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Artforum on CAA: It takes practice

March 12, 2014
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Artforum on CAA: It takes practice

Recently at Artforum, Chicago-based critic Jason Foumberg assessed the state of the art (world)—at least the academic art world, as manifested in the most recent annual meeting of the College Art Association. Pivoting on the panel discussion “Identity Politics: Then and Now,” Foumberg noted: CAA accommodates an extraordinarily diverse offering of topics, from medieval to new media art, but everyone agrees on one thing: We must learn from the past. The recent past of identity politics provided a brilliant example, with Gregg Bordowitz at the helm of the evolving revolution. “Stop trying to be radical. Stop privileging ‘radicality’ as a term. The radicals do it out of necessity. What is your necessity?” Bordowitz rhetorically asked the audience. A surprise addition to the account was the inclusion of several snapshots from UCP’s wine reception (see above), catching authors Huey Copeland and Andrew Uroskie in the act of non-radically taking a breather from the din of all that ruckus, celebrating their respective publications Bound to Appear: Art, Slavery, and the Site of Blackness in Multicultural America and Between the Black Box and the White Cube: Expanded Cinema and Postwar Art.     . . .

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Derrida’s seminars and an interview with Peggy Kamuf

March 10, 2014
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Derrida’s seminars and an interview with Peggy Kamuf

Over at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Jan Mieszkowski reviews The Death Penalty: Volume I, the latest collection of Jacques Derrida’s seminars to appear in print. Drawn from the first half of a two-year seminar he gave from 1999 to 2001, the book postulates the American position on capital punishment as complicit with a logic in which a sovereign state has the right to take a life. In this takeaway from his review, Mieszkowski positions Derrida within today’s academy: Derrida’s prominence in North American universities has waned, at least superficially, in the decade since his death. A new group of European philosophers has supplanted him as the must-reads of the moment, including Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière, and the Slavoj Žižek. In the intellectual circles in which Of Grammatology and Specters of Marx were once standard fare, the works of Gilles Deleuze or Giorgio Agamben are now more likely to enjoy pride of place. Perhaps most striking for those who remember a time when Derrida’s oeuvre was viewed as a fount of productive positions on virtually every philosophical topic, there is an increasing tendency to refer to his “one or two” major ideas, as if his thought were distinguished not by its range but by its lack thereof. . . .

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Michelle Grabner and the 2014 Whitney Biennial

March 9, 2014
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Michelle Grabner and the 2014 Whitney Biennial

Every other year, shortly before the Ides of March and just as precarious an omen, cometh the Whitney Biennial. This year’s model splits the show more or less into three floors, each curated by a different individual, and each thus aligned with a particular sensibility, hierarchy, and vision. Reviews started trickling in after the media preview, among them kudos for Floor 4, helmed by Michelle Grabner, coeditor of The Studio Reader and professor of painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Hyperallergic notes the floor as “the most tightly curated and coherent of the three,” and includes a photo essay sampling the work; critic Jerry Saltz, in an otherwise lukewarm review of the show, acknowledges Grabner’s curation as “includ the show’s visual and material high point: a central gallery crammed with colorful painting, sculpture, and handmade objects as well as ceramics and textiles.” In an interview with Artspace, Grabner comments on her familiarity with the milieu she documents in The Studio Reader and how it informed her selections for the Biennial: I am exceedingly comfortable in studios and among the materials of art and art-making. So needless to say, I felt confident visiting artists in their studios and sure-footed during the . . .

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The OIdest Living Things in the World

March 7, 2014
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The OIdest Living Things in the World

This photograph of a 9,550-year-old Swedish spruce tree is one of several images shot by photographer Rachel Sussman, featured in a slideshow at Time magazine. The photos are drawn from Sussman’s latest project, The Oldest Living Things in the World, which chronicles the decade Sussman spent traveling the globe, taking stunning photographs of continuously living organisms that are 2,000 years old and older. From the Time piece: There’s a sense of wonder imbued in these photographs of organisms that seem to be a physical record of time, but there’s also a call to action. Many of these subjects of Sussman’s portraits are under threat from habitat loss or climate change or simple human idiocy. (Sussman has written movingly about the loss of the 3,500-year-old Senator tree in Orlando, destroyed in a fire that was almost certainly set on purpose.) “The oldest living things in the world are a record and celebration of our past, a call to action in the present and a barometer of the future,” Sussman has said—and the images that follow prove her out. Read more about The Oldest Living Things in the World here. . . .

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Chicagoland

March 6, 2014
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Chicagoland

Chicagoland, a non-scripted documentary series produced by Robert Redford for CNN, premieres tonight. The show, touted as “Where policy meets real people’s lives,” ostensibly focuses its eight parts on the plight of a “heartland” city “generating change and innovation in social policy, education, and public safety.” Rick Kogan, writing for the Chicago Tribune, pins down the first episode’s emerging storylines—violence and public schools—as not necessarily un-akin to the offerings of scripted urban dramas like The Wire (the Trib will be live-blogging this evening’s premiere). Whether and what the show delivers remains to be seen, but Kogan’s review hints at a beautifully shot advertisement for a rebranded CNN and a program which, for better or worse, could define the city for years to come. Tune in for a cameo by UCP author Neil Steinberg, whose You Were Never in Chicago similarly captures our city in the raw through a series of essays that chronicle Steinberg’s own fixations and proclivities. You can read more about You Were Never in Chicago here. . . .

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Maxine Kumin (1926–2014)

February 14, 2014
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Maxine Kumin (1926–2014)

From Janet Burroway, editor of A Story Larger than My Own: We were shocked to learn of the death of Maxine Kumin, who in spite of a serious horse-riding accident, a year spent immobile in a metal “halo,” and permanent pain, continued to write fine poetry and prose and to exude essential vitality. Kumin at 88 was what Carol Muske-Dukes calls the last member of the “august sisterhood of poets,” which included Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Adrienne Rich. In one of her last published essays, Kumin traced her journey in “Metamorphosis: From Light Verse to the Poetry of Witness,” a kind of template for the writers in this book and for women of her generation, who began their careers in the fifties or early sixties and grew in stature as feminism grew. “I did not yet know that a quiet revolution in thinking was taking place,” she writes of her situation as a pregnant mother of two in 1956. “Of course motherhood was not enough. Perhaps I could become a literary critic?” She did that and much more. An excerpt from “Metamorphosis: From Light Verse to the Poetry of Witness”: Hoping to find direction, I subscribed to the Writer, . . .

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Scott Cutler Shershow on the right to die

February 13, 2014
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Scott Cutler Shershow on the right to die

Scott Cutler Shershow’s Deconstructing Dignity: A Critique of the Right-to-Die Debate employs Derridean theory to uncover self-contradictory and damaging assumptions that underlie both sides of the controversial discussion. In the  piece below that Shershow drafted for the Chicago Blog, he contextualizes two cases that generated recent headlines about how—and to which extents—we define life, especially in light of its termination. *** “Thinking and Rethinking the Right to Die” by Scott Cutler Shershow The vexed question of a so-called “right to die” pushes its way to our attention again. Hasn’t this all happened before, many times? An intimate family story is catapulted into the media spotlight; an unconscious being (once again, as is almost always the case, a female) becomes the figurehead for a protracted medical, legal, and political struggle; and each side accuses the other of being motivated by money. In one of the two cases that have recently occupied our attention, the family of California teenager Jahi McMath, declared by her doctors to be “brain dead” after routine surgery, were granted permission by a judge to keep the girl on what is commonly called “life support” (a respirator and feeding tube). In the other case, a pregnant Texas mother, . . .

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2013 PROSE Awards

February 7, 2014
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2013 PROSE Awards

The PROSE Awards (or, the American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence) are unique to the scholarly and professional publishing communities—not only prestigious, but selected from “over 535 entries of books, reference works, journals,and electronic products in more than 40 categories,” juried by a community of peer publishers, librarians, and academics. In addition to offering congratulations to all the winners, we are delighted to point you toward those books from our own list that received either a PROSE Award or honorable mention for general excellence: Art Exhibitions Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North By Peter John Brownlee, Sarah Burns, Diane Dillon, Daniel Greene, and Scott Manning Stevens Biological Sciences (Honorable Mention) The Ornaments of Life: Coevolution and Conservation in the Tropics  By Theodore H. Fleming and W. John Kress Earth Sciences The Lost World of Fossil Lake: Snapshots from Deep Time By Lance Grande Education Education, Justice, and Democracy Edited by Danielle S. Allen and Rob Reich Environmental Science (Honorable Mention) Our Once and Future Planet: Restoring the World in the Climate Change Century  By Paddy Woodworth Literature (Honorable Mention) Five Words: Critical Semantics in the Age of Shakespeare and Cervantes By Roland Greene Music and . . .

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State of Disunion by Sandra M. Gustafson

February 6, 2014
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State of Disunion by Sandra M. Gustafson

For the past several years, we’ve been fortunate enough to have scholar Sandra M. Gustafson contribute a post following Barack Obama’s annual State of the Union addresses, providing thematic context for the president’s speeches and scrutinizing his use of rhetoric within larger social and political frameworks. Read Gustafson’s 2014 post in full after the jump below. *** In previous State of the Union addresses, President Barack Obama has called for a civil and deliberate politics in the wake of the 2011 Tucson shootings; fought for cooperation with Congress in 2012; and exhorted his audience to devote itself in 2013 to engaging in “The hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.“ This year’s address was different. After giving credit for the improving economy and communal wellbeing to everyday people—a teacher, an entrepreneur, an autoworker, a farmer—the president emphasized how the failure of Congress to pass needed legislation has inhibited rather than fostered those achievements. He described how, “for several years now, this town has been consumed by a rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government. It’s an important debate—one that dates back to our very founding. But when that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most . . .

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Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet

February 3, 2014
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Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet

If you reside in the Bay Area: How to Feed the World without Destroying the Planet: Michael Pollan and Sarah Elton, February 4th at 1 PM Food for a Finite Planet: Sarah Elton, in conversation with Nigel Walker, on Wednesday, February 5th at 6 PM *** From Sarah Elton’s Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet  How will we feed ourselves in 2050? In the next forty years, the world’s population is expected to surpass nine billion. At the same time, climate change is transforming life on the planet. According to scientists who look at these big-picture issues, in the space of about one generation, a messy combination of climate, population trends, and environmental change will profoundly affect the world as we know it. We need to figure out how to feed the world, dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and cope with climate change. So how do we best move forward? How do we ensure that everybody has enough to eat as we contend with a new climate? How do we do this without releasing even more greenhouse gases, thereby ruining the environment and further hampering the ability of future generations to feed themselves? These pressing questions are forcing us to make a choice about how . . .

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