David Maroto: Artists Novels

Advisor/tutor: Alena Alexandrova

Independent reviewer: Chris Kraus

Arnhem, June 2013


This thesis investigates the use of the novel by visual artists. There are some artists who simply write novels and others who use the novel as an artistic medium, as valid as performance or video could be. The latter, who are the main object of the present research, are artists that seek for a protracted engagement of the spectator with their work. Their creative strategies, focused on process rather than end results, are opposed to the predominant conventions of art institutions and the art market. The artist novel introduces elements particular to narrative literature into the visual arts, like fiction, identification and issues of authorship. All of them point at a certain interest in undermining notions of personal identity and in creating new spaces for intersubjective exchange. Situated in a historical perspective, the artist novel seems to be a derivation of relational aesthetics rather than of Conceptual art, even though the creation of works that are purely textual might lead one to think otherwise. Artist novels also enable mass production and distribution, and become a means for intervention in the public sphere.


David Maroto's "Artist novels" offers an important and timely analysis of a phenomenon that cannot be ignored: the migration of literature and other cultural disciplines into the art world. Whether this is due to the influence of relational aesthetics, as Maroto suggests, or to the constriction of commercial markets for these art forms, the "artist novel" – as Maroto convincingly argues – changes the way people read, and suggests new ways that artists might treat space and time in museum and gallery exhibitions. I was never wholly convinced by the distinction Maroto draws between "artists" and "writers:" if an "artist" produces only literary texts, is he not really a "writer"? Likewise, I wish he would have reached further back into literary history for examples of conceptual composition like Ouilopo, imagist poetry, the work of Burroughs and Gysin, etc. But the contemporary examples Maroto provides of exemplary "artist novels", particularly his in-depth study of Jill Magid's work, point towards a new creative field that is truly hybrid in expression and form. The "artists novels" described in the second half of this thesis may stand alone as books, but they are conceived to be used as keys, or conceptual foundations, to installations that use time and space in non-literary ways. I found this very exciting: the idea of a text as a ghost-presence, animating the arrangement and presence of objects in space.

I greatly admire Maroto's work. "Artists novels" contains the seeds of many important ideas that I hope he, and others, will go on to expand. CK