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James Meyer

James Meyer is Associate Professor of Art History at Emory University. He is the author of Minimalism: Art and Polemics in the Sixties and the editor of The AIDS Crisis is Ridiculous and Other Writings 1986-2003 by Gregg Bordowitz (MIT Press, 2004).

Titles by This Editor

Texts 1959–2004

Just as Carl Andre's sculptures are "cuts" of elemental materials, his writings are condensed expressions, "cuts" of language that emphasize the part rather than the whole. Andre, a central figure in minimalism and one of the most influential sculptors of our time, does not produce the usual critical essay. He has said that he is "not a writer of prose," and the texts included in Cuts—the most comprehensive collection of his writings yet published—appear in a wide variety of forms that are pithy and poetic rather than prosaic. Some texts are statements, many of them fifty words or less, written for catalog entries and press releases. Others are Socratic dialogues, interwoven statements, or in the form of questionnaires and interviews. Still others are letters—public and private, lengthy missives and postcards. Some are epigrams and maxims (for example, on Damian Hirst: I DON'T FEAR HIS SHARK. I FEAR HIS FORMALDEHYDE) and some are planar poems, words and letters arranged and rearranged into different patterns. They are organized alphabetically by subject, under such entries as "Art and Capitalism," "Childhood," "Entropy (After Smithson)," "Matter," "My Work," "Other Artists," and "Poetry," and they include Andre's reflections on Michelangelo and Duchamp, on Stein and Marx, and such contemporaries as Eva Hesse, Robert Smithson, Robert Morris, and Damien Hirst.

Carl Andre's writing and its materiality—its stress on the visual and tactile qualities of language—takes its place beside his sculpture and its materiality, its revelation of "matter as matter rather than matter as symbol." Both assert the ethical and political primacy of matter in a culture that prizes the replica, the insubstantial, and the virtual. "I am not an idealist as an artist," says Andre. "I try to discover my visions in the conditions of the world. It's the conditions which are important."

The HIV epidemic animates this collection of essays by a noted artist, writer, and activist. "So total was the burden of illness—mine and others'—that the only viable response, other than to cease making art entirely, was to adjust to the gravity of the predicament by using the crisis as a lens," writes Gregg Bordowitz, a film- and video-maker whose best-known works, Fast Trip Long Drop (1993) and Habit (2001), address AIDS globally and personally. In The AIDS Crisis Is Ridiculous—the title essay is inspired by Charles Ludlam, founder of the Ridiculous Theater Company—Bordowitz follows in the tradition of artist-writers Robert Smithson and Yvonne Rainer by making writing an integral part of an artistic practice.

Bordowitz has left his earliest writings for the most part unchanged—to preserve, he says, "both the youthful exuberance and the palpable sense of fear" created by the early days of the AIDS crisis. After these early essays, the writing becomes more experimental, sometimes mixing fiction and fact; included here is a selection of Bordowitz's columns from the journal Documents, "New York Was Yesterday." Finally, in his newest essays he reformulates early themes, and, in "My Postmodernism" (written for Artforum's fortieth anniversary issue) and "More Operative Assumptions" (written especially for this book), he reexamines the underlying ideas of his practice and sums up his theoretical concerns.

In his mature work, Bordowitz seeks to join the subjective—the experience of having a disease—and the objective—the fact of the disease as a global problem. He believes that this conjunction is necessary for understanding and fighting the crisis. "If it can be written," he says, "then it can be realized."