Jimmie Durham

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Jimmie Durham (2012)

Jimmie Durham (born 1940) is an American-born sculptor, essayist and poet, currently living in Europe.

Life and work[edit]

Durham was born in Washington, Arkansas and became active in theatre, performance and literature related to the US civil rights movement in the 1960s. His first solo exhibition as a visual artist was in Austin, Texas in 1968. Durham moved to Geneva, Switzerland in 1969 where he studied at L'École des Beaux-Arts until being drawn back to the US in 1973 through his involvement with the American Indian Movement (AIM). From 1973 until 1980 he worked as a political organizer with AIM, becoming a member of the movement’s Central Council. He also served as director of the International Indian Treaty Council and representative to the United Nations. When AIM fragmented at the end of the 1970s Durham, who was then living in New York City, returned his attention to art, creating sculptures that radically challenged conventional representations of North American Indians. He exhibited and published essays frequently and from 1981 to 1983 he was the director of the Foundation for the Community of Artists in New York. In 1983 West End Press published Columbus Day, a book of his poems and in 1988 his poetry was also included in Harper’s Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry.

In 1987 Durham moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico, where he was based until moving to Europe in 1994. During his time in Mexico, Durham exhibited widely, including at the Whitney Biennial, documenta IX, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, Exit Art, the Museum of Modern Art, Antwerp and the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. He also published a number of essays in books and periodicals, including Art Forum, Art Journal (CAA) and Third Text. In 1993 a collection of his essays, A Certain Lack of Coherence, was published by Kala Press.

Since moving to Europe, Durham’s work has focused primarily on the relationship between architecture, monumentality and national narratives. His anti-architectural sculptures, performances and videos seek to liberate architecture’s privileged material, stone, from its metaphorical associations with monumentality, stability and permanence. His exhibitions in Europe have included venues such as the Hamburg Kunstverein, FRAC in Reims, Haus Wittgenstein in Vienna, Kunstverein Munich, and the Venice Biennale, among many others. He participated in "A Grain of Dust A Drop of Water: The 5th Gwangju Biennale" in 2004. In 2005 Durham co-curated The American West, an attack on cowboy and Indian mythology, at Compton Verney, UK. In 2006 he also had various of his work exposed in the Serralves Foundation, in the Portuguese city of Porto. In 2009, a permanent public art piece by Durham, "Serpentine rouge" has been installed in Indre (Loire-Atlantique) in France along the Loire river. Durham In 2010 Durham presented his Rocks Encouraged in the Portikus exhibition hall in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Sculpture by Jimmie Durham in Fundação de Serralves, in Porto, Portugal (2007)

In 1995 Phaidon Press published Jimmie Durham, a comprehensive survey of his art, with contributions by Laura Mulvey, Dirk Snauwaert, and Mark Alice Durant. In 2009, with a retrospective exhibition Pierre Rejetées... at Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in France, a catalogue was published (see bibliography).

On 8 May 2015, Durham was interviewed by Hans-Ulrich Obrist in Venice, on the social live video broadcasting platform Periscope. He briefly spoke about as-yet unrealised projects, cooking without recipes as a rule, his books of collected poetry, his most and least favorite poets, and always writing by hand while at the same time disliking handwriting. He concluded by answering Obrist's request for advice to a young poet or artist: "Listen, always listen; don't talk, but listen."


  • Durham, Jimmie. (1983) Columbus Day. Albuquerque, New Mexico: West End Press.
  • Durham, Jimmie. (1992) 'Geronimo!', Partial Recall: Photos of Native North Americans. Lucy R. Lippard, ed. New York: The New Press. pp. 55–58.
  • de Baere, Bart. (1992) Will/Power. Ohio: Wexner Center for the Arts.
  • Durham, Jimmie. (1993) A Certain Lack of Coherence: Writings on Art and Cultural Politics. Jean Fisher, ed., London: Kala Press.
  • Shiff, Richard. (1992) 'The Necessity of Jimmie Durham’s Jokes', Art Journal. vol. 51, no. 3. pp. 74–80.
  • Lippard, Lucy. (1993) 'Jimmie Durham: Postmodernist Savage', Art In America vol. 81, no. 2, February. pp. 62–69.
  • Durham, Jimmie. (1993) Jimmie Durham: My Book, The East London Coelacanth. London: ICA Book Works.
  • Durham, Jimmie. (1994) 'Jimmie Durham: Interviewed by Mark Gisbourne', Art Monthly February. 173. pp. 7–11.
  • Durham, Jimmie. (1995) 'Attending to Words and Bones: An Interview with Jean Fisher', Art and Design. vol. 10, nos. pp. 7–8. 47-55.
  • Canning, Susan. (1995) 'Jimmie Durham', The New Art Examiner. vol. 23, no. 2. pp. 31–35.
  • Mulvey, Laura, Dirk Snauwaert, and Mark Alice Durant. (1995) Jimmie Durham. London: Phaidon Press.
  • Durham, Jimmie. (1996) Eurasian Project, Stage One: La porte de l’Europe (Les Bourgeois de Calais, La Leon d’Anatomie. A Progress Report). Champagne-Ardenne, Calais, Anvers: Le College Editions, Galerie de l’ Ancienne Poste, Galerie Micheline Szwajcer.
  • Durham, Jimmie. (1996) Der Verführer und der Steinerne Gast. Vienna: Springer Verlag
  • Durham, Jimmie. (1998) Jimmie Durham: Between the Furniture and the Building (Between a Rock and a Hard Place). Munich: Kunstverein München.
  • Durham, Jimmie. (1998) "The Centre of the World is Several Places (Parts I & II)." Interview by Beverly Koski and Richard William Hill (Berlin, February 1998). FUSE Magazine vol. 21, nos. 3 & 4, 1998. pp. 24–33 & 46-53, respectively.
  • Durham, Jimmie. (2001) Stone Heart. Kitakyushu, Japan: Centre for Contemporary Art, Kitakyushu.
  • Durham, Jimmie. (2001). 'Belief in Europe', in S. Hassan & I. Dadi (eds.). Unpacking Europe. Rotterdam: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen/Nai Publishers, pp. 290–293.
  • Durham, Jimmie. (2004). 'Situations', in C. Doherty (ed.). Contemporary Art: from Studio to Situation. London: Black Dog Publishing, pp. 177–183
  • Durham, Jimmie. (2004). 'Stones Rejected by the Builder', in G. Di Pietrantonio, et al.. Jimmie Durham. Milan: Charta, Fondazione Antonio Ratti, pp. 117–130.
  • Taussig, Michael. (2004) 'Jimmie Durham', On Reason And Emotion: Biennale of Sydney 2004, Isabel Carlos, ed. Sydney: Biennale of Sydney Ltd. pp. 82–85.
  • Durham, Jimmie. (2005) The Second Particle Wave Theory. As Performed on the Banks of the River Wear, a Stone’s Throw from S’Underland and the Durham Cathedral. Sunderland, UK/ Banff: University of Sunderland/Walter Phillips Gallery.
  • Durham, Jimmie. (2005) 'Various Element of Cowboy Life' & 'Cherokee-US Relations' The American West. Compton Verney, Warwickshire: Compton Verney House Trust. pp. 9–22 & 51-59 respectively.
  • Robecchi, Michele. (2006) 'Jimmie Durham', Contemporary. vol. 5, no. 89. pp. 52–55.
  • Bossé, Laurence, et al. (2009) Jimmie Durham. Pierre Rejetées.... Paris: Paris Musées. ISBN 978-2-7596-0084-7
  • Appleford, Rob. (2010) "Jimmie Durham and the Carpentry of Ambivalence," Social Text 28(4): 91–111. doi:10.1215/01642472-2010-012
  • Durham, Jimmie. (2011). Amoxohtli/Libro de Carretera/A Road Book. Köln: Walther König.

External links[edit]