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Paper Monument Expands Book Publishing Arm With Collection of Anti-Art History

The Miraculous by Raphael Rubinstein.

The Miraculous by Raphael Rubinstein.

Paper Monument, the contemporary art journal published in association with the literary magazine n+1, is diving further into the publishing game itself. This month, the journal will release a book by Raphael Rubinstein called The Miraculous. Paper Monument has published two roundtable-style books—I Like Your Work: Art and Etiquette, which featured contributions from 38 artists, and Draw It with Your Eyes Closed: the Art of the Art Assignment, a kind of contemporary oral history of art school—but this is its first publication to focus on a single author. (As for the journal itself, Paper Monument is beloved if somewhat unpredictable: they’ve released only four print issues in the last seven years.)

The book is a series of vignettes about iconic conceptual and performance art pieces, offering detailed histories of the creation of these works—only with most of the relevant proper nouns removed. For instance, Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece:

[A] Japanese woman dressed in an elegant black outfit presents herself alone on the stage of a famous concert hall on 57th Street in New York City. She drops slowly to her knees and remains in this position as members of the audience make their way to the stage one by one. Using a pair of shears the artist has provided, they proceed to snip away at her clothing…until she is left nearly naked, holding to her body the few scraps of clothes that remain.

Or Maurizio Cattelan:

In 1992, an Italian artist raises money to create a foundation, the sole purpose of which is to pay another artist to neither create nor exhibit art for an entire year…Unable to find anyone willing to accept a grant to cease all artist activity, the artist keeps the money for himself.

The result is not quite an art-historical guessing game (there’s an index in the back, so the artists in question are not exactly a mystery). But entirely divorced from the idea of a specific creator, the works take on the icy detachment of a Lydia Davis story, a floating concept with no clear context. Distilled to only an idea, the pieces bask in their more intriguing narratives and separate themselves from the heavy baggage of authorship and intention.

“Everything takes on a more abstract quality,” said Dushko Petrovich, one of Paper Monument‘s founders and the book’s co-editor with Roger White. “It’s hard to say exactly what reading the book does. It’s all factual and true, but it reframes some of these works. This book is not entirely taking away the name of the artist, but covering it up for a minute to think about the work as its own thing. It sort of increases their strangeness.”

Petrovich and Rubinstein started working together when Petrovich was guest editing an issue of Art Papers, which was about art magazines in particular. Rubinstein contributed a piece called “Other People’s Prose,” “a memoir of editing” as Petrovich put it, based on his 13 years working at Art in America. This included moments like deeply offending a famous writer with the insertion of a comma and never once meeting the magazine’s publisher. “The ‘good’ editor must be capable of imposing his/her will while also suppressing the demands of the ego,” Rubinstein concludes. (Call him the editor of these performance pieces, then.)

Regarding the future of Paper Monument’s book publishing endeavors, Petrovich said this will become a more or less regular occurrence. “Or whatever passes for regularity in our scheduling,” he added.

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