Julia Bryan-Wilson: Fray: Art and Textile Politics (2017)

25 March 2018, dusan

“In 1974, women in a feminist consciousness-raising group in Eugene, Oregon, formed a mock organization called the Ladies Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society. Emblazoning its logo onto t-shirts, the group wryly envisioned female collective textile making as a practice that could upend conventions, threaten state structures, and wreak political havoc. Elaborating on this example as a prehistory to the more recent phenomenon of “craftivism”—the politics and social practices associated with handmaking—Fray explores textiles and their role at the forefront of debates about process, materiality, gender, and race in times of economic upheaval.

Closely examining how amateurs and fine artists in the United States and Chile turned to sewing, braiding, knotting, and quilting amid the rise of global manufacturing, Julia Bryan-Wilson argues that textiles unravel the high/low divide and urges us to think flexibly about what the politics of textiles might be. Her case studies from the 1970s through the 1990s—including the improvised costumes of the theater troupe the Cockettes, the braided rag rugs of US artist Harmony Hammond, the thread-based sculptures of Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña, the small hand-sewn tapestries depicting Pinochet’s torture, and the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt—are often taken as evidence of the inherently progressive nature of handcrafted textiles. Fray, however, shows that such methods are recruited to often ambivalent ends, leaving textiles very much “in the fray” of debates about feminized labor, protest cultures, and queer identities; the malleability of cloth and fiber means that textiles can be activated, or stretched, in many ideological directions.

The first contemporary art history book to discuss both fine art and amateur registers of handmaking at such an expansive scale, Fray unveils crucial insights into how textiles inhabit the broad space between artistic and political poles—high and low, untrained and highly skilled, conformist and disobedient, craft and art.”

Publisher University of California Press, 2017
ISBN 9780226077819, 0226077810
326 pages
via slowrotation

Review: Holland Cotter (New York Times, 2017).

Video interview with author (with Lynne Cooke, NGA, 60 min, 2017)

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Felix Stalder: The Digital Condition (2016–)

25 March 2018, dusan

“Our daily lives, our culture and our politics are now shaped by the digital condition as large numbers of people involve themselves in contentious negotiations of meaning in ever more dimensions of life, from the trivial to the profound. They are making use of the capacities of complex communication infrastructures, currently dominated by social mass media such as Twitter and Facebook, on which they have come to depend.

Amidst a confusing plurality, Felix Stalder argues that are three key constituents of this condition: the use of existing cultural materials for one’s own production, the way in which new meaning is established as a collective endeavour, and the underlying role of algorithms and automated decision-making processes that reduce and give shape to massive volumes of data. These three characteristics define what Stalder calls ‘the digital condition’. Stalder also examines the profound political implications of this new culture. We stand at a crossroads between post-democracy and the commons, a concentration of power among the few or a genuine widening of participation, with the digital condition offering the potential for starkly different outcomes.

This ambitious and wide-ranging theory of our contemporary digital condition will be of great interest to students and scholars in media and communications, cultural studies, and social, political and cultural theory, as well as to a wider readership interested in the ways in which culture and politics are changing today.”

First published in German as Kultur der Digitalität, Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin, 2016.

Translated by Valentine Pakis
Publisher Polity Press, Cambridge, UK, 2018
ISBN 9781509519590, 1509519599
xi+204 pages

Reviews (in German)

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David Graeber, Marshall Sahlins: On Kings (2017)

22 January 2018, dusan

“In anthropology as much as in popular imagination, kings are figures of fascination and intrigue, heroes or tyrants in ways presidents and prime ministers can never be. This collection of essays by two of the world’s most distinguished anthropologists—David Graeber and Marshall Sahlins—explores what kingship actually is, historically and anthropologically. As they show, kings are symbols for more than just sovereignty: indeed, the study of kingship offers a unique window into fundamental dilemmas concerning the very nature of power, meaning, and the human condition.

Reflecting on issues such as temporality, alterity, and utopia—not to mention the divine, the strange, the numinous, and the bestial—Graeber and Sahlins explore the role of kings as they have existed around the world, from the BaKongo to the Aztec to the Shilluk and beyond. Richly delivered with the wit and sharp analysis characteristic of Graeber and Sahlins, this book opens up new avenues for the anthropological study of this fascinating and ubiquitous political figure.”

Publisher HAU Books, Chicago, 2017
Creative Commons BY License
ISBN 0986132500, 9780986132506
xv+536 pages

Publisher
WorldCat

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