– Summer 2012
Jimmie Durham: For the Price of a Magazine
This text is only available to subscribers
To subscribe to Afterall journal, starting with this issue, please click here.
Alternatively, if you wish to purchase this article individually, you may do so via the University of Chicago’s website.
Today, we should be thinking about the artist Jimmie Durham (b. 1940, Washington, Arkansas).
Western civilisation, over the past few millennia, has been quite busy inventing ways to organise the world. Big and small, techniques have varied: there has been religion, of course, but also notions like nation-states, architecture, written language, money or property. They are some of the ways humanity has felt it can achieve dominion over the unruliness of the world and make it that much more manageable for us to live there.
It doesn’t have to be this way; it isn’t this way for everyone, and it certainly isn’t this way for the artist Jimmie Durham.
Durham likes to go places. He was in Arkansas in the 1950s, Texas in the 60s, Geneva in the 70s, devoted himself to art in the 80s in New York, moved to Mexico in 1987 and, since 1994, has been living in Eurasia (what is Europe?). Durham makes sculptures, drawings, photographs, performances and videos. He writes a lot of poetry and listens to a lot of music. He loves good food, good wine, good stories, good stones and good people.
Over the past few hundred years, European settlers in North America have ruthlessly exterminated the vast majority of the continent’s native population and its heritage. Durham was actively involved with the American Indian Movement, as the group’s representative at the UN, and although he instigated important conferences and published many texts, the movement was too fractured to be effective. Turning towards art, he began showing