Art

Now Available: First Issue of Archives of Asian Art published by Duke University Press

ddaaa_67_1We are pleased to announce the first issue of Archives of Asian Art published by Duke University Press, volume 67, issue 1, is now available at asianart.dukejournals.org.

Archives of Asian Art, edited by Stanley K. Abe, is devoted to publishing new scholarship on the art and architecture of South, Southeast, Central, and East Asia. Articles discuss premodern and contemporary visual arts, archaeology, architecture, and the history of collecting. Submissions are encouraged in all areas of study related to Asian art and architecture to maintain a balanced representation of regions and types of art, and to present a variety of scholarly perspectives. Every issue is fully illustrated (with color plates in the online version), and each fall issue includes an illustrated compendium of recent acquisitions of Asian art by leading museums and collections.

Browse the table-of-contents for the current issue and read back content from 2001 to the present.

Nazi-Looted Art and Its Legacies

ddngc_44_1_130This special issue of New German Critique, edited by Andreas Huyssen, Anson Rabinbach, and Avinoam Shalem, examines the legacy of Nazi-looted art in light of the 2012 discovery of the famous Hildebrand Gurlitt collection of stolen artwork in Germany. When the German government declassified the case almost two years later, the resulting scandal raised fundamental questions about the role of art dealers in the Third Reich, the mechanics of the Nazi black market for artwork, the shortcomings of postwar denazification, the failure of courts and governments to adjudicate stolen artwork claims, and the unwillingness of museums to determine the provenance of thousands of looted pieces of art.

The contributors to this issue explore the continuities of art dealerships and auction houses from the Nazi period to the Federal Republic and take stock of the present political and cultural debate over the handling of this artwork. Topics include Socialist cultural policy, Gurlitt and his dealings with German museums, German restitution politics since the Gurlitt case, and the political aspects of the “trophy art” problem.

Read the introduction to the issue, made freely available.

Black Portraiture[s]

nka38-39Contributors to the most recent issue of Nka, “Black Portraiture[s]: The Black Body in the West,” offer cutting-edge perspectives on the production and skill of black self-representation, desire, and the exchange of the gaze from the nineteenth century to the present day in fashion, film, art, and the archive. This collection of essays is critical and exciting because of its broad focus on the black portrait and the important aesthetic and ideological issues it continues to engage.

“By featuring some of the most extraordinary writers, historians, artists, and theorists working today we hope this special issue of Nka… enables readers to see that the image remains ever powerful in an age where black lives matter,” editors Cheryl Finley and Deborah Willis write in the introduction to the issue.

Topics in this issue include the impact of slavery on paintings at the Louvre, paintings of black artists and unfinished self-portraits, the uses of portraiture by artists Barkley L. Hendricks and Elizabeth Colomba, black women’s representations in pornography, James Barnor’s career, and photographing the ways in which black bodies exist in Paris and the world. Read the introduction, made freely available, and browse the table-of-contents for more.

ddcsa_36_2The most recent issue of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East features an interview with Nomusa Makhubu, a South African photographer.

From the introduction: “Collages of landscape, current occupants, and their ghosts, Nomusa Makhubu’s photographs capture the themes of this special section on apartheid with uncanny precision, and they articulate the possibility of a visual rhetoric to mark South Africa’s haunted present. In three separate photographic series, Makhubu deploys and destabilizes the supposed documentary capacity of photography and its ability to capture a static moment in order to insist on the interleaving of past and present and their inescapable conjunction.” Read the full interview.

978-0-8223-5074-3In Image Matters, Tina M. Campt traces the emergence of a black European subject by examining how specific black European communities used family photography to create forms of identification and community. At the heart of Campt’s study are two photographic archives, one composed primarily of snapshots of black German families taken between 1900 and 1945, and the other assembled from studio portraits of West Indian migrants to Birmingham, England, taken between 1948 and 1960. Campt’s next book, Listening to Images, will be published in May 2017.

978-0-8223-5085-9Pictures and Progress, edited by Maurice O. Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith, explores how, during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, prominent African American intellectuals and activists understood photography’s power to shape perceptions about race and employed the new medium in their quest for social and political justice.

Smith is also the author of At the Edge of Sight, which engages the dynamics of seeing and not seeing, focusing attention as much on the invisible as the visible. Exploring the limits of photography and vision, she asks: What fails to register photographically, and what remains beyond the frame? What is hidden by design, and what is obscured by cultural blindness?

978-0-8223-5541-0_rSmith’s Photography on the Color Line provides a rich interpretation of the remarkable photographs W. E. B. Du Bois compiled for the American Negro Exhibit at the 1900 Paris Exposition, revealing the visual dimension of the color line that Du Bois famously called “the problem of the twentieth century.” Photography and the Optical Unconscious, edited by Smith and Sharon Sliwinski, will be published in May 2017.

Feeling Photography, edited by Elspeth H. Brown and Thy Phu, demonstrates the profound effects of feeling on our experiences and understanding of photography. The relationship between race and photography takes center stage in chapter 4, “Skin, Flesh, and the Affective Wrinkles of Civil Rights Photography” by Elizabeth Abel, and chapter 5, “Looking Pleasant, Feeling White: The Social Politics of the Photographic Smile” by Tanya Sheehan.

New Books in September

It’s finally September, and we’re just as excited for the start of the school year as you are. Add these great titles, coming out this month, to your fall reading list:

Cultural Studies 1983With the publication of Cultural Studies 1983 we launch our new series Stuart Hall: Selected Writings. A touchstone event in the history of Cultural Studies, the book is a testament to Stuart Hall’s unparalleled contributions. Unavailable until now, these eight foundational lectures present Hall’s original engagements with the theoretical positions that contributed to the formation of Cultural Studies.

No Tea, No Shade, edited by E. Patrick Johnson, follows up the groundbreaking Black Queer Studies by bringing together nineteen essays on black gender and sexuality. Topics include “raw” sex, pornography, the carceral state, gentrification, gender nonconformity, social media, the relationship between black feminist studies and black trans studies, the black queer experience throughout the black diaspora, and queer music, film, dance, and theater.

Life and Death on the New York Dance FloorAs the 1970s gave way to the ’80s, New York’s party scene entered a ferociously inventive period characterized by its creativity, intensity, and hybridity. Tim Lawrence chronicles this tumultuous time in Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, charting the sonic and social eruptions that took place in the city’s subterranean party venues as well as the way they cultivated breakthrough movements in art, performance, video, and film.

Focusing on artwork by Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, and Piero Manzoni, Jaleh Mansoor demonstrates in Marshall Plan Modernism how abstract painting, especially the monochrome, broke with fascist-associated futurism and functioned as an index of social transition in postwar Italy.

GeontologiesIn Geontologies, Elizabeth A. Povinelli continues her project of mapping the current conditions of late liberalism by offering a bold retheorization of power. Finding Foucauldian biopolitics unable to adequately reveal contemporary mechanisms of power and governance, Povinelli describes a mode of power she calls geontopower.

As the 2011 uprisings in North Africa reverberated across the Middle East, a diverse cross section of women and girls publicly disputed gender and sexual norms. In a series of case studies ranging from Tunisia’s 14 January Revolution to the Taksim Gezi Park protests in Istanbul, the contributors to Freedom without Permission, edited by Frances S. Hasso and Zakia Salime, reveal the centrality of the intersections between body, gender, sexuality, and space to these groundbreaking events.

Love, HLove, H: The Letters of Helene Dorn and Hettie Jones is a remarkable selection from a forty-year correspondence between two artists who survived their time as wives in the Beat bohemia of the 1960s and went on to successful artistic careers of their own. Revealing the intimacy of lifelong friends, these letters tell two stories from the shared point of view of women who refused to go along with society’s expectations.

One of the classics of twentieth-century Marxism, Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks contains a rich and nuanced theorization of class that provides insights that extend far beyond economic inequality. In Gramsci’s Common Sense, Kate Crehan provides an overview of Gramsci’s notions of subalternity, intellectuals, and common sense, putting them in relation to the work of thinkers such as Bourdieu, Arendt, Spivak, and Said.

Only the RoadFeaturing the work of more than fifty poets writing across the last eight decades, Only the Road / Solo el Camino is the most complete bilingual anthology of Cuban poetry available to an English readership. The collection, edited by Margaret Randall, is distinguished by its stylistic breadth and the diversity of its contributors, who come from throughout Cuba and its diaspora and include luminaries, lesser-known voices, and several Afro-Cuban and LGBTQ poets.

Reprinted in paperback, Songs of the Unsung is the autobiography of Los Angeles jazz musician and activist Horace Tapscott (1934–1999). It is the story of Los Angeles’s cultural and political evolution over the last half of the twentieth century, of the origins of many of the most important avant-garde musicians still on the scene today, and of a rich and varied body of music.

Want to make sure you don’t miss a new book? Sign up for Subject Matters, our  e-mail newsletter.

 

Digital Dramaturgies, Digital Feelings

Two recent issues of Theater, “Digital Feelings” (2016) and “Digital Dramaturgies” (2012), focus on new forms of performance arising in response to new technologies.

Digital Feelings

ddthe_46_2In “Digital Feelings,” guest co-editors Miriam Felton-Dansky and Jacob Gallagher-Ross investigate the emerging forms of affective experience engendered by digital technology, and theater artists’ strategic uses of these forms. How do we respond as live spectators to virtual pathos—and as virtual spectators to live pathos? The articles and performance pieces in this issue question the allure and disorientation of communication and affect in our digital age.

Topics in this issue include telegraph plays, live-streamed theater events, transmedia, and the impact of digital media and video recording on theater and performance criticism.

Digital Dramaturgies

ddthe_42_2In recent years, technologies of production and communication have multiplied exponentially, creating new modes of expression and storytelling. The Internet and cell phones allow instantaneous communication across global networks; media communities like YouTube have created venues for amateur performances to reach global audiences; and the enforced brevity of Facebook status updates, Twitter posts, and text messages have created compressed, allusive idioms out of everyday speech. These and other rapid technological and cultural changes have transformed theater, the oldest of “old media.” “Digital Dramaturgies” assembles contributions by scholars and artists that explore this transformation, considering both theater’s place in a world conditioned by new media and the place of these new media in the theater. Tackling questions of what is considered live theater in a digital age and how new media will share the stage with more traditional forms of performance, this issue establishes theater as a unique medium and meeting place for other media as it moves irreversibly into the digital domain.

Contributors to this issue explore a variety of ways—from Twitter plays in 140 characters to performances from the Avatar Repertory Theater in Second Life to two computer chatbots “restaging” debates between Michel Foucault and Noam Chomsky—that new technology can perform.

New Books in May

We have some great new titles coming out in May. To be sure you never miss a new title from us, and to be first to know about special sales and promotions, subscribe to our email newsletter, Subject Matters.

Activist archives

Doreen Lee’s Activist Archives investigates the origin, experiences, and legacy of the radical Indonesian student movement that helped end Suharto’s thirty-two year dictatorship in May of 1998, showing how student activists claimed their rich political and historical inheritance passed down by earlier generations of activist youth.
In The Brink of Freedom David Kazanjian revises dominant understandings of nineteenth-century conceptions of freedom by examining the letters of black settler colonists in Liberia and the letters and literature of Mayan rebels and their Creole antagonists in Yucatán, showing how they disrupted liberal formations of freedom.

 

endangered

Tell Me Why My Children Died narrates the efforts to identify a strange disease that killed thirty-eight people in a Venezuelan rainforest between 2007 and 2008 and sketches out systematic health inequities regarding the rights to produce and circulate knowledge about health throughout indigenous communities.

In Endangered City Austin Zeiderman focuses on the new political imperative to govern the present in anticipation of future disasters in Bogotá, Colombia, where the state works to protect the lives of poor and vulnerable citizens from a range of threats, including environmental hazards and urban violence.

In The Minor Gesture Erin Manning develops the concept of the minor gesture to rethink common assumptions about human agency, the ways we experience the everyday world, and the possibilities for new political praxis. This is the first book in the new series Thought in the Act, edited by Manning and Brian Massumi.

TVAnikó Imre’s TV Socialism provides an innovative history of television in socialist Europe during and after the Cold War, finding a variety of programming and economic practices that exceed state propaganda and challenge conventional understandings of culture and politics under socialism.

My Life with Things is Elizabeth Chin’s meditation on her relationship with consumer goods and a critical statement on the politics and method of anthropology in which she uses everyday items to intimately examine the ways consumption resonates with personal and social meaning.

Robert Bailey’s Art & Language International reconstructs the history of conceptual art collective Art & Language to show how its international collaborations with dozens of artists and critics between 1969 and 1977 laid the foundation for global contemporary art, all while highlighting how conceptual art exceeds the visual to impact the philosophical and political.

blacktinoContaining nine performance scripts by black and Latino/a queer playwrights and performance artists—each accompanied by an interview and essay, Blacktino Queer Performance approaches the interrelations of sexuality, blackness, and Latinidad.

In Biocultural Creatures Samantha Frost brings feminist and political theory together with findings in the life sciences to create a new theory of the human that explains the mutual constitution of the body, environment, biology, and habitat, while offering new resources for responding to political and environmental crises.

In The Value of Comparison Peter van der Veer highlights anthropology’s continuing ability to gain insights on the whole through the comparative study of the particular and unique while critiquing the quantitative social sciences for their sweeping generalizations.

hope

In Hope Draped in Black Joseph R. Winters responds to the belief that America follows a constant trajectory of racial progress, using African American literature and film to construct an idea of hope that embraces melancholy in order to acknowledge and mourn America’s traumatic history.

In Ghostly Desires Arnika Fuhrmann examines post-1997 Thai cinema and video art to show how vernacular Buddhist notions, stories, and images combine with sexual politics in figuring current struggles over gender, sexuality, personhood, and collective life.

New Books in March

It is already March and Spring is on its way, but even more exciting are the new books coming out this month. And we have plenty of them!

978-0-8223-5997-5_pr

Diana Taylor’s Performance explores the multiple and overlapping meanings of performance, showing how it can convey everything from artistic, economic, and sexual performance, to providing ways of understanding how race, gender, identity, and power are performed.

In Indian Given María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo provides a sweeping historical and comparative analysis of racial ideologies in Mexico and the United States from 1550 to the present to show how indigenous peoples provided the condition of possibility for the emergence of each nation.

In The Official World Mark Seltzer analyzes the suspense fiction, films, and performance art of Patricia Highsmith, Tom McCarthy, Cormac McCarthy, J.G. Ballard, Karl Ove Knausgaard, and others to demonstrate that the modern world continuously establishes itself through the staging of its own conditions.feminist bookstore

Kristen Hogan traces The Feminist Bookstore Movement‘s rise and fall, showing how the women at the heart of the movement developed theories and practices of lesbian antiracism and feminist accountability that continue to resonate today.

Drawing on an eclectic range of texts and figures, from the Greek Cynics to Tori Amos, Nick Salvato’s Obstruction finds that embarrassment, laziness, slowness, cynicism, and digressiveness can paradoxically enable alternative modes of intellectual production.

A celebratory new edition to Jane Lazarre’s Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness, in which she, a white Jewish mother, describes her experience being married to an African American man and raising two sons as she learns, from family experience, teaching, and her studies, about the realities of racism in America.

In Cold War Anthropology, David H. Price offers a provocative account of the profound influence that the American security state has had on the field of anthropology since the Second World War by mapping  out the intricate connections between academia and the intelligence community.

diaspora and trustIn Memorializing Pearl Harbor Geoffrey M. White examines the challenge of representing history at the site of the attack that brought America into World War II, showing that the memorial to the Pearl Harbor bombing is a site in which many histories are continually performed, validated, and challenged.

In Diaspora and Trust Adrian H. Hearn proposes a new paradigm for economic development in Mexico and Cuba that is predicated on the development of trust among the state, society, and each nation’s resident Chinese diaspora communities, lest they get left behind in the twenty-first century economy.

In Sexual States Jyoti Puri uses the example of the recent efforts to decriminalize homosexuality in India to show how the regulation of sexuality is fundamentally tied to the creation and enduring existence of the Indian state.

the geographiesAntoinette Burton’s Africa in the Indian Imagination challenges nostalgic narratives of the Afro-Asian solidarity that emerged from the 1955 Bandung conference by showing how postcolonial Indian identity was based on the subordination of Africans and blackness.

In The Geographies of Social Movements Ulrich Oslender examines the activism of black communities in the lowland rain forest of Colombia’s Pacific coast to show how the mutually constituting relationships between residents and their environment informs the political process.

In Domesticating Organ Transplant Megan Crowley-Matoka examines the iconic power of kidney transplantation in Mexico, where the procedure is inexorably linked to the imaginings of individual and national identity, national pride, and the role of women in creating the Mexican state.

motherless tounge
In The Sublime Perversion of Capital Gavin Walker examines the Japanese debate about capitalism between the 1920s and 1950s, using it as a “prehistory” to consider current problems of uneven economic development and contemporary topics in Marxist theory and historiography.

In Motherless Tongues Vicente L. Rafael examines the vexed relationship between language and history as seen through the work of translation in the context of empire, revolution, and academic scholarship in the Philippines, the United States, and beyond.

In Tourist Distractions Youngmin Choe uses Korean hallyu cinema as a lens to examine the importance of tourist films and film tourism in creating transnational bonds throughout East Asia and how they help Korea negotiate its twentieth-century history with the neoliberal present.

Ricardo D. Salvatore’s Disciplinary Conquest rewrites the history of Latin American studies by tracing its roots back to the first half of the twentieth century, showing how its ties to U.S. business and foreign policy interests helped build an informal empire that supported U.S. economic, technological, and cultural hegemony throughout the hemisphere.

 

College Art Association, 2016

We enjoyed selling books and mingling with our authors at the 2016 annual meeting of the College Art Association in Washington, DC. It was especially exciting to celebrate our authors winning two awards for distinction.

Postcolonial Modernism

We were thrilled that Chika Okeke-Ogulu won the Frank Jewett Mather Award for Art Criticism for his book Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria.

And congratulations to Krista Thompson, whose book Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice won the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award. Here’s the proud author with her book in our booth.

Thompson

It was great to see Susan E. Cahan, whose book Mounting Frustration: The Art Museum in the Age of Black Power is brand new.

Cahan

And Kobena Mercer stopped by, too. His book Travel & See: Black Diaspora Art Practices since the 1980s will be published in April.

Mercer

If you weren’t able to get to this year’s CAA but you love art books, you can still save 30% on all our great art and art history titles by entering coupon code CAA16 at checkout.

Richard Mosse’s The Enclave featured in Cultural Politics and at the Nasher Museum of Art

Cultural Politics 11:2 (2015)

Cultural Politics 11:2 (2015)

Richard Mosse’s The Enclave (2013) is an immersive 40-minute, six-screen video, photography, and sound installation made over several years in and around Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Mosse’s work is featured in the most recent issue of Cultural Politics (volume 11, issue 2), and The Enclave is being exhibited at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University until January 10, 2016.

From the Nasher Museum exhibition guide:

Central to Mosse’s work is the idea that the ubiquity of wartime images has desensitized us to the atrocities of war. Disturbing footage from conflict regions around the world appears on our screens with such regularity that it is often disregarded as simply more visual clutter. Mosse spent the last several years photographing the war-ravaged land and people of Central Africa using a discontinued infrared film developed by the military to detect camouflaged targets. By registering an invisible spectrum of light, this film transforms the color green into a brilliant pink, rendering the landscape in a surreal palette. Armed with his camera, Mosse and his collaborators, cinematographer Trevor Tweeten and composer Ben Frost, embedded themselves into armed Congolese rebel groups. The resulting work, The Enclave, is a magenta-suffused, seductive, morbid, and deeply moving installation depicting stories from this troubled region.

In “Richard Mosse’s Enclave: Dream of the Celt,” from Cultural Politics, author Deborah Frizzell argues that the visual and aural strategies Mosse employs, by running counter to those programmed within the image supply chain dominated by mass-produced culture, set in motion jarring ambiguities that an uneasy audience must struggle with or at least decode. Mosse’s Enclave became a locus for debates about contemporary aesthetic strategies, especially within photography, and the ethics of deploying the shock of the sublime to elicit both empathy and questioning, exposing the viewer/participant to the tensions of attraction and aversion that oscillate within the sublime. His installations pose questions about how we read meaning in the texts and images that structure our experience and our understanding of cultural representation. Thus Mosse’s work highlights the limitations of photojournalism and photography by mixing the contingent and abstract, the symbolic and political, evoking the precariousness of life as experienced in the continuing cycles of war, armed conflicts, and systematic tactics of violence that mark our era.

Read the article, made freely available, and visit the Nasher Museum of Art website for more information on Richard Mosse’s The Enclave.

Q&A with Bill Anthes

FAC-Bill-AnthesBill Anthes is a Professor in the Art Field Group at Pitzer College. His latest book, Edgar Heap-of-Birds, is the first book-length study of contemporary Native American artist Edgar Heap of Birds. Anthes analyzes Heap of Bird’s art and politics in relation to Native American history, spirituality, and culture, the international art scene, and how his art critiques the subjugation of Native Americans. Anthes is also the author of Native Moderns: American Indian Painting, 1940-1960 (2006).

When did you first learn of Edgar Heap of Birds and his art? What was the first work of his that you saw?

I first became aware of Heap of Birds’s art in the early 1990s, as a handful of native NorthEdgar Heap of Birds American artists were breaking into the contemporary art world, through exhibitions such as the Decade Show in New York, and in the writing of critics such as Lucy Lippard, whose work has always advocated for artists of color, feminists, and others outside of the commercial mainstream. Heap of Birds’s works were also shown alongside a cohort of native artists in a series of exhibitions in the United States and Canada mounted in 1992 to counter official commemorations of the Quincetennial of Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. Heap of Birds and native artists including Carl Beam, Rebecca Belmore, Jimmie Durham,  Bob Haozous, George Longfish, James Luna, Alan Michelson, Edward Poitras, Kay Walkingstick, Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith exhibited works that were fully engaged with the critical discourses of contemporary art as they mounted powerful critiques of the settler colonialism and its legacies.

The first work I saw would have been either the Native Hosts series – placards which recognize the native nations that claim sovereignty over the places where they are installed as well as defamiliarize the settler names for those places—or perhaps his Building Minnesota, which honors Dakota warriors who were hanged by the United States for their efforts defending their homelands during the Sioux War of 1862. As a descendent of settlers and immigrants, I grew up on what I learned much later was the traditional Cheyenne and Arapahoe homeland along the front range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. For a non-native westerner, Heap of Birds’s artworks offered a quick and disorienting American history lesson.

Additionally, these works taught me a lot about contemporary art—as a critical and activist practice—and about what Native American art might be in a contemporary context. Native Hosts and Building Minnesota were machine-fabricated metal placards that, like many of Heap of Birds’s public art installations, appropriated the look and voice of state or corporate authority. Heap of Birds’s projects are sometimes criticized—or more often just misunderstood—because they don’t “look like” Native American art, which means they don’t conform to many non-native viewers’ expectations that art made by a Native person will be made with natural materials. (Of course we usually forget that many of the materials most commonly associated with Native American art and culture were imports—horses, glass beads—that were readily adapted by native peoples as they faced a changing landscape a new political situation. There’s a quote by artist Jimmie Durham that I like to share with my students and which nicely sums up the native ability to appropriate foreign objects, languages, and ideas to use in the struggle to protect and nurture native communities and people: “Every object, every material brought in from Europe was taken and transformed with great energy. A rifle in the hands of a soldier was not the same as a rifle that had undergone Duchampian changes in the hands of a defender, which often included changes in the form by the employment of feathers, leather, and beadwork.”

How did your conversations with Edgar Heap of Birds allow you to understand his work in ways that differed from when you started?

Native ModernsWhen I began this project, I had recently completed my first book, Native Moderns, in which I had tried to argue that Native American artists had produced a kind of modernist art in the mid-twentieth century, and that this was an important episode in the history of American modernism, even as it unsettled certain assumptions and habits of thought about the modernist canon (for example the assumption that modernism is primarily an urban cultural expression). I had also been thinking about contemporary Native American artists who had since the early 1990s begun appearing in some of the major venues and institutions of the contemporary art world, including the new biennials and art fairs that we associate with our current global moment. But despite these appearances on the global contemporary art stage, the work of native artists was not figuring into the discourses that were coming to define the moment—issues of transnationalism and exile, for example, which figure in the work of many artists today from Africa or Asia. I had planned, based on the thinking that had lead me to write Native Moderns, that a book about Heap of Birds’s art would argue first and foremost for his global currency, and to an extent this book still attempts to do that. But based on my being in conversation with the artist over many years, and based on a close study of his practice, and perhaps most profoundly on my experience of being with Edgar and his family as he took part in the Cheyenne Earth Renewal ceremony (sometimes called the Sun Dance) on the Cheyenne-Arapaho homelands in Oklahoma, I wrote a book that focused on the work’s grounding in a specific place and a profoundly indigenous and Cheyenne way of seeing and being in the world. As in Native Moderns, this led me to argue that attention to Heap of Birds’s work—and the work of contemporary Native American artists (and by extension the work of indigenous artists globally)—suggests other key terms and framings of the contemporary than are currently part of the conversation about contemporaneity.

As you mention in the book’s introduction, four is an important number in Cheyenne and other Plains Native cultures. How did you come to decide on using a structure of four chapters for your book? Was it clear from the start, or something that you developed during your research and writing?

That decision was very much a product of time spent with the work and the artist and the experience of the Earth Renewal ceremony, which is organized around repeated units of four—referencing the four seasons and the four directions—to ensure the efficacy of the ceremony. It started becoming clear to me after that how much of Heap of Bird’s work is organized in multiples of four, and that his ongoing series of abstract landscape paintings are also called Neuf, or four in the Cheyenne language. I was looking for an organization for the book that would allow me to approach the work in some way other than by chronology, or in terms of specific media (like painting, prints, and public art) as it became clear that Heap of Birds’s artistic thinking travels backwards and forwards in time. Key phrases and ideas appear in various media at many different points in his career, and I began to see this as an artistic practice that was centered in a place, more so than in time, or rather that the timeline one could follow in the work was more a spiral than a future-oriented trajectory. It was “always returning back home,” as Heap of Birds writes in several projects. That’s very much an idea, I think, that is taught in the Earth Renewal and in Plains and native cultures generally, and it was important to me that the book find an organization that come from a native epistemology, rather than the (now standardized and conventionalized) historiography of the contemporary in art history.

The thematic approaches of your chapters—Land, Words, Histories, Generations—provide generous containers for discussing the complexities of Edgar Heap of Birds’s work. For instance Land allows you both the Neuf paintings—abstract paintings inspired by landscape—and Heap of Birds’s conceptual signs in the Native Hosts series. For an artist who works in such a wide-variety of media, what was your process for distilling it down to these themes?

Indeed Heap of Birds has maintained an ongoing practice in a range of media, and it would have been possible, I suppose, to write a chapter on the paintings, and another on the public art installations, and another on the prints, for example. But the main themes—land or sovereignty, the power of language, history and ideas about historicity, and a commitment to the next generations, which is different, I think, than the notions of futurity one finds in modernism, or the “end of history” as figured in much contemporary art and theory—these themes cut across all of Heap of Birds’s practice and conceptual touch stones. I wouldn’t necessarily call Heap of Birds a conceptual artist, or a “post-studio” artist, as there is a daily practice of art making—painting, but often research and writing, as well—in which these key themes are explored and developed and returned to over and over again, regardless of the medium.

Often a drawing is a collection of words or phrases, and Heap of Birds also exhibits works in diverse media together in one space. So it was a matter of finding those themes, and then selecting works that spoke to them in a compelling way. I rearranged my choices for each chapter a few times, and some bodies of work do reappear in more than one chapter—I liked how that seemed to resonate with the idea that Edgar’s artistic trajectory is a spiral, rather than a timeline. There would have been many ways to arrange works to speak to those themes because, I think, all of Heap of Birds’s works speak to each of those four themes. So I tried to find works that would speak in a particularly compelling way, and not worry too much about media, although in the Words chapter, for example, I do follow something like a chronological or biographical path because Edgar has at various points made specific decisions about media and materiality to express those ideas as they evolved in his artistic thinking. And I as wrote in the introduction, I never imagined this a catalog raisonné. I imagined the book as the four interconnected essays that might open up Heap of Birds’s practice for new readers as well as audiences who have followed his work for many years.

You mention how Heap of Birds’s describes his artwork as a ‘puncture.’ Do you think that the provoking and political nature of Edgar Heap of Birds’s work is a factor that causes some museums to shy away from showing it? A contrast to this is Wheel, a large outdoor sculpture commissioned by the Denver Museum of Art, which you also discuss as one of Heaps of Birds’s most ambitious works to date. 

I don’t think it’s so much that museums and institutions shy away from art that makes a political statement, or introduces a “puncture.” That would rule out all but the most banal and formalist contemporary art. I wrote in the introduction that I think the main reason that Heap of Birds and other contemporary Native American artists lack a certain visibility in the contemporary art world is that their politics are, in a sense, illegible to mainstream audiences. Native (and more broadly and globally indigenous) experiences of settler colonialism and the very powerful and important concepts of sovereignty are just not, or not yet, part of the conversion around contemporary art today. Native artists espouse a connection to place that seems at odds to the always-on, interconnected world of globalization and neo-liberal political economy. Tuscarora artist and critic Jolene Rickard refers to this as a “shared ancient imaginary,” and I think that it’s in some ways antithetical to the ways in which we currently imagine contemporaneity. In some ways it’s the old stereotype that Native Americans are a “people of the past” and thus not part of contemporary art. When native artists do appear on the contemporary art world’s global stage, they often do so under limited and prescribed circumstances and pretexts – as exemplars of a kind of anti-modernity, fulfilling fantasies of a primitive spiritual wholeness or environmentally-harmonious life ways. These one-dimensional representations suggest that native people are not part of the shared time of globalization. I think we need to reframe those notions – of the contemporary and of the key terms for global contemporary art. If Heap of Birds’s political statements strike some viewers or museum or gallery professionals as unthinkable (or unexhibitable) perhaps it’s because it remains nearly impossible for many audiences to imagine a contemporary Native politics.

You write, “Looking outward from a lodge on a hilltop in Oklahoma to the global spaces of the contemporary art world, we might begin a different conversation about the contemporary.” You’re making an important point by writing about art that is made outside of major art centers. Why in our global and virtually connected society is this still such a challenge? These different conversations seem necessary and vital.

I agree, and I think that especially in a global art world it is very important to not grow complacent about what we think we know. There is an emerging historiography of the contemporary and I think the notion that the art world has been decentered might lead us to think that artists and communities everywhere have equal access to its institutions. But of course there are many art worlds and what we think of as contemporary art is really just one, elite sector (with very good PR!). Artists in countless locations and perspectives have taken many different and in some cases mutually incomprehensible positions vis-à-vis contemporaneity. This isn’t to say that the many art worlds are “separate but equal,” which of course is never true. There is of course inequality. And then there are artists who might choose to travel through many art worlds, like I think Edgar has done. The experience of witnessing the Earth Renewal was, for me, one of the most powerful contemporary art experiences I have ever had, but even to say that kind of trivializes it because we have such limited notion of what contemporary art is or can be. The view from a lodge on a hilltop in Oklahoma is, for me, very important because it suggests something about what a contemporary art practice and a history of contemporary art can be, something that is global – and perspective changing—in the most meaningful sense.

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