Theory in Contemporary Art since 1985
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Updated and reorganized to offer the best collection of state-of-the-art readings on the role of critical theory in contemporary art, this second edition of Theory in Contemporary Art since 1985 brings together scholarly essays, artists’ statements, and art reproductions to capture the vibrancy and dissonance that define today’s art scene.

  • Incorporates new and updated topics that have become central to art theory and practice over the past decade
  • New and updated chapters cover such topics as: international biennials, historicizing of the term “contemporary art”, aesthetics, art and politics, feminism and pornography, ecology and art, the Middle East and conflict studies, Eastern European art and politics, gender and war, and technology
  • Features a thematic reconfiguration of sections and new introductions to make readings user–friendly
  • Extensively illustrated throughout with an expanded color-plate section
  • New contributions to this edition include those by Alexander Alberro, Claire Bishop, T.J. Demos, Anthony Downey, Liam Gillick, Marina Gr?iniæ, Mary Kelly, Chantal Mouffe, Beatriz Preciado, Jacques Ranciere, Blake Stimson, and Chin-Tao Wu.


Zoya Kocur is an independent scholar based in New York. She has taught at New York University and the Rhode Island School of Design, and is the former Associate Curator of Education at the New Museum of Contemporary Art. Her publications include Global Visual Cultures: An Anthology (2011) and, as co-editor, Contemporary Art and Multicultural Education (1996).

Simon Leung is an artist based in New York and Los Angeles, and Professor of Studio Art at the University of California, Irvine, where he heads the New Genres area. His work has been exhibited at the Whitney Biennial, Venice Biennale, and the Guangzhou Triennial. 


Text, Figure, and Plate Credits viii

How To Use this Book xvi

Notes on Contributors xix

Introduction 1

Part I The Field of Contemporary Art 7

1 The Intellectual Field: A World Apart (1990) 13
Pierre Bourdieu

2 When Form Has Become Attitude – And Beyond (1994) 21
Thierry de Duve

3 One Place After Another: Notes on Site Specifi city (1997) 34
Miwon Kwon

4 Biennials without Borders? (2009) 56
Chin-Tao Wu

5 Periodising Contemporary Art (2009) 64
Alexander Alberro

6 Contemporary Art and the Politics of Aesthetics (2009) 72
Jacques Rancière

Part II Practices and Models/Rethinking Form and Medium 87

7 A Note on Gerhard Richter’s October 18, 1977 (1989) 94
Benjamin H. D. Buchloh

8 Notes on Surface: Toward a Genealogy of Flatness (2000) 102
David Joselit

9 Informe without Conclusion (1996) 118
Rosalind Krauss

10 Video Projection: The Space Between Screens 131
Liz Kotz

11 How to Provide an Artistic Service: An Introduction (1994) 146
Andrea Fraser

12 Conversation Pieces: The Role of Dialogue in Socially-Engaged Art (2003) 153
Grant Kester

13 Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics (2004) 166
Claire Bishop

Part III Culture/Identities/Political Agency 195

14 The War on Culture (1990) 203
Carole S. Vance

15 AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism (2002) 211
Douglas Crimp

16 Architecture of the Evicted (1990) 220
Rosalyn Deutsche

17 Gender is Burning: Questions of Appropriation and Subversion (1993) 235
Judith Butler

18 Looking for Trouble (1993) 252
Kobena Mercer

19 The Mythology of Difference: Vulgar Identity Politics at the Whitney Biennial (1993) 263
Charles A. Wright, Jr.

20 Haunted TV (1992) 280
Avital Ronell

21 The Architecture of Porn: Museum, Urban Detritus, and Cinematic Stag-rooms (2012) 289
Beatriz Preciado

22 Cultural Workers as Organic Intellectuals (2008) 299
Chantal Mouffe

Part IV Postcolonial Critiques 309

23 The Marco Polo Syndrome: Some Problems around Art and Eurocentrism (1993) 314
Gerardo Mosquera

24 In the “Heart of Darkness” (1993) 322
Olu Oguibe

25 The Syncretic Turn: Cross-Cultural Practices in the Age of Multiculturalism (1996) 329
Jean Fisher

26 Authenticity, Refl exivity, and Spectacle: Or, the Rise of New Asia is not the End of the World (2004) 338
Lee Weng Choy

27 All-Owning Spectatorship (1991) 354
Trinh T. Minh-Ha

28 Ruins, Fragmentation, and the Chinese Modern/Postmodern (1998) 371
Wu Hung

Part V Art Subjects/Historical Subjects 381

29 Re-politicizing Art, Theory, Representation and New Media Technology (2008) 388
Marina Gr?iniæ

30 Miming the Master: Boy-Things, Bad Girls, and Femmes Vitales (1996) 395
Mary Kelly

31 Zones of Indistinction: Giorgio Agamben’s ‘Bare Life’ and the Politics of Aesthetics (2009) 416
Anthony Downey

32 The Database (2001) 435
Lev Manovich

33 For the Love of Abstraction (2008) 455
Blake Stimson

34 The Politics of Sustainability: Art and Ecology (2009) 466
T. J. Demos

Appendix: Letters and Responses

Contingent Factors: A Response to Claire Bishop’s “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics” 486
Liam Gillick

Index 498


“Here are urgent things to read—including texts by artists who 'live within' theory.  Not only analytical arguments but models for the expansion of history, politics and aesthetics. “
- Josiah McElheny, artist, New York City

“Kocur’s and Leung’s thought-provoking new anthology makes me envy today’s students and their professors. User-friendly, devoid of jargon, this volume zeroes in on issues that are at the core of contemporary art practices, offering a view of the current state of theory, and of the interrelation between art and theory, that is both synthetic and chronological.  I cannot imagine a better guide to navigate through all the transformations art has gone through since 1980 in response to those of the world at large. This anthology is a delight, and an immense service to the field of contemporary studies.”
- Yve-Alain Bois, Institute for Advanced Study