June 7, 2016 - Cabinet - Wayne Koestenbaum: Notes on Glaze: 18 Photographic Investigations
June 7, 2016

Cabinet

Courtesy Oliver Wasow.

Wayne Koestenbaum
Notes on Glaze: 18 Photographic Investigations

cabinetmagazine.org

Wayne Koestenbaum
Notes on Glaze: 18 Photographic Investigations

cabinetmagazine.org

Cabinet Books is pleased to announce the publication of poet and cultural critic Wayne Koestenbaum’s Notes on Glaze: 18 Photographic Investigations. Featuring an introductory essay by the author, Notes on Glaze collects the 18 columns that Koestenbaum wrote for Cabinet magazine between 2010 and 2015.

Entitled “Legend,” Koestenbaum’s column had an unusual premise; every three months, the editors of the magazine would provide him with a single photograph and ask him to write one or more extended “captions” for it. Drawn from obscure vernacular, commercial, and scientific sources, all of the images—which were printed alongside the columns and are reproduced in Notes on Glaze—were unfamiliar to the author.

It had been the intention of the editors to provide a venue for Koestenbaum’s aphoristic brilliance and his uncanny ability to pinpoint the unexpectedly telling detail in a given image, with each installment imagined as its own discrete encounter. But over time, it became clear that there were significant correspondences between these individual exercises in sympathetic, critical observation and that Koestenbaum was quietly advancing an aesthetic position, one based on a reading of cultural artifacts that acknowledges, and embraces, desire. Refusing the distancing language of critical disinterest, Koestenbaum’s columns always locate the author in intimate proximity to the subjects portrayed in the photographs and to the impossibly variegated cast of characters—ranging from Debbie Reynolds, Duccio, and Barbra Streisand to Hegel, Pee-wee Herman, and Emily Dickinson—who pass through these texts. As Koestenbaum writes in his introduction:

"The column began with cheekiness, but quickly accommodated itself to more serious violations, even if I treated trauma whimsically. Language, when worked, is a wounding business, and these columns gave me a chance to measure the wound of being wrongly seen, the wound of assembling a self, and the wound of any form of duress, whether mild or mortifying. Gradually, I tried to figure out and defend why I was drawn to say the things I felt compelled to bring up. I struggled to figure out why the process of putting a caption to a helpless photo might be a good opportunity to think about helplessness in general. And yet my tone in these oblique fictions seems rarely to admit powerlessness; instead, I rely on a painstaking mode of sardonic, gnomic gaiety. … To the plights or doldrums depicted in these photos, I contribute an inquisitive overlayer of glaze. I seem to ally glaze with the emptiness of enigma, and the fullness of aura. I depict glaze as the realm of throttled ineffability—that which can’t speak—but also with a fantasy-life given free reign to meander and to amplify its own overtones. Glaze is the only gift I can offer, even if glaze isn’t what the aching world needs now."

Distributed by D.A.P. worldwide, Notes on Glaze is also available directly from the publisher. For more information about this volume and others from Cabinet Books, see here.

About Wayne Koestenbaum
Wayne Koestenbaum is a poet, critic, painter, and musician. He has previously published 17 books of poetry, criticism, and fiction, including The Pink Trance Notebooks (Nightboat Books, 2015), My 1980s & Other Essays (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013), Hotel Theory (Soft Skull Press, 2007), and The Queen’s Throat (Poseidon Press, 1993), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Koestenbaum’s first solo exhibition took place at White Columns in New York in 2012; a survey of his paintings appeared at the University of Kentucky Art Museum in fall 2015, and a solo exhibition opened in March 2016 at 356 Mission in Los Angeles. He has given piano performances at the Kitchen, New York; REDCAT, Los Angeles; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles. He has written the libretti for two operas—Michael Daugherty’s Jackie O and Mohammed Fairouz’s Pierrot. Koestenbaum has taught at Yale University, both in the English Department and as a visiting member of the painting faculty of the School of Art, and is a Distinguished Professor of English and French at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York.

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