Encore un effort on Lefebvre. My first go was nothing but objections. Round two started out with admiration but I soon found myself airing further criticism — almost against my will, because I finished this long and, yes, sometimes tedious work with real admiration. I began, let me remind you, by thinking how prescient Lefebvre was in seeing, as early as 1961, that “Information is increasing while direct contacts are in decline. Relations are becoming more numerous while their intensity and authenticity are diminishing,” and that the media “do not penetrate the everyday solely in terms of the viewer. They go looking for it at its source: personalized (but superficial) anecdotes, trivial incidents, familiar little family events. They set out from an implicit principle; ‘Everything, in other words, anything at all, can become interesting, even enthralling, provided that it is presented, i.e., present.’” This could have been written today, not fifty-five years ago. Reading Lefebvre, one repeatedly comes upon chapters that are so profound in their conception, so far-reaching in their implications that the alert reader thirstily searches for more of the same — and periodically finds it, for example, in analyses of the concepts of “making” and praxis; of symbol, image, and sign; of repetition and moments. “[A]mong moments,” he writes, “we may include love, play, rest, knowledge, etc. We cannot draw up a complete list of them, because there is nothing to prevent the invention of new moments”; they are constituted by choice; have a specific duration, persist in memory, have a content and a form, and become absolute. Especially important, for me, in his systematic explication of the distinction between things, objects, products, and works, which should be of enormous use to aesthetics in a time when art has claimed a closer relation to the everyday than ever before. And then there is his brilliant perception that “three goods enjoy a special role and a happy or unhappy privilege: sex, labour, and information” as “privileged” commodities, but that it is the last of these, information, that is “most deserving of the title of supreme commodity, commodity of commodities.” If those who believed that the so-called dematerialization of art would enable it to eschew commodity status had only been as clear-eyed as Lefebvre, they might have had second thoughts. How right he was, in 1981, to understand that, “Specifically as a product, information is just starting out” — keep an eye on your metadata — and to foresee a cult of transparency long before WikiLeaks. This is a book I will be returning to, albeit only in pieces, and hoping, along with its author (despite the pessimism that overtakes him by the time of his last reflections in 1981, which seem only more timely today) in the continuing possibility that everyday life might yet witness “a metamorphosis through action and works—hence through thought, poetry, love.”
Works by Giambattista Tiepolo and his son Domenico offer hints of whatever subterranean Oedipal struggles played out between them.
The latest episodes of the PBS documentary series explore the intersection between play and artistry, as well as the world of small objects and the artists who make them.
The Japan Society will screen six iconic films that explore the years 1912–1926, “a new modern era” marked by progressive reforms and a blossoming of the arts.
by Elaine Velie
Open-source, printable, and designed for guerilla distribution, Ash Lukashevsky’s flyers are “a small way of insisting on Palestinians’ humanity.”
The American Museum of Natural History in New York closed its main entrance as protesters rallied outside the institution, which was barricaded by police.
by Elaine Velie
Outside of the blue-chip art world, some galleries and nonprofits are speaking out freely and publicly against Israel’s attacks.
This affordable interdisciplinary program with well-equipped facilities and private studios is accepting applications for Fall 2024.
The anonymous street artist made the work in 2017, a year after Brexit, to criticize Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
by Rhea Nayyar