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The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

In Marx's critique of political economy and subsequent Marxian analyses, the capitalist mode of production refers to the systems of organizing production and distribution within capitalist societies. Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing is an American professor of anthropology whose research in the fields of humanities, natural and social sciences has led her to write on shamanism, politics and ethnography. Her recent book The Mushroom at the End of the World, now new in paperback, takes the research findings of Tsing’s investigation into the commercial picking, and distribution to market, of mushrooms and relates this supply chain to the wider, global, economic and social situation we find ourselves in the early 21st century. Tsing’s book focuses on the matsutake mushroom: very valuable and highly prized in Japan, yet, now found outside of the far east in the US, where it is picked and shipped to Asia. So far so good, this could easily be a somewhat dry, academic case study utilising the export of mushrooms, to reveal underlying trends in global capital. In many ways the book does exactly that, and it being published by a US university press rightly points to the fact that the book arises out of academic research. The tone of her writing however, is not at all bland; it’s as though, along her way, writing her story, Tsing has fallen out of love with the university and moved in with the human beings sharing the centre of the story. 

 

Tsing’s initial heartfelt assessment of the global economic situation will no doubt strike a chord: ‘The economy is no longer a source of growth or optimism; any of our jobs could disappear with the next economic crisis. […] I find myself without the handrails of stories that tell where everyone is going and, also, why […]I find myself surrounded by patchiness, that is, a mosaic of open-ended assemblages of entangled ways of life, with each further opening into a mosaic of temporal rhythms and spatial arcs […] an appreciation of current precarity as an earthwide condition allows us to notice this-the situation of our world.’ She continues ‘…we imagine such precarity to be an exception to how the world works. It’s what “drops out” from the system. What if, as I’m suggesting, precarity is the condition of our time’.

 

The matsutake mushroom is the basis and focus of this story and Tsing, early on provides a poignant visual image; astoundingly, it is said that matsutake were the first living organism to emerge from the devastation of the Hiroshima bomb, and this depiction is something of a theme for this book: damage. Impaired humans, people broken and dislocated, primarily by war; ‘survivalists’ hiding in the hills, American ex-servicemen, survivors of the Vietnam war uncomfortable in the mainstream of society, living a life ‘off-grid’ in the Cascade mountains of Oregon. Lao, Thai and Vietnamese refugees and migrants with ‘neither money nor western education’ using the skills honed in Indochinese wars to survive in the public/private swathes of industrialised and ravaged forests. Tsing’s analysis rightly revolves around people, the effect on lives through industrialised processes, changing landscapes. There is science too, Tsing’s writing masterfully brings to life the mushrooms symbiotic relationship with its environment. Through it all Tsing allows the matsutake, the mushroom to lead the story

 

Tsing’s analysis of the precarious nature of life and the reality for many people around whom this book is written is also the story of the mushroom of the book: Matsutake are not cultivated, but collected: they tend to occur ‘naturally’ in forests and woodland where there is a history of human intervention or even, devastation. Although there is pattern to the dispersal of matsutake, they are notoriously hard to find. This scarcity makes the matsutake valuable, but the difficulty of collecting them makes for the fascinating story; somehow, she manages to turn these humble fungi into a presence, a deity even, weaving the story and revealing wonderful, redeeming and healing possibilities for all our futures in a precarious present. Her writing criss-crosses the history and science of the matsutake whilst suggesting how it’s relation to our human story might offer scenarios and solutions to our troubled relationship with our environment.

Modern Love: Constance DeJong

Something is stirring: After a recent spate of memoirs by 'Punk' women, Patti Smith, Viv Albertine, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Kim Gordon, Carrie Brownstein, several ‘experimental’ texts by American women writers have been recently re-printed. Chris Kraus’ ‘I Love Dick’ edition by Serpents Tail in 2015 perhaps triggered this most recent re-appraisal of inventive and radical writing. I’m not actually sure that ‘I Love Dick’ was ever out-of-print, but the simple graphic re-design of the cover of the most recent edition somehow captured, certainly our customers, and obviously, by the success and popularity the book has achieved, the imagination of readers everywhere.  Originally written in 1997 Kraus’s book is, according to a popular online retailer, ‘Widely considered to be the most important feminist novel of the past two decades’ and is now serialised on screen. This month Penguin have re-published Kathy Acker’s 1984 influential ‘Blood and Guts in High School’ and Chris Kraus has written her biography ‘After Kathy Acker’.  

 

I’ve just finished reading Modern Love, which I did with a short interlude part way through to read Valerie Solanas’ ‘Scum Manifesto’; with hindsight, I think reading both together was a good combination. Scum Manifesto’s opening lines give a sense of the rich revolutionary potential in the air in the late 1960s/early ‘70s: Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex. I don’t read much fiction anymore and perhaps this doesn’t leave me in great stead for tackling DeJong’s prose from nearly a half century ago, but on reading it I am reminded of the potential of fiction, it’s ability to conjure a tangible new space from within the pages of book. Reading Modern Love has, for me, similarities to reading, say, William Burroughs or Thomas Pynchon, where the construct of narrative fiction has been consciously eroded.

 

I’m not sure I’m really able to give any appraisal of Modern Love, although I did enjoy it and did get a great deal from it. Safer, probably, to leave the critique and introduction to Chris Kraus who has written a back-cover blurb: Working largely alone, DeJong invented a narrative form that’s at once intimate and highly constructed. Wilder than the French nouveau roman, Modern Love cannibalizes genre and realist fiction and travels through time to explore the dilemmas of being a 27-year old loser who’s told by the culture that she’s free to say and do anything I want.

 

Originally published in New York in 1977, has just been re-published by Ugly Duckling Presse and Primary Information. 

Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War: Hito Steyerl

One of the many positives of working in a bookshop is that I occasionally get advance copies of new books, page proofs, to give them the book trades insider jargon. Usually they arrive as a paperback version of what will be released as a hardback a few months down the line. Annoyingly, for, pedant that I am, these books actually feel like bastardised versions – knock-offs of the genuine article: the publication ‘hacked’; “Uncorrected Page Proofs” blazoned across the cover image; the publishers’ logo not-quite fitting on the spine – I could go on but I won’t.

 

One such book is Hito Steyerl’s forthcoming collection of essays Duty Free Art to be published by Verso later this year. And like my proof copy her writing addresses everything hacked in this world, or how the world is hacked and how the hacked world informs her understanding of visual culture.

 

Her subject matter reminds me of reading Paul Virilio, particularly War and Cinema, and Pure War but this isn’t to say her writing is at all derivative – more that she like Virilio, is able to take the technologies of war, information and media, and apply them to visual arts culture. Steyerl writes snappily and immersively – the reader is there with her as she data-mines WikiLeaks; the War on Terror; tax avoidance and what she terms Freeport art storage and impossibly wealthy art collections; Smartphones and Big Data.

 

Duty Free Art is not a detailed analysis of new technologies, nor is it dry and academic, and it is all the better for it in my opinion; I feel that by the time Steyerl had had the time to research it to the hilt the technologies she investigates would have moved on. What we have in her book is a compelling critique of the media-world today, a rich, idea-filled, collection of texts that will engage anyone interested in contemporary visual culture.

The Lonely City: Olivia Laing

David Wojnarowicz: Arthur Rimbaud in New York (Times Square), 1978-79

 

What drives an artist to do what they do? What compels them? What are the underlying factors?

 

Do, what we consider ‘great’ painters, writers and performers produce because they are driven by some unseen internal forces, or, are they engaging creatively as the result of pragmatism: Create - rather than criticise? Olivia Laing would probably have us believe in the former and I would tend to agree with her. Her excellent book The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone has plenty to say on the matter.

 

Although her title doesn’t really offer a way into the main subjects of this book, it nonetheless ‘drives’ her output and provides a framework for her investigation; her own loneliness, which she expertly reveals to us, acknowledging all its inherent shamefulness. Laing describes herself as a writer and critic and she writes for amongst others Frieze, The Guardian and New Statesmen.

 

Whilst living in New York, where she had relocated to live with a lover, who subsequently changed his mind, she found herself instead “clinging hopelessly to the city itself”, and began to look for her mood reflected in images both of the city, and produced in, New York.

 

Laing has an enviable ability to write both well, interestingly and engagingly so, whilst also following her own notions of what it is that an artist does and produces. Fascinated with the image of isolation within the city, and happy not to follow the accepted wisdoms of the art history she is obviously educated in Laing looks at a number of artists and asks of their output – what is it that they do? Mixing biography whilst interrogating works themselves, her writing ranges easily between the social (and sex) lives of her artists, whilst analysing how their output deals with the uneasy subject of how they relate to others; how we feel personally inadequate in the image of the constantly ‘active’ and busy city.

 

Laing is also critical of gentrification, and worries that the city will suffer immeasurably due to the ‘blandification’ authorities impose on our streets as they stifle anything that transgresses accepted ‘normalities’ – how this cleaned, ‘acceptable’ image of the city ultimately make us all feel lonely: how it says nothing to us about our lives.

upcycle this book: 26 texts by Gavin Wade & friends Published by Book Works April 2017

According to Abbie Hoffman, along with the numerous rejections he received from US publishing houses after sending out his original manuscript was a comment from an editor who wrote that he wouldn’t even let his own child read it!- such was the shock with it was initially received; his now famous Steal this book, latterly published in 1971, is a hippy survival manual which gives practical advice ranging from free food and housing through guerrilla broadcasting, demonstrations and the law, via ‘joint’ rolling techniques (probably a dated term now?), how to shop-lift and virtually everything else to destroy the capitalist system and bring forth a free society. It became so popular in the 70s that Hoffman was quoted as saying "It's embarrassing when you try to overthrow the government and you wind up on the Best Seller's List."

 

Abbie Hoffman is one of names that appears many times in this collection of Gavin Wade’s writings, ‘upcycle this book: 26 texts by Gavin Wade & friends’; others include R. Buckminster Fuller and El Lissitzky. Wade’s title is of course a direct reference to Hoffman’s and he shares many of those Hippie ideals, albeit his are slightly milder, and very much focused on the art world within which he works. Wade is an artist/curator and Director of Eastside Projects in Birmingham, the gallery and project space he established in 2008. Like Bucky Fuller and El Lissitzky, Gavin Wade is something of what is commonly termed a polymath, and with Abbie Hoffman, all four can be included in the ‘group’ agents of change.

 

upcycle this book collects texts from the mid-2000s and most elaborate on Wade’s conceptual structure for Eastside Projects. One of his founding principles was to up-end the now accepted gallery format, the ‘white-cube’, not the Jay Jopling owned London and Hong Kong gallery, rather the now traditionally held notion of the ‘impassive’ white gallery space, a ‘neutral’ volume within which art is displayed. Drawing on El Lissitzky’s Abstract Cabinet (1926-28) Eastside Projects has taken a much more inclusive approach to what is the ‘output’ of a ‘gallery’. Eastside Projects’ exhibitions involve the collaboration of all the staff, and Wade sees the functioning of the ‘art’ as very much a part of Eastside Projects, and more, that the way Eastside functions informs the art, and that this output in turn informs, the immediate environment.

 

upcycle is comprised of interviews with Gavin Wade, notably by Paul O’Neill, but also with James Langdon and Abake, it also includes some witty Q&As with those who have inspired him, conjured up in Wade’s imagination, and these fictions appear dotted throughout the texts. There are poetic demands to the government and Birmingham City Council asking for more investment along with a vision as to how art and culture can improve society and numerous haiku-like texts and rengas – termed 'Twenga' after appearing across twitter. The book is lovingly illustrated, though I know this is the ‘wrong’ term, with Wade’s drawings, ‘A – Z-Type Display Units’ a kind of multifunctioning drawing of display/structure/letters reminiscent of stages platforms, or even, gallows.

Do/ Open: David Hieatt

The Do Book Company are based just around the corner from us in Shoreditch, publishing books with authors who have previously given talks as part of Do Lectures. Do was founded in 2008 by a couple in Wales, Clare and David Hieatt, with the aim of bringing 'do-ers' of the world together under the formula: ideas + energy = change. A percentage of each book sale is ploughed back into the lecture series

 

We have stocked a number of their publications over the last 3 or 4 years and some of these have sold very well, particularly Do/ Design, Do/ Fly, Do/ Purpose & Do/ Story. The newest book from their press is Do/ Open written as it happens by one the founders of Do, David Hieatt and Do/ Open forms the communication philosophy of David and Clare’s jeans business, Hiutt Denim Co.

 

Like their previous publications Do/ Open is designed to be instantly accessible and ultimately, useful and useable. Do/ Open aims to break down the means by which corporations communicate, in order to make them come across as more un-corporate. It sounds simple, and in effect it is, but sometimes it’s good to hear those same clear, timeless ideals listed again in a concise, well designed and clever handy collection of pages. I think this book will suit any new and/or small business, or individual starting out, with a visionary idea/product, wanting to communicate with their potential customers.

 

Do/ Open is, I think, intentionally based around the notion of the ‘old-fashioned’ newsletter and all that that suggests; news of some sort, information destined for an ‘understood’ end-user, and clear, unambiguous design. It demonstrates that by cutting down to simple and heartfelt messages, paring back to the inherent nature of ‘what we do’, and doing so with passion, we can all learn how to lay open the nature of what we wish to communicate and that by doing so people will listen and will respond.

Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts: Christopher de Hamel

Illustrated manuscripts have held a deep fascination for me for some time, there is something I find compulsive about that densely packed and intricately arranged information that hints at a ‘finite’ and ancient world carefully observed and described.

 

I don’t come across them that often working in a bookshop devoted to contemporary visual culture but when I do I can’t stop myself looking at these miniature, illustrated and jewelled worlds, effortlessly combining image and text.

 

At the same time, lacking, as I am, a classical education, the texts are impenetrable to me – written in Latin(?) and with capitals rendered in such overblown ornature that it’s practically too much of a distraction to even begin to decipher. Nonetheless the pages seen together always suggest to me some sort of ‘perfect’ order, an ancient world viewable in its entirety across these richly and carefully produced volumes.

 

I’ve recently been reading Christopher de Hamel’s book on the subject ‘Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts’ in the hope that it will confirm what I have imagined these incredible books are about and how they relate to the culture we live in.

 

The book is pleasingly well illustrated throughout, though it in no way presents ‘facsimile’ pages - I have seen enough originals to know that - it still gives a very good sense of them. He is an academic but, happily, he hasn’t written an academic book in Meetings… Also happily, he has an irreverence for the ‘Holy’ nature of the 12 volumes his book covers (I think probably all are Christian in origin) and his writing is personal– he is an important librarian at one of the most highly regarded libraries – and manages to mix this with a deep understanding of ancient books and history whilst keeping me happy with humour and with reference to our contemporary world.

Forthcoming Books Seen This Week 4 September 2015

Graphic Design

                “Graphic design is all about telling stories, but visual stories.” Lance Wyman. This monograph is the first major publication devoted to Lance Wyman’s entire output. It showcases the achievements of a long and productive career, from his early work for General Motors, through his iconic designs for the Mexico 68 Olympics, to the Minnesota Zoo and his more recent projects. Lance Wyman will go down in history for his Mexico 68 designs, but he has also completed commissions for a huge variety of other projects. Many of these have been designed for the general public, and exist in the lived environments of cities and institutions. Wyman says, “I like the contextual part of working in an environment, whether it be urban or institutional or transportation. I think that’s where my best work is.

                The nineteenth century saw a complete transformation of the practice and reputation of surgery. Crucial Interventions follows its increasingly optimistic evolution, drawing from the very best examples of rare surgical textbooks with a focus on the extraordinary visual materials of the mid-nineteenth century. Unnerving and graphic, yet beautifully rendered, these fascinating illustrations include step-by-step surgical techniques paired with medical instruments and painted depictions of operations in progress. Arranged for the layman from head to toe, and accompanied by an authoritative, eloquent and inspiring narrative from medical historian Richard Barnett, author of 2014 bestseller The Sick Rose, Crucial Interventions is a unique and captivating book on one of the world's most mysterious and macabre professions, and promises to be another success.

 

Architecture

                Frenetic. Pulsating. Disorienting.  Japan’s contemporary culture is constantly in flux, with a host of new architectural practices ushering in an era of continuous experimentation. Featuring more than 400 houses - one per page, one image per house - Jutaku: Japanese Houses is a fast-paced, shock to the system that shines a Harajuku–bright neon light on the sheer volume, variety and novelty of contemporary Japanese residential architecture. Featuring the work of many of Japan’s most famous architects including Shigeru Ban, Sou Fujimoto, Toyo Ito, Kengo Kuma, Jun Igarishi, Shuhei Endo and dozens of up and coming or as yet unknown young architects, Jutaku is organized geographically, speeding readers on a bullet train journey across Japan’s architectural landscape.

 

Photography

                Photography Is Magic is a critical publication that surveys the practices of over eighty artists, all of whom are engaged with experimental approaches to photographic ideas, set within the contemporary image environment, framed by Web 2.0. The book contains a substantial essay by Charlotte Cotton and statements from all the contributing artists. The over three hundred image sequence represents the scope of photographic possibilities at play within contemporary creative practices. From Michele Abeles and Walead Beshty to Daniel Gordon and Matt Lipps, Cotton has selected artists who are consciously reframing photographic practices in the post-Internet age. Photography Is Magic provides an engaging physical experience - designed by Harsh Patel - for younger photo aficionados, students, and anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of contemporary photography.

 

Fashion

                Charismatic, compelling and trendsetting, 69 of the world’s most influential and creative men presented by cult style-bible Fantastic Man. Gert Jonkers & Jop van Bennekom are the creators and editors of men's menswear and lifestyle magazine Fantastic Man. Jonkers and Van Bennekom met each other in 1997 working on Blvd, a sophisticated Dutch cultural and lifestyle magazine. The pair collaborated on a gay culture magazine, Butt, in 2001, which had immediate impact. The two then turned to Fantastic Man and continued their success with The Gentlewoman and a magazine for the fashion brand COS.

                A celebration of the work of legendary fashion stylist Grace Coddington during her first 30 years at Vogue UK and US. First published in 2002, the reissue of this 408-page monograph of work by the legendary fashion stylist Grace Coddington is also a showcase for some of the greatest photographs ever published in British and American Vogue. It includes forewords by American Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour and designer Karl Lagerfeld as well as personal anecdotes and insider stories of working with photographers Cecil Beaton, Irving Penn, Bruce Weber, Steven Meisel and Mario Testino and fashion-world personalities such as Naomi Campbell, Jerry Hall, Linda Evangelista and Manolo Blahnik.

 

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Forthcoming Books Seen This Week 28 August 2015

Art

                   Known widely as a Catholic nun with an avant-garde flair, Corita Kent (1918–1986) has a personal legacy that has tended to overshadow her extensive career as an artist. This handsomely illustrated catalogue places Kent in her rightful position among the foremost figures of pop art, such as Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, and Roy Lichtenstein. Although Kent has been largely excluded from the academic and critical discourses surrounding 1960s American art, this publication re-evaluates her importance and highlights how her work questioned and expanded the boundaries of the pop art movement. Four essays and nearly 90 catalogue entries pull together a variety of topics—art history, religion, politics, linguistics, race, gender, mass media, and advertising—that influenced Kent’s life and work during the 1960s. Eminent pop scholars delve into the relationship between her art and that of her contemporaries, and explore how her art both responded to and advanced the changes in modern-day Catholicism stemming from Vatican II. More than 200 vibrant images showcase Kent’s ingenious screenprints, which often combine handwritten text and commercial imagery. Offering an unparalleled, rigorous study of an artist who has been largely overlooked, this book is an important contribution to scholarship as well as a fascinating presentation of Kent and her work to a wider audience.

                  Exploring the relationship between public art and its role within urban regeneration, this new title by graphic designer and artist Scott King brings together a series of works inspired by government ideologies in post-industrial Britain. Works include Long Live Death, in which the artist places Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North atop Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London, A Balloon for Britain, a series of photographs in which King imagines the current Conservative government offering him millions of pounds to devise a scheme that would regenerate Britain’s ten poorest towns and cities, as well as Infinite Monument, an ongoing sculpture based on Superstudio’s seminal Il Monumento Continuo from 1969, a gridded superstructure that covers the surface of the entire planet.

                  Andy Warhol (1928–1987) and Robert Mapplethorpe (1946–1989) are well known for significant work in portraiture and self-portraiture that challenged gender roles and notions of femininity, masculinity, and androgyny. This exciting and original book is the first to consider the two artists together, examining the powerful portraits they created during the vibrant and tumultuous era bookended by the Stonewall riots and the AIDS crisis. Several important bodies of work are featured, including Warhol’s Ladies and Gentlemen series of drag queen portraits and his collaboration with Christopher Makos on Altered Image, in which Warhol was photographed in makeup and wigs, and Mapplethorpe’s photographs of Patti Smith and of female body builder Lisa Lyon. These are explored alongside numerous other paintings, photographs, and films that demonstrate the artists’ engagement with gender, identity, beauty, performance, and sexuality, including their own self-portraits and portraits of one another Essays trace the convergences and divergences of Warhol and Mapplethorpe’s work, and examine the historical context of the artists’ projects as well as their lasting impact on contemporary art and queer culture. Firsthand accounts by the artists’ collaborators and subjects reveal details into the making and exhibition of some of the works presented here. With an illustrated timeline highlighting key moments in the artists’ careers, and more than 90 color plates of their arresting pictures, this book provides a fascinating study of two of the most compelling figures in 20th-century art.

 

Graphic Design

                   This A to Z survey of typographic design by leading typographers A2/SW/HK showcases over 100 carefully selected contemporary designers, including the best examples of their current work, and also features an introduction by Rick Poynor. Featured designers include M/M (Paris), David Pearson, Philippe Apeloig, Anthony Burrill, Marion Deuchars and Non Format, among others. There are also essays by acclaimed design writers Emily King, Paul Shaw, Monika Parrinder and Colin Davies that explore the past and future of type design. This book will encourage and inspire the next generation of designers as well as provide a sourcebook for seasoned designers and educators.

 

Design

                  Featuring 60 recipes, each introduced with an insightful historical anecdote and accompanying image sourced from original Soviet recipe books. As the Soviet Union struggled along the path to Communism, food supplies were often sporadic and shortages commonplace. Day to day living was hard, both the authorities and their citizens had to apply every ounce of ingenuity to maximize often inadequate resources. The stories and recipes contained here reflect these turbulent times: from basic subsistence meals consumed by the average citizen (okroshka), to the extravagant banquets held by the political elite (suckling pig with buckwheat), and a scattering of classics (beef stroganoff) in between.

                  Adolf Hitler’s makeover from rabble-rouser to statesman coincided with a series of dramatic home renovations he undertook during the mid-1930s. This provocative book exposes the dictator’s preoccupation with his private persona, which was shaped by the aesthetic and ideological management of his domestic architecture. Hitler’s bachelor life stirred rumors, and the Nazi regime relied on the dictator’s three dwellings—the Old Chancellery in Berlin, his apartment in Munich, and the Berghof, his mountain home on the Obersalzberg—to foster the myth of the Führer as a morally upstanding and refined man. Author Despina Stratigakos also reveals the previously untold story of Hitler’s interior designer, Gerdy Troost, through newly discovered archival sources. At the height of the Third Reich, media outlets around the world showcased Hitler’s homes to audiences eager for behind-the-scenes stories. After the war, fascination with Hitler’s domestic life continued as soldiers and journalists searched his dwellings for insights into his psychology. The book’s rich illustrations, many previously unpublished, offer readers a rare glimpse into the decisions involved in the making of Hitler’s homes and into the sheer power of the propaganda that influenced how the world saw him.

                  Coinciding with the new edition of the bestseller Designing Design, Kenya Hara's latest book, Ex-formation, searches for the beginning of design in the unknown. For Kenya Hara, design begins with comprehension of the unknown. In contrast to "information," "exformation" describes how little we really know and thus becomes the starting point for any type of design. Based on a range of projects the book describes what "exformation" can look like in design practice and how this concept alters ur classic understanding of information design. Following the path embarked on in Designing Design (2007) and its successor, White (2010), Ex-formation continues to explore the void, absence, and indeterminacy in contemporary design.           

 

Photography

                   Alec Soth’s reputation as one of the leading lights of contemporary photographic practice is largely predicated on the books he has published. This unusual catalogue accompanies a touring exhibition which uses the four major bodies of work which Soth has published as books since 2004 as the structural basis for both a mid-career retrospective and an investigation of Soth’s prescient understanding of the various and distinct applications of photography as a tool for storytelling across diverse media. The title of the exhibition comes from Walt Whitman’s poem Song of Myself [1855] and references both the pages of his books gathered for consideration and the notion that his work is also a story about Soth himself. Soth's meteoric rise to international acclaim began with his first book, Sleeping by the Mississippi, published by Steidl in 2004. The book has sold through numerous print runs and has long been out-of-print. It embodies not only a moment in which a new and original voice emerged with an unusual ability to transpose subtle and highly personal stories of local American life, but also marked a significant early event in the photo-book publishing boom we are currently experiencing. The success of his two subsequent volumes, Niagara [2006] and Broken Manual [2010], combined with the hugely influential exploration of self-publishing under his Little Brown Mushroom imprint, have all reinforced Soth’s position as a master of the book form. The recent success of Songbook [2015] has seen a return to the mainstream of book publishing.

                   Photographer Christopher Herwig has covered more than 30,000 km by car, bike, bus and taxi in 14 former Soviet countries discovering and documenting these unexpected treasures of modern art. From the shores of the Black Sea to the endless Kazakh steppe, these extraordinary bus stops show the range of public art from the Soviet era and give a rare glimpse into the creative minds of the time. The book represents the most comprehensive and diverse collection of Soviet bus stop design ever assembled from: Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Abkhazia, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Belarus. With a foreword by writer, critic and television presenter Jonathan Meades.

 

Theory

                   Renowned poet and conceptual artist Kenneth Goldsmith collects a massive assortment of quotations about New York City in the twentieth century. This kaleidoscopic montage from hundreds of sources is a literary adoration of New York as the capital of the world, and was inspired by Walter Benjamin’s unfinished masterpiece, The Arcades Project, a compendium of quotations about nineteenth-century Paris. Goldsmith brings together an immense archive of quotations about modern New York from novels, histories, newspapers, memoirs, letters, advertisements and more unlikely sources, all organized into lyrical and philosophical categories. The result is a magisterial and poetic history of New York in the twentieth century, and an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind book of experimental literature.

                   Bad New Days examines the evolution of art and criticism in Western Europe and North America over the last twenty-five years, exploring their dynamic relation to the general condition of emergency instilled by neoliberalism and the war on terror. Considering the work of artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn, Tacita Dean, and Isa Genzken, and the writing of thinkers like Jacques Rancière, Bruno Latour, and Giorgio Agamben, Hal Foster shows the ways in which art has anticipated this condition, at times resisting the collapse of the social contract or gesturing toward its repair; at other times burlesquing it. Against the claim that art making has become so heterogeneous as to defy historical analysis, Foster argues that the critic must still articulate a clear account of the contemporary in all its complexity. To that end, he offers several paradigms for the art of recent years, which he terms “abject,” “archival,” “mimetic,” and “precarious.

Forthcoming Books Seen This Week 22 May 2014

Theory
                  Since the decidedly bleak beginning of the twenty-first century, art practice has become increasingly politicized. Yet, few sustained defenses of the avant-garde have been put forward. Revolutionary Time and the Avant-Garde is the first book of its kind to look at the legacy of the avant-garde in relation to the deepening crisis of capitalist non-reproduction. An invigorating revitalization of the Frankfurt School legacy, Roberts’s book is unique in its penetrating definition and defense of the avant-garde idea, providing a refined conceptual set of tools that critically engages with the most advanced art theorists of our day, such as Hal Foster, Andrew Benjamin, Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière, Paolo Virno, Claire Bishop, Michael Hardt, and Toni Negri.

 

Art
                  Artists have utilized walking as an autonomous form of art, a subject in their work, and as social practice since the early 20th century. Today walking continues to offer a salient means for artists to challenge social, political, and economic orders through a radical remapping of civic space. Walking Sculpture 1967–2015 is an engaging and original book, in which Lexi Lee Sullivan traces the history of walking as an aesthetic action from the Dadaists to contemporary ramblers. Titled after Michelangelo Pistoletto’s performance Walking Sculpture, the catalogue features 50 colour illustrations ranging from photographs of Yvonne Rainer’s street actions to Francis Alÿs’s fantastical processions, poems by Cole Swensen, and a new project by artist Helen Mirra, who produces poetic meditations on landscape, ecology, and locomotion. Sculpture, film, video, photography, and performance converge to address the multi-disciplinary practice of ambulation through the cityscape and the countryside. For those who hike; march in fundraisers, protests, or parades; walk the dog; stroll in the park; or commute daily, this catalogue will invite new thought into basic human movement.
                 László Moholy-Nagy became notorious for the declarations he made about the end of painting, encouraging artists to exchange brush, pigment, and canvas for camera, film, and searchlight. Even as he made these radical claims, he painted throughout his career. The practice of painting enabled Moholy-Nagy to imagine generative relationships between art and technology, and to describe the shape that future possibilities might take. Joyce Tsai illuminates the evolution of painting’s role for Moholy-Nagy through key periods in his career: at the German Bauhaus in the 1920s, in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom in the early 1930s, and as director of the New Bauhaus in Chicago in the last decade of his life. The book also includes an introduction to the history, qualities, and significance of plastic materials that Moholy-Nagy used over the course of his career, and an essay on how his project of shaping habitable space in his art and writing resonated with artists and industrial designers in the 1960s and 1970s.

 

Graphic Design
                  The period between the First and Second World Wars is well known for the flowering of German culture. With Berlin as its epicentre, the period was replete with advanced science, passionate politics, and ground-breaking literature, philosophy and art. Amid the fervour of intellectual and creative activity, German publishers produced some of the most outstanding book designs in modern history. Book Covers of the Weimar Republic assembles 1,000 of the most striking examples from publishing of this period. Based on the remarkable collection of Jurgen Holstein and his rare collectible Blickfang, it combines an unparalleled catalogue of dust jackets and bindings with Holstein's introduction to Weimar publishing and profiles of key publishing figures of the time. Expert essays discuss the aesthetic and cultural context of the period. From children's books to novels in translation, bold designs for political literature to minimalist artist monographs, this is a dazzling line-up of typography, illustration, and graphic design at its most energetic and daring. Part reference compendium, part vintage visual feast for the eyes, this very particular cultural history is above all a celebration of the ambition, inventiveness and beauty of the book.
                  Modernist aesthetics in architecture, art and product design are familiar to many of the creatively inclined. In soaring glass structures or minimalist canvases we recognize a time of vast technological advance which affirmed the power of human beings to reshape their environment and to break, radically, from the conventions or constraints of the past. Less well-known, but no less fascinating, is the distillation of Modernism in logo design. With the creation of clean visual concepts, graphic designers sought to move away from the mystique they identified with the commercial artist, and to counterbalance an increasingly complicated world with clarity. Logo Modernism authored by Jens Müller, brings together approximately 6,000 trademarks, focused on the period 1940–1980, to examine how Modernist attitudes and imperatives gave birth to corporate identity. Ranging from media outfits to retail giants, airlines to art galleries, this sweeping survey of the logo is organized into three design-orientated chapters: Geometric, Effect, and Typographic. Each chapter is then sub-divided into form and style led sections such as alphabet, overlay, dots and squares. Alongside this comprehensive catalogue resource, the book features an introduction from Jens Müller on the history of logos, and an essay by R. Roger Remington on Modernism and Graphic Design. Eight designer profiles and eight instructive case studies are also included, with a detailed look at the life and work of such luminaries as Paul Rand, Yusaku Kamekura, and Anton Stankowski, and at such significant projects as Fiat, The Daiei, Inc., and the Mexico Olympic Games of 1968. An unrivalled, encyclopaedic resource for graphic designers, advertisers, and branding specialists, Logo Modernism is equally fascinating to anyone interested in social, cultural and corporate history, and in the sheer persuasive power of image and form.

 

Design

                  “You voluntarily assume the risk of serious injury or death by attending”
100 miles from the gambling town of Reno, in the wilderness of northern Nevada, lies a vast, hostile plain known as the Black Rock Desert. The region has been an empty and windswept dry lake bed for most of the past 10,000 years. Except, that is, for one brief week at the end of the summer, when a temporary city rises out of the barren clay. This is the Burning Man festival, one of the most remarkable gatherings on the planet. Baked by the sun, and blinded by dust, the event acquires different meanings for different people: temporary community, spiritual adventure, performance stage, desert rave, social experiment. It’s also the incubator of some of the most pure site-specific outdoor art ever made. A mechanized fire-breathing octopus. A towering wooden temple 15 meters tall. And the eponymous Man himself—a skeletal sculpture set ablaze at the festival’s conclusion. In their sun-scorched desert location, these huge installations and happenings exist for no clearer purpose than because someone wanted to express something. Participatory, collective, and often designed to last only for the festival duration, their value resides far beyond the ego, commerce and power play of common cultural output. This book assembles fifteen years of Burning Man images from writer and photographer NK Guy. Epic, awe-inspiring, even reality-shifting, the pictures are a testimony to one of the most uninhibited and expressive centres of our time.

 

Photography
                  From the banks of the ancient Ganges River to the glamor of Beverley Hills, from living saints to Hollywood celebrities, Michael O'Neill's quest to capture the essence of yoga spans time, space, and peoples. His stunning images in Yoga: The Architecture of Peace celebrate how the age-old discipline of asanas has developed into a modern global community of 30 million practitioners, united in physical, spiritual, and mindful practice. A yoga instructor in his own right, O’Neill’s own knowledge of yoga informs and inspires his stunning photography of the intricate positions, the rituals, the festivals, the meditations, and the symbols of yoga. He photographs some of the most important yogis of our time including Eddie Stern, Rodney Yee, Dharma Singh Khalsa, B.K.S. Iyengar, as well as those famed for integrating yoga into their high-profile lives, such as Christy Turlington and Sting and Trudie Styler. The images are accompanied by illuminating captions and insightful essays from leading yogis H.H. Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji and Eddie Stern, who together discuss the history of yoga, its dissemination into popular culture, and its health and healing capacities as a way of life.

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