Tracy Rosenthal

Artist in Residence, 2018

Artist Statement

Somewhere back in Russia a traveler gets on a train and sits down next to an old Jewish man. Before long, the man starts muttering, “Oy, I am thirsty.” The traveler ignores him for a while, but the old man persists: “Oy, am I thirsty. Oy, am I thirsty.” Finally, the traveler walks to the dining car and buys a bottle of water. The old man accepts it, drinks it, and settles down. A few minutes pass. The traveler can feel the tension building up again. At last, the old man blurts out, “Oy, was I thirsty!”

This is a joke my grandfather knew. It also features in The Trouble with Pleasure by Aaron Schuster, to illustrate something about complaint—a monologue someone else can hear—but also something about pleasure—it isn’t precisely happy. My work often starts as criticism, but gets caught up in the pleasure of complaint.

While At Headlands

Little World Machine is a collection of essays and a memoir of contemporary art. Combining research and self-implication, I’m aiming to recount—or account for—some experiences I’ve had as a writer in the slice of the world we call the art world. I’ve traveled—Venice, Beirut, Minneapolis, traded sex for a 6-foot C-print, sat for a portrait that sold for thousands, alienated would-be mentors, and stood in a lot of rooms surrounded by objects. Rather than write as an authority (through jargon or feigned critical distance), I use my embeddedness, smearing art into its social contexts (cliques), into cultural production (pop music, movies, the crap you buy at CVS), and into politics (you know, white supremacist capitalist patriarchy). I made up a name for the genre: “wild theory.” It’s part exegesis, part ballad, part vengeance.

Selected Works

55 Propositions for an Artwork That Has Failed in Advance of Its Ever Beginning, an invitation of sorts, 2016

“Let’s Take a Very Fucking Poetry Lesson: Art’s Crush on Poetry,” X-tra Arts Quarterly, 2016

“Towards a Theory of the Dick Pic,” Rhizome, 2015

StrrTv, 2017