A bi-weekly round up of recommendations from around the interwebs by TNI’s editors and staff.
Jesse Darling, Arts Editor at Large
Art: Creighton Baxter/Lisa Cradduck
I want everyone to go check out the elegant abjections of Creighton Baxter, whose performance installations propose strategies for queer visibility – and resisting assimilation – through the practice of “queer endurance.” Look, we’re [still] here; we’re not going anywhere; it took so long to get here, it might get better (and it might not). Baxter’s work interrogates the cozy, neo-liberal overtones of Dan Savage’s It Gets Bettercampaign, widely criticized elsewhere in the queer community: It Might Get Better (an ongoing project in collaboration with Hayley Morgenstern) offers an alternative vision of queer singularity, pulling from a lineage of “drag performers, country singers, American pop music, and contemporary performance art” for a celebratory, ambivalent, righteously problematic queer futurity.
I also recommend the work of printmaker Lisa Cradduck, whose show Blue Plague (a reference to the conservative party colours and, perhaps, the uniforms worn by the British police) opens on the 9th of January in London’s WestLane South Gallery. Cradduck depicts the violence of the Parliament Square protests in the cadaverous vernacular of Posada and the situationist rhetoric of Raoul Vaneigem: ” People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life … have corpses in their mouths.” The exhibition’s central piece was created as an inspirational classroom poster for the Blue Plague Print School, a fully functional lino workshop led by the artist for the length of the show in “response to the relentless attacks made by the current British Government on arts education and the culture of its citizens.”
Rob Horning, Executive Editor
Music: “Dream Gerrard” by Traffic
Like much of Traffic’s late-period output, this song, from its last album When The Eagle Flies (1974), is mesmerizing in its monotony. The lyrics — by Vivian Stanshall, of the dadaist Bonzo Dog Band — were meant as a tribute to French poet Gérard de Nerval and are largely surrealist nonsense (e.g. “Hippos don’t wear hats / Lobsters shriek if provoked on long blue ribbons”). But over the song’s 11 minutes, the music manages to be at once relentless and drifting. The musicians don’t really “jam” or respond to one another with melodic ideas; the song just unspools. It conveys the peculiar, stifled urgency dreams sometimes have, stuck in its melody like dreamers stuck in a situation that unfolds outside cause and effect.
Rachel Rosenfelt, Editor in Chief
I can’t find the quote, but Borges once said something to the effect of, “to organize a library is an act of criticism.” I often think of that idea when I browse Gunslinger. More than just a visual archive of pop history, Gunslinger is one of the most provocative works of cultural criticism of the last decade. Some of my favorite series include, “Accidental Surrealism,” “And Then It was Ephemera” “The Art of American Fantasy,” “Frames Within the Frame,” “Civic Portraiture,” The Art of the Panel- DC,” “Academy of the Underrated,” “I Like the Christian Life,” “Seminal Images,” “Tricky: Scenes from a Life,” “Golden Age of Publicity,” and “Sex Education” — to name just a few.
Erwin Montgomery, Associate Editor
Novel: Tarr, by Wyndham Lewis
If you were to take with you on vacation Wyndham Lewis’s Tarr as a beach read, it’d somehow manage to kick sand in your face. It isn’t breezy, nor especially pleasant. There really isn’t a character to care for in the whole work. And, upon finishing it, you’ll feel as if you spent a long time at a greatly demoralizing task, like checking behind the testicles of prisoner after prisoner for crack rocks or razor blades.
Yet, the novel succeeds on its own terms. Lewis’s puerile Nietzscheanism blares from every page, and his prose is as jagged as his Vorticist paintings. But Lewis really was the modernist’s modernist (sorry Joyce fans, but it’s true), almost singlehandedly introducing Cubism to Ruskin-worshiping Albion, and, of course, shaking up the literary scene with his journal, Blast. In Tarr you see just this sort of modernist: a writer not afraid to take risks, not reluctant to enrage a reading public fattened on the solicitous complacency of realist novelists.
Make no mistake, the guy was a fascist and a raging misogynist. But he was also a great artist.
Oh, and take special care to get only the 1918 edition; Lewis heavily revised Tarr in the twenties, much to the novel’s detriment.
Max Fox, Editor
Bookmarklet: SavePublishing by Paul Ford (@ftrain)
This is a bookmarklet that makes sharing articles on Twitter stupidly easy. You click it and it highlights the full sentences that are tweetable. Then you click the one you like best and it tweets it out with a link. Done. It’s free and claims not to track anything about you, not even your Twitter account handle. I installed it last week, I think, and already I’ve saved whole seconds of my life from guessing which fragment of the article I’m reading to copy-paste in a new tab. Truly, if anything is going to save publishing, it is not this. But it’s great to have anyway.
Malcolm Harris, Senior Editor
Performance Art: Art Basel Bodybags by Mark Allen
I hadn’t heard of Art Basel until I saw it on Gallery Girls (also recommended), but apparently it’s the third circle of Hell disguised as a giant art fair in Miami. Mark Allen’s project is a line of designer bodybags with the inspired reasoning: “You cannot plan your funeral, but you canchoose your bodybag.” He climbed into one on the floor of Art Basel and lasted nearly 18 minutes before being hauled off by the art police. Some people probably think bringing your own work to a fair is gimmicky, but I like the idea of performers (or non-performers) using art industry infrastructure as a soapbox. The unpermitted always has an edge in the gallery attention economy, so I’m looking forward to the inevitable collapse of museums as outside agitators like Allen monopolize the floor space. (Thanks Sarah Nicole Prickett for the link)
Adrian Chen, Editor
Memoir: Close to The Machine by Ellen Ullman
I just read Ellen Ullman’s 1997 memoir Close to The Machine, which was recently reissued. It was the best book I’ve read in 2012. Computer nerds generally can’t write, but Ullman, a former programmer, elegantly captures the joys and frustrations of losing yourself in technology. Anyone who uses computers should read this.