Giuseppe Penone: The Inner Life of Forms is a new examination of the artist’s more-than-forty-year career, revealing what constitutes sculpture through the interplay between the human body, nature, and art. Four new essays by Tim Ingold, Rémi Labrusse, Emily Braun, and Salvatore Settis and a conversation between the artist and the book’s editor, Carlos Basualdo, appear in one volume, while twelve insightful texts by Daniela Lancioni, each an independent booklet, investigate the main typologies that constitute the work’s organizing principles. 13 paperbacks in box, 490 pages, $200. Limited edition with etching: edition of 50, $5000 USD; edition of 200, $2500 USD Related Events: Penone and Basualdo will discuss the monograph at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Friday, November 9, at 6pm; and at the Greene Space, New York, on Saturday, November 10, at 5:30pm. Penone will sign copies of the monograph at the Gagosian Shop, New York, on Saturday, November 10, at 2:30pm.
Published this year on the occasion of the exhibition Harmony Korine, at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, this career-spanning publication includes an essay by Alicia Knock, an interview by Emmanuel Burdeau, and a complete filmography. This comprehensive catalogue, published by Rizzoli in association with the Centre Pompidou and Gagosian, is the definitive account of Korine’s diverse career in film and art. Paperback, 192 pages, $45 USD
This recent monograph on Jenny Saville, copublished with Rizzoli, is the most comprehensive on the artist, whose large-scale nudes continue to challenge accepted ideals of beauty. The volume unites new work with many earlier paintings and drawings, while the accompanying essays, by Richard Calvocoressi and Mark Stevens, explore the artist’s fascination with the human body within a broad art-historical context. The book also includes an interview between Saville and Sally Mann and an illustrated chronology by Lauren Mahony. Hardcover in slipcase, 392 pages, $150 USD
Katharina Grosse, an extensive monograph on the artist’s recent work, introduces readers to important in situ paintings and documents the artist’s 2017 Gagosian exhibition. This publication includes texts by Dan Cameron and Okwui Enwezor, a conversation between Grosse and Isabelle Graw, an introduction by Louise Neri, and is presented in a slipcase with a stenciled cutout designed by Grosse. Hardcover in slipcase, 280 pages, $120 USD
incensed at the way an artist whose legacy he might have benefited from had been buried so long from his view: “Why was I and others like me deprived from access to a major oeuvre?” It is thanks to Essafi that we have an image of Bouanani at the end of his life: gaunt and handsome, with sweet eyes and the wild hair of a prophet. Surrounded by books in his rural retreat, he appears sharp, thoughtful, gently amused by his own melancholy.
The translator and writer Omar Berrada also spent years searching for Bouanani’s out-of-print cult novel. Eventually, as director of the Dar alMa’mûn center in Marrakech, Berrada published a new edition of The Hospital and offered residencies to Bouanani’s translators. Above all, however, the work of Bouanani has been revived thanks to his daughter Touda, who is an artist working in video and photography. For years now she has been painstakingly reconstructing her father’s unpublished writings, including a three-hundred-page manuscript of a history of cinema in Morocco, and bringing his work to the attention of others. Touda, whom I have met in Rabat more than once, shares an artistic affinity with her father, as well as a striking resemblance to him: the same bird-like features, accentuated by her shaved head; the same slightly melancholy reserve that is suddenly dispelled by laughter. Her name, she told me once, means “she who suffices.”
By the time Bouanani wrote The Hospital, the open indignation and occasional bravado of the poems he had written in the 1960s and 1970s had been distilled into a cold, hard, nearly hopeless anger. “The hospital is a frozen body, walled in from every angle,” the narrator tells us. “Nothing survives here except bones and men pale as lice.” One of the few things we know about the narrator is that he is a man of letters; his fellow patients, on the other hand, have little education. “All my cohorts are illiterate,” he tells us:
Their collective library contains fragments from the Quran, shabby scraps from The Perfumed Garden, A Thousand and One Nights seasoned à la Marrakesh, and Juha’s trickster stories. They’re porters, stevedores, storekeepers, the unemployed, smugglers of every kind, the rejects of inexplicable wars and an aborted national resistance, farm boys without land or bread, left behind like febrile, rerouted castaways, with a cargo of off-seasons and coarse language, still smelling of cornbread and cow dung.
Yet the narrator feels affection rather than condescension for these selfdeprecating, clear-eyed, foul-mouthed outcasts, and they in turn entrust him with their stories. “Maybe one day you’ll write a book about us,” says one, “about our testicles, about the beautiful shit that we’re drowning in.”
Once again Bouanani is acting as chronicler of his society. He uses all his literary gifts to convey ugliness and hopelessness, coarse voices that nonetheless maintain their dignity. One of the remarkable characteristics of The Hospital is how masterfully it weaves together high and low registers, wistfulness and violence, the lyrical and the scatological. Bouanani’s writing— which in The Hospital, and especially in the original French, uncoils in long, barbed sentences—mixes melancholy, fury, wild visions, and humor. Some of this is lost in Vergnaud’s translation, which although generally faithful and graceful breaks the long French sentences into shorter declarative ones in English, sometimes changing the order and therefore the emphasis of their parts. Bouanani’s language still has its force but it loses some of its rhythm and lands fewer of its blows.
The patients speak freely because no one cares what they say. No one— themselves included—seems to expect them to ever recover or leave. They are marooned in the hospital, the gate of which has a disturbing habit of receding or disappearing entirely. The hospital authorities, as is often the case in authoritarian states, are all-powerful yet absent, unresponsive. Nor does religion offer much guidance or consolation. Those patients who try to preach to others are often violently rebuffed and mocked: “You can help yourself to my spot in paradise and set up a grocery store while you’re at it.” At one point a patient jokes that, since angels are “the civil servants of heaven,” a bribe is needed to ensure timely entry into the afterlife.
What hangs over the hospital isn’t the fear of death or hell but of being forgotten, of disappearing amid complete indifference. The narrator feels “the threat of one day being diluted like a common solution in the murderous hospital air.” The only safeguards against oblivion are the patients’ feeble human bonds, their shared bitter jokes, and their exhausted solidarity. When the narrator’s closest friend, Le Corsaire (he gets his nickname because he hails from the ancient pirate city of Sale; Vergnaud translates it as Rover, not quite felicitously), finally leaves, he insists on giving the narrator a small basil plant. Basil, he explains, is
the plant of the Prophet and sailors, it’s an eye open to the future, the farmer’s crystal ball . . . . You just need to plant it in a little bit of dirt and water it, a few drops will keep it alive for a human eternity. I’m entrusting it to you, take care of it like it’s your flesh and blood. As long as it doesn’t wither, I’ll live, and if one day its green petals fade, well then . . .
The narrator mocks his friend but, once he is gone, takes his trust seriously. On the last page, he makes clear it’s become part of the structure of his days:
I slide under my blanket, thinking that sleep will consume itself like a burning piece of paper. When there’s nothing but ashes left, I’ll once again wake up in the light of a new day and walk behind the veranda, to the spot where I planted basil leaves at the base of the wall.
Ahmed Bouanani believed that it is only by tending what others have passed down to us, by protecting their memories, that we can find meaning and consolation in this hard world. In the end, he seemed resigned to being forgotten himself. Against the odds, he hasn’t been.