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Posted inBooks

Reading the “Nothings that Are”: Craig Dworkin’s “No Medium”

“In No Medium Craig Dworkin looks at works that are blank, erased, clear, or silent … point[ing] to a new understanding of media.” So goes the back cover copy of the author’s new book, which was released in March by MIT Press. This paratextual statement, while certainly catchy, is a bit misleading regarding Dworkin’s argument as well as the actual nature of his objects of study (some of the treated works, such as John Cage’s 4 ’33” and Robert Rauschenberg’s White Paintings, are well known while many others are not); and it risks obscuring, to some extent, the host of wonderful subtleties, the wily interpretive moves and maneuvers that can be found within the book itself.

Posted inBooks

Thrivers in the Muck: Matias Viegener (Part One)

Sometimes, it is hard to remember that Social Media came along years after the rise of the personal computer and the Internet, which Al Gore called the “Information Superhighway.” But like the highway in Jean-Luc Godard’s apocalyptic comedy, Weekend (1967), the Internet is littered with refuse and ugliness of all kinds: overturned vehicles and violence.

Posted inBooks

This Book Is About as Fun as a Barrel of Monkeys

The phrase “barrel of monkeys” generally means a bit of crazy fun. In some cases, though, people may use it as an example of something that’s less fun, i.e. “this party is way more entertaining than a barrel of monkeys.” This contradictory dual meaning makes Barrel of Monkeys a great title for a graphic novel by French cartoonists Florent Ruppert and Jérôme Mulot — in my eyes, at least, because I still haven’t decided whether the book was a really awesome barrel of monkeys or the lesser variety.

Posted inBooks

The Hidden Beauty of Disease Under Our Skin

Beneath our sheath of skin is an internal world both vast and complex. While most of us rarely get to see it, these workings of our systems and organs are the daily viewing of pathologists, particularly when it comes to disease. A new book of photography takes us into our own interiors, and shows that even with their horrid ravaging of our bodies, there is some beauty in these afflictions.

Posted inBooks

Manly Men and Their Discontents: Ben Jones’s Men’s Group: The Video

“Multiple paper sizes and stocks bound together with a spiral wire and wrapped between thick chipboard covers.” So reads the highly utilitarian description of Ben Jones’ new book in its accompanying press release, but it’s also as good a definition of the different incarnations of “manliness”—the purported subject of the volume—as anything to be found on its carnation pink and lime green pages.

Posted inBooks

Grafting Graffiti Style Onto Skin

Graffiti and tattoos seem like total opposities. One is ephemeral, lasting only until it’s painted over by the city or other writers, the other is forever, or at least unless you decide to rip the ink back out of your skin. Yet there’s been abundant crossover in the aesthetic style, but what’s more interesting is graffiti writers who have moved to tattooing as their main focus.

Posted inBooks

Painter Illustrates the Diversity of Sex and Gender in the Natural World with a Children’s Book

The diversity of sex and gender in the animal kingdom is totally overlooked when people use the argument “it’s not natural” to say that someone’s lifestyle goes against their personal moral constructs. What’s “natural” is actually incredibly complex, considering we have hermaphrodite leopard slugs, female Western Gulls that pair up for the long term, and asexual reproduction in Komodo dragons.

Posted inBooks

Reconsidering John Dewey’s Art as Experience

It’s hard to tell how many young Americans know the name John Dewey today. Those who attended New York City’s New School might know of him as a co-founder and one of the minds behind the progressive agenda that formed the intellectual and social foundation of the school’s early years. Others might recognize the name because of his most well-known work, as an early theorist and proponent of progressive education for students of all ages. And some might be aware of him as a thinker who, in some ways, was discussing post-modern ideas about a hundred years before post-modernism. For those to whom his name is very familiar, he is said to be one of the most, if not the most, influential American philosophers. But here I want to talk about one of his lesser-known works, Art as Experience, which brings together some of his larger political and philosophic ideas in a discussion of aesthetics and culture, and their role in a robust society.