15

– Spring/Summer 2007

Affinity Aesthetics

Rachel Baum

Jennifer Bornstein, Art School (detail), 1990, published in 1999 as part of Jennifer Bornstein's Documentation of Events that May not Have Taken Place, Kaatje Cusse (ed.), Gent: Imschoot uitgevers, 1999. Courtesy of the artist.

Jennifer Bornstein, Art School (detail), 1990, published in 1999 as part of Jennifer Bornstein's Documentation of Events that May not Have Taken Place, Kaatje Cusse (ed.), Gent: Imschoot uitgevers, 1999. Courtesy of the artist.

People live separated from one another, separated from what they are in others.

- Raoul Vaneigem 1

After Death

After the eclipse of postmodernism as an historical category of melancholic retrospection, models of artistic performance and reception shifted. The vestigial ideologies of modernism, including hierarchies of medium and prescriptions for critical practice based on superceding everything from the author to painting, are no longer relevant to today's emerging artists. The indoctrination in turn-of-the-last-century avant-gardism that many contemporary artists informed by theory have received is no longer serving as a template to their practice, but rather seems like an outdated map of nostalgic ideals and unworkable limitations.

Both Jennifer Bornstein's formation and practice are exemplary of this shift from a conditioned perspective on what constitutes viable or correct artistic strategy to the current environment of diverse and adaptive tactics. As a graduate of that venerable re-education bureau, the Whitney Independent Study Program, Bornstein is fully inculcated in both the history and working methods of art as social intervention. She is schooled in the values of deconstructive reproduction, preferably mechanical or conceptual (readymade over making, action over object, analysis over creation, détournement over desire). She understands the techniques of engagé cultural reasoning and the goal of structuring one's work with dialectical historical consciousness (also known as accounting for death: of originality, of figuration, of the subject). Given this foundation in October -bloc anti-aesthetics, it is with considered defiance that Bornstein has taken up representational drawing, albeit in the reproductive medium of etching (2003-present). When asked how she came to this combination of manual process and iconographic style after years of conceptual photography and film, she answers with the wary earnestness of

Footnotes
  1. Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life, London: Rebel Press, 2006, p.117.

  2. Conversation with the artist, January 2006. Ibid.

  3. This use of the subjective energy of fandom can be seen in related works of archival conceptualism by artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn and Sam Durant, who seek to reopen periods of social engagement through a similarly fetishising reacquisition of cultural figures, slogans and the very sensation of political will itself.

  4. What It Was, 2001; Celestial Spectacular, 2002.