BURNAWAY's Best of 2017: Favorite Reads

By December 24, 2017

From online reads to rediscovered classics, here’s what our contributors were inspired by in 2017.

Check out the rest of our Best of 2017 series: Best ExhibitionsCultural ExperiencesNews Stories, and Movers and Shakers.


Chris Vitiello, art critic, Durham
I was rattled by Against Value in the Arts and Education (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), a book of essays that basically calls out neoliberalism’s alignment of the arts and education (and, to a lesser extent, urban redevelopment) as a corrupting force that has reduced art to a leisure activity and broken its relevance to daily life. Edited by Sam Ladkin, Robert McKay, and Emile Bojesen, these essays by British and American scholars sum to an indictment of the arts administrators, artists, and educators who’ve been wracking their brains for a generation trying to present metrics to the rest of society that prove that the arts is valuable and adds value to their lives and communities. In other words, like, all of us. Value, here, can be both monetary (art stimulates the local economy!) and social (art gives you something to do with your kids on Saturday!), and is seen as insidiously undermining art as a space for dissenting voices and frank critiques. Rarely as simple as “you have to kill it to understand it,” the book gets at deeper ideological conflicts and prompts some uncomfortable reflection on your own allegiances and actions.


Jordan Amirkhani, professor at UT-Chattanooga
I love to read fiction, and I find as a writer consuming it frequently keeps my vocabulary and imagination richer than when I am on a strict diet of academic writing or journalism. I have been on a quest this year to read all of Ali Smith’s works, and fell in love with her 2013 novel Artful earlier this year. I cannot wait to start the first of her seasonal series, Autumn, during the winter break. I am still reeling from Coco Fusco’s powerful essay for Hyperallergic.com, “How the Art World, and Art Schools, Are Ripe for Sexual Abuse,” which details her experiences of sexual harassment as an emerging young artist and the ways in which power and male privilege infect every level of our community.
‘The abuse of power comes as no surprise.” Jenny Holzer


William Downs, artist, Atlanta

How to See: Looking, Talking, and Thinking about Art by David Salle.

Studs Terkel’s interview with James Baldwin in James Baldwin: The Last Interview and Other Conversations, published by Melville House. [Read it here.]

more perfect

Anne Lambert Tracht, art consultant, Atlanta
I am an avid podcast listener as opposed to being a reader. Radiolab and WNYC’s “More Perfect” is my current favorite, about the history of the Supreme Court.

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Dwayne Butcher, art critic, Memphis
In these politically turbulent times, it is difficult to enjoy most of what I read, which is primarily political features and news. Every day the dumpster fire seems to get worse.
It is not so much reading, but my favorite thing to look at every day is the “Cats of Instagram” feed. Obviously, I am a cat person, and I LOVE the daily escape this glorious cute feed allows me, if only for 30 seconds.

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Haynes Riley, artist and director of Good Weather Gallery, Little Rock
 Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, by Gilles Deleuze  and Felix Guattari

Online Essays:
Another one from Frederick McKindra: Does Desiring White Guys Make Me a Traitor to My Race? on BuzzFeed.

Curator Anne Ellegood on Understanding the Complexities of Jimmie Durham’s Native Identity: The curator of ‘Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World’ speaks out against her critics in response to the Durham controversy” on Artnet News.

Join us for the Athens Art Book Fair this June!

Nora N. Khan: “No Safe Mode: Sondra Perry’s Graft and Ash for a Three Monitor Workstation in Flash Art.
Annie Baker Discusses Circle Mirror Transformation with Playwrights Horizons Literary Manager Adam Greenfield.”


Brett Levine, art critic, Birmingham
This year was filled with reading that focused on the complex relationships between artist, curator, administrator, and audience. Two books that explored these dynamics in exciting ways were Anthony Gardner and Charles Green’s Biennials, Triennials, and documenta: Exhibitions that Created Contemporary Art and Heidi Bale Amundsen and Gerd Elise Morland’s Curating and Politics Beyond the Curator: Initial Reflections.


Rachel Reese, associate curator of modern and contemporary art at Telfair Museums, Savannah
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood.
Also Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush, publication of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, 2017 

art work

Brian Jobe, cofounder of Locate Arts
For personal studio inspiration, I love reading Lightness by Ed van Hinte + Adriaan Beukers. Also, my number one recommendation to art students, Art/Work by Heather Darcy Bhandari + Jonathan Melber, had a revised & updated edition this year.

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