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Paperback | $19.95 Trade | £14.95 | 152 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 6 b&w illus. | September 2017 | ISBN: 9780262534192
eBook | $13.95 Trade | September 2017 | ISBN: 9780262342117
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Liquidation World

On the Art of Living Absently

Overview

In Liquidation World, Alexi Kukuljevic examines a distinctive form of subjectivity animating the avant-garde: that of the darkly humorous and utterly disoriented subject of modernity, a dissolute figure that makes an art of its own vacancy, an object of its absence. Shorn of the truly rotten illusion that the world is a fulfilling and meaningful place, these subjects identify themselves by a paradoxical disidentification—through the objects that take their places. They have mastered the art of living absently, of making something with nothing. Traversing their own morbid obsessions, they substitute the nonsensical for sense, the ridiculous for the meaningful.

Kukuljevic analyzes a series of artistic practices that illuminate this subjectivity, ranging from Marcel Duchamp’s Three Standard Stoppages to Charles Baudelaire’s melancholia. He considers the paradox of Duchamp’s apparatus in the Stoppages and the strange comedy of Marcel Broodthaers’s relation to the readymade; the comic subject in Jacques Vaché and the ridiculous subject in Alfred Jarry; the nihilist in Paul Valéry’s Monsieur Teste; Oswald Wiener’s interpretation of the dandy; and Charles Baudelaire as a happy melancholic. Along the way, he also touches on the work of Thomas Bernhard, Andy Kaufman, Buster Keaton, and others. Finally, he offers an extended analysis of Danny’s escape from his demented father in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Each of these subjects is, in Freud’s terms, sick—sick in the specific sense that they assume the absence of meaning and the liquidation of value in the world. They concern themselves with art, without assuming its value or meaning. Utterly debased, fundamentally disoriented, they take the void as their medium.

About the Author

Alexi Kukuljevic is an artist and Lecturer in Art Theory at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.

Endorsements

“With exuberantly mordant humor, Alexi Kukuljevic leads us to that place—Liquidation World—where we already are. This world turns out to be an atopia in which dissolute impersonators, caught between the first and third person, never find themselves a second, and where the epitome of happiness is to make oneself an object of absence from melancholic despair. It’s not so much that everything must go—just that everything does go. And, when it does, so do we. But we don’t go well. Thankfully, Kukuljevic is here to show us the pistols and the ropes.”
Justin Clemens, Associate Professor, The University of Melbourne; author of Psychoanalysis is an Antiphilosophy
Liquidation World is a shockingly clever but very kind book, treating its readers as well as its clumsy, incomplete, damaged, but well-meaning subjects as partners in a series of arty, thoughtful adventures in humor and absence. Embracing innumerable paradoxes, Kukuljevic nevertheless steers a steely course through ridiculousnesses of all kinds. It is the rigor of the madhouse, and what absurd fun.”
Nina Power, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Roehampton; author of One Dimensional Woman