Decoys and Disruptions: Selected Writings, 1975-2001

Martha Rosler, Author MIT Press (MA) $37.95 (402p) ISBN 978-0-262-18231-7

Text has always played a major role in the work of visual artist Rosler, whose photographs and other documentary-based art often contain caption or even essay-like elements. This book selects among Rosler's explicitly critical and polemical interventions, from a manifesto""For an Art Against the Mythology of Everyday Life"" to""Place, Position, Power, Politics."" Rosler's writing is as direct and nuanced as her work, which makes up a large proportion of the 64 b&w illustrations here, reinforcing and expanding on points made by the book's 14 essays. She engages practice-based questions (""How might artists and other cultural workers abrogate the gospel of genius, isolation and formalist concerns?"") and does critical summings-up of what has come before (""Feminists made it their business to show 'weakness', 'lack' and 'exclusion' not only as imposed but also as remediable""). She engages the work of scores of photographers in passing and in depth (as in the piece""Leo Friedlander, an Exemplary Modern Photographer"") in touching on a host of issues, most urgently the truth claims made for photographs and the changing status of documentary photography over the last century. For anyone who left Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others wanting more, this compendium of a quarter-century's work is a terrific place to start.