Documents of Contemporary Art: The Cute


Documents of Contemporary Art: The Cute

Edited by Sianne Ngai

"In her groundbreaking Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting (2012), Sianne Ngai showed how our ambivalent attachment to cuteness is a key aesthetic response to our current hypercommodified world. The Cute is a brilliantly curated archive of the pervasiveness and complexities of cute sensibilities, as reflected in the work of a wide range of artists and thinkers. If you did not know already, the cute is everywhere."

-Ina Blom, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Classics,
History of Art and Ideas, University of Oslo/Department of
Art History, University of Chicago

"Sianne Ngai, the groundbreaking analyst of the minor aesthetic categories that pervade capitalist culture, provides here a sourcebook of the cute – that deeply ambivalent feeling that oscillates between cuddles and a voracious, even violent, need to consume. The striking array of texts sets some figures who would seem the antithesis of cuteness (Adorno, Wyndham Lewis) against the various blandishments of Jeff Koons, Yoshitomo Nara and Mariko Mori."

-Julian Stallabrass, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art
Courtauld Institute of Art, London

"The inexhaustibility of the meaningfulness of cuteness demonstrated in this volume reflects the promiscuity and associative magnetism of the concept of cuteness, thus transforming what was once a relatively 'simple' phenomenon into a teeming crowd of cuteness and para-cuteness. Flooding the zone of cuteness in this way models its bewildering and generative sociability – and its capacity to serve as a mob-like emblem of mass consumption."

-Daniel Tiffany, author of My Silver Planet:
A Secret History of Poetry and Kitsch

The Cute tracks the astonishing impact of a single aesthetic category on post-war and contemporary art, and on the vast range of cultural practices and discourses on which artists draw. From robots and cat videos to ice cream socials, The Cute explores the ramifications of an aesthetic ‘of’ or ‘about’ minorness – or what is perceived to be diminutive, subordinate, and above all, unthreatening – on the shifting forms and contents of art today. This anthology is the first of its kind to show how contemporary artists have worked on and transformed the cute, and in ways that not only complexify its meaning, but reshape their own artistic practices.

Artists surveyed include Peggy Ahwesh, Nayland Blake, Paul Chan, Adrian Howells, Juliana Huxtable, Larry Johnson, Mike Kelley, Dean Kenning, Wyndham Lewis, Jeff Koons, Sean-Kierre Lyons, Mammalian Diving Reflex, Alake Shilling, Annette Messager, Mariko Mori, Takashi Murakami, Charlemagne Palestine, David Robbins, Mika Rottenberg, Allen Ruppersberg, Jack Smith, Cosima von Bonin, Kara Walker, Andy Warhol, Yoshitomo Nara.

Writers include Sasha Archibald, Roland Barthes, Leigh Claire La Berge, Lauren Berlant, Ian Bogost, Jennifer Doyle, Lee Edelman, Adrienne Edwards, Lewis Gordon, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Stephen Jay Gould, Lori Merish, John Morreall, Juliane Rebentisch, Frances Richard, Carrie Rickey, Friedrich Schiller, Peter Schjeldahl, Kanako Shiokawa, Angelik Vizcarrondo-Laboy, Kevin Young.

Sianne Ngai is the author of Ugly Feelings (2005), Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting (2012) and Theory of the Gimmick: Aesthetic Judgment and Capitalist Form (2020). She is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English at the University of Chicago.

Paperback, 240 pages, 210 x 145 mm

ISBN 978-0-85488-298-4

First published 2022

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