Currently chair of the Department of Visual Arts, Matthew Jesse Jackson teaches courses grounded primarily in the contemplation of cultural experience since 1945. His recent scholarship has focused on two related phenomena: the performative character of scholarly activity (the lecture) and the fictive character of scholarly narration (the text). Most of his work of the preceding decade, often produced with collaborators under the rubric of Our Literal Speed, has been dedicated to investigating how lectures and texts might manifest wisdom and knowledge. His newest book Il’ia i Emiliia Kabakovy (Moscow: Breus Foundation, 2019), a Russian-language survey of the art of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, will be appearing later this year.
Jackson is the editor and co-translator from the Russian of Ilya Kabakov: On Art (University of Chicago Press, 2018) and the author of The Experimental Group: Ilya Kabakov, Moscow Conceptualism, Soviet Avant-Gardes (University of Chicago Press, 2010; paperback, 2016), winner of the Robert Motherwell Book Award from The Dedalus Foundation for outstanding publication in the history and criticism of modernism in the arts, as well as the Vucinich Book Prize for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies in any discipline of the humanities or social sciences from the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES); the prize citation reads, in part: “Matthew Jesse Jackson's The Experimental Group is an engaging, beautifully written, and erudite study of unofficial Soviet art. It provides brilliant readings of numerous individual drawings, albums, mixed media work, and installations…[T]his monumental study of creativity in and after the late Soviet period is a remarkable scholarly achievement.” The volume was also named runner-up for Book of the Year in art history and criticism at the American Publishers (PROSE) Awards, and placed on the short list for Book of the Year by the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL). Reviews appeared in Artforum, Art in America, Art Journal, Art Monthly, Artkhronika, Kunsttexte, The Nation, Oxford Art Journal, Russian Review, Slavic Review, Slavic and East European Journal, and Third Text.
Along the way he co-authored and co-curated the book/exhibition Vision and Communism, while several of his texts appeared as the voice of the character “Matthew Jesse Jackson” in Christian Matthiessen’s remarkable “theory novels” On Tour Mit Art & Language und Niklas Luhmann (Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos, 2012) and Miller: Ein Theorie Roman in the Style of the Jackson Pollock Bar (Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos, 2018). Jackson’s own writing can be found in Apollo, ARS, Afterall, Artforum, Art Journal, ARTMargins, Berfrois, BlackBook, Bookforum, The Brooklyn Rail, caareviews, Critical Inquiry, InterReview, Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics, M/E/A/N/I/N/G, Museum International, New Left Review, October, Oxford Art Journal, Shifter, Slavic Review, Slavic and East European Journal, Slavonic & East European Review, and Third Text.
For more years than he’d care to mention he’s been “doing” Our Literal Speed—about which Artforum once wrote, “The messy, unresolved productiveness—at times brilliance—of ‘Our Literal Speed’ lay in its complicated challenge to the neutralizing assumptions about a ‘community’ constituting an artwork peddled by and after relational aesthetics.” When not in disrepute and/or despair, the project’s managed to participate in the Whitney Independent Study Program as a Studio Fellow, received a Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts Grant, an Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Creative Capital Foundation Arts Writers Grant, the Epson Fondazione Antonio Ratti Prize for Artistic Research, and was named a Paul D. Fleck Fellow at the Banff Centre, while being invited to perform and/or exhibit at various locales, including Art Institute of Chicago; Banff Centre (Banff, Alberta); Bergen Assembly Triennial (Bergen, Norway); Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, MA); Center for Contemporary Art Lagos (Lagos, Nigeria); Critical Distance Centre for Curators (Toronto); Documenta 13 (Kassel, Germany); Fondazione Antonio Ratti (Milan); Gallery 400 (University of Illinois, Chicago); Welch School of Art & Design, Georgia State University (Atlanta); Gund Gallery at Kenyon College (Gambier, OH); Graduate School of Design, Harvard University; Institute of Fine Arts (New York); Kölnischer Kunstverein (Cologne); MACBA (Barcelona); McIntosh Gallery (London, Ontario); Museum of Modern Art (New York); The New School (New York); Performa (New York); Pitzer College Art Galleries (Claremont, CA); Princeton University; REDCAT (Los Angeles); Renaissance Society (Chicago); Rhode Island School of Design; TEMP Gallery (New York); University of Southern California; Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Cape Town, South Africa), and ZKM (Karlsruhe, Germany). The project was particularly honored to be designated as an exemplar of “Performative Scholarship”—one of the “Ideas of the Decade” according to the American Comparative Literature Association’s recent Report on the State of the Discipline of Comparative Literature. The Report states, in part: “Too often we assume that advances in modern scholarship will arrive as content-ideas and not as form-ideas…[W]e should rethink academic labor as constituted by innovations in form, remapping scholarship as performance...What might such scholarship look like? Consider, as an example, the academic cabaret organized by the academic-artist hybrid group Our Literal Speed…”
Jackson’s own research has been supported by fellowships and grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Clark Art Institute, the Getty Research Institute, and the Social Science Research Council. He earned a Ph.D. in History of Art from the University of California, Berkeley thanks to Anne M. Wagner and T.J. Clark, and is also A.B.D. in Russian Literature, having been awarded M.Phil. and M.A. degrees from Columbia University. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa summa cum laude with a BA in French and German from the Florida State University.
His writings about art and artists have been translated into Catalan, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, and Turkish, and he was truly humbled to have been a guest on the legendary Viewpoint with Randy Williams on Selma, Alabama’s WBBW AM 1490 Radio.
Jackson was born, raised, and (barely) graduated from high school among the gently rolling hills of Shelby County, Alabama and his current writing project is Vernacular Modernism All Over the Deep South.