Kate Sutton

  • Carey Baraka, Aleya Kassam, bethuel muthee, Neo Musangi, and Keguro Macharia.
    diary July 02, 2021

    Stolen Moments

    IN ONLY A MATTER OF YEARS, decolonization has leapt from the radical imagination, to the seminar room, to the personalized mugs and bumper stickers of Etsy. An unruly cousin of the placated “postcolonial,” decolonization has temporarily displaced the Anthropocene as the discerning institution’s lost cause of choice, launching a thousand Zoom panels in the process, but rarely does it actually breach the inner sancta of the art institution (i.e., the collections and the boards).

    There are glimmers of hope, though. While France has led the charge on repatriation for a few years now, in April, Germany

  • Ken Lum, Melly Shum Hates Her Job, 1989, billboard. Installation view, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art (now Kunstinstituut Melly), Rotterdam, 2013.

    WHAT’S IN A NAME?

    In 2017, numerous signatories of an open letter called for the name of the Rotterdam institution formerly known as the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art to be changed. The art space was named after the street on which it was located—which itself was named after a seventeenth-century Dutch naval officer—and activists raised concerns over the title’s connection to that officer, who was an infamous agent of colonization. The questions emerged during director Defne Ayas’s tenure, as part of a community discussion around Wendelien van Oldenborgh and Lucy Cotter’s project Cinema Olanda, 2017,

  • Renata Poljak, Porvenir, 2020, DCP, color, sound, 12 minutes 10 seconds.
    picks October 07, 2020

    Renata Poljak

    In the late nineteenth century, the discovery of gold in Tierra del Fuego, the archipelago extending from the tip of South America, curiously spurred a mass emigration from the Dalmatian island of Brač, more than 8,000 miles away. Many of these sailors would settle in the town of Porvenir—the Spanish word for “future”—effectively creating a Croatian ethnic colony at the very edge of the inhabited world.  

    The Split-born artist and filmmaker Renata Poljak’s great-great-grandfather was one of those sailors. For her twelve-minute video Porvenir (all works 2020), Poljak retraces her ancestor’s journey

  • Andro Eradze, All Hands Bury the Dead, 2019, HD video, color, sound, 13 minutes 41 seconds.
    picks May 06, 2020

    Andro Eradze

    As an origin myth, the tale of Prometheus suggests that staring into flames is no new pastime for human civilization. And yet the opening frames of Andro Eradze’s nearly fourteen-minute HD video All Hands Bury the Dead, 2019, remind us how otherworldly a fire can seem, as branches bloat into ash, then buckle into the low light of the embers. Later, similar footage is played in reverse, bringing the gnarled limbs writhing back to life.

    A commission for the Kunsthalle Tbilisi, the video was originally timed to coincide with the now-postponed Tbilisi Art Fair, which tends to be a showcase for the

  • Collective Actions Group, Action 16: Ten Appearances, February 1, 1981, 1981, gelatin silver print on paper mounted on cardboard, 38 1/16 × 38 1/4". Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union. Photo: Peter Jacobs.
    books April 28, 2020

    Nothing Happens

    ELEMENTARY POETRY, BY ANDREI MONASTYRSKI, translated by Brian Droitcour and Yelena Kalinsky. Preface by Boris Groys. Ugly Duckling Presse and Soberscove Press, 2019. 328 pages.

    ON FEBRUARY 1, 1981, a group of ten artists trekked off into the snowy woods outside Moscow. When they reached a clearing, they huddled around a wooden board studded with ten spools of white thread. Each participant—Ilya Kabakov, Oleg Vassiliev, and Yuri Albert among them—was instructed to take up the loose end of his or her thread and walk two hundred to three hundred meters into the forest, until they could no longer

  • Tala Madani, Mr. Time, 2018, video animation, color, sound, 7 minutes 9 seconds. From the 5th Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art.

    5th Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art

    Originally published in 1912, Alexander Bogdanov’s short story “Immortality Day” was written in the shadow of Cosmism, a late-nineteenth- to early-twentieth-century school of thought that hailed scientific advances such as blood transfusions and the evolving understanding of genetic inheritance as stepping-stones to eternal life. Bogdanov’s wry narrative follows the interplanetary chemist Fride as he hits a midlife (early-eternity?) crisis, spurred on by the realization that, having dedicated centuries to the intellectual pursuits of astronomy, literature, and art, he had exhausted his brain’s

  • Hana Miletić, Materials, 2019, handwoven raw wool and metal yarn, 9 × 7 1⁄2”. From the series “Materials,” 2015–.

    OPENINGS: HANA MILETIĆ

    IN 1804, French weaver Joseph Marie Jacquard unveiled an invention that would revolutionize the textile industry: an apparatus that automatically controlled which threads were pulled on a loom, based on information stored on a looping series of punch cards. Intricate fabric patterns previously requiring hours of tedious manual labor could now be produced quickly, efficiently, and at scales capable of meeting the demands of the burgeoning global market. But the Jacquard loom would affect more than just brocade. Famously, the invention also inspired the Analytical Engine, a nineteenth-century

  • Anna Witt, Unboxing the Future, 2019, three-channel HD video, color, sound, 29 minutes 9 seconds.
    picks December 03, 2019

    Anna Witt

    Speculation around the Singularity maintains that as man makes machines, soon, machines will unmake man, stripping humanity of the functions that have bolstered class structures and social standing: that is, our jobs. This fantasy of forced obsolescence is one part Matrix, one part Jetsons, and, increasingly, one part reality. Of course, machines aren’t coming for our jobs so much as for our tasks, relegating humans to the role of assistant, the stopgap between automated operations. (Yes, George Jetson may have outsourced childcare to a sentient vacuum, but he still had to put in time mindlessly

  • Draft of the second section of the “Exhibition of the Highway Brotherhood and Unity,” 1950. Courtesy: Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb.
    books November 18, 2019

    Socialist Media

    AGENTS OF ABSTRACTION, BY ANA OFAK. Sternberg Press, 2019. 389 pages.

    BLAME IT ON THE SPOMENIKS. All asymmetrical concrete stems, rippling aluminium wings, and bold swooping bodies, these massive monuments read more like Starfleet spaceships, crash-landed amid the forests of former Yugoslavia. Often sited in remote rural areas, these abstract memorials were commissioned primarily in the 1960s and ’70s as part of a nationwide push—yes, one fronted by charismatic president Josip Broz Tito (who tends to get the sole credit for “Tito’s monuments”), but, in keeping with Yugoslavia’s signature emphasis

  • Museum of Contemporary Art, Skopje, North Macedonia, ca. early 1970s.

    CITY OF DREAMS

    ON JULY 26, 1963, a 6.1-magnitude earthquake leveled roughly 80 percent of Skopje, now the capital of the recently christened country of North Macedonia, but then known as the third-largest city in Yugoslavia. An unprecedented international outpouring of support in the disaster’s wake allowed the city to rebuild at the edge of the architectural vanguard, with an ultramodern aesthetic and an urban layout partially developed by Kenzō Tange, the elder statesman of the Metabolism movement. A half century later, Skopje’s Museum of Contemporary Art, an institution forged during the reconstruction,

  • Hew Locke, Souvenir 8 (Albert Edward, Prince of Wales), 2019, mixed media on antique Parian ware, 21 x 12 x 12 1/2".
    picks October 24, 2019

    Hew Locke

    Empire manifests itself in myriad ways, from the statues populating public squares to how many sugars a culture takes in its tea. During the Victorian age, technological advances enabled the mass-production of busts of British royals in Parian, a slip-cast porcelain substitute for marble. Developed in the early 1840s, the material made a splash at the Crystal Palace Exhibition, where the affordable statuettes were snapped up as aspirational décor by the burgeoning middle class. Still others circled the globe as “souvenirs” from the exhibition, traveling to the outer reaches of the commonwealth.

  • Alex Ayed, Untitled (Beit El Hmam) (Pigeon House), 2019, steel, plaster, and pigeons, 12' 1⁄8“ ×  3' 3 3⁄8” × 4' 3 1⁄8".

    Alex Ayed

    In 1991, Judit Polgár, a fifteen-year-old Hungarian chess prodigy known for her unflinching stare and imaginative approach to the game, broke Bobby Fischer’s record by becoming the youngest player ever to receive the title of grand master. Defying convention, her playing style was marked by flamboyant risk-taking and a near-reckless fervor that kept her opponents constantly off-balance.

    Polgár’s inventive strategy provided one catalyst for Alex Ayed’s exhibition “Soap Opera,” but it is safe to say the two play fundamentally different games. If, as the artist believes, chess is predicated on