Justine Kurland’s SCUMB Manifesto is the picture ebook to finish all picture books — actually. SCUMB, which stands for Society for Chopping Up Males’s Books, is Kurland’s homage to Valerie Solanas’s notorious, semi-satirical 1967 manifesto, which advocated for the destruction of the male intercourse. “I name for the tip of the graphic illustration of the male canon,” Kurland writes in bold-faced capitals on the ebook’s entrance cowl: “Your time is over, officer historian…. I’m coming for you with a blade.”
As establishments, galleries, and artwork festivals work to appropriate artwork historical past’s lopsided canon with various ranges of sincerity, Kurland steps in and raises the stakes. SCUMB Manifesto reads like a dare: by talking the taboo, embodying the concern behind each traditionalist’s thoughts, Kurland is daring you, the reader, to behave — or react. As a result of the resistance to altering a predominantly white and male historic narrative typically stems from one factor: the concern of substitute. The concern that that lady whose script you stole will come again with a gun, like Solanas did, and that historical past will forgive her the best way it forgives males like William Burroughs. Kurland factors the knife within the reader’s route and asks: “Whose aspect are you on?”
SCUMB Manifesto is a direct, violent problem to the established order. It is usually a nuanced, exquisitely crafted murals: coming only a yr after her groundbreaking exhibition at Increased Footage Era, the ebook (revealed by MACK) catalogues Kurland’s methodical dissection of her personal male-dominated library of picture books following a provocative dialog together with her gallerist and associate, Kim Bourus. After excising the innards of every ebook, Kurland makes use of its inside cowl because the canvas for a brand new collage, slicing and recontextualizing the photographer’s authentic photographs to kind her personal critique. Sparing not even the rarest and most fetishized of books, Kurland has killed her metaphorical darlings. Each time she finishes a collage, she provides to promote it to the photographer whose ebook it got here from; to date, she’s been met with combined responses.
Greater than 100 books are included in SCUMB Manifesto, a formidable quantity contemplating the detailed course of of creating every collage. Typically her cuts are painstakingly delicate, as in “Cray at Chippewa Falls”(2021), through which clusters of faces sprout from wires like flowers rising from a hill of hair. Different instances they’re rougher, angrier, like within the chain of feminine arms gripping legs that kind the title “JUSTINE” in “Nudes (Justine)” (2021). Typically, Kurland hits comical notes too, like a nipple dotting the “I” in Justine, or a person whose face has been transfigured right into a crude chalk drawing of a phallus.
Talking of phalluses, Kurland’s work accommodates sure repetitions, fixations of the male gaze; in her reimagining of Lee Friedlander’s 1976 images ebook The American Monument, for instance, the pointed monument to Main Common Winfield Scott Hancock has grown a pair of balls. Feminine our bodies, too, are frequent topics of consideration. One of many ebook’s starkest collages — which can be included as a standalone poster — is the quilt picture, “Nudes (Second Likelihood)”(2021). In it, the severed limbs and torsos of feminine our bodies kind a vortex round an outstretched palm, like a nightmarish rendition of Gustave Doré’s engraving “The Empyrean.” It feels claustrophobic and dehumanized, the psychic results of numerous partitions plastered with cutouts from Playboy and Penthouse.
To make a ebook by destroying books is a relatively curious contradiction. SCUMB Manifesto appears to take this into consideration, nonetheless, by forgoing the normal hardcover format. Its backbone options uncooked, uncovered binding, evoking the cut-up nature of the works inside. The title is printed on the backbone with a roughness that evokes sharpies being scribbled throughout a wall; the quilt’s orange letters, stamped on vibrant crimson paper, have the in-your-face punk fringe of a DIY zine. The item feels like a manifesto.
Virginia Woolf famously wrote that “For many of historical past, Nameless was a lady.” Kurland makes use of SCUMB Manifesto to flip that script: though she is chopping up books by historical past’s most well-known male photographers, she doesn’t cite them by title. As an alternative, every bit is given the title of the ebook it originated from, a lot of which can ring a bell to followers of picture historical past, however whose authors may not be instantly recollected: The People, Paris by Night time, Hustlers, and so forth. This deliberate erasure helps to puncture the parable of the lone male artist. Kurland means that such “nice males” of historical past had been relatively the beneficiaries of nice networks and establishments of energy that held them up for all to see. In response, the artist begins to assemble her personal society, assisted by the various abilities of Renee Gladman, Marina Chao, Catherine Lord, and Ariana Reines, whose essays contextualize the artist’s message in a literary, political, private, and artwork historic framework. In the end, SCUMB Manifesto goals of making the identical utopian world depicted in Kurland’s early Lady Footage sequence, however with one provision added: by any means obligatory.