COLUMNS

  • Performance

    Kosmic Inflation

    “YOU HAVEN’T GIVEN UP / ON A WORLD HAVE YOU?” asked Bernadette Mayer in the epilogue to a slim volume of poems titled Utopia (1984). “You know traditional utopias are no place / as ours will ever be,” she continued, entreating whomever so wished to “add all you would to / what is already here / together we will put / things on paper that / ‘ve never been there.” Mayer found utopia in social formations, love, and friendship, playfully staging its trials and tribulations in the pages of her book. Utopian thinking, both as narrative conceit and as practice of social imagination, similarly informs

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  • Diary

    Gulf Clap

    “THIS CAMEL, we waited a long time for it to be born,” museum development specialist Karen Exell told members of the press one morning at the stunning new National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ), which opened this March. We were touring an installation on traditional Bedouin life, watching footage of the fuzzy creature lurch itself onto its feet for the first time. The same might be said for the long-awaited museum, superbly designed by Jean Nouvel to mimic the angular planes of a gypsum rosette, or desert rose crystal, small specimens of which are available in one of two gift shops. Some of the floors

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  • Diary

    Seoul Cycle

    ARRIVING OFF A FOURTEEN-HOUR FLIGHT from New York, I couldn’t remember the code to my grandmother’s apartment, until it came back like a muscle memory: 1945, the year of national liberation for my grandparents, who were in middle school when the Japanese occupation ended. The persistence of the country’s ancient Confucian moral codes are refracted and jumbled through memories of imperial rule and aspirational neoliberalism in modern Seoul, and compounding deep-rooted hostilities against our former colonizer are the recent trade standoffs; the astonishing sense of kinship among Koreans manifests

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  • Interviews

    Annie-B Parson

    Choreographer and director Annie-B Parson is a force of nature who’s having quite the season. She created the elegant, joyous numbers that propel the great David Byrne and his vibrant cohort of musicians and singers through his rock-show-cum-Broadway-musical, American Utopia, on at the Hudson Theater through February 16. Her company Big Dance Theater, which she cofounded with actor/director Paul Lazar and performer Molly Hickok almost thirty years ago, will present a trio of recent works under the title The Road Awaits Us at NYU’s Skirball Center on November 8 and 9. And last month, Parson

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  • Performance

    Beyond These Kastle Walls

    “LET THE LIGHT FROM YOUR CUNT AND ASSHOLE lead you to the promised land!” shrieked a zombified Valerie Solanas last Thursday night at Icebox Project Space as she shepherded me and a group of undergraduates toward the dulcet tones of singer Gretchen Phillips, who offered a “didactic stroll down the beautiful repertoire of lesbian folk songs,” immediately breaking out in a rendition of Britney Spears’s “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” The undead Solanas was one of several characters who occupied North Philadelphia’s Icebox Project Space for three weeks in October as part of Killjoy’s Kastle, a roving

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  • Slant

    Lightning Rods

    IT’S THE SEASON OF FIRE, but you don’t need me to tell you that. It’s the season of electric, abyssal love, but you know that too. Since the sun’s ingress into Scorpio hit the Promethean lightning of the New Moon opposite Uranus in Taurus, the pit has opened, and the yawning abyss of true democracy beckons like a confusing form of lust. You can feel it pulling on you, like gravity itself. As things collapse we will be able to right some things while others, like what has happened—for now—to the bright career of Katie Hill, will be temporarily, and apparently, very wrong.

    Imagine yourself as Alice.

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  • Passages

    KAMAL BOULLATA

    GRANADA STILL BEARS WITNESS to the golden age of Islamic culture in the palaces of its Alhambra, in the gardens of Generalife, and in the neighborhood of Albaicín, which grew across the Alhambra hills right before the fall. Inscribed in our collective memory as the last Andalusian city to be conquered by the Catholic kings in 1492, it is the perfect place for an Arab or a Muslim to meditate on exile. For centuries, poets, essayists, and moralists recalled Granada as our paradise lost—that is, until the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) sank in. Then Palestine became the fresh wound, the last loss,

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  • Film

    HISTORICAL PRESENT

    THE PRESENT FEELS INESCAPABLE, like a miasma too close, too everywhere, to apprehend. Yet it is precisely because of this blinding proximity that the present demands to be given shape in a lasting, shareable form—so that we might make sense of our place within it, so that the feeling of our time will remain available to encounter in times to come.

    In her third feature film, The Hottest August (2019), geographer turned documentarian Brett Story proposes one way to give shape to our moment. Story roams the five boroughs of New York in the eighth month of 2017, posing questions from behind the camera

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  • Film

    ZOMBIELAND

    SINCE 2006, Kelly Copper and Pavol Liška, collaborating as the Nature Theater of Oklahoma, have created brainy and ebullient works for stage, film, and video, aerating serious conceptual heft with an oddball comedic sensibility. For the directing-and-writing duo, scripts have never been hard-and-fast things. Take the one for their epic nine-part video Life and Times (2009–15): The words were transcribed from phone conversations between Liška and company member Kristin Worrall, during which the latter recounted the (often banal) details of her life thus far. What else would one expect from a team

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  • Books

    GHOSTS IN THE MACHINE

    Haunted Bauhaus: Occult Spirituality, Gender Fluidity, Queer Identities, and Radical Politics, by Elizabeth Otto. MIT Press, 2019. 296 pages.

    THE TANTALIZING TITLE of Elizabeth Otto’s new book brings to mind the maverick scholar Mel Gordon’s Voluptuous Panic (2000) and Horizontal Collaboration (2015), pictorial studies of the sexual countercultures of Weimar Germany and occupied Paris, respectively. Published on the one hundredth anniversary of the school’s founding, Otto’s book isn’t as wiggy as those precursors, but it does humanize what she calls the “paradigmatic movement of rational modernism”

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  • Books

    FAST COMPANY

    Robert Williams: The Father of Exponential Imagination, by Robert Williams. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2019. 484 pages.

    THERE’S NO SUCH THING as a “popular imagination,” but some artists do access and describe localized dreamworlds comprising popular icons, histories, and lore shared if not by an entire populace then by sizable groups. Robert Williams is one such mythologist, his devotion to the arcana of twentieth-century culture suffusing narrative paintings indebted as much to 1950s Benzedrine-powered cartooning as to classicism. Like other practitioners of a hyperbolic figuration whose perversions

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