1. The Journalism, Creative Writing and English Literature postgraduate students at the University of Strathclyde are organising a research symposium uniting emerging work in the arts and humanities to explore the concept of metamodernism. This event is open to PGR and ECR scholars working in any area of the arts, humanities, information sciences or social sciences. The full description can be found here.

     

  2. Some months ago I wrote a short essay for Frieze documenting some of the most despicable and unsuccessful politicians currently on TV. You can read the essay in full here. I have copy-pasted a teaser below.

    It seems no one takes representative democracy seriously any more. Elected politicians are seen either as unscrupulous, opportunist cheats or as ignorant imbeciles, while parliaments are taken to be lobbyists’ whorehouses. This dissatisfaction is particularly visible in a spate of current television dramas, where the worst human beings make the most successful politicians, idealism is a bad career move, and nothing ever gets done that will change the electorate’s life for the better. With the recent return of HBO’s political satire Veep (2012–ongoing) to the small screen for a fourth season, it seems a pertinent moment to take a look at some of the most odious political characters on TV today.

    Few small-screen politicians are, or have ever been, as cynical and self-serving as Frank Underwood in House of Cards (2013–ongoing), a contemporary American reimagining of the 1990 BBC series set at the end of the Thatcher era. Underwood – played by Kevin Spacey – murders his opponents, manipulates and undermines his colleagues and friends, and plans political manoeuvres exclusively for his own advancement. In one particularly painful scene, he sacrifices a friendship of over 20 years (his only true friendship, in fact) to save his political career. Most appallingly, Underwood’s tactics pay off: over the course of two seasons he crosses the road from the House of Representatives to the White House and into the Oval Office. House of Cards presents politics as a game that is won by the most cunning politician. The worst hand of cards you can be dealt includes idealism, empathy and moral principles.

     

  3. STURTEVANT, Finite/Infinite, 2010
, Vierkanal-Videoinstallation / 4-channel video installation 9'42", Farbe, ohne Ton / color, no sound, Dimensionen variable 
/ dimensions variable
Foto /photo: Simon Vogel

    A few weeks ago I discussed Elaine Sturtevant’s impressive solo exhibition at Julia Stoschek for Artblog Cologne. Below is a brief excerpt. You can read the full review here.

    In Finite-Infinite (2012), an impressive and moving nine second video-loop of a dog running from left to right across three panels, Sturtevant makes manifest becoming itself. Since she does not show the dog’s trajectory but only films the animal mid-run, the video registers as a visualization of pure movement. Indeed, as if to emphasize the extent to which each of the dog’s steps is merely the actualization of a multitude of possible steps, the projection falters every other second, dropping the dog back a few inches, forcing it to take the step, perhaps another step, again.

     

  4. Scenes from the Suburbs

    image

    My latest book Scenes from the Suburbs: The Suburb in Contemporary US Film and Television was published by Edinburgh University Press in 2014. You can order it online here.

    Below is an excerpt:

    As America moves to the suburbs, the motion pictures move with it. In the past two decades there have been more films and television programmes set in suburbia than ever before. Films such as American Beauty (Mendes, 1999), Far From Heaven (Haynes, 2002), Brick (Johnson, 2005), Juno (Reitmann, 2007), and Lakeview Terrace (Labute, 2008), and television shows like Arrested Development (FOX, 2003-2006), Desperate Housewives (ABC, 2004-2012), Weeds (Showtime, 2005-present), and Modern Family (ABC, 2009-present) have won commercial as well as critical acclaim, drawing large audiences to the cinema or the couch, picking up nominations for Oscars and Sundance Awards, Emmys and Golden Globes, and almost without exception receiving glowing reviews. ‘There is’, as the social theorists Douglas Muzzio and Thomas Halper have remarked, ‘nothing odd about this. With most Americans living in suburbs by the mid-1990s – and many more hoping to – preoccupation with suburbia is natural.’[i] Indeed, the only thing that is odd, is that the artistic fascination for suburbs has so far appeared to have gone by media scholars and film critics unnoticed. To date, only a bucketful of books, articles, and reviews have been published that discuss suburban narratives; only a very small percentage of which exclusively concentrates on film and/or television moreover.[ii] ‘In the still-developing history of the postwar United States,’ the historians Kevin Kruse and Thomas J. Sugrue point out, ‘suburbs belong at center stage.’[iii] But they rarely do. This book is concerned with redressing this injustice by looking at the representation of suburbs in late twentieth and early twenty-first film and television across a variety of genres and contexts.

    Read More

     

  5. "Don’t be fooled by the way capitalism co-opts art. It pretends to do it for money, but underneath money is terror. Terror that there might be a different way to live. There is a different way, and it’s not a William Morris utopia, or an Omega workshop niche; it’s a celebration of the human spirit. Art reminds us of all the possibilities we are persuaded to forget. Peace or war, we need those alternatives."
    — Jeanette Winterson, ‘What is art for?’, The Guardian.
     

  6. I reviewed Ilse D’Hollander’s solo exhibition at Konrad Fischer for Texte Zur Kunst. The essay is not online, unfortunately, but you can order it here.

    After her death, D’Hollander’s paintings were stored away for years. The Flemish collector in possession of her oeuvre, a close friend of the artist deeply saddened by her passing, could for some time not bear the idea of sharing the collection with the world. Writing on the artist is therefore sparse. Of the critics who have written on D’Hollander, many have compared her paintings to the work of her compatriot Raoul de Keyser. Certainly, De Keyser unmistakably had an influence on D’Hollander. Like him D’Hollander uses abstraction to evoke a sensation of invisible figuration. Her work does not represent anything or anyone in particular; but it often, through elongated brush strokes or fields of color, intimates forms, gestures and movements we may very well associate with a multiplicity of situations – what Deleuze calls, writing about Bacon, the diagram. What sets D’Hollander’s paintings apart, however, what puts them into a universe of their own is their cautiousness. These paintings give the impression that every line drawn, every color used, was followed by hours if not days of contemplation, of doubting and internally discussing their position, application and function, not merely in terms of materiality but in terms of the world they create. The artist sets out to create a harmony that she understands she cannot create.

     

  7. In December of 2013 I travelled to Brussels to meet up with the artist Monika Stricker. We spoke about Foucault and speculative realists, minimalism and simulacra, Dusseldorf and cinema. The talk was sprawling but intense and I enjoyed it very much. I published a short monograph on Monika’s work in Frieze D/E’s March issue. An excerpt is published below. The full text can be accessed here.

    Stricker’s hesitates in labelling her work as art and this not mere false pretense. Her skepticism seems to stem, rather, from a thorough understanding of the conditions that sustain art making in the 21st century. There is sex, Michel Foucault wrote in The History of Sexuality Vol. 1. (1976; 1990), and there is sexuality. Sexuality is what happens to sex when we speak about it, when we say what is normal and abnormal, permitted and perverse. Today sex is always already an expression of sexuality. Art is no different in this respect. Stricker explained to me that once her work is conceived as art – by others or herself – it ceases to be art and is reduced to one of the various discourses about art. Therefore, however much her work may have in common with traditions of minimalism and conceptualism, it cannot, in fact, belong to any of these registers.

     

  8. For the March issue of Frieze D/E, I reviewed Katie Holten’s thoughtful and exciting solo exhibition at Van Horn, Dusseldorf. As always, I have posted an excerpt below. The full review can be accessed over at Frieze D/E.

    What made the show so compelling, as well as moving, was the craft and effort that had gone into these works. Intricate composites of white charcoal, chalk and oil stick on black canvases, the pictures were drawings of photos, not photos of photos or the originals themselves. The difference between the drawing and the photograph is twofold: first, drawing is a skill of the hand whilst photography is a quality of the eye, which is to say that the former is an art of touch, of the body, whereas the second is an art of vision, of the mind (of course, I am exaggerating here, but you catch my drift) 

     


  9. I reviewed Ane Mette Hol’s impressive solo show at Galerie Kadel Willborn, Dusseldorf, for Frieze. I have posted an excerpt below. You can read the whole review here.

    Many of the postmoderns dealt with events or sites of specific significance. Baudrillard, for instance, wrote about the First Gulf War, while many of Demand’s photographs are modelled after crime scenes. The idea was to problematize the authenticity of these events. The Gulf War didn’t happen, Baudrillard wrote. Not because there weren’t any casualties, but because all casualties, human, material or financial, had been calculated beforehand. So when the war took place, it in fact played out a script already written. In contrast, Hol concerned herself in this exhibition with non-events, with non-places – the cleaning of floors, the hanging of lamps, the white cube of the gallery before or after installation – in order to turn them into something akin to an event, into a place. For one of the exhibition’s most elaborate pieces, After the Dust Settles #2, the artist spent days crayoning 500 A4 sheets of paper with white dry pastel and arranging them on the floor, only to remove them immediately after, leaving just the traces of dust. What this work pointed to, movingly, was precisely the placeness of the gallery as a non-place. It mapped, quite literally, the effort, skill and personality that goes into the maintenance of a space intended to accommodate everything without memory of its previous occupancy.

     
  10. Shia Labeouf performed a reading of “What is metamodernism?”, written by Robin van den Akker and myself; and “The metamodernist manifesto”, written by Luke Turner, during my cultural theory class last term. The performance was created by Shia, Luke and Nastja Rönkko.