COLUMNS

  • Music

    Another Blue World

    THE LATEST INSTALLMENT IN FRKWYS, RVNG Intl’s series of musical collaborations between different generations, serenitatem pairs Spencer Doran and Ryan Carlile of Portland’s Visible Cloaks with two key figures of Japan’s late-century ambient movement, Satsuki Shibano and Yoshio Ojima. Following Doran’s curation of Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980–1990, out last February from Light in the Attic, serenitatem is not only a seamless collaboration between these two closely related duos but also a continued exploration of the varied influences that informed kankyō

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  • Passages

    Joyce Pensato (1941–2019)

    I WAS FINISHING UP A ONE-MONTH STAY AT JOAN MITCHELL’S HOUSE in France when I met Joyce. It was July 1982, and Joan had awed me with tales of affairs with Giacometti and Beckett while dissecting my childhood, my romantic life, and anything else I might confide. Joyce used to joke that she had become a Joanie, and she was coming to stay the following month with her friend Carl Plansky. She’d previously spent six months at Joan’s, which must have been intense—I remember seeing Joyce’s harsh self-portrait with slashing brushstrokes and jarring colors in Joan’s wine and whiskey storage room. In

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  • Performance

    Butch Chasers and Femmes Fatales

    I ARRIVE TO SEE BAR DYKES at the Flea just a few minutes before 7 PM on a Friday. I spot Becca Blackwell and their best friend Casey ambling toward the theater from an unremarkable Tribeca watering hole; Jennifer is waiting inside with the tickets. Tanya texts me—“hold the curtain!”—and I can only guess what special dose of hell the MTA is serving her this evening. Returning from a quick visit to the all-gender bathroom, Becca excitedly informs us that bottles of wine are going for twenty dollars at the lobby bar. It’s a forgone conclusion that two will be purchased, and drunk, before the play

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  • Slant

    A Letter from Artists in the Whitney Biennial

    The following letter is addressed to Rujeko Hockley and Jane Panetta, curators of the 2019 Whitney Biennial. The signatories submitted it to Artforum for public release.

    Dear Ru and Jane,

    We respectfully ask you to withdraw our work from the Whitney Biennial for the remainder of the show. This request is intended as condemnation of Warren Kanders’ continued presence as Vice Chair of the Board. We would appreciate if you presented this letter to the Board to let them know the seriousness of the situation.

    We care deeply about the Whitney. Over the years, many shows at the Museum have inspired and

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  • Slant

    The Tear Gas Biennial

    WARREN B. KANDERS DIDN’T EARN HIS PLACE as vice chair of the board at the Whitney Museum of American Art through his good taste alone. He has also used some of his estimated $700 million fortune to make tax-deductible donations to support exhibitions at the museum. What successful enterprise has made this generosity possible? Thanks to the collective, years-long effort of activists, students, and reporters to bring everyday brutality to light, we could tell you quite a lot about Kanders’s company Safariland, which does a brisk trade supplying batons, handcuffs, holsters, and body armor to police

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  • Passages

    Warren Niesluchowski (1946–2019)

    IN EARLY MAY I started to receive emails from friends who were at the professional viewing days for the Venice Biennale. No, they weren’t wondering where I was, why I wasn’t there. They were asking, instead, if I knew anything about the whereabouts of the one person without whom such an event felt incomplete: Did I know if Warren Niesluchowski was coming?

    Warren wouldn’t be making it to Venice this time, I had to tell them. He was in a hospital bed in New York—the latest (and, it would turn out, the last) of the many temporary accommodations he’d had the use of over the past two decades.

    Why so

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  • Music

    Open Secrets

    I FIND IT USEFUL to think of Félicia Atkinson’s music—soaked through as it is with traces of places she has been and imagined—as a series of landscapes. This is an approach that’s more or less in line with how one might listen to most ambient music, which is what Atkinson’s music sort of is. While it’s not difficult to be absorbed, transported by the elegant melodic terrain the French artist-composer-poet constructs from a mix of analog and computer-generated sounds (piano, Wurlitzer, a digital gamelan), the trail through these spaces can be elusive. Should we let Atkinson’s voice, an interjection

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  • Film

    Not My Man

    NICK BROOMFIELD SAYS that his latest documentary, Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, is his most personal. I don’t agree, but then again, “personal” is always complicated. In 1968, twenty-year-old Broomfield visited Hydra, the sun-bleached Greek island bohemia where real estate was cheap and dope was plentiful, and open relationships were cultivated. There, Broomfield took his first acid trip, on LSD supplied by Marianne Ihlen, a Norwegian woman about a decade his senior who’d acquired it from a London friend of her lover, Leonard Cohen. Ihlen, Cohen, and Axel—Ihlen’s son from a defunct

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  • Performance

    Forbidden Love

    ON THE SECOND FLOOR of the LGBT Center on West Thirteenth Street, at the Bureau of General Services—Queer Division, Sebastián Castro Niculescu stands in teacherly repose next to a large screen. An academic goth of indeterminate age, she begins to introduce her performance, Tired Selena, by gently bemoaning the heat of the room. She gives us permission to do what we must to survive our enclosure and assures the crowd that she herself will only get shinier over the course of the next hour. Appreciative titters travel over the small audience that has gathered here, although I’m doubtful anyone will

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  • Diary

    Memento Morra

    “MUSEUMS ARE DEAD,” said Andrea Viliani, artistic director of the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina, over dinner on my first night in Naples. “White cubes are devouring white cubes.” It was a daring declaration coming from a longtime museum curator who is collaborating on art projects sited among the ruins of Pompeii. We were at the raucous Ristorante Europeo Mattozzi with curator Milovan Farronato and artist Maria Loboda, both in town casting for “Death,” this summer’s Stromboli Volcano Extravaganza. Here for the reopening of the Morra Greco Foundation, I thought my own days would end in

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  • Interviews

    Marwa Abdul-Rahman

    The six sculptures that comprise Marwa Abdul-Rahman’s “Eternal Return,” on view at Wilding Cran Gallery in Los Angeles through July 27, are at once grotesque and helpless. Bursting with resin, zippers, and buttons, they look like alien monsters suspended by rebar and twine. While she was trained as a painter, Abdul-Rahman’s work has become increasingly sculptural during the last half decade. Constructing these sculptures, she began to question the nature of boundaries, freedom, and form as they are known politically, existentially, and aesthetically. Her objects are allegories with inner lives.

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  • Passages

    Lutz Bacher (1943–2019)

    WHEN LUTZ DIED THE WORLD SHRANK. In those ethereal days immediately following her stark exit, magic was the word I heard most to describe her effect. A magical phenomenon requires an effortless delivery, the mysterious sleight of hand where one is made incapable of conjuring the method of transmutation. Magic happens before our eyes, but points to a hidden blindness revealed by the omnipotent magician. Lutz had a way of locating the real in reality—the fact held in abeyance in plain sight. Her sense of where the art resided in the world was as spontaneous and self-assured as it appeared. She

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