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Each One Another

The Self in Contemporary Art

A consideration of how contemporary art can offer a deeper understanding of selfhood.
 With Each One Another, Rachel Haidu argues that contemporary art can teach us how to understand ourselves as selves—how we come to feel oneness, to sense our own interiority, and to shift between the roles that connect us to strangers, those close to us, and past and future generations. Haidu looks to intergenerational pairings of artists to consider how three aesthetic vehicles––shape in painting, characters in film and video, and roles in dance––allow us to grasp selfhood. Better understandings of our selves, she argues, complement our thinking about identity and subjecthood.
She shows how Philip Guston’s figurative works explore shapes’ descriptive capacities and their ability to investigate history, while Amy Sillman’s paintings allow us to rethink expressivity and oneness. Analyzing a 2004 video by James Coleman, Haidu explores how we enter characters through their interior monologues, and she also looks at how a 2011 film by Steve McQueen positions a protagonist’s refusal to speak as an argument for our right to silence. In addition, Haidu examines how Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s distribution of roles across dancers invites us to appreciate formal structures that separate us from one another while Yvonne Rainer’s choreography shows how such formal structures also bring us together. Through these examples, Each One Another reveals how artworks allow us to understand oneness, interiority, and how we become fluid agents in the world, and it invites us to examine—critically and forgivingly—our attachments to selfhood.

288 pages | 41 color plates, 21 halftones | 7 x 10 | © 2023

Art: Art Criticism, Art--General Studies


“What can art teach us that other forms of thought cannot? What can we learn from the movements in dance or the shapes in painting? In this innovative book, Haidu suggests that interpretations once deemed ‘formal’ actually have a surfeit of meaning, and how we describe that excess is hardly neutral; in fact, it often has something to say about the perennial problem of the subject or subjectivity—of both the maker and the viewer. This book will make you pay close attention to the texture and meanings of the words we use when we talk about art and possibly show you that those words are also a means of talking about ourselves.”

Helen Molesworth, curator and author of Duchamp: By Hand, Even

Each One Other is a fascinating, beautifully written, brilliantly conceived, and expertly researched reflection on three basic elements of artistic form—shape, character, and role—as vehicles for the experience of selfhood. Haidu offers vivid and compelling introductions to each aesthetic concept, and she pays lavish attention to the works and artists she considers. Indeed, her stunning descriptions and readings of individual works are unrivaled.”

Jonathan Flatley, author of Like Andy Warhol

Each One Another is an original and ambitious examination of selfhood as an experience of interiority and one’s ownness. Haidu’s treatment of the work of six artists shows how shape, character, and role uniquely function within particular media, and she explores the possibilities they bring to the domain of aesthetics and to the understanding of selfhood as an experience of what’s left over ‘for us’ beyond our construction as subjects. Executed in distinctive and alluringly abstract prose, the book transcends disciplinary habits and is a pleasure to read.”

Eve Meltzer, author of Systems We Have Loved

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

I Shape
Philip Guston: Late Work
Amy Sillman: Shape, Structure, and Feeling

II Character
James Coleman: Retake with Evidence
Steve McQueen: Shame

III Role
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Work/Travail/Arbeid
Yvonne Rainer, The Concept of Dust, or How do you look when there’s nothing left to move?

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