October Books, New York

Louise Lawler
(October Files)

Edited by Helen Molesworth
With Taylor Walsh

Louise Lawler has devoted her art practice to investigating the life cycle of art objects. Her photographs depict art in the collector’s home, the museum, the auction house, and the commercial gallery, on loading docks, and in storage closets. Her work offers a sustained meditation on the strategies of display that shape art’s reception and distribution. The cumulative effect of Lawler’s photographs is a silent insistence that context is the primary shaper of art’s meaning. Informed by feminism and institutional critique, Lawler’s witty, poignant, and trenchant photos frequently pay attention to a host of overlooked details—almost Freudian slips—that ineffably and tacitly shore up what we conventionally think of as art’s “power.”

This book includes the earliest published text on Lawler’s work; an examination of her ephemera (Lawler produced, among other things, matchbooks and paperweights); a rare interview with the artist, conducted by Douglas Crimp; a conversation between George Baker and Andrea Fraser on Lawler’s work; and essays by writers including Rosalind Krauss, Rosalyn Deutsche, and Helen Molesworth, the volume’s editor. The book traces the changing reception of Lawler’s work from early preoccupations with appropriation to later discussions of affect.

About the Editor
Helen Molesworth is Chief Curator at the Institute for Contemporary Art, Boston. She edited Louise Lawler’s Twice Untitled and Other Pictures (looking back), published by the Wexner Center for the Arts and distributed by the MIT Press.

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On the Eve of the Future : Selected Writings on Film
By Annette Michelson

The celebrated critic and film scholar Annette Michelson saw the avant-garde filmmakers of the 1950s and 1960s as radically redefining and extending the Modernist tradition of painting and sculpture, and in essays that were as engaging as they were influential and as lucid as they were learned, she set out to demonstrate the importance of the underappreciated medium of film. On the Eve of the Future collects more than thirty years’ worth of those essays, focusing on her most relevant engagements with avant-garde production in experimental cinema, particularly with the movement known as American Independent Cinema.

This volume includes the first critical essay on Marcel Duchamp’s film Anemic Cinema, the first investigation into Joseph Cornell’s filmic practices, and the first major explorations of Michael Snow. It offers an important essay on Maya Deren, whose work was central to that era of renewal and reinvention, seminal critiques of Stan Brakhage, Hollis Frampton, and Harry Smith, and overviews of Independent Cinema. Gathered here for the first time, these texts demonstrate Michelson’s pervasive influence as a writer and thinker and her role in the establishment of cinema studies as an academic field.

The postwar generation of Independents worked to develop radically new terms, techniques, and strategies of production and distribution. Michelson shows that the fresh new forms they created from the legacy of Modernism became the basis of new forms of spectatorship and cinematic pleasure.

About the Author
Annette Michelson is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Cinema Studies at New York University. A founding editor of the journal October, she has written on art and cinema for more than five decades.

“Annette Michelson is one of the most brilliant minds that has ever turned its focus on the art of cinema. It’s a blessing to have her illuminating, inspiring, and informative pieces available in this volume.”
—Jonas Mekas, filmmaker and writer

“When many of these texts first appeared, they were undergroundbreaking. Now, as history, they continue to be impressive for their subtle insights and nuanced style. Annette Michelson’s writing is as avant-garde and of-the-moment as that of a critic/historian can be.”
—Michael Snow, filmmaker, musician, visual artist

“Written with enviable precision and grace, these essays remain the most compelling chronicle of the radical impact that film would have on the other arts in the twentieth century. Through her writings, Annette Michelson defined a field of critical inquiry where others saw only boundaries.”
—Bruce Jenkins, Chair, Department of Film, Video, New Media and Animation, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

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The Absence of Work – Marcel Broodthaers, 1964-1976
by Rachel Haidu

In 1964, at age forty, Marcel Broodthaers (1924-1976) proclaimed that his years of writing poetry—of being “good for nothing,” in his words—were over, and a brief but dazzling artistic career began. Considered a founding father of institutional critique, Broodthaers created hundreds of objects, books, films, photographs and exhibitions, including a “fictive” museum of modern art that evolved from an installation in his own home to a massive exhibition of over three hundred works representing eagles. In The Absence of Work, Rachel Haidu argues that all of Broodthaers’s art is defined by its relationship to language. His perception of his poetry’s “failure to communicate” led him to explore in his art the noncommunicative, nontransparent uses of language. By showing us the ways in which language is instrumentalized across society—used for its efficiency despite the complexities it introduces into communication—Broodthaers shows us how we imagine language to work and points us to its hidden operations.

Haidu’s characterization of Broodthaers’s contribution to institutional critique represents a major departure from the usual approach to this movement. Considering the wider political implications of his work, including its reflections on national identity and democracy, she explores how they derive from historical references and examines his work’s relationships to the works of other contemporary artists. With The Absence of Work, one of the first monographs on Broodthaers in English, Haidu demystifies a crucial and enigmatic figure in postwar and contemporary art.

About the Author:
Rachel Haidu is Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Art History and the Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester.

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Infinite Regress: Marcel Duchamp 1910-1941
by David Joselit

There is not one Marcel Duchamp, but several. Within his oeuvre Duchamp practiced a variety of modernist idioms and invented an array of contradictory personas: artist and art dealer, conceptualist and craftsman, chess champion and dreamer, dandy and recluse.

In Infinite Regress, David Joselit considers the plurality of identities and practices within Duchamp’s life and art between 1910 and 1941, conducting a synthetic reading of his early and middle career. Taking into account underacknowledged works and focusing on the conjunction of the machine and the commodity in Duchamp’s art, Joselit notes a consistent opposition between the material world and various forms of measurement, inscription, and quantification. Challenging conventional accounts, he describes the readymade strategy not merely as a rejection of painting, but as a means of producing new models of the modern self.

About the Author

David Joselit is Distinguished Professor in the Art History Department of CUNY Graduate Center and the author of Infinite Regress: Marcel Duchamp 1910-1941 (MIT Press, 1998) and American Art Since 1945.

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“Duchamp’s oeuvre is a kind of labyrinth through which few art historians have managed to come out with all their sanity: Joselit’s work provides a remarkably original guide for it, and demonstrates, with radically new means, the centrality of Duchamp’s oeuvre in this century.”

—Yve-Alain Bois, Joseph Pulitzer, Jr. Professor of Modern Art, Harvard University

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