Scholar, critic and Distinguished Professor at the Graduate Center – CUNY, David Joselit has worked on pivotal moments in modern art ranging from the Dada movement of the early 20th century to the emergence of globalization and new media over the past decade. His latest book, After Art (Princeton University Press, 2012) defines a shift in the status of art under dual pressures of digital technology—through which images may be reformatted and disseminated instantly and effortlessly—and a globalized art world that functions like a cross between the film industry and higher education. It continues the arguments made in Feedback: Television Against Democracy (MIT Press, 2007), which addresses television as a closed circuit that video artists and media activists have broken into in a variety of ways since the 1960s. Joselit’s first book, Infinite Regress: Marcel Duchamp 1910-1941 (October Books; MIT Press, 1998), positions Duchamp’s art at the intersection of a waning industrial world and the emergence of consumer culture in the late teens and twenties. American Art Since 1945 (Thames and Hudson, 2003) is a synthetic survey that grows in part out of Joselit’s years as a curator at The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston during the 1980s, and his longstanding practice as a critic for such publications as Artforum and Art in America. He is currently an editor of OCTOBER. In addition to his main areas of research Joselit has a strong interest in gender, queer, and feminist studies.
Neoteric Art: What inspired you to write “After Art”?
David Joselit: I wrote After Art because I felt a disconnect between the art I was looking at all the time and the critical tools available for interpreting it. If appropriating and reformatting existing content has become as fundamental a practice among artists today as sketching once was for history painters, can it still be called “subversive”? And what is being subverted if the art market just continues to grow? I was interested in proposing a different source of value for art: connectivity as opposed to subversion. I wanted to trace the social assemblages art makes—connecting, for instance, philosophy, manual dexterity and the enormous wealth of the 1%. How can the real power of art—the power that leads to gentrification and social distinction be harnessed for progressive ends? How can the artist as content aggregator explore the conditions of uneven development endemic to globalization? What does art mean when we live in a glutted image world? How do you make art in the age of Google? After Art is polemical response—almost a manifesto—in the face of these questions and conditions.