COLUMNS

  • Diary

    Bosom Buddies

    “LET'S JUST SAY that the Italian Ambassador is a great friend,” said Isa Lorenzo, owner of Manila’s Silverlens Gallery, from her Art Basel Features booth, when asked how she managed to get into Switzerland from Asia. “We self-quarantined for a week on the Amalfi coast. Luckily, we can sell art from the beach.”

    With so many borders closed, many knew that this edition of Art Basel would be less international, perhaps even a return to the early demographics of the fifty-one-year-old fair. “In the 1970s, there were hundreds of people in the art world,” said Francis Outred, a London-based art consultant,

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  • Film

    Cats and Dogs

    EVEN WITH the New York Film Festival kicking off tonight with Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, I thought I had had enough of festivals, at least until 2022. Wild horses could not have dragged me to see Frances McDormand, whose every performance is more forced than the last, assay Lady M, although I would have liked to see Denzel Washington’s interpretation of the character whose name must not be spoken except within a performance of “the Scottish play.” (Were you under the impression that the “don’t speak his name” shit began with Voldemort?) And then, early yesterday morning, I went to a

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  • Film

    Social Studies

    WITH FIFTEEN FEATURES and eight programs of shorts, the second edition of the New York Film Festival’s “Currents” sidebar almost qualifies as a festival in itself. Again international in scope, this year’s selections reflect the ongoing impact of social media, not only in terms of how it has altered the speed and perspective by which global events are registered, but in how it suggests a possible new direction for cinema; this seems to be the point of Tiffany Sia’s Do Not Circulate. In reworking cellphone images of the violent police response to protests in Hong Kong in 2019, Sia’s work seeks

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  • Interviews

    Mariam Ghani

    Our conversation began as a requiem for Afghanistan—its violent unwinding corresponds horrifically with the name of Mariam Ghani’s film. What We Left Unfinished (2019) is a feature-length documentary on five unedited Afghan films made during the country’s Communist era of state-funded cinema (1978–991), a time deluged with coups, conflict, and censorship. Ghani’s film attests firstly and mostly to the significance and precarity of cultural workers in Afghanistan—their voices were recently gathered in an Open Letter from Arts for Afghanistan—and the Afghan histories and imaginaries that depend

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  • Slant

    Loose Threads

    THIS SUMMER IN PARIS, two museums installed versions of the same artworks—eighteenth-century French tapestries from a royal series known as the “Nouvelle Indes” (New Indies)—to tell very different stories about European legacies of race, slavery, and colonialism. One version hangs in the lavish period rooms of the new Hôtel de la Marine in the Place de la Concorde, while another was part of an exhibition devoted to the forty-two-year-old Congolese artist Sammy Baloji at the École des Beaux-Arts. Despite the fact that both sets of hangings came from the Mobilier National and were on view only a

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  • Interviews

    Sara Cwynar

    Sara Cwynar’s opus Glass Life (2021) ambitiously navigates contemporary image culture with her signature embrace of “high” and “low” source material. To watch this six-channel video is to tumble headlong through sheaves of saturated hand-clipped images interlaced with hundreds of files pulled from deep within the artist’s hard drives. Her narrator reminds us: “In the glass life, everything can be used. It is all material.” Fingers swipe through Instagram. Hands hold open history books. Kim Kardashian appears while we hear about tulips in seventeenth-century Holland. Cwynar pins a stock photo of

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  • Slant

    Twisted Sister

    A WOMAN NAMED ROBERTA BREITMORE steps off a Greyhound bus and checks into San Francisco’s Dante Hotel. The year is 1973. Single with no friends in the city, Roberta nervously contemplates her next move, eventually placing roommate-seeking ads in local newspapers. She receives forty-three responses. A victim of childhood trauma, she never finished college and struggles with anxiety. Susceptible to the promises of self-improvement fads, she joins Weight Watchers and EST. After undergoing an exorcism in 1978, Roberta resurfaces, zombielike, as a telerobotic doll with camera eyes in the 1990s. In

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  • Passages

    Jemeel Moondoc (1946–2021)

    “EVERYTHING ENTERS INTO THIS MUSIC,” the saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc once observed. “It could be anywhere or anything, everything enters into the music.” A self-proclaimed “melodic storyteller,” Moondoc, who died in August a few weeks after his seventy-sixth birthday, was a font of prodigious invention, his nearly fifty-year career in free jazz one of the music’s lasting, though little-known, achievements.

    Born in Chicago in 1946, Moondoc’s surname derived from his great-great-grandfather, the original “moondoctor” who sang, danced, and sold cures in “moonshine medicine shows” at the turn of the

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  • Film

    Grand Illusion

    PEDRO ALMODÓVAR’S PARALLEL MOTHERS was the official opening night film of the 78th Venice International Film Festival, but through a twist of scheduling, mine was the less-trumpeted Atlantide. The new feature from gallery artist and filmmaker Yuri Ancarani was a playful overture, a coming-of-age portrait of teenagers and their fast boats on the lagoons and waterways of another Venice not mobbed by tourists. Reframing the games of status and speed from Ancarani’s luxe mirage The Challenge (with an assist from some re-creation), Atlantide has everything: drag racing, hot pursuit by police, boat

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  • Diary

    Moveable Feasts

    INDEPENDENT’S ABILITY TO CHOOSE locations that have private members clubs is unmatched. This year it had left Spring Studios, where someone told me it was outbid by Fashion Week, for the Battery Maritime Building, where a Cipriani recently moved in and bolted a gaudy nameplate to the facade, insisting it be called Casa Cipriani, which no one did. It’s an absurd place, but also a fitting expression of New Yorkers’ recent yen for dining in traffic and pretending they’re in the Veneto. People enjoyed six dollar Diet Cokes and plastic bowls of pasta on the terrace, which has spectacular views

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  • Slant

    Smoke Signals

    “THOUGH IT’S DARK, STILL I SING” is the name of the show. Though it’s a pandemic and the country is on the verge of collapse, still we find ways to celebrate. Nothing spells dystopia more than a tightly packed queue of art-world elites each waiting their turn to be tested for Covid-19 before entering the VIP opening of this year’s much-anticipated thirty-fourth Bienal de São Paulo. Screens mounted at the door of Oscar Niemeyer’s modernist pavilion in the city’s biggest park beeped and grew brighter with each test result, allowing the patient to step into the premises. It felt like boarding a

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  • Diary

    Planet Hollywood

    A BLUE 1969 CADILLAC COUPE DEVILLE is parked on North Orange Drive across the street from Jeffrey Deitch’s LA gallery, a flying saucer affixed to the roof. License plate: UNARIUS. The sidewalk is swarming for the opening of “The Emerald Tablet,” a group show organized by and starring local painter Ariana Papademetropoulos. The crowd stews in the hot sun, phones waiting to be deployed as two men slowly toil around the car; what exactly everyone is waiting for remains enigmatic, at least to me. Eventually it becomes clear we are watching thirty-three white doves being laboriously stuffed into the

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