Brian Droitcour

  • View of “Július Koller and Jiří Kovanda,” 2009.
    picks August 03, 2009

    Július Koller and Jiří Kovanda

    The only witness to Jiří Kovanda’s 1977 act of scooping debris into a pile and scattering it again was his friend Pavel Tuc, whose photograph of a moment in the process is a trace of this private and eccentric performance. Kovanda’s labels for such documents describe the contents of his actions, and place the photographs in brief, droll narratives. Those displayed at Ludlow 38 include I carry some water from the river in my cupped hands and release it a few meters downriver . . ., 1977, and I arrange to meet with several of my friends . . . Suddenly I started to run, 1978. The exhibition also

  • View of “Fantastic Tavern: The Tbilisi Avant-Garde,” 2009.
    picks July 25, 2009

    “Fantastic Tavern: The Tbilisi Avant-Garde”

    The book was the default medium for poet Alexei Kruchenykh, but as he began to experiment with illustration, fonts, and the placement of letters on the page, it also became a way to defy philistine expectations of what a book could be. Printing editions was a cheap way to distribute his new visual language. Given Kruchenykh’s interest in replication, he might be pleased that photographs of his books and those of his colleagues in Tbilisi, where he lived from 1917 to 1920, are now displayed in a Manhattan gallery.

    “Fantastic Tavern” defies audience expectations, but not by the deliberate coarseness

  • Left: Performer Verka Serdyuchka. Right: Collector Viktor Pinchuk with artist Jeff Koons. (Photos: Brian Droitcour)
    diary June 08, 2009

    This, That, and the Other


    WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO, the curator of Ukraine’s contribution to the 53rd Venice Biennale, couldn’t attend his own opening Thursday night, as he was preparing for a June 20 heavyweight title match. His brother, Vitali, did drop by, however, and the presence of one almost seven-foot, two-hundred-and-fifty pound boxer was enough to satisfy everyone. Artist Ilya Chichkan had decided to involve Wladimir—in name only, of course—to avoid curatorial interference in his collaboration with Japanese artist Mihara Yasuhiro, which turned Palazzo Papadopoli, site of the Ukrainian event, into a creepy fun house

  • Irina Korina

    One of the few Russian words Walter Benjamin used in the diaries he kept while in Moscow in the 1920s was remont. Apparently he found the German term for renovations too weak to convey the scope and urgency of efforts to undo the chaos wrought by revolution and civil war. For Benjamin, remont was a phenomenon specific to the Soviet Union at that time. He could not have suspected that in Russia, remont never stops. In the 1990s it spawned the mutant euroremont: The new advertising class began tacking on the prefix to lend bourgeois glamour to synthetic furnishings made in Turkey or China. Euroremont

  • Left: The judges for the Cosplay costume contest (Renee at center). Right: Joe Earle, vice president and director of the Japan Society Gallery. (All photos: Brian Droitcour)
    diary April 02, 2009

    Cos Célèbre

    New York

    AS HISTORY HAS IT, cosplay, or costume play, was invented by American Trekkies and refined by Harajuku girls. The trend was a liberating one for subcultures across the board as nerds realized that they, too, could be dandies. While it’s not unusual, so to speak, to encounter middle-aged Klingons, the Japanese-accented strand of cosplay is dominated by teenagers who for one reason or another are drawn to fantasy worlds where the heroes’ costumes are as tight as in American comics but the boundaries of gender are looser.

    Last Saturday, the Japan Society opened its doors to cosplayers in conjunction

  • View of “Anna Parkina,” 2009.
    picks March 14, 2009

    Anna Parkina

    Anna Parkina’s White Time, 2008, mixes sentimentalism with pseudoscience as the artist uses interviews and lectures to develop a description of what time feels like when routines are broken. Many philosophers and cognitive scientists have studied our variable perception of time, but Parkina prefers to address the topic by talking to lay Muscovites about “special moments.” The artist appears on-screen as a professor of the “Institute of White Time” to add mock authority to the discussion. Occasionally, the talk is interrupted by an abstract splash animation and a wan synthesizer sound track,

  • Left: Curator Olga Sviblova and Baibakov Art Projects founder Maria Baibakova. Right: Artist Eloise Fornieles. (Photos: Vladimir Gorbel)
    diary February 27, 2009

    London Bridges


    “DO THEY REALIZE they’re posing with an asshole?” My friend interrupted our conversation to point out two socialites smiling for a photographer as they stood in front of Margarita Gluzberg’s Pinstriptism, a semiabstract rear view of a figure in a deep bow. (“It’s the ass of the financial crisis,” the artist later told me.) I had flown to Moscow at the invitation of Baibakov Art Projects to attend the private view of “Natural Wonders: New Art from London” and was not surprised to find the VIPs more interested in one another than in the works of the twenty-two young British artists on display.

  • Left: Takeshi Murata, Monster Movie, 2005, still from a color video, 3 minutes 55 seconds. Right: Takeshi Murata, Untitled (Pink Dot), 2007, still from a color video, 5 minutes. Stills courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix, New York.
    film February 16, 2009

    Pixel Vision

    THE OPENING FRAMES OF TAKESHI MURATA’S Untitled (Pink Dot), 2007, alternate between a magenta circle on a black field and a cyan rectangle with a black hole, creating the effect of a single, flickering sign. A cool pulse by sound artist Robert Beatty punctuates the steadiness of the blinking colors throughout the subsequent quickening of action sequences ripped from First Blood (1982), which take turns erupting from fields of pure color. When Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) grabs a bad guy in a half nelson or a warehouse explodes in flame, Murata lets these bursts of violence leave digital footprints

  • Left: Meredith Monk, Juice, 1969. Performance view, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1969. Photo: V. Sladon. Right: Meredith Monk, Songs of Ascension, 2008. Performance view, Ann Hamilton’s tower. Photo: Marion Gray.
    interviews February 13, 2009

    Meredith Monk

    Composer and performer Meredith Monk became the first artist to engage the Guggenheim Museum’s entire rotunda in a single work with the premier of Juice in 1969. A new work, Ascension Variations, incorporates visual and musical material from both Juice and Songs of Ascension, a performance that has been touring the country since its premiere at Stanford University last October. Here Monk speaks about her involvement with Buddhism, as well as her experience preparing Ascension Variations from fragments of two other works.

    I WAS EXPOSED to Buddhism in 1975, when I was asked to teach and perform at

  • Allora & Calzadilla, Stop, Repair, Prepare, 2008. Installation view, 2009.
    picks February 03, 2009

    Allora & Calzadilla

    Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony has a lot of baggage. The monument that discouraged lesser composers from writing more than eight symphonies has been, to name a few examples, the anthem of Rhodesia under white-supremacist dictator Ian Smith and a vehicle of dramatic tension in violent films like A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Die Hard (1988). Allora & Calzadilla’s Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on Ode to Joy for a Prepared Piano, 2008, also recognizes the music’s pomp and power but confronts these qualities rather than exploits them. Stop, Repair, Prepare is a live performance on a piano with a

  • China Tracy (artist Cao Fei) and UliSigg Cisse (collector Uli Sigg). (Photo courtesy of RMB City)
    diary January 16, 2009

    Virtual Realty

    RMB City, Second Life

    IT’S HARD TO THINK OF A SINGLE WORK—let alone a work in progress—that got more play in 2008 than RMB City, Cao Fei’s community-building project in the online world of Second Life. Surely boosted by its double-edged benefit of introducing the art-world mainstream to the dark continents of China and the Internet simultaneously, RMB City took turns on display in (physical) exhibition spaces around the world. Meanwhile, an animated tour of Cao’s twinkling confection of a digital city was available on her YouTube channel, and anyone who had a computer with a free gigabyte of memory could download

  • Bruce Nauman, Lip Sync, 1969, still from a black-and-white video, 60 minutes.
    picks November 04, 2008

    “Looking at Music”

    John Cage and Steve Reich opened new directions in music by foregrounding processes of composition and production. But their approaches were quite different: While the chance operations Cage used to compose are impossible to discern in the sounds that they yielded, Reich’s method of concatenating minimal phrases is explicit in his music’s pulsating physicality. “Looking at Music” features the composers in separate rooms, each in the company of works by artists with similar sensibilities. A 1966 Cage score—gridded sets of numbers pitted with pen marks—hangs near Otto Piene’s partially aleatoric