COLUMNS

  • Interviews

    CARCERAL AESTHETICS

    WE CAN ALL AGREE NOW that American prisons are a malignant feature of contemporary life, broadening inequalities, destroying families, worsening racial disparities, and facilitating widespread state-sanctioned premature death, to name just a few of the most obvious iniquities. But inside these prisons, people do find imaginative ways to survive. The institutional culture of incarceration has spawned individual and communal acts of inspired genius—acts credited entirely to people, and not to the prisons where they are forced to live—modalities of making and ways of surviving that involve types

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  • Interviews

    Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste

    This spring, Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste filmed two static, forty-minute takes outside his apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Commissioned by Issue Project Room for their “Isolated Field Recordings” series, the videos documented a soundscape subtly inflected by the pandemic; the wails of ambulances can be heard, as can boomboxes played from the balconies of those sheltering in place; as can ominous silence. Toussaint-Baptiste made the work after the indefinite postponement of “Get Low (Black Square),” a performance at Abron Arts Center that considers Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square, 1915, as

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  • Passages

    Joseph Bartscherer (1954–2020)

    THE DAY AFTER I LEARNED Joseph Bartscherer had died, I opened the New York Times Magazine to a feature on the seasonal workers who harvest cherries in the same Mattawa, Washington, orchards that Joseph photographed thirty-five years earlier for “Pioneering Mattawa,” 1984–92, a series undertaken in a former desert expanse two and a half hours north of Seattle. The magazine’s freelancer Jovelle Tamayo chose to partially shoot the cherry trees during the foggy morning hours, making somber, damp photographs. By contrast, Joseph’s images of these same vineyards and orchards shine with the sharp, arid

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  • Interviews

    Tiago Gualberto

    Long before Brazilian mining magnate Bernardo Paz put the state of Minas Gerais on the art map with the opening of the Inhotim Center for Contemporary Art in 2006, the area of Brumadinho was known as a center for mineral extraction—mainly iron-ore—and the poverty and environmental destruction such an industry produces. Its splendor, defined by 700 acres of exotic foliage and a massive art collection, has not dispelled Inhotim’s status among many as “a monument to the ubiquity of dirty money in the art market.” Meanwhile, Paz himself has faced extensive allegations of tax evasion and money

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  • Film

    Air America

    THE SAN FRANCISCO–BASED media collective Top Value Television (TVTV) was a bunch of “braless, blue-jeaned video freaks,” per Newsweek, who did what other news outlets didn’t. By producing several iconoclastic documentaries on politics and culture in the 1970s, they spearheaded a global movement of independent video, broadcasting the first tapes of this kind across US networks. They belonged to a critical group of video guerrillas, championing citizen journalism through cutting-edge consumer tech: the Sony Portapak, which was groundbreaking in those years for its “lightweight” twenty-five-pound

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  • Passages

    John Nixon (1949–2020)

    WHEN I LIVED in culturally and politically conservative Brisbane in the late ’70s and early ’80s, John Nixon was the first full-time practicing artist I ever met. He was from Melbourne and had moved to Brisbane in 1980 to be the director of the Institute of Modern Art, a beacon of artistic hope at that time. I was one of two singer-songwriters fronting the Go-Betweens, and to see the dark-clothed charismatic figure, hair swept back behind one ear, a fringe of black ringlets cascading over the other side of his face, gazing intently toward the stage during our pub and club shows was an unexpected

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  • Film

    Electric Dreams

    WHEN MICHAEL ALMEREYDA was about sixteen, he often visited the much older comic-book artist Alex Toth, who lived in Hollywood, chain-smoked, and talked endlessly about Nikola Tesla, visionary inventor of the mechanism that, 135 years later, still harnesses and distributes alternating current. Our illuminated world is the world that Tesla brought into being just before the dawn of the twentieth century. You might presume that the credit should go to Thomas Alva Edison, but you would be wrong. In 1980, Almereyda dropped out of Harvard to finish a screenplay about Tesla that was then optioned as

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  • Slant

    HEAL HER

    Does all evil emanate from a single source?

    And do the hundred thousand elaborations of bad

    Over which puritans and pundits fight it out on the crust

    Of the earth correlate to the lack of spiritual and political

    Foundation that would make it easy to see the Marxist reality

    That the corporate and billionaire class is what’s really got to go?

    That my racism and yours, our failure to love, are masquerading

    As things that’re wrong with you & me when we’re just walking symptoms

    Of the structural reality into which trees, poems, tears & miracles

    Introduce a rending, streaming, higher truth, a better flow, the

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  • Film

    Plot Twist

    A REVELATORY INVESTIGATIVE DOCUMENTARY that is dense with detail and yet drives like a thriller, Taghi Amirani’s Coup 53 tells the story of how Mohammad Mosaddegh, Iran’s only democratically elected Prime Minister, was driven from office and replaced by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who would rule as an absolute monarch until he was sent packing by the Islamic revolution of 1979. Since this is a story about Iran, it is also about the CIA and “Big Oil.” But the largely new wrinkle that Amirani’s film uncovers is the role that the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) played in maintaining what

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  • 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 fucked, and they are talking about what might happen next in their affair: “A week from now, I’ll be planning

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  • 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, slow-dripping 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

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