Thomas J. Demos

T. J. Demos is a Lecturer in the Department of History of Art, University College London and the author of The Exiles of Marcel Duchamp (MIT Press, 2007). His essays have appeared in such journals as Artforum, Grey Room, October, and Texte zur Kunst.

  • Against the Anthropocene

    Against the Anthropocene

    Visual Culture and Environment Today

    Thomas J. Demos

    A critique of the discourse on the Anthropocene and the creative alternatives to it to be found through the arts, sciences, and humanities.

    Addressing the current upswing of attention in the sciences, arts, and humanities to the new proposal that we are in a human-driven epoch called the Anthropocene, this book critically surveys that thesis and points to its limitations. It analyzes contemporary visual culture—popular science websites, remote sensing and SatNav imagery, eco-activist mobilizations, and experimental artistic projects—to consider how the term proposes more than merely a description of objective geological periodization. This book argues that the Anthropocene terminology works ideologically in support of a neoliberal financialization of nature, anthropocentric political economy, and endorsement of geoengineering as the preferred—but likely disastrous—method of approaching climate change. To democratize decisions about the world's near future, we urgently need to subject the Anthropocene thesis to critical scrutiny and develop creative alternatives in the present.

    • Paperback $25.00
  • Decolonizing Nature

    Decolonizing Nature

    Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology

    Thomas J. Demos

    A study of the intersecting fields of art history, ecology, visual culture, geography, and environmental politics.

    While ecology has received little systematic attention within art history, its visibility and significance has grown in relation to the threats of climate change and environmental destruction. By engaging artists' widespread aesthetic and political engagement with environmental conditions and processes around the globe—and looking at cutting-edge theoretical, political, and cultural developments in the Global South and North—Decolonizing Nature offers a significant, original contribution to the intersecting fields of art history, ecology, visual culture, geography, and environmental politics. Art historian T. J. Demos, author of Return to the Postcolony: Specters of Colonialism in Contemporary Art (2013), considers the creative proposals of artists and activists for ways of life that bring together ecological sustainability, climate justice, and radical democracy, at a time when such creative proposals are urgently needed.

    • Paperback $28.00
  • Return to the Postcolony

    Return to the Postcolony

    Specters of Colonialism in Contemporary Art

    Thomas J. Demos

    In the wake of failed states, growing economic and political inequality, and the ongoing US- and NATO-led wars for resources, security, and economic dominance worldwide, contemporary artists are revisiting former European colonies, considering past injustices as they haunt the living yet remain repressed in European consciousness. With great timeliness, projects by Sven Augustijnen, Vincent Meessen, Zarina Bhimji, Renzo Martens, and Pieter Hugo have emerged during the fiftieth anniversary of independence for many African countries, inspiring a kind of “reverse migration”—a return to the postcolony, which drives an ethico-political as well as aesthetic set of imperatives: to learn to live with ghosts, and to do so more justly.

    • Paperback $26.00
  • Dara Birnbaum

    Dara Birnbaum

    Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman

    Thomas J. Demos

    A critical examination of Dara Birnbaum's action-packed and riveting video of Wonder Woman's transformations.

    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 this illustrated examination of Birnbaum's video, T. J. Demos situates it in its historical context—among other developments in postmodernist appropriation, media analysis, and feminist politics—and explores the artist's pioneering attempts to open up the transformative abilities of video as a medium. Demos examines Birnbaum's influence on such artists as Douglas Gordon, Pierre Huyghe, Philippe Parreno, and Candice Breitz, and the turn toward “postproduction procedures”—the mobilization of existing imagery for innovative uses. He also reveals a fascinating historical shift in the reception of Birnbaum's work: a move from an emphasis on her deconstruction of mass culture ideology to an appreciation of her creative use of consumer imagery.

    • Hardcover $35.00 £19.95
    • Paperback $19.95 £14.95
  • The Exiles of Marcel Duchamp

    The Exiles of Marcel Duchamp

    Thomas J. Demos

    Exile as the dominant fact of Marcel Duchamp's life and artistic practice: how the "spirit of expatriation" and sense of dislocation infused the mobile objects and disjunctive spaces of Duchamp's readymades and experimental exhibition installations.

    Marcel Duchamp was a famous expatriate, a wanderer, living and working in Paris, New York, and Buenos Aires and escaping from each in turn. But exile, argues T. J. Demos in this innovative reading, is more than a fact in Duchamp's biography. Exile—in the artist's own words, a “spirit of expatriation”—infuses Duchamp's entire artistic practice..

    Duchamp's readymade constructions, his installations for surrealist exhibitions in Paris and New York, and his “portable museum” (the suggestively named La boîte-en-valise), Demos writes, all manifest, define, and exploit the terms of exile in multiple ways. Created while the artist was living variously in New York, Buenos Aires, and occupied France during the global catastrophes of war and fascism, these works express the anguish of displacement and celebrate the freedom of geopolitical homelessness. The “portable museum,” a suitcase containing miniature reproductions of Duchamp's works, for example, represented a complex meditation—both critical and joyful—on modern art's tendency toward itinerancy, whereas Duchamp's 1942 installation design entangling a New York gallery in a mile of string announced the dislocated status that many exiled surrealists wished to forget.

    Duchamp's exile, writes Demos, defines a new ethics of independent life in the modern age of nationalism and advanced capitalism, offering a precursor to our own globalized world of nomadic subjects and dispersed experience.

    • Hardcover $26.95 £18.95
    • Paperback $19.95 £14.99

Contributor

  • Public Servants

    Public Servants

    Art and the Crisis of the Common Good

    Johanna Burton, Shannon Jackson, and Dominic Willsdon

    Essays, dialogues, and art projects that illuminate the changing role of art as it responds to radical economic, political, and global shifts.

    How should we understand the purpose of publicly engaged art in the twenty-first century, when the very term “public art” is largely insufficient to describe such practices?  Concepts such as “new genre public art,” “social practice,” or “socially engaged art” may imply a synergy between the role of art and the role of government in providing social services. Yet the arts and social services differ crucially in terms of their methods and metrics. Socially engaged artists need not be aligned (and may often be opposed) to the public sector and to institutionalized systems. In many countries, structures of democratic governance and public responsibility are shifting, eroding, and being remade in profound ways—driven by radical economic, political, and global forces. According to what terms and through what means can art engage with these changes? This volume gathers essays, dialogues, and art projects—some previously published and some newly commissioned—to illuminate the ways the arts shape and reshape a rapidly changing social and governmental landscape. An artist portfolio section presents original statements and projects by some of the key figures grappling with these ideas.

    • Hardcover $44.95 £35.00
  • Situation

    Situation

    Claire Doherty

    Key texts on the notion of “situation” in art and theory that consider site, place, and context, temporary interventions, remedial actions, place-making, and public space.

    Situation—a unique set of conditions produced in both space and time and ranging across material, social, political, and economic relations—has become a key concept in twenty-first-century art. Rooted in artistic practices of the 1960s and 1970s, the idea of situation has evolved and transcended these in the current context of globalization. This anthology offers key writings on areas of art practice and theory related to situation, including notions of the site specific, the artist as ethnographer or fieldworker, the relation between action and public space, the meaning of place and locality, and the crucial role of the curator in recent situation specific art.

    In North America and Europe, the site-specific is often viewed in terms of resistance to art's commoditization, while elsewhere situation-specific practices have defied institutions of authority. The contributors discuss these recent tendencies in the context of proliferating international biennial exhibitions, curatorial place-bound projects, and strategies by which artists increasingly unsettle the definition and legitimation of situation-based art.

    Artists Surveyed Vito Acconci, Allora & Calzadilla, Francis Alÿs, Carl Andre, Artist Placement Group, Michael Asher, Amy Balkin, Ursula Biemann, Bik Van der Pol, Daniel Buren, Victor Burgin, Janet Cardiff, Center for Land Use Interpretation, Adam Chodzko, Collective Actions, Tacita Dean, Elmgreen & Dragset, Andrea Fraser, Hamish Fulton, Dan Graham, Liam Gillick, Renée Green, Group Material, Douglas Huebler, Bethan Huws, Pierre Huyghe, Robert Irwin, Emily Jacir, Ilya Kabakov, Leopold Kessler, Július Koller, Langlands & Bell, Ligna, Richard Long, Gordon Matta-Clark, Graeme Miller, Jonathan Monk, Robert Morris, Gabriel Orozco, Walid Ra'ad, Raqs Media Collective, Paul Rooney, Martha Rosler, Allen Ruppersberg, Richard Serra, Situationist International, Tony Smith, Robert Smithson, Vivan Sundaram, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Lawrence Weiner, Rachel Whiteread, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Qiu Zhijie

    Writers Arjun Appaduri, Marc Augé, Wim Beeren, Josephine Berry Slater, Daniel Birnbaum, Ava Bromberg, Susan Buck-Morss, Michel de Certeau, Douglas Crimp, Gilles Deleuze, T. J. Demos, Rosalyn Deutsche, Thierry de Duve, Charles Esche, Graeme Evans, Patricia Falguières, Marina Fokidis, Hal Foster, Hou Hanrou, Brian Holmes, Mary Jane Jacob, Vasif Kortun, Miwon Kwon, Lu Jie, Doreen Massey, James Meyer, Ivo Mesquita, Brian O'Doherty, Craig Owens, Irit Rogoff, Peter Weibel

    • Paperback $24.95 £16.95