Johanna Fateman

  • Inner Visions

    IN 1912, THE SWEDISH ARTIST-CLAIRVOYANT Anna Cassel recorded the following message, crystal-clear instructions from a spirit guide, in her diary: “First, allow yourself to have dreams and then visions and colors and numbers, letters and images. Make a careful note of everything. It is of utmost importance to be thorough in your description.” Cassel was a lifelong friend of the spiritualist painter Hilma af Klint (and very likely more than a friend, for a time), as well as a close collaborator. In af Klint’s notebooks, Cassel’s group of 144 enthralling small paintings, her dutifully thorough

  • Cool Runnings

    FOR NEGATIVE LESSONS, the “don’ts” when it comes to writing reviews, there’s always the internet. But for direction and inspiration, cold water on a face flushed from a looming deadline, it’s better to have hard copies of whatever you think defines greatness: you can open one to a random page, like shaking a Magic 8 Ball, and ask it what to do. Jenny Diski’s new, posthumous collection, Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told?, might give an answer—ultimately, obliquely—to its own title’s question. Of course it can’t answer mine. But I’m sure I’ll periodically give it a try anyway, because,

  • Good as Hell

    THE TUDOR ROSE ON THE JACKET OF THE MIRROR & THE LIGHT—the final volume of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy, which I’ve looked forward to reading for five long years—has watched me like a cyclops eye since the novel’s publication in March. Or, more likely, I first noticed the emblem’s monstrous quality in early April, when nights in New York grew more cinematically wretched and scary: sleepless, ambulance sirens nonstop. I did, at one point, open the book and read the first page, standing in the kitchen. “Once the queen’s head is severed, he walks away,” Mantel starts, putting us at the

  • Cutting Up

    In 1988, Valerie Solanas, the author of the 1967 female-supremacist pamphlet SCUM Manifesto, died from pneumonia at the age of fifty-two, in a single-occupancy hotel room in San Francisco. The decomposing body of the visionary writer, who famously set forth her plans “to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex,” was discovered kneeling, as though in prayer, slumped over the side of the bed. The image lends itself to hagiographic depictions of Solanas—as a fallen soldier, a suffering genius, a latter-day entrant into the

  • Lock Her Up

    “Ms. Dworkin advocates nothing short of killing men,” wrote Wendy Steiner in a New York Times review of the feminist antipornography writer’s final novel, Mercy (1990). By then, Andrea Dworkin’s reputation as the obdurate intellectual leader of the sex wars’ losing side was a toxic, insurmountable liability, and the media spotlight had moved on to the fresh provocations of young third wavers. Times review aside, Dworkin’s riveting work of experimental fiction received little attention, certainly in contrast to her incendiary works of nonfiction from the previous decade.

    Her polemic Pornography:

  • Lynn Hershman Leeson: Civic Radar

    LYNN HERSHMAN LEESON’S “Breathing Machines,” a sculpture series from the 1960s, are coolly macabre self-portraits—masklike wax replicas of her face, styled with wigs and outfitted with electronics. In Self-Portrait as Albino, 1968, the artist’s expressionless face, eyes closed, is framed by hair like ratty white curtains, secured with a length of frayed silver fabric tied beneath the chin. As the viewer approaches, a motion detector triggers a cassette recording of her breathing. With this unsettling series, Hershman Leeson, who was traumatically confined to an oxygen tent for five weeks in

  • Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden

    MARLENE DUMAS’S PAINTING Stern, 2004, is named not for the woman it depicts, Ulrike Meinhof, the Red Army Faction member who was discovered dead from hanging in a Stammheim Prison cell in 1976. Rather, Dumas titled her portrait after the German newsmagazine that published the sensational photo of Meinhof’s corpse—a telling emphasis from the preeminent figurative painter, who often works from mass-media sources. Gerhard Richter famously used the image, too, in his series October 18, 1977, 1988 (the title is the date three other RAF prisoners were found dead). While his versions are part of a

  • A Fan’s Notes

    I’ve long admired Lynne Tillman’s criticism. Her writing is founded on curiosity and deep feeling. It’s precise and imaginative, devoid of jargon or cliché. It’s the opposite of what I dislike in criticism, and I know I’m not alone in my appreciation of what she does. “What she does” is hard to pinpoint, though, and the title of her new collection is a good-natured fake-out for all of us who might look to her as a model for how to live—or just how to write.

    What Would Lynne Tillman Do? includes essays (and interviews) on a wide range of topics, ordered like an alphabet book, A to Z. The table

  • Bodies of Work

    At the beginning of Beatriz Preciado’s Testo Junkie, the first-person narrator, BP, takes testosterone. It’s not the first time BP has self-administered the clear gel, a fifty-milligram dose squeezed from a small silver packet and absorbed instantly into the skin, but now, fresh grief crystallizes the project: It’s the evening s/he learns a dear friend, GD, is dead. “I’m not taking testosterone to change myself into a man or as a physical strategy of transsexualism,” Preciado writes. “I take it to foil what society wanted to make of me, so that I can write, fuck, feel a form of pleasure that

  • culture June 18, 2013

    The Riot Grrrl Collection

    The 1990s punk feminist movement Riot Grrrl has had a resurgence in recent years, in books such as Sara Marcus’s Girls to the Front (Harper Perennial, 2010), films like The Punk Singer, and the establishment of the Riot Grrrl Collection at NYU’s Fales library.

    The 1990s punk feminist movement Riot Grrrl has had a resurgence in recent years, in books such as Sara Marcus’s Girls to the Front (Harper Perennial, 2010), films like The Punk Singer, and the establishment of the Riot Grrrl Collection at NYU’s Fales library. The Feminist Press has just published The Riot Grrrl Collection, which presents vivid reproductions of zines, flyers, and other works from the Fales archives. Editor and archivist Lisa Darms recently sat down with The Riot Grrrl Collection contributors Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman to discuss the book, answering questions submitted

  • Luc Tuymans: Exhibitions at David Zwirner, 1994–2012

    OVER THE YEARS, I’VE SEEN many of the shows that Luc Tuymans has done at the David Zwirner gallery in New York. I always go with friends, but we never chat in front of the paintings: Tuymans’s art is quiet, and it radiates a gloomy calm. The Belgian artist—once a savvy player in the ’90s resuscitation of figurative painting—is now an influential fixture in the art world, known for his subdued, often sickly palette, his strangely cropped compositions, and his withholding of expected details like facial features. Such formal idiosyncrasies are brought into relief by the luminous patina of his

  • Archiv

    FOR HER 1968 GUERRILLA PERFORMANCE Action Pants: Genital Panic, Austrian artist VALIE EXPORT cut the crotch out of a pair of jeans and wore them while walking—with a generous triangle of pubic hair exposed—through the rows of a Munich art-house cinema. (Previously Waltraud Hollinger, EXPORT took her all-caps name from a brand of cigarettes.) She turned on the theater spotlight and announced that the audience could now observe in real life what they would customarily see on-screen. With her confrontational, feminist brand of Viennese Actionism, EXPORT challenged the cinematic use of the female

  • Ask Master

    “One good thing about being a woman is we haven’t too many examples yet of what a genius looks like,” Sheila Heti’s protagonist, also named Sheila, deadpans. “It could be me.” With some shame in her ambitious conviction, Heti believes her own genius might lie in the transcription of the everyday—that the particulars of her life as a young woman artist can show us what’s human. Recorded dialogue, e-mails, and brutally self-effacing passages fill short chapters of this “novel from life,” united in an uninhibited first-person performance: Her tone can be earnest and eager to please, flippant and

  • Alex Bag

    IN 1995, AS MATTHEW BARNEY became famous for his opulent, surrealist film epic, video artist Alex Bag rose to stardom as a kind of anti-Cremaster, creating no-budget video art with little more than cheap wigs, bedsheet backdrops, appropriated television clips, and stuffed animals. In Untitled Fall ’95, Bag played a student at SVA, reporting on each semester in a satirical video diary, which she punctuated with sketches that featured warring toys, a fake phone-sex commercial, and Björk explaining how a TV works. Now, Bag’s first monograph has finally been published, as her work is absorbed

  • Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny

    In his chatty and astute new memoir, musician and super-producer Nile Rodgers recounts the inspiration for one of his most enduring songs. In 1979, he was in a crowded dive bar’s bathroom with a couple of Diana Ross impersonators when he wondered, “What would it be like if Diana celebrated her status among gay men in a song?” Rodgers, who was the core of the disco band Chic along with bassist Bernard Edwards, realized that the Motown diva could speak to her gay fans with a knowing wink—and the Ross classic “I’m Coming Out” was born.

    As Rodgers narrates his story, anecdotes like this

  • The Protest Reformation

    In 1999, Woodstock’s thirtieth-anniversary festival ended in a wave of sexual assaults, rioting, and fires—an unlikely celebration of the original Woodstock’s “three days of peace and music.” The breed of angry male bands that dominated the festival and the airwaves that year with juvenile sexist resentment (as summed up by Limp Bizkit’s summer hit, “Nookie”) was a reminder that rock’s rebellion is often unfriendly to women. After Limp Bizkit’s inane and sloppy set (during which a gang rape allegedly occurred in the crowd), Rage Against the Machine, a precise and polished band—perhaps the most

  • culture January 03, 2011

    A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s by Stephanie Coontz

    Though The Feminine Mystique is often cited as a founding text of second-wave feminism, reading it today reveals it to be a brilliant artifact—not a timeless classic. Betty Friedan’s lauded and notorious 1963 bestselling book skewers bygone stereotypes of femininity and homemaking with a provocative bluster that verges on camp. Its exaggerations, blind spots, and biases are a turn-off; its narrow scope is disappointing to those hoping for a comprehensive analysis of sexism or a broad agenda for social justice. But in its time, Friedan’s passionate account of “the problem with no name”—the

  • Her Jazz

    I spent my late teens and early twenties in the orbit of the Riot Grrrl movement, a ’90s third-wave-feminist punk subculture that spat out the image of girlhood in raw experiments in political activism, music, art, and self-invention. I’ve only recently come to accept the term “Riot Grrrl” as the proper designation for that strangely chimerical underground. At first, I dismissed the term as too specific—Riot Grrrls attended meetings, I didn’t. Then, within a year or two, younger girls were drawn to portrayals of the movement in the mainstream press, and the name was abandoned to them. But while