COLUMNS

  • Slant

    D-FENS Mechanisms

    BEING A PEDESTRIAN IN LA has long put a person outside the bounds of normality: At best, they’ve made a mistake, gotten a DUI, failed to maintain their car, or crashed it; at worst, they’re already an offender, a trespasser, a prowler, or merely too poor to be considered at all.

    Oliver Payne’s recent travelogue-lecture-performance-video Wandering About Falling Down, 2019, is a meditation on this unique combination of being both overexposed and totally invisible. This past February 26, viewers could catch up with Payne on Instagram Live as he crossed the city. Where was he at lunch? Where was he

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  • Passages

    Susan Hiller (1940–2019)

    IN SUSAN HILLER’S EARLY VIDEO INSTALLATION An Entertainment, 1990, scaled-up images and the amplified sound of Punch and Judy performances transform popular children’s entertainment into a terrifying spectacle. Aspects of our collective culture considered unworthy of serious attention—in this case, puppet shows she watched with her young son—repeatedly formed the starting point for a wide range of innovative artworks produced over the artist’s remarkably productive five-decade career.

    Susan’s art often focused on the subconscious and the paranormal. Early experiments with automatic writing and

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  • Interviews

    Naeem Mohaiemen

    Redoing histories—through essays, fiction films, and documentary forms—is a primary motivator for artist and writer Naeem Mohaiemen. He restlessly interrogates the peripheral narratives he finds in the “non-aligned” and “socialist” movements during the Cold War. United Red Army (2011) revisits the surreal moment when Japanese left-wing terrorists hijacked a plane in support of Palestinian liberation in 1977; Tripoli Cancelled (2017) fictionalizes the condition of being stranded in stateless limbo; and Two Meetings and a Funeral (2017) follows the dramatic architectures in which third-world

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  • Books

    GHOST IMAGE

    Nearly twenty years ago, artist Adam Putnam came across the photographs of Alfred Cook in the archives of the Frick Collection. Recently, he edited together a selection of Cook’s images for ASMR4, a publishing project Putnam launched in collaboration with fellow artists Dan Torop, Victoria Sambunaris, and Katie Murray. Here, Putnam and Jennifer Krasinski discuss the mysterious Cook, and why these photographs have haunted him for so long.  

    JK: What is known about Alfred Cook?

    AP: Almost nothing. Susan Chore, an archivist at the Frick Collection, sent me as much information as she could find, but

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  • Passages

    JONAS MEKAS

    JONAS MEKAS described himself as a diarist, using this term to encompass his films and his videos, his prose and his poetry. He once told me that he was a long-distance runner; he was a sickly child and had taken up exercise to build stamina. Ninety-six years is a long run, but Jonas was so alive, so present during his last public appearances in the summer and autumn of 2018, that although his body was noticeably frail I refused to believe he would stop anytime soon. He told the writer John Leland, who had followed Jonas since 2015 for a New York Times series on New York City residents who are

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  • Passages

    JONAS MEKAS

    WHEN I ARRIVED in New York City in the early 1990s, it seemed as though the most adventurous elements of film culture had either disappeared or were on their way out. The grindhouses of Times Square were undergoing Disneyfication. The Millennium Film Workshop had grown moribund, and the Collective for Living Cinema had vanished into memory. Even the punk-ass Cinema of Transgression crowd was settling down to have kids.

    Bucking all those trends was Jonas Mekas, then in his seventies, ensconced in the brick fortress of Anthology Film Archives on the corner of Second Avenue and Second Street, running

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  • Books

    CRITICAL MASS

    Vile Days: The Village Voice Art Columns 1985–1988, by Gary Indiana, edited by Bruce Hainley. New York: Semiotext(e). 600 pages.

    THE FIRST THING to say about Gary Indiana as an art critic is that he was humane. His harshest judgments were arrayed against various forms of cruelty, lifelessness, and greed. That cruelty might be found in the glib sadism of a work like Tom Otterness’s Shot Dog Film, 1977, in which the artist executed an animal he got from a shelter; lifelessness, in the practice of exhibiting art in bank lobbies in the manner of a Chanel display (even if no fault of the work itself),

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  • Film

    LOVE ANOMIE

    “ARTY,” A COINAGE DATING to the heyday of Jugendstil, isn’t a term I like to use, but it seems unavoidable in discussing the work of the Chinese filmmaker Bi Gan. Two features into his career and just shy of thirty, Bi has established himself as the artiest internationally known director this side of the arch-pretensoids Terrence Malick and Darren Aronofsky. I don’t much care for either of those filmmakers, each a textbook practitioner of what Manny Farber, in the Winter 1962–63 issue of Film Culture, famously called “white elephant” filmmaking, but Bi is something else.

    Farber took issue with

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  • Film

    PLIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

    THE FILMS of writer-director Christian Petzold are haunted: by the specters of history, by revenants, by shadowy protagonists often in flight or exile. These phantom threads are stitched together to create supple narratives that recall earlier movies—Vertigo especially—or classic genres (noir, the woman’s picture) without being in thrall to them. Petzold, born in 1960 to parents who had recently emigrated from East to West Germany, revitalizes old templates to offer new perspectives on historical rifts and traumas.

    That style is particularly pronounced in Transit (2018), his latest film, based

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  • Film

    Danse Macabre

    GASPAR NOÉ’S CLIMAX is an encyclopedia of ways in which the human body can bend and break, a sailor’s knot guide of the contortions possible with four limbs, a trunk, and a head, skulls seemingly empty of thoughts other than sex and death. Set in an isolated school somewhere outside Paris where a troupe of hip-hop dancers has assembled for intensive rehearsals before an impending American tour, the movie unravels in something like real-time. Cutting loose at the end of a day’s work, the dancers dip into a punch bowl of sangria before discovering that one of them has spiked it with LSD, precipitating

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  • Music

    SO SO DEAF

    WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE between being boring and being uninteresting? Panda Bear’s show at Pioneer Works earlier this month, during which he played almost exclusively material drawn from his 2018 EP A Day With the Homies and his 2019 LP Buoys, left me wondering which of those adjectives best describes his musical sin. Noah Lennox (aforementioned Panda Bear, and member of Animal Collective), with the help of Person Pitch (2007) producer Rusty Santos, built the nine tracks on Buoys out of repetitive acoustic guitar strumming, a few samples, a deep, almost inaudible bass, and his wheedling voice.

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  • Diary

    Frieze-Frame

    HOLLYWOOD HAS ITS MOMENTS. Just when you think Tinseltown has exploded into an overpriced, overdeveloped, overcrowded nightmare, the sun peeps through the clouds onto Griffith Park’s Hollywood sign, then the snowcapped Angeles Crest mountains in the distance, and the spring-rain-cleaned boulevards glow anew with the promise of discovery so that average folk and A-listers alike can nestle once more into LA’s apocalyptic, disorienting glamour. Hollywood’s posh movie studios feign immunity to this dysfunctional cycle, however: Inside iron gates are immaculately groomed grounds, with golf carts

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