All Reviews

How to Find a Better Life?

Julieta Aranda et al. (eds.), Are You Working Too Much? Post-Fordism, Precarity, and the Labor of Art

reviewed by Nina Power

The notes at the back of this latest e-flux collection state that one group of contributors, the Precarious Workers Brigade, ‘have a policy of including information on the context in which their work appears.’ To this end, they detail the dates when the piece was written (March - April 2011), the number of people involved in writing it (nine), that their text is also available online for free and is licenced under a Creative Commons licence, how they spent the $750 they were paid for the... [read more]

Innovations in Exile

Gregory Sholette, Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture

reviewed by Theo Reeves-Evison

For 2011’s annual charity gala at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary art, Maria Abramovic hired six female performers to re-enact her signature work Nude with Skeleton (2002). In contrast to the original, filmed performance, in which Abramovic lies under a replica skeleton made to the dimensions of her body, for the gala event performers were hired as decorative table centrepieces under strict instructions to ‘remain in the performative’ even if that meant enduring physical or verbal... [read more]

Joining the Dots

Barry Miles, In The Seventies: Adventures in the Counterculture

reviewed by David Renton

This book, Miles’ memoir of the 1970s, begins and ends with narratives of two relationships. The first is his friendship with the poet and countercultural icon Allen Ginsberg and in particular a year Miles spent in America collecting records of the poet’s public performances; the last is his employment from 1976 as a journalist on the New Musical Express, as a result of which he witnessed the birth of punk. At its best, the book offers compelling descriptions of celebrated figures... [read more]

Bodgery; Fopdoodle; Twittersphere

David Crystal, The Story of English in 100 Words

reviewed by Gareth Carrol

To try and tell the story of such a ubiquitous language as English in a mere 100 words would seem rather a fool’s errand. How can one even begin to cover the breadth, diversity and longevity of English in such a short span? The widespread influence of other languages that can be seen throughout our everyday vocabulary, and the proliferation of slang, technospeak and general linguistic evolution would suggest it is an impossible task, but David Crystal manages, as he so often does, to deliver... [read more]

It's The Song I Hate

Ben Watson, Adorno for Revolutionaries

reviewed by Ian Birchall

Ben Watson’s writing on music is the very antithesis of ‘easy listening’. He has a poet’s love of language and a leftist’s love of polemic. He skips, sometimes disconcertingly, from music to philosophy, from literature to politics to (sometimes rather shaky) history. He has powerful enthusiasm – mainly for musicians you’ve probably never heard of – and powerful distaste. Given the many causes for grief and anger in this world, it is bewildering to see so much fury directed... [read more]

Retracing a Century

Lucio Magri, The Tailor of Ulm: Communism in the Twentieth Century

reviewed by John Green

The title of Magri’s book takes its inspiration from Bertolt Brecht’s poem about an 18th century German tailor in the city of Ulm, who thought he could fly, but jumping off the local church spire he ended up like a shot bird, dead on the town square. Brecht’s point was that even if we fail at something once, history can make it possible in the long term. Even though the author develops his perspectives from his experience within the Italian Communist Party (PCI), his analysis is balanced... [read more]

Johnny Gets the Word

Richard Graham, Government Issue: Comics for the People, 1940s - 2000s

reviewed by Jeffrey Petts

In 1940 George Orwell analysed the comics sold in a typical English newsagent, concluding that they were ‘the best available indication of what the mass of English people really thinks and feels.’ The comics reproduced in Government Issue, in full size and colour, and Richard Graham's thematic introductions to them, are similarly revealing about how American state and federal governments in the 20th century thought the mass of people could be made to think and feel about things as diverse... [read more]

Fashion Jus

Glenda Bailey, Harper’s Bazaar: Greatest Hits

reviewed by Alexandra Pett

Harper’s Bazaar first hit the shelves in 1867 and has a unique place in history as America’s first fashion magazine. It is published in more than 25 countries and 15 languages and has achieved a level of fashion publishing domination that is perhaps rivalled only by Vogue. Harper’s Bazaar UK arrived in 1929 and in the years since then has consistently sought to deliver a sophisticated perspective on fashion, popular culture and life in general. A coffee table book with a couture... [read more]

They Found Much To Like

Malcolm Turvey, The Filming of Modern Life: European Avant-Garde Film of the 1920s

reviewed by Jeremy Spencer

In the 1920s, the embrace of film as a medium for visual art by members of the European avant-garde led to an outpouring of creativity. Artists such as Hans Richter, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, Salvidor Dalí and film-maker Dziga Vertov made the enduring and fascinating films explored in Malcolm Turvey’s The Filming of Modern Life. Turvey explores how these films resisted and embraced, sometimes simultaneously, the specific concrete transformations wrought by modernity. To explain... [read more]

A Rough and Bloody Contest

John Lang and Graham Dodkins, Bad News: The Wapping Dispute

reviewed by Richard Sharpe

Bad News is a timely and insightful account of the 1986-87 dispute between the print and clerical unions and Rupert Murdoch’s empire of newspapers. The general facts are known: Murdoch built a plant in Wapping to consolidate the two wings of his newspaper empire in the UK - the Times part and the Sun / News of the World part; he wanted direct input by journalists and a curb on union action; after a rough and bloody contest, aided by the vacillations of key union leaders, he got his... [read more]