Colby Chamberlain

  • Sara Magenheimer

    Louis Agassiz, 1862: “I have never felt more deeply the imperfection of our knowledge of some of the most remarkable types of the animal kingdom than in attempting to describe the beautiful representative of the genus Cyanea found along the Atlantic coast of North America. I can truly say that I have fully shared the surprise of casual observers in noticing this gigantic radiate stranded upon our beaches, and wondered what may be the meaning of all the different parts hanging from the lower surface of the large gelatinous disk.” Claude Monet, 1924: “It took me time to understand my water lilies.”

  • the politics of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Running Fence

    ONE SMALL ASPECT of daily life that Donald Trump’s election has altered, perhaps irrevocably, is e-mail etiquette. Professional contacts sign off on all manner of correspondence with “In solidarity.” Announcements and invitations include the poignant yet perfunctory phrase “now more than ever.” Friends forward (and reforward) online petitions, solicitations for donations, and pleas to call Congress. Among all these missives, the most memorable I have received was a post to Change.org by the artist Luis Camnitzer: “Dear President Donald Trump: Please use this golden opportunity to commission US

  • Mark Leckey

    HERE’S THE BAIT AND SWITCH: Each new technology that further isolates individuals first promises to connect them. It was film’s potential to organize collective perception that so excited Walter Benjamin: “The ancient truth expressed by Heraclitus, that those who are awake have a world in common while each sleeper has a world of his own, has been invalidated by film,” he wrote, “and less by depicting the dream world itself than by creating figures of collective dream, such as the globe-encircling Mickey Mouse.” Alone together in the darkened theater, the proletariat would commune with new totems.

  • performance January 10, 2017

    Good Charlotte

    ONE TELEVISION MONITOR in “A Feast of Astonishments: Charlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde, 1960s–1980s,” screened clips of Charlotte Moorman’s TV appearances. On the Merv Griffin Show in June 1967, Moorman performed John Cage’s 26’1.1499” for a String Player with the help of comedian Jerry Lewis. Holding a military-grade practice bomb that Moorman had converted into a cello, he asked the audiences, “Does she know I’m famous?” Gingerly, he kneeled down before her, his head bent toward her bare shoulders while she pulled a cello string taut up along his back, playing it with her bow. It’s a

  • Slavs and Tatars

    In 1865, Édouard Manet exhibited Olympia at the Paris Salon, and Louis Pasteur patented a process for preventing spoilage in wine. It’s no stretch to claim a connection between these two events. Both modernist painting and pasteurization are techniques of purification, the one an expulsion of extraneous elements through progressive refinement, the other an elimination of pathogens through calibrated heating. Pasteurization, however, isn’t sterilization. Purge all the bacteria from wine or beer and you ruin the taste. Perhaps this explains why Clement Greenberg revised his theory of medium

  • Cao Fei

    Recently in these pages, artforum.com associate editor Dawn Chan argued that for many East Asian artists, success on the international exhibition circuit is contingent on their willingness to appeal to the “techno-Orientalist” fantasies of Western curators. Few artworks seem more indicative, if not outright parodic, of this predicament than Cao Fei’s RMB City, 2007–11, a floating island constructed in the simulated ocean expanses of Second Life. Much like the Panzani pasta ad that Roland Barthes decoded as connoting “Italianness,” renderings of RMB City abound with Sino-signifiers. A panda, a

  • Natascha Sadr Haghighian

    “Reason . . . always homogenizes and reduces, represses and unifies phenomena or actuality into what can be perceived and so controlled,” observes Abhor, the “part robot,” “part black” protagonist of Kathy Acker’s 1988 novel Empire of the Senseless. “The subjects, us, are now stable and socializable.” Along with her co-narrator and partner Thivai, Abhor navigates an alternate-reality Paris where Algerians have staged an anticolonial revolt. Here she reflects on how patriarchal violence begins with the assignment of identities. “Literature,” she argues, “is that which denounces and slashes apart

  • 1000 WORDS: JILL MAGID

    A DIAMOND is the outcome of compression. Once considered unique to the earth’s mantle, the extreme heat and pressure that push carbon atoms into a crystal lattice can now be artificially replicated to manufacture diamonds on a mass scale. Most serve industrial needs, as abrasives for drill bits or semiconductors for LEDs, but a handful of companies have modified the process to unnervingly sentimental ends: converting the cremated ashes of loved ones into “memorial diamonds.” In 2005, Jill Magid commissioned LifeGem to turn her future remains into a one-carat diamond, to be incorporated into her

  • Josh Kline

    I first visited Josh Kline’s studio in the fall of 2008, and I still haven’t recovered from the shock. At the time, Kline was filling bankers boxes with Bic pens, then slathering them in beige paint. Drawings of Tylenol bottles lay crumpled together in a pile. Everything seemed half-finished or badly neglected, yet Kline spoke of the work with animated conviction. Even in his studio, Kline harped on his day job, deeply bothered by how the protocols, postures, and products of his office had come to saturate his body.

    Kline no longer reports to an office, but he is nevertheless preoccupied with

  • Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin

    From his undergraduate days onward, Ryan Trecartin has displayed the sort of raw talent that inspires recourse to German: Wunderkind, Gesamtkunstwerk, Zeitgeist. In this respect, and several others, the most salient point of comparison to Trecartin’s career is Matthew Barney’s ascension in the 1990s. Call it the Clark Kent Effect: The art world keeps coronating fresh-faced male phenoms from the heartland. Like Barney, Trecartin combines cinematic video suites with baroque sculptural installations, maintains from project to project the same close-knit cadre of collaborators (chief among them

  • Andrea Bowers

    When Hillary Clinton recently described the barriers to racial equality as “intersectional,” the leftist journal Jacobin tweeted a wry salute to whichever Ph.D. student had joined her campaign as a speechwriter. The editors were calling out Clinton’s nod to legal theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw’s influential argument that discriminatory practices structured by differences in race, gender, or class “intersect” and compound one another. More subtly, the tweet posited an intersection of a different sort: an imagined Ph.D.-politico coupling academic jargon with campaign rhetoric. These two valences of

  • Julia Weist

    Parbunkells: two ropes bound together, with a loop on both ends. In June 2015, Julia Weist placed this single word on a billboard above a busy thoroughfare in Forest Hills, Queens. Any curious onlooker who plugged it into Google—and there were many—would have discovered just a single result, Weist’s own web page. Prior to her plucking it from a seventeenth-century sailor’s manual, parbunkells appeared nowhere on the Internet. That changed quickly. Parbunkells became a thread on Reddit; someone started a parbunkells Instagram account; on eBay, the domain name parbunkells.org went on

  • “Ocean of Images”

    “Photography is a system of visual editing,” wrote John Szarkowski, MoMA’s long-presiding chief curator of photography. “At bottom, it is a matter of surrounding with a frame a portion of one’s cone of vision, while standing in the right place at the right time.” The belief that photography comes down to finding a spot in the landscape guided Szarkowki’s selections for “New Photography,” the annual showcase he inaugurated in 1985, and it continued to hold sway in the installments organized under his successor, Peter Galassi. Quentin Bajac, the department’s latest chief curator, broke with the

  • Ajay Kurian

    At the recent exhibition of Mike Kelley’s “Kandor” series at Hauser & Wirth in New York, it was easy to forget that these seductive glass-enclosed resin cityscapes—essentially overwrought snow globes—were emblems of trauma. In comic-book lore, Kandor is the last remnant of Superman’s destroyed planet, Krypton, shrunk down and preserved beneath a bell jar. “Kandor now sits, frozen in time,” wrote Kelley, “a perpetual reminder of [Superman’s] inability to escape that past, and his alienated relationship to his present world.” The influence of Kelley’s Kandors is evident throughout the

  • Martine Syms

    Martine Syms has lectured in venues as varied as the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, and, this past September, in a field on the outskirts of Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, New York. There, seated at a table with a makeshift AV setup, she played a recording of James Taylor’s 1968 ballad “Something in the Way She Moves.” The wistful vocals momentarily heightened the easy romance of a countryside evening, but then Syms began speaking of how she grew up studying her aunt—in effect transposing Taylor’s admiration of a nameless lover onto a

  • Keltie Ferris

    In 2012, Keltie Ferris tried to throw her body into painting—and it wasn’t working out. Gamely, she smeared her torso in paint and pressed herself against canvas, but she found the results embarrassingly direct and, at the same time, discomfitingly haunted by Yves Klein. Then, on a visit to “Now Dig This!,” curator Kellie Jones’s survey of postwar black art in Los Angeles at MoMA PS1, she encountered David Hammons’s body prints of the late 1960s and early ’70s. Hammons had coated himself in margarine or grease and then lay atop paper sheets, leaving a gluey residue that could be used to

  • “Under the Clouds: From Paranoia to the Digital Sublime”

    “No more vapor theory anymore,” wrote media theorist Geert Lovink in 2002. Already, tech-giddy journalists were portraying information networks as fuzzy, weightless, ethereal. Now, of course, “the cloud” is the strategically innocuous marketing term favored by companies eager to store (and harvest) consumer data. Curator João Ribas seeks to strengthen the cloud’s political valence by connecting it back to the mushroom cloud of Cold War paranoia. For the atomic age and the information age alike, the cloud has served as a condensation of technology and affect that conjures

  • diary March 04, 2015

    Barely Legal

    INTERDISCIPLINARY CONFERENCES require extra signage. I’ve been to symposia at Yale before, but last Saturday’s was my first at the law school, so it was only by grace of several fluorescent red posters that I found the auditorium and the gratis coffee. An enormous freestanding placard marked the check-in desk: “The Legal Medium: New Encounters of Art and Law.” There, four graduate students sat in a row tending to stacks of name tags, each of them, jarringly enough, dressed in red—a swatch-book’s worth of clashing hues. When I opened the program they handed me, I half expected to find a Valentine’s

  • R. H. Quaytman

    In Tristes Tropiques, Claude Lévi-Strauss recalls how little he knew of Brazil before he moved there. “In my imagination,” he writes, “I associated Brazil with clumps of twisted palm trees concealing bizarrely designed kiosks and pavilions.” Oddly enough, a painting in R. H. Quaytman’s exhibition “O Tópico, Chapter 27” included a silk screen of just such an image, a Polaroid she took of Hélio Oiticica’s Penetravel Magic Square no. 5 De Luxe, 1977. The work’s stark geometry cuts through the foliage at Inhotim, the vast art park in Minas Gerais. The contents of Quaytman’s show were headed there

  • James Hoff

    Clement Greenberg, 1960: “The first mark made on a canvas destroys its literal and utter flatness, and the result of the marks made on it by an artist like Mondrian is still a kind of illusion that suggests a kind of third dimension. Only now it is a strictly pictorial, strictly optical third dimension.” Here Greenberg fastidiously refined his earlier pronouncements on painting’s intrinsic qualities. The picture plane’s “heightened sensitivity,” he explained, was such that even the taut weaves of Mondrian’s last compositions still induced the pleasant vertigo of illusory depth—albeit a “