The work of Paul Chan (b. 1973) has charted a course in contemporary art as unpredictable and wide-ranging as the thinking that grounds his practice. "Paul Chan: Selected Writings 2000–2014" collects the critical essays and artists texts that first appeared in Artforum, October, Texte zur Kunst, and Frieze, among other publications, as well as never before published speeches and language-based works. From the comedy of artistic freedom in Duchamp to the contradictions that bind aesthetics and politics, Chan’s writings revel in the paradoxes that make the experience of art both vexing and pleasurable. He lays bare the ideas and personalities that motivate his work by reflecting on artists as diverse as Henry Darger, Chris Marker, Sigmar Polke, and Paul Sharits. He grapples with writers and thinkers who have played decisive roles in his practice, including Theodor W. Adorno, Samuel Beckett, and Marquis De Sade. Along the way, Chan forges an understanding of the role of art in a host of broader social and political arenas beyond galleries and museums, where the potential of art is tested and renewed. Edited by George Baker and Eric Banks with Isabel Friedli and Martina Venanzoni, with an introduction by Baker.
ABOUT PAUL CHAN
Paul Chan lives and works in New York. His work has been exhibited in numerous international shows including: documenta 13, Kassel, 2012; Before The Law, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 2011-12; Making Worlds, 53rd Venice Biennale, Venice, 2009; Medium Religion, ZKM, Karlsruhe, 2008; Traces du sacré, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2008 and the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of Art, New York, 2006. Recent solo exhibitions include Paul Chan - Selected Works, Schaulager, Basel, 2014; Paul Chan: The 7 Lights, Serpentine Gallery, London and New Museum, New York, 2007–2008. In 2007, Chan collaborated with the Classical Theatre of Harlem and Creative Time to produce a site-specific outdoor presentation of Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot in New Orleans. Chan’s essays and interviews have appeared in Artforum, Frieze, Flash Art, October, Tate etc, Parkett, Texte zur Kunst, Bomb, and other magazines and journals. He founded the publishing house Badlands Unlimited in 2010.
This is one to come back to again and again.
I first came to Chan’s writing through Eflux, an article an old professor of mine had sent “What Art Is and Where it Belongs.” I was immediately wrapped up in the concepts, the clarity by which he writes. I continuously came back to the essay when writing my own critical theory. When I saw that he had included the essay in this recent collection, I knew I had to read the others. I read the book largely in order, then began to skip around, but the essays still managed to come together. I was struck by the fluidity of the writing, taking turns between in depth knowledge of philosophy, to pop culture references, activism, and political theater. He puts himself in a position where he is constantly learning and stringing us along — the connections he raises seem effortless as we pass from one philosopher to another. And even as he is citing Hegel, he wraps it up in humor. It is a means of contextualizing that goes far beyond a bland definition, so that it is not just about grasping a concept, but understanding its application. There is also something exciting about reading this as an e-book, the graphics, the embedded youtube clips, and the drawings that obviously belonging to another space but perfectly exist within the context of the page.
To anyone interested in reading about Duchamp, Foucault, sex, communication, student debt, activism, religion, this has all and more. I highly recommend to any aspiring artists. For a non-fiction read, it is quite the page turner.
never let school interfere with your education
I’ve been coming across Chan’s writing for some time and i’ve always enjoyed it. so it’s really cool that they’re collected here including a lot of essays from obscure magazines that i’ve never seen before. Chan’s writing is philosophical but also street like quoting mark twain about MFA art programs “Never let schooling interfere with your education.”