Dor Guez and Viviane Sassen: A Reading List

ICA Bookshop

17 Feb 2015
A reading list to accompany the Dor Guez and Viviane Sassen exhibitions

To accompany our two exhibitions Dor Guez: The Sick Man of Europe and Viviane Sassen: Pikin Slee ICA Bookshop Sales Advisor Meg Beaumont has put together a wide-ranging reading list. The books explore the construction of national, racial and individual identities in a postcolonial and increasingly globalised world, addressing a range of issues from intersectional feminism to the politics of representation. All titles are available online or in our bookshop on the Mall.

Pikin Slee
Viviane Sassen
Pikin Slee, Sassen’s latest body of work, was realised in a remote village on the Upper Suriname River; a location only accessible by a three hour canoe ride up-river and unconnected to electricity, running water or (gasp!) the internet. The project marks a move away from her trademark rich colour palette, bold compositions and unconventional portraits – but the black and white images are no less playful and striking, interspersed with sudden wonderful bursts of colour. A gorgeous exploration of the sculptural qualities of the mundane, and the surprising pervasiveness of modernity.

The Sick Man of Europe: The Painter
Dor Guez
Accompanying Guez’s solo exhibition, The Sick Man of Europe: The Painter explores political climates and histories in the Middle East through the creative practises of soldiers from the region, throwing light on a side of conflict that is rarely seen. Also included is a discussion between Dor Guez and a former soldier of the Israeli Defence Forces, D. Guez, whose work forms the subject of the installation. The beautifully designed publication also includes an essay by Tate Modern head of exhibitions, Achim Borchardt-Hume.

Walter Benjamin
Revolutionary in his own time and one of the most in-depth analysts of the 20th Century, Illuminations is a collection of some of Benjamin's most influential philosophical essays, on everything from rediscovering old memories, friends and travels via the unpacking of his personal collection of books to his classic Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Deliciously, The Task of the Translator is also included – itself a translation.

Edward W. Said
One of the keystones of postcolonial writing, Orientalism has been transformative in the interpretation of western texts on 'the East', examining how western interpretations invariably reduce, romanticise and Other the incredibly complex and diverse cultures of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. A fascinating deconstruction of the West's legacy of marginalisation of other cultures.

Black Skin, White Masks
Frantz Fanon
Black Skin, White Masks was Fanon's first book on the themes of decolonization and post-colonialism. Written in 1952, it examines the negative psychological and social effects of colonialism on black people. A psychoanalytic study of colonial relations between the coloniser and the colonised, the book discusses the problems associated with black people having to fit into social, cultural and racial norms established by white society. In a year in which we saw widespread rioting over the shooting of unarmed Michael Brown and all white Oscar nominations, Fanon's study of the way cultural media represented people of colour as villains and the repercussions this has on black psychology is a key part of postcolonial theory.

The Photograph as Contemporary Art
Charlotte Cotton
A bookshelf staple for photography students and enthusiasts alike, Cotton has produced a neat, concise and very readable overview of the role photography has played in contemporary art, featuring names like Jeff Wall, Rinko Kawauchi and Ed Ruscha - along with hundreds more! Eschewing the more traditional group by style or group by subject matter, Cotton instead organises the book based on conceptual motivations and key work themes in chapters that range from the photographing of the everyday and insignificant to artists using narrative and storytelling devices. Packed full of pictures and great references for further reading.

How I Stopped Being a Jew
Schlomo Sand

"Although the state of Israel is not disposed to transform my official nationality from “Jew” to “Israeli”, I dare to hope that kindly philosemites, committed Zionists and exalted anti-Zionists—all of them so often nourished on essentialist conceptions—will respect my desire and cease to catalogue me as a Jew."

Israeli professor and historian Schlomo Sand's book How I Stopped Being a Jew is in part driven by personal experience and also culminates years of research as a professor at Tel Aviv University. Discussing the contradictions of Israel as a state and examining the idea of secular Judaism, this slim tome raises controversial but highly important questions about the problems at the centre of modern Jewish identity.

Wild Coast
John Gimlette
Seasoned travel writer John Gimlette sets off to explore the fabulously wild edge of South America. Starting in British Guyana and moving on to Suriname and French Guiana, the route takes the author through one of the most unexplored and fascinating regions on earth. Regional history, particularly that of the slave trade, is cleverly woven into his modern-day journey, and the cast of oddball characters he meets is just as fascinating as the incredible flora and fauna encountered along the way. Worth reading for the bizarre and harrowing story of the Jonestown massacre alone.

The Colonizer and the Colonized
Albert Memmi
A detailed portrait of two groups of people and the strange, uneasy relationship they share, Memmi's classic piece of theory (so classic that Sartre wrote the introduction) is a discussion not just of the colonizer and the colonized, but also the powerful and powerless. Written as North Africa was shaking free on France in the 1950s, and based on the both personal experience and extensive research, it's a careful and remarkably tempered insight into power dynamics and the effects of colonialism and oppression.

Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity
Chandra Talpade Mohanty

"Sisterhood cannot be assumed on the basis of gender; it must be forged in concrete historical and political practice and analysis."

A must-read for those interested in feminism as a global rather than Western movement. Mohanty examines the reductivist pitfalls that western feminists fall into while discussing women in the 'Third World', advocating the importance of feminism as a transnational, anti-capitalist tool for global good.

Entre Nous
Emmanuel Levinas

Perhaps not for philosophical beginners but nevertheless an engaging and highly rewarding read, Levinas proves once again that he's one of the pioneers of ethics-based philosophy. Containing essays that span a 40-year career, it's possible to see his development of the idea of philosophical practice that moves away from ontology, and presses the importance of viewing the Other as greater than the self.

Erotic Life of Racism
Sharon Patricia Holland
Why does racism, in many areas, still pervade as a part of everyday life? Beginning from a racist encounter she had in a supermarket car park in 1996, Holland goes on to present an intervention in tradition critical race theory by proposing that racism has a relationship with the erotic. Bringing queer theory into focus alongside black feminist thought, Holland introduces a vitally important new way of thinking about contemporary race theory. ■

Dor Guez: The Sick Man of Europe and Viviane Sassen: Pikin Slee  continue until 12 April.

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