via Artnet [excerpts]:
by Grant Mandarino
Not to be outdone, Artforum this month [November] includes a review of Arthur Danto’s new book on Warhol, penned by Daniel Birnbaum, fresh from his summer job in Venice. Danto has been trying to strip Marcel Duchamp of his mantle for years and crown Warhol as the progenitor of all things postmodern. The German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, beloved of Danto, once referred to the emperor Napoleon as the "world soul on horseback" because of the way he embodied the zeitgeist of his era, and if Danto has his way, we would recognize the frazzled Warhol as a "world soul" in his own right, sans horse.
Warhol embraced the values of ordinary people, Danto claims, while Duchamp mocked them from the outside. Warhol was inclusive rather than subversive. Birnbaum suggests that Danto is rather too taken with his idol, practically elevating him to sainthood. Apparently the Brillo Box is compared at one point to the Holy Grail -- which is quite apt, at least in the sense that there have been many bogus grails, too.
More, more, more, the mag ain’t thick for nothing.[...]
Last month Artforum featured excerpts from the new book by anti-globalization gurus Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. In his opening editorial this month, Tim Griffin revisits the question, in response to some negative feedback he received on that particular editorial decision, specifically with regard to the fact that Hardt and Negri’s enthusiasm for contemporary art is misplaced. The ruling ethos of today’s art world, or so someone wrote to Griffin, can be summed up as: "Theory is bad, political thought in art is wrong, activism is jejune, the free market is good, individualism is great, the amoral artist is genius."
Griffin claims that Hardt and Negri nevertheless prod the art world to revisit itself with the future in mind and indulge in some fanciful imagining. In Hardt and Negri’s view, thinking in the abstract is often more important than dealing with the crude, materialistic realities of the everyday world. In a long essay responding to this argument as laid out in their new book Commonwealth, David Harvey, a radical geographer who teaches at the City University of New York, calls bullshit, bless him.
"Far too many of Hardt and Negri’s proposals remain locked. . . in the realm of immaterial abstraction," Harvey writes, "and, unfortunately, never acquire concrete form." Fast on his way to becoming the pre-eminent Marxist of his generation, Harvey is a theorist who has both feet on the ground. He accuses Hardt and Negri of overlooking the importance of class-based identity and the immiserating machinations of global capitalism. At the same time, Harvey graciously commends Hardt and Negri for highlighting aspects of our contemporary situation others generally overlook.
Harvey’s response is dense, and long -- so long that part of it is relegated to that netherworld at the back of the issue, beyond the reviews. Hardt and Negri’s reply is, thankfully, shorter, and touches briefly on Harvey’s most striking critiques. Overall, you get the sense from both pieces that hidden beneath all the accommodating prose are strong disagreements that would come out in a public debate, but are smoothed over for the glossy page. Still, it is nice to see these impenetrable know-it-alls forced to admit they haven’t got it all figured out: "in some areas in which, as a geographer, he has great expertise. . . he points in directions our arguments could be extended," H&N say of Harvey’s essay.
Props to Griffin for putting this kind of material into an art magazine -- it is almost like reading old issues of Artforum from the ‘70s.
Speaking of the ‘70s Artforum, perhaps the juiciest text actually comes in the letters page, almost lost between all those ads, where venerable critics Annette Michelson and Rosalind Krauss tell their side of their 1974 departure from the Artforum editorial board to form the art theory journal October. It was, they say, not the result of their disapproval of the famous naked-Lynda Benglis-with-a-dildo ad, as the tale is usually told, but because of the sense of "invasion of editorial policy by commercial fiat" (which is why, they note, October has neither ads nor pictures). Their letter, they say, was inspired by a Roberta Smith review of the "Lynda Benglis/Robert Morris, 1973-74" show at Susan Inglett Gallery. "Since the New York Times has declined to print our letter addressing the inaccuracy, we now turn to the publication where Benglis’s advertisement first appeared in order to set the record, distorted by Smith, straight."* * *