The Nineties: A Reading List

Nicolas Trembley's essential texts on the '90s networked tendency

Between the Gulf War, economic disruption, the emergence of the internet and globalisation, and the social crises including AIDS, the 1990s saw many pressures on existing models of social organisation. Within the art world, the relationships between artists and galleries, institutions, collectors - and other artists - began to recalibrate.

The new section The Nineties at Frieze London will explore how these changes led to innovation: new collective projects like ‘L’atelier du Paradise’ at Air de Paris, or Project Unité in Firminy, fresh takes to exhibition design (‘Wohnzimmer-Buro’ at Christian Nagel, or the room environments of Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster), and new approaches authorship, curating, performance and participation.

Douglas Coupland, Generation X (1991)

'I've given up wanting to make a killing or be a bigshot. I just want to find happiness and maybe open up a little roadside cafe in Idaho.'

Daniel Pflumm talks to Jan Kedves & Dominikus Mueller, frieze d/e 14 (May 2014)

'My approach to running a club was an artistic or socially-orientated one, based loosely on Josephs Beuys’ concept of social sculpture. You’d think it would be easy to start a club here in Berlin, the club capital of the world. But most clubs are only interested in money, self-promotion and abusing their power...'

Isabelle Graw on 25 Years of Texte zur Kunstartnet.com (November 2015)

'It was a kind of community that needed this publication, and hoped that others would like it as well but we never aimed at a large audience, growth, or economic success.'

Nicolas Bourriaud, L’esthétique relationnelle ('Relational Aesthetics') (1998)

'The fact is that a work of art has no a priori useful function – not that it is socially useless, but because it is available and flexible, and has an “infinite tendency”. In other words, it is devoted, right away, to the world of exchange and communication, the world of “commerce”, in both meanings of the term.' 

Eric Troncy, Preface to MAY Editions 12 (April 2014)

'A new cross-disciplinarity in terms of art praxis (with design, fashion, music, film, etc.) […] in Les Ateliers du Paradise, we can’t distinguish the artworks from the everyday objects.'

Yves Aupetitallot interviewed on Project Unité by Fareed Armaly, MAY Editions 12 (April 2014)

'The market crisis, which happened after the first Gulf War was unprecedented. Within just a few days, the Basel art far was empty, and its gradual resumption in the latter half of the 1990s left out quite a lot of artists of the 1980s, and the intermediate generation…'

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "1990 L.A., 'The Gold Field'" (1996)

'One of the dangers of the new technologies of information is that they do not guarantee an informed or active public. Sound bytes replace arguments.'

Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990)

'There is no reason to assume that gender also ought to remain as two. The presumption of a binary gender system implicitly retains the belief in a mimetic relation of gender to sex whereby gender mirrors sex or is otherwise restricted by it.'

Stéphanie Moisdon, Dossier for '1984-1999. LA DÉCENNIE at Pompidou Metz (May 2014 - March 2015)

‘This generation is also the first to return, in art, to the memory of stories of pioneers and explorations, all kinds of spectres and holgorams, the disembodiment of cartoons, the first images of the surface of the moon, the transformed voice of Armstrong.’

('Cette génération est aussi la première à faire revenir, dans l’art, la mémoire des histoires de pionniers et d’explorations, toutes sortes de spectres et d’hologrammes, la désincarnation des toons, l’image des premiers pas sur la Lune, la voix transformée.')

Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (1993)

'No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone'

Philippe Parreno, Speech Bubbles (1995)

'When a community doesn’t cease wanting to reinvent social forms, they refuse to be domesticated.'

('Quand une collectivité ne cesse de vouloir réinventer les formes du social, elle refuse d’être domestiquée.')

Brett Easton Ellis, American Psycho (1991)

'This is not an exit.'

Nicolas Trembely is a critic, exhibition curator and Curator of the Syz Collection, based in Paris and Geneva.

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