Semiotics of the Hidden Empires, or, “Like Greece, I Tell You”

The year began with expositions of Mel Chin’s artistic explorations in monetary exchange, Maryan Jafri’s subversions of the truth of historical documents and of documentary film, Jason Varone’s video paintings of the hyperreal, and Michael Tedja’s “strategic use of excess to disrupt institutional codification.” The next issue established a loose theme of alternative theatricality, juxtaposing an essay on Nick Cave’s sculptural soundsuits and a discussion of the Fantastic Nobodies’ resurrection of Dada and Fluxus aesthetics in performances in Brooklyn and Berlin. Taravat Talepasand’s feminist updatings of Persian miniatures rounded out the issue. The subversion of institutional assumptions would be assessed in the following issue in terms of Iris Häussler’s fictional archaeology and Joep van Liefland’s conceptual video store, and the exhibition design of Musée du Quai Branly’s “The Jazz Century.” Subsequent issues touched on the topic of activist art, begun with a discussion of Jeremy Deller’s road trip to provoke discussions about Iraq and continued with “Trevor Paglen: Semiotics of the Hidden Empire,” about Paglen’s documentation of concealed military and intelligence sites. The same issue introduced a series of essays on and interviews with artists in a Greece that was becoming a byword for social and financial difficulty. An essay on the Claire Fontaine collective in France, like the one in the preceding issue on Kansas-based activist collective spurse, focused on the fresh prominence of anti-individualist group production of socially based artwork.