<i>The Uncertain States of America Reader</i>

(Detail view of cover of mock-up made by designers)

As I publish this entry the Serpentine Gallery is celebrating the opening of "Uncertain States of America," curated by Daniel Birnbaum, Gunnar B. Kvaran, and Hans Ulrich Obrist. As I mentioned in a parenthetical aside in this entry in June, I was asked by the three of them as well as Serpentine Gallery director Julia Peyton-Jones to edit an anthology of recent writing about contemporary art, politics, and the current cultural climate in the United States. The first of two editions of that volume, called The Uncertain States of America Reader, is being released tonight to coincide with the exhibition. [....] Quickly realizing the scope of the project after I was initially invited to undertake it, I asked Noah Horowitz, who was hired by the Serpentine as an exhibition organizer and is a PhD candidate at the Courtauld Institute of Art, to coedit the anthology with me. Here is a brief excerpt from our coauthored introduction, which is available in full at BrianSholis.com:

In recent years, many have noted the fashionableness of art that addresses its broader social context. The translation of Nicolas Bourriaud's Relational Aesthetics into English in 2002 and the ongoing debate about this set of essays is one prominent example of this tendency. Others pertain to the intensification of discussion about the Internet's (virtual) social power and the agency of extra-gallery/museum practices, the latter of which inspired "The Interventionists," an exhibition curated by Nato Thompson and presented at MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts, in the summer of 2004. What has perhaps changed since the re-election later that autumn of George W. Bush is the zeroing in of (primarily European) interest in American art and artists. One could cite "Uncertain States of America," "USA Today" at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, "This Is America: Visions of the American Dream" at the Centraal Museum, Utrecht, The Netherlands, and even "Day for Night," the 2006 Whitney Biennial (curated by Chrissie Iles and Philippe Vergne, Europeans now ensconced in American institutions), as evidence of this trend.

This is undoubtedly a moment marked by a serious interest in the actions America is taking on the world stage—actions that have been described as cause for "grave concern." We do not attempt to authoritatively engage these concerns here, but we do think that this sampling of discourse by and about a country's visual artists leads to insights about its politics and society not gained elsewhere. [ . . . ] At the very least, it gives a sense of what it is like to live in the United States now, and it occasions some inspired debate.

(Table of contents of mock-up made by designers)

This edition of the book reprints the following texts:

"From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique" by Andrea Fraser

"Eric Buell, Art Mover" in John Bowe, Marisa Bowe and Sabin Streeter, eds., Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs

"Boundary Issues: The Art World Under the Sign of Globalism" by Pamela M. Lee

"Itinerant Artists" by Miwon Kwon (excerpt from One Place After Another)

"Tent Community: On Art Fair Art" by Jack Bankowsky

"American Mutt Barks in the Yard" by David Barringer (excerpt)

"Was ist Los?" by Seth Price

"When Procedures Become Market Tools," Johanna Burton and Isabelle Graw in conversation

"New Live Queer Art" by Matt Wolf

"Renigged" by Hamza Walker

"Sublime Humility" by Paul Chan

"When Thought Becomes Crime" by the Critical Art Ensemble

"Startling and Effective: Writing Art and Politics After 9/11" by Alan Gilbert

"The State, Spectacle, and September 11" by Retort (excerpt from Afflicted Powers)

"Torture Culture: Lynching Photographs and the Images of Abu Ghraib" by Dora Apel

"Notes from New York" by Molly Nesbit

Trisha Donnelly, 2006


I'll be sure to post a notice when the expanded version is available later this autumn.