All posts filed under: Issues

Table of Contents / Issue 33: After Douglas Crimp

Peter Murphy, “Introduction: After Douglas Crimp” Articles Matthew Bowman, “The Haunting of Modernism Conceived Differently” Theo Gordon, “Re-reading ‘Mourning and Militancy’ and its Sources in 2022” Lutz Hieber and Gisela Theising, “Manhattan-Hanover Transfer” Christian Whitworth, “Mourning, Militancy, and Mania in Patrick Staff’s The Foundation“ Artwork Cindy Hwang and Hua Xi, “Thirty-Six Copies of the Mona Lisa” Dialogues Benjamin Haber and Daniel J Sander, “All the Gay People Will Disappear” Xiao (Amanda) Ju, “Reading Douglas” Peter Murphy, “Learning From Douglas: A Course Schedule” Questionnaire Daly Arnett, Kendall DeBoer, Bridget Fleming, Peter Murphy, “After Douglas Crimp: Questionnaire” Tara Najd Ahmadi Tiffany E. Barber Nicholas Baume Peter Christensen Amanda Jane Graham Rachel Haidu Kelly Long Shota T. Ogawa T’ai Smith TT Takemoto Gaëtan Thomas Juliane Rebentisch Ann Reynolds Marc Siegel Janet Wolff Zheng Bo Catherine Zuromskis Click here for information on the contributors to this issue.

Introduction / Issue 33: After Douglas Crimp

Click here for the Table of Contents by Peter Murphy Featured images: T.L. Litt, Douglas Crimp, New York, 1990. (L) and Douglas Crimp, New York, 1990. (R). Images courtesy of the artist. When it was time to decide the topic for Issue 33 of InVisible Culture, there was no question that it would be on anything other than Douglas Crimp (1944–2019). Douglas—someone who hardly needs an introduction, especially in the context of IVC—was an important figure for the journal and its affiliated graduate program in Visual and Cultural Studies. His pathbreaking essay “Getting the Warhol We Deserve,” for example, was published in our first issue. We would be remiss, however, to neglect to mention that Douglas was influential for an array of people and things: art history and criticism, queer theory and activism, gallery and museum exhibitions, and so many friends, students, and readers of his work. Given this vast network, our call for papers and artwork that engage with his legacy was a slight misnomer. There is no singular legacy to Douglas Crimp; instead, …

After Douglas Crimp: Questionnaire

by Daly Arnett, Kendall Deboer, Bridget Fleming, and Peter Murphy Featured image: Courtesy of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Rochester. As a special insert for Issue 33 of Invisible Culture, we are pleased to present responses from Douglas Crimp’s friends, colleagues, and students to a questionnaire written by the journal editors. Contributors were invited to answer as many or as few of the questions as they wished. The questions, which are posted below, were designed to give our contributors the opportunity to reflect on Douglas in a myriad of ways. From the directness of recounting a story to the abstraction of an image, the responses generate new visions of Douglas while also revealing the private nature of his relationships with the authors. The editors of Invisible Culture would like to thank all of the participants for their responses. Choose from the linked names below to be taken to that author’s response. If the author answered specific questions, the questions are included in the text. If the author wrote something …

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Ann Reynolds

SHARING TIME IN THE ARCHIVES WITH DOUGLAS Douglas and I spent some time together in the archives, but not nearly enough time, as it turned out. Losing someone brings the constant sharing of things and experiences to an end, or at least, renders it one-sided. Alone with my own thoughts, I imagine how Douglas would respond to certain performances and films, or to some of the old letters, diary entries, and personal photographs that I continue to discover through my research, and within that imagining he often flickers into view. Douglas had strong opinions, tastes, and ethical parameters. We did not always agree, especially when it came to some of the artists and critics associated with surrealist circles in New York that I have been thinking and writing about over the past ten years or so. But he recognized and respected a love of things, even if he did not share your love for something in particular. One winter we agreed to meet at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln …

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Shota T. Ogawa

Share an anecdote or memory you have of Douglas. Or, if you had the opportunity to share anything with Douglas now, what would it be? As an outsider to contemporary art, I can only write about Douglas in Rochester: not the New York City art critic, but a teacher and mentor who was unbelievably available and generous even for a student who he did not advise. I cannot forget driving through snowy downtown Rochester in his old Nissan Sentra (later, a black VW Beetle), listening to his Met Opera cassette tapes, when he would kindly lend me his car during the months and weekends that he would spend back in New York City. I know I was one of the many (usually overseas) students that got to use his cars and accompany him as his designated driver to and from the airport for his weekends back in New York City.   In Before Pictures, Douglas describes navigating between academia, life outside, and how each informs the other. Discuss leisure, and how academic work reflects personal …

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: T’ai Smith

Motherly Lessons I attached a longer, unedited version of the following text to an email I sent to Douglas on December 12, 2018, while he was undergoing radiation treatment. He was not well, and I hoped it would convey the extent of my love and gratitude. I had many times expressed thanks to him as my doctoral supervisor, but I wanted him also to know how much he had shaped me as a person. On February 9, 2021, while in New York, I visited him at his apartment in Tribeca to chat and to bring him butter pecan ice cream; he lent me a bootleg copy of Warhol’s Hedy for a project I was working on with a friend. This was the last time I saw him. At his memorial service in September 2019, someone mentioned to me that he read this text aloud at a dinner party with his friends around that time. I felt humbled and loved. In grad school, Douglas Crimp was mother hen, always surrounded by a gaggle of chicks, whom …

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Kelly Long

Answer Louise Lawler’s question in October: “What would Douglas Crimp say?” Or, to follow the title of Lawler’s exhibition: Why Pictures Now? Pictures, for me, always—pictures, and poems (which hold on to ambiguity in the same way that pictures do). Pictures, because never once have I not stumbled over my words. Ever have I said not-precisely-the-thing-I-wanted and ached over the disconnect between my own heart and mind and mouth. Pictures don’t settle, and don’t ask us to. So, I can keep on trying. I don’t know what Douglas would say—despite all the essential things he said, I picture him listening more than I picture him speaking. But his marvelous hands would be flying! Imagine an alternative space to museums. Describe what this space might look like. Pathways forward, upward, and out. Choice, and the choosing. Jealously-guarded nothing. Encounters that cost nothing. Delight in one another (we’re all each other’s teachers). More places to sit, more places to rest. Willingness to give things up, and have it hurt a little. Share an anecdote or memory you …

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Janet Wolff

VCS in the 90s It’s now thirty years since I arrived in Rochester, taking over as VCS director from Mieke Bal in the program’s second year.  I think I am right in recalling that Douglas came the following year – 1992.  Michael Holly as Chair of Art and Art History had brought us both to Rochester, and we worked closely together until she left (for the Clark Art Institute) in 1999.   I left (for Columbia University, and then later home to England) in 2001.  So for most of the 90s we worked together, the three of us.  We were a great team, with an effortless and easy collaboration and division of labor – our offices next door to one another, dropping in and out for chats and consultations.  It was the best job of my life, and I still miss it.  Now, of course, I also really miss Douglas.  We kept in close touch and met regularly in New York.  He also came to Manchester on two occasions on a Simon Visiting Fellowship which …

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Tiffany E. Barber

HOMAGE, a score for Douglas* Stand tall, feet together, feet apartSmile slightlyWalk in a circle around yourselfContinuing walking, marking a square perimeter around the circle you just madeStop whenever you feel like stopping Stand tall, feet together, feet apartSmooth your shirt, tuck it into your pantsPause Stand tall, feet together, feet apartLet your hands and arms dangle at your sidesBend your kneesHinge forward slightly at the waistSlowly hug your arms around the air in front youPause Stand tall, feet together, feet apartSmile slightly Sit in the nearby mid-century armchairPauseSlowly cross your legsSlowly bring your left hand to your foreheadRest your elbow on the arm of the chairRest your head in your handPauseFold your hands together, rest them on your bellyPauseSmile slightlyStand tall *repeat the score, increasing speed with every repetition, stop when you feel like stopping Dr. Tiffany E. Barber is a scholar, curator, and critic of contemporary visual art, new media, and performance who shared with Douglas a love for dance. Click here to return to the other questionnaire responses.

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Rachel Haidu

Mourning and Proximity in a Bad Time The last time I spoke to Douglas it was the week of my birthday. I had a lot to tell him: not only about the birthday party I’d thrown for myself but the trip I was about to take, with a former student of his who’d been a distant friend for years. It was unusual to have so much to report; usually Douglas did most of the talking, and if I had a particularly entertaining story or gossip to relate, it came much later in the conversation. But those days he was mostly homebound and weak. He could report on who’d come to visit but the usual litany of dance performances, exhibits and gallery shows, dinners and outings was diminished. This time, my news took precedence and there was, for me—as there had been over the course of many months of his long and building illness—a sense of anxious anticipation about this.  Dying sucks a lot out of someone. Not only the energy to do things but the …

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Peter Christensen

Share an anecdote or memory you have of Douglas. Or, if you had the opportunity to share anything with Douglas now, what would it be? In late August 2015 Douglas sent me a text message asking if I was back in Rochester from our summer recess. Douglas had begun to regularly inform me of when he was on his way up from New York to Rochester as our friendship had grown. My impression was that he wanted to line up social events so that he could be as enriched as possible in his stays upstate. Taking the cue, and excited to hear from him, I invited him over to mine to barbecue. He liked barbecuing a simple piece of meat and vegetables a great deal and early Fall in Rochester is a terrific time to do it. He obliged to the barbecue but he said he needed my help with something as well. Douglas was not one to ask for help so I was intrigued, perhaps even also a bit concerned. Douglas said that he …

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Nicholas Baume

Douglas Douglas’s loving friendship over the past 25 years has helped to shape the person I am today. In 1994 I was a junior curator at the newly established Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. We’d decided to program around the annual Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival, which had become the most notable event on the city’s cultural calendar. I proposed that we present a keynote lecture and was charged with inviting an international luminary. Douglas represented the nexus of contemporary art and activism like nobody else – an epoch defining critic, curator, and writer who had brought to the AIDS crisis the full force of his moral courage, extraordinary intellect, and profound compassion. As a young man who’d lost some of my closest family and friends to the disease, which hit Sydney’s gay community hard, and as a curator inspired by the clarity and conceptual insight of his art writing, he was already a profoundly influential figure. Out of the blue, I wrote Douglas inviting him to lecture at the MCA. I didn’t …

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Gaëtan Thomas

Answer Louise Lawler’s question in October: “What would Douglas Crimp say?” “I love Louise!” Imagine an alternative space to museums. Describe what this space might look like. As I translated Douglas’ essays into French, I tried to imagine the alternative downtown art spaces in which he was invested during the 1970s and 1980s. This world feels so remote but I feel I can say with some certainty that it was less controlled by money and the desire for immediate recognition. I personally enjoy spending time in encyclopedic museums and wish there were more palace-like complexes transformed into accessible, public, art-filled spaces. As a college student in Paris, I remember feeling most comfortable reading in one of the Louvre’s covered patios than in my tiny, claustrophobic apartment. Ironically, one my first conversations with Douglas – when we met in Paris – was about the Louvre, a museum he hadn’t visited in decades. A few years later, when the Buchholz Gallery organized a show around him in Berlin, we visited the Gemäldegalerie together (along with Jonathan Flatley) …

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Marc Siegel

Answer Louise Lawler’s question in October: “What would Douglas Crimp say?” Or, to follow the title of Lawler’s exhibition: Why Pictures Now? We could call it, “Why No Pictures Now.” Louise Lawler’s contribution to the section commemorating Douglas Crimp in October 171 (Winter 2020) is heartwrenchingly brilliant. “What would Douglas Crimp say?” Confronted with the emptiness of his absence, that’s the question many of Douglas’s friends ask themselves almost every day. Doing so is one way of activating memories and keeping Douglas’s perspectives and inquisitive attentiveness alive within us. In this or that enjoyable or difficult situation, confronted with this or that theoretical, political, or amorous conundrum, in the midst of this or that culinary or aesthetic experience, what would Douglas Crimp say? Lawler’s question, of course, is posed in a specific context. It appears as title and sole text of her remembrance of her friend in the art journal for which Crimp served in various editorial functions over approximately thirteen years. As editor and author between 1977-1990, Crimp helped shape the journal’s development as …

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Amanda Jane Graham

Imagine an alternative space to museums. Describe what this space might look like. A city (for us, probably New York City) A stage A dinner party Share an anecdote or memory you have of Douglas. Or, if you had the opportunity to share anything with Douglas now, what would it be? In October 2009 I took the train from Rochester to New York City to see DANCE at The Joyce Theater. Originally performed in 1979, DANCE is a collaboration between three artists: choreography by Lucinda Childs, music by Philip Glass, and film décor by Sol LeWitt. DANCE is a haunting piece filled with transcendent repetition, live and through projection. Eventually it would inspire a chapter of my dissertation. I had seen DANCE July 2009 at The Fisher Center at Bard College. My first watch was purely for pleasure. It was my thirtieth birthday and I wanted an excuse to see a performance in the Gehry-designed building a stone’s throw from my undergraduate dormitory. However, seeing DANCE once didn’t feel sufficient, especially since I had enrolled …

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Juliane Rebentisch

His voice Douglas Crimp (1944-2019) One of the last conversations I had with Douglas touched on the question of one’s own voice in a public text. It was not about one’s own voice in the sense that is audible from any writing—even there, sometimes especially there, where authors try to neutralize theirs. It was about one’s own voice as a personal one, about moments in which one’s own experience is not only an implicit horizon for what one writes but becomes a public stake itself. For much of Douglas’s writing is characterized by a structure in which the personal, the personal anecdote, is not a mere adjunct to the argument but its very point of departure. “Mourning and Militancy” (1989), one of Douglas’s most famous public interventions during the AIDS crisis, was the first text in which he made a personal story the starting point for his reflections. The very moving recollection of how the suppressed grief over the death of his own father shifted into a symptom stands at the beginning of a plea for …

Reading Douglas

by Xiao (Amanda) Ju I think of reading as one way to be in dialogue with Douglas, and, for me, he is such an important interlocutor. Reading Douglas has always been a bit difficult for me—part of it has to do with the fact that there is a whole set of English words that I have never said out loud­––his writings include a whole lot of them! More affecting, however, is that Douglas was the teacher who held us accountable for “not knowing things.” He would get very frustrated with our lack of knowledge: what we excused as generational or cultural gaps, he took, I think, as all-too-precocious rigidities in cultural and historical interests. So when I stumble to read, a feeling of embarrassment always pricks me. There is what feels like a lack of ethics in these gaps of knowledge. I had read the chapter “Hotel Des Artistes” before, but of course had never read it out loud. This recording, embarrassing as it is, captures something personal about my relationship with the English language, …

Manhattan-Hanover Transfer

by Lutz Hieber and Gisela Theising We got to know Douglas Crimp, maven of New York AIDS activist art, in the summer of 1990. He seemed to us to be the living embodiment of an intellectual. Jean Paul Sartre describes intellectuals as being concerned with relating the way they act and see themselves in concrete terms to society at large, as distinct from academics, whose efforts are confined to expanding a specific store of knowledge.1 The intellectual Crimp was aware of the contradiction between the general nature of his knowledge and the specificity of the political and social context to which he applied it—a contradiction which he never forgot. Our contact with Douglas Crimp motivated us to reflect on the contradictions in our own German culture specifically, and lives. We came to realize that we needed to confront our cultural unconscious. The sociologist Pierre Bourdieu coined the term l’inconscient culturel (cultural unconscious) to denote the key aspect of human habitus that is formed when the individual develops modes of perception, cognition, and behavior. The habitus …

The Haunting of a Modernism Conceived Differently

by Matthew Bowman Another Modernism Douglas Crimp’s exceptional reputation as an art critic is, of course, in many respects intertwined with his early theorization of postmodernism within the context of fine art. Especially important in this context was the alloying of that nascent postmodern discourse with contemporary photographic-based practices that were becoming increasingly central to the artworld at the tail end of the 1970s. For this reason, this essay seeks to revisit the conjunctions between postmodern theory and photographic practice in Crimp’s early writing. And, in doing so, it shall highlight the relation of the postmodernism/photography dyad to a third term, namely the museum. Indeed, Crimp understands the status of photography as significantly contested within, and disruptive of, the museum’s systemic patterns of assimilation and organization. Several of these crucial writings are handily collected in his book On the Museum’s Ruins and to an extent my own essay serves as an opportunity to look back through that volume and highlight major facets of it.1 But such highlighting will also disclose complications in those essays—complications which …

Learning from Douglas: A Course Schedule

by Peter Murphy Art and the City: New York in the 1970s (Fall 2015)Monday 2-4:40PM, Morey 524Professor Douglas Crimp When I walked into the seminar room and saw the word “Cruising” projected onto the vinyl screen, I thought, with a budding sense of satisfaction, “This is why I’m in grad school.” For years, I had fantasized about the Hudson River piers that David Wojnarowicz writes about in Close to the Knives; now I had the chance to learn from someone who experienced them, someone who was there. Douglas quickly reminded me that while the pleasures found at the piers were invigorating (sex, friendship, sunbathing), there was also danger present at every turn (robbery, assault, murder) and every step (the wood was so decayed that it could give way). Our discussion of Alvin Baltrop’s photographs made this starkly clear: in addition to the alluring images of beautiful men fucking in dilapidated settings, there are also images of corpses and police investigations. This distant violence, as well as Wojnarowicz’s intoxicating way of writing about these dangers, informed …

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Catherine Zuromskis

How to do Intimacy Douglas was a great teacher.  He was my favorite teacher.  He was also my mentor, dissertation advisor, role model, dear friend, sometime parent, and generally, among the best people I have ever had the pleasure to know.  If he were here now, I would tell him that, though I suspect he already knew.  I professed my love to him more than once, and usually in an awkward, flustered, effusive rush.  In the almost two decades that I knew him, I never quite got over my crush on Douglas.  I was so in awe of him, so honored to be able to work with him, and so eager to impress him that it was often hard for me to keep my cool around him.  My first job after grad school was at UC Berkeley, and we invited Douglas to give a talk.  I got to introduce him.  I remember that the podium was too low and the light was too dim so I had to hold my notes up to read them.  …

Re-reading “Mourning and Militancy” and its Sources in 2022

by Theo Gordon In the opening paragraph of the chapter on disco in Before Pictures, Douglas Crimp writes of a folder of miscellaneous project papers he has kept from the 1970s, which includes an old, unpursued book proposal on the topic of contemporary art since Minimalism. Crimp was “pleasantly surprised” to discover reference to “the rubric of postmodernism” in this proposal, an indication that he had been thinking of art in such terms already in 1976.1 In a footnote he describes receiving an e-mail from “a British graduate student” asking how he came to use “postmodernist” to describe the artists in Pictures in the revised version of his 1977 catalogue essay, published in October in 1979:2 Since I hadn’t used that term in the original essay, he wondered, what had transpired in the meantime? When had I begun to think about postmodernism? Was it through my association with other October critics such as Craig Owens? Did I take the term from architectural discourse, where by 1978 it was used fairly regularly? I couldn’t remember.3 The old proposal reveals the gaps in …

Mourning, Militancy, and Mania in Patrick Staff’s The Foundation

Featured image: Patrick Staff, video still from The Foundation, 2015. Courtesy of Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles. by Christian Whitworth He was a damned good-looking guy, all right—and in that outfit he looked rugged, too. I reckon he was about twenty-four, and so well made that he just escaped being pretty. His black curly hair tumbled out beneath the peak of his motorcycle cap, pushed to the back of his head. […] The planes of his face from cheekbone to jawline were almost flat, perhaps a little hollowed, so that he gave the impression of a composite of all the collar ads, fraternity men, football and basketball players, and movie heroes of the contemporary American scene.1 When the novelist, poet, and university professor Samuel Steward, working under the pseudonym Phil Andros, published in 1966 his erotic collection of short stories, Stud, he ushered forth a composite image of homoerotic fantasies, its model masculinities who, like the hum of their motorcycles and movie projectors, remain throbbing throughout. And if the seated man on the cover of the …

Thirty-six Copies of the Mona Lisa

by Cindy Hwang and Hua Xi Thirty-six Copies of the Mona Lisa is a digital poem about oil painting reproductions, Chinese national identity, and Western colonialism. When my friend Hua Xi approached me in December 2018 with an opportunity to collaborate—turning a poem she had written into a website—the critic and curator Douglas Crimp was far from my mind. But reading his acclaimed “Pictures” essay in a seminar, and then encountering InVisible Culture’s invitation to engage with Crimp’s legacy not long after, prompted me to reconsider Thirty-six Copies through the pictorial conceits articulated in his essay, which came to define the “Pictures Generation” of artists. After all, our work consists in part of sixteen pictures, including one of the most famous in the world, and lived for a time on the website thirty-six.pictures (“.pictures” being a surprisingly affordable domain). What follows is a reflection on how those pictures contribute to one’s reading of the accompanying poem, and vice versa, drawn from Crimp’s original insights. To be clear, the pictures in Thirty-six Copies are quite unlike …

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Tara Najd Ahmadi

An Art Historian’s Recipe is a short film homage to art historian Douglas Crimp (1944-2019). In the 1970s, Crimp and his boyfriend attempted to publish a Moroccan cookbook in New York City, but their project failed and the book was never published. The film’s narration consists of excerpts from Crimp’s memoir, Before Pictures. The footage is a collage of 16mm films shot between 2017 and 2021. Central to the footage are scenes of Crimp preparing a tagine dish (from his unpublished cookbook) with his students at the University of Rochester. Directed by: Tara Najd Ahmadi Voices: Lauren DiGiulio Amanda Graham Jurij Meden Tara Najd Ahmadi Tara Najd Ahmadi is an artist and scholar, based in Vienna. Click here to return to the other questionnaire responses.

“All the Gay People Will Disappear”

by Benjamin Haber and Daniel J Sander The original context of the above tweet, which preceded Twitter’s introduction of threads, was part of a longer ironic statement in support of the legalization of gay marriage in the state of New York.1 Baldwin suggested that if one really opposed such a move, especially on religious grounds, then they should perform an incantation, and “all the gay people will disappear.” In late 2020 and early 2021, Baldwin’s tweet began recirculating out of context, divorced from the original discussion around gay marriage. Instead, queers, in replies and quote tweets, affirmed the at times self-deprecating idea that “gay people,” primarily signifying cis white homosexuals, had overstayed their welcome, becoming cringeworthy, and really ought to disappear. In highlighting the playful stretching of Baldwin’s tweet back and forward in time, we look to foreground a shift in queer representation as marked for death to one bored to death. For Douglas Crimp, the disappearance of gay representation during the advent of the HIV/AIDS pandemic was paradoxically achieved through new forms of overdetermined …

Contributors / Issue 33: After Douglas Crimp

Articles Dr. Matthew Bowman lectures in fine art at the University of Suffolk and regularly writes art criticism for Art Monthly. His research focuses on twentieth century and contemporary art, criticism, and philosophy in the USA and Europe. He has authored numerous essays, many of which focus on the history of art criticism. In 2018 he published “Indiscernibly Bad: The Problem of Bad Art/Good Painting” in Oxford Art Journal and in 2019 “The Intertwining—Damisch, Bois, and October’s Rethinking of Painting.” A new essay, “Art Criticism in the Contracted Field” will be included in the next issue of the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. Currently, he is finishing editing an essay collection to be published as The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing: Art Criticism and the Art Market for Bloomsbury and October and the Expanded Field of Art and Criticism for Routledge. www.essex.academia.edu/MatthewBowman  Theo Gordon received his PhD from The Courtauld Institute of Art in 2018, with a thesis on psychoanalysis and art of the American AIDS crisis. He has published in …

Introduction / Issue 32
Rest and the Rest: The Aesthetics of Idleness

Artwork by contributor Nina Luostarinen. For Issue 30, the editorial board of InVisible Culture is honored to present a special introduction by Dr. Jean Ma. Also in this issue: “The Somnophile’s Guide to Cinema: An Interview with Jean Ma.” “Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do,” the old saying goes, or in another version of the phrase, “the devil finds work for idle hands.” The adage makes an equation between a lack of occupation and laxity of moral character: to abstain from the exertions of meaningful activity is to avail oneself to the devil’s enjoinment. Evil rushes into the void of vacant time. Then again, perhaps the devil is idleness itself, a condition whose conceptualization descends from acedia (in Greek, lack of care) and sloth. For the ascetic monks of the fourth century, acedia was a dreaded demon—indeed, “the most oppressive of all the demons,” according to Evagrius of Ponticus.1 Often creeping in from the hours of late morning to early afternoon and exerting a drag on the passage of time, even …