"Boggs Bills: Contrast Agents in the Art Market and in Law, or How to Make Money as an Artist," Crime, Media, Culture 19 (2023), OnlineFirst.
Much has been written on the intertwined histories of art and money, from trompe-l’œil depictions of banknotes to so-called money art to the elements of trust and authenticity undergirding these arenas. Yet, what happens when an artwork representing paper money is inserted into the financial system itself? What mechanisms of monetary production and regulation are activated and revealed? In the 1980s and 1990s, artist JSG Boggs realized Boggs Bills — representations of banknotes that pulled the financial system and the laws regulating money into art, and likewise, pulled art into the machinery of finance and its governance. Alongside the more widely discussed modes of creative engagement such as intervention, culture jamming, and semiotic disobedience, I propose the term contrast agent to discuss the operations of Boggs Bills within the systems of art and law. This conceptualisation allows for a consideration of the laboratory-like mapping of the vectors of exchange performed by Boggs Bills as they weave through various bureaucratic systems. These works of art were injected into and circulated through different arenas of exchange, animating the bureaucracy that both constructs and regulates money.
Support provided by: Association for Art History, Publication Grant
“Loopholes for Some, Taxes for Everyone Else,” in “Beyond Copyright: How does Law Impact Art?” Colloquium, ed. Wendy Katz and Lauren van Haaften-Schick, Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art 9, no. 1 (Spring 2023).
Add the word “taxes” to the title of an article or conference paper, and you’re guaranteed to attract an enthusiastic group of artists and art historians. Just kidding. A few like-minded policy wonks might stick around, but generally, terms like hobby-loss rule, offshore incorporation, and limited-liability company are received with confusion and frustrated boredom. But that’s precisely the point! Behemoth companies, such as Nike and FedEx, have lobbied and lawyered up for decades to keep tax avoidance schemes plentiful. Responding to the largely invisible power of tax law, artists such as Lowell Darling and the duo Paolo Woods and Gabriele Galimberti have become artist-investigators—realizing work directly shaped by and from tax law, and in so doing, demonstrating and antagonizing the invisible power that “boring” policy wields both within and beyond the borders of the United States.
"Extralegal Portraiture: Surveillance, Between Privacy and Expression," Grey Room 87 (Spring 2022): 66–99.
Scholarship considering the intersection of art and surveillance has focused on issues of privacy, methods of control, and creative approaches to meta- and counter-surveillance tending toward transparency. This article proposes a consideration of art as an imaging of both the surveilled subject and the extralegal arenas facilitating the surveillance apparatus itself—arenas that are frequently activated and contoured as a material component within creative practice. Under discussion are Paolo Cirio’s Street Ghosts (2012–) and Obscurity (2016), Arne Svenson’s The Neighbors (2012–2013), and Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s Stranger Visions (2012–2014) and Probably Chelsea (2017). While the intersection of art and surveillance has a long history, this article takes an alternative approach by considering how artworks offer portraits of both private individuals and the extralegal spaces that allow the details of those individuals to be accessed and shared.
"Coercive Disobedience: Art and Simulated Transgression," Art Journal 80, no. 3 (Fall 2021): 78–99.
Coercive disobedience is a targeted mode of protest; it goads retribution, dialogically exposing laws and policies in a manner that is potentially damaging to the interests of dominant elites. While previous discussions of coercive disobedience are limited to political science, law, and philosophy, I propose a consideration of such modes of dissent within an art context. Under consideration are experiments in simulated transgression realized by Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico, as well as James Baumgartner and UBERMORGEN. In their transgressing of conventional forms of lawbreaking, their artworks became crimes, not because a crime was committed but because they were pursued as crimes. The artists’ mode of coercive disobedience encourages a questioning of how and why simulated transgressions were able to generate powerful legal consequences and retaliatory actions.
See related creative/digital humanities project: AskRedditbutAI
“Financial True Crime: Art, Para-journalism, and Data-Driven Storytelling,” Art History 44, no. 2 (April 2021): 256–284. *HKU Arts Faculty Research Awards for Junior Tenure-track Professoriate Staff (outstanding item of research output)
It is not surprising when blue-chip artworks are (in)advertently caught up in dubious financial activities. But, what role might art itself play in investigating and narrating the intricacies of financial crime? To consider a segment of creative practice deconstructing global financial matters (internet scams, tax fraud, money laundering) I propose using the framework of true crime. True crime is a genre comprising stories of real events, the telling of which is shaped by the narrator. Here, I extend discussions of true crime from literature, film, and radio/podcasts into the field of art, situating it as a lens for understanding projects by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Mark Lombardi, Paolo Cirio, and Andreas Zingerle and Linda Kronman. Rather than simply responding to fraud, these artists investigate it, manifesting crime scenes for abstract and illicit activities and sharing information in a creative, didactic, and intertextual manner.
Support provided by: Association for Art History, Publication Grant
“Uncivil Obedience: Lowell Darling Follows the Law,” American Art 34, no. 1 (Spring 2020): 112–135.
Scholars and artists have long been interested in socially engaged artworks, particularly those involving civil disobedience. But what of the opposite approach? What of radical adherence? In the 1970s, California-based artist Lowell Darling realized a series of creative endeavors exploiting uncivil obedience, characterized by a conspicuous and hyperbolic compliance with established laws, rules, and mandates. Following the disallowance of proposed deductions to his 1969 federal income tax return, Darling—by way of projects such as the fictional Fat City School of Finds Arts—deconstructed the so-called hobby loss rule of the U.S. Tax Code by rigorously and ironically fulfilling those factors said to indicate a profit-seeking intent. In 1978, Darling mined the intricacies of electioneering norms and campaign finance by staging an insincere run for governor of California. In these projects, Darling mobilized a kind of legal medium for creative expression, manifesting a mode of art-making that departed from expectations about how art and law might interact and intersect within art practice. Archive photos by Sabine Pearlman.
Support provided by: Society for the Preservation of American Modernists (SPAM), Publication Grant
See related creative/digital humanities project: Art Wars
"(Im)Personal Matters: Intimate Strangers and Affective Market Economies," Oxford Art Journal 42, no. 1 (Spring 2019): 45–67.
This article discusses the work of artists Ann Hirsch, Amalia Ulman, and Marisa Olson. Topics discussed include the development of fictional personae (personas), the intersection of art and reality television, affect and intimacy, labor exploitation, art on the internet, and the use of social media as a medium for creative expression.
"Naming: Heteronymy and the Imaginary Artists of George Herms," American Art 32, no. 2 (Summer 2018): 24–51. *Patricia and Phillip Frost Essay Award, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Within a Cold War climate of paranoia regarding secret identities and communist plots, California-based artist George Herms realized artworks attributed to fictional artist-authors: Eric Hammerscoffer, Paul Mistrie, Iris Firewater, Sigmund Fletcher, Astropoet Moonstone, and Tarzan Feathers. The lives of these imaginary artists were narrated in outlandish biographies, and their artworks were displayed in museum and gallery exhibitions. Rather than simply presenting work under a different name (a pseudonym), Herms deployed the literary technique of heteronymy—which is both a tool (a heteronym) and a conceptual strategy. Herms’s heteronymous practice comprised presenting work by distinct personae, each of whom differed from the others in terms of aesthetic style, philosophy, personality, and life story. By advertising the fictional status of the attributed artists, and doing so alongside documentation of their existence, Herms galvanized the problematic space connecting a named artist-author to his/her/their artwork.
"Incongruent Humor, Labor, and Public Fame in Postwar Los Angeles," Archives of American Art Journal 53, no. 1/2 (Spring 2014): 4–29.
The article focuses on Los Angeles-based artists Billy Al Bengston, Ed Ruscha, Larry Bell, and Craig Kauffman, considering their work throughout the 1960s. The author discusses their collaboration on a 1968 project and subsequent book "Business Cards," which combined art, commerce, and humor. She explores the advertising material for the projects and analyzes the use of public performance, pseudonyms, and personae.
“Aesthetic Incongruity: Art and Humor in Post-Independence Azerbaijan,” in Humor in Global Contemporary Art, eds. Mette Gieskes and Gregory Williams (London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2024), 295–311.
Support provided by: Kennan Institute, The Wilson Center, Washington, DC, Short-Term Grant
"Exchange Value," in Defaced! Money, Conflict, Protest (11 October 2022 – 08 January 2023), ed. Richard Kelleher, Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge (London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2022), 120–127. Exhibition catalogue.
“Snapshot: An Artchive of Azerbaijan,” in Azerbaijan: The Colors of Wind and Fire, Contemporary Artists from Azerbaijan (Villorba, Italy: Fabrica, 2014), 25–34. Exhibition catalogue.
“Faig Ahmed,” “Rashad Alakbarov,” “Afruz Amighi,” “Kutluğ Ataman,” “Shoja Azari,” “Rashad Babayev,” “Ali Banisadr,” “Ali Hasanov,” “Orkhan Huseynov,” “Sitara Ibrahimova,” “Aida Mahmudova,” “Farid Rasulov,” in Love Me, Love Me Not. Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan and its Neighbours – 55th Venice Biennale, ed. Dina Nasser-Khadivi (Baku, Azerbaijan: YARAT, 2013), 66–113, 122–125. Exhibition catalogue.
Commonist: Contemporary Art Exhibition, 22 September – 22 October 2012 (Baku, Azerbaijan: YARAT!, 2012). Exhibition catalogue.
“James Brooks,” “William Crovello," “Helen Frankenthaler,” “Philip Pavia,” "Esteban Vicente," in The Abstract Impulse: Fifty Years of Abstraction at the National Academy 1956–2006, ed. Marshall Price (New York, NY: National Academy of Design, 2007), 39–40, 43–44, 49–50, 67–68, 76–77. Exhibition catalogue.
REVIEW (Book): "Public Art and the Fragility of Democracy: An Essay in Political Aesthetics, by Fred Evans," Public Art Dialogue 10, no. 1 (2020): 102–103.
Book review of Fred Evans, Public Art and the Fragility of Democracy: An Essay in Political Aesthetics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018).
REVIEW (Book): "Models of Integrity: Art and Law in Post-Sixties America, by Joan Kee," Law & Literature 32, no. 2 (2020): 309–313.
Book review of Joan Kee, Models of Integrity: Art and Law in Post-Sixties America (University of California Press, 2019).
REVIEW (Exhibition): “On Creating Reality, by Andy Kaufman at Maccarone,” Tabula Quarterly (Spring 2013).
REVIEW (Book): “Biala: Vision and Memory,” Woman’s Art Journal 33, no. 2 (November 2013): 52–53.
Book review of the exhibition catalogue, Biala: Vision and Memory.
"Foreword" to Special Issue, "Transcendentals: At the Intersection of Art and Law," Public Jurist (2020): 2.
“Two Things You Can Count on—Art and Taxes,” The ICW Blog, The Huntington—University of Southern California History Department (April 2017).
“Los Angeles and the Backwards Glance,” Pacific Binaries: Anja Schaffner (21 December 2015 — 20 March 2016).