In Nancy Grossman: Tough Life Diary (Prestel, 2012), performer Elizabeth Streb relays an anecdote about artist Nancy Grossman startling her by wearing a monkey fur jacket. It’s one of those images that has an unsettling, visceral nature to it, like striding through life in a skin ripped from another person, the carnal texture of some sliced up simian.
It’s the Political Economy, Stupid is alternately a depressing, frustrating, and inspiring call to action for the left in the face of the diminishing economic and social returns of global capitalism.
Why not instead of settling in for an easy summer read, you nudge your brain out of its comfort zone with some independent press selections? Below are three recent releases with an edge of the disconcerting.
At the start of Karen Green’s prismatic first book, Bough Down, it is June. “Does it begin like this?” she writes, and describes in glittering prose a pastoral arrangement of household objects: garden hose, cigarettes, fuzzy pills, artichoke stalks. The items seem innocent enough until they become intricately linked with the narrative surrounding the aftermath of the suicide of David Foster Wallace, the author’s late husband.
With summer almost upon us, we note the arrival on these shores of Mary Heilmann: Good Vibrations, published last year by Walther König, Cologne, to accompany the artist’s reception of the prestigious Biennial Award for Contemporary Art (BACA) and its related exhibition.
How did queer writers and bookish types find queer content in the past and how they do it today, when so many of the past networks would appear to have dispersed?
Holding a sign that reads “I am your worst fear, I am your best fantasy,” a photograph of a proud and defiant woman at a gay liberation march in the 1970s opens Phaidon’s newly published Art & Queer Culture, illustrating the dual visions of queer identity by the field of art history.
“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.
The technique of etching has given many a brooding artist a shadowy medium for their art, and while the time-consuming mode of creation has fallen out of mainstream popularity, Moroccan artist Érik Desmazières continues to use etching almost exquisitely in his work.
Scorn for redneck culture — often dressed up as ironic appreciation — has long been a standby of American humor, a mechanism by which socioeconomic tension is reduced to a soothing cascade of condescension. It’s a classic indulgence of middle class banality, kind of like a mall fountain, but more cruel.
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.
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.