Erika Balsom


    THE PRESENT FEELS INESCAPABLE, like a miasma too close, too everywhere, to apprehend. Yet it is precisely because of this blinding proximity that the present demands to be given shape in a lasting, shareable form—so that we might make sense of our place within it, so that the feeling of our time will remain available to encounter in times to come.

    In her third feature film, The Hottest August (2019), geographer turned documentarian Brett Story proposes one way to give shape to our moment. Story roams the five boroughs of New York in the eighth month of 2017, posing questions from behind the camera


    LOOKING DOWN ON THE SUPINE BODIES, so much living flesh laid out on towels, I feel an eerie sense of unreality set in—the kind that surges when fiction is powerful but not total. Some twenty people are below, applying cream to block the rays of a fake sun while sending real text messages, reclining on an artificial beach while actually taking care of a temperamental dog and tending to the children who trigger the animal’s barky agitation. Some are volunteers, resting for the day inside a piece of art. In a continuous loop, the cast sings songs of tourism, overwork, environmental catastrophe,


    THE MENTION OF REDDIT most likely conjures the thought of “Ask Me Anything” interviews, or perhaps the alt-right sewers of /r/The_Donald or /r/TheRedPill. In Chris Kennedy’s silent 16-mm film Watching the Detectives (2017), the website figures as something else: a place to witness the ways in which truth claims are made and unmade across distance, in real time, often with little grounding in fact.

    Kennedy begins with a tweet—“Ain’t no love in the heart of the city, stay safe people”—before cutting to footage of the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and injured some 260 others

  • Openings: Charlotte Prodger

    BEDROOMS, BATHROOMS, Samuel R. Delany. Scotland, public sex, emails from friends. Blogs, lesbians, pissing. Glasgow-based artist Charlotte Prodger peppers her single-channel videos with such constellations of people, places, and things. Prodger’s attraction to taking inventory—whether in a screen-printed compendium of her recent addresses or in a voice-over recitation of the deity Bridgit’s many names—stems from a drive not to forcibly impose an order or hierarchy, as such acts often do, but to be attentive, to stay close to the rumble of things and not overlook small variations by


    Rosa Barba searches for deep time in the age of the instant. She finds it in the sculptural materiality of film itself, but also in vaults, archives, buried stores of radioactive waste—and the cosmos. “Send Me Sky” thematizes astronomy and cinema, positing both as matters of light and time. A new commission filmed at the Harvard College Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will be accompanied by a selection of recent works, including The Color Out of Space, 2015, comprising images shot at the Hirsch Observatory in Troy, New York, projected through colored glass,

  • Reza Abdoh

    Before his death from AIDS in 1995 at just thirty-two, Iranian American theater director Reza Abdoh had developed a multimedia practice that crossed formal experimentation, provocation, and a commitment to political action. In maximalist productions with his company, Dar a Luz, staged in abandoned spaces in Los Angeles and New York, Abdoh drew on oneiric fantasies, sadomasochism, queer club culture, and the legacy of the avant-garde to subject his audiences to a sensory assault. This collaboration between MoMA PS1 and

  • film April 23, 2018

    Bad Boyfriends

    IF YOU’VE HEARD ANYTHING about Let the Sunshine In (2017), it is probably that Claire Denis’s new film is a romantic comedy, and that it is inspired by Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, a hyper-referential 1977 book that theorizes the language of love. So why reiterate this? Out of protest. Neither statement provides any real insight into this seductive and subtle film, but both figure as symptoms of the problem that a movie like this—which is to say, one about a mature woman’s sexuality, desire, and happiness—poses for a critical establishment that continues to have firm if

  • Stan Brakhage’s Metaphors on Vision

    Stan Brakhage, Metaphors on Vision, edited by P. Adams Sitney. New York: Anthology Film Archives and Light Industry, 2017. 212 pages.

    IN THE INTERVIEW with P. Adams Sitney that opens Metaphors on Vision, a collection of essays first published as the Fall 1963 issue of Film Culture, Stan Brakhage rejects the suicide that ends his 1958 film Anticipation of the Night, seeing it as too bound up in the dramatic conventions he would subsequently seek to excise from his practice. Leaving behind such psychodrama, he set out on a quest to find filmic realization for the adventure of vision itself.


  • “Tacita Dean: Landscape”

    “Landscape” is one of a trio of genre-themed exhibitions Dean will present in London this spring, as part of an unprecedented collaboration between three major institutions. (The National Portrait Gallery will focus, unsurprisingly, on Dean’s portraiture, and the National Gallery will show her still lifes.) Dean’s landscapes span disparate materials—chalk drawings, films, gouache on found postcards—but a beguiling interest in the contingent and the ephemeral is found throughout the artist’s extensive engagement with the genre. At the Royal

  • Erika Balsom

    1 TONSLER PARK (Kevin Jerome Everson) The quotidian and the historic converge in a Charlottesville, Virginia, polling station on the day of the last presidential election. A careful study of people at work, positioned at the intersection of race and politics. This is the cinema we need.

    2 BY THE TIME IT GETS DARK (Anocha Suwichakornpong) Forget the comparisons to Apichatpong Weerasethakul: They are too easy and fail to do justice to this kaleidoscopic, confounding film. Image-making, history, and enchantment intertwine in a highly original work.

    3 THE HUMAN SURGE (Eduardo Williams) Across


    LAST YEAR, sales of vinyl records reached a twenty-five-year high—up 53 percent from 2015—and sales of e-books fell for the second year running, with their print counterparts gaining in popularity. Startling as these developments may seem, neither should come as a surprise to those who have watched obsolete technologies make their way into the gallery in recent years. In the midst of the second machine age—an era of relentless digitization and automation—we have become obsessed with reasserting the value of tactile encounters that stand obstinately outside networks of electronic


    “THE ACTIVITY OF LOOKING . . . helps us to be more truthfully aware of the condition of being alive.” These words, as spoken by Bridget Riley in a 1979 documentary, close Canadian artist Jean-Paul Kelly’s two-channel video Movement in Squares, 2013. Though he is an altogether different artist than Riley, the statement could be Kelly’s own. Broadly concerned with the production and reuse of documentary materials, Kelly combines a tactile engagement with found digital images, reenactments of events aligned with the production of truth (scenes from a courtroom, 1960s direct cinema), and abstract

  • film March 13, 2017

    Lights, Camera, Aktion!

    VISITORS DRIFTED IN AND OUT of London’s Raven Row all weekend, lying on the floor, sitting on the stairs, waiting out an unexpected power cut, chatting and mixing gin and tonics in the interval (with lemon, of course). The convivial occasion was a weekend devoted to restaging a selection of expanded cinema works by the Filmaktion group, widely recognized as central to the history of artists’ film practice in Britain yet rarely seen due to the difficulty of orchestrating their display.

    Curated by Mark Webber, the program formed part of Raven Row’s ongoing episodic exhibition “This Way Out of

  • “Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016”

    INSIDE THE LUMINOUS ROOMS of “Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016,” numerous screens, sounds, and curatorial proposals compete for attention, bleeding into one another in an expansive and ambitious venture. As curator Chrissie Iles states in her catalogue essay, “This is not a show about cinema,” nor is it a show about immersion per se. It is, however, many other things: an exhibition of conceptual sprawl that skips around from the historical avant-garde to the internet and in between, skimming across animation, digitization, synesthesia, and interactions between the body and

  • Philippe Parreno

    THE ASSUMPTION that the museum is a timeless space of stasis has come under fierce assault in recent years, but few artists have equaled Philippe Parreno’s insistence on reconceptualizing it as a responsive site of process and exploring the exhibition as a durational medium. Nowhere is this more evident than in Anywhen, 2016, the artist’s monumental commission for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, the first since the museum’s major expansion last summer.

    In its dynamic theatricality, Anywhen might be understood as a figuration of the self-image of the “new Tate,” incarnating the motto emblazoned on


    PERE PORTABELLA made his first film in Barcelona in 1967, a time marked by intense repression in Francoist Spain and a worldwide proliferation of cinematic new waves that were challenging the parameters of filmic language. The eight features and countless shorts he brought to fruition in the subsequent half century would seem to thwart the typical auteurist search for unity in which the critic catalogues repeated motifs and notes trademark gestures recurring across a body of work. One can’t simply periodize his films, either. It is tempting to divide up the various productions and say that there

  • “Ben Rivers: Urth”

    Utopia: It is no place. The word evokes unrealized visions and failed attempts, and yet the idea persists. Featuring recent work, including four films and a selection of drawings and photographs within a site-specific installation, “Urth,” Ben Rivers’s first museum exhibition in the US, will explore the artist-filmmaker’s long-standing interest in imagining other worlds within and beyond our own. Whether presenting a science-fictional portrait of four island societies on a drowned planet (Slow Action, 2010) or an intimate, seasonal diary shot in his own home (Things,

  • film February 09, 2016

    Run the World

    WAITING FOR MY FLIGHT to Rotterdam among the business travelers of London City Airport, I noticed the room was filled with men in suits. At my quick estimate, the male-to-female ratio stood at approximately nine to one. I began to cast mental aspersions on the sexism of the business world, smugly happy to be well outside it, but then remembered that the field of cinema is not so different. In press screenings the suits disappear but the gender balance remains about the same; ditto for film production. At this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam, only thirty-four of the 252 feature films

  • Omer Fast’s Remainder

    “THERE’S ALSO A BOY I keep seeing. When everything’s right, he’ll appear.” The nameless, amnesiac protagonist of Omer Fast’s new film, Remainder—which premiered this past October at the BFI London Film Festival—orchestrates a meticulous reenactment of a barely remembered scene to precipitate the appearance of this child, seemingly a younger self clad in a red and blue windbreaker. After being severely injured by a piece of falling debris, the protagonist finds his physical debilitation matched by the psychic trauma of living without memory, with every action feeling labored and

  • Ben Rivers’s The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers

    EVEN BRITAIN'S NATIONAL broadcasting service is not exempt from the pressures of London’s bullish property market. In 2012, the BBC announced the sale of its Television Centre, the huge facility in White City it had occupied since 1960, to developer Stanhope PLC for £200 million (roughly $300 million). Much of the now-vacant complex is, unsurprisingly, slated for demolition, to make way for housing, offices, a hotel, and a private club. Among the storied structures soon to be razed is the Drama Block, a cavernous space where scenery and props were once built. It was this doomed warehouse that