COLUMNS

  • Diary

    Braving the Elements

    AROUND LUNCHTIME ON THE LAST THURSDAY IN JUNE, I found myself at a table on a terrace with an absurdly beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea. Behind me was the kind of low-slung corporate resort hotel that is typical of La Marsa, one of several suburban tourist towns east of the capital of Tunisia, Tunis. I scanned the horizon from left to right. A thin dark line separated the deep blue sky from a vast expanse of light sparkling turquoise. It was a ridiculous sight, a shimmering paradise, laughable in its right-there realness. I was distractedly sharing a meal with about a dozen people, flanked

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  • Diary

    Breathe In

    “STOP TALKING.”

    “Stop talking.”

    “Stop talking.”

    “No, really, stop talking.”

    Unusually for an auctioneer—albeit a very part-time one—White Columns director and chief curator Matthew Higgs isn’t one to raise his voice. And his English wit is sufficiently dry that American ears often have difficulty in distinguishing a genuine word from an ironic one. So it took him a few attempts to convince the crowd at the nonprofit institution’s recent benefit auction that his characteristically affectless request was meant to be taken seriously. Eventually, however, things settled down and bidding on

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  • Film

    Sorry Not Sorry

    THE TIME TO DO THE RIGHT THING is now or never. The urgency coursing through Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You makes it a perfect movie for the blazing summer of resistance. When Riley’s debut feature played at Sundance in January, it seemed like African American lysergic futurism. Six months later, even its most surreal moments are less prophetic than terrifyingly close to ordinary life in 2018—maybe with the exception of the human/horse gene-editing thing.

    What Riley brings to his first feature film is twenty-seven years of making music as the leader of the Oakland political hip-hop collective

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  • Passages

    Sabina Ott (1955–2018)

    I FIRST MET SABINA OTT in the mid 1990s when she was making a series of large encaustic paintings that she titled Sub Rosa. They featured a mixture of geometric and cloudlike, decorative shapes arranged above slanting lines, suggesting an aerial viewpoint. Lone or paired alphabet letters were buried under the wax, but they didn't say anything. The paintings were triggered when she read Gertrude Stein—and they, or the idea, continued to grow until they were no longer paintings. Stripes of deep color leapt out of the frames and onto wood plinths, and eventually onto the walls of the gallery. As

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  • Film

    Creative Nonfiction

    ONCE THE BLAZING FURNACE OF THE NORTH OF ENGLAND, Sheffield’s steel mills had for the most part gone cold by the 1980s. It was around this moment of postindustrial bottoming out that the city was reinvented, via much public money, as a haven for the arts, one outgrowth of this being the founding in 1994 of the nonfiction Sheffield Doc/Fest. During the course of the quarter-century since, the reputation of Doc/Fest—the largest festival of its kind in England and one of the largest in the world—has waxed and waned, as festival reputations tend to do, though this year was held up for particular

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  • Diary

    Attention Deficit

    ON A RECENT MONDAY EVENING, a few hundred people who loved the late composer and lyricist Michael Friedman assembled at Joe’s Pub in New York for the Song Makes a Space, a benefit concert of his work organized by the Civilians, the company Friedman cofounded with Steve Cosson. The night’s goal was to raise money for the Michael Friedman Legacy Fund, which will finance the proper archiving of his materials and the recording of his unrecorded music, so they can be housed at the New York Public Library.

    “The song makes a space” is a line from the final number of The Fortress of Solitude, a 2014

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  • Interviews

    Bracha L. Ettinger

    The most comprehensive museum exhibition in the United States so far of artist and theorist Bracha L. Ettinger’s work is on view at the UB Anderson Gallery in Buffalo, New York, until July 29, 2018, featuring four decades of paintings, notebooks, and drawings, as well as three video works. Additionally, “Bracha’s Notebooks,” a solo show curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev at Castello di Rivoli in Turin, will be on view in 2019. Here, Ettinger discusses the eclipse of the female subject in historical abstraction, the relationship between abstraction and compassion, trauma, and the remedial

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  • Slant

    Nocturne

    In conjunction with our special feature on what, where, who, and when is Enlightenment in the Summer 2018 issue of Artforum, scholar A.B. Huber contributes thoughts on darkness below.

    A 2001 ATLAS OF NIGHT SKY BRIGHTNESS suggests that light emissions from sites of habitation, industry, and transit shroud the earth in a radiant haze. Satellite views of earth testify to a profound and widespread loss of nighttime darkness, and the atlas “provides a nearly global picture of how mankind [sic] is proceeding to envelop itself in a luminous fog.” Beneath this fog it can seem human eyes never close, not

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  • Film

    Women About Town

    WHENEVER I WATCH Allan Moyle’s teen girl coming-of-age screwball comedy Times Square (1980), I remember the real-life story of Warhol superstar Edie Sedgwick and the radically queer underground filmmaker Barbara Rubin meeting in the psychiatric hospital to which, in the early 1960s, their respective families (Sedgwick’s was Boston Brahmins, Rubin’s middle-class Queens Jews) committed them for drug use. One of Warhol’s most memorable screen presences, Sedgwick died of an overdose in 1971. In 1963, at age seventeen, Rubin made Christmas on Earth—the all-time most subversive American avant-garde

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  • Diary

    Soft Ruins

    ON A WHITE MARBLE COLUMN, topped by the goddess Athena, that presides over the Pedion Areos Park in Athens, someone has scrawled in black an anarchy symbol. A few steps farther—under lush green trees down Mavromateon Street, past dozens of stray cats haunting the shadows cast by grand bourgeois apartment buildings—are clusters of humans talking under the streetlights in the sticky humidity of the June night. It’s only when you get close do you see they’re cooking and smoking heroin, tongues of flame licking at glass tubes. Beaming down from the fifth floor of one of the buildings, a neon heart

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  • Slant

    Satori

    In conjunction with our special feature on what, where, who, and when is Enlightenment in the Summer 2018 issue of Artforum, writer Michelle Tea contributes her response below.

    I ATE THE ENLIGHTENMENT IN A COOKIE. It did nothing. I was twenty-four years old and had spent Christmas morning at the home of an acquaintance, not even much of a friend, not really. A DJ with a shaved head and pierced septum, obsessed with Chinese ghost movies. A jolly person whose home contained oddities – a taxidermy bat; a photo of her own ass, splotched from a heavy spanking, pinned to the refrigerator. In her kitchen,

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  • Music

    The Mercy Seat

    ON MAY 5TH, AT THE UNION TEMPLE OF BROOKLYN, a theater called Murmrr hosted the last date of a short tour called Conversations with Nick Cave. For just two appearances in Massachusetts and two in New York, he flew over from Brighton, England. Later that night, to explain why he had come to America, Cave channeled Sinatra: “I just sort of thought if I can get through New York, I might be able to do this elsewhere.”

    But why did he need to do this? In a press release, Cave wrote, “There has been a connection happening with the audience through the recent live shows where we have all shown a kind of

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