Rabih Mroué, Sniper, 2012
Courtesy of Sternberg Press

“The Space of Agonism”
published by Sternberg Press

January 22 2013
4:32 PM

In September 2012, Nikolaus Hirsch and Markus Miessen launched the book series “Critical Spatial Practice,” published by Sternberg Press in Berlin and developed alongside the Städelschule program of the same name. In light of popular uprisings taking place worldwide, the series is framed as a reflection on links between architecture and the physical environment. “The Space of Agonism,” the freshly-pressed second book in the series, presents a selection of conversations between Markus Miessen and political philosopher Chantal Mouffe. The book unites Mouffe’s interest in “conflictual consensus” with Miessen’s interest in conflict-based forms of participation; the term “demoicracy” is coined therein to refer to democratic forms that maintain the pluralism of individual constituents. In the work, both intellectuals attempt to unveil the positive effects of a certain form of political conflict (agonism) in order to counter post-political claims that lead to extremism, antagonism and conflict. Accessible and informal, the series of discussions are a captivating point of view on the current worldwide economic and political turmoil. The book also contains “Sniper,” a visual project by Lebanese artist Rabih Mroué featuring videos created by Syrian protesters. The project —disconcerting and fascinating— focuses on the moment of eye contact between sniper and dissident, when the gun’s line of sight and the cell-phone camera lens meet. (Natalie Esteve)

Piero Gilardi, Beach Fire, 2007
Courtesy of JRP|Ringier

Piero Gilardi’s retrospective monograph published by
JRP | Ringier

January 3 2013
1:39 PM

JRP|Ringier is releasing a new retrospective monograph on Turin-based Arte Povera artist Piero Gilardi (b.1942). Gilardi’s works from the late 1960s and early 1970s generated much interest, especially his large, hyper-realistic sculptures of polyurethane foam, “Nature Carpets,” designed to generate a new kind of awareness and experience of nature for the viewer. Despite some critical acclaim, the artist decided stop making art in 1972. He went on to spend the next ten years travelling extensively (staying for significant periods in both Nicaragua and Kenya, as well as on native Mohawk reserves in upstate New York) and publishing his accounts in a number of magazines, including Flash Art. During this time, he also began to organize events drawing awareness to particular political and ecological issues of the time, events that encompassed street theatre, factory protests as well as other campaigns and social initiatives. Ten years after his departure from art-making, Gilardi returned, expanding on the “Carpets” series and making other forms of sculpture, interactive installation and landscape design. In these, he again intended to draw attention to pressing ecological and environmental issues. The publication will focus on these shifts and will coincide with a major retrospective survey of his works in the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, Nottingham Contemporary and Castello di Rivoli in Turin. (Isobel Harbison)

Courtesy of Badlands Unlimited

E-books published by
Badlands Unlimited

November 7 2012
8:12 AM

In contemporary art theory and practice, the issue of an artwork’s “authenticity” in relation to the processes of reproduction has been strongly informed by Walther Benjamin’s essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” that described the shift in the notions of authenticity, aura, and in the role of an artwork’s physical presence. Now, artist Paul Chan has founded Badlands Unlimited, an art e-books publishing house to address the way the significance of this shift is compounded by digitalization. Badlands Unlimited’s e-books capitalize on the versatility of the digital format and tackle our usual reading habits by turning it into a one-of-a-kind experience combining audio, video and analog elements in a single “object.” How to Download a Boyfriend, for example, one of the first ever group shows presented solely in the e-book format, features fifty artists addressing Internet standards through the lens of romance. Chan also recently reissued as a hi-res e-book Made in USA, Bernadette Corporation’s seminal magazine produced between 1999–2000. Also, a digital version of On Democracy by Saddam Hussein – an idealistic and contradic- tory pamphlet that was published by the dictator before he became president of Iraq – premiered this September at New York Art Book Fair. Upcoming releases include AD BOOK by BFFA3AE, another digital exhibition featuring this time over 200 artists. (Natalie Esteve)

Antonio Muntadas, Window installation, 1981
Courtesy of Printed Matter Archive and JRP|Ringier

“Alternative Histories” and “Artist-Run Spaces”

October 18 2012
8:15 PM

This autumn, two publications explore the history of alternative art spaces, investigating the changing parameters of artist-run initiatives. Editors Lauren Rosati and Mary Anne Staniszewski present us with Alternative Histories: New York Art Spaces, 1960–2012, published by The MIT Press, while Artist-Run Spaces, edited by Gabriele Detterer, is put out by JRP|Ringier. The latter is an anthology of essays and interviews that grew out of an exhibition of the same name, which took place at Exit Art in 2010—just two years before the venerated space’s 30th and final year. The publication documents more than 130 alternative spaces, groups, and projects that helped to define contemporary art in New York City.

Through interviews, photographs, essays, and archival material, Alternative Histories tells the story of iconic and infamous sites and organizations such as the Judson Memorial Church, Anthology Film Archives, El Museo del Barrio, Franklin Furnace, Eyebeam and Monster Island. Moving further afield, Artist-Run Spaces compiles extensive information about innovative projects from the 1960s and 1970s such as Art Metropole in Toronto, Artpool in Budapest, Printed Matter in New York, Zona in Florence and Ecart in Geneva. There is no time like the present to take a closer look at DIY history. (Alhena Katsof)

Rachel Harrison, "The Help, A Companion Guide".
Courtesy of the artist and Badlands Unlimited

Rachel Harrison’s
“The Help, A Companion Guide”,
an eBook published by
Badlands Unlimited

July 11 2012
4:48 PM

An art-handler friend in New York has some stories about installing in buyers’ ritzy apartments: a doorman’s insistence that he ride the service elevator up; having a maid point out where the de Kooning’s supposed to go.

One doesn’t really ‘flip’ through eBooks so much as enter their hybrid worlds, which can mix print conventions with the scattered way of reading we’ve picked up from the web. iBooks’ goofy page-turn effect works well with Rachel Harrison’s The Help, A Companion Guide, a hilarious and off-kilter edition released for iPad and iPhone by Badlands Unlimited, Paul Chan’s art book publishing outfit. The book was inspired by Harrison’s show, The Help (2012), at Greene Naftali in New York, but there are no finished gallery shots, nor any standard catalogue text. Instead we’re bombarded with snippets of Harrison’s reference materials and numerous shots from the installation of her exhibition.

The theme, of course, is the “help”: the research sources and people that surround the polished final exhibition: the denim-clad art-handlers wrapping up Harrison’s speckled foam sculptures beside buckets of cleaning fluid and stray packing tape. There, photos of colored-pencil drawings depicting Amy Winehouse singing to caricatures inspired by early Picasso paintings; Google image searches; newspaper clippings (from Malaysia, I think) about basketball teams and 90s rappers; scans of ceramics from old art catalogs. You’re offered a taste of the artist’s colorfully neurotic research process, sensing the stench of cigarette smoke in a Chelsea alleyway during an overworked gallery registrar’s lunch break. (Pablo Larios)

In her book, Avitall Ronell makes a reference to Frankenstein's story as an example of violence and dispossession
Film still of Frankenstein (1931) by James Whale

“Powering Down on Authority”
written by Avital Ronell and
published by Witte de With

May 31 2012
1:41 PM

What occurs when the institutions governing the production of knowledge and power suddenly disappear? Published as part of Witte de With’s series of online publications, punk theorist Avital Ronell extends her continued analysis of culture’s seductions, from hallucinations to modes of communication and consumption. Powering Down on Authority speculates on the very authorising claims of the political. How does authority authorise itself? Beginning with reading Freud and Kojève’s foundational narratives of psychoanalysis’ birth of patriarchy, Ronell moves to Nancy’s analysis of the merging of capital and democracy productive of a culture submitted to measure, evaluation and distributable shares. In light of the recent so-called Arab Spring and resistance to neo-liberal policies towards austerity and market logic, revolution—including those of reform, rebellion, mutiny, insurgency, etc.—require an opposition to authority. If democracy requires reinvigoration, the political must be supplemented by philosophical thinking towards the illogical and incalculable. Her swift reference at the end of the text to Victor Frankenstein, dispossessed of both wife and progeny, may indicate a romantic gesture towards the enabling violation of castration. Yet an embrace of ethical forms of spectacle and violence is exactly what Ronell advocates—or to put it another way, politics plus fantasy. (Stephan Tanbin Sastrawidjaja)

Collage by Paul Gellman
Courtesy of Semiotext(e)

Animal Shelter 2 by Semiotext(e)

May 25 2012
2:14 PM

Mix-tapes are heterogeneous by nature, crossing genres and styles to create a one-hour experience that is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Animal Shelter, the occasional intellectual journal edited by Hedi El Kholti and published by Semiotext(e), is like a mix-tape, writes Alex Gartenfeld in Interview. The second issue of the journal features fiction, art work, poetry, conversations and essays that navigate from politics to sexuality, from fiction to non-fiction in a completely non-hierarchical way. What seems to hold this diversity of material together is “loss.” Both in an emotional sense - longing, sadness, the sense of an ending - and in a geographical sense - dispersion, displacement, “unbelonging.” “The 21st century is disoriented,” states Virilio; Kholti writes about the “beauty of exile”; Dodie Bellamy confides that whenever she enters heterosexuality, “it’s been like visiting a foreign country”. Almost every contribution is acutely personal, feeling raw and, in a good way, sometimes even a little unedited. This might very well be the success of a good mix-tape, that it speaks from one heart to another without betraying the effort that went into making it. (Maaike Lauwaert)

View of "Zak Kyes Working With..." at Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig, 2011.
Courtesy of Galerie fur Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig
Photography by Sebastian Schröder

Sternberg Press publication exploring the work of graphic designer Zak Kyes

May 11 2012
1:37 PM

In an obituary for Steve Jobs, a long-time Apple supporter, writer and actor Stephen Fry wrote that it would be naive to maintain the distinction between style and substance. Today style determines usability no less than substances does. Current debates in the art world would be incomplete without considering the role graphic design plays in shaping the identities of art institutions and practices. The increasingly interchangeable roles of artists and designers, along with the numerous collaborative initiatives between the two creative fields, open up the development of a more critical understanding of design’s potentiality in facing contemporary capitalist systems. Among the key figures exploring the critical potential of contemporary graphic design is Zak Kyes, who stands behind the production of numerous art publications and designs for art institutions—the work that earned him the INFORM Award in 2010. As a recipient of this annual accolade, Kyes was presented an opportunity to exhibit his works at the Museum of Contemporary Art Leipzig. Accompanying the exhibition is a Sternberg Press publication, Working With…, in which a multitude of contributors, from Andrew Blauvelt to Marcus Miessen, examine the designer’s critical engagement in shaping the dialogue between art and design. Locating this relationship under the umbrella of economics and politics, the book contributes to the current discourse regarding the questions of authorship, identity and collaboration. (Aliina Astrova)

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