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Yugoslav Postwar Art and Socialist Realism: An Uncomfortable Relationship

This text examines the first official exhibition of the Yugoslav Association of Fine Artists, and the theoretical, socio-political, and institutional contexts of the Socialist Realist period in Yugoslav art (spanning roughly the years between1945 and 1954). Post-war artistic and cultural environment, the first exhibition, and critical aesthetic debates around Socialist Realism exemplify Yugoslavia’s struggle to make sense of, and implement, Socialist Realism as an official artistic, cultural, and political category. Its development paralleled the state’s own wrestling with notions of socialist governance and its proper implementation. Difficulties with Socialist Realist aesthetic and the ensuing paradoxes in its adaptation in Yugoslav … Read more

A Diagram is a Trivial Machine

I generate diagrams with the purpose of understanding the narratives, form, and aesthetics of sociocultural and political structures. This leaves room for the production of artistic works that can be introduced into the machinery of everyday life. The idea of the diagram emerged almost at the same time as the idea of the machine, although we cannot really tell which existed first. However, it seems clear that both are intrinsically connected. Machines and diagrams can be seen as a representation of a narrative system that leads the process of the creation of knowledge. What they share is essentially narrative: we … Read more

Incident Transgressions: A Review of Transmissions: Art in Eastern Europe and Latin America, 1960–1980, MOMA

By placing on view a large selection of objects recently acquired by the New York Museum of Modern Art, the exhibition Incident Transgressions: Report on “Transmissions: Art in Eastern Europe and Latin America 1960–1980” (September 5, 2015 to January 3, 2016) sought to situate artistic practices from Latin America and Eastern Europe within a discursive model of cross-cultural and aesthetic transmission. However, the exhibition marginalized an account of the specific relations between these objects in favor of a more encompassing global curatorial narrative. While seeking to outline the parameters of the exhibition, and its implications in regard to contemporary trends … Read more

The Bauhaus in Brazil: Pedagogy and Practice

This article analyzes the rhetorical and discursive resonance of the claims by artists and art professionals in Brazil in the 1950s of a connection to the Bauhaus. I examine the curricula of two new art schools established in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, emphasizing the role of central figures, including Mário Pedrosa, and the works by artists trained at the schools, and study paintings by Lygia Clark that in part elicited Alfred H. Barr, Jr. in 1957 to dismiss Brazilian contemporary art as “Bauhaus exercises.” Rather than a case of imitation, as Barr suggested, Brazilian actors transformed Bauhaus ideas, … Read more

The Artist and Politics (1954)

This essay analyzes three polemic newspaper articles written in the early 1950s by the art critic, gallerist, and future Turkish prime minister Bülent Ecevit (1925–2006), “Artistic Awakening in Ankara” (1953), “The Artist and Politics” (1954), and “The Burden of the Intellectual” (1956). It argues that Ecevit’s articles document a local intelligentsia’s efforts to theorize the role of art in Turkish society at a crucial moment of political transformation. As Turkey abandoned its authoritarian past in order to conduct its inaugural experiment with multi-party democracy, Ecevit’s columns took up two of the period’s most pressing questions: the extent to which the … Read more

Artistic Awakening in Ankara (1953)

This essay analyzes three polemic newspaper articles written in the early 1950s by the art critic, gallerist, and future Turkish prime minister Bülent Ecevit (1925–2006), “Artistic Awakening in Ankara” (1953), “The Artist and Politics” (1954), and “The Burden of the Intellectual” (1956). It argues that Ecevit’s articles document a local intelligentsia’s efforts to theorize the role of art in Turkish society at a crucial moment of political transformation. As Turkey abandoned its authoritarian past in order to conduct its inaugural experiment with multi-party democracy, Ecevit’s columns took up two of the period’s most pressing questions: the extent to which the … Read more

Trading Lines

Trading Lines is a photo essay that tracks nearly twenty years of research within international museums as well as collecting and sharing photographs and objects. This research began in 1996 at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, where I encountered an Aboriginal skull from N.S.W. Australia —that was part of the active international Aboriginal human remains trade activated from the early 18th century. This photo essay shares correspondence between myself and private and public collection managers and collectors. Some images are from actual installations where I have combined objects with artworks, as a whole, it is an attempt to draw … Read more

Red Shift: Cildo Meireles and the Definition of the Political-Conceptual

This article examines Cildo Meireles’s refusal to describe Red Shift, his 1984 installation, as conceptual, political art. I use his rejection of these terms to reconsider conventional categories of the political in Latin American conceptualism as these have been historicized in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I argue that the artist builds his notions of conceptual and political art based on socio-artistic theories propagated in the short-lived but highly influential publication, Malasartes. This groundbreaking magazine, founded by Meireles and eight others in 1975, published texts crucial to Brazilian art history and translated international articles. These shaped the theoretical ideas … Read more

Introduction to “Artistic Awakening in Ankara,” “The Artist and Politics,” and “The Burden of the Intellectual” by Bülent Ecevit

This essay analyzes three polemic newspaper articles written in the early 1950s by the art critic, gallerist, and future Turkish prime minister Bülent Ecevit (1925–2006), “Artistic Awakening in Ankara” (1953), “The Artist and Politics” (1954), and “The Burden of the Intellectual” (1956). It argues that Ecevit’s articles document a local intelligentsia’s efforts to theorize the role of art in Turkish society at a crucial moment of political transformation. As Turkey abandoned its authoritarian past in order to conduct its inaugural experiment with multi-party democracy, Ecevit’s columns took up two of the period’s most pressing questions: the extent to which the … Read more

The Burden of the Intellectual (1956)

This essay analyzes three polemic newspaper articles written in the early 1950s by the art critic, gallerist, and future Turkish prime minister Bülent Ecevit (1925–2006), “Artistic Awakening in Ankara” (1953), “The Artist and Politics” (1954), and “The Burden of the Intellectual” (1956). It argues that Ecevit’s articles document a local intelligentsia’s efforts to theorize the role of art in Turkish society at a crucial moment of political transformation. As Turkey abandoned its authoritarian past in order to conduct its inaugural experiment with multi-party democracy, Ecevit’s columns took up two of the period’s most pressing questions: the extent to which the … Read more

Mutable Form and Materiality: Toward a Critical History of New Tapestry Networks

This article raises two concerns underpinning the need for a critical history of fiber art in the 20th century. The first is a critique of aesthetic formalism predominant in the Lausanne Biennale during the 1960s and 70s, which overlooks artistic, ideological, and political milieus that drew together textile artists from localities formerly treated as peripheral in art history. The second holds to account Euro-American institutions and related historiographies for their curatorial exclusion of Arab and African fiber artists. Such inclusion, I argue, would have conjured tapestry’s deeper incongruities, which emanated from unresolved questions at the core of modernism: the assigning … Read more

Dissecting Dissent and its Discontents

This review of Antipolitics in Central European Art: Reticence as Dissidence under Post-Totalitarian Rule 1956–1989 by Klara Kemp-Welch situates the book in the existing literature and discussions of post-war unofficial art in Central Europe and assesses the book’s significant contributions, which include a transnational approach, an extensive analysis of six oeuvres created by unofficial artists through their socio-political contexts, and a rigorous interpretive framework built around the titular concept of “antipolitics,” which Kemp-Welch borrows from the Hungarian dissident writer György Konrád. The review, however, also suggests that applying a framework rooted in the writings of political dissidents to unofficial art … Read more

Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism in Egyptian Modern Art

Art in Egypt during the first half of the twentieth century has frequently been understood as closely tied to Egyptian nationalism, emerging suddenly in 1908 with the founding of the Cairo School of Fine Arts to provide the nation with visual representations. I look at art writing during the first half of the twentieth century in both the Arabic and French-language Egyptian press to show instead that a public discourse surrounding the fine arts emerged slowly over the course of several decades to constitute a locus for the negotiation of mutually constitutive cosmopolitan and national subject positions. Through their work, … Read more

Stoffbilder: On Capitalist Realisms

This essay critically examines the exhibition Leben mit Pop: Eine Reproduktion des Kapitalistischen Realismus, which was first staged in 2013 at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf. This exhibition surveyed the emergence of Capitalist Realism as a regional form of Pop Art in West Germany during the 1960s. The article evaluates Leben mit Pop as a modification of established art historical scholarship and as an intervention within ongoing debates in curatorial practices and critical cultural theory. It aims to resituate Capitalist Realism relative to the consolidation of the North Atlantic art market, arguing that this allows for a more incisive account of its … Read more

Rooms in Alibi: How Akasegawa Genpei Framed Capitalist Reality

In 1963 and 1964, Japanese artist Akasegawa Genpei was working on two related series of objects he called “model” 1,000 Yen-notes and “model” wrapped objects. As he established in his 1964 “Thesis of ‘Capitalist Realism,’” he made these “models” as a method of exposing the contingent legitimacy that mass-produced currency and commodities had as “real things.” This article focuses its analysis on Akasegawa’s wrapped furniture installation for Room in Alibi (1963) as a complex demonstration of the ways in which the model could “frame” capitalism’s emerging consumer lifestyle object systems. As such, his models can be seen as part of … Read more

Introduction to Akasegawa Genpei’s “The Objet after Stalin”

This introduction situates Akasegawa Genpei’s text “The Objet after Stalin” and the events surrounding his reproduction of the 1,000-yen note in the art-historical and political context of Japan’s postwar avant-gardes. It explores Akasegawa’s conception of the objet both in terms of its lineage within the history of Surrealism and its reception in Japan and of Akasegawa’s original theoretical claims concerning the political potential of artistic practice.

Fundamental Feedback: Öyvind Fahlström’s Kisses Sweeter than Wine

The article analyzes Öyvind Fahlström’s (1928–1976) performance Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, which took place as part of the festival 9 Evenings: art&engineering in New York (1966). It situates the performance’s use of multimedia material as continuations of earlier investigations into manipulating language that played a central part in the artist’s practice of both visual art and concrete poetry. It further argues that in Kisses Sweeter Than Wine such manipulations form a series of ruptures into the wider circulation of mass-media images, ruptures that locate Fahlström’s use of media images in relation to both Pop Art and the beginning media activism … Read more

Speculative Propositions: A Visual Pattern Sampler

During World War I, a peculiar example of disruptive patterning was developed to adorn British and American battleships. “Dazzle camouflage” as it was known, did little to “hide” the vessels themselves. Rather, its function was to confuse enemy aim by utilizing chaotic black-and-white patterns. Vintage photographs of these ships provide startling visuals of a kind of graphical warfare. At first glance, the extreme angles and cutout shapes conjure everything from European Modernist abstraction, Russian Constructivism, and colonial ethnic and tribal patterning, to later forms of Op art and design. As an artist researching these images, I began speculating on the … Read more

The Objet after Stalin

“The Objet after Stalin” is a translation of the 1967 text “Sutarin igo no obuje (スターリン以後のオブジェ)” by Japanese artist Akasegawa Genpei. Published in the aftermath of Akasegawa’s trial for producing a photomechanical copy of a 1,000-yen note, this brief text traces a parallel between Duchamp’s revolutionary displacement of the urinal into an art museum in New York in 1917 and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia that same year. Exploring the potentialities of the Surrealist-inspired notion of the artistic objet, Akasegawa wittily alerts to the dangers of bureaucratization of both revolutionary politics and revolutionary art.

Introduction to Special Issue

This introduction charts the emergence of the term Capitalist Realism at the intersection of the international postwar art movements of Pop, Fluxus, Nouveau Réalisme, happenings, and Anti-Art. It relates the independent coinage of Capitalist Realism by artists Gerhard Richter, Konrad Lueg, Sigmar Polke, and Manfred Kuttner in Germany in May 1963 with that of artist Akasegawa Genpei Japan in February 1964 and argues that they were both part of a broader interest in developing new strategies of artistic realism during the Cold War. The artists’ sly and ironic appropriations of consumer objects and advertisements sought to capture the operations of … Read more

Unnaming the System? Retrieving Postmodernism’s Contemporaneity

This article discusses the ongoing pertinence to the present of Fredric Jameson’s work on postmodernism in the context of recent elaborations of “the contemporary” and “contemporaneity” in art history, theory and criticism. It is argued that, while postmodernism is fraught with contradiction and in any case irretrievable by now as a periodization of the present, it nonetheless remains crucially instructive for a fuller understanding and politicization of contemporaneity. In particular, both the nature of the relationship between culture and capital, as well as the theoretical imperative to totalize remain central to Jameson’s problematic in ways that the discourse on the … Read more

Anishinaabe Artists, of the Great Lakes? Problematizing the Exhibition of Place in Native American Art

This article discusses the relationship between Native American art and place as a curatorial strategy in the recent exhibition Before and After the Horizon: Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes. It is argued that while the Anishinaabe connection to the Great Lakes region as a spiritual, cultural, and epistemological center is essential to the art of the exhibition, the curators present this place as timeless and unchanging. The result is an interpretation of the Native American relationship to place that is idealized, ahistorical, and inaccurate to the tumultuous legacy of colonialism. Rather, as the art on display makes clear despite … Read more

A Conversation with Hsieh Tehching, from The Black Cover Book

This is a translation of a 1993 conversation involving three artists from the Chinese diaspora Hsieh Teh-Ching, Ai Weiwei and Xu Bing. Through candid dialog they tease out the motivations behind their conceptually driven artistic practices, their individual perceptions of social systems and politics, a “Western” art system from which they are marginalized, the concept “Modern art,” the Duchampian imagination, contingency, and postmodernism, etc. Their dialogue helps to situate the frame of mind of émigré artists working and living in New York in the early 1990s, with particular attention to the spiritual and social motivations behind art-making, while elaborating the … Read more

Price or Prize: The Artist as Vertreter

This article discusses different modes of delegation in Martin Kippenberger’s work. Drawing both on the artist’s work as a painter in post-II WW Berlin and on his performance of his own life as part of his artistic work, the article contends that Kippenberger keeps in the balance a modernist logic of art as deskilling and delegation that endorses the artist as an entrepreneur; and a postmodern position that emphasizes more performative elements in subjectivity.

Introduction to: “A Conversation with Hsieh Tehching, from The Black Cover Book”

This introduction situates the conversation between Hsieh Teh-Ching, Ai Weiwei and Xu Bing within a larger historic and socio-cultural framework, as well as elaborates a brief history of the publication in which the conversation was first published, The Black Cover Book. The text also elaborates on the unarticulated issues informing their discussion, such as their émigré status, and briefly outlines a history of the artists’ work at the time of the conversation. The work of other avant-garde artists in the Chinese diaspora whose work was published in The Black Cover Book is also touched upon briefly. This introduction reclaims some … Read more

When Next We Meet: On the Figure of the Nonposthumous Survivor

Framed as posthumous, or that which lives on past its death, the survivor is tagged by official postwar discourses and practices an impediment to the reconstruction of society along normative guidelines. But the persistent conditions of protracted civil war in Lebanon call for a re-conceptualization of the figure of the survivor along another temporal axis. No longer posthumous, the survivor is not an over-liver who aimlessly questions the significance of his brute survival but rather a witness who knows too much, carrying the weight of an unwelcome knowledge gathered from within war and crisis that challenges the official closure of … Read more

As We Walk on Water

This project chronicles the significant changes in Singapore’s natural and urban landscape. The images in this volume have been carefully selected to capture the changing face of this tropical island-state. They touch on issues of land reclamation, national boundaries, ecological changes, pollution, conservation and the ever-evolving skyline. The pictures capture an ongoing dialogue between the city’s man-made infrastructure and its natural spaces and creatures. While Singapore architecture is documented in aerial views of the country’s tallest buildings, and its ubiquitous public housing, there are also photographs the island’s wildlife.

Toward a Material Modernism: Introduction to S. R. Choucair’s “How the Arab Understood Visual Art”

This introduction and commentary on Saloua Raouda Choucair’s article “How the Arab Understood Visual Art” (translation by author in this issue) sets the context in which a private rebuke Choucair addressed to a former colleague for his ethnocentric cultural criticism became a quasi-manifesto for art (and social) modernism. It inventories the conceptual shifts Choucair pursued in her reevaluation of cultural criticism: shifts in the approach to time, matter, visuality, and Arabness. It explicates the lessons Choucair learned from Sufic Arab science, math, and philosophy (particularly Alhazenian optics) toward extracting an essentialist view of matter, which allowed art a serious public … Read more

The Painting of Sadness? The Ends of Nihonga, Then and Now

Nihonga (literally “Japanese painting”) is a term that arose in 1880s Japan in order to distinguish existing forms of painting from newly popularized oil painting, and even today it is a category of artistic production apart from contemporary art at large. In this sense, nihonga is the oldest form of a broader worldwide category of “tradition-based contemporary art.” While nihonga was supposed to encompass any form of “traditional” painting, however, in practice it was held together by a recognizable style. When nihonga stopped fulfilling certain material or stylistic criteria, it ceased to be distinguishable from the rest of artistic production. … Read more

Olga’s Notes: This Whole New World

Olga’s Notes is a script for a movie. This project tells a story composed of various collected notes, written mainly while reading Al-Hilal magazine (an Egyptian publication from the 1960s), thinking about the disciplined body, labor, and nation-state building through dance.