COLUMNS

  • Slant

    Square Roots

    FOR MOST OF US, the threat of disease is a largely invisible one. This is what makes it so pernicious: Often we cannot even see its symptoms. Coronavirus could be anywhere. But the pandemic has rapidly developed a distinct visual culture. The oddly beguiling 3-D visualization of the virus created by Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgins at the Center for Disease Control has become the default symbol for Covid-19, and as Americans have grown more accustomed to covering their faces, parody images of masked public statuary and even topiary circulate widely. But perhaps the most pervasive of Covid imagery

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  • Interviews

    Faith Holland

    In Faith Holland’s work, one is always attuned to the erotics of technology and virtual space: the sensation of stroking a trackpad, tapping a keyboard, or cradling a cell phone are revealed as genuinely intimate acts. Her exhibition Soft/Hard, now online and installed in the physical space of Los Angeles’s TRANSFER Gallery, has two parts: “The Most Beautiful Dicks Pics of All Time,” a series of GIFs hosted on Pornhub.com, and “Soft Computing,” a collection of plush sculptures featured in collaborative performances and a vanitas livestream. Here, Holland—who also recently cocurated an ongoing

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  • Slant

    THE MOTHER OF ALL SEASONS

    I’LL WRITE THE HYPOSTASIS OF BECKY AND KAREN, I thought, but then a stalker showed up at my house, and I was overworked, but I had to deal with that, and think on things I never think on, for example my own safety, for example my own protection. Zoom swelled like a buboe and popped. The stalker had driven from Michigan to deliver a mug to me, he said, to thank me for having written my last book, showed up on my back porch and wouldn’t leave. 

    I can’t write about the fact that the partner of a new student of mine was shot by white supremacists four days ago. I thought I might manage to write about

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  • Diary

    Washington Postcard

    A VIDEO PROJECTION on the facade of the US Department of Justice building played to an audience of one for its debut last week in Washington, DC.

    Moments after the light beam touched the limestone, an agent from the US Department of Homeland Security arrived, demanding to know who the projectionists were with. They weren’t “with” anybody, one of the four of them said. The agent made a call on a radio. He put his face in their faces. He shouted. Military jeeps swept down Pennsylvania Avenue, but they glided past the tense nighttime scene.

    The standoff lasted only minutes. The projection squad

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  • Passages

    Sally Banes (1950–2020)

    SALLY BANES was an intellectual pixie, an omnivore, fecund writer, and avant-garde and popular dance detective. Early on, in the 1960s, I became aware of her passion for dance when she came to interview me as I lay flat on my back convalescing from near-fatal surgical interventions. The book that eventually followed was Terpsichore in Sneakers: Post-modern Dance (1980), a compendium of my generation’s challenges to our choreographic forebears. In 1978, she produced a 16-mm film of me performing something called Trio A, which, because I had not danced for some years while making films, would

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  • Interviews

    João Enxuto and Erica Love

    João Enxuto and Erica Love are shrewd diagnosticians of the asymmetrical distribution of power within art institutions. Through their work, they consider the potential ramifications of the incursion of platforms, big data, and AI into contemporary art, noting how they amplify and naturalize existing structural inequalities within the arts and threaten the already greatly-diminished agency of artists. Crucially, however, through works like the Institute for Southern Contemporary Art (ISCA), 2016, Enxuto and Love imagine the emancipatory potential of such technologies, if they were to be pried

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  • Passages

    Christo (1935–2020)

    I FIRST BECAME AWARE of Christo and Jeanne-Claude from a black-and-white newspaper photograph of their work in Documenta 4, in 1968, in Kassel. Titled 5,600 Cubicmeter Package, the tall thin sculpture caught my imagination.

    Later that year, I was in New York and visited Leo Castelli’s first gallery uptown. I asked if he had any works by Christo. He replied that Christo was not represented by any galleries but offered the artist’s phone number in case I wanted to contact him (the contemporary art world was a very small fraternity in the ’60s). I called, and a very unreceptive Jeanne-Claude answered.

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  • Performance

    Talk to Me

    THE ARTIST’S TALK CAN BE A DULL AFFAIR: a PowerPoint presentation attesting to careerism and credentialization, an exposition of past and current projects and institutional engagements, uninspired commentary by an artist who seemed fascinating at a distance. The contemporary circuitry of MFA visiting lectureships alone harks back to the form’s origins in academic professionalization, which has largely become a requirement for critical and commercial success despite the unbearable (and unjustifiable) burden of graduate school tuition. Born out of boredom with this standardization of the lecture

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  • Music

    Special Delivery

    AN ETERNITY AGO, the death of Little Richard reignited some debate around the Black queer image in contemporary music. In terms of visibility, we’ve certainly come leaps and bounds since the early days of Queen Richard. Survival is another story. But at that cultural nexus emerging from the Homocore movement of the ’90s, punk rock, and queer Black radicalism, a certain confluence of musicians, filmmakers, writers, and authors continue to find loud, destructive ways to make a living. One of those people is Alli Logout. A Texas-born twenty-seven-year-old musician and filmmaker based in New Orleans,

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  • Film

    Apocalypse Vow

    IN DA 5 BLOODS, history repeats itself not as farce but as tragedy compounded. Financed by and now streaming on Netflix, this fiercely intelligent and emotionally go-for-broke Spike Lee joint overwhelmed my small screen and me as well. Colliding hearts and minds, it arrives as a much-needed exorcism, but I suspect that, like Lee’s most urgent movies—Do the Right Thing (1989), Malcolm X (1992), 25th Hour (2002), BlacKkKlansman (2018), the anomalously tender Crooklyn (1994), the documentaries 4 Little Girls (1997) and When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006), and whichever you might

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  • Slant

    Anniversary

    MONDAY, JUNE 15, is the anniversary of the death of writer Kevin Killian, who was my husband for thirty-three years. The thought of spending it alone during San Francisco’s shelter-in-place both terrifies and numbs me. I have discovered that I have an enormous capacity for numbness, which continues to surprise me. Before Kevin’s death, I couldn’t bear to think about the horrors of widowhood. Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking seemed like the most dangerous book in the world; I wouldn’t touch it. After he died, I read it compulsively.

    For all other anniversaries this past year, I went to

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  • Slant

    Teach-Out

    THIS PAST APRIL, during a fractious Zoom meeting between the faculty and trustees of the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), the phrase “the house is on fire” was uttered multiple times. SFAI has faced existential threats more than once in its 149-year history: In the fires that ravaged San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake, the school literally burned to the ground. Although no act of God, the slow-moving crisis that has left the college too precarious to weather the current pandemic is no less intractable. At an institution where tuition and student fees reportedly account for 85 percent

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