COLUMNS

  • Slant

    Helter Shelter

    My first impulse when this all began was to buy groceries. My second was to see how people were doing. The art world, for all its flaws and fissures, is a community, and it’s the one I’ve got. When its trappings recede in a time like this—as if there were any time like this, exactly—you’re left with the people. I’ll be talking to some of them over the next couple of weeks, seeing how they're doing materially, emotionally, physically, financially, and so on.

    —Domenick Ammirati

    FOR THE PAST FEW YEARS, I’ve been living illegally in the leaky garage of a former funeral parlor, which had been converted

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  • Slant

    Letter from Tokyo

    THINGS HAVE SEEMED CALM in Tokyo during the pandemic. I am tempted to write ominously calm, but in all honesty, things do not feel ominous to me—and this absence of ominousness is what is so discomposing. Yes, there is the constant hum of anxiety emanating from the television, where ongoing criticism of the government’s prevention and containment measures are heard, and where pundits speculate on how the postponement of the Olympics will impact the economy. But everyday life goes on, even despite warnings about a second wave of cases: people dine out, ride trams, and even stop by the galleries

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  • Slant

    The Losers Conspiracy

    I GOT SICK IN PARIS on Wednesday, March 11, before the French government ordered the confinement of the population, and when I got up on March 19, a bit more than a week later, the world had changed. When I went to my bed, the world was close, collective, viscous, and dirty. When I got out of bed, it had become distant, individual, dry, and hygienic. During the sickness, I was unable to assess what was happening from a political and economic point of view because the fever and the discomfort took hold of my vital energy. No one can be philosophical with an exploding head. From time to time, I

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  • Interviews

    Ajay Kurian

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    Ajay Kurian’s work stages a deliberately incomplete account of the irreducible (but not inexplicable) entanglement of race, language, power, and desire. The artist’s wrought figurative sculptures are nightmarish character studies that often wear their immature, contradictory ideology on their sleeves—quite literally: In Childermass, Kurian’s stairway installation in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, one moon-headed figure sports a 9/11 memorial shirt with the phrase “the age of ignorance” superimposed in Arabic; others rock New Balance “dad shoes” that acquired reactionary connotations after an

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  • Slant

    Maintenance Work

    THERE HAVE BEEN harrowing interviews with doctors, sobering podcast hits by experts, and on-the-ground reporting, but when it comes to images of the coronavirus pandemic, the defining ones have been almost entirely ancillary, at least a step removed from the actual devastation. That has made it difficult to grasp its human toll. Many funerals occur without mourners, the sick deserve their privacy, and cartoon renderings of COVID-19 baffle. And so the most visible images related to the crisis have been the time-lapse videos of China speedily building hospitals, the footage of Italians singing

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  • Slant

    Letter from Spain

    THREE WEEKS AGO, ARCO art fair closed in the same pavilions on the outskirts of Madrid that have just reopened as an emergency field hospital. It will treat mild COVID-19 and allow regular hospitals to cope and focus on the more serious cases.

    Three weeks ago, I couldn’t have imagined I’d be writing the above words.

    But in a matter of days that feel like centuries, Spain has shifted from apparent normality to an officially declared state of alarm accompanied by rigorous domestic confinement and war economy measures announced by a government that, last Sunday, extended the mandatory isolation period

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  • Slant

    Our Crown

    “ALL OF HUMANITY’S PROBLEMS stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” wrote Blaise Pascal, but it is the peculiar trick of his—will it do anymore to call it “Occidental”?—culture, whose principles and values have crept in everywhere, to make it seem as though it invented the idea that any of us belong in a room alone ever, for any reason. 

    Yet here we are, living out the apotheosis of that. And whether we’re in the room alone or not, the psychological task, the spiritual task has been universalized. In order to handle it, the luckiest among us—those of us who are staring down

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  • Film

    Home Alone

    TO PARAPHRASE X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene: “Oh Anxiety, Up Yours!” Although some readers believe I’m an early ’80s punk, I’m actually eighty-one years old, and find myself in an increasingly dismaying demographic. As of late, I wake up several times a night in a panic, which deep breathing does not alleviate. The only way I can suspend dire thoughts about mortality—my own and that of people I love—is by watching movies on my home screens. Putting aside my preference for dark theaters, where images are big if not always beautiful, I’m amazed at how easy it is to get lost in moving pictures that

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  • Interviews

    Cao Fei

    For millions of lives, the novel coronavirus currently rocking the globe has induced a secession from “real” to virtual space, where ubiquitous “social distancing” mandates are simultaneously heeded and safely transgressed. Who better to speak to this moment—gravid with apocalyptic and utopian frisson—than Cao Fei? The Beijing-based artist has devoted her practice to addressing social upheavals and breakneck urbanization through virtual, augmented, and mixed realities that chart new capacities for alienation and love. Here, she discusses “Blueprints,” a multimedia exhibition at Serpentine

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  • Slant

    Weapon of Choice

    A DECADE AGO, while living in Houston, Texas, I volunteered as a patient escort at the city’s Planned Parenthood downtown office. Then located on a busy street, the reproductive-care clinic’s public location attracted a diverse cross-section of the anti-choice movement. The scenes outside the office ranged from the bizarre to the ghoulish. In a modern interpretation of the Battle of Jericho, one man circled the building seven times every afternoon and blew on a shofar, in hopes that the clinic would crumble to the ground. Busloads of students from religious high schools in Houston’s conservative

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  • Slant

    Zero Hour

    IN LONDON ART SCHOOLS, there has been an intense flurry of activity and an extraordinary show of solidarity among staff which runs counter to the typically competitive atmosphere between the so-called “elite” institutions of the Royal College of Art, Goldsmiths College, University of the Arts London (including Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion, the Chelsea, Camberwell, and Wimbledon Colleges of Arts, and London College of Communications), and the Slade School of Fine Art (University College London), where I work. Before the strike commenced, staff across these schools began sharing

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  • Interviews

    Johanna Unzueta

    Johanna Unzueta’s speech, lilting and melodic, is peppered with one of art’s most taboo words: beautiful. And yet it suits to a tee her capacious and interdisciplinary practice, one that transmutes—through delicate material sleights—the ordinary into the surprising, and by turns dazzling. A huge chain, made from thick cuts of gray felt, unfurls from the ceiling, each oversized link fragile yet tough, warped just slightly at the edges; a set of pale ochre and blue-striped uniforms hang mutely on a clothing rack; wall drawings in charcoal and bronze dip in and out of corners, ladder up and down

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