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Afterall: One Work
Lee Friedlander: The Little Screens
Afterall, One Work

Lee Friedlander’s The Little Screens first appeared as a 1963 picture essay in Harper’s Bazaar, with commentary by Walker Evans. Six untitled photographs show television screens broadcasting glowing images of faces and figures into unoccupied rooms in homes and motels across America. Between 1963 and 1969 the series grew but was not brought together in full until a 2001 exhibition at the Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.

In this book, Saul Anton argues that The Little Screens ‘operate both as a collection and much like a single photographic work conceived as open-ended, potentially infinite’. Marking the historical intersection of modern art and photography at the moment when television came into its own, Friedlander’s images reflect the competing logics of the museum, print and electronic media, and anticipate the issues that have emerged in a world of ubiquitous ‘little screens’.

Jeff Koons: One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank
Afterall Books, One Work

In Jeff Koons’s One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (1985), a Spalding basketball floats in the centre of a glass tank that rests on a simple black metal stand. The work presents what Koons called ‘the penultimate state of being’ — neither death nor life, but a suspended state of rest. It has been called one of the defining works of the 1980s, but was also described as ‘an endgame’, ‘misleading’ and part of a ‘repulsive’ practice.

In this book, Michael Archer argues that such an image of stillness captured the spirit of its day. He discusses One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank and Koons’s work from the time in the wider context of the 1980s art world — a world in which a renewed attention to painting met the legacy of Pop and appropriation art. He also relates One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank to popular culture, sport and science, examining the significance of the work’s temporary but endlessly renewable state of suspension.

Dara Birnbaum: Technology / Transformation: Wonder Woman
Afterall Books, One Work

Opening with a prolonged salvo of fiery explosions accompanied by the howl of a siren, Dara Birnbaum’s Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978-79) shows the secretary Diana Prince changing again and again into the superhero Wonder Woman. By isolating and repeating the moment of transformation – spinning figure, arms outstretched – this landmark work in the history of video and appropriation unmasks the language of television, the mechanisms of gender representation and the technology at the heart of the metamorphosis.

T.J. Demos explores Birnbaum’s pioneering development of the possibilities of video as a medium, situating it historically amidst postmodernist appropriation, media analysis and feminist politics. He proposes a fascinating shift in the positioning of Birnbaum’s work, from an emphasis on her deconstruction of mass cultural ideology to an innovative and newfound consideration of her creative retooling of consumer imagery.

Martha Rosler: The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems
Afterall Books, One Work

In The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems (1974—75), Martha Rosler bridged the concerns of art with those of political documentary. The work, a series of twenty-one black-and-white photographs, twenty-four text panels and three blank panels, embraces the codes of the photo-text experiments of the period and applies them to the social reality of New York’s Lower East Side.

In this illustrated book, Steve Edwards carefully describes The Bowery and contextualises it in relation to the work of the San Diego Group, examines the prevailing view of the work as a critique of documentary, studies its relation to Jean-Luc Godard and other examples of political modernism, and concludes with a speculative insertion of The Bowery within the pastoral tradition.


Dan Graham: Rock My Religion
Afterall Books, One Work

Dan Graham’s Rock My Religion (1982–84) is a video essay populated by punk and rock performers (Patti Smith, Jim Morrison, Black Flag and Glenn Branca) and historical figures (including Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers). This coming together of several narrative voice-overs, of singing and shouting voices, of jarring sounds and text overlaid onto shaky, gritty images, proposes a historical genealogy of rock music and an ambitious thesis on the origins of America.

In this illustrated book, Kodwo Eshun examines this landmark work of contemporary moving image in relation to Graham’s wider body of work and to the broader culture of the time, especially in relation to history, popular culture, and individual and communal identity.

Andy Warhol: Blow Job
Afterall Books, One Work

Andy Warhol’s Blow Job, made at the Factory in New York in 1964, is a masterpiece of the complexities of voyeurism and duration. The 36-minute film shows a young man apparently receiving oral sex, though the viewer only ever sees his head and shoulders – leaving the person performing the act in our imagination. Sometimes the man looks bored, sometimes as if he is thinking, sometimes as if he is aware of the camera, sometimes as if he is not. What might have been pornographic becomes an extended examination of the passing of time and the materiality of film. The silent, black-and-white film is exemplary of Warhol’s works produced during the early 1960s, alongside such films as SleepEmpireHarlot and Couch.

In this important book, the influential film-maker and writer Peter Gidal shows how Blow Job is a film about film, about time and also about mortality. Gidal places Blow Job within a history of works by artists, including Duchamp and Velázquez, that directly affect the viewer, enacting a pattern of recognition and loss that constitutes the experience of perception itself.

Marc Camille Chaimowicz: Celebration? Realife
Afterall Books, One Work

Marc Camille Chaimowicz’s groundbreaking installation Celebration? Realife was originally created for ‘Three Life Situations’ at Gallery House London in 1972. The work is a strange hybrid of scatter environment, a theatrical stage and a performance piece. Meant as a critique of modernist objectivism, Celebration? Realife is also a consciously messy and ambivalent reaction to the clean conceits of Conceptualist and post-Minimalist tendencies.

Tom Holert argues that with Celebration? Realife, Chaimowicz makes a strategic and important meditation on the changing role of the artist, who in this defining work simultaneously becomes art director, choreographer and participant. Celebration? Realife probes the relationship between art, design, popular culture and performance at a moment when these disciplines, genres and milieus hardly ever met. Holert shows how this influential work inventively anticipates and helps to define an important and increasingly popular tendency in art.

Michael Snow: Wavelength
Afterall Books, One Work

In 1966 Michael Snow made the film Wavelength, a masterful exploration of the nature of perception. Throughout the film’s forty-five minutes, the camera slowly zooms from one end of a New York City loft space to its far wall, accompanied by the sound of a rising sine wave.

In this critical study, Elizabeth Legge describes Wavelength as a film of expertly managed tensions, sensuous beauty, subtle light and colour and recession into perspectival depth. Wavelength was crucial to critics’ efforts to establish a vocabulary for the experimental film movement emerging a the time, and has functioned ever since as a blue screen in front of which a range of ideological and intellectual dramas have been played.

Fischli and Weiss: The Way Things Go
Afterall Books, One Work

The Way Things Go (Der Lauf der Dinge, 1987) is a thirty-minute film by Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss featuring a series of chain reactions involving ordinary objects. It is also one of the truly wonderful works of art produced in the late twentieth century. The film embodies many of the qualities that make Fischli and Weiss’s work among the most captivating in the world today: slapstick humour and profound insight; a forensic attention to detail; a sense of illusion and transformation; and the dynamic exchange between states of order and chaos. As everyday objects crash, scrape, slide or fly into one another with devastating, impossible and persuasive effect, viewers find themselves witnessing a spectacle that seems at once prehistoric and post-apocalyptic. Millar tells us why this extraordinary film speaks to us at the beginning of the twenty-first century. If history is ‘just one thing after another’, then The Way Things Go is truly a historic work.

Hollis Frampton: (nostalgia)
Afterall Books, One Work

Hollis Frampton’s film (nostalgia), made in 1971, is a witty, hypnotic account of an artist’s experiences as a photographer in New York City from 1959 to 1966. Long overlooked and understudied, (nostalgia) is a formal masterpiece. It emerges from a body of film that is rarely screened, with prints damaged and difficult to locate. Rachel Moore introduces a new generation to a critical moment in art history when (nostalgia) exposed the fragility and the essence of film itself.

Joan Jonas: I Want to Live in the Country (And Other Romances)
Afterall Books, One Work

In Joan Jonas’s 1976 video work I Want to Live in the Country (And Other Romances) the artist investigates a geography of displacement and irrefutable desires. The work veers constantly between two locations, the coastal landscape of rural Nova Scotia and a windowless New York City studio. Describing Jonas’s approach to video as a drawing tool, an endless mirror and a framing device, Susan Morgan takes us through the exterior and interior scenes that comprise this work and considers how Jonas has used performance and video since 1968 to explore ways of seeing, the inherent rhythms of ritual and the archetypal authority of objects and gestures.

Richard Long: A Line Made by Walking
Afterall Books, One Work

In 1967, Richard Long, then a student at St. Martin’s School of Art in London, walked back and forth along a straight line in the grass in the English countryside, leaving a track that he then photographed in black and white. This work, A Line Made by Walking, was not only the starting point for Long’s career as an artist, but also a landmark for a new kind of art emerging in Europe and the Americas.

In this critical study, Dieter Roelstraete explores how the work’s location outside the gallery context and its suggestion of bodily action makes it characteristic of the work made by a new generation of artists who combined the organic, the temporary, the non-material and the performative to offer a critique of the art system and its language, forms and values.

Richard Hamilton: Swingeing London 67 (f)
Afterall Books, One Work

One of the defining paintings of British Pop art, Richard Hamilton’s Swingeing London 67 (f) depicts two men – Mick Jagger and Hamilton’s art dealer Robert Fraser – handcuffed together in the back of a police van.

The image is taken from a newspaper photograph that shows the two being driven from Lewes prison to Chichester Magistrates Court following their June 1967 arrest for possession of drugs. In this illustrated study of Hamilton’s painting, Andrew Wilson views Swingeing London 67 (f) as history painting, to be understood in the context of the struggle against the British state’s attempt–aided and abetted by the popular press – to repress any expression of personal liberation.