COLUMNS

  • Diary

    Wanderer’s Love

    LANDING IN TPE ON JANUARY 16, just five days after Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-Wen’s triumphant reelection, I was ready for a jollier mood than what had loomed over the capital during my last trip. That was during the Taipei Biennial two years ago, when I witnessed the Democratic Progressive Party’s defeat in the local elections, followed by Tsai’s resignation as Party leader. Now, on my ride to the hotel, I immersed myself in the view outside. The beauty of Taipei’s built environment—rows of slightly worn office buildings elbowing restaurants, Japanese lettering against the backdrop of a

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  • Diary

    Fog Machine

    FOR SEVEN YEARS, I’ve watched the art and design fair known as FOG recede and advance (last year, fifty-three galleries were present, this year a more manageable forty-eight); shift its art-to-design ratio (more art, less design); and beef up its ancillary programming (ten artist/curator talks in four days in the on-site auditorium). Taking place at the Festival Pavilion—the historic pier at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture––the fair features a considerable cadre of San Francisco galleries, and/or galleries with outposts in the city, and is disproportionately supported and

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  • Film

    In the Wind

    A BARE-BONES DANCE HALL in Shanghai, date unclear. Chinese couples, middle-aged and older, slow-dance to a recording of Mack Gordon and Harry Warren’s 1945 “I Wish I Knew,” sung in English by Dick Haymes. The song has been covered by dozens of crooners, Americans and Chinese, but the most transcendent recording is on the 1962 album Ballads by the John Coltrane Quartet; the instrumental arrangement, particularly Coltrane’s extended solo, expresses more than words can do. Still, for Jia Zhangke, who borrowed the song’s title for his 2010 documentary, the lyrics matter. The dance hall scene occurs

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  • Diary

    Slipstreams

    “THIS IS THE BIGGEST PARTY IN AFRICA, as far as photography is concerned.” The Nigerian photographer and curator Uche James Iroha was holding court in the airy ground-floor exhibition hall of the Palais de la Culture Amadou Hampaté Ba, a spacious, gently decrepit multi-arts complex and one of the main venues of the Rencontres de Bamako. An established crossroads for art and ideas in Africa, the respected photo biennial is now holding its twelfth edition, which runs through the end of the month and marks twenty-five years since its founding in Mali’s capital.

    That’s an impressive run, not least

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  • Film

    Perfect Storm

    FOR HOW MANY EONS have humans looked to the firmaments—for dreaming, for communion with the departed—while they were really looking within? A third of the way through Weathering with You (2019), a film of remarkable beauty by anime auteur Makoto Shinkai, we’re gliding through Tokyo’s Jingu Gaien Fireworks Festival—each CGI explosion sprinkling twinkling lights like pixie dust over a lambent and lifelike Tokyo. The film’s two teenaged leads, runaway Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo) and orphan Hina (Nana Mori), are in love. “The way the sky looks can move you so much,” Hodaka says.

    The night is so clear

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  • Interviews

    Tschabalala Self

    Through an exaggerative figuration that embraces painting, sewing, assemblage, as well as a sensuous and implacable charisma, New Haven–based artist Tschabalala Self invites us to rethink how bodies are marked by race and gender while crafting her own expanding visual universe. Her exhibition “Tschabalala Self: Out of Body” runs January 20 to July 5, 2020, at the ICA Boston, and will be her largest solo exhibition to date.

    “OUT OF BODY,” the title of my upcoming exhibition at the ICA Boston, was also the name of my first New York show. It’s a kind of double entendre; at that moment in 2015, I

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  • Diary

    Yes, Yes, Yes

    “THE MOST IMPORTANT THING is that this is a project with meaning, that we do something more than make money,” Roth is saying. He’s just Roth (born Eduardo Neira), founder of Roth Architecture and self-described visionary. “The idea is to get out of the cave.” A reference, I think, to the tunnel vision inflicting our human race (“the human tribe”).

    We’re outside of Roth’s sci-fi-set-meets-skate-park home near Tulum, Mexico. Chet Baker’s voice wafts over the water plants as we sit down in a concrete “nest,” surrounded by theme park–like waterfalls to have lunch on latticed ceramic plates designed

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  • Diary

    Private Eye

    “WE FOUND A CAFE with friendly staff and pleasant, inexpensive food,” recounts the unnamed, flâneuring narrator of Patrick Keiller’s 1994 film London, “but there was no sign of anyone writing poetry.” These words came to mind as I meandered around the preview for Condo London, a gallery-share initiative whose fifth iteration showcased seventeen local spaces and nineteen international counterparts. London elegizes a civic spirit vanquished by Thatcherism, and as the city buckles again under the intemperate cruelty of its former mayor’s prime ministership, its resonance endures—on Routemaster

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  • Music

    Private Label

    IN 2019, WARP RECORDS TURNED THIRTY AND EDITIONS OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC (ECM) HIT FIFTY. The connection felt superficial, and then it didn’t, though I couldn’t immediately figure out why. Both of these independent labels have seeded the air for decades. They didn’t cash in, scale up, and abandon what made them good, like Atlantic and Def Jam and other indies before them. ECM and Warp both stuck to the daily grind of personal relationships, careful record-making, and consistent business practices. This isn’t to say that the two present as similar: ECM generally puts out albums created in real time

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  • Passages

    Carla Herrera-Prats (1973–2019)

    I FIRST MET CARLA HERRERA-PRATS in the summer of 2008. I was invited to contribute an essay for her solo show at New York’s Art in General gallery, back when it was still just west of Chinatown on Walker Street. It was one of the first texts I ever wrote about a contemporary artist, and Carla was patient and generous with her time, most of it spent familiarizing me with her approach and materials—the technology that facilitated standardized testing in the United States. Photographs of antiquated IBM machinery and cluttered archives pertaining to the Iowa Testing Program hung on the walls, with

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  • Film

    L.A. Gory

    UNTIL VERY RECENTLY, the 1991 film L.A. Story was hands-down the best satire of Los Angeles as told from the perspective of a man experiencing a possible psychotic break. Harris K. Telemacher—a TV meteorologist played by Steve Martin—is an “egghead” who loves Shakespeare, but finds himself drowning in a sea of Angelenos who get furious in traffic, love colonics, drink “decaf double half-caf with lemon,” and remain incapable of enjoying culture unless it happens to be the probiotic kind. He has one love interest with the unbelievably dumb name SanDeE*, who is into hippy-dippy woo-woo nonsense

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  • Slant

    Turning The Page

    THROUGHOUT SRI LANKA’S ART HISTORY, the people have been the keepers of knowledge. In place of national institutions and collections, artists, collectors, scholars, and gallerists have acted as repositories of artistic traditions, preserving mini-archives of an invaluable heritage. Until now, much of this cultural production has been neither publicly available nor permanently preserved. The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA), a newly launched, cautiously optimistic initiative in Colombo, seeks to redress these issues of national and historical significance, one project at a

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