Emily Jacir’s ‘Material for a Film’ (2005–ongoing), an installation about the Palestinian intellectual Wael Zuaiter, was criticised by The New York Times art critic Ken Johnson for demonstrating politically correct sentiments but lacking aesthetic originality. Through an analysis of this and other artworks by Jacir, this article aims to account for the significance of the artist’s work by looking beyond art theory and towards questions of ideology. The paradox of performing critical memory through archival work is addressed in terms of the contradictions of publicity within what Jodi Dean refers to as communicative capitalism. Whereas scholar Susan Buck-Morss calls for ethical witnessing in the context of a global public sphere, the author proposes that leftist solidarity requires the avoidance of ideologies that emerge unwittingly from social constructionism and discourse theory.
In her video ‘A Sketch of Manners (Alfred Roch's Last Masquerade)’, 2013, artist Jumana Manna reanimated a striking group portrait from 1924 as tableau vivant, bringing the original photograph of wealthy Palestinians dressed in Pierrot clown costumes to life as a theatrical narrative. In this article, the author explores how Manna's work repeats and augments particular Orientalist uses of time, inspired by the Orientalist practice of cultural cross-dressing apparent in the photograph. She use Manna’s artistic intervention as an occasion to explore the history of the Christian Palestinian community under the British Mandate in more depth. Echoing theorist Ariella Azoulay’s call to stop ‘looking’ at photographs and start ‘watching’ them instead, Manna's video reveals the archival photograph as more than just proof of flourishing Palestinian urban life before the formation of Israel. As the author argues, it exposes the image as a potent sign of the continuing consequences of Palestine’s colonial experience.
By referring to the aesthetics theory developed by the Argentinian philosopher Rodolfo Kusch, this article aims to question the European models of cultural domination based on artistic canons, which still persist in the narratives of art history. The study of cultural relations between Latin American artists of the 1970s and the German artist Joseph Beuys exemplifies the inadaptability of Western artistic canons in the Latin American contexts. The analysis of Beuys’s artistic dialogue with Argentinian artists, such as Víctor Grippo and Nicolás García Uriburu, examines the matrix of transatlantic cultural relations in which the problem of influence usually concerns Latin Americans playing the role of followers of Western art trends. Criticism of Beuys’s artistic and political positions, which were raised by the Uruguayan Clemente Padín and the Brazilian Paulo Herkenhoff, opens new viewpoints with regards to the interpretation of canonical modern art.
Sasha Huber’s ‘Rentyhorn’ (2008), Switzerland, was a component of the Swiss Demounting Louis Agassiz campaign. The campaign sought to rename Agassizhorn, a peak bearing the name of Swiss-born scientist Louis Agassiz (1807–1873) a proponent of scientific racism. The article examines ‘Rentyhorn’, an intervention, by the Swiss/Haitian artist Huber (b 1975, Zurich), through concepts of re-mapping. Within ‘Rentyhorn’, the Swiss landscape is exposed through the naturalised systems of knowledge (geological mapping), making visible unacknowledged histories (Agassiz’s legacy), and marginalised perspectives (postcolonial critique) within a geographical terrain. Positioning ‘Rentyhorn’ as a critique of Swiss official ‘memory’ of Agassiz, as an esteemed scientist, highlighting how the processes of historical amnesia on Agassiz’s role in the formation of racist theories, are a symptom of a wider societal disavowal of Swiss engagement with the colonial project. Challenging Agassiz’s presence in the Swiss landscape emerges as a nexus of critical debate, visual and political activism.
This article investigates how Kerry James Marshall’s polymorphous and art historically conscious practice can be positioned within the discourse on blackness in contemporary art. It examines how his work, which is steeped in black history and black popular culture, embraces blackness as a signifier of difference to critically address the marginalisation of blacks in the visual sphere. The sidelining of black artists, especially in large museum collections, has been the norm and a manifestation of the absence of black art and artists from the Western canon of art. Only within the last two decades have art historians, in an interdisciplinary effort with other scholars, drawn attention to this deficit through such anti-Eurocentric investigations as Postcolonialism or Afro-Modernism. Kerry James Marshall’s artistic activism has successfully contributed its part by insisting that an identity-based, specifically black aesthetic be made visible and brought into the fold of the grand narrative of art.
The metaphor of transition has produced one of the most powerful images that captured the global historical momentum of the late twentieth century. Even though its teleological implications have been critiqued, we still live in the shadow of transition, or rather its incipient failures, as the global media represent countries that embarked on processes of transformation as relapsing and returning to primordial states. This article inquires into the ways in which artists from two global peripheries – William Kentridge (South Africa) and Dmitry Gutov (Russia) – resist these homogenising discourses by critically engaging with failures of the transitions. A comparative reading of the artists’ works from the past decade suggests that they develop a poetics which, drawing on the legacies of absurdism, treats failure as productive opportunity. Approaching the problems of transformation by remembering earlier revolutionary projects and inquiring into their politics of time, these works unravel creative possibilities within what has been deemed failed.
This article looks at the relationship between militarised vision and cinematic aesthetics in Jordan Crandall's moving image installation, ‘Heatseeking’ (2000–2001), commissioned for InSITE, a series of site-specific art exhibitions at the US–Mexico border. Repurposing border surveillance technologies, Crandall's project interrogates the domestication of militarised vision and the production of racialised bodies as conditions of legality in the post-NAFTA borderlands. Drawing on theories of flesh and embodiment to theorise Crandall's moving image poetics, the author demonstrates that Crandall’s project offers insights not only into the logics of militarised vision, but also modes by which visualisation at the border can become fugitive. Disrupting militarised vision through interventions into moving image grammars afforded by performance, spatialised montage, kinesthetics and sound, ‘Heatseeking’ produces a mode of transactional seeing that emphasises spectatorial embodiment rather than visual legibility. Bringing kinesthetic embodiment to bear on repurposed military technologies, ‘Heatseeking’ produces sensations that make visible the flesh of movement rather than racialised bodies.
The Indian Evidence Act of 1872 defined a fact according to interior as well as exterior experience, which – from then through to the present – has made the identity of self and nation difficult to prove in India. From a 1912 trial for a ‘princely impostor’ to two for sedition in 1908 and 2016, and from colonial histories to those of contemporary politics, this article weaves together the media constructions of journalists and politicians with recent works by contemporary artists Zuleikha Chaudhari, Dayanita Singh, Sudarshan Shetty and Rina Banerjee. These figures mine archives to turn five types of evidence central to identity formation into the materials of their art: the body, speech, paper, architecture and objects. Thus, in spite of the state’s attempt to pin down identity with evidence, the author tracks how such evidence is as fluid now as it was in the past, from exterior juridical facts to those of interior concern.
Park Chan-kyong, one of the most acclaimed media artists in Korea, recently coined the term ‘Asian Gothic’ to describe the rise of grotesque ancient imageries in a contemporary media culture. As he claims, this return of gothic sentiments symbolises a trauma resulting from the ‘false modernity’ in colonial Asia. Park's film ‘Manshin: Ten Thousand Spirits’ (2014) and the exhibition he curated, ‘Ghost, Spy, Grandmother’ (2014), illustrate the gothic vision, clarifying its remedial and contemporary value in local contexts. But while the gothic sentiment has been embraced in Asian cultures, it remains questionable whether the Asian Gothic can be a cultural paradigm which will cure local traumas. The malaise of modern projects in Asia continues and the gothic art seems to provide not a remedy but the illusion of one. This article will explore this illusory, spectral and thus symptomatic aspect of the Asian Gothic through Slavoj Žižek's notion of ‘the most sublime hysteria’ that returns in fantasy.
This article interrogates the active audience happening at Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s interactive sweet pile work in Seoul, South Korea in 2012. In the happening, audience members aggressively responded to the installation, and right after the gallery asked the audience to return the sweets. This process was discussed widely through social media. The happening can also be read as a single snapshot of how the new active audience, transformed by social media, has arrived in the contemporary artworld. Examining the audience’s ethics, claimed by Bourriaud and Kwon’s argument for the public that Gonzalez-Torres hoped to embrace, the authors argue that the new active audience in this social media era reacts and reinvents to/within interactive and participatory work, by reinterpreting and recontextualising the artwork similarly to the way game players do in their game play. As a central link of the value creation process in the art experience, this audience adds new meanings, values and experiences to the artwork, thereby making art function as aesthetic, cognitive, and a crucial register in our society.
THIRD TEXT is published in print and online by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group