Constance DeJong’s long-neglected 1977 novel, Modern Love, is one thing made up of many: It is science fiction. It is a detective story. It is a historical episode in the time of the Armada and the dislocation of Sephardic Jews from Spain to an eventual location in New York’s Lower East Side. It is a first-person narrator’s story; Charlotte’s story; and Roderigo’s; and Fifi Corday’s. It is a 150-year-old story about Oregon and the story of a house in Oregon. Modern Love’s continuity is made of flow and motion; like an experience, it accumulates as you read, at that moment, through successive moments, right to the end.
An important figure of downtown New York’s performance art and burgeoning media art scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s, DeJong designed Modern Love herself and published it with help from Dorothea Tanning on the short-lived Standard Editions imprint. Critically acclaimed in its time, Modern Love is now back in print on the 40th anniversary of its original publication.
Constance DeJong is an artist and writer who has worked for thirty years on narrative form within the context of avant-garde music and contemporary art. Considered one of the progenitors of media art, or “time-based media,” DeJong shapes her intricate narrative form through performances, audio installations, print texts, electronic objects, and video works. Since the 1980s, DeJong has collaborated with Phillip Glass, Tony Oursler, and the Builders Association on performances and videos at Walker Art Museum, Minneapolis, MN; the Wexner Center, Columbus, OH; Philadelphia Museum of Art; and in New York, at The Kitchen, Thread Waxing Space, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Dia Center for the Arts. Her books include I.T.I.L.O.E. and SpeakChamber, and her work is included in the anthologies Up is Up, But So is Down: New York’s Downtown Literary Scene, 1974–1991 (NYU Press, 2006); Blasted Allegories (New Museum/MIT, 1987); and Wild History (Tanam Press, 1985).