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The Arts

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A History of Design Criticism

Product design criticism operates at the very brink of the landfill site, salvaging some products with praise but consigning others to its depths through condemnation or indifference. When a designed product’s usefulness is past, the public happily discards it to make room for the next new thing. Criticism rarely deals with how a product might be used, or not used, over time; it is more likely to play the enabler, encouraging our addiction to consumption.

“Public space” is a potent and contentious topic among artists, architects, and cultural producers. Public Space? Lost and Found documents how critical spatial practices have expanded the concept far beyond the physical confines of the city square. The book considers the role of aesthetic practices within the construction, identification, and critique of shared territories, and how artists or architects—the “antennae of the race”—can heighten our awareness of rapidly changing formulations of public space in the age of digital media, vast ecological crises, and civic uprisings.

Currencies of the Contemporary

Since the 1990s, Thai contemporary art has achieved international recognition, circulating globally by way of biennials, museums, and commercial galleries. Many Thai artists have shed identification with their nation; but “Thainess” remains an interpretive crutch for understanding their work. In this book, the curator and critic David Teh examines the tension between the global and the local in Thai contemporary art.

Art and the Contemporary after 1989

What has become of the so-called West after the Cold War? Why hasn’t the West simply become “former,” as has its supposed counterpart, the “former East”? In this book, artists, thinkers, and activists explore the repercussions of the political, cultural, and economic events of 1989 on both art and the contemporary. The culmination of an eight-year curatorial research experiment, Former West imagines a world beyond our immediate condition.

The Improbable Life of Charlotte Moorman

The Juilliard-trained cellist Charlotte Moorman sat nude behind a cello of carved ice, performed while dangling from helium-filled balloons, and deployed an array of instruments on The Mike Douglas Show that included her cello, a whistle, a cap gun, a gong, and a belch. She did a striptease while playing Bach in Nam June Paik’s Sonata for Adults Only.

Girlfriends

The artist Sigmar Polke (1941–2010) worked across a broad range of media—including photography, painting, printmaking, sculpture, and film—and in styles that varied from abstract expressionism to Pop. This volume in Afterall’s One Work series offers an illustrated exploration of Freundinnen (Girlfriends 1965/66), one of Polke’s important early paintings. Taken from a found image of two young women, and using the raster dots also found in mass media reproductions, Girlfriends offers a statement about the use and social function of images. 

Over the past twenty years, the network has come to dominate the art world, affecting not just interaction among art professionals but the very makeup of the art object itself. The hierarchical and restrictive structure of the museum has been replaced by temporary projects scattered across the globe, staffed by free agents hired on short-term contracts, viewed by spectators defined by their predisposition to participate and make connections.

Art From Bureaucracy

The typewriter, the card index, and the filing cabinet: these are technologies and modalities of the archive. To the bureaucrat, archives contain little more than garbage, paperwork no longer needed; to the historian, on the other hand, the archive’s content stands as a quasi-objective correlative of the “living” past.

The Exhibition as a Critical Form since 1968

In 1968, Robert Smithson reacted to Michael Fried’s influential essay “Art and Objecthood” with a series of works called non-sites. While Fried described the spectator’s connection with a work of art as a momentary visual engagement, Smithson’s non-sites asked spectators to do something more: to take time looking, walking, seeing, reading, and thinking about the combination of objects, images, and texts installed in a gallery. In Beyond Objecthood, James Voorhies traces a genealogy of spectatorship through the rise of the exhibition as a critical form—and artistic medium.

Telepresence, Touch, and Art at the Interface

"Telepresence” allows us to feel present—through vision, hearing, and even touch—at a remote location by means of real-time communication technology. Networked devices such as video cameras and telerobots extend our corporeal agency into distant spaces. In Here/There, Kris Paulsen examines telepresence technologies through the lens of contemporary artistic experiments, from early video art through current “drone vision” works. Paulsen traces an arc of increasing interactivity, as video screens became spaces for communication and physical, tactile intervention.

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