Annette Michelson

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Annette Michelson (7 November 1922 – 17 September 2018) was an American art and film critic and writer. Her work contributed to the fields of cinema studies and the avant-garde in visual culture.

Life and Work[edit]

Born in 1922, Michelson graduated from Brooklyn College in 1948. Between 1956 and 1966, she was art editor and critic for the Paris edition of the New York Herald Tribune while also writing for Arts Magazine and Art International. She worked as a writer for Artforum, where she edited the influential issues such as the "Special Film Issue" in 1971 and "Eisenstein/Brakhage" in 1973. Together with Jay Leyda, she established the Department of Cinema Studies at New York University, where she taught numerous courses, supervised doctoral dissertations, and developed programs until retiring in 2004.

Leaving Artforum in 1976, she founded the journal October together with Rosalind Krauss. October was formed as a politically charged journal that introduced American readers to the ideas of French post-structuralism, made popular by Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes. Michelson's early essays for the journal included several on Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov, as well translations of texts by Georges Bataille. Krauss and Michelson remained on the journal's editorial board, along with Yve-Alain Bois, Hal Foster, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Denis Hollier, David Joselit, Carrie Lambert-Beatty, Mignon Nixon, and Malcolm Turvey.

Among her numerous translations, essays and articles, Michelson edited Kino-Eye: the Writings of Dziga Vertov (1984), and Cinema, Censorship, and the State: The Writings of Nagisa Oshima (1992).

On 10 August 2015, the Getty Research Institute announced that Michelson had donated her complete papers and archives to the Institute. The GRI also acquired the drawing Blind Time (1982) and a suite of lithographs, Earth Projects (1969), both by Robert Morris, from Michelson’s collection, as well as Michelson’s film library of over 1500 selections.

Michelson published a collection of her works on avant-garde and experimental film as On the Eve of the Future: Selected Writings on Film (MIT Press) in 2017. The 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 exploration of work by Michael Snow. It also includes important essays on Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, and Hollis Frampton.

Michelson died from complications of dementia on 17 September 2018 at her home in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.


Books, catalogues[edit]

  • editor, Artforum: "Special Film Issue", ed. Annette Michelson, New York: Artforum, Sep 1971, 91 pp.
  • editor, Artforum 11(5): "Eisenstein/Brakhage", New York: Artforum, Jan 1973, 95 pp.
  • editor, Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov, University of California Press, 1984, 408 pp.
  • editor, with Rosalind Krauss, Douglas Crimp, and Joan Copjec, October: The First Decade, MIT Press (October Books), 1987, 472 pp. [1]
  • with Douglas Gomery, and Patrick Loughney, The Art of Moving Shadows, Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1989. Exh. catalogue. Essay. Exhibition.
  • editor, Cinema, Censorship and the State: The Writings of Nagisa Oshima, trans. Dawn Lawson, MIT Press (October Books), 1992, 320 pp. [2]
  • editor, with Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Hal Foster, Denis Hollier, and Silvia Kolbowski, October: The Second Decade, 1986-1996, MIT Press (October Files), 1997, ARG. [3]
  • editor, Andy Warhol, MIT Press (October Files), 2002, 146 pp. With essays by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Thomas Crow, Hal Foster, Annette Michelson, and Rosalind E. Krauss. [4]
  • editor, with Malcolm Turvey, October 121: "New Vertov Studies", Summer 2007.
  • On the Eve of the Future: Essays in Cinematic and Related Practices, MIT Press (October Books), 2017, 352 pp. [5]
  • editor, with Kenneth White, Michael Snow, MIT Press (October Books), 2019, 288 pp. [6]
  • On the Wings of Hypothesis: Collected Writings on Soviet Cinema, ed. Rachel Churner, forew. Malcolm Turvey, MIT Press (October Books), 2020, 256 pp. [7]

Selected essays[edit]

  • "Bodies in Space: Film as ‘Carnal Knowledge,’", Artforum, Feb 1969. On Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • "Art and the Structuralist Perspective", in On the Future of Art, New York: Viking Press, 1970; repr., October 169, Summer 2019, pp 3-16.
  • "From Magician to Epistemologist: Vertov's The Man With a Movie Camera", Artforum 10:7 (1972), pp 60-72; repr. in The Essential Cinema, ed. P. Adams Sitney, New York University Press and Anthology Film Archives, 1975, 95-111; repr., October 162, Fall 2017, pp 112-132.
  • "The Kinetic Icon in the Work of Mourning", October 52, Spring 1990, pp 16-39; repr., October 169, Summer 2019, pp 87-104.
  • "Painting, Instantaneism, Cinema, America, Ballet, Illumination, Apollinaire", in Francis Picabia: Máquinas y Espaõlas, Valencia: IVAM Centre Julio González, and Barcelona: Fundacío Antoni Tàpies, 1996, pp 192-195; repr., October 169, Summer 2019, pp 65-74.