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Contemporary Art and the Interrogation of Mastery


Contemporary Art and the Interrogation of Mastery

Explores contemporary art that challenges deadly desires for mastery and dominion.
Amid times of emboldened cruelty and perpetual war, Rosalyn Deutsche links contemporary art to three practices that counter the prevailing destructiveness: psychoanalytic feminism, radical democracy, and war resistance. Deutsche considers how art joins these radical practices to challenge desires for mastery and dominion, which are encapsulated in the Eurocentric conception of the human that goes under the name “Man” and is driven by deadly inclinations that Deutsche calls masculinist. The masculinist subject—as an individual or a group—universalizes itself, claims to speak on behalf of humanity, and meets differences with conquest.
Analyzing artworks by Christopher D’Arcangelo, Robert Filliou, Hans Haacke, Mary Kelly, Silvia Kolbowski, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Martha Rosler, James Welling, and Krzysztof Wodiczko, Deutsche illuminates the diverse ways in which they expose, question, and trouble the visual fantasies that express masculinist desire. Undermining the mastering subject, these artworks invite viewers to question the positions they assume in relation to others. Together, the essays in Not-Forgetting, written between 1999 and 2020, argue that this art offers a unique contribution to building a less cruel and violent society.


304 pages | 12 color plates, 66 halftones | 6 x 9

Art: Art Criticism, Art--General Studies


“Deutsche’s writing brilliantly reveals the complexities and tensions of a period that no one categorical designation can fully encompass. Her deep, sustained relationships with many of the artists she writes about make this collection invaluable to writers and artists as a model for balancing affective engagement with rigorous critical fairness and independence.”


Ann Reynolds, University of Texas at Austin

“Not-Forgetting’s urgent topic is the ‘shared project’ of feminism, radical democracy, and war resistance. Deutsche brilliantly illuminates the role of art in shaping that project through an innovative matrix of psychoanalysis, feminism, poststructuralism, and critical theory. This is an intellectually original, timely, and compelling book.”

Mignon Nixon, University College London

Table of Contents

Part One: Psychoanalytic Feminism
1 Not-Forgetting: Mary Kelly’s Love Songs (2006)
2 Inadequacy: Silvia Kolbowski’s History of Conceptual Art (2004)
3 Darkness: The Emergence of James Welling (2002)
4 Breaking Ground: Barbara Kruger’s Spatial Practice (1999)
5 Louise Lawler’s Rude Museum (2006)
Part Two: Radical Democracy
6 Christopher D’Arcangelo’s Elliptical Interruptions (2020)
7 The Art of Not Being Governed Quite So Much: Hans Haacke’s Polls (2007)
8 Art from Guantánamo Bay (2020)
9 Reasonable Urbanism (1999)
Part Three: War Resistance
10 Un-War: An Aesthetic Sketch (2014)
11 Museum of Innocence (2014)
12 “We don’t need another hero”: War and Public Memory (2017)
13 Louise Lawler’s Play Technique (2017)
14 Mary Kelly’s Attunement (2017/2020)
15 Martha Rosler’s Unrest (2018)

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