Silvia Kolbowski/Walid Raad: Between Artists
by Walid Raad and Silvia Kolbowski
The "Between Artists" books are sharp-looking little paperbacks of conversations/interviews between contemporary artists. Lebanon-based Walid Raad and U.S.-based Silvia Kolbowski had just begun their email correspondence when, in July 2006, Israel invaded Lebanon; the book, then, becomes a uniquely trenchant (albeit brief) document of that conflict, with Raad giving on-the-ground updates as he tries to escape his hometown of Beirut and Kolbowski responding as best he can with the tools available to him: critical theory, political philosophy, the daily newspaper. I picked this book up because I'm a big fan of Raad's artwork (I hadn't heard of Kolbowski), but it's Kolbowski's insightful writing that really makes it worthwhile. Anyway, it's worth noting that Kolbowski leans heavily, here, on the writings of Jacqueline Rose, whom I now want to go out and read everything by…
Anyway, if you'd like to know more about Raad, the website for his huge, complex project "The Atlas Group" can be found here: http://www.theatlasgroup.org/
Sum-up: Unique and worthwhile, especially if you're into this sort of thing
Andy Warhol: Blow Job
by Peter Gidal
"One Work" is a series of books from Afterall Press, each one devoted to analyzing an individual work of contemporary art; I've become a fan of this approach. In this case: academic and author Peter Gidal looks at "Blow Job": Andy Warhol's archly minimal 1964 silent film in which a man appears to be receiving oral sex from an unseen partner. Gidal has an impressive art-intellectual resume, but he's not a very good writer; many of the ideas in this book will probably be too obscure or inaccessible for people who aren't versed in media-theory, and too familiar or old-hat for people who are. Get through it, though, and there are some juicy tidbits here - relating Warhol's film to things as diverse as structuralism, materialism, Freudian psychoanalysis, classical painting and queer-liberation struggles. Could've been a lot better, though.
As a bonus, here's an excerpt from Blow Job: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBjqMMN6D5E
Sum-up: For art-nerds only...
by Roland Barthes
translated from the French by Richard Howard
I think that as a philosopher, Barthes had a particular gift for deep, engaged reading - whether of actual texts or of events or objects (or, in this case, photographs). Barthes drew from his experience not as an authority, but as a member of society and a part of culture, a reader of books, a watcher of movies. This book is an intimate treatise on the nature of photographs which is, at heart, a sort of elegy to the author's recently-deceased mother (Barthes himself died soon after this book was published). This ineluctably personal approach is both limiting and liberating - the book is something like a casual but enlightening conversation with a particularly gifted friend.