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Reviewed by:
  • "Ulysses": The Only Thing That's New is Us by James Joyce et al.
  • Heather Ryan Kelley (bio)
"ULYSSES": THE ONLY THING THAT'S NEW IS US, by James Joyce, Al Bedell, Harry Burke, Shaira Chaer, Whitney Claflin, vei darling, Anaïs Duplan, Adjua Greaves, Molly Hagan, Candice Iloh, Brandon Johnson, Rindon Johnson, Cooper Larsen, James Loop, Georgette Maniatis, Mylo Mendez, Saretta Morgan, Nettles Artists Collective, Niina Pollari, Kiran Puri, Yoma Ru, and Erin Sweeny. London: Montez Press, 2018. 703 + insert pp. £40.00.

In 1964, Joseph Beuys created a list titled Lebenslauf/Worklauf (Life Course/Work Course) for an exhibition catalog.1 There are two entries for the year 1961: "Beuys is appointed Professor of Sculpture at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art" and then, just as matter-of-factly, [End Page 390] "Beuys extends Ulysses by 2 chapters at the request of James Joyce" (73, 6). The two chapters take the form of six sketchbooks. He worked on them from 1959 to 1961, during his lengthy period of recovery from postwar depression.2 Beuys found a connection with Joyce's fluid use of language and myth. He extended Ulysses with hermetic, fragmentary drawings containing symbols derived from both Finnegans Wake and Ulysses.3 The directive Beuys received from Joyce became a catalyst for his later artistic output.

In the summer of 2017, Gallery Mathew NYC invited artists to create works based upon each episode of Ulysses. Assembled was a formidable group of young visual artists and writers for a summer residency at the gallery. The result is "Ulysses": The Only Thing That's New Is Us, Joyce's full text plus reproductions of the work created by the artists. The edition was published in 2018 by the Montez Press.

The project shares much in common with Beuys's non-illustrative, non-literal approach to the book. The group created works of substance that can stand independently of Ulysses but that are enriched by the context and proximity of Joyce's words. Most of the artists use Joyce's text as a point of departure, or, better stated, they use the text as an invitation to continue its themes, approaching the novel free of the burden of academia and giving us a fresh reading of Joyce's work. The subtitle, The Only Thing That's New Is Us, underscores the reason Ulysses speaks to successive generations of readers: its themes of identity, sex, social justice, mortality, and love are timeless. The project documentation is included in a booklet attached inside the front cover of the Montez Press edition.

The project begins brilliantly with Adjua Greaves, a poet and visual artist. Her response to "Telemachus" is titled Autotelemachy, a mixed-media collage with three-dimensional found objects: a peacock feather, long grassy leaves tied as a bouquet, toys, fabric, and a framed photograph of a young woman.4 The objects break the boundary of the picture plane, extending into the space of the gallery. The central two-dimensional portion of the work is filled with images of women—from childhood to expectant motherhood to crone—collaged atop a map of New York. Greaves takes the interior thoughts and spoken comments made about women by Buck Mulligan, Stephen Dedalus, and Haines and turns them inward as a self-portrait in this evocative collage.

Whitney Claflin addresses Stephen's musings in "Proteus" with a work titled Proteus' Impulse. Photographed in the booklet are a set of printed, business-card-sized, blue-and-white game pieces on a silver tray. The blue ones have adjectives. Visible are the words "psychedelic," "finished," "inescapable," "tempting," and "cheap." The white cards have nouns and phrases: "time," "a very short space," and "father's voice" can be seen in the photograph. There are fifty of each [End Page 391] color card, and the text on the cards has two sources. Claflin wrote the following in her project proposal for the residency: "In order to continue the notion of Dedalus' walks, and to make the deck more relevant and robust, I will take a walk around NYC and jot down words and phrases to make cards from, so that the deck is rooted both directly in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1938-6036
Print ISSN
0021-4183
Pages
pp. 390-394
Launched on MUSE
2021-06-10
Open Access
No
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