Ciarán Finlayson


    IT’S A STRUCTURING CONTRADICTION of American politics that the opening “we” of the preamble to the US Constitution effectively dissimulates the manifest contempt for even the concept of “the people” expressed at the 1787 convention that led to its drafting. Behind locked doors, Alexander Hamilton sought to give the rich a “distinct, permanent share in the government” and James Madison to enshrine them as a protected minority. Political economist J. Allen Smith argued as early as 1907 that those seeking to grapple with


    IN 2006, a year after Ed Ruscha’s series “Course of Empire” debuted at the Fifty-First Venice Biennale, Noam Chomsky called America a failed state. Ruscha tends toward wry jokes over declamation, but his own assessment was similarly damning. In the US pavilion, his series “Blue Collar,”1992, comprising five black-and-white paintings of Los Angeles buildings connected to working-class life (e.g., a trade school), was shown with five new works in color depicting the progress or deterioration of each site. These deadpan before-and-after records of changes in the urban landscape registered the


    WHEN MBU, 2017, PREMIERED LAST SPRING at Tate Modern, it was difficult to actually see Paul Maheke dancing. His body was obscured and occasionally illuminated by video projections and layers of hanging scrims. Past the initial frustration, these impediments to spectatorship, it became clear, were as much part of the piece as any of Maheke’s choreography. Viewers were unable to hold him in sight for long. The effect was to make the dance feel ambient rather than spectacular, something best enjoyed with the same etiquette as that of the dance floor: by casting the occasional obliquely held glance.