On view in the 2014 Biennial are the notebooks David Foster Wallace used to compose early drafts of The Pale King (2011), the novel he was working on when he took his life in 2008. Some humanize the critically acclaimed writer by giving a sense of his idiosyncrasies—one page is covered in abstract doodles, the cover of another notebook, labeled “scenes,” has a kitschy picture of kittens. Others offer glimpses of his voracious appetite for and encyclopedic knowledge of literature and philosophy (quotes copied from Friedrich Nietzsche and poet John Berryman) and politics (a clipped article about President Obama). Wallace, who was raised in Champaign, Illinois, is a vital inclusion in the Whitney Biennial not only for his Midwestern roots, shared by many artists in curator Michelle Grabner’s section, but also for the ethical nature of his creative output. Set largely within an IRS office in Peoria, Illinois, The Pale King distills the central themes of his writing: In a consumer society overflowing with technological, virtual, and chemical options for entertainment and escape that distract us from authentic engagement with our surroundings and other people, Wallace argued, it is particularly when we are least interested that such engagement is most necessary. In the final section of The Pale King, titled “Notes and Asides,” he observed:
"It turns out that bliss . . . lies on the other side of crushing boredom. Pay attention to the most tedious thing you can find . . . and, in waves, a boredom like you've never known will wash over you . . . Ride these out, and it's like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Constant bliss in every atom."
Work by David Foster Wallace is on view in the Museum’s fourth floor galleries.
Academy Records and Matt Hanner
Ei Arakawa and Carissa Rodriguez
Robert Ashley and Alex Waterman
Lisa Anne Auerbach
Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna
Paravel, and Sensory Ethnography Lab
Critical Practices Inc.
Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst
Radamés “Juni” Figueroa
Gaylen Gerber with David Hammons,
Sherrie Levine, and Trevor Shimizu
Tony Greene curated by Richard
Hawkins and Catherine Opie
Yve Laris Cohen
My Barbarian (Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon
and Alexandro Segade)
Sara Greenberger Rafferty
Steve Reinke with Jessie Mott
Valerie Snobeck and Catherine Sullivan
Charline von Heyl
David Foster Wallace