T.J. Demos

T.J. Demos

Professor, History of Art and Visual Culture
Director, Center for Creative Ecologies
Affiliated with Colleges Eight, Nine and Ten, and the Environmental Studies Department
Research Interests: 

T.J. Demos writes widely on modern and contemporary art and his essays have appeared in magazines, journals, and catalogues worldwide. His published work centers broadly on the conjunction of art and politics, examining the ability of artistic practice to invent innovative and experimental strategies that challenge dominant social, political, and economic conventions. He has served on the Art Journal editorial board (2004-08), and currently is on the editorial board of Third Text, and on the advisory board of Grey Room. Demos is Director of the forthcoming Center for Creative Ecologies at UC Santa Cruz.

Demos’ current research focuses on contemporary art and visual culture, investigating in particular the diverse ways that artists and activists have negotiated crises associated with globalization, including the emerging conjunction of post-9/11 political sovereignty and statelessness, the hauntings of the colonial past, and the growing biopolitical conflicts around ecology and climate change.  His most recent books include The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary during Global Crisis (Duke University Press, 2013, winner of the 2014 College Art Association Frank Jewett Mather Award for Art Criticism), which explores the relation of contemporary art—including practices from North America, Europe, and the Middle East—to the experience of social dislocation, political crisis, and economic inequality, where art figures in ways both critically analytical and creatively emancipating; and Return to the Postcolony: Spectres of Colonialism in Contemporary Art (Sternberg Press, 2013), which addresses the recent returns of artists (including Sven Augustijnen, Zarina Bhimji, Pieter Hugo, Renzo Martens, and Vincent Meessen) to former colonial states in Sub-Saharan Africa and the resulting art—predominantly photography and film—that investigates the traumas of past and present colonial relations and injustices.

Attendant to developments in environmental crisis, postcolonial studies, and artistic practice, he has recently edited a special issue of the journal Third Text on “Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology” (no. 120, January 2013), and is currently completing a new book on this subject, entitled Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology (Sternberg Press, 2016).

Demos is also the author of The Exiles of Marcel Duchamp (MIT Press, 2007), which places Duchamp’s installations and mixed-media projects—including his “portable museum,” La Boîte-en-valise—in relation to geopolitical and aesthetic displacement during the early twentieth century’s periods of world war and nationalism; and Dara Birnbaum: Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (MIT Press/Afterall Books, 2010), which examines Birnbaum's art practice in relation to postmodernist appropriation, media analysis, and feminist politics, and explores the artist's pioneering attempts to unleash the transformative capacities of video as a medium.

Porter College, Room 209
Selected Publications: 

Single-Authored Books

Return to the Postcolony: Spectres of Colonialism in Contemporary Art (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2013).

The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary During Global Crisis (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2013).

Dara Birnbaum: Technology / Transformation: Wonder Woman (Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press and Afterall Books, 2010).

The Exiles of Marcel Duchamp (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007).

Co-Authored  Books

T.J. Demos and Hilde Van Gelder, eds., In and Out of Brussels: Figuring Postcolonial Africa and Europe in the Films of Herman Asselberghs, Sven Augustijnen, Renzo Martens, and Els Opsomer (Leuven, Belgium: University of Leuven Press, 2012).

Journal Essays

Return of a Lake: Contemporary Art and Political Ecology in Mexico,” Rufián Revista (Chile), forthcoming, 2014 (includes Spanish translation).

“Spaces of Global Capital: On the Photography of Jason Larkin and Corrine Silva,” Photoworks / Brighton Photo Biennial: Agents of Change (October 2012 – April 2013), 6-17.

“Gardens Beyond Eden: Bio-aesthetics, Eco-Futurism, and Dystopia at dOCUMENTA (13),” The Brooklyn Rail (October 2012), at: www.brooklynrail.org.

“Poverty Pornography, Humanitarianism, and Neoliberal Globalization: Notes on Some Paradoxes in Contemporary Art,” Stedelijk Bureau Newsletter 121 (April 2011).

Russian translation in Prostory (www.prostory.net.ua), (2013).

Response to Questionnaire on “The Contemporary,” October 130 (Fall 2009).

“The Politics of Sustainability: Contemporary Art and Ecology,” in Rethink: Contemporary Art & Climate Change (Aarhus, Denmark: Alexandra Institute, 2010).

“The Right to Opacity: The Otolith Group’s Nervus Rerum,” October 129 (Autumn 2009), 113-128.

“Moving Images of Globalization,” Grey Room 37 (Autumn 2009), 6-29.

“Means without End: Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri’s Camp Campaign,” October 126 (Winter 2009), 69-90.

Response to Questionnaire on Art and Politics, October 123 (Winter 2008).

“Life Full of Holes,” Grey Room, no. 24 (Fall 2006), 72-88. Reprinted as “Life Full of Holes,” Documenta 12 Magazines Online Journal.

“The Art of Darkness: on Steve McQueen,” October, no. 114 (Fall 2005), 61-89.

“Cutting: Kara Walker’s Salvation,” Link (2005), 117-121.

“Desire in Diaspora: Emily Jacir,” Art Journal (Winter 2003), 68-78.

“The Cruel Dialectic: On the Work of Nils Norman,” Grey Room no. 13 (Fall 2003), 33- 50.

“Circulations: In and Around Zurich Dada,” October no. 105 (Summer 2003), 147-159.

“Duchamp’s La Boîte-en-valise: Between Institutional Acculturation and Geopolitical Displacement,” Grey Room no. 8 (Summer 2002), 6-38.

“Davina Grunstein and the Archaeology of the Spectacle,” Link no. 8 (Fall 2002), 65-73.

“Duchamp’s Labyrinth: ‘First Papers of Surrealism,’ 1942,” October no. 97 (Summer

2001), 91-119.

Curated Exhibitions

Rights of Nature: Art and Ecology in the Americas, Nottingham Contemporary (UK), co-curator, January-March, 2014.

Specters: A Ciné-Politics of Haunting, Screening series of experimental independent and artistic films, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain, November-December, 2014.

Uneven Geographies: Art and Globalisation, Nottingham Contemporary (UK), co-curator, May-July, 2010.

Zones of Conflict, Pratt Manhattan Gallery, New York, November 2008-February 2009.

Teaching Interests: 

Demos teaches in the areas of his research: contemporary art,
activism and visual culture, in relation to postcolonial and corporate
globalization and social-justice oriented political ecology.

Honors and Awards: 

College Art Association Frank Jewett Mather Award for Art Criticism, 2014

Leverhulme Research Fellowship (UK), 2013-14.

Fondation Fernand Willame (Belgium), 2010-2011.

Contact Forum Grant, Flemish Academic Centre for Science and the Arts (VLAC), Royal Academies, Brussels, Belgium, 2010.

Flemish Academic Centre for Science and the Arts (VLAC) Fellowship, Royal Academies, Brussels, Belgium, 2009-2010.

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC, UK), Research Workshop Grant for Zones of Conflict project, in partnership with Tate Modern, Tate Britain, InIVA, and UCL, 2008-09.

Creative Capital / Andy Warhol Foundation, Arts Writing Grant, 2007-2008.

Education and Training: 
Ph.D., Columbia University
M.A., Oberlin College
B.A., DePaul University