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Writing Art

Writings by artists convey a specific type of knowledge or way of thinking about artistic practice that the writings of academic and professional observers do not. It is not just a matter of artists' texts filling discursive gaps between critical writing and artistic production; it is also a question of texts by artists creating intellectual, political, and cultural possibilities that would not otherwise exist. The books in this series remind us that art's manifestations and meanings are rendered more complex when artists' voices are heard, and when artists engage in direct debate and dialogue with each other, the public, and scholars. The Writing Art series was initiated by Roger Conover in 1991.

Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006-2009

In 2006, even though he could barely type, China’s most famous artist started blogging. For more than three years, Ai Weiwei turned out a steady stream of scathing social commentary, criticism of government policy, thoughts on art and architecture, and autobiographical writings.

The Writings of Hollis Frampton

As Hollis Frampton’s photographs and celebrated experimental films were testing the boundaries of “the camera arts” in the 1960s and 1970s, his provocative and highly literate writings were attempting to establish an intellectually resonant form of discourse for these critically underexplored fields. It was a time when artists working in diverse disciplines were beginning to pick up cameras and produce films and videotapes, well before these practices were understood or embraced by institutions of contemporary art.

Writings and Interviews, 1965–2007

Artist Mel Bochner became a writer, he says, almost by accident. In 1965, as a young artist in New York, he was out of a job; Arts Magazine paid him $2.50 for every review he turned in, whether they published it or not; a month of review-writing paid his rent—$28.00 a month. His reviews and articles provoked a range of unexpected reactions. "At that time, artists who wrote were looked at suspiciously, as if writing somehow tainted their visual practice," he writes.

A Life

If you're interested in Plato, you're reading the wrong book. If you're interested in difficult childhoods, sexual misadventures, aesthetics, cultural history, and the reasons that a club sandwich and other meals—including breakfast—have remained in the memory of the present writer, keep reading.
—from Feelings Are Facts

The Early Writings of Vito Acconci

Pioneering conceptual artist Vito Acconci began his career as a poet. In the 1960s, before beginning his work in performance and video art, Acconci studied at the Iowa Writers Workshop and published poems in journals and chapbooks. Almost all of this work remains unknown; much of it appeared in the self-produced magazines of the Lower East Side's mimeo revolution, and many other pieces were never published.

The Writings of Andrea Fraser

Andrea Fraser's work, writes Pierre Bourdieu in his foreword to Museum Highlights, is able to "trigger a social mechanism, a sort of machine infernale whose operation causes the hidden truth of social reality to reveal itself." It often does this by incorporating and inhabiting the social role it sets out to critique—as in a performance piece in which she leads a tour as a museum docent and describes the men’s room in the same elevated language that she uses to describe seventeenth-century Dutch paintings.

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.

Writings and Interviews

Since the 1960s, the artist Bruce Nauman has developed a highly complex and pluralistic oeuvre ranging from discrete sculpture, performance, film, video, and text-based works to elaborate multipart installations incorporating sound, video recording and monitors, and architectural structures. Nauman's work is often interpreted in terms of movements and mediums, including performance, postminimalism, process, and conceptual art, thereby emphasizing its apparent eclecticism.

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.

Statements, Conversations, Proposals

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.

Essays, Interviews, Projects

Carolee Schneemann is one of the pioneers of performance, installation, and video art. Although other visual artists, such as Salvador Dali and Yves Klein, had used live self-portraiture and performance as a vehicle for public provocation, Schneemann was among the first to use her body to animate the relationship between the world of lived experience and the imagination, as well as issues of the erotic, the sacred, and the taboo.

Further Essays on Art & Language

In Conceptual Art and Painting, a companion to his Essays on Art & Language, Charles Harrison reconsiders Conceptual Art in light of renewed interest in the original movement and of the various forms of "neo-Conceptual" art. He discusses developments in the Art & Language movement since 1991, during which time there have been major retrospectives of its work at the Musée du Jeu de Paume in Paris, the Antonio Tapies Foundation in Barcelona, and PS1 in New York.

Essays and Criticism

The work of artist Mike Kelley (b. 1954) embraces performance, installation, drawing, painting, video, and sculpture. Drawing distinctively on high art and vernacular traditions, including historical research, popular culture, and psychology, Kelley came to prominence in the 1980s with a series of sculptures composed of craft materials. His recent work offers dialogues with architecture and with repressed memory syndrome, and a sustained inquiry into his own aesthetic and social history. The subjects on which Kelley has written are as varied as his artistic media.

These essays by art historian and critic Charles Harrison are based on the premise that making art and talking about art are related enterprises. They are written from the point of view of Art & Language, the artistic movement based in England—and briefly in the United States—with which Harrison has been associated for thirty years. Harrison uses the work of Art & Language as a central case study to discuss developments in art from the 1950s through the 1980s.

Selected Writings by Dan Graham on His Art

introduction by Jeff Wall

The internationally renowned artist Dan Graham is widely acknowledged as one of the leading members of the 1960s conceptual art movement. However, his subsequent work in photography, performance, film, video, and the fusion of art and architecture, though well known in Europe and Japan, is less well known in English-speaking countries.

Selected Writings in Art Criticism 1967-1992


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.

Selected Writings in Meta-Art 1968-1992


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.


Imaging Desire, Mary Kelly's long-awaited collection of writings from 1976 to 1995, asks fundamental questions about the analysis of current practices in art and makes rigorous arguments for a criticism informed by semiotics, psychoanalysis, and feminism. Few artists have made such a strong contribution to critical discourse and art as Mary Kelly, who for more than twenty years has pushed the boundaries of the visual, the textual, the sexual, and the political in her writing and her art.

Writings and Interviews, 1923–1997

edited by Marie-Laure Bernadac and Hans-Ulrich Obrist


"Everyday you have to abandon your past or accept it and then if you cannot accept it, you become a sculptor."

Writings and Projects 1965-1990

Dan Graham's artworks and critical writings have had an enormous influence on the course of contemporary art over the past quarter century. Rock My Religion collects eighteen of Graham's essays from all periods of his work, beginning with his essays on minimalist artists such as Dan Flavin and Donald Judd, continuing with his writings on punk rock and popular culture, and concluding with his more recent considerations of architecture, urban space, and power.

Power, Cultures, and the World of Appearances

Who speaks? Who is silent? Who is seen? Who is absent? These questions focus on how cultures are constructed through pictures and words, how we are seduced into a world of appearances: into a pose of who we are and aren't. On both an emotional and an economic level, images and texts have the power to make us rich or poor.