Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

  • diary March 22, 2013

    Spring Break

    THEY WEREN’T TOGETHER LONG, and they were arguably mismatched from the start. She was older, more serious, sober, and down to earth. By all outward appearances, she was also indifferent to the business of buying and selling art. She flirted with the deeper, more disruptive powers of contemporary cultural production until they blew up in her face two years ago, compelling her to return to a more diplomatic, community-minded middle ground. He, meanwhile, was young and brash, an ostentatious lush. No matter how much noise he made in her direction—the special projects, discursive platforms, and

  • passages February 12, 2013

    Amal Kenawy (1974–2012)

    ON NEW YEAR’S DAY three years ago, the writer Nikki Columbus emailed me a photograph she’d taken a few weeks earlier of an explosive street performance in Cairo by the Egyptian artist Amal Kenawy. Columbus had curated a rumbling show on theatricality and spectatorship for the Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art, featuring works by Cyprien Gaillard, David Levine, Jill Magid, Enrique Metinides, and Walid Raad, among others. Kenawy’s piece was meant to be performed twice to mark the opening and closing of the exhibition. The first time proved so volatile that the work, titled Silence of the Lambs

  • diary January 21, 2013

    Quiet Storm

    THE NEXT EDITION of the Sharjah Biennial won’t open for another seven weeks but already the blitz is on. Held in the sleepiest and most austere of the seven tiny sheikhdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates, this perennial art event is highly unlikely and therefore wholly intriguing. It was a little over a year ago that the Sharjah Art Foundation named Yuko Hasegawa the curator of the next exhibition, and since then, they’ve been carefully parceling out information at a rate of about a press release every other month, leaking an enticingly partial list of artists here, tracing the curious

  • diary January 01, 2013

    Do You Remember the First Time?

    LET’S DISPENSE WITH THE GRISLY DETAILS. The world did not come crashing to a cataclysmic end on 12/12/12 (already the less popular apocalyptic appointment on the Mayan calendar compared with 12/21/12), but on that date a few weeks ago, the first Kochi-Muziris Biennale flung open its doors to give onlookers an eyeful of total organizational chaos and an exhibition in shambles. The artists Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu—two of the so-called Bombay Boys, who began stirring up the Mumbai art scene back in the late 1990s—cofounded the biennial’s coordinating body just nineteen months ago. As


    DURING THE FIRST DECADE of the oil age in Saudi Arabia—after the royal family granted the first concessions to American companies in the 1930s but before a wave of labor protests surged through the Eastern Province in the 1950s—petroleum was being exported through a short pipeline from the drilling fields of Dammam to the port city of Dhahran. It was barreled there, then carried by ship in a grand arc around the Arabian Peninsula and through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea. In the aftermath of World War II, however, a group of engineers and oil executives, fearful of maritime

  • 11th Sharjah Biennial

    “Almost two years have passed since the Sharjah Biennial experienced a curatorial and organizational meltdown.”

    Almost two years have passed since the Sharjah Biennial experienced a curatorial and organizational meltdown. The director, Jack Persekian, was fired; perhaps more consequentially, an installation by the Algerian artist Mustapha Benfodil was abruptly dismantled and taken away. Benfodil’s piece had been placed in a courtyard, and the very public nature of that space hastened the work’s undoing. Now, in a clever inversion of fates, the courtyard itself is the concept of the forthcoming edition. Curator Yuko Hasegawa has commissioned work from artists such as Saâdane Afif,

  • slant December 28, 2012

    Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

    DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF NOVEMBER, the Spanish-born, Cairo-based artist Asunción Molinos Gordo invited a top chef to create haute cuisine from the best Egyptian produce that money could buy, and then offered six dishes to neighborhood diners for just five Egyptians pounds apiece (around eighty cents). This was the opening act in Molinos’s four-part, monthlong art project titled El-Matam El-Mish-Masry (The Non-Egyptian Restaurant), a site-specific installation doubling as a performance that was conceived for the five-year-old art space Artellewa. Located in the depths of a sprawling informal

  • diary December 12, 2012

    History Lessons

    BEIRUT IS TWO HOURS FROM DAMASCUS BY CAR, an hour from Cairo by plane, and if one were to travel due south and keep going—a journey once common but currently impossible—Beirut would be a leisurely four-hour taxi ride from Gaza City, with a view to the Mediterranean all the way down the coast. But no matter how close, Beirut these days feels a world away from the revolutions and wars that have been rumbling through neighboring countries for nearly two years now. Twelve months ago, the city seemed eerily calm. Now it just seems stagnant, a sad, enervated aberration among the more hopeful strands

  • diary November 29, 2012

    Photo Ops

    “EITHER THE COUNTRY is going to collapse or the people are going to explode,” the artist Basim Magdy told me on the opening night of Photo Cairo 5. We were standing in what used to be a small paper factory, squeezed into a narrow alleyway of car mechanics, metalworkers, a theater, a bookstore, a parking garage, a fast-food joint, and a coffee shop whose spread of outdoor seating—all plastic chairs and high metal tea tables—had expanded exponentially of late. Eleven years ago, the Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art, anchor of Cairo’s young and independent art scene, turned the factory space

  • film November 21, 2012

    Self Sufficient

    HERE’S HOW THE STORY GOES: In 1971, Simone Fattal went to see an exhibition of self-portraits by artists working in every media except video. She noted the absence, and wondered why. Born and raised in Damascus, Fattal studied in London, Beirut, and Paris. Two years earlier, she had moved back to Lebanon from France, and, after abandoning a project to change the world by overhauling the education system in the Arab countries of the Middle East, she had decided to become a painter. But the idea of self-portraiture perplexed her. A painting didn’t seem like it would be enough. So she set up a

  • picks October 15, 2012

    “Process 01: Joy”

    It must take a particular kind of obsession, and a notably self-reflexive sense of humor, to organize an exhibition about feeling lost, lonely, or rebellious in a job, and then subtitle that exhibition “joy.” But with the first show to open at this new gallery and project space in Chinatown, director Prem Krishnamurthy, of the design studio Project Projects, manages to delve into the alienation of labor while still deifying the love of one’s work.

    The centerpiece of the exhibition is an installation by Christine Hill that serves as a remote office and New York satellite for her long-running,

  • diary October 08, 2012

    Daydream Nation

    NEARLY TWO YEARS have passed since the Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi doused himself in gasoline and set the Arab world on fire. After losing the only means he had left to make a living—a vegetable cart and a set of scales—and then, though accounts vary, getting smacked in the face and spat on by a cop, Bouazizi committed an act of desperation so extreme it sparked demonstrations across the region, to the extent that most of the cities looped around the Mediterranean and down through the Gulf have smoldered at one point or another in the past twenty-two months.

    Bouazizi’s self-immolation

  • Ashkal Alwan’s Home Workspace Program

    SOMETHING HAD CLEARLY GONE WRONG. On a muggy, breezeless evening in Beirut in late July, a crowd was gathered around an artist named Joe Namy, who was nearly in tears. He stood in the doorway of a former factory, which opened onto an empty street running through a drab industrial district on the eastern edge of the city. This wasn’t the glamorous end of the Lebanese capital: no lights shimmering off the Mediterranean, only darkened construction sites, an unloved overpass, and the sickly trickle of the nearby Beirut River. Anxious and forlorn, Namy was telling his audience that he was canceling

  • “Akram Zaatari: This Day at Ten”

    Akram Zaatari has made more than thirty videos since the mid-1990s, and “This Day at Ten” surveys a decade of his pioneering production, taking as its focal point one of the most complex works in the Lebanese artist’s oeuvre, Al Yaoum (This Day), 2003.

    Akram Zaatari has made more than thirty videos since the mid-1990s, and “This Day at Ten” surveys a decade of his pioneering production, taking as its focal point one of the most complex works in the Lebanese artist’s oeuvre, Al Yaoum (This Day), 2003. Defying categorization, the eighty-six-minute video demonstrates the range of interests that have long preoccupied Zaatari: the circulation of images related to conflicts in the Middle East, the meaning of archival materials, and the use of documentary and snapshot photography. Fanning out from the exhibition’s central

  • Bucharest Biennale 5

    The heart of the fifth Bucharest Biennale wasn’t one of the works in the exhibition. Rather, it was a library, unrelated to the biennial, that happened to be located in the middle of Pavilion, a nonprofit storefront art space in the city center. Pavilion was founded in 2004 by the curators and theorists Răzvan Ion and Eugen Rădescu, who are the directors of the space, the editors of the journal Pavilion, and the organizers of the biennial, which began in 2005 as an annual festival for art and photography but has been scheduled to occur every other year since 2006.

    This year, Pavilion’s buzzing

  • diary July 11, 2012

    Class Trip

    JUST OVER THIRTY DAYS have passed since Documenta 13 opened in the central German city of Kassel, where hundreds of artworks are scattered like trinkets in a treasure hunt, replete with maps, clues, riddles, and the inevitable question: “That, over there, is that art?” The exhibition’s potential for playfulness may be undercut by its capacity for exhaustion, but the feedback so far has been uncommonly good. The critics are overwhelmingly positive about the work of artistic director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, in part because she seems to be saying so much, so deeply, about the purpose of art in

  • picks June 25, 2012

    “Carnal Knowledge: Sex + Philosophy”

    In 1971, Adrian Piper spent the summer holed up alone in her apartment, reading Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781), practicing yoga, and subsisting on nothing but juice and water. To counter the feeling of falling away from the world, Piper began reading into a tape recorder and photographing her image in the mirror, as if to ensure her existence.

    The result of this intimately staged exercise in intense self-study is “Food for the Spirit,” 1971, a series of fourteen underexposed black-and-white self-portraits that are at once ethereal, acetic, and, in the context of a large and lively

  • picks March 26, 2012

    “Revolution vs. Revolution”

    Since the Beirut Art Center opened its doors three years ago it has become a kind of game to guess how this former factory space will be reconfigured for each new show. Solo exhibitions have tended to be muscular––an elegant curved wall for Fouad Elkoury’s autobiographical ephemera; a long, wide corridor for Chris Marker’s “Staring Back”––while group shows have mostly left the space open for different works to correspond. How strange, then, for the current exhibition, inspired by the uprisings in the Arab world that began in 2010, to evoke none of the public squares, roundabouts, or urban

  • diary March 08, 2012

    Center Stage

    ONE OF THE THINGS that makes the contemporary art scene in Morocco so difficult to grasp—and so unlike the cultural infrastructures existing elsewhere in the region—is the fact that it has no center. Casablanca is the commercial hub, Rabat the seat of government. Asilah and Essaouira host major annual festivals for art and music. Tangier lays claim to the literary imagination. Marrakech, with its eleven-year-old film festival and two-year-old art fair, is the destination of choice for an incongruous mix of jet-setting expats, holidaymakers on a budget, and riad-refurbishing fashionistas quick

  • diary January 17, 2012

    Fund and Games

    WITH FOUR KEYNOTE LECTURES, six panel discussions, and a grand total of forty-two speakers divvied up over two full days of heavy-duty talk, the so-called summit meeting titled “Art & Patronage: The Middle East” trundled into London last week with no heads of state in sight but so many elephants in the room that the hosting venues—the British Museum on Thursday, the Royal College of Art on Friday—felt squeezed and suffocated by their collective heft.

    Explicitly billed as a gathering of minds and implicitly sold as a pooling of funds, the summit was the brainchild of Hossein Amirsadeghi, who,