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Mercedes Vicente is curator of Contemporary Art at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. She earned masters degrees in Film and the Arts from New York University and in Curatorial Studies from Bard College and was Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellow at the Whitney Independent Study Program. Vicente has curated numerous exhibitions including “From mini-FM to hacktivists: A guide to art and activism” 2005, “Darcy Lange: Study of artist at work” 2006, “Activating Korea: Tides of collective action” 2007 and Javier Tellez’ “Intermission” 2009. As a critic, she has contributed to international publications including Exit, Lapiz, Manifesta Journal, Broadsheet and Camera Austria.

Oiticica in London. Edited by Guy Brett and Luciano Figueiredo. London: Tate Publishing, 2007.

Conveyed in a collection of insightful testimonies by various contributors, this book traces a particular chapter in the career of Brazilian artist Helio Oiticica: his arrival in London in the late 1960s and the story surrounding his delayed exhibition at Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1969, which materialized with the great advocacy of British critic and curator Guy Brett and artist David Medalla. Intended as a modest one-man exhibition, the “Whitechapel Experiment” became the most important survey of Oiticica’s career. Held as one of the most independent and idiosyncratic Latin American artists, Oiticica contributed to the avant-garde revision of Modernism in the post-WWII era. This reading, which feels like a premonitory tribute in the aftermath of the destruction by fire of nearly his entire estate last October, is devastating yet oddly reassuring. It underlines the intrinsic ephemeral nature of Oiticica’s work. It also emphasizes how his legacy resonates forcefully through generations, passed along in the form of ideas. Brett conveyed the hope after the disaster, “that Helio’s Thought will survive and continue to inspire people.”

Jayce Salloum: History of the Present. Edited by Jen Budney. Mendel Art Gallery, Kamloops Art Gallery, Confederation Centre Art Gallery, 2009.

This comprehensive catalogue accompanies an overdue survey on the work of Lebanese Canadian Jayce Salloum, an artist with a multifaceted career now expanding over 30 years. Organized and published jointly by the three Canadian institutions, it features only selected works from 1985-2009. The handsome, magazine-like publication is an anthology of a dozen or so writings of varied nature – some rather poetic, others directly critical- that attempt to pay justice to Salloum’s versatile and prolific practice. Best known for his photo-based and multimedia works, Salloum has also acted as a curator, been actively involved in community work and has been a founding member of many artists’ collectives in Canada, the USA and Lebanon. The multiple voices collected here reflect the sense of inclusiveness and collaborative effort (institutional as well as in the number and nature of the writing contributions) that characterize the artist’s modus operandi. Salloum’s longstanding exploration of identity, border changes and territorial shifts in a transnational context comes through as his signature style.

Speaking Truth to Power: Public Intellectuals Rethinking New Zealand. Edited by Laurence Simmons. Auckland, NZ: Auckland University Press, 2007.

An interesting collection of essays and interviews with leading intellectuals in New Zealand including Jane Kesley, Brian Easton, Nicky Hager, James Belich, Lloyd Geering, Marilyn Waring, and the late Michael King, who holds a laureate position. These strong and insightful opinions on this rather contentious subject leave the reader with a permeating sense of impotence, nostalgic at times, at the current state of the country’s public intellectual life. The introduction by the editor Laurence Simmons, an academic of strong Derridian and French structuralism, blames it on the resurgent individualistic, neoconservative agenda of the New Right, and the absence of a countering articulated left-liberal alternative. Simmons’ introduction traces the term intellectual and its historical uses, and settles down with Edward Said’s idea of the intellectual as one who lives a self-imposed exile, speaking from the margins of society, the “author of the language that tries to speak the truth to power.” Three core essays lead the way for the eleven interviews, with a revealing, short history of the New Zealand intellectual by Roger Horrocks and a set of shrewd word drawings by artist John Reynolds.