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The Curious Curator's Book Blog

Contemporary art curator. Student. Book addict. Art lover. Geek. Dreamer. Curious about everything. Check out my website http://thecuriouscurator.com/

Currently reading

EarthBound (Boss Fight Books, #1)
Ken Baumann
How to Do Things with Videogames
Ian Bogost
Philosophie des jeux vidéo
Mathieu Triclot

100 Greatest Console Video Games 1977-1987 by Brett Weiss

The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987 - Brett Weiss

This book is a detailed overview of the so-called "golden age of console gaming", following a subjective selection and ordering of video games. Included are the context in which each game was created, its critical reception, both at the time it came out and over the years, and the price for which it can be bought today, making this book a mix of collector’s guide and historical document. Each game’s entry also includes color photographs of the cover, the cartridge, the instruction manual, and other promotional materials, as well as a screenshot of the game in action (although that’s not included for every game).

The writing is very subjective and often punctuated by sarcasm, which can be rather off-putting. The choice of games is primarily informed by the most subjective of criteria: how much fun the game is to the author. It’s a problem shared by most of the books I’ve read dedicated to making best-of lists (although sometimes it is mitigated by having more than one author). In this case, the personal anecdotes about the author’s experience with playing the game, both as a child and an adult, and how much play time it gets with his children, detracted a bit from the reading. In part, I am to blame for that: I am not familiar with the author’s previous work as a video game critic - if I was (and if it is quality work), I would probably trust his judgment without needing further justification. As such, it would be nice to have had a deeper examination of each game (this happens with a few games, but not with all).

These details aside, this book stands as a remarkable piece of research. The author went through hundreds of games (including ports for different consoles, spin-offs and rip-offs) in order to find the best of the best, and that is not an easy feat. For someone like me, born after the aforementioned golden age, this was an enjoyable read which allowed me to expand my knowledge about classic video games and rediscover some old favourites. An excellent way to immerse yourself in the world of retrogaming, whether you’re a newcomer or a veteran. 

 

Note: I got this book for review purposes through NetGalley. This review has been cross-posted to my Curious Curator blog. 

Modern Man by Anthony Flint

Modern Man: The Life of Le Corbusier, Architect of Tomorrow - Anthony Flint

Le Corbusier (pseudonym for Charles-Édouard Jeanneret) is considered one of the most influential architects of the 20th century, credited with starting the ‘starchitect’ trend, along with his American rival, Frank Lloyd Wright. He broke with established ideas about what architecture and urbanism should be, reinventing the home as a ‘machine for living’ and revolutionising the way we think about cities. 

"Modern Man: The Life of Le Corbusier, Man of Tomorrow” by Anthony Flint is an accessible account of the architect’s life and work, with detailed descriptions of his various buildings and projects. Le Corbusier’s ideas are well known for most people in the art world, myself included, but I knew very little about his life, experiences, inspirations, travels, and how they intertwined with his works, so this book seemed like the perfect read.

I am not an expert on architecture, but I have studied enough of it to have a fairly informed opinion on Le Corbusier’s philosophy. I tend to agree with critic Jane Jacobs (who is cited in the book, and was the subject of a previous book by the same author): architects like Le Corbusier tend to ignore the way people actually live in the spaces they create; they tend to forget that architecture may give cues, but in the end is meant to be lived in freely, instead of forcing people to follow an architect's instructions on how to live properly in a space. Furthermore, one of the side-effects of Le Corbusier’s urbanism is to eliminate street life - it assumes the street as a place of passage, when in many cities, it is a place of living, of community-building, an important part of that city’s identity.I am also wary of those who defend demolishing old buildings to make way for new ones. For me, it is seldom a good idea; in fact, it is a lazy idea. Good urban planning should improve living conditions while accommodating a city’s history, of which its buildings are an important part.   

Le Corbusier’s vision of a modern city is one built for efficiency in an industrialist, capitalist sense. However, people are not machines, and they may not want to apply the streamlined (some would say deadening) Fordist assembly line mass production ideals to their personal lives. 

I admit, it’s easy to be critical with hindsight. Le Corbusier was a man of his time, and his ideas made sense back then. They had never been tried before, and he couldn’t have imagined the impact (he predicted the good, but not the bad) they would have eventually. On an aesthetic level, I can see the appeal of his work, specially the villas and churches. And his influence on subsequent generations of architects cannot be understated.

On a more personal note, Le Corbusier was not an easy person to sympathise with. His arrogance and lack of moral compass are notable in his words and actions, and his efforts to whitewash the darkest periods of his life do little to endear him to critics.

The book does not gloss over the more negative sides of Le Corbusier’s life and work - while admiring, it also makes an effort to be unbiased and objective. Recommended as a source of information for understanding the pioneer of modern architecture. 

 

Note: I got this book for review purposes through NetGalley. This review has been cross-posted to my Curious Curator blog. 

Van Gogh: A Power Seething by Julian Bell

Van Gogh: A Power Seething (Icons) - Julian Bell

Having just watched Lust for Life (1956), a biopic dedicated to Vincent van Gogh’s life and work, I was left wanting a deeper, less melodramatic exploration of his art and life. I decided it would be best to start with something a little more lightweight than van Gogh’s letters. This book, Van Gogh: A Power Seething, follows the artist’s life from the beginning, his travels, relationships, hopes and fears, punctuating his troubled and wandering life with explorations of his artwork and artistic outlook.

The writing is rigorous, but at the same time, the author’s beliefs are glimpsed through the narrative, a fact that the author acknowledges from the beginning. Perhaps that’s the peculiarity of seeing it with the eyes of another artist, instead of an art historian. This book was written by Julian Bell, a writer who is also a painter, and who consequently seems to understand van Gogh not just intelligibly, but intuitively as well. He does not always agree with, or even understand, van Gogh’s actions. But one senses a kind of sympathy and understanding that seems to mirror Theo van Gogh’s attitude towards his brother, while still keeping a critical view of the facts that keeps this book from turning into a subjective retelling.

Van Gogh’s artworks are intricately connected to the places he lived in and the people he knew. The sense of urgency in his paintings is frequently found in his letters, in which he muses about his ideas, techniques and themes. I particularly liked reading his thoughts on colour, which, combined with his distinct brush strokes, conveys the drama, emotion and unique perception that his artworks are best known for.

In the end, this is an incredibly sad but relatable story. I recommend reading it with the paintings close at hand for reference, whether through the internet or a book. It’s a good read for those who are familiar with van Gogh’s artwork and would like to know his story a little better. 

 

Note: I got this book for review purposes through NetGalley. This review has been cross-posted to my Curious Curator blog. 

Displaced Persons by Derek McCulloch and Anthony Peruzzo

Displaced Persons - Derek McCulloch

A complex narrative about the past, family and living with the consequences of our choices, as well as humanity’s tragic tendency to forget their history and then keep repeating the same mistakes of the past. 

We follow three main stories concerning an immigrant family in San Francisco, with shorter interludes providing more clues as to the displacement referred to in the title. The characters’ lives are intertwined in a matter that, while intricate, is not too hard to follow, specially with the aid of the timelines provided.

The artwork is beautiful and does a great job in detailing the context of each story, as well as informing the narrative through the use of color. Graphic novels work best when both text and artwork contribute something so that the whole is larger than the sum of the parts, and that’s exactly what happened here. I particularly loved the cover, which makes more sense once you’ve finished the book: it references not only the family tree, but also the literal tree that is at the heart of the displacement story.

Recommended if you’re looking for an intricate, emotionally resonant story. 

 

Note: I got this book for review purposes through NetGalley.

Francis Ford Coppola by Jeff Menne

Francis Ford Coppola (Contemporary Film Directors) - Jeff Menne

Really interesting exploration of Coppola’s life and insight into some of his best and lesser-known movies. As part of what launched the appearance of New Hollywood and a more auteur-focused way of producing film, Coppola’s American Zoetrope company is the book’s starting point and the thread connecting all the different themes. Its history, significance and legacy are seen by the author to inform the totality of Coppola’s oeuvre.

Family and Hollywood are described as metaphors for business and corporations. This allows for an autobiographical reading of Coppola’s movies, as well as presenting them as being informed by opera, which the author considers the aesthetic equivalent to corporate form.

The rest of the Coppola family is also mentioned, and Sofia Coppola’s movies in particular are discussed as the continuation of her father’s project - although more informed by pop music sensitivity than operatic form.

The book is at times a bit too academic, and I must point out that the author seems to be largely uncritical of Coppola: shortcomings are not addressed, except for responding directly to specific criticisms by defending Coppola’s choices. However, since most critiques of Coppola’s work fall into the trap of portraying him as a “wasted genius”, it was refreshing to see a different, more sympathetic perspective.

Recommended if you’re a Coppola fan, or any kind of cinephile. 

 

Note: I got this book for review purposes through NetGalley.

Approaching the End by Peter Labuza

Approaching the End: Imagining Apocalypse in American Film - Peter Labuza

An examination of the apocalypse in cinema and how it relates to film noir, the genre / style that fascinated Hollywood in the 1940s and 50s. The author, Peter Labuza, is a film critic and PhD candidate in critical studies, as well as the host of The Cinephiliacs podcast.

I feel like my understanding of noir film greatly increased while reading this book. I particularly liked the discussion about whether noir can be considered a genre through subject matter or narrative form, style, or something in-between. I also loved the interpretation of what can be considered “the apocalypse” after World War II: beyond the special effects filled explosions of many movies, what interests Peter Labuza is how humanity’s moral, physical and emotional boundaries are pushed to the edge, and what can be found beyond that edge. My cinematic watch list grew with this book, since I haven’t watched many of the earliest movies discussed, such as Kiss Me Deadly (1955), The Big Heat (1953) and God Told Me To (1976). The book is permeated with a sense of humor and genuine love for the works discussed, which is something that I always like to see from academic writers.


Recommended if you’re a film buff, or simply an enthusiast like me.  

 

Note: I got this book for review purposes through NetGalley.

Black and Brown Planets edited by Isiah Lavender, III

Black and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction - Isiah Lavender,  III

A different perspective of science fiction studies, focusing on how race and ethnicity are portrayed in visions of the future. I consider myself a science fiction fan, and still, my reading list grew exponentially as I was reading this book. There’s so much material out there that I wasn’t aware of, so many perspectives I had never considered. It was definitely an eye-opener.

This is an academic book, and consequently, some of the essays are a bit dry, but the interesting ones kept me hooked. I particularly liked the essay on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Benjamin Sisko by De Witt Douglas Kilgore, the essay on the importance of science fiction to black children’s literature, by Marleen S. Barr, and the one about virtual reality as a highly politicised space, by Matthew Goodwin. The highlight, for me, was Malisa Kurtz’s exploration of Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, which has been on my to-read pile for a while and has now moved to the top of said pile.

Recommended if you’re a fan of science fiction and you want to expand your horizons. 

 

Note: I got this book for review purposes through NetGalley.

Urban Acupuncture by Jaime Lerner

Urban Acupuncture - Jaime Lerner

“Good acupuncture is about drawing people out to the streets and creating meeting places. Mainly, it is about helping the city become a catalyst of interactions between people. A mass transit hub, for example, doesn’t have to be just a bus station. It can also be a gathering place." 

 

Cities are supposed to grow organically, but modernity brought with it huge migrations, and in order to accommodate the growing population and its needs, modern urban planning can be summed up in the phrase “out with the old, in with the new”. In general, it consisted in throwing people out of their traditional homes, bulldozing said homes, and build freeways and concrete apartment buildings. Over time, these cities became cities made for cars, not people. People stopped living in the urban space, leading to a dwindling sense of community. These and other reasons made life in big cities unpleasant, chaotic and lonely.

With most of the population quickly shifting to urban communities, it has become more important than ever to understand cities and to know how to make them better places to live and work in. As should be obvious to everyone, this is no easy task. In this book, Jaime Lerner, former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, defends the idea that you don’t have to undertake large-scale changes to a city in order to make it better. You just have to pinpoint a few, small changes here and there, that will trigger a cascade of positive events in the city’s energy - hence, the acupuncture metaphor.

I began reading thinking this was a great analogy, but after a while (and a lot of repetition) I was less sure of its effectiveness. The examples he uses are interesting, but they’re also wildly different, and sometimes it’s hard to understand how it all can be brought together under the concept of “urban acupuncture”. The biggest problem for me was that the examples were a bit too superficially explored. But the book does give an overall hopeful view of the future of cities.

Jaime Lerner sounds like he was a remarkable mayor and is a talented city planner who really understands and loves urban life. 

 

Note: I got this book for review purposes through NetGalley.

Dataclysm by Christian Rudder

By Christian Rudder Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking) - Christian Rudder

“I’m taking something big - an enormous set of what people are doing and thinking and saying, terabytes of data - and filtering from it many small things: what your network of friend says about the stability of your marriage, how Asians (and whites and blacks and Latinos) are least likely to describe themselves, where and why gay people stay in the closet, how writing has changed in the last ten years, and how anger hasn’t. The idea is to move our understanding of ourselves away from narratives and toward numbers, or, rather, thinking in such a way that numbers are the narrative.”

Dataclysm takes the recent phenomenon of metadata and mass surveillance and attempts to present a different side of it: it can be used to control people, but it can also open up unprecedented opportunities for research, history and understanding human nature.

The author, Christian Rudder, is a mathematics major and one of the co-founders of online dating site OkCupid. He decided to take the massive amounts of data they’ve amassed over the years at his website and try to make some sense out of it. In his quest to understand humanity (or at least the part of it that’s online, and mainly in the US) he also enlists the data collected and made available by other companies, including Google and Twitter.

His style of writing is conversational and unflinchingly honest (the chapter at the end, where he writes about the fallacies and shortcomings of data and research, should be included in every non-fiction book out there). He tackles topics that are usually deemed too sensitive for people to talk about, including hidden attitudes towards race, gender and sexual preferences. He also seems to have a balanced view of the possibilites of metadata - the good, the bad and the ugly - for someone who makes his living off it. He does try to paint an overall positive picture, but doesn’t gloss over the negative consequences (for example, at one point, he says that big data is very good, specially for companies and institutions, not so much for the common person), which keeps the book from turning into a preachy “big data is great!” manifesto. 

(As far as I’m concerned, I disagree with his view that the positives outweigh the negatives.)

The themes are a little all over the place, as if he wasn’t quite sure what he wanted the book to be about and just picked the findings that would be more popular, with a strong emphasis on romance (which is not surprising, given the author’s line of work). But it never seems over-stretched, as is often the case with non-fiction books.

Recommended if you’re at all interested in big data, surveillance, psychology and pop science. 

 

Note: I got this book for review purposes through NetGalley.

The Art of Life by Sabin Howard and Traci L. Slatton

The Art of Life - Sabin Howard, Traci L. Slatton

Written by a husband (artist) and wife (writer) team, this book is like a love letter to figurative sculpture. It’s a deeply personal and subjective view of a specific art form that the authors obviously love and, in the husband’s case, dedicated his life to. It follows a line of stories and inspiration through a number of figurative sculptors in Western cultural history, but mostly it focuses on artist Sabin Howard, his life, influences and art. The examples of artists are drawn from a personal connection that either or both the authors had with the work. Traci Slatton also speaks of her husband, the artist, as the spiritual successor to the likes of Canova, Michelangelo, Bernini and Rodin. It’s always tricky when you’re writing about someone so close to you, and it shows in the book in such sweeping phrases as this one: “His [Sabin Howard’s] decades of labor and dedication show in his glorious Apollo, which is the finest standing male nude since Michelangelo’s David”.

Maybe because the writing is so personal, I had a hard time truly connecting with it. What I didn’t like was when the author resorted to making assumptions about historical figures that were coloured by her own subjective point of view, such as appreciating but being uneasy with the nudity in Donatello’s David, finding it provocative and wondering what the artist’s relationship with his model was. This interpretation might be true - we have no way of knowing for sure - but she describes it, among other things, as “reeking of pederasty”, which is a rather bold statement. Or, shortly after, when describing Michelangelo’s David: “This seventeen-foot sculpture ushered in what art historians call the High Renaissance, or, when they’re being really pretentious, the Cinquecento”. Moreover, when it comes to Giambologna’s Mercury, she says “Everyone knows this sculpture because it’s associated with the FTD floral delivery service!” I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about (I’m guessing it’s an American cultural thing). Or about the fallout of figurative art’s popularity: “Three-dimensional modern art devolved into silly doodads, ugly tchotchkes, and trivial balloon toys”. These types of expressions hindered the writing, in my opinion.

On a more positive note, it was interesting to read about the artist’s process, the sculptures are, in general, beautiful, and the photographs illustrate the narrative very well. Sabin Howard is a gifted figurative sculptor. But this book just wasn’t for me. 

 

Note: I got this book for review purposes through NetGalley.

Patent Trolls by William J. Watkins, Jr

Patent Trolls: Predatory Litigation and the Smothering of Innovation - William J. Watkins Jr.

“Patent Trolls” starts by giving a brief introduction to the history of patents on intellectual property, focusing on the reason they were created: to protect inventors and promote innovation and work that benefits society. In order to encourage innovators, patents were created to give them a temporary monopoly, allowing them to commercialise their creations, recover their investments and reap the benefits, which in turn would allow them to cover for all the time and resources spent on research that did not turn out a commercially viable product.

It is a good idea and a noble cause, but of course, some companies found a way to rig the system and take advantage of innovators. These so-called patent trolls buy sketchy and suspiciously general patents (which, in most cases, should never have been granted in the first place) and sit on them, waiting for productive companies to unknowingly use something that could be interpreted as infringing said rights… And then sue. To make sure nobody can touch them, they favour juries that are mostly uneducated about the subject and thus easily manipulated. The favoured place for plaintiffs in the US is the Eastern District of Texas, where the trolls effortlessly enjoy successes in the form of millions and millions of dollars.

The tone of the writing is rather inflammatory, but I believe it’s warranted. The examples singled out by the book are appalling. They are focused on the software and technology industries because that’s what most patent trolls prefer, a consequence of the large amounts of profits to be made in those industries. The legal meanderings involved in these cases are, as expected, confusing and counter-intuitive. The amounts involved are staggering. Somehow, it feels like the current system has been built completely in favour of patent trolls, under the pretence of encouraging innovation. Of course, patent trolls, who don’t contribute anything to society, want everyone else to keep innovating and producing… So they can swoop in and extort money like financial free-loaders. It’s a complete travesty of what patents were created for, and utterly disrespectful to the creators who actually work towards contributing something to society.

The book includes many sensible recommendations for how this problem can be solved, or at least mitigated. The European Union is presented as an example of how to do things (although we are not completely free from these kinds of litigations). Other solutions include specialised juries and shorter patent terms depending on each industry’s particularities.

The author does his best to convey the facts in an interesting and easy-to-read way, but the book is still on the dry side, and personally, legalese is hard for me to understand in my own language, let alone in a foreign language. So I would encourage you to read this if you are interested in the topic, but only if you are prepared for a relatively hard read. 

 

Note: I got this book for review purposes through NetGalley.

The Coming Swarm by Molly Sauter

The Coming Swarm: DDOS Actions, Hacktivism, and Civil Disobedience on the Internet - Molly Sauter

The importance of the internet as a living space cannot be understated. Already millions of people rely on it for professional purposes, socialising, research, news, communication, self-expression and so on. It follows that it should be an important tool for political and social activism, and traditional activist groups have used it as a rally point and communication device, translating tools such as petitions, campaigns and fundraisers into the virtual space. These techniques are widely accepted and respected as activist tools, and as such are protected by law. But the internet is fundamentally different from physical space, and it has given rise to entirely new forms of protest and activist actions. One of these is the DDoS (distributed denial of service) action. In this book, researcher Molly Sauter sets out to explore the importance and validity of DDoS actions as an activist tool, giving an historical perspective of the tool’s use by several groups, including The electrohippies and Anonymous. 

Despite activist efforts, DDoS is still widely considered a criminal activity, and the media and the powers-that-be on the internet do little to dispel this idea, with their fixation on stereotypical, negative views of “hackers” and the disproportionately harsh punishments enacted on those who are discovered to engage in these activities. Sauter does a great job explaining the complicated affair of attempting to encourage social and political change in a space that is essentially dominated by private interests. The physical world has public spaces - the internet does not. 

One of the points the author made that really drove it home for me was the question of accessibility, and how the internet gives people the illusion that everyone now has a voice, that everyone can make his or her opinion heard, that the internet is the great democratiser of public life. But the truth is different. The internet is a big place: unless you already have an established audience or are lucky enough to go viral, your voice is likely to get lost in the noise. The average person does not have the means of a massive corporation, and obviously that will have an impact on that person’s influence. Moreover, the internet is not a free place: it is largely controlled by private interests which work very hard to make sure they have a monopoly on people’s attention. One only has to read the recent discussions surrounding net neutrality to understand that these private companies do not fight a fair fight. They already have control, and they are striving to have more. While it’s true that almost everyone can publish their opinions (however unpleasant they may be to the powers-that-be) online, that does not necessarily mean they will get attention. You’re not guaranteed to have an audience. This is why protests in public spaces are so widely used: you can’t make them invisible. By their nature, they force people to pay attention. How can you do that in the online space? Are DDoS actions the answer?

This book is not only essential for those who are interested in the future of activism and the role that the internet might play in it; it’s also useful for anyone who wishes to truly understand how the internet works, and as a consequence, how it affects those who choose to lead a large part of their lives online.

The writing is a major plus: rigorous, academic, but still easy to understand and interspersed with moments where the author’s passion about the topic shines through. I immediately identified with the writing because it’s the type of academia that I love: firmly grounded on theory and facts, but with real world impact beyond the (often closed) world of research. Molly Sauter is not afraid of showing the hypocrisy behind the non-acceptance of this kind of activism both by the general public, but also (perhaps more importantly) by the traditional activist community as well.

My only complaint with this book is that it’s too small. I understand that, as a Master’s dissertation, it’s the ideal length, but as a book, it would have benefitted from developing some of the ideas even more. But it’s a good introductory way into the topic that still has much to interest those who already know a little about it.  

 

Note: I got this book for review purposes through NetGalley. This review has been cross-posted to my Curious Curator blog. 

Working on My Novel by Cory Arcangel

Working On My Novel - Cory Arcangel

If you follow me on Twitter, it should come as no surprise that I am a huge fan of Cory Arcangel’s work. A couple of months ago he gave a talk at the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, where I work, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of recognition in the way he talked about internet and pop culture - with a mix of love, enchantment, tiredness, and sometimes plain horror. He is best known as an artist who combines various new media (including music, videogames, film, performance, and internet art) to create an oeuvre that is firmly based on technology. But for me, the best thing about his work is the humour in his pieces, his obsession with technology and finding its limitations, and his fascination with people and the emotional possibilities contained within the things they create.

In December 2011, Arcangel created the Twitter account WrknOnMyNovel, and began to retweet every person who included the words “working on my novel” in their tweets. This book is a printed selection of those tweets (with the permission of the original authors), arranged so that they imply a sampled, loosely connected narrative. The effect is disconcerting, but often humorous: after a splurge of one-liner tweets with many punctuation variations accompanying “working on my novel”, someone tweets an expression of relief that they are not working on their novel, only to be followed by someone who started "working on my novel again".

After only ten tweets, the phrase “working on my novel” assumes a kind of mystical power, as if we were following a rosary and repeating a prayer instead of reading a book. 

It makes you wonder why people would stop working on their novels because they felt the need to share with the world that they were doing it. Perhaps this should come as no surprise in this day and age, in which telling others about our lives is as important as living them. Still, it's interesting to see the various contexts in which people choose to write: the musical accompaniment they prefer, the beverages they sip on, the time of day, the place they are sitting on, and, of course, the many distractions that plague them.

 


The book chronicles the process of writing a novel: the joys, the pains, the hopes, the ideas, the writer’s block, the frustrations, the time constraints, the distractions, the need for motivation, and the ever-present procrastination. The minutia of the act of writing is mentioned: word counts, structure, romance, plot, pace, titles...

They are also, simply, slices of life from unknown contributors. Who are all these people? What kinds of lives do they live? And, perhaps more importantly, did they ever finish working on their novels?

The limitation brought about by the 140 characters is visible in the abbreviations all these writers use (which look very much out of place in a book) and on several broken tweets, which end mid-sentence, presumably because their authors would continue their thought on the following tweet (which, since it doesn’t include “working on my novel”, is not in the book).

It makes you think of the fickleness of Twitter, especially compared to the weight of the novel in a writer’s mind. It also makes you consider the entirely human act of writing, of wanting to leave something behind that’s permanent, of producing something from our minds that will survive when the mind does not. After all, writing a book is something that is on most people’s bucket lists. 

So how did Cory Arcangel, someone who (to my knowledge) has not written a novel, get so attuned to this phenomenon? As mentioned above, he is known for his interest in technology, and for (sometimes obsessively) collecting internet artefacts; tweets, a fleeting and ultimately superficial way of communication, fit nicely into those ideas. There’s also something poetic about taking such a fleeting medium and committing it to a stable, semi-permanent medium as is paper books.

If you’re not familiar with Arcangel’s works, you might wonder why he would take what is essentially a born-digital artwork and translate it into a format that, in truth, does not suit it perfectly. Thinking back to the talk I mentioned at the beginning, I remember him discussing the looming threat of death and how, as a digital artist, he felt that everything he did could be gone overnight, not just in case of technological failures, but also because of the very nature of digital media. The internet is a place of ephemerality, of fast communication and rapid consumption; in other words, it is not the ideal place for an artist who wants his or her work to survive his or her lifetime. And that’s why he had begun to commit his works into physical media, even if they weren’t originally intended for them, and even if they are freely available online (at least right now, since we don’t know if, in the future, they will be lost or hard to access, like, for example, Andy Warhol’s recently recovered digital works - Cory Arcangel himself played a big part in the technological process of recovery).

On the downside, I will say this: The book is divided into chapters by doodles of tea kettles. I admit I cannot make sense of this. Is the process of waiting for tea meant to be an analogy to the act of writing a novel? Is each kettle meant to be a symbolic and literal break while you’re reading the book? It seems like an afterthought, and it was the one part of the book that left me puzzled.

In short, this is more of a "born digital and then printed on physical paper” artwork than an actual book. If you buy this thinking you will get a regular book, you will be disappointed (although it will hardly be your fault, since it is purposely made to look and feel like a regular Penguin book). If, however, you look at it as what it really is, a clever, simple but poignant project by an artist well known for doing those, you’re in for a treat.

Note: I got this book for review purposes through NetGalley. This review has been cross-posted to my Curious Curator blog. 

Hypermodern Times - Gilles Lipovetski, Andrew Brown, Sebastein Charles

"The hypercontemporary individual is more autonomous but also more fragile than ever, in proportion as the promises and demands that define him become ever vaster and more massive. Freedom, comfort, quality of life and higher life expectations do not blunt the tragedy of existence; they merely make its scandal crueller." 

This week's book is Hypermodern Times by Gilles Lipovetsky. Do you recognize yourself as a hypermodern individual?

Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present (World of Art) - Roselee Goldberg

It's Tuesday, and as promised, here is a new book video! Today's book is Performance Art - From Futurism to the Present (1988) by Roselee Goldberg. It is a general introduction to the (often wacky) world of Performance Art, which is arguably one of the most loved and hated art forms ever. Have you ever been curious to understand artists like Marina Abramovic and Yoko Ono? This book is a good place to start!

The Doors of Perception/Heaven and Hell - Aldous Huxley

Hello there Booklikers! I decided to start a new vlog dedicated to books. I am an eclectic reader, so I thought it would be a good idea to share a "reading list" of books that are interesting for art geeks, even if they're not necessarily about art.

 

The first book to be featured is Aldous Huxley's "The Doors of Perception" (1954). I will publish a new reading vlog every two weeks.

 

Tell me what you think! And if you have a book vlog, send me the link, I would love to see it!