[UCP Books]: The Way of the Shovel: On the Archaeological Imaginary in Art


“The Way of the Shovel” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
November 9, 2013–March 9, 2014

Artists include: Pamela Bannos, Lene Berg, Pierre Bismuth, Derek Brunen, Moyra Davey, Mariana Castillo Deball, Mark Dion, Stan Douglas, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Cyprien Gaillard, Raphael Grisey, Scott Hocking, Rebecca Keller, Daniel Knorr, Aleksandr Komarov, Susanne Kriemann, Jason Lazarus, Goshka Macuga, Jean-Luc Moulène, Deimantas Narkevicius, Sophie Nys, Gabriel Orozco, Michael Rakowitz, Steve Rowell, Anri Sala, David Schutter, Hito Steyerl, Tony Tasset, Zin Taylor, Shellburne Thurber, and Ana Torfs

 On the Archaeological Imaginary in Art
Edited by Dieter Roestraete


Publication date: 15 December 2013 $45.00 • £35.00
UK publication date: 23 December 2013 ISBN: 978-0-226-09412-0 (Cloth)


Contemporary art is often obsessed with the new, but it has recently begun to turn to projects centering on research and delving into archives, all in the name of seeking and questioning historical truth. From filmmakers to sculptors to conceptualists, artists of all stripes are digging into the rubble of the past. In this catalogue that accompanies an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Dieter Roelstraete gathers a diverse range of international artists to explore the theme of melding archival and experiential modes of storytelling—what he calls “the archaeological imaginary”—particularly in the wake of 9/11.

The Way of the Shovel offers a well-constructed balance among excursions into the situation of contemporary art, broad philosophical arguments around the subjects of history and the archive, and cultural analysis. Opening up the discussion of the archaeological imaginary in art to adjacent fields, the book includes several essays that create an overarching narrative for the exhibition and introduce readers to the workings of history in art. Roelstraete’s opening essay maps the critical terrain, while Ian Alden Russell explores the roots of archaeology and the manifestations in twentieth-century art, Bill Brown examines artistic practices that involve historical artifacts and archival material, Sophie Berrebi offers a historiographical critique of the “document” as seen in art after the 1960s, and Diedrich Diederichsen writes on the monumentalization of history in European art. The catalogue features work by both established and young artists, and thoughtful entries by Roelstraete accompany the exhibition catalogue, along with statements from artists Moyra Davey, Rebecca Keller, Joachim Koester, Hito Steyerl, and Zin Taylor.

The first exhibition to showcase this innovative approach to some of the most intriguing art of the past decade, The Way of the Shovel is indispensable for anyone seeking to understand the forces driving contemporary art.

Dieter Roelstraete is the Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and an editor of Afterall. He is the author of Richard Long: A Line Made by Walking.

For additional information, please contact Laura Avey at (773)702-0376 or lavey@press.uchicago.edu.



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