COLUMNS

  • Slant

    TOKEN GESTURE

    ON THE AFTERNOON of February 19—immediately after the classic internet meme known as Nyan Cat was auctioned for almost $600,000—digital art abruptly entered the most recent, and perhaps most heated, of its many hype cycles. In the weeks that followed, media outlets from PBS NewsHour to Saturday Night Live reiterated the story of record-breaking prices fueled by an enigmatic technology called the blockchain, which is a system used by techno-libertarians and anarcho-capitalists for encrypting immutable digital records in blocks of data across a decentralized chain of computers. Blockchains can be

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  • Music

    Forever Changes

    AROOJ AFTAB’S WORK TRANSFORMS the nearly millennium-old tradition of Hindustani classical music from which it emerges, a form whose tenets of improvisation, repetition, and rasa, or emotion, have inspired American composers such as John Cage, La Monte Young, and Terry Riley. Aftab responds to their musical borrowing by restituting what these white men excised from their arrangements—the feminine voice—and treating it as yet another instrument in her bright, layered compositions. The pentatonic melodies and mixed genres of the Black avant-garde vocalist and composer Julius Eastman’s shimmering 

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  • Slant

    Dry Goods

    ON OUR LONG DRIVE through the desert of the Coachella Valley chasing the artworks and installations of Desert X 2021, my fifteen-year-old daughter and I drove past the El Dorado Estates. Scrubby bushes in the pale-brown soil stretched back into the vast and vacant desert behind a cinderblock wall advertising the never-realized development named after the elusive, imaginary city of gold. In the hundred miles we spent crisscrossing the desert, we passed through the shimmering black cells of solar farms and clusters of rusty corrugated shacks, past plastic-surgery centers and boarded-up resorts

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  • Film

    Adventure Time

    IN THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY EDITION of New Directors/New Films, the hippies pull more weight than the politicos, to borrow a ’60s dichotomy. There is a lot of journeying in these films—too much of it for my taste—couched as quests for spiritual enlightenment, or undertaken to discover the unity in all things, or to let go of the traumas of the past by, well, I’m not sure what means. ND/NF, which is jointly curated by programmers from the Museum of Modern Art and Film at Lincoln Center, is devoted to first and second independently produced features by directors from an ever-expanding world cinema.

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  • Books

    Matrix Revolutions

    N.H. Pritchard, The Matrix. New York, New York: Primary Information and Ugly Duckling Presse, 2021. 113 pages.

    THE MATRIX is one of the most radical—and most important—books of poetry of the 1960s. It’s also one of the most mysterious. A new facsimile reissue of N. H. Pritchard’s first collection—along with DABA press’s republication of his only other book, EECCHHOOEESS (1971)—provides an opportunity to re-examine an extraordinary and extraordinarily neglected poet whose work continues to evade capture. Born in New York and of West Indian descent, Norman Henry Pritchard II considered attending

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  • Slant

    In Safe Hands

    IN EARLY FEBRUARY, I hopped in a car bound for Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania with my friend Becca Blackwell. Our mission was a mixture of business and pleasure: to visit Youtube-famous chiropractor, and hallowed muscle whisperer, Dr. Brent Binder. Becca—either a performance artist with a staggering knowledge of touch specialists or an anarchist pervert, depending on your chosen paradigm—is working on a new solo performance installation, The Body Never Lies. exploring the possibilities for healing beyond western medicine, which often fails its Hippocratic mandate by ignoring the idiosyncratic

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  • Music

    Astral Traveling

    PROMISES, a new collaboration between American free jazz legend Pharoah Sanders, British electronic musician and composer Floating Points (Sam Shepherd), and the London Symphony Orchestra, made me wish I was holding the sleeve of a 12" LP instead of squinting at a digital thumbnail. Even without the multiplex cover art by Julie Mehretu, there are only so many names you can squeeze onto one album cover before it threatens to buckle. I was not without trepidation when I first hit play: The easiest way to disappoint is to promise too much. Fortunately, Promises more than delivers.

    Though it’s the

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  • Film

    Against the Grain

    MIST BLANKETS LUSH YELLOW FIELDS. Mud paths and canals snake between neatly ordered plots. The juddering of tractor engines is drowned out by the plaintive horn of a freight train, which slowly crosses the landscape. The wind picks up and is answered by the murmur of wheat stalks. An aerial shot shows a grid of closely planted holdings, stretching to the horizon.

    This opening sequence evokes a familiarly bucolic image of Punjab, described in developmentspeak as “India’s breadbasket.” There will be other glimpses of the state’s agrarian prosperity: close-ups of dew on paddy stalks; long takes of

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  • Slant

    Contested Terrain

    WITH FEWER THAN HALF A MILLION RESIDENTS, Oakland’s complex art ecosystem rivals those of cities twice its size. Muralists, art-school grads, experimental musicians, artist-activists, graffiti writers, and Burning Man sectarians live and work throughout Oakland’s deindustrialized shoreline corridor and flatlands. Its DIY cultures are eclectic and often political, owing to the city’s distinctive history of liberation movements, mutual-aid networks, and labor organizing.

    Fifteen years ago, Oakland was, relative to tech-gentrified San Francisco, semi-affordable. Today, Oakland artists battle colossal

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  • Architecture

    Free Forms

    IN 1935, W. E. B. Du Bois published Black Reconstruction in America: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860–1880. Coming in at just under eight hundred pages, Du Bois’s “essay” served to carefully delineate the role of African Americans in the social, political, and economic restructuring of the United States following the devastation of the Civil War. In many ways, the artists, architects, and designers included in “Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America,” at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, have

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  • Interviews

    Dawoud Bey

    Over the past forty-five years, Dawoud Bey has critically reimagined photography’s social and political potential, whether through his collaborative portraits of under- and misrepresented communities or through his more recent explorations of the landscapes of northern Ohio, a terminus of the Underground Railroad. April offers three occasions to see Bey’s work: a new book, Street Portraits (Mack), which gathers portraits of African Americans made between 1988 and 1991; the Okwui Enwezor–conceived “Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America” at the New Museum in New York, which includes

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