Sara Marcus


    ASK A CONTEMPORARY FEMINIST when the backlash to the second wave began, and they’ll likely talk about the early 1980s, Reagan’s election, and the final defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1982. But the forces of reaction started ramping up a bit earlier, in 1977. In that year, the Supreme Court allowed new restrictions on abortion for the first time since the 1973 victory in Roe v. Wade. In that year, Anita Bryant stoked antigay mania, spurring the repeal of a nondiscrimination law in Dade County, Florida, and emboldening a ballot initiative in California that would have barred gays and

  • A spread from Leo Lionni's Frederick (1967).
    slant December 07, 2016

    Untimely Feedback

    IN MID-NOVEMBER I am asked to skype with a writing class in New York. How nice to see again, after some months of Midwest fashion drab, the eager young of NYU in their particularized plumages. Arrayed against windowless cinderblock walls, they are diffident at first, then warm up. They have read my book on 1990s punk feminism and want to talk about its relevance for today. Does it suggest any actions for the present.

    Friends have been texting me from New York. The city is in shock, they say, or mourning. We are all stunned and teary; the public is teary. It’s like after 9/11, one says, and I

  • Samson Young, Nocturne, 2015, thunder tube, electrical sound toys, glass bottle, wind chime, corn flakes, Tupperware, soil, tea leaves, rice, cooking paper, bass drum, thunder sheet, electric shavers, airsoft pistol, ocean drum, shotgun microphone, contact microphone, mixer, audio interface, laptop, FM transmitter, compressed air, Shinco radios, dimensions variable.
    picks December 04, 2015

    Samson Young

    In the center of the gallery sits artist-composer Samson Young, wearing olive drab and combat boots. On the monitor before him, in ghastly night-vision, lights hover over distant skylines and abruptly flare up. This six-hour video compilation shows nighttime bombardments, mostly by US military, of Middle Eastern locations, and Young’s mission in this work, titled Nocturne (all works 2015), is to produce a live sound track, over and over, during most of the gallery’s open hours.

    Young is a sort of military trainee here, practicing a variation on the deception warfare produced during World War II

  • Sini Anderson, The Punk Singer, 2013, color, sound, 80 minutes. Photo: Christy Pessagno.
    film November 27, 2013

    Jigsaw Youth

    “THEY WEREN’T JUST THE BEST GIRL BAND; they were the best band.” So says a voice-over near the beginning of Sini Anderson’s The Punk Singer, a documentary about the pioneering feminist musician Kathleen Hanna. The band in question, at this point in the movie, is Bikini Kill, the punk quartet Hanna fronted for most of the 1990s, and as this assertion is made, the viewer is bathing in a manic montage of concert footage. Rebel girl, Hanna is singing, first marching in place on one stage, then pogo-ing on another; in a black lace bra, in a T-shirt and undies, in a dress with a nearly life-size

  • View of “Sadie Benning: War Credits,” 2013.
    picks May 06, 2013

    Sadie Benning

    A pair of black-and-white videos of videos constitute the core of this taut and principled exhibition by Sadie Benning. The twenty-eight-minute In Parts, 2012, strings together long takes of motion within narrow parameters: A leopard paces tensely in a zoo, penned between rocks and the glass front of its cage; tall grass blows in an empty lot; a 45 rpm record spins on a turntable, scratching out an old soul song. To make War Credits, 2007–13, Benning aimed her camera at the closing credits of three Hollywood war movies, then played back the resulting tapes and reshot them until the names became

  • Left: Writer Gregg Bordowitz. Right: Writer Lynne Tillman. (All photos: John Arthur Peetz)
    diary July 13, 2011

    Believe It or Not

    “I’M HERE TO PRESENT some of my beliefs,” Gregg Bordowitz said as he began his performance-talk Testing Some Beliefs at Murray Guy gallery last Thursday evening. “Some of these beliefs will be familiar to you, since they are common beliefs, and one of the things I’m testing is whether we actually still share them.”

    This is more or less what he said. He was speaking extemporaneously, from the barest outline, and his delivery was gentle and slow; but even so, the string of propositions passed by very quickly.

    Two months earlier, at a late-night reading at the Poetry Project in New York, I had seen

  • Shannon Ebner, Notebook Pages, 2009, ten C-prints, each 13 x 10 1/4".
    picks May 20, 2011

    “Vision is elastic. Thought is elastic.”

    Some months ago, a New York Times article about interior decorators stocking clients’ libraries proclaimed that “the printed, bound book has been given a stay of execution by an unlikely source: the design community.” The newspaper ran a photo of a designer posing against leatherbound tomes, which bears a striking resemblance to one of the works in this thoughtful exhibition of photographic encounters between image and text: Joy Episalla’s 5 Women. Freud’s bookcase. London., 2011, shows a shelf, presumably once belonging to the father of psychoanalysis, holding an orderly array of volumes and

  • Left: Artists Nicole Eisenman and Emily Roysdon. (Photo: Scott Valentine) Right: Artist K8 Hardy. (Photo: Paula Court)
    diary May 11, 2011

    Passing the Bar

    THIS WEEK’S controversy over the New York magazine profile of trans performer Justin Vivian Bond—with some readers calling the article offensive and others arguing that it simply performed the translation that’s required when writing for a general audience—raises once again a perennial question: How do queer acts play when they come to occupy a wider stage? The title of Emily Roysdon’s recent performance event at the Kitchen, A Gay Bar Called Everywhere, gestured toward this problematic, while the event’s subtitle, “(With Costumes and No Practice),” hinted at some possible strategies for dealing

  • Left: Kim Gordon. (Photo: Sara Marcus) Right: Kaiti of Night Lift Security, K8 Hardy, and Charlene of Night Lift Security. (© K8 Hardy)
    diary December 15, 2010

    Hanna and Her Sisters

    AS THE CROWD drained out of the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn last Saturday night, after a dizzying Kathleen Hanna covers concert, I could have sworn I heard a snip of a Morrissey/Emily Dickinson mash-up: “When our friends become successful,” the song went, over a restless backbeat, “it leaves but little time for other occupations.” Maybe this was a hallucination, but it captured my feelings about the weekend just past. As a feminist making stuff in community with other feminists doing the same, I had stepped into what is technically known as a clusterfuck; the Hanna show was only the culmination

  • Left: Kathleen Hanna. Right: The Raincoats.
    diary November 23, 2010

    Night at the Museum

    THE MOMA LOBBY was mobbed at the stroke of 8:30 PM. Last Saturday night’s event, a PopRally shindig featuring female postpunk pioneers the Raincoats along with a DJ set by Kathleen Hanna, was sold out, and every holder of a coveted twenty-five-dollar golden ticket had arrived precisely on time, it seemed. Goddess help that unfortunate Rallyer who, after being ushered into the atrium, needed to shove her way back to the front door for any reason. None of the copious guards in attendance were bothering to keep an upstream lane open. Despairing, I tunneled under the length of a terrarium protruding