David Velasco

  • interviews August 05, 2014

    Douglas Coupland

    The writer, designer, and artist Douglas Coupland hit the ground running in 1991, when his first novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, became an international best seller. In 2000, after much acclaim for his novels and nonfiction, Coupland made a decisive return to visual art, which he’d studied at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, among other places. Here he discusses his first major survey exhibition, “everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything,” which is curated by Daina Augaitis and is on view through September 1, 2014 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.


  • diary May 15, 2014

    Pull Up to the Bumper

    ART BASEL Miami Basel Hong Kong Basel… Basel Basel Basel.

    This year, the third Frieze New York rear-ended the second Art Basel Hong Kong, and like a patchy crossfade some of us went to sleep in one city and woke up two days later in another wondering where on earth we were.

    It hardly matters. I’m not yet sure if I love Hong Kong, because I don’t quite know if I’m in Hong Kong or if the “Hong Kong” I’m looking at is just window dressing for another Art Basel. (And it is beautiful, this magic convergence of glass and water and neon and steep ascensions of tropical florae.)

    But at least I’m sure we’re



    YOU COULD ALMOST MISS IT: A seam in the wall near the stairwell on the third floor of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York—five feet up, six feet over, and five feet down again. And maybe it’s meant to be missed, this rectilinear fissure that separates the secular museum walls from the sacred slab of drywall that serves variously as artwork, prop, and envoy for Yve Laris Cohen’s D.S., 2014, the artist’s contribution to the 2014 Whitney Biennial.

    Laris Cohen likes to play with what you don’t notice, the alien supports and protocols that shape and secure how we make and show


    THIS MONTH, choreographer Sarah Michelson will present her new work, 4, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Artforum invited David Velasco to examine the long arc of her oeuvre and the groundbreaking performances that have led to her most recent investigations into dance, place, and form.

    “THE PLACE WHERE THE WORK WILL HAPPEN IS pretty much always my starting point,” Sarah Michelson has said. But when the Manchester, UK–born choreographer moved to New York in the late 1980s, that starting point was already split, multiplying. In 1989, a friend took Michelson to see a John Jesurun play at the Kitchen. Jesurun had twisted the space around and made it all fucked up, but Michelson didn’t know that yet because it was her first time. She didn’t know yet that this would be the first of many proliferating sites she would learn and inhabit, and where she would produce some of the most


    IN THE YEAR OF MILEY CYRUS, we learned that pop’s rote vicissitudes are still key to how we metabolize, multiply, and refigure our common pleasures and insecurities. We learned that race and sex are still potent—in other words, salable—stocks, partly because we’re all investors. And we learned that the Disney dialectic of starlet to brand, as rehearsed by Selena Gomez in Spring Breakers (2013) and Cyrus at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, is a fairy-tale trajectory of market-savvy trolling, a low-risk portfolio for those angling to mobilize the “new” capital of hits, likes, views,

  • 1000 WORDS: ART CLUB 2000

    IN THE YEAR 1993 you were about twenty years lighter, and everything was that much cooler. People were weirder and partied more (and better). We all stayed out a little bit later. Which is surely why that year got picked up as the ostensible subject of “NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star,” opening at the New Museum in New York this month, in which the most interesting or important (in the curators’ eyes, of course) art from that date will be installed, syncretically, throughout the building.

    OK, maybe this all seems a bit arbitrary, but the show’s broad if procrustean scope will

  • film December 22, 2012

    Echo Park

    ONE OF THE BEST FILMS OF 2012 was not released in theaters or shown at any festivals or streamed on Netflix or anywhere really but is only available on DVD through a small San Francisco–based nonprofit art-film distributor. The Park Avenue Armory Event, a capstone of one of the great achievements in art of any era—the technique and choreography that travels under the vulpine name “Merce Cunningham”—is now viewable on a three-DVD release from Artpix.

    Park Avenue Armory Event: six performances featuring fourteen dancers dancing “excerpts” of fifty years of choreography on three separate stages in

  • interviews December 19, 2012

    Lucinda Childs

    The dancer and choreographer Lucinda Childs is one of the constitutive members of the group that came to be known as Judson Dance Theater in the early 1960s. Her extensive body of work as a choreographer includes such celebrated pieces as Einstein on the Beach, 1976, (directed by Robert Wilson and scored by Philip Glass) and DANCE, 1979, (with film/decor by Sol LeWitt and music by Glass). She is currently collaborating on a new piece with Glass, scheduled to debut in 2014. Here, Childs reflects on her involvement with Judson and the ongoing shifts in her work.

    WHEN I WAS at Sarah Lawrence in the

  • diary December 08, 2012

    Collins Calling

    I HATE MIAMI. DON’T YOU? Death and doom beneath the surface, tugging at all the smiles desperate for a camera. Bodies working hard to keep up with their implants. Implants working hard to keep up with other people’s implants. Everyone riffing on the “Miami experience,” as if such a thing exists outside the echo chamber of Collins Avenue mania and melancholia. As if the art-world’s “experience” of Miami is anything but a distorted symptom of a few billionaires’ bucket lists. As if ABMB is not the Doomsday Clock for critique, slowly ticking down to the time when “criticism” will be downsized and

  • David Velasco

    SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19. A conversation in the Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium at the Museum of Modern Art in New York during the first week of “Some sweet day,” a three-week-long performance series featuring six choreographers. The program is curated by Ralph Lemon, a choreographer himself, and Jenny Schlenzka, associate curator at MoMA PS1, along with MoMA producer Jill A. Samuels. The conversation features Jérôme Bel and Steve Paxton and is moderated by Lemon and Sabine Breitwieser, MoMA’s chief curator of media and performance.

    Here, near the beginning, Breitwieser and Paxton are talking:

  • interviews October 18, 2012

    Ralph Lemon

    Ralph Lemon has never been about just one thing. A celebrated dancer, choreographer, writer, and visual artist, Lemon turns toward the curatorial in his latest endeavor, “Some sweet day,” which stands to be a significant touchstone in developing conversations on the role of dance in the museum. Here he talks about the project, a three-week series of dance performances featuring six choreographers at the Museum of Modern Art that he coorganized with Jenny Schlenzka, associate curator at MoMA PS1, and Jill A. Samuels, producer in the department of media and performance art at MoMA. The program

  • interviews October 10, 2012

    Tate Tanks

    LIVE ART IS HERE TO STAY. On July 18, 2012, Tate Modern launched the Tanks, a subterranean group of cylindrical chambers and other spaces that constitute the first phase in a dramatic expansion of the museum’s building by Herzog & de Meuron. Formerly the repository of a million gallons of oil, the Tanks are touted as the first museum galleries in the world permanently dedicated to live art, film, and installation.

    The Tanks’ current stage of programming—an elastic, fifteen-week series of exhibitions and events titled “Art in Action”—runs through October 28, at which time the galleries will

  • “XTRAVAGANZA: Staging Leigh Bowery”

    Like Jesus, Leigh Bowery left this morbid world at age thirty-three.

    Like Jesus, Leigh Bowery left this morbid world at age thirty-three. Hardly a saint, however, Bowery was a complicated man: muse to Lucian Freud, cobelligerent of Michael Clark and Charles Atlas, thorn to straight thinking everywhere. “Everyone wanted to know Leigh because he was trendy,” said Bowery’s wife, Nicola Bateman, “but we just went to Sainsbury’s together.” A gravid Bowery would often eject Bateman, naked and “bloody” and covered in sausage links, from a bespoke “womb” onstage. But it seems he actually was pregnant, birthing outré pictures, performances, and

  • diary September 19, 2012

    Poet’s Problem

    “IT IS NOT THE CITY that needs the biennial but the biennial that needs the city,” explained Luis Pérez-Oramas, the MoMA-trained chief curator of the Thirtieth São Paulo Bienal. “Unlike Venice or Documenta, we work in a very complex place.” In Kassel and Venice, the exhibition takes charge. But São Paulo’s is the largest city in the southern hemisphere, the most expensive metropolis in the western hemisphere, and probably a few other superlatives besides. The city bears down, splintering the exhibition experience.

    So we held on and took our time with the three thousand or so works battening Oscar

  • David Velasco on Annette Michelson’s “The Dancer and the Dance” and “Lives of Performers”

    BEFORE SHE BECAME the doyenne of film theory, Annette Michelson was also a champion of what some anachronistically called the New Dance. In her first feature article in Artforum, on André Breton, in the September 1966 issue devoted to Surrealism, there is this:

    One of the beautiful and important works of art I have seen this year . . . was a choreography (The Mind is a Muscle by Yvonne Rainer) in which movement and the evocation or figuration of its absence tended to assume the nature and presence of objects. More urgently than any theoretical or speculative contexts, a work of this sort poses

  • interviews July 24, 2012

    Steve Paxton

    Steve Paxton was born in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1939 and moved to New York in 1958. There, he danced with the Merce Cunningham Company from 1961 to 1964 and was a central player in a number of profound shifts in modern dance, helping found the Judson Dance Theater in 1962 and the group Grand Union in 1970.

    Yvonne Rainer likes to joke that she invented running and Paxton invented walking, and indeed many of Paxton’s early works—including Proxy, 1961, Transit, 1962, English, 1963, and Satisfyin Lover, 1967—made salient the act of walking. Paxton is also known as a founder of the movement technique

  • interviews July 10, 2012

    Yvonne Rainer

    The choreographer, dancer, writer, and filmmaker Yvonne Rainer was born in San Francisco in 1934 and moved to New York in the 1950s, where she helped cofound the Judson Dance Theater in 1962. This summer marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first concerts at Judson Church, and to commemorate the occasion, artforum.com is presenting a series of interviews with key participants in the group.

    JUDSON’S IN MY GENES! I mean probably more than for the others. It was such a defining period for me. I came to New York in 1956 to study at the Herbert Berghof School of Acting. I studied with Lee Grant, who

  • David Velasco


    HERE IS A BODY: Nicole Mannarino—arms open, Afro teased, hippie-angelic in her electric-blue jumpsuit (kimono sleeves, plunging V-neck divulging everything in glimpses)—drenched head to toe in sweat. Hers was a nitty-gritty body, a devoted body, on full display, taking it all in and giving it up with a grace and equanimity that carved straight to the heart of the show.

    This was my take-home image from the 2012 Whitney Biennial. Mannarino, a performer in Sarah Michelson’s Devotion Study #1—The American Dancer, 2012, was at once singular and emblematic in a Biennial shot

  • “Tino Sehgal 2012”

    Writing a “preview” of a Tino Sehgal show is like telling a soothsayer’s fortune. What can you say in advance of a work that only exists as a contemporaneous situation, and that, furthermore, is entangled in an apparatus (the Tate Modern’s spectacular, annual Unilever Series in the Turbine Hall) that embargoes any pertinent preproduction details? Given that Sehgal often targets the art world’s ecosystem, this critic begins to feel that his own convoluted divagations are anticipated, nay, encouraged—complicit with a dialectical conspiracy

  • interviews April 25, 2012

    Richard Maxwell

    Richard Maxwell is a New York–based playwright and theater director, and a recent recipient of a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award. Maxwell wrote the text used in Sarah Michelson’s Devotion Study #1—The American Dancer, which recently won the Whitney Biennial’s Bucksbaum Award. His own contribution to the Whitney Biennial, a public rehearsal with his company, New York City Players, will run on the museum’s fourth floor from Wednesday, April 25 to Sunday, April 29.

    WE DIDN’T WANT to just do a show on the Whitney’s fourth floor. It didn’t make sense to carry over the trappings of theater into a