COLUMNS

  • Film

    No Expectations

    IN AN EARLY SCENE in The Burnt Orange Heresy, Elizabeth Debicki and Claes Bang are sharing a postcoital cigarette, their chemistry as smoldering as its cherry tip. He is James Figueras, an ambitious and self-centered art critic whose face, at fifty-something, has the lived-in patina of a fine bronze worn down by bad weather; she is Berenice Hollis, a young, blonde American with a Modigliani build and the affectless, steely manner of an old-school femme fatale. The two have just met, and then fucked, and they are talking about what might happen next in their affair: “A week from now, I’ll be

    Read more
  • Diary

    Low Relief

    I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, dear reader, but I really have not been getting out much. I hunkered down the second week in March, resurfaced briefly for some protests, and then resumed the shadowy, unproductive, vaguely counterfactual Covid-era life—a weird, slowdripped speedball of paranoia and complacence topped off with knifing hangovers of despair. It’s gotten a little old. Therefore, when asked by the editors to report back from Thursday’s “L.E.S. Summer Night”—an evening of gently extended hours among some thirty-odd Lower East Side pandemic-parched galleries waiting open-mouthed for a quenching

    Read more
  • Slant

    Tate Awakening

    “SHAME ON TATE.” This chant reverberated at a protest organized by dozens of staffers with PCS Tate United and PCS Culture Group on Monday, ensuring that no visitor to London’s Tate Modern—newly reopened after four months due to the pandemic—could think it accepted or normal for the institution to threaten 334 employees of its commercial arm, Tate Enterprises, with redundancy. The decimation of jobs is completely preventable, workers argue, and political. Ultimately, Tate’s board decides on resource allocations, and the Prime Minister appoints thirteen out of fourteen members. Monday’s protest

    Read more
  • Passages

    Jacques Coursil (1938–2020)

    “YOU CANNOT BE AN ARTIST,” said the trumpeter, scholar, and world-traveler Jacques Coursil, “if you don’t have one foot on the ground and the other outside the planet.” Pursuing a career across three continents, he and his work embodied the principles of Black diasporic internationalism. Opposed to the notion of roots as guarantor of authenticity, he nonetheless traversed the routes of world history. “I don’t like identity things,” he insisted. “I don’t have to claim where I am from, it’s so evident.”

    Coursil was born in Paris in 1938 to Martinican parents, his father a trade unionist and member

    Read more
  • Performance

    Nun of the Above

    AT 8 PM ON A WARM, Thursday night, a crowd of twenty arrives in a virtual room for a Zoom performance of composer, cellist, and writer Ethan Philbrick’s Disordo Virtutum, presented by New York’s Museum of Arts and Design. With varying degrees of surprise and pleasure, I find that some attendees are familiar to me. I see a former lover, an artist with whom I have made small talk on several occasions, and a choreographer I once had a shy first date with over greasy pasta at a small Italian restaurant in Ridgewood. (Today we’re friends; she’ll text me after the show.) Curator Lydia Brawner is there

    Read more
  • Slant

    Poppy and Recollection

    “I didn’t think it was physically possible, but this both sucks AND blows.” —Bart Simpson

    THE VIRUS BROUGHT STRANGE BEDFELLOWS, but then again so did the uprising. You didn’t love the smell of your own breath behind your mask. Neither did you love certain things about yourself that had formerly been easier to escape.

    Confinement led to masses of people finally catching the thought: human beings should not be put in cages. Instagram became a pedagogical tool, rather than merely the matrix of DIY propaganda. Then it slid back. “For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer.” So it says in the Book

    Read more
  • Interviews

    Caitlin Cherry

    Caitlin Cherry has always been interested in the weaponized circulation of images. At the Brooklyn Museum in 2013, she mounted her paintings on wooden catapults modeled after martial designs by Leonardo, as if they were about to be fired into the air. More recently, she has produced prismatic paintings from photos of Black femmes (including models, exotic dancers, porn actresses, rappers, and influencers) culled from social media. Inspired by the promotional posts of a Brooklyn cabaret, her newest works feature its servers and dancers in suggestive poses, flattened by delirious patterns and

    Read more
  • Film

    Pox Populi

    BEFORE THE UPRISING, almost all acts had the suffix “during the pandemic” fastened onto them: reading groups or online exhibitions during the pandemic, virtual political assemblies during the pandemic, cooking new recipes. . .during the pandemic. Before the initially insurgent revolt against a racist police apparatus—led by Black people, by decentralized formations, by a youth vanguard now in the process of being coopted by a liberal not-for-profit machine—the Covid-19 pandemic was already understood by many to be the product not only of a virus but of a racialized capitalism that privatizes

    Read more
  • Interviews

    Saidiya Hartman

    Five centuries of white supremacist terror: not just a past to which we are ineluctably fastened, but a present which produces us, albeit in differing orders of magnitude and vulnerability. The United States has long maintained the fiction that this country had molted its foundational violence, and yet, just as your skin sheds daily only to live dispersed atop your furniture and knick-knacks, so too does the grime of history make up the loam in which a person is destined to flourish, struggle, or wither. The work of Saidiya Hartman has charted a path in and through the social arrangements produced

    Read more
  • Film

    Abyss Ahead

    THE FEARLESS CHINESE DOCUMENTARIAN Hu Jie’s Spark is a group portrait of a small circle of dissidents who, in 1960, put out a clandestine publication of that name. (Icarus is releasing the film on DVD paired with 2019’s The Observer, a useful but rather too brief documentary about Hu.) They were mostly students or academics who had been banished to the hinterlands during the “Anti-Rightist” campaign of 1956–57 for deviating from Communist Party doctrine. Disillusioned patriotism is a truer description: They wanted the Chinese revolution to live up to its proclaimed ideals and become genuinely

    Read more
  • Diary

    Agit Chop

    FOR THREE WEEKS, a six-block radius in Seattle was one of the freest spaces in America. The Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) was never planned—rather, it sprang up spontaneously after the police, who had violently suppressed the Black Lives Matter movement at their door for weeks, were ordered to abandon their own precinct. Protesters decided to pitch tents and set up an encampment and, after some deliberation, came up with a list of demands, including defunding the Seattle Police Department by 50 percent. As this no-cop zone flourished into a lively village, local artists including Kreau,

    Read more
  • Interviews

    Neïl Beloufa

    As virtual art showrooms proliferated after cities locked down to curb the spread of Covid-19, Neïl Beloufa worked with web designers, developers, and painters to produce Screen-Talk.com. The java site, its blinking interface a throwback to the ’90s, features pop-up videos, a live chat, and a series of games that allow browsers to choose an avatar and progress toward the prize of an artist’s edition also available in an online shop. The URL launched in early May, days before the end of France’s confinement, but its clips belong to a lo-fi miniseries that Beloufa made in 2014 titled Home Is

    Read more