Branden W. Joseph

Branden W. Joseph

Post-War American and European Art
Ph.D., Harvard University, 1999


Branden W. Joseph received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1999.  His area of academic specialization is North American and European art after the Second World War, with a particular focus on those individuals and practices that cross medium and disciplinary boundaries between art, music, and film. 

Present in his first book, Random Order: Robert Rauschenberg and the Neo-Avant-Garde (2003), which examined the artist’s development from 1951 to 1971 from a theoretical perspective, these concerns have been explored further in the books: Anthony McCall: The Solid Light Films and Related Works (2005), Beyond the Dream Syndicate: Tony Conrad and the Arts after Cage (2008), The Roh and the Cooked: Tony Conrad and Beverly Grant in Europe (2012), Experimentations: John Cage in Music, Art, and Architecture (2016), and the edited volume of Kim Gordon’s writings, Is It My Body? Selected Texts (2014).

Beyond the Dream Syndicate followed Tony Conrad’s trajectory through New York’s interconnected artistic scenes of the 1960s to forge a new genealogy of the development and stakes of minimal art and music, structural and underground film, “concept art,” and experimental rock and roll, discussing not only Conrad’s multifaceted production, but also the work of Robert Morris, Henry Flynt, Jack Smith, John Cale, Lou Reed, La Monte Young, and Marian Zazeela, among others.  The Roh and the Cooked traces the development of Conrad and Beverly Grant’s life and work further into the 1970s in the context of a “crisis” of structural and experimental cinema, as voiced by such artists and filmmakers as Conrad and Grant, Wilhelm and Birgit Hein, Malcolm LeGrice, Lis Rhodes, Annabel Nicolson, Carolee Schneemann, Valie Export, Otto Muehl, and Otmar Bauer.  Experimentations examines experimental composer John Cage’s career as it developed from the serialism of the late 1930s to the orchestral version of Cheap Imitation of 1972, paying unique attention to Cage’s cross- and inter-media engagements with the visual arts and architecture.  The book sheds light on the importance for Cage of such figures as Marcel Duchamp, László Moholy-Nagy, Mark Tobey, Buckminster Fuller, Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier, as well as on Cage’s influence on a younger artistic generation including Carolee Schneemann, Allan Kaprow, Al Hansen, Dick Higgins, and George Brecht.  Ultimately, it argues for a perspective that goes beyond the Frankfurt School analyses by which the operations of the avant-garde are most often considered to one predicated upon detailed analyses of the Deleuzian notions of multiplicity, virtuality, actualization, and control.

Joseph’s writings have also appeared in ArtforumBookforumArt JournalOctoberCritical InquiryTexte zur KunstParkett, and Les Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne, as well as in such catalogues as CTRL [SPACE]: Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother (2002), X-Screen: Film Installations and Actions in the 1960s and 1970s (2003), Robert Rauschenberg: Combines (2015), Angela Bulloch: Prime Numbers (2006), John Miller: A Refusal to Accept Limits (2010), Mike Kelley (2013), and Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting (2015).

Joseph is also a founding editor and current editorial board member of Grey Room, a scholarly and theoretical journal of architecture, art, media, and politics published quarterly by MIT Press since the fall of 2000.  Within the fifty issues on which he served as an editor, Grey Room featured writing by such prominent historians and theorists as Yve-Alain Bois, Judith Butler, Georges Canguilhem, Hubert Damisch, Friedrich Kittler, Chantal Mouffe, Antonio Negri, Paolo Virno, Paul Virilio, and Samuel Weber.

Selected Publications

Experimentations: John Cage in Music, Art, and Architecture. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.

The Roh and the Cooked: Tony Conrad and Beverly Grant in Europe. Berlin: August Verlag, 2012.

Random Order. Robert Rauschenberg et la néo-avant-garde (with new preface).
Trans. Anaël Lejeune, Olivier Mignon, Raphaël Pirenne.
Brussels: Éditions (SIC), collection Continental drift, 2012.

Beyond the Dream Syndicate: Tony Conrad and the Arts after Cage. New York: Zone Books, 2008.

Anthony McCall: The Solid Light Films and Related Works. Text, Branden W. Joseph; interview with the artist, Jonathan Walley; ed., Christopher Eamon. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press/Göttingen: Steidl, 2005.

Random Order: Robert Rauschenberg and the Neo-Avant-Garde. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003.  Paperback edition, 2007.

Carolee Schneemann, Uncollected Texts. Brooklyn: Primary Information, 2018.

Kim Gordon, Is It My Body? Selected Texts (ed. and intro.). Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2014.

Robert Rauschenberg (ed. and preface). Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002.  Essays by Leo Steinberg, Rosalind Krauss, Douglas Crimp, Helen Molesworth, and Branden W. Joseph.

Grey Room (founding editor).