Translated into English for the first time, On Contemporary Art, a speech by the renowned novelist César Aira, was delivered at a 2010 colloquium in Madrid dedicated to bridging the gap between writing and the visual arts.
On Aira’s dizzying and dazzling path, everything comes under question—from reproducibility of artworks to the value of the written word itself. In the end, Aira leaves us stranded on the bridge between writing and art that he set out to construct in the first place, flailing as we try to make sense of where we stand. Aira’s On Contemporary Art exemplifies what the ekphrasis series is dedicated to doing—exploring the space in which words give meaning to objects, and objects shape our words.
Like the great writers Walter Benjamin and Hermann Broch before him, Aira operates in the space between fiction and essay writing, art and analysis. Pursuing questions about reproducibility, art making, and limits of language, Aira’s unique voice adds new insights to the essential conversations that continue to inform our understanding of art.
“Conceptualist absurdity meets magical-realist essay in the Argentine novelist’s brief, dizzying, witty, love/hate letter to contemporary art, asking whether words can make sense of its spiralling craziness. An intellectual’s stocking-filler, from Zwirner’s charming, sleekly designed paperback “Ekphrasis” series.”