Prajna Desai

  • “Body Luggage”

    Anyone annoyed by Ai Weiwei’s photographic impression of a drowned Syrian child refugee could find tremendous hope in “Body Luggage: Migration of Gestures,” mounted as part of the Steirischer Herbst, an annual festival of dance, theater, art, and music in Graz. Here, art-historical tropes of continuity and mutation propagated by Alois Riegl and Aby Warburg politicized an international gathering of migration-themed, performance-centric commissions, which deftly invited one to rethink classical notions of innovation and originality. Indeed, many of the works explored ways in which artists and art

  • “Given Time”

    Few philosophers incite muddled cultural takes like Jacques Derrida. “Given Time: The Gift and Its Offerings,” curated by Arshiya Lokhandwala, is titled after Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money (1991), Derrida’s deconstruction of Marcel Mauss’s classic sociological treatise on reciprocity and exchange, The Gift (1925). Basing his argument on a cyclical retelling of Charles Baudelaire’s “Counterfeit Money,” a parable about a man who gives a beggar a high-value coin that turns out to be counterfeit, Derrida develops the notion of the impossibility of a genuinely altruistic gift, concluding that such

  • Navjot Altaf

    Navjot Altaf’s recent exhibition “How Perfect Perfection Can Be” pitted earth against sky. Known for artworks anchored to social, gender, and ecological issues, Altaf here represented the earth through an installation of unmilled red rice, two videos, and three sculptures. Each of the last represents part of a traditional loom from the tribal region of Bastar in central India—if combined, the three works could form a single loom. Sky was symbolized by images of skyscrapers in a group of twenty-four watercolors based on photographs Altaf shot in New York. I beams, facade setbacks, aluminum

  • picks October 21, 2016

    Mark Prime

    Tantalizingly delicate, Mark Prime’s aluminum and brass rod sculptures resemble that first tangle of forms in the game Mikado, after the thin bamboo sticks gathered in a bundle are released and fall to the ground. Only here, the artist’s sticks, or rods—mounted on planes attached to walls or on colored tabletops—produce jagged piles of metal bramble, for the series “Untitled,” 2015–16, and for Ghost I, II, and III, each 2016. Their individual stems are identically clean in edge and surface, and joined to each other with minuscule handcrafted rivets.

    The disinterest in monolithic historical

  • passages August 10, 2015

    Charles Correa (1930–2015)

    “I think I became an architect because of toy trains. As a child, I had some Hornby tinplate tracks and a couple of locomotives and wagons. Nothing very ambitious, really just enough to run the trains around your room and the following day perhaps change the layout so that they could run into the next room, under a table, and back again. That was the marvelous thing about those old tinplate rails. They had flexibility. Every time one finished playing, back they went into their wooden box to be reincarnated the next day in a totally new formation.”

    –Charles Correa in res 34 (Autumn 1998)