Dear Jimmie Durham, Dear John Citizen: I would like to ask you about contemporary art and politics.

Darren Jorgensen


Dear Jimmie Durham,

For the 2004 Biennale of Sydney, you were commissioned to make a work of art. You picked out a red Ford Festiva from a second-hand car lot, a hatchback, placed it in front of the Sydney Opera House and dropped a boulder on top of it. The boulder had a ridiculous face painted onto it, a half-smile warped by the lean of the surface of the rock. You gave nature a face, a face that appeared all too naive, like an oversized infant who has pulled apart something precious. She stares at her accuser, stares back at the smiling, standing Sydney crowd. For her, it is as if nothing has happened, as if she is not responsible for her own weight and mass. This spectacle, Still Life with Stone and Car (2004), was but one of several in a series that you made, Jimmie Durham, of works that collide stones and vehicles. In 2007, a big sedan, a Dodge Spirit, suffered the same fate, as you crushed it with a lava boulder in Mexico. Like the Festiva, it now sits lifeless on a city street, passed by moving, breathing, polluting cars. You also crushed a small plane. I saw it on the cover of Artforum (Durham, 2009). It’s the kind of thing Artforum like - big, friendly and smart, by a big name in the art world making a spectacular, interesting scene. This is what I wanted to ask you about, Jimmie Durham. How is it that an artist who is so well known as a political artist can become an artist making the kind of big, spectacular works that art world institutions, such as Biennales and museums, really like. I wanted to ask you about contemporary art and its logics.

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