« Art Critics' Reading List


Noah Simblist is chair and associate professor of Art at SMU Meadows School of the Arts in Dallas. He works as a curator, writer and artist with a focus on the art and politics of Israel and Palestine and has contributed to Art Journal, Modern Painters, Art Papers, Art Lies, ARTPULSE, Art21 and other publications. Curatorial projects include “Emergency Measures” at the Power Station in Dallas, “Yuri’s Office” by Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation at Fort Worth Contemporary Arts, “Out of Place” at Lora Reynolds Gallery and “Queer State(s)” at the Visual Arts Center, both in Austin, and the upcoming “False Flags” with Pelican Bomb in New Orleans.

Ariella Azoulay. Civil Imagination: A Political Ontology of Photography. London and New York: Verso Books, 2012.

In Civil Imagination, Ariella Azoulay says that in the context of a regime-made disaster the regime, its citizens and those that it subjugates are all part of the same disaster. This is a condition that requires the emergence of a civil and political imagination to think a way out of the conditions of catastrophe. She argues that photography, precisely because of the dialogical space that it offers, provides such a platform. Azoulay wrote this in the context of Israel-Palestine, but it offers a way to rethink a number of spaces of political conflict. All too often we are caught in the platitudes of neoliberal technophilia, urged to believe that social media produces visibility, connection and thus democracy in places like Iran or Egypt. But Azoulay shows us that photography is about more than just liking or sharing. It is about the labor of discourse and thus, the creation of a public sphere.

Jalal Toufic. The Withdrawal of Tradition Past a Surpassing Disaster. Forthcoming Books, 2009.

For Jalal Toufic, any representation is a counterfeit copy of the original. But, he says, in surpassing disaster, art acts like the mirror in vampire films revealing the withdrawal of what we think is still there. To illustrate this concept, Toufic tells a story about a vampire in post-war Beirut who is looking for the perfect ruin and goes from one destroyed building to another, constantly dissatisfied until he finds a brand-new building and buys it. The realtor was confused but at that moment saw the seemingly young vampire as old and the seemingly new building as a ruin. I think of this story in relation to the gleaming new buildings on Saadaiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, the Solidere project in Beirut, or even arts-related real-estate development in the U.S. The promise of the new is often a veiled picture of fast-forgotten ruins.

Alessandro Petti, Sandi Hilal and Eyal Weizman. Architecture After Revolution. Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2013.

Architecture is often thought about in relation to revolution as that which must be occupied, swept out or torn down to facilitate social or political change. But what if architecture itself could be used as a tool to imagine “the morning after the revolution?” Since 2007, the architectural collective Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency (DAAR) has facilitated discourse and design solutions that playfully subvert structures of power and repurpose them towards a decolonized future. Along with Alessandro Petti and Sandy Hilal’s project, Campus in Camps, and Weizman’s Hollow Land (Verso, 2007), we start to see architecture as a mechanism for both national and post-national ends.