Kate Sutton

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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


    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

  • 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

  • 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


    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,

  • 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

    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

  • interviews September 24, 2019

    Hamja Ahsan

    Last month, journalist Ciara O’Connor took to social media to point out the disparity between the language of “agency” and “accountability” used in Tate Modern’s exhibition “Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life” and the show itself, which was partially blocked to her as a wheelchair user. O’Connor’s account highlights how the art world’s advocacy for intersectionality rarely expands beyond social, sexual, or political ties to cover physical or neurological forms of difference as well. While the “eccentric genius” trope persists, today’s artists are expected to deliver service with a smile as they

  • picks September 03, 2019

    “Concetto spaziale”

    This three-artist exhibition tackles one of the most accessible but, simultaneously, most elusive and insufficiently understood phenomena in Western society: the human vagina. The show’s title—“Concetto spaziale”—repurposes the nomenclature Lucio Fontana used for his slashed canvases, drawing a direct line from the Italian master to Edona Vatoci’s installation Plan B, 2015–19, a shiny, cotton-candy-colored silk cube, two meters tall with a narrow slit on one side. Entrance requires not only some physical maneuvering on the part of the visitor, but also consent, by way of a pre-signed mutual