Issue 1 2005

emaj issue one, 2005


Amelia Douglas, Katrina Grant, Ryan Johnston, Tim Ould, Jarrod Rawlins


American Entropy: Doug Aitken’s blow debris 


This article seeks to revive the links between practice and placement in the work of Californian video artist Doug Aitken, with particular reference to his 2001 video installation Blow Debris. Despite the artist’s self confessed (and possibly strategic) disinterest in “illustrating or making a statement about a specific place”, I argue that Blow Debris emerges from specifically American archetypes of land, movement and national identity. This contention is a departure from the predominant analyses of Doug Aitken’s work. Existing literature focuses on his supposed exploration of a global landscape, a realm of accelerated technological flows and perpetual motion. By pinpointing Aitken’s reconstruction of place rather than globalised space, Blow Debris may be situated within a longstanding tradition of American landscape art in which entropy acts as the primary determinant for national consciousness. View/Download pdf (229kb)

Living & Loving 1 & 2: Aleksandra Mir and Subverted Biography 


This paper examines Aleksandra Mir’s recent publications Living & Loving: No. 1 and No. 2. Presented as a sub-cultural fanzine interview, Mir’s biographies assemble a series of complex contexts for the subjects, the audience, and for critical discourse. I profile these contexts—social space, shared knowledge and ‘collaborations and contracts’—in order to underscore that Mir’s biographies subvert any defence that relationships formed between artist and audience (and in this case the subject is also the audience) create a just social exchange. From this analysis, it is argued that ‘collaborations and contracts’ between artists and audiences only serve to recreate modernism’s hierarchy rather than collapse any ideological, critical or aesthetic distance that modernism established between the artist and the audience. View/download pdf (2mb) »

Head-First Through the Hole in the Zero: Malevich’s Suprematism, Khlebnikov’s Futurism, and the Development of a Deconstructive Aesthetic, 1908–1919


Suprematism’s attempt to move beyond representation in painting coincided with an attempt to move beyond Russian Futurist poetry and literature. It was an attempt to go ‘beyond zero’. In making that move, however, Kasimir Malevich, creator of suprematism, needed to develop from Russian Futurism—particularly that of Velimir Khlebnikov— working within the Russian avant-garde. Through his painterly reliance on the square, Malevich not only worked in concert with Futurists such as Khlebnikov but ultimately elaborated on a literary theory bound by the constraints of language. In essence, Malevich’s Suprematism could not get ‘beyond zero’ until Khlebnikov’s Futurism got him there. View/download pdf (236kb) »

The Meek And Mighty Bride: Representations of Esther, Old Testament Queen of Persia, on Fifteenth-Century Italian Marriage Furniture


Cassone and spalliere panels depicting the Old Testament Book of Esther were produced by a number of Florentine artists during the fifteenth century. The workshops of Jacopo Sellaio; Filippino Lippi and Marco del Buono Giamberti and Apollonio di Giovanni di Tomaso present Esther as a humble and virtuous queen. Their choice of scenes from the text and distinctive characterisation of the heroine can be interpreted in light of the purpose and function of cassone and spalliere in fifteenth-century Florence, in particular the association of such items with marriage. Representations of Esther can also be interpreted in light of contemporary sources on female education. These recommended depictions of righteous heroines as useful in promoting virtuous behaviour in women, and discussed Esther as an example of obedience and good conduct. In this context, representations of Esther on such marriage furniture can be interpreted as presenting didactic lessons for Renaissance brides. View/download pdf (219kb) »

INTERVIEW | Wolfgang Laib: Returning to What Is 


This interview with the German artist Wolfgang Laib reveals his thoughts on the function of art in the world. Laib has been an immensely successful international artist since the early 1970s. While minimalism is often considered to be the movement that enabled his success, he himself has little allegiance to this or any other art movement. What is interesting about the interview is the way he links his life, his art, and the way in which he wants it to change the way people think. He reveals that, far from the austere appearance his art may have, he wants his art to bring about change in the world. View/download pdf (1mb) »


Sue de Beer, Black Sun


A void waits in a high-rise building in midtown Manhattan, New York. Walk out from the mass of colliding bodies on the street, through revolving doors, past a security guard and discover a dolls house the size of the gallery. Inside, leather beanbags beckon the viewer to recline in front of a split screen. Within this house, inside this building, we enter Sue de Beer’s two-channel video, Black Sun, where we are lured by young, beautiful protagonists into a world of unfulfilled desire. View/download pdf (126kb) »

The Policy, Contract and Title of a Work of Art: On Sanné Mestrom’s Recent Paintings


If, as Donald Kuspit has recently claimed, the cube as sculptural object has exhausted its artistic and intellectual appeal, then one may be surprised to note its recent appearance and critical vitality in Sanné Mestrom’s latest exhibition “The Myth of a Political Vision” at Spacement Gallery. This is, of course, if one notices its appearance at all, as Mestrom’s exhibition does not turn in any simple way around a traditional re-staging of the Minimalist cube. Rather, it is in the form of two small stereoscopic viewing devices, hand built by the artist and placed on shoulder high white plinths in the centre of the gallery, that Kuspit’s “tired emblem of modernist purity and autonomy” finds itself smuggled back into the gallery. View/download pdf (2.3mb) »

Bill Henson: Three Decades of Photography 


The Australian photographer Bill Henson described one significant aspect of his work in a 1986 exhibition catalogue that has been republished in the catalogue Mnemosyne. ‘In any sequence no photograph can be extraneous – the entire series should in fact amount to one ‘image’ which has been articulated into a complex of images. For this reason I take some trouble over the installation of a work – everything having its place yet the possibilities remaining inexhaustible.’ The permutations of images, words and ideas, and their migrations from exhibitions to catalogues to art criticism is an appropriate introduction to a discussion of the exhibition and catalogue. The title is resonant for art historians, as Mnemosyne ( – memory) was the title given by the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century art historian Aby Warburg to his research into cultural memory, represented most famously by his extraordinary image archive housed in the Warburg Institute in London. Is there a connection between Henson and Warburg? View/download pdf (108kb) »

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