Continuum Pub Group, 296 pages, 2009, English, ISBN-13: 978-0826429711
The title of this book is a good start. In fact it starts where Marcel Duchamp’s famous definition of a “non-retinal” visual art left off. Duchamp’s point was to reject judgments about beauty in art, while here the author takes on a similar attitude in order to reject the confining of sound art into either its own practice or a small controversial sub-domain of music. In a similar strategy to what has already been experienced by advocates of video and electronic/digital art, he grounds post-war sound art (he literally begins the book in 1948) in the ample terrain of contemporary culture, especially rooting it in visual art and post-structuralism. Cohen is passionate about a specific position that he tries to foster: it’s a Derridean, postmodern narrative that leads him to, for example, harshly criticize the approach of Francisco Lopez or deeply question the heritage of John Cage’s “sound-in-itself” model. On the other side there’s a detailed and attentive study of the ideas of a few artists (Janet Cardiff among them). One of the book’s attractive features is its discussion of the conceptual details of less well-known practices, offering much inspiration for future explorations. In its latter stages, the book is mainly concerned with some of the most established artists, but there’s also a plethora of younger ones who deserve specific investigation as placement in the elaborate conceptual diagram constituting this art field is ceaselessly updating.