Maggie Nelson: The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning

Writing in the tradition of Susan Sontag and Elaine Scarry, Maggie Nelson has emerged as one of our foremost cultural critics with this landmark work about representations of cruelty and violence in art. From Sylvia Plath’s poetry to Francis Bacon’s paintings, from the Saw franchise to Yoko Ono’s performance art, Nelson’s nuanced exploration across the artistic landscape ultimately offers a model of how one might balance strong ethical convictions with an equally strong appreciation for work that tests the limits of taste, taboo, and permissibility.

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Reviews:
New York Times
NPR
JHU Muse
Slate

Additional Resources:
Writing as Performance: Interview with Maggie Nelson
Two Poems by Maggie Nelson

(WhiteChapel)Documents for Contemporary Art: Failure


Amid the global uncertainties of our times, failure has become a central subject of investigation in recent art. Celebrating failed promises and myths of the avant-garde, or setting out to realize seemingly impossible tasks, artists have actively claimed the space of failure to propose a resistant view of the world. Here success is deemed overrated, doubt embraced, experimentation encouraged, and risk considered a viable strategy. The abstract possibilities opened up by failure are further reinforced by the problems of physically realizing artworks–wrestling with ideas, representation, and object-making. By amplifying both theoretical and practical failure, artists have sought new, unexpected ways of opening up endgame situations, ranging from the ideological shadow of the white cube to unfulfilled promises of political emancipation. Between the two subjective poles of success and failure lies a space of potentially productive operations where paradox rules and dogma is refused. This collection of writings, statements, mediations, fictions, polemics, and discussions identifies failure as a core concern in cultural production. Failure identifies moments of thought that have eschewed consensus, choosing to address questions rather than answers.Artists surveyed include Bas Jan Ader, Francis Alÿs, John Baldessari, Chris Burden, Phil Collins, Martin Creed, David Critchley, Fischli & Weiss, Ceal Floyer, Isa Genzken, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Félix González-Torres, Wade Guyton, International Necronautical Society, Ray Johnson, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Michael Krebber, Bruce Nauman, Simon Patterson, Janette Parris, Yvonne Rainer, Robert Rauschenberg, Dieter Roth, Allen Ruppersberg, Roman Signer, Annika Ström, Paul Thek, William WegmanWriters include Giorgio Agamben, Samuel Beckett, Daniel Birnbaum, Bazon Brock, Johanna Burton, Emma Cocker, Gilles Deleuze, Russell Ferguson, Ann Goldstein, Jörg Heiser, Jennifer Higgie, Richard Hylton, Jean-Yves Jouannais, Lisa Lee, Stuart Morgan, Hans-Joachim Müller, Karl Popper, Edgar Schmitz, Coosje van Bruggen

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