By Their Epithets Shall Ye Know Them
In response to Paul Claudel’s dictum—‘fear of the adjective is the beginning of style’—a defence of adjectival extravagance, mobilizing Nabokov and Mann, Joseph Roth and Herta Müller, to showcase the literary power of the epithet, and its ability to alchemize the noun.
While galleries and museums maximize footfall with an eye on the bottom line, the artwork is often claimed as a haven from the giddy pace of experience. What are the temporalities of the contemporary art world, and how might they be affected by the coronavirus crisis?
Neo-Backwardness In Bolsonaro’s Brazil
Brazil's foremost cultural theorist considers parallels between the rise of Bolsonaro and the 1964 military coup. Is capital once again advancing its modernization programme with the support of the country’s most backward-looking elements? Paradoxes of politics and culture, from Machado to the present, via tropicalismo and Glauber Rocha.
For Fredric Jameson, allegory exposes the contradictions that ideology obscures: capturing the multiplicities of modernity and forging an interpretive mechanism for the cultural critic. From transforming the text to terraforming the planet, insights into the method of a leading Marxist theorist gleaned from his most recent—and most playful—work.
Rankings: A Pre-History
A forerunner to contemporary listification in eighteenth-century tabulations of painters, playwrights, poets and composers. Rise and fall of Enlightenment metrics of aesthetic evaluation, squeezed between the dyadic arrangements of classical comparatio and Romantic conceits of off-the-scale artistic genius.
Memory and Icons
Fate of the photographic icon of war in the age of embedded journalism and the digital camera: why so few images of the conquest of Iraq are recollected, and so many of the fall of the Twin Towers pre-selected? The importance of counter-narratives for fixing meaning to shots of fighting or suffering, and the latent possibilities of the democratization of image-production today.
The World As Gallery
First global art movement or mere identity of a New York set? Potpourri of avant-garde practices or formalist tautology? A survey of Conceptual Art’s crystallization, among international neo-avant-gardes and the artistic networks of global centres, between an abstract global imaginary and its concrete contestations.
The shift of artistic and activist practice towards the performance of personae. Sven Lütticken tracks the fraying limits of subjecthood through post-war action painting, Marcel Mariën’s surrealist-Blanquist parti imaginaire, the 1960s Dutch neo-avant-garde, the Invisible Committee, Rojava and artistic experiments with the political party-form.
The Three-Headed Horse
Echoes and parallels between the work of Eisenstein, Picasso and Orozco in the late 1930s. The recurring spectres of war, conquest and destruction stalking the world from Moscow to Guadalajara to Guernica, travelling back and forth between film, wall and canvas.
Art of the Industrial Trace
Looking down at man-made landscapes from an airplane window: entry-point to an allegorical materialism, mapping art onto its double in production? The role of the indexical in earthworks, crop art and aerial photography, and the limits it places on allegory.
Scars and Faultlines
The art of Doris Salcedo as test-case for the complex interaction of aesthetics and commerce. For works aiming to commemorate lives lost in Colombia’s civil wars, what are the consequences—economic, ethical, critical—of integration into the circuits of both memory and market?
The Ideology of Universalism
Contending visions of universality, from Kantian common sense to the doctrine of human rights. Can a constellation of singularities emerge within the standardization envisaged by globalized production? Prompts from Musil, Gursky and the carpet-weavers of Kuyan-Bulak.
Brecht’s Relevance: Highs and Lows
In what ways does Brecht’s drama—and the world-transforming impulse behind his strategies of defamiliarization—speak to times and places other than his own? Ups and downs of his resonance in Brazil and beyond, shadowing the movements of history’s leading edge.
Culture and Society, Then and Now
The idea of culture in Raymond Williams’s classic work, and discrepant readings of it, fifty years on. Gestation amid CP debates on the English tradition, hidden affinities with the Frankfurt School, and counterposition to the verities of today’s liberal multiculturalism.
Attending to Abstract Things
From the philosophe De Brosses in the eighteenth century to the abstract expressionist Barnett Newman and the conceptualist Sol LeWitt in the twentieth—via Hegel, Creuzer and Marx—the fates of the fetish and the commodity, in critical thought and art.
Idolatry and its Discontents
Amid rhetorical dust-storms over purported Islamist threats to Western values, Sven Lütticken finds antecedents for contemporary struggles over the image in Judaic and Protestant bans on idolatry. Multiple meanings of the veil and varying forms of iconoclasm, under the aegis of the spectacle.
Suspense and . . . Surprise
Media projections of the ‘war on terror’ as manipulations of shock and time, purveyed through a perpetual present of 24-hour coverage and on-line news. Lessons from Hitchcock, Conrad and Benjamin on the poetics of suspense and possibilities for a rehistoricization of the attentat.
The Feathers of the Eagle
Lifting, swiping, zapping: popular expressions that have been aesthetic tactics since Dada. Sven Lütticken recasts the history of such practices of appropriation—not excluding those of Warhol or Debord, sometimes misplaced—as so many exercises in mythology. Anticipated by Flaubert, theorized by Barthes, staged by Broodthaers, is time running out for such creative misuses of past or present, as ‘intellectual property rights’ tighten?