COLUMNS

  • Books

    Mutual Understanding

    Disasters and Social Reproduction: Crisis Response Between the State and Community, by Peer Illner. London: Pluto Press, 2020. 208 pages. 

    Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During this Crisis (and the Next), by Dean Spade. New York and London: Verso, 2020. 128 pages. 

    IN ONE OF photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White’s most iconic Depression-era images, a seamless, whitewashed vision of the good life is undercut by a segregated breadline. Tightly composed, the picture almost stages a return of the repressed, as material casualties of “the American Way” buttress—but also contravene—the billboard’s

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  • Books

    Style Counsel

    The Hidden Mod in Modern Art: London, 1957–1969, by Thomas Crow. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020. 200 pages.

    THOMAS CROW’S NEW VOLUME, The Hidden Mod in Modern Art: London, 1957–1969, is a meticulous account of the imbrications between artmaking and stylemaking in postwar London, flanked by a jeremiad against what its author perceives as received ideas in contemporary art history. Indeed, Crow’s street-level method—we are treated to a litany of place names, hairstyles, and vivid descriptions of magazines—is part and parcel of his complaint: If art is to be meaningful, Crow seems to insist,

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  • Film

    The Lives of Others

    JAMES BENNING HAS SAID that when he first started making films, in the early 1970s, he was “like a folk artist.” Although he later completed an MFA at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he initially came to his medium with no formal training in art or cinema. What he did have were two degrees in mathematics, an education critics often mention when accounting for the metric rigor of Benning’s celebrated 16-mm films, such as TEN SKIES, 2004, comprising ten ten-minute static takes of the Southern California firmament, and One Way Boogie Woogie, 1977, composed of sixty one-minute shots of industrial

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  • Top Ten

    Tavares Strachan

    Tavares Strachan is a multimedia artist who works in New York and in his hometown of Nassau in the Bahamas. His art explores subjects such as aeronautics, astronomy, deep-sea exploration, and extreme climatology, and has been featured in the Biennale de Lyon (2013), the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh (2018), and the Venice Biennale (2013 and 2019). He is represented by Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, where he will have a solo show in May 2022.

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  • Interviews

    1000 Words: Lorraine O’Grady

    NEW WORK BY LORRAINE O’GRADY is already good news, and the world needs some. But word of a new persona stirs the kind of anticipation usually reserved for a famous comet rounding the sun. It’s been more than forty years since O’Grady’s radiant alter ego Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, dressed in a gown and cape made from 180 pairs of white thrift-store gloves and wielding a cat-o’-nine tails plaited with chrysanthemums, stormed the opening of “Outlaw Aesthetics” at New York’s Just Above Midtown gallery. On that day, June 5, 1980, O’Grady kicked off a three-year sprint of some of the most profound

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  • Interviews

    1000 Words: Arnold J. Kemp

    IN ANTICIPATION of his solo exhibition “False Hydras” at JOAN in Los Angeles, Arnold J. Kemp sat down with me in Chicago to continue our dialogue on the means and meanings of Black queer and feminist critical practice in the age of the internet. A teacher, writer, curator, and artist, Kemp occupies multiple cultural roles, which are paralleled by the range of materials and media—drawing, painting, performance, poetry, photography, installation, sculpture—that have both intellectually informed and physically shaped his practice over the past thirty years. Yet as our conversation made clear,

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  • Passages

    Chen Cheng Mei (1927–2020)

    CHEN CHENG MEI, who died last December at the age of ninety-three, will be most remembered as the woman behind the Ten Men Art Group. This loose collective of Singapore-based artists made work inspired by their travels around Southeast Asia in the 1960s, and China and India during the 1970s, marking a decisive turn toward a distinctly regional sensibility in Southeast Asian artistic practice and exploring affinities shared across diverse cultures and geographies. This attitude and approach remain crucial in defining the region’s art and curating today. In 1960, Chen initiated a trip to peninsular

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  • Film

    Being There

    THE PRIZES WERE AWARDED a month ago, some very big deals have closed in recent weeks, and the Sundance Film Festival has closed its streaming platform, hopefully never to be used again—at least not as the primary means of connecting Sundance’s chosen movies to Sundance audiences. Having covered the festival for thirty-two years, the place—Park City, Utah—and my ten-day routine there is stamped into my neurological pathways, so it’s no wonder that I had flashes of déjà vu while sitting at home watching four or five movies a day on my desktop. One evening, checking in by phone with my Sundance

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  • Passages

    Marion von Osten (1963–2020)

    MARION VON OSTEN was a warmhearted punk who took punk’s contrarian and collaborative ethos to unexplored domains. She made it impossible to identify her role in any production process. If you wanted an artist, you might get a curator, and if you wanted a curator, you might get a researcher. If you wanted a professional, you might end up with an amateur equestrian. Dealing with Marion, one could not help but feel their own limited epistemology and imagination put to the test. If you wanted to have a serious discussion, she would drive you to tears of laughter. If you wanted to make a joke, she

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  • Passages

    Milford Graves (1941–2021)

    AS A CHILD IN JAMAICA, Queens, Milford Graves played on tin cans in the woods, “sending signals, trying to get everybody’s attention.” This spirit of adventure, showmanship, and defiance of convention never left him. Beginning on conga drums, he learned about Afro-Cuban music through a distant cousin, viewing it as the missing link between bebop and the African diaspora, and studied with tabla player Wasantha Singh. Forming a Latin group with pianist Chick Corea, who predeceased him by a matter of days, he gravitated toward jazz for its greater harmonic openness, switching from conga and timbales

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  • Film

    The New Weird

    “RUN ME OVER,” tremble the lips of a masochist to the woman who bullied him in high school. “Please . . . I want you to run me over with your car.” She doesn’t. Because only one thing sexually satisfies her these days: cooking mapo tofu.

    A wildly aspirational genderqueer version of As You Like It, with all roles played by women, in Mandarin and set in a futuristic Taipei where a burgeoning countercultural resistance to social media has resulted in internet-free zones ornamented with anime sprites, Chinese opera, calligraphy, and divinatory paraphernalia—a cinematic parallel to hyperpop.

    A successful

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  • Passages

    Guy Brett (1942–2021)

    AT A 2008 TATE MUSEUM TALK on Chilean artist Eugenio Dittborn, Guy Brett recalled a studio visit during which Dittborn kept fussing with unwieldy canvases, growing frustrated. “Fucking rigidity,” Dittborn had exclaimed, bashing the canvases to the wall. This aversion to the static, a trait endemic to the artists he championed, is just as applicable to Brett himself. The critic and curator had an abhorrence for the rigid, contempt for anything that refused to bend to the shape of the world. He was attracted to vitality, to art that marked, as he put it, “a new relationship with life.”

    The British-born

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