7 art books for Christmas 2016

Top picks in 2016 contemporary art publishing: the holiday season list.

Art Radar picks a selection of must-have artist monographs and themed research publications among 2016’s contemporary art publishing.

Book cover of 'Just A Band Makes A Book', Contact Zones, Nairobi, 2016.

Book cover of ‘Just A Band Makes A Book’, Contact Zones, Nairobi, 2016.




1. Just A Band Makes A Book — Contact Zones

Nairobi-based publisher presents the work of Nairobi-based visual arts collective Just A Band with their 2016 title Just A Band Makes A Book. More conventionally known as a musical band, the collective’s exploration of artistic terrain has seen them create experimental works that speak to multiple publics. The book documents their evolution from a band and the presentation of their art through music videos and video installations from Nairobi to New York. It has involved constituting and sharing the archive of the work of Just A Band, thus presenting an exercise in tracing the production of artistic identity of the individuals within the collective and of the collective as a whole.

The book features preparatory sketches, animations, behind-the-scenes photos, installation shots and video stills. The reader is taken into the world of the transdisciplinary collective Just A Band, with insight into experiments that remain unreleased, photos from the band’s tour and a deeply personal and reflective collection of letters in the afterword. The text includes an essay by Jepchumba, and an interview conducted by Wanjeri Gakuru.

SUPER TUNISIAN, Moufida Fedhila, St'art, 2011, Performance at Avenue Habib Bourguiba, Tunis © Photo: Moufida Fedhila. Image from Ibraaz.

Moufida Fedhila, ‘SUPER TUNISIAN, St’art’, 2011, performance at Avenue Habib Bourguiba, Tunis. © Photo: Moufida Fedhila. Image from Ibraaz.

2. The Turn المنعرج Art Practices in Post-Spring Societies — Verlag für moderne Kunst

The Turn المنعرج Art Practices in Post-Spring Societies (2016) accompanies the exhibition of the same title, which ran from 18 March to 15 May 2016 at Kunstraum Niederoesterreich in Vienna. Edited by Verlag für Moderne Kunst, the book documents a series of interventions and projects that took place in public spaces in urban and rural post-revolutionary Tunisia and embeds them into an extended theoretical context for the first time. Art theoreticians, anthropologists and urbanists from Libya, Egypt and Syria report about artistic art interventions in their countries and reflect critically on the role of art in periods of political transformation.

The Turn includes not only relics of performances and installations, but also objects (some of which have been adapted to the white cube) and was designed by the curators. The following issues are addressed: What remains of these projects, which international artists also took part in and which were largely funded by foreign institutions? Can we measure their effectiveness? What role does art play in times of transformations? As expressions of socio-political issues and direct social engagement, the ‘interventions’ are rooted in the tradition of the ‘Social Turn’ in contemporary art history.

Cover of 'Anthony Downey (Ed.) Future Imperfect Contemporary Art Practices and Cultural Institutions in the Middle East', 2016. Image from Sternberg Press.

Cover of ‘Anthony Downey (Ed.) Future Imperfect
Contemporary Art Practices and Cultural Institutions in the Middle East’, 2016. Image from Sternberg Press.

3. Future Imperfect – Sternberg Press

Future Imperfect: Contemporary Art Practices and Cultural Institutions in the Middle East is published by Sternberg Press and edited by Ibraaz founding editor Anthony Downey. Future Imperfect critically examines the role played by cultural institutions in producing present-day and future contexts for the production, dissemination and reception of contemporary art in the Middle East and North Africa. It offers historical contexts for discussions that have become increasingly urgent in recent years – the role of culture in a time of conflict and globalisation – and an in-depth critique of the state of cultural institutions in an age of political upheaval, social unrest, exuberant cultural activity, ascendant neoliberal forms of privatisation, social activism and regional uncertainty.

Based on collective input from numerous contributors and interlocutors (including among others Monira Al Qadiri, Hoor Al-Qasimi, Stephanie Bailey, Eray Çaylı, Elizabeth Derderian, Anthony Downey,Reema Salha Fadda, Wafa Gabsi, Amal Khalaf, Kamel Lazaar, Rijin Sahakian, Christine Tohme, Toleen Touq, Ala Younis and Yasmine Zidane) this volume brings together internationally renowned academics, critics, activists, filmmakers, artists and other independent cultural practitioners to consider how new infrastructures and institutions can effectively emerge within such fraught and dynamic contexts.

Wu Tsang’s 'DAMELO TODO / ODOT OLEMAD', 2015. Video installation. Installation view at "Wu Tsang: Not in My Language" at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich. Credit Stefan Alteburger. Image courtesy Isabella Bortolozzi.

Wu Tsang,’DAMELO TODO / ODOT OLEMAD’, 2010, video installation, installation view at “Wu Tsang: Not in My Language” at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, 2015. Credit Stefan Alteburger. Image courtesy Isabella Bortolozzi.

4. Wu Tsang: Not in My Language – Walther König

Not in My Language is a new monograph on the oeuvre of Los Angeles–based filmmaker and performer artist Wu Tsang (b. 1982). In his multifaceted work, Wu deals primarily with queer and transgender issues as well as with the immigrant milieu in Los Angeles. Not in My Language accompanies Wu’s 2015 group exhibitions at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf and the Migros Museum in Zurich. The publication surveys the artist’s prodigious output and highlights themes recurrent throughout her work. The book combines stills and reproduced screenplays from six of her films, including DAMELO TODO (2010), centering on the story of an El Salvadorian teenage refugee who finds sanctuary in LA’s transgender community, and her documentary Wildness (2012), which profiles the habitués of Silver Lake’s legendary trans bar the Silver Platter and was included in the 2014 Whitney Biennial.

The exhibition and publication title makes reference to the YouTube video “In My Language” posted by the autism-rights advocate and blogger Amanda Baggs, and reflects Wu’s ability to build bridges between minority practices of resistance and recover the creativity of such “alternative” languages.

Book cover of "African Futures" (2016) edited by Kerber.

Book cover of ‘African Futures’, edited by Kerber, 2016.

5. African Futures – Kerber

Edited by Lien Heidenreich and Sean O’Toole with texts by Cameroon-born philosopher Achille Mbembe, this publication probes how African and African diaspora artists, cultural producers and scientists have written about, represented and prepared for the future. African Futures attempts to map certain currents in debates around African and African diaspora cultural and theoretical production in relation to the fields of science fiction, radical politics and Afro-futurism.

In addition to essays, the book explores visions for the future in short stories, graphic novels, photo essays and quotes from writers, artists and thinkers, many of which were presented during the African Futures Festivals, which took place simultaneously in Johannesburg, Lagos and Nairobi in October 2015. Contributing artists include Keziah Jones, Spoek Mathambo, Just A Band, Gato Preto, Kapwani Kiwanga, Nnedi Okorafor, Lauren Beukes and Faustin Linyekula. The authors include Achille Mbembe, Ntone Edjabe, Jean-Pierre Bekolo, Sherif Adel, Pamela Phatsumo Sunstrum, Raimi Gbadamosi, Tegan Bristow, Jonathan Dotse, Wanuri Kahiu and Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi.

Book cover of 'Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Specific Objects Without Specific Form' (2016) Published by Koenig Books.

Book cover of ‘Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Specific Objects Without Specific Form’, published by Koenig Books, 2016

6. Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Specific Objects Without Specific Form – Koenig Books

Between 2010 and 2011, curator Elena Filipovic along with artists Danh Vo, Carol Bove and Tino Sehgal, organised a visionary Felix Gonzalez-Torres exhibition across three institutions: WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels; Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel; and MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt. With the profound visual and conceptual potential of Gonzalez-Torres’ work in mind, Filipovic devised an exhibition structure that entailed two autonomous-yet-adjacent exhibitions of his work at each of the three venues: one iteration by her, and one by Vo, Bove and Sehgal respectively. This volume follows the show’s structure. Each venue has a dedicated section, which includes a preface by Filipovic, photographic documentation of each exhibition and a contribution by Vo, Bove and Sehgal reflecting upon their positions as curators of Gonzalez-Torres’ work.

Danh Vo includes photographs of diagrammatic brass wall plaques as presented within his installation at WIELS; Carol Bove offers an essay describing her personal experiences with the work of Gonzalez-Torres and the curatorial scope of her installation; and Tino Sehgal recorded a conversation with Andrea Rosen – Gonzalez-Torres’ lifelong art dealer – which captures part of their rich dialogue around the artist’s work. A comparative illustrated checklist documents each of the 85 works by Gonzalez-Torres featured in all their iterations. This invaluable resource showcases the radical and expansive nature of Gonzalez-Torres’ work as envisioned through the remarkable and unique voices of this important generation of artists, alongside the curatorial insight of Elena Filipovic.

Robert Rauschenberg, 'Study for Chinese Summerhall', 1983. Chromogenic print 66 x 66 cm image; 101.6 x 76.2 cm sheet. Image courtesy Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

Robert Rauschenberg, ‘Study for Chinese Summerhall’, 1983, chromogenic print, 66 x 66 cm image; 101.6 x 76.2 cm sheet. Image courtesy Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

7. Rauschenberg in China – Koenig Books

Iconoclastic American artist Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008) shot over 50 rolls of film during his first trip to Beijing in 1982, resulting in his rare colour photography work Study for Chinese Summerhall (1983). Just three years later, he became the first Western contemporary artist to exhibit in Mainland China after the Cultural Revolution as part of his Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI, 1985–91). The book was published with UCCA on the occasion of the exhibition “Rauschenberg in China” at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), Beijing, which ran from 12 June to 21 August 2016. The publication is an extraordinary, triple out-folding catalogue that presents the aforementioned projects alongside The 1/4 Mile or 2 Furlong Piece (1981–98), a single artwork comprised of 190 parts made over nearly two decades. This work is reproduced here in full for the first time.

Rebecca Close


Related Topics: American artists, mixed media, museum show, Beijing, African artists, Tunisian artists,

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