Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency

Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency

by Olivia Laing


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"One of the finest writers of the new nonfiction" (Harper’s Bazaar) explores the role of art in our tumultuous modern era.

In this remarkable, inspiring collection of essays, acclaimed writer and critic Olivia Laing makes a brilliant case for why art matters, especially in the turbulent political weather of the twenty-first century.

Funny Weather brings together a career’s worth of Laing’s writing about art and culture, examining their role in our political and emotional lives. She profiles Jean-Michel Basquiat and Georgia O’Keeffe, reads Maggie Nelson and Sally Rooney, writes love letters to David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, and explores loneliness and technology, women and alcohol, sex and the body. With characteristic originality and compassion, she celebrates art as a force of resistance and repair, an antidote to a frightening political time.

We’re often told that art can’t change anything. Laing argues that it can. Art changes how we see the world. It makes plain inequalities and it offers fertile new ways of living.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781324005704
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 05/12/2020
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 70,271
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Olivia Laing is a widely acclaimed writer and critic. She writes for the Guardian, the New York Times, and Frieze, among many other publications. Her first novel, Crudo, was a New York Times Notable Book and won the 2019 James Tait Black Prize for Fiction. Her nonfiction works include To the River, The Trip to Echo Spring, and The Lonely City, which has sold more than 100,000 copies and been translated into sixteen languages. The recipient of the 2018 Windham-Campbell Prize in nonfiction, Laing lives in London, England.

Table of Contents

Foreword: You Look at the Sun 1

Artists' Lives

A Spell to Repel Ghosts Jean-Michel Basquiat 11

Nothing but blue skies Agnes Martin 20

Keeping up with Mr Whizz David Hockney 32

The Elated World Joseph Cornell 40

For Yes Robert Rauschenberg 49

Lady of the Canyon Georgia O'Keeffe 58

Close to the Knives David Wojnarowicz 71

A Great Deal of Light Sargy Mann 78

Sparks through stubble Derek Jarman 85

Funny Weather: Frieze Columns

A Stitch in Time 99

Green Fuse 102

You are welcome 105

Faking It 108

Doing the Watusi 111

Bad Surprises 114

The Fire This Time 117

The Body-Snatchers 120

Dance to the Music 123

Paradise 126

A History of Violence 129

Red Thoughts 132

Between the Acts 135

Under the Influence 138

Four Women

Hilary Mantel 143

Sarah Lucas 154

Ali Smith 162

Chantal Joffe 169


Two Figures in the Grass: Queer British Art 177

Free if you want it: British Conceptual Art 185


Feral 195

Drink, drink, drink 203

The Future of Loneliness 216

The Abandoned Person's Tale 230

Lamentations 236

Party Going 240

Skin Bags 244


Gentrification of the Mind by Sarah Schulman 251

New York School Painters & Poets: Neon in Daylight Jenni Quilter 255

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson 261

I Love Dick by Chris Kraus 267

Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love Emily Witt 272

After Kathy Acker by Chris Kraus 278

The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy 283

Normal People by Sally Rooney 288

Love Letters

David Bowie, 1947-2016 295

Vanished into Music: Arthur Russell 299

John Berger, 1926-2017 304

John Ashbery, 1927-2017 307

Mr. Fahrenheit: Freddie Mercury 308

Say You're In: Wolfgang Tillmans 311


A Conversation with Joseph Keckler 317

Acknowledgements 335

Index 339

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