Realism After Postmodernism

By Sean Homer

Fredric Jameson. The Antinomies of Realism. Verso, 2013. 313 pp.

In his 1977 “Afterword” to the volume Aesthetics and Politics, Jameson observed that it was not only political history that was condemned to repeat the past but also literary history that experienced a certain “return of the repressed”:

Nowhere has this return of the repressed been more dramatic than in the aesthetic conflict between “Realism” and “Modernism”, whose navigation and renegotiation is still unavoidable for us today, even though we may feel that each position is in some sense right and yet neither is any longer wholly acceptable.
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Research Note: The Resources of Culture

By Graeme Macdonald

“I should have thought of it before, it’s too late now.”

Italo Calvino, The Petrol Pump

The opening sentence of Italo Calvino’s 1974 story “The Petrol Pump” expresses a regret wearily familiar to 21st century energy-angst.
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Hegelian Untimeliness, or the Experience of the Impossibility of Experience

By Julian Jason Haladyn

Rebecca Comay. Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French Revolution. Stanford University Press [Cultural Memory in the Present Series], 2010. 224 pp.

Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French Revolution begins with the question of the cultural disenchantment facing Germany in the aftermath of the French Revolution, an historical condition that, following Marx and Engels, came to be called the “German misery.” This disenchanted position results from the awkward acknowledgment that “Germany’s experience of modernity is a missed experience,” the trauma of which Rebecca Comay uses as a category of history, with the “German misery” being an exemplary model of her approach and Hegel representing “its most lucid theorist” (3-4).
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The Shape of Things

By Sam Han

Peter Sloterdijk. Bubbles: Spheres Volume I: Microspherology. Trans. Wieland Hoban. Semiotext(e), 2011. 664pp. 

For anyone even remotely interested in philosophy, when a figure sets out to “correct” Heidegger, you want to pay attention. This is not necessarily out of admiration for the author of Being and Time, or his ideas, but rather out of a genuine curiosity made up of equal parts amazement and horror.
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No Faith in Form

By Kris Cohen

Claire Bishop. Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. Verso, 2012. 388 pp.

…a form: no matter what the philosophical postulates called upon to justify it, as practice and as a conceptual operation it always involves the jumping of a spark between two poles, the coming in to contact of two unequal terms, of two apparently unrelated modes of being.
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Moving Mountains: Art History for the Neoliberal Era

By Danielle Child

Nato Thompson, ed. Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991-2011. Creative Time Books and MIT Press, 2012. 280 pp.

Living as Form is an important volume for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of socially engaged art. The volume accompanies an exhibition of the same name held in Essex Street Market, Manhattan, curated by Nato Thompson and co-authored by Creative Time—a New York-based non-profit arts organization—and Independent Curators International, NY.
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The Art World’s Dark Matter

By Bruce Barber

Gregory Sholette.  Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture. Pluto Press, 2011. 240 pp.

In Lana Jokel’s 1972 film monograph on Andy Warhol (Blackwood Films), the artist is asked to conjecture what he considers will become the next major international art movement. With his voice stammering a little under the weight of the question, Warhol responds in a familiar affected manner with “ah…it’ll be…ah…p ….
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The Culture of Urbanization in (Post)Socialist China

By Joshua Neves

Yomi Braester. Painting the City Red: Chinese Cinema and the Urban Contract. Duke University Press, 2010. 405 pp.

Robin Visser. Cities Surround the Countryside: Urban Aesthetics in Postsocialist China. Duke University Press, 2010. 362 pp.

Yomi Braester’s Painting the City Red and Robin Visser’s Cities Surround the Countryside offer complementary engagements with urban transformation in P.R. China—though Braester also has a single chapter on Taipei.[1] Each takes as their focus the cultural restructuring that has shaped and been shaped by (post)socialist urbanization and the shifting designs on the city.
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Can Melancholia Speak? On Maps for the Modern Subject

By Ricky Varghese

Jonathan Flatley. Affective Mapping: Melancholia and the Politics of Modernism. Harvard University Press, 2008. 272 pp.

How might we articulate a potential relationship between political subjectivity and aesthetic practice? In his compelling and incisive study, Affective Mapping: Melancholia and the Politics of Modernism, Jonathan Flatley sets out to describe precisely that tenuous and delicate interaction between politics and aesthetics, and between subjectivity and praxis.
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The Object in Question

By Johanna Skibsrud

Michael Fried. Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before. Yale University Press, 2008. 410 pp.

Michael Fried’s Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before begins with an epigraph: “Each answer remains in force as an answer only as long as it is rooted in questioning” (1).  Fried’s latest book, published in 2008, is deeply rooted in such questioning, and no one opening the book for the first time should expect any easy or direct answers.  Instead, Fried offers an unabashed return to the ground of the questioning upon which his (self-proclaimed) “infamous” 1967 essay, “Art and Objecthood” (Why Photography 2), was based; a return, that is, to the enduring lure, and force, of the question of the nature of art—and why it matters at all.
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