of critique in today’s art publishing.

Art Periodicals and Contemporary Art Worlds (Part I): A Historical Exploration

This essay explores the role of art periodicals in art worlds past and present. It examines the histories of Artforum and October within the context of the North American art world of the 1960s and 1970, and contextualizes these publications within a larger field of publishing practices, including self-published Salon pamphlets, little magazines, and artists’ periodicals. It explores how the distribution form of the periodical affects the politics of art criticism, and considers how art magazines have served as sites of critical publicity, mediating publics and counterpublics within the art world. It also reflects on the role of magazines and … Read more

On Yugoslav Poststructuralism: Introduction to “Art, Society/Text”

“Umetnost, družba/tekst” was an editorial published in the Slovenian journal Problemi-Razprave (Problems-Debates) in 1975. The journal was the central outlet of the so-called Slovenian Lacanian school and as such the most important place for the reception of French anti-humanist philosophy in the former Yugoslavia. The concept of the journal was based on interpreting French post-structuralism in the spirit of the Tel Quel magazine, anti-humanist Marxism in the spirit of Louis Althusser, theoretical psychoanalysis in the spirit of Jacques Lacan and his followers, as well as on a special blend of Lacanian psychoanalysis and Althusserian ideology critique, which characterised the French … Read more

Critical Machines: Art Periodicals Today (Conference Report and Q&A)

This introduction and selection of Questions and Answers are from a conference organized in 2014 at the American University of Beirut Art Galleries titled Critical Machines: Art Periodicals Today. The conference summoned editors of art periodicals from different countries in order to discuss the role of art magazines, journals, platforms, and newspapers. While the introduction provides a general report on the conference, discussing the principles according to which the panels were organized or describing and comparing the missions of some periodicals, the selection of questions from the audience and answers from editors that follow aim to convey different editorial strategies, … Read more

Lotus Notes

Lotus was a tri-lingual quarterly brought out by the Afro-Asian Writers’ Association. Initially titled Afro-Asian Writings, its inaugural edition was launched from Cairo in March 1968, in Arabic and English, followed by the French. By 1971, the trilingual quarterly acquired the name Lotus. Egypt, the Soviet Union, and the German Democratic Republic funded its production. The Arabic edition was printed in Cairo, and the English and French editions were printed in the German Democratic Republic. The Afro-Asian Writers’ Association (AAWA) and its over-arching affiliate, the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organization (AAPSO), both had headquarters in Cairo. In 1978, President Anwar Sadat … Read more

Popau, Pop, or an “American Way of Living”? An Introduction to Aracy Amaral’s “From the Stamps to the Bubble”

The introductory text foregrounds the article “From the Stamps to the Bubble” (1968) by Brazilian historian and curator Aracy A. Amaral. It seeks to locate the primary document within a broader historiography of Brazilian art in the second half of the 1960s, and examine the ways in which the military dictatorship, along with certain cultural exchanges facilitated by Brazil’s economic development in this period affected artistic production. Placing particular attention on the multiple terminologies that were in use when the article was written, the introduction focuses on the contiguities of Pop Art in the Brazilian cultural milieu. It argues that … Read more

From the Stamps to the Bubble

The introductory text foregrounds the article “From the Stamps to the Bubble” (1968) by Brazilian historian and curator Aracy A. Amaral. It seeks to locate the primary document within a broader historiography of Brazilian art in the second half of the 1960s, and examine the ways in which the military dictatorship, along with certain cultural exchanges facilitated by Brazil’s economic development in this period affected artistic production. Placing particular attention on the multiple terminologies that were in use when the article was written, the introduction focuses on the contiguities of Pop Art in the Brazilian cultural milieu. It argues that … Read more

Self-Institutionalizing as Political Agency: Contemporary Art Practice in Bucharest and Budapest

Reacting against politically monopolizing attempts at rewriting the socialist past in post-1989 Hungary and Romania, a diverse number of artists, curators, critics, activists and students have come together to form temporary organizations and institutions. Through a contextual reading and critical analysis of The Department for Art in Public Space (2009–2011) in Bucharest and DINAMO (2003–2006) and IMPEX (2006–2009) in Budapest, this article investigates what the author refers to as a “self-institutionalizing” and the ways in which this practice becomes a vehicle to rear politicized civil societies in post-cold war Central and Eastern Europe. The discussion of the two self-institutionalizing initiatives … Read more