• picks June 06, 2020

    Richard Kennedy

    Richard Kennedy’s paintings and sculptures might be seen as an avatar, or extension, of his operas. For his 2019 show “(G)hosting” at Peres Projects, the artist presented an opera showcasing his talents in choreography and scenography, and narrated in four acts a murderous queer romance that begins on a dating app (an iPhone doubles as the work’s filming device). Reflecting on the entangled, racialized subject positions of the two characters (played by Kennedy and Christopher Argodale) and the language that both describes and scaffolds intimate affairs, Kennedy’s presentations regularly probe

  • diary February 10, 2020

    Nacht Fever

    “I'M NOT FUCKING WITH THIS,” declared Lafawndah, as she rushed backstage, upstairs at Griessmuehle after an hour-long sound check before her Saturday-night performance at Berlin’s CTM Festival. “I want to go back to the hotel,” she told one of the managers trailing behind her. There wasn’t enough time. I had been sitting with the night’s other performers in the backstage lounge when one of the festival organizers came in and announced that everyone had to leave: Lafawndah needed the room to herself, “for her voice.”

    Banished downstairs, we watched an opening DJ warm up the floor. “I kind of want

  • “Christine Sun Kim: Off The Charts”

    Curated by Henriette Huldisch

    Shit Hearing People Say to Me, 2019, a drawing by Christine Sun Kim, displays a pie chart with one segment labeled “My neighbor’s dog is deaf. You two should meet!” In another, Why My Hearing Parents Sign, 2019, a segment reads, “To make sure I feel loved.” Inspired by W. E. B. Du Bois’s “data portraits”—the strikingly modern infographics he created in 1900 to communicate the effects of racism on contemporary African American life—Kim’s pie charts, eleven of which will be on view at MIT, diagram the “Deaf rage” brought about by her interactions with hearing people.

  • picks July 26, 2019

    Christoph Keller, Tao Hui, Hito Steyerl

    The poor image, Hito Steyerl famously opined, is a monad that bears the traces of its circulation, evidence of “anonymous global networks” that represent “a shared history.” In this exhibition, these pieces of digital debris populate Steyerl’s collages as well as her video The Tower, 2015, which considers Saddam Hussein’s efforts to recreate the Tower of Babel alongside the story of a Ukrainian design firm responsible for producing 3-D renderings of emergency simulations. Here, floating images function as autonomous forms within a fragmented and hypermediated reality.

    Contextual collapse also

  • picks February 22, 2019

    Kenzi Shiokava

    Most of Kenzi Shiokava’s sculptures consist of organic matter, like bark and dragon-tree fronds, combined with found materials, such as chicken wire or brooms. In Untitled (Urban Totem Series), 2000, an upright railroad tie narrows into two sharp prongs at the top. Of a similar shape, Untitled (Urban Totem Series), 2005, was carved from a discarded telephone pole. Each sculpture resembles a statuesque humanoid form.

    “For any discarded material that has gone through the process of history and humanization [there] is the potential of presence,” Shiokava wrote for the wall text. Such histories are

  • picks January 05, 2019

    Christine Sun Kim

    A thirty-six-foot-long mural greets the viewer at the entrance to Christine Sun Kim’s exhibition. Finish Forever, 2018, depicts five stacked symmetrical shapes, each resembling a double-sided ladle, face down. These forms are part of the notations that Kim, who is Deaf, has invented for the sweeping arm gestures used in American Sign Language (ASL). The ladle shape signifies the word finish. Its repetition here could mean, “It was finished a long time ago,” or “Please stop already!” or the titular neologism, “Finish forever.”

    In the eighteen drawings on view, Kim expands on her visualizations of

  • picks September 25, 2018

    Eugenia P. Butler

    Eugenia P. Butler’s The Kitchen Table, 1993, is a fifteen-hour collection of videos originally produced for the Art/LA fair in which various artists (including Allan Kaprow and Joan Jonas) have dinner and talk about art. In the context of the fair, Butler’s video presents talk itself as a medium—what she called “dialogic sculpture”—though the conversations are less serious than this description might suggest (much like Butler herself, who would smile and crack jokes in cartoon voices when filmed). Avuncular feels like the right word.

    The Kitchen Table is part of the Box’s wide-ranging exhibition



    In September 1933, just a few months after Adolf Hitler came to power, the Austrian writer Leo Perutz published Saint Peter’s Snow, a remarkable novel about an outlandish pharmacological plot to send Germany back into the Middle Ages. A reactionary nobleman, the Baron von Malchin, has discovered that all outbreaks of religious frenzy during the Middle Ages—flagellations, witch hunts, crusades, and the like—were preceded by the consumption of bread infected with a fungus known as Saint Peter’s snow. This connection allows Malchin to explain, once

  • Charles Musser’s Politicking and Emergent Media

    Charles Musser, Politicking and Emergent Media: US Presidential Elections of the 1890s. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2016. 288 pages.

    EVERY FOUR YEARS, the world gets hooked on two competitive extravaganzas—the Summer Olympic Games and the US presidential elections. The similarities are obvious; in fact, the only real difference is size. The elections take place on a larger scale: They go on for longer, their two displays of stadium-based pageantry last a week rather than a night, they are even more dominated by Americans, and their television coverage is even more dismal.

  • David Bordwell’s The Rhapsodes

    The Rhapsodes: How 1940s Critics Changed American Film Culture, by David Bordwell. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 176 pages.

    A COMPARATIVE SURVEY of the writings of four American movie critics whose careers overlapped in the 1940s—Otis Ferguson, James Agee, Manny Farber, and Parker Tyler—might seem the perfect setup for a narrowly specialized monograph. In the hands of David Bordwell, however, there is no subject, filmic or otherwise, that cannot yield gleams of pleasurable understanding. For decades, whether alone or in collaboration with Kristin Thompson, Bordwell has


    IF ANYONE could bring the art world down to earth, it would be BERNHARD SIEGERT. The pioneering thinker has made his name by relentlessly grounding philosophical idealizations, insisting instead on underscoring the empirical historical objects and operations that make up the means through which we make meaning. If such subjects were formerly the province of media theory and media studies, Siegert has redefined and expanded the concept of media into the broader notion of “cultural techniques.” He has revealed the vast networks—the conduits, channels, and intermediaries—that underlie the formation of culture, from the invention of the postal system and its impact on literature to practices and devices such as trompe l’oeil painting, eating, seafaring, and maps. Here, scholar GEOFFREY WINTHROP-YOUNG, who translated Siegert’s new book, Cultural Techniques: Grids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real (Fordham, 2014), talks to the German theorist about the tools—and their infinitely varied applications—that make culture possible.

    GEOFFREY WINTHROP-YOUNG: Why don’t we start with the Old Man himself: Friedrich Kittler, father of so-called German media theory, the ornery paterfamilias one has to talk about before one can talk about studies in media, culture, and technology today.One formulaic way of assessing Kittler’s heritage would be to describe it as the switch from materialism to materialities. In other words, from the depths of philosophy to the shallows of operations; from a focus on the representation of meaning to the conditions of representation themselves; from the myth of the weightlessness of information,

  • COWS

    The only philosopher to have contributed a regular column in these pages, VILÉM FLUSSER (1920–1991) was among the most prescient—and eloquent—thinkers on the environmental conditions of a world mediated by technology. Here, scholar GEOFFREY WINTHROP-YOUNG introduces an exclusive excerpt from the first English translation of Flusser’s book Natural:Mind (first published in 1979 in São Paulo as Natural:Mente by Duas Cidades), out this month from Univocal Press. In the essay “Cows,” Flusser poses the animal as a “highly automated” machine, asking, “As we contemplate the cow, are we

  • film February 02, 2013

    Great Scot

    IN THE AUTEURIST heyday of the early ’60s, when you could still rush out to see the new John Ford or the new Raoul Walsh alongside the new Godard or the new Antonioni, the American-born, Scottish-bred director Alexander Mackendrick was a singularly elusive sort of auteur. Between the whimsical joys of his Ealing comedies from the ’50s—like The Man in the White Suit and The Ladykillers (but how whimsical or joyful were they, finally?)—and the corrosive New York noir of Sweet Smell of Success (underseen and underrated long after its 1957 release), it was hard to find blatant stylistic or thematic


    Eleven scholars, critics, writers, artists, and architects choose the year’s outstanding titles.


    Miriam Bratu Hansen completed Cinema and Experience: Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno (University of California Press) shortly before she died last year after a long illness. A summa of her life’s work, this magisterial book is a gift—and a must—for anyone interested in critical theory’s engagement with film, media, and mass culture; there is no other study like it. The book’s ultimately discarded working title, “The Other Frankfurt School,” pointed to


    THE GERMAN MEDIA THEORIST FRIEDRICH KITTLER, who passed away last October at the age of sixty-eight, was perhaps the most incisive contemporary exegete of our relationship with machines. Artforum asked Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, author of Kittler and the Media (2011), and Eva Horn, professor of modern German literature at the University of Vienna, to delve into Kittler’s rigorously antihumanist, wryly polemical, and stunningly prescient vision of a world in which technology is omnipresent.


    FRIEDRICH KITTLER was a strange man: appealing and difficult, brazen and shy, a scholar equally adept at excluding and seducing. The contradictions extend to his work. Like Marshall McLuhan, he was both ahead of his time and decidedly retro, but this lack of synchronicity means that his work has become representative of an age marked by temporal fracturing. “The future,” runs one of William Gibson’s best lines, “is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.” By the same token, the past is still around—it just hasn’t evenly receded. Both statements apply to

  • Alexander Mackendrick

    IN THE AUTEURIST heyday of the early ’60s, when you could still rush out to see the new John Ford or the new Raoul Walsh alongside the new Godard or the new Antonioni, the American-born, Scottish-bred director Alexander Mackendrick was a singularly elusive sort of auteur. Between the whimsical joys of his Ealing comedies from the ’50s—like The Man in the White Suit and The Ladykillers (but how whimsical or joyful were they, finally?)—and the corrosive New York noir of Sweet Smell of Success (underseen and underrated long after its 1957 release), it was hard to find blatant stylistic or thematic


    AT THE DAWN OF THE 1960S, on the shore of Hong Kong’s Clearwater Bay, a world capital of sorts came into being: Movietown, the production center of the seemingly unbeatable Shaw Brothers Ltd., a company that had parlayed a movie-theater business in prerevolutionary Shanghai into a global concern dominating both production and exhibition in Chinese-language markets. Looking in aerial photographs like a cross between a low-income housing project and a theme park crammed with ancient Chinese motifs, Movietown was in its heyday a self-contained filmmaking universe open around the clock and churning

  • Geoffrey O’Brien


    1. Mystic River (Clint Eastwood) Dennis Lehane’s dense and tragic saga is pared down and filmed with unerring tone and timing.

    2. The Flower of Evil (Claude Chabrol) Chabrol’s fiftieth, recombining favorite elements of family corruption and perverse longing, is steeped in his rapt pattern-making genius.

    3. The Fog of War (Errol Morris) This feature-length portrait of Robert S. McNamara—all the more devastating for avoiding a polemical approach—is like an overview of twentieth-century warfare as seen from the control booth. Mournful and terrifying.

    4. To Be and To Have (Nicolas

  • Gus Van Sant’s Elephant

    WHEN GUS VAN SANT’S ELEPHANT was awarded the Palme d’Or at Cannes last May, it was taken by some Americans on the scene as a backhanded gesture. At a festival haunted by echoes of European-American tensions over the war in Iraq it was hardly surprising that the honoring of yet another movie about the Columbine massacre (a year after the same prize had gone to Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine) might look like a deliberate statement about America as seen through European eyes: psychotic, gun-crazy, on the edge of meltdown. The irony is that, judged as a movie about the Columbine shootings,

  • Geoffrey O’Brien on The Man Without a Past

    “MY HEAD’S DAMAGED somehow. I don’t even remember who I am.”

    “My, that’s bad. Care for a cup of coffee?”

    This snatch of dialogue sums up quite well the clipped and unflappable tone of Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki’s sixteenth feature, The Man Without a Past, a movie where, within the first three minutes, the worst has already happened: After a few tranquil establishing shots just detailed enough to let us surmise that a stranger is arriving in a city by train, the unknown man whose acquaintance we have only just made sits on a bench and without a pause is accosted by skinheads, who knock him