Academic journal article New Formations

The Everyday

Academic journal article New Formations

The Everyday

Article excerpt

Stephen Johnstone (ed), The Everyday, London and Cambridge (Mass.), Whitechapel and The MIT Press, 2008; pp240, ?14.95 paperback.

In 1981 artist Sophie Calle takes a job as a chambermaid in Venice. Everyday for three weeks she does what most of us would do - snoop through the guests' belongings. Their individual tastes and actions are revealed through the banal objects documented by Calle. Elsewhere, everyday for a month Annette Messager predicts what the next 24 hours will bring by writing her name, folding the paper and then interpreting the resulting ink smudges. At different times, in different places Hans-Peter Feldman takes a photo of his car stereo when it plays a song he likes, Martha Rosier holds a garage sale and Yoko Ono steps in all the puddles in the city.

These are just some of the ways in which artists' recent engagements with the everyday are traced throughout this collection of texts. It is part of the Documents of Contemporary Art series produced by the Whitechapel Gallery and ?GG Press, each volume of which acts as a source book, bringing together writing around a significant theme or tendency in contemporary art. In his introduction Stephen Johnstone notes that contemporary art is saturated with references to the everyday, citing the plethora of exhibitions, biennials and site-specific projects which have taken the everyday as their theme. However there are very few texts which provide critical analysis of contemporary art's specific engagement with the quotidian. While a collection of texts cannot do this work itself, it does however successfully provide the reader with a material framework from which to locate a contextual history of this engagement, drawing on enduring texts from theorist such as Lefebvre together with more contemporary writing from art historians, critics and artists themselves. …

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