COLUMNS

  • Diary

    Into the Echo

    THE SHEIKH WAS RUNNING LATE. It was 10 AM—the official opening time of the fourteenth Sharjah Biennial. Although a nice, durable red carpet had been rolled out in front of the Sharjah Art Foundation’s Al Mureijah Square, and a crew of cameramen in dishdashas was on standby, the planefuls of artists, curators, press, gallerists, and junketeers who had descended upon the Emirate last Thursday were told they might as well wander the grounds and see some art. We would be alerted when Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammed Al Qasimi finally arrived (his daughter and the biennial’s director, Sheikha Hoor Al

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  • Film

    Last Hurrah for Chivalry

    WHEN WE FIRST ENCOUNTER ZHAO QIAO, the central character in Jia Zhangke’s Ash Is Purest White, she is perhaps a little over twenty, her face untrammeled by time or worry and framed by the most perfectly engineered bangs in Datong, the northern mining town whose streets are run by her boyfriend, Bin, a big man in the local jianghu gangs. The year is 2001, but by the time the story ends, in 2018, Qiao, played by Zhao Tao, is closer to the actress’s own age. At no point does Tao have recourse to actorly affectations in transforming the character from a young, wide-eyed moll to the shrewd, hardened

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  • Diary

    Daze or Malaise?

    ARRIVING IN THE FORMER (INTERMITTENT) IMPERIAL CAPITAL OF MARRAKECH after a few days in Casablanca—Morocco’s economic powerhouse during the French Mandate—was a shock. Although only two and a half hours apart by car, the two cities could not feel more different: Casablanca’s wide, tram-lined boulevards and somewhat laid-back architectural modernism in glistening Mediterranean white contrasts with the earthy reds of Marrakech’s buildings, old and new, its continental climate with swooping temperatures, and, above all, its overwhelming hypersaturation of tourists. After arriving at Jemaa al-Fna

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  • Interviews

    Bunny Rogers

    Bunny Rogers’s preferred email sign-off is a sentiment that rings true to her work: Sincerely. It is the slipperiness of connection, however, that allows her to calibrate so sensitively the inner illogic of our own narratives and memories in her practice, which spans sculpture, performance, coding, and writing. “Pectus Excavatum,” her solo exhibition at the Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK) in Frankfurt, revisits familiar motifs from past work—animals, toys, mops, and ribbons—to excavate sites of personal and mass media mythology. The show is on view through April 28, 2019. 

    I’VE MOURNED THE LOSS

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  • Passages

    Bisi Silva (1962–2019)

    I FIRST MET BISI SILVA in 1995, when she joined me to organize the 1996 conference for the British chapter of the AICA and the accompanying book, Art Criticism and Africa (Saffron Books, 1997). By then, Bisi had graduated with her master’s in curating from the Royal College of Art. Throughout the 1990s, in London, she established herself as a freelance curator and critic, which was no easy task.

    We frequently discussed the many misconceptions of contemporary art from Africa as well as how people are positioned as being “from” a place when speaking “to” a rapidly internationalizing art world. Our

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  • Film

    Tusk Everlasting

    THE SPECTERS OF ITS MAKER may always haunt An Elephant Sitting Still. Born from writer-editor-director Hu Bo, who ended his life at the age of twenty-nine, the film is an odd orphan: a first feature and a last one. Mordant and disconsolate in his final months, Hu blogged on Weibo of his sparrings with producers Liu Xuan and Wang Xiaoshuai (director of Beijing Bicycle, Shanghai Dreams, etcetera) over its elephantine four-hour runtime. Vexed, Wang sutured together an attenuated recut that he sent around to festivals in 2017. Such surgeries are standard, if myopic, for producers; Hu mourned them

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  • Slant

    D-FENS Mechanisms

    BEING A PEDESTRIAN IN LA has long put a person outside the bounds of normality: At best, they’ve made a mistake, gotten a DUI, failed to maintain their car, or crashed it; at worst, they’re already an offender, a trespasser, a prowler, or merely too poor to be considered at all.

    Oliver Payne’s recent travelogue-lecture-performance-video Wandering About Falling Down, 2019, is a meditation on this unique combination of being both overexposed and totally invisible. This past February 26, viewers could catch up with Payne on Instagram Live as he crossed the city. Where was he at lunch? Where was he

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  • Passages

    Susan Hiller (1940–2019)

    IN SUSAN HILLER’S EARLY VIDEO INSTALLATION An Entertainment, 1990, scaled-up images and the amplified sound of Punch and Judy performances transform popular children’s entertainment into a terrifying spectacle. Aspects of our collective culture considered unworthy of serious attention—in this case, puppet shows she watched with her young son—repeatedly formed the starting point for a wide range of innovative artworks produced over the artist’s remarkably productive five-decade career.

    Susan’s art often focused on the subconscious and the paranormal. Early experiments with automatic writing and

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  • Interviews

    Naeem Mohaiemen

    Redoing histories—through essays, fiction films, and documentary forms—is a primary motivator for artist and writer Naeem Mohaiemen. He restlessly interrogates the peripheral narratives he finds in the “non-aligned” and “socialist” movements during the Cold War. United Red Army (2011) revisits the surreal moment when Japanese left-wing terrorists hijacked a plane in support of Palestinian liberation in 1977; Tripoli Cancelled (2017) fictionalizes the condition of being stranded in stateless limbo; and Two Meetings and a Funeral (2017) follows the dramatic architectures in which third-world

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  • Books

    GHOST IMAGE

    Nearly twenty years ago, artist Adam Putnam came across the photographs of Alfred Cook in the archives of the Frick Collection. Recently, he edited together a selection of Cook’s images for ASMR4, a publishing project Putnam launched in collaboration with fellow artists Dan Torop, Victoria Sambunaris, and Katie Murray. Here, Putnam and Jennifer Krasinski discuss the mysterious Cook, and why these photographs have haunted him for so long.  

    JK: What is known about Alfred Cook?

    AP: Almost nothing. Susan Chore, an archivist at the Frick Collection, sent me as much information as she could find, but

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  • Passages

    JONAS MEKAS

    JONAS MEKAS described himself as a diarist, using this term to encompass his films and his videos, his prose and his poetry. He once told me that he was a long-distance runner; he was a sickly child and had taken up exercise to build stamina. Ninety-six years is a long run, but Jonas was so alive, so present during his last public appearances in the summer and autumn of 2018, that although his body was noticeably frail I refused to believe he would stop anytime soon. He told the writer John Leland, who had followed Jonas since 2015 for a New York Times series on New York City residents who are

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  • Passages

    JONAS MEKAS

    WHEN I ARRIVED in New York City in the early 1990s, it seemed as though the most adventurous elements of film culture had either disappeared or were on their way out. The grindhouses of Times Square were undergoing Disneyfication. The Millennium Film Workshop had grown moribund, and the Collective for Living Cinema had vanished into memory. Even the punk-ass Cinema of Transgression crowd was settling down to have kids.

    Bucking all those trends was Jonas Mekas, then in his seventies, ensconced in the brick fortress of Anthology Film Archives on the corner of Second Avenue and Second Street, running

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