COLUMNS

  • Diary

    Laughing Stock

    WELL, THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY! In the deluge of recent stock market coverage—hard to ignore even for the most financially illiterate digital soldiers—this new arc of the obnoxious reality show we call the US of A has fast developed along antique narrative lines such as the “Jacobite day traders versus the powdered wig hedgefunders.” Elon Musk busted into the fray mid-last week like some crypto Kool-Aid Man to incite the razing and pillaging of the hermetic fortress of finance and his loathed enemies, the short sellers, who were betting on a video game retailer to fail much as they had bet against

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  • Film

    Continental Grift

    EL PLANETAbilled as “a comedy about eviction” and the first feature film by artist Amalia Ulman, is loosely based on the real-life Spanish mother-daughter petty-crime duo Justina and Ana Belén. Arrested in 2012, the penniless yet elegant pair posed as wealthy ladies and scammed countless restauranteurs and shop-owners—who’d trusted the apparently well-heeled women to eventually settle their bill­—out of thousands of euros. In El Planeta, lead actor Ulman (who also wrote the screenplay) plays fashion student Leonor who, in the aftermath of her father’s death, can no longer afford her London

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  • Film

    Passion Play

    LARISA SHEPITKO began work on The Ascent (1977) when she was recovering from a severe spinal injury and pregnant, seized by an afflatus of fear. “I was facing death for the first time,” the Ukrainian director told an interviewer in June 1979. “Like anyone in such a situation, I was looking for my own formula of immortality.” In doing so, she reached for one of the most immortal tales ever told, transposing the Passion of Jesus to the freezing hinterland of Nazi-occupied Belorussia. A Dostoevskian psychodrama of sacrifice and betrayal, The Ascent is her most visually accomplished film, her

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  • Books

    After Party

    IN FALL 2020, artist Matt Keegan produced an artist book called 1996, a compendium of ephemera, essays, and interviews circling around the year in question, which Keegan sees as a tipping point for the American left—the moment its capitulation to neoliberalism was complete. It also happens to be the first birth year for Gen Z, whose members have recently begun populating Keegan’s art-school classes. In trying to come to grips with shifts in American electoral politics, ensure that key histories are passed on to posterity, and chart changes in queer identity, the book provides a nonfatalistic,

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  • Performance

    Spirit of the Age

    BEFORE SITTING DOWN AT MY DESK for the inaugural evening of the Public Theater’s digital edition of its annual Under the Radar Festival, I scroll through my phone, looking at costumed marauders storming the Capitol Building. The pictures depict smiling Vikings, Confederate and Revolutionary war soldiers, Captain America as a paratrooper holding a straw broom. Is he a warlock, or a street-sweeper? There are enough mixed metaphors for heroism to make your head explode, and I am struck by how desperate people are for cosplay, their imaginations totally warped by popular fictions.

    It’s not the most

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  • Film

    Capitol Records

    Tape recorders, ordinary cameras, and movie cameras are already extensively owned by wage-earners. The question is why these means of production do not turn up at factories, in schools, in the offices of the bureaucracy, in short, everywhere there is social conflict.

    —Hans Magnus Enzensberger, “Constituents of a Theory of the Media” New Left Review (1970)

    HOW QUAINT that question seems today.

    The assault on the Capitol on the afternoon of January 6—the first hostile occupation of the building since Washington was sacked and set ablaze by British soldiers in 1814—is one of the most shocking attacks

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  • Interviews

    Earthly Delights

    OVER NEARLY two decades of political organizing, archival research, writing, and art-making, Tourmaline has demonstrated that abolition, Black trans liberation, and abundant pleasure are interwoven, inseparable projects. In her first solo exhibition, “Pleasure Garden,” up through January 31 at Chapter NY’s Madison Street pop-up location, Tourmaline debuts a series of five photographic self-portraits alongside Salacia, a cinematic account of Mary Jones, a Black trans sex worker who lived in New York in the 1830s. The works weave together sites as varied as nineteenth-century Black-owned pleasure

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  • Slant

    Aspirational Dystopia

    THE MOST WIDELY ANTICIPATED VIDEO GAME of the past several years, Cyberpunk 2077, was finally released in the twilight of 2020. Served up in over thirty countries across all major gaming platforms, this regrettably undercooked sci-fi pastiche—riddled with disruptive glitches, prone to crashing, and jerry-rigged from clearly unfinished code—infuriated nerds across the globe. I thought that perhaps a dystopian hacker narrative marred by erroneous programming might represent a perfect (albeit accidental) marriage of form and content—but this interpretation has probably appeased no one. Moreover,

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  • Interviews

    Donald Moffett

    Since cake decorating led him to take up painting in 1994, Donald Moffett’s materially suggestive surfaces of extruded pigment and poured resin have addressed environmental collapse and political turmoil. But the artist, AIDS activist, and former Gran Fury member’s current exhibition, “The Hollow,” at Marianne Boesky Gallery’s Aspen location, circles back to pandemic time, when, once again, a virus has made touch deadly. Though our current crisis has traded the overt stigmatization of AIDS and its communities for a more collective-minded “we are in this together” spirit, the US government’s

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  • Books

    All Systems Go

    IN THE FIRST MONTHS OF QUARANTINE, my apartment became my personal ecosystem. The idiosyncrasies of daily life in isolation—the peculiar sleep hours, the midnight meals on the fire escape, the evening Scrabble ritual—felt entirely specific. And yet, with over half of the world’s population instructed to quarantine as well, these intimate idiosyncrasies were twinned with a totally novel feeling-in-common. When we are asked to “flatten the curve” or wear masks outdoors, we are asked to see ourselves as both individuals with agency and a collective whose influence is only made en masse. We are

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  • Film

    Caste Away

    “A BRAHMIN MUST BE A CULTURAL SUICIDE BOMBER,” writes Suraj Yengde, author of Caste Matters (2019). In other words, a brahmin must enter the upper-caste corridors of power to which only they have access, and detonate. Several indisputable facts underscore this statement: Wealth and influence in India are under the sole proprietorship of the upper castes. Maintained primarily through endogamy and nepotism, this hegemony continues to exploit and deplete the labor and emotional reserves of lower caste people. The responsibility of anti-caste work must fall on those that have access to the networks

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  • Passages

    Herman Daled (1930–2020)

    TO CHALLENGE THE CONVENTIONS and criteria of the collectible object (painterly pretenses, skills, singularity, rarity, commodity status, and exchange value, among others) was one of Conceptualism’s most radical aims, enacted by linguistic, discursive, institutional, and political critiques formulated between 1968 and 1978. To financially support and collect those practices was one of the sublimely paradoxical achievements of Herman Daled and his wife, Nicole Daled-Verstraeten. Only Gertrude and Leo Stein and Walter and Louise Arensberg could be considered as predecessors in a lineage of

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