Ruckus Reading List: Spring 2019

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Find out what your local art writers are reading.

dispatches journal
Ed. Gean Moreno and Natalia Zuluaga

In dispatches, editors Gean Moreno and Natalia Zuluaga (2019 Great Meadows Foundation Critic-in-Residence) have created a space for hearty discourse about climate, ecology, commerce, postcolonialism, and the ways these issues can be examined through visual culture. For artists and others immersed in the art world, the conflict between art as a tool of resistance and its commodification by structures of power is troubling, sometimes to a point of hopelessness. The answer is not to retreat but to read, discuss, and find more allies! I was especially captivated by Irmgard Emmelhainz’ “Aesthetic Materialism under Absolute Capitalisms.” The journal is free, bilingual, and offers viewers a format in which they can easily print articles if they so choose.
-Mary Clore

Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art
Series ed. Iwona Blazwick

I’m kind of cheating by selecting a series, but I’ve found these books to be indispensable while researching. Each publication consists of a series of essays on a particular topic as it relates to contemporary art, with entries ranging from materiality to destruction to appropriation to failure. In order to enrich my own artistic practice, I’m currently reading through Time (edited by Amelia Groom).
-Kevin Warth

Art and Labor Podcast
O.K. Fox and Lucia Love

Fox and Love bring contagious enthusiasm and humor into their conversations on labor practices, which are often left out of mainstream art discourse. The description on the podcast’s website states, “We hope to center the human cost of the ‘art world’ and advocate for fair labor practices for artists, assistants, fabricators, docents, interns, registrars, janitors, writers, editors, curators, guards, performers, and anyone doing work for art & cultural institutions.” The assumption that artists should be willing to suffer for their art seems to extend to all corners of the industry, stretching to include anyone who cares about the way art is seen. Some of my favorite episodes feature interviews with organizers from two institutions that have made headlines with their recent unionization: MoMA PS1 and the New Museum.
-Mary Clore

Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship
Claire Bishop

Artificial Hells is a deep dive into contemporary social practice art (simplified to “Participatory Art” by Bishop), and the challenges faced by audiences, institutions, and critics when interpreting the value of such works. Bishop does not diminish the potential of this kind of work (the potential for community or aesthetic gains). Instead, she positions the inclination to view these works as inherently more ethical than “normal” art to be problematic, and demonstrates how everything from art history to government policy leads us to these inclinations without always being aware of it. At a time when many artistic institutions are looking for their soul, Artificial Hells raises essential questions about the role and value of aesthetics in society.
-L Autumn Gnadinger

The Queer Art of Failure
Jack Halberstam

I’d be remiss to not include any queer content on my list! Queer theory can be impenetrable at first blush, but Halberstam writes in a concise, accessible way so that anyone can pick up one of his books. In The Queer Art of Failure, Halberstam proposes alternate modes of thinking and being that undermine heteronormative definitions of success. He identifies these moments in close textual analyses of art and media, perhaps most delightfully in inane films such as Finding Nemo, Dude, Where’s My Car?, and Chicken Run. The closing sentences summarize the book most effectively: “To live is to fail, to bungle, to disappoint, and ultimately to die; rather than searching for ways around death and disappointment, the queer art of failure involves the acceptance of the finite, the embrace of the absurd, the silly, and the hopelessly goofy. Rather than resisting endings and limits, let us revel in and cleave to all of our own inevitable fantastic failures.”
-Kevin Warth