Himali Singh Soin

  • “Material Insanity”

    Far from the medina’s tangle of alleys, in the surreal surrounding of a gated golf resort lined with pomegranate bushes and orange trees, the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) appears like a spaceship: The edges of a large brick cylinder meet two rectangular structures that resemble antennae. The exhibition “Material Insanity,” currently on view in the building (designed by architect Didier Lefort), features thirty-four artists, thirty of whom are from Africa. The curators, Meriem Berrada and Janine Gaëlle Dieudji, broadly conceptualized the show around metaphors of materiality.

  • Pedro Gómez-Egaña

    The pathways of our world are more tangled than we could ever know. From Azerbaijan, the Colombian artist Pedro Gómez-Egaña has drawn a line toward Norway, where he now lives. His solo show at Yarat Contemporary Art Space comprised a single installation, Sleipnir, 2018. Its title referred to the eight-legged horse ridden by Odin, a Norse god said to have traveled from Azerbaijan to Scandinavia. Odin carries the head of Mimir, the god of wisdom, whose eyes can see the whole world. We rode into a realm of fantasy, imagination, and poetic freedom.

    In 1999, the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl found

  • Armin Linke

    In Venice, images of exotic monsters and hybrid animals abound. Among them is the city’s emblem, the winged Lion of Saint Mark with its open Bible, the mythical figure that is embossed into the facade of the Istituto di Scienze Marine (ISMAR). Inside, in a much drier register, was Armin Linke’s exhibition “Prospecting Ocean,” featuring videos and photographs that often depicted the alien machinery clawing at the floor of the sea. These extractionist robots from developed countries threaten fragile local economies such as that of Papua New Guinea, bringing metaphorical monsters closer than ever

  • Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art

    Riga’s skin, like that of most cities, bears the marks of its past. The wood of its nineteenth-century houses has swelled and shrunk through seasons; the faces of gargoyles hanging from the pillars and cornices of its twentieth-century Art Nouveau buildings are chipped into bewilderment. Flowers and weeds burst through cracks in the polished concrete and asphalt of modern infrastructures.

    The first edition of the Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art, “Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More,” evokes the waves of time that form history and proposes that our present is out of sync

  • A RIPPLE IN TIME

    A COASTLINE has fractal properties, meaning its perimeter is infinite, even though it contains a finite area. While the ramifications of this paradox are reconcilable in Euclidean geometry, it dissolves our fundamental sense of solidity: That visible edge of land is amorphous and indefinite, a consequence of the tides’ erosion, in contrast with the hard, rigid lines of drawn borders. How can the latter be any more than cartographic caprice?

    I waded through these porous questions at the fourth edition of the Dhaka Art Summit, a biennial “research and exhibition platform” founded in 2012 by the

  • Andy Holden and Peter Holden

    The father-son birders Andy and Peter Holden are obviously of the same phenotype. “Natural Selection,” their most recent show, was set in the former Newington Library in south London, where their interest in ornithology informed works whose central concern was precisely the frayed edge between art and nature. The male bowerbird, for instance, creates a nest not for habitation, but purely for aesthetic display. These structures are a kind of folly, decorative at most (and an annoyance to Darwinians at the least). Andy Holden’s Untitled (Bower) (all works 2017) is a re-creation of one of these

  • FAR AND AWAY

    THE NOMADIC TRAVELER encounters simultaneous solitude and community: I blurs with we, as does here with there, then with now. During a long journey, the sense of settlement itself paradoxically becomes portable. Such was the case, at least, in Drawing a Line Through Landscape, 2017, a peripatetic performance piece by Nikhil Chopra conceived for Documenta 14. Chopra began in Athens and traveled to Kassel in a van with a tent and crew, successively occupying eight Eastern European sites along a trajectory between the two cities that mirrored the so-called Balkan Route, used by refugees in record

  • Isaac Julien

    When astronomers in fifth-century India conceptualized the zero, they gave the idea of nothing a figurative reality. When negative numbers were conceived in China circa 200 BCE, for the first time a presence could be made of an absence. At first, both ideas were taboo, but an imagination of the negative number gave voice to the clandestine, the underrepresented, the minus, the before. In the same way, the artist Isaac Julien, in making photographs from negatives of his 1989 film Looking for Langston, reasserts the voice of the silenced, homoerotic desire of black men.

    Shot in 16 millimeter, the

  • Faivovich & Goldberg

    In the vast and various field that is the debate about appropriation, histories are unearthed and identities bear fruit. What happens then, when an artist proposes to co-opt massive rocks that have fallen from the sky, unseen and unrecorded? Who lays claim to them when they lie on a monotonous terrain with just an empty horizon in sight? When the artist duo Guillermo Faivovich and Nicolás Goldberg planned to displace a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite from Campo del Cielo in Argentina for Documenta 13 in 2012, the Moqoit First Nation, for whom the rock and the place were sacred, protested and the

  • James Bridle’s Cloud Index

    ALMOST TWO DECADES into the twenty-first century, we still haven’t found a language for the amorphous streams of data that constitute the internet; faced with the seemingly infinite complexity of information, we resort to vague abstractions such as ether, portal, air, or, often, cloud. Such terminology reveals that we think of our information as if it lived elsewhere, floating free from specific cultural or political contexts—as if it is not really real. In fact, of course, data is quite the opposite, more tangible, even, than most solid objects. Not only is it part of a vast infrastructure

  • Ragnar Kjartansson

    Ragnar Kjartansson is only forty, but the immense span of media and sheer number of works in this midcareer survey suggest an eccentric figure who has been around for a long while. His work is strikingly contemporary in an old-fashioned way. The show—which blurred many boundaries—never spilled over from performance into spectacle. Its subtlety lay in the comfortable tension between its vitality and the dark northern European humor underlying it. You were never sure whether to laugh or cry, or both—or neither.

    Kjartansson conjures a world in which the viewer is often a voyeur, on the periphery of

  • Kochi-Muziris Biennale

    Set in a British-built heritage building on the sea, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is the leading international exhibition of contemporary art in India. This third edition runs for exactly 108 days—a sacred and vital number in Hindu philosophy—and comprises a rich assortment of talks, film screenings, and poetry readings, alongside gallery-based artworks and public interventions in a range of media. Shetty is a renowned artist whose sculptural installations have memorably incorporated text, so it is no surprise that many of the biennial’s participants are