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 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


    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

  • picks June 13, 2016

    “Krishna in the Garden of Assam”

    At the very end of a dimly lit room full of phantasmagoric antique textiles and artifacts from northeastern India is a video titled Invocation, 2015. It is trancelike and dreamily romantic; a subjective collection of images from the natural world imbued with ideas from the spiritual one, pieced together by an unreliable narrator behind a camera lens that occasionally blurs.

    Invocation, which amplifies the numinous aspects of all the mysterious objects surrounding it, is given to us by Sonal Jain and Mriganka Madhukaillya, aka Desire Machine Collective. This work evokes the spirit of Assam,

  • “Diary Entries”

    From Virginia Woolf to Anne Frank, Sophia Tolstoy to Anaïs Nin, in the twentieth century the diary was established as a woman’s respite: a blank receptacle of expression, bound by no manner of speech or society, only by its own spine. Later, it became an unbiased, uncensored literary source of cultural and historical experience. Intensely intimate, the diary was an unmediated object that freed the writer to be as furtive or frivolous as she pleased. Beginning from this premise, curator Gayatri Sinha invited five artists to consider the turmoil and tranquility of their lives in a variety of

  • interviews April 14, 2016

    Maria Eichhorn

    Maria Eichhorn makes exceptionally subtle works—minuscule gestures with magnificent reach, and consequences—that highlight the limits of institutions, and perhaps even art itself. Here, the artist discusses the preparation involved for her solo exhibition at the Chisenhale Gallery, her first in the United Kingdom, titled “5 weeks, 25 days, 175 hours,” which opens April 23 and runs through May 29, 2016. By closing down the gallery completely for the duration of the show and stipulating that no staff be available during this period, Eichhorn upsets notions surrounding time and labor connected

  • picks April 13, 2016

    Dennis Morris

    With the opening of Dennis Morris’s “PiL - First Issue to Metal Box,” an exhibition of the designer’s work for Public Image Ltd’s first two albums, the museum also celebrated forty years of punk, with performances by a slew of DJs and the all-female band Skinny Girl Diet, who screamed their ideals to an audience of sleek page-boy haircuts, broad-brimmed hats, tight leather, and faces full of piercings. It felt like a head-on collision between the past and present. The show’s location in a small room beneath a staircase leading to a bar seemed appropriate and not too unlike PiL’s coordinates

  • picks March 22, 2016

    Heather Phillipson

    Heather Phillipson’s installation more flinching, 2015, doesn’t feature the usual buoyancy and explosions of bright color for which the artist is best known. Here we encounter a fragmented story by a grieving, paranoid narrator—available in stapled booklets for the taking from two rooms filled with the sounds of Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu in C Sharp Minor, Opus 66—about the shooting of a police dog conflated with the death of a pet. The walls are painted an institutional navy blue, and the space is reminiscent of stagnant, bureaucratic offices and their disorganized, dusty archives. But Chopin’s

  • diary February 06, 2016

    Sentimental Education

    WE WERE CHAMPAGNE SOCIALISTS, sipping bubbly in an abandoned building, wandering through fictionalized fossils, curated cobwebs, light, dust, resin, residue. “What it did is make us all complicit,” said artist Rohini Devasher about Asim Waqif’s site-specific installation Autolysis, held at One Style Mile, the first of a row of heritage buildings with a view of the thirteenth-century QUTB Minar (the tallest brick minaret in the world), turned into contemporary restaurants and nightclubs. The opening party the Monday before last and the massive artwork’s debut, presented by Nature Morte, anticipated

  • picks January 18, 2016

    Anna Zett

    In Anna Zett’s newly commissioned video Circuit Training, 2015, the viewer is forced into performing a variety of mental gymnastics in order to make lateral connections and create sinuous narratives. The video begins with a Windows screen saver: a neon geometrical shape rotating in a void, accompanied by a female voice guiding us through the inner workings of the cerebellum, with the sound of typing in the distance. We then follow three women in the throes of rigorous physical training. As the women are shot in front of a green screen, the background changes from digitally generated images of

  • interviews December 21, 2015

    Reena Saini Kallat

    The language in Reena Saini Kallat’s art is fluid, shifting, unstable. Text is written with salt on sand, only to disappear moments later. Her use of material is simultaneously timely and timeless. She connects politically divided terrain by interrogating various national identities and their symbols through sculpture, photography, drawing, and video. Kallat has had solo exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery in British Columbia, Chemould Prescott Road in Mumbai, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and Primo Marella Gallery in Milan. Here, Kallat talks about her current exhibition, “Porous