Institute of Contemporary Arts

Julie Becker, detail from Untitled (green drawing with woman holding handbag), (date unknown). Courtesy Greene Naftali, New York.
‘As an American … one only came to New Dystopia City to become an artist. That only there was it a way of life.’
 
– Mark von Schlegell, New Dystopia
 
Science fiction writer and cultural critic Mark von Schlegell gives a talk spanning the work of Julie Becker and its generational confluence, based in his approach to speculative and escapist fiction – ‘a place outside normal, outside the real.’
 
In 2001, von Schlegell published Julie Becker: Sparkle Girl, his first ever feature article in Los Angeles’ Artext. He wrote, ‘Since Duchamp, we've grown accustomed to an art that “discovers” the normal is paranormal. In Becker's work, we find a corollary that threatens to overwhelm the entire equation: the paranormal is normal.’ Moving from New York to Los Angeles at the turn of the new millennium, von Schlegell turned from art and theory to science fiction writing, just before he met and profiled Becker. The singular cultural histories, conspiracy theories and psycho-geographies of LA that are knitted into Becker’s installations and drawings, also provided a stimulus for von Schlegell’s prose: ‘“Los Angeles,” like all city-worlds, is a function of certain particular common desires and fears. I would list apocalypse, freedom from history, glamour, trash, environmental masochism, futurism, sin, tacos and incredible gardens…’ His poetic, speculative fiction disrupts singular viewpoints and linear narratives, investigating the limits of time, memory, perception and control.
Mark von Schlegell has written three influential novels within the ongoing System Series Venusia (2005), Mercury Station (2009) and Sundogz (2015), all published by Semiotext(e), alongside short fictions, film scripts, theatre performance and criticism. Venusia was honour-listed for the 2006 James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award in science fiction. His stories and essays appear regularly in underground newspapers, zines and amateur periodicals. His art criticism has appeared in magazines such as Parkett, Flash Art International and Spex, and in art books and catalogues from institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; MoCA, Los Angeles and Palais de Tokyo, Paris.

This talk is part of our current exhibition Julie Becker: I must create a Master Piece to pay the Rent.