« Art Critics' Reading List


Originally from the Netherlands, Leonie Bradbury is a curator of contemporary art and has served as the director of Montserrat College of Art Galleries in Beverly, Mass., since 2005. Bradbury is a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy and art theory at the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts and is completing her dissertation “The Expanded Object: Redefining the Network in Contemporary Art.” Her recent publication credits include “Franklin Evans: A Moment of Complexity” in Franklin Evans: Juddrules, by Montserrat College of Art (2015), and “Infinite Reflection” in Kelsey Brookes: Psychedelic Space, by Ginko Press (2015).

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

A Thousand Plateaus is an open-ended system, a treatise about flow and flux, movement and multiplicities that proposes a different way of thinking. Deleuze and Guattari criticize the dualism of binary logic as limiting and static. They advocate instead for the diverse form of the rhizome with its characteristics of connection and heterogeneity, with any point of a rhizome having the capability to connect to any other. This text shatters linearity and chronology, both in its physical form and in the radical ideas it introduces. The existent, hierarchical system of knowledge has been replaced with the idea of the “and, and and…” as it reveals a system of relational knowledge and interconnectivity. The book is a call to action to build up intensity in one’s life and create a circumstance of heightened awareness and a highly energized state, a plateau, which allows for multiple connections and passages to build between the various hubs of activity to create a mesh of heightened states. All things are in flux, constantly changing and folding in on each other, only to get remixed again.

Nicolas Bourriaud. Relational Aesthetics. Lyon: Presses du Réel, 1998.

Bourriaud argues for the art object as a state of encounter, as a dynamic activity consisting in producing relationships with the world with the help of signs, forms, actions and objects. He no longer views the work of art as an autonomous object, but rather as an active participation between artwork and viewer. The artwork serves as an activator, and meaning is generated as a result of this interactive engagement between object and subject. According to Bourriaud, the work of art cannot be reduced to simply a thing that the artist produces, as it is not just a formal, aesthetic endeavor. Instead, the art “object” acts as a trajectory evolving through signs, objects, forms and gestures. Art is an act and part of a larger, ever-shifting continuum, a field. For Bourriaud, each particular artwork is a proposal to live in a shared world, and the work of every artist is a bundle of relations with the world that give rise to other relations, and so on.

David Abrams. The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. New York: Random House, Vintage Books, 1997.

Abrams’ ecological philosophy of language connects sources as divergent as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Balinese magic, animism, Native American sacred storytelling and Aboriginal mapmaking to explore different cultural understandings of time and space and examines alternate worldviews. Spell of the Sensuous offers philosophical poetry and suggests fluidity is at the core of our experience of the world, while simultaneously calling into question things we generally assume are fixed, such as our understanding of time, space and perception. We think the world is as humans experience it but should consider a more holistic approach that includes other presences in the world, such as the animals and the earth. Abrams quotes from Merleau-Ponty’s embodied philosophy: “All knowledge is subjective” and advocates for enhancing our connection to the natural world through a reawakening of our sensorial bond. He introduces intersubjectivity and convincingly presents objective reality as a subjective, theoretical construction. Spell of the Sensuous reveals that our entire experience of the world as humans is ambiguous, a subjective awareness and perception within diverse modes of appearances.