George Baker, The Artwork Caught by the Tail. Francis Picabia and Dada in Paris, MIT Press, 2010
The artist Francis Picabia—notorious dandy, bon vivant, painter, poet, filmmaker, and polemicist—has emerged as the Dadaist with postmodern appeal, and one of the most enigmatic forces behind the enigma that was Dada. In this first book in English to focus on Picabia's work in Paris during the Dada years, art historian and critic George Baker reimagines Dada through Picabia's eyes. Such reimagining involves a new account of the readymade—Marcel Duchamp's anti-art invention, which opened fine art to mass culture and the commodity. But in Picabia’s hands, Baker argues, the Dada readymade aimed to reinvent art rather than destroy it. Picabia’s readymade opened art not just to the commodity, but to the larger world from which the commodity stems: the fluid sea of capital and money that transforms all objects and experiences in its wake. The book thus tells the story of a set of newly transformed artistic practices, claiming them for art history—and naming them—for the first time: Dada Drawing, Dada Painting, Dada Photography, Dada Abstraction, Dada Cinema, Dada Montage.
Along the way, Baker describes a series of nearly forgotten objects and events, from the almost lunatic range of the Paris Dada “manifestations” to Picabia’s polemical writings; from a lost work by Picabia in the form of a hole (called, suggestively, The Young Girl) to his “painting” Cacodylic Eye, covered in autographs by luminaries ranging from Ezra Pound to Fatty Arbuckle. Baker ends with readymades in prose: a vast interweaving of citations and quotations that converge to create a heated conversation among Picabia, André Breton, Tristan Tzara, James Joyce, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, and others. Art history has never looked like this before. But then again, Dada has never looked like art history.
Douglas Crimp, October #43: AIDS: Cultural Analysis / Cultural Activism, MIT Press, 1987
Edited by Douglas Crimp, with contributions by Leo Bersani, Gregg Bordowitz, John Borneman, Douglas Crimp, Martha Gever, Sander L. Gilman, Jan Zita Grover, Amber Hollibaugh, Mitchell Karp, Carol Leigh, Max Navarre, PWA Coalition, Suki Ports, Katy Taylor, Paula A. Treichler, and Simon Watney.
Reyner Banham, A Concrete Atlantis, MIT Press, 1989
"Let us listen to the counsels of American engineers. But let us beware of American architects!" declared Le Corbusier, who like other European architects of his time believed that he saw in the work of American industrial builders a model of the way architecture should develop. It was a vision of an ideal world, a "concrete Atlantis" made up of daylight factories and grain elevators.
In a book that suggests how good Modern was before it went wrong, Reyner Banham details the European discovery of this concrete Atlantis and examines a number of striking architectural instances where aspects of the International Style are anticipated by US industrial buildings.
Mike Kelley, Minor Histories: Statements, Conversations, Proposals, MIT Press, 2004
What John C. Welchman calls the "blazing network of focused conflations" from which Mike Kelley's styles are generated is on display in all its diversity in this second volume of the artist's writings. The first volume, Foul Perfection, contained thematic essays and writings about other artists; this collection concentrates on Kelley's own work, ranging from texts in "voices" that grew out of scripts for performance pieces to expository critical and autobiographical writings.
Douglas Crimp, AIDS: Cultural Analysis / Cultural Activism, MIT Press, 1988
The literature on AIDS has attempted to teach us the "facts" about this new disease or to provide a narrative account of scientific discovery and developing public health policy. But AIDS has precipitated a crisis that is not primarily medical, or even social and political; AIDS has precipitated a crisis of signification the "meaning" of AIDS is hotly contested in all of the discourses that conceptualize it and seek to respond to it. AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism is the first book on the subject that takes this battle over meaning as its premise.
Contributors include Leo Bersani, author of The Freudian Body; Simon Watney, who serves on the board of the Health Education Committee of London's Terrence Higgens Trust; Jan Zita Grover, medical editor at San Francisco General Hospital; Suki Ports, former executive director of the New York City Minority Task Force on AIDS; and Sander Gilman, author of Difference and Pathology. Also included are essays by Paula A. Treichler, who teaches in the Medical School and in communications at the University of Illinois; Carol Leigh, a member of COYOTE and contributor to Sex Work; and Max Navarre, editor of the People With AIDS Coalition monthly Newsline. In addition to these essays, the book contains a portfolio of manifestos, articles, letters, and photographs from the publications of the PWA Coalition, an interview with three members of the AIDS discrimination unit of the New York City Commission on Human Rights; and presentations for the independent video documentaries on AIDS, Testing the Limits and Bright Eyes.
Douglas Crimp is coeditor of the journal October, art critic, and AIDS activist. An October Book.
Mike Kelley, Foul Perfection: Essays and Criticism, MIT Press, 2003
This book offers a diverse collection of Kelley's writings from the last twenty-five years. It contains major critical texts on art, film, and the wider culture, including his piece on the aesthetic he calls "urban Gothic." It also contains essays, mostly commissioned for exhibition catalogs and journals, on the artists and groups David Askevold, Öyvind Fahlström, Douglas Huebler, John Miller, Survival Research Laboratories, and Paul Thek, among others. Kelley's voices are passionate, analytic, and ironic, and his critical intelligence is leavened with touches of whimsy.
Adrian Piper, Out of Order, Out of Sight, MIT Press, 1999
Adrian Piper joins the ranks of writer-artists who have provided much of the basic and most reliable literature on modern and contemporary art. Out of Order, Out of Sight is an artistic and intellectual autobiography and an (occasionally scathing) commentary on mainstream art, art criticism, and American culture of the last twenty-five years.
Piper is an internationally recognized conceptual artist and the only African American in the early conceptual art movement of the 1960s. The writings in Out of Order, Out of Sight trace the development of her thinking about her artwork and the art world, and her evolving awareness of herself as a creative, racial, and gendered subject situated in an often limiting and always absurd cultural and social context.
Douglas Crimp, Our Kind of Movie: The Films of Andy Warhol, MIT Press, 2012
“We didn’t think of our movies as underground or commercial or art or porn; they were a little of all of those, but ultimately they were just ‘our kind of movie.’”
Andy Warhol was a remarkably prolific filmmaker, creating more than 100 movies and nearly 500 of the film portraits known as Screen Tests. And yet relatively little has been written about this body of work. Warhol withdrew his films from circulation in the early 1970s and it was only after his death in 1987 that they began to be restored and shown again. With Our Kind of Movie Douglas Crimp offers the first single-authored book about the full range of Andy Warhol’s films in forty years—and the first since the films were put back into circulation.
In six essays, Crimp examines individual films, including Blow Job, Screen Test No. 2, and Warhol’s cinematic masterpiece The Chelsea Girls (perhaps the most commercially successful avant-garde film of all time), as well as groups of films related thematically or otherwise—films of seductions in confined places, films with scenarios by Ridiculous Theater playwright Ronald Tavel. Crimp argues that Warhol’s films make visible new, queer forms of sociality. Crimp does not view these films as cinéma-vérité documents of Warhol’s milieu, or as camera-abetted voyeurism, but rather as exemplifying Warhol’s inventive cinema techniques, his collaborative working methods, and his superstars’ unique capabilities. Thus, if Warhol makes visible new social relations, Crimp writes, that visibility is inextricable from his making a new kind of cinema.
Douglas Crimp, Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics, MIT Press, 2004
In Melancholia and Moralism, Crimp confronts the conservative gay politics that replaced the radical AIDS activism of the late 1980s and early 1990s. He shows that the cumulative losses from AIDS, including the waning of militant response, have resulted in melancholia as Freud defined it: gay men's dangerous identification with the moralistic repudiation of homosexuality by the wider society.
With the 1993 march on Washington for lesbian and gay rights, it became clear that AIDS no longer determined the agenda of gay politics; it had been displaced by traditional right issues such as gay marriage and the right to serve in the military. Journalist Andrew Sullivan, notorious for pronouncing the AIDS epidemic over, even claimed that once those few rights had been won, the gay rights movement would no longer have a reason to exist.
Crimp challenges such complacency, arguing that not only is the AIDS epidemic far from over, but its determining role in queer politics has never been greater.