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Vulnerability and its Vicissitudes

I am interested in experiences with art that have made you fragile, made you question fundamental beliefs about your self, the world, or art in general; moments when the art before you made you question the very discourse you have learned in order to evaluate art in the first place.

August 26, 2013

Yvonne Rainer, a co-founding member of the Judson Dance Theater in 1962, made a transition to filmmaking following a 15-year career as a choreographer/dancer.

Metaphor and the Feeling of Fact

When my sister died, I was holding her hand in a hospital room in Hartford. Amid the shock of it, what I felt was the inevitability of this destruction that seemed, whatever else it was (the many other things it was), to be a monument to sheer facticity: the unswerving immenseness of the thing itself.

My Sad Little Tree

The photograph, in my mind’s eye, sharply picks out a slender, slightly balding tree positioned about two-thirds of the way up a gentle rise that has been meticulously mowed to within an inch of its life.

Wall of Water

Last year during Hurricane Sandy I called an artist friend of mine, Mehdi Matin, and we spent the next six hours talking each other through the storm. I was in my studio in Long Island City, wind whipping round the building, clattering the loft windows in a terrifying way.

On the Aesthetic of Vulnerability

Flattered as I was to be invited onto the dais for this special installment of the Brooklyn Rail, I was, to be frank, a little unsettled by the thesis statement.

Soft Body

The idea of vulnerability—felt by the audience—as a criterion for an experience of art provokes me to review past experience. I could choose to refract many artistic encounters this way, but the work that first comes to mind is The Radiant, a film by the Otolith Group, made in Japan during the year following the Fukushima catastrophe on March 11, 2011.


Tom McGlynn is an artist, writer, and independent curator based in the N.Y.C. area. His work is represented in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Cooper- Hewitt National Design Museum of the Smithsonian. He is the director of Beautiful Fields, an organization dedicated to socially- engaged curatorial projects, and is also currently a visiting lecturer at Parsons/the New School.

Radical Vulnerability

I’ve often written and spoken about what I call “radical vulnerability.” I originally came across the term in an essay by theorist Gavatri Spivak. I’m not sure what she meant by it, but to me it means making myself as vulnerable in my work as an artist is in their work.

Crushes on Art

Third visit to Paul McCarthy’s WS, and everything about it: the cotton candy colored stained glass lighting; the fake noses (Gogol), her’s like a fawn’s and pig’s and upturned cartoon’s; the liquid surfaces—how crystalline it all is regardless of the mess.

Dear Thyrza

I guess art’s scariness is part of the delight most of us must eventually succumb to in doing it.

Art and the Predicament of Emotional Exposure

It is a Saturday afternoon in April, 2009. Visitors flow through the Metropolitan’s Bonnard exhibition like a restrained fluvial event. It’s not really in fashion to approve of Bonnard too strongly these days. But suddenly, amidst those straggling final frames of the show, was that self-portrait.

The Hobgoblins of Bad Art

Unless I find myself ducking under a Serra prop piece, I rarely experience vulnerability in front of artworks—except, I realize, when they are very bad.

On Vulnerability

Living, working, worrying, and loving in the South Bronx for over three decades now, I’m always bemused at all the exaggerated talk of art-making being such a risk and sacrifice best created within an arena of self and socially punishing loneliness. No. Art is all Privilege.

Art in the Age of Vulnerability

Vulnerability implies that a greater force will threaten a more fragile one. As a woman I have been acquainted with the word since childhood. Women, small kittens, and sparrows fit the definition of the vulnerable.

I’m Not Sure When It Happened

I’m not sure when it happened. Not even sure it has. Perhaps it was something that had happened a long time ago, and the transformation took place slowly. I only know that I cry far more frequently these days, and with less provocation.

Mind Fuck Building

As a native New Yorker I’m used to getting lost in my mind, or losing my mind. You can’t live here without endless fantasies about burst pipes, offensive art, making rent, or whether your husband will ever urinate next to Baryshnikov again.

The Wisdom of Insecurity

Years ago I read a book by the philosopher Alan Watts titled The Wisdom of Insecurity, and although its contents have largely faded from memory, I often recall its title. The phrase seems particularly apt when it comes to those rare occasions of deep transformation produced by an encounter with a work of art.

Right Now the Future is Dark

Right now the future is dark. It is 10 o’clock in the morning but the sun, if there is a sun, is hiding behind leaden clouds. The storm is about to break.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2013

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