“Just Words”

In the summer of 2016, the artist Paul Ramirez Jonas mounted Public Trust, an interactive artwork hinging on promises made by participants (and circulated via billboard, rubbing, photo, and social media), at three sites in Boston. For the ensuing book, Paul Ramirez Jonas: Public Trust (APC, 2017), I wrote an account of the work—a report on the experiences of the work by others, a reflection on my efforts to come up with a satisfactory oath, an essay on the relationship between language and reality in the so-called post-truth era.

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“What Do We Know?”

In the February–March 2017 issue of Mousse, I published “What Do We Know?,” an essay about art in the so-called post-truth era, philology in the op-ed pages, the comparative merits of The Purge: Election Year and Hamilton: An American Musical, the likelihood of political promises being enforced via blockchain, and what might be lost if we strive to Make America Ancient Greece Again. The essay considers works by Victor Klemperer, Paul Ramirez Jonas, Zoe Leonard, Adam Curtis, Paul Chan, and Giorgio Agamben.

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“Unknown Makers”

In the October 2016 issue of Art in America, I published “Unknown Makers,” an essay about how, as digital technologies enable increasingly accurate reproductions of artworks, museums—as well as artists and lawyers—are grappling with the complex aesthetic, legal, and political implications of copying. The essay ranges from the Met’s copyist program to Courbet to the “piratic Enlightenment” to Oliver Laric to legal dilemmas regarding 3-D printing to Mahayana Buddhism to Nefertiti to Duane Linklater.

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“Getting Closer to the Source”

In the second issue of Accessions, the online journal of Bard’s Center for Curatorial Studies, I published “Getting Closer to the Source,” a project that consists of a narrative and two videos and has to do with audiophile culture and the pursuit of realism in the reproduction of sound. An excerpt:

You’ve never heard anything like it. You hear the whole sound first. And when you catch your breath you search for words to describe the depth, the detail, the etched precision of the music. That stunning pair of three-way speakers is sending clean, undistorted sound to every corner of the room. At every frequency. At every level. Loud or soft. High or low. It doesn’t matter. The energy is constant. You’re experiencing three-dimensional imaging: vocal up front. Lead guitar two steps back and one to the left. Drums further back. The piano closer, almost at the edge of the sound. Suddenly you’re aware of a fullness in the music that you’ve heard before but never associated with recorded sound.

“Copy of an Original of a Copy”

On March 10, 2016, Triple Canopy published “Copy of an Original of a Copy,” an edited transcript a conversation that took place as part of the magazine’s Pointing Machines issue. The conversation, which I moderated, was devoted to the challenges posed to legal conceptions of images, objects, and data, especially as they concern intellectual property, by emerging technologies. The participants were Edward Lee, Jennifer L. Roberts, Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento, and Allyson Vieira; they discussed 3-D imaging and printing, which may (eventually) augur an age of networked production in which endlessly manipulable, ownerless objects can be outputted whenever and wherever the requisite hardware and software can be found—not to mention the printing of body parts and the reproduction of antiquities.