From the Editor
by Wendy Vogel
As a follow-up to this week's Letter from the Editor and in support of David Wojnarowicz's work and the exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, Fluent~Collaborative has released a statement from Dan Cameron, which can be accessed here.
For many art enthusiasts, the first week of December entails an abrupt shift of gears: familial bonding over turkey and stuffing quickly gives way to hobnobbing with the glitterati at Art Basel Miami Beach. We at …might be good, however, are staying put in Texas to bring you coverage of “another life of the made.” This title implies the idea of reception itself as a participatory process—to paraphrase Duchamp, that it is the viewer (or critic) who completes the work of art.
Circulation, through word of mouth or in print, can give a work a fresh spin and make it visible to another audience. Take Mike Smith’s unmissable “Year in Education” in December’s issue of Artforum, which includes a huge shout-out to Fluent~Collaborative and installation shots of his project with Jay Sanders for testsite. Yet through the process of critical reflection, much can also be lost (or gained) in translation. Ultimately, it is our collective responsibility as a public to sustain the conversation.
The most interesting writing about art acknowledges a dialogic relationship between the artwork and its interpretation. Fittingly, this issue features multiple exchanges. The interview section includes my conversation with Vija Celmins along with two dialogues between practitioners: Mike Osborne talks with fellow photographer Adam Schreiber about his show at Artpace, and Kate Green brings a curatorial perspective to her interview with Nicolaus Schafhausen. In the reviews section, Ursula Davila-Villa considers the first volume in the Conversaciones/Conversations series published by the Fundación Cisneros, while Erin Kimmel discusses the relationship between latency and visibility in the works of Immaterial. Katie Geha and Noah Simblist respectively consider the works of Ewan Gibbs and Vernon Fisher through nuanced and historically minded perspectives. Finally, Jennie Lamensdorf concludes her project The Third Site of Land Art, bringing “unintentional sites” into provocative dialogue with more easily recognized works of land art.
As much as I want to believe in criticism’s role to inspire intelligent dialogue, we must also acknowledge that institutions have the power to support or silence the life of the made. It is equally our responsibility to speak up in response to censorship. This week, the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian decided to remove David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly (1987) from the group exhibition about queer portraiture entitled Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire. The four-minute video montage was pulled after the Catholic League and members of the House of Representatives complained that a sequence depicting ants crawling on a crucifix it was offensive to Christians. As Blake Gopnik pointed out in his impassioned response in the Washington Post, the disappointing decision to institutionally self-censor comes 21 years after Robert Mapplethorpe’s exhibition The Perfect Moment was canceled by the Corcoran Gallery. That controversy ignited the culture wars and led to significant cuts in state-sponsored cultural funding, the ramifications of which we are still grappling with today. The idea that such an action of cowardice and homophobia could take place in the same city today is saddening, but it also speaks to the power of art’s message and to the potential for radical counteraction. In 1989, Mapplethorpe’s exhibition tour led to a critical debate about identity-based work and an increased knowledge of the repercussions of AIDS that helped shape at least a generation’s worth of policy and creative production. Today, in a climate where the art world often bemoans the lack of political intention or possibility of creative work, the controversy over Wojnarowicz’s piece reminds us that there are still marginalized voices that we should advocate, and that we must be vigilant to stand against those who would have them muted.
Wendy Vogel is Editor of ...might be good.