The "ruins" of the modern era are the landmarks of recent art’s turn toward site and situation, history and memory. The abiding interest of artists in ruination and decay has led in particular to the concept of the modern ruin--an ambiguous site of artistic and architectural modernism, personal and collective memories, and the cultural afterlife of eras such as those of state communism and colonialism.
To the extent that Chinese contemporary art has become a global phenomenon, it is largely through the groundbreaking exhibitions curated by Gao Minglu: "China/Avant-Garde" (Beijing, 1989), "Inside Out: New Chinese Art" (Asia Society, New York, 1998), and "The Wall: Reshaping Contemporary Chinese Art" (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 2005) among them.
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.
In 2008, Asia stormed the citadel of the New York art world when two major museums presented retrospectives of Asian contemporary artists: Cai Guo-Qiang at the Guggenheim Museum and Takashi Murakami at the Brooklyn Museum. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, a painting by Zeng Fanzhi sold for $9.5 million, setting a new world auction record for Chinese contemporary art. The Western art world is still coming to grips with the challenge: it is all about Asia now.
The "sonic turn" in recent art reflects a wider cultural awareness that sight no longer dominates our perception or understanding of contemporary reality. The background buzz of myriad mechanically reproduced sounds increasingly mediates our lives. Tuning into this incessant auditory stimulus, some of our most influential artists have investigated the corporeal, cultural, and political resonance of sound.
This book documents a short but intense artistic experiment that took place in Yugoslavia fifty years ago but has been influential far beyond that time and place: the "little-known story" of the advent of computers in art. It was through the activities of the New Tendencies movement, begun in Zagreb in 1961, and its supporting institution the Galerija suvremene umjetnosti that the "thinking machine" was adopted as an artistic tool and medium.
Opening with a prolonged salvo of fiery explosions accompanied by the warning cry of a siren, Dara Birnbaum's video Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978–79) is a concise, action-packed, and visually riveting video. During its seven-minute span we see, again and again, the transformation of the drab secretary Diana Prince into the super-heroic Wonder Woman. By isolating and repeating the moment of transformation—spinning figure, arms outstretched—Birnbaum unmasks the technology at the heart of the metamorphosis.
In the mid-1980s, the Canadian art group General Idea (AA Bronson, Felix Partz, and Jorge Zontal) created a symbol using the acronym AIDS, arranging the letters in a manner that resembled Robert Indiana's famous LOVE logo. This launched Imagevirus, a project of paintings, sculptures, videos, posters, and exhibitions that investigated the term AIDS as both word and image, using the mechanism of viral transmission. The Imagevirus spread like a virus, producing an image epidemic in urban spaces from Manhattan to Sydney.
Amid the global uncertainties of our times, failure has become a central subject of investigation in recent art. Celebrating failed promises and myths of the avant-garde, or setting out to realize seemingly impossible tasks, artists have actively claimed the space of failure to propose a resistant view of the world. Here success is deemed overrated, doubt embraced, experimentation encouraged, and risk considered a viable strategy.
In 1964, at age forty, Marcel Broodthaers (1924-1976) proclaimed that his years of writing poetry—of being "good for nothing," in his words—were over, and a brief but dazzling artistic career began. Considered a founding father of institutional critique, Broodthaers created hundreds of objects, books, films, photographs and exhibitions, including a "fictive" museum of modern art that evolved from an installation in his own home to a massive exhibition of over three hundred works representing eagles.