T. J. Demos

  • “Tracing the Future”/Yto Barrada

    Starting from the premise that any potential future will find its lineaments etched in the past—in contrast to mere futurist fantasies without material grounding—“Tracing the Future” drew together works with strong research or archival proclivities, though none lacking in aesthetic power. Incisively curated by Stéphane Symons, Hilde Van Gelder, and Eva Wittocx, the exhibition of five distinct presentations stretched over five locations, mining historically diverse relations to this university town. The archaeological sensibility mirrored Yto Barrada’s excavation of Morocco’s artisanal

  • Akram Zaatari

    Known for his diverse photographic and video-based projects, Akram Zaatari has spent the last decade mining the charged archival materials of Lebanon’s civil wars as well as investigating the gendered cultural narratives of the Middle East. Most recently, these efforts have led the Beirut-based artist to create pieces such as Letter to a Refusing Pilot, 2013, a video- missive addressing an Israeli fighter pilot who, during a 1982 operation in Lebanon, disobeyed his chain of command, rejecting orders to bomb a school. This work plus nine others—including 28 Nights

  • Sammy Baloji and Alice Seeley Harris

    TIM AND SPACE are out of joint: This is the first sensation that confronts us when we look at an untitled work by Sammy Baloji from 2013, one of the photomontages composing that year’s series “The Album,” which was at the center of the first-ever UK show focused on the Congolese artist. In the work, three porters, photographed in black-and-white, hold up a large stork, stretching out the bird’s voluminous wings and drawing its head upright, presenting what must be a hunting trophy to the camera. The men all wear fez-like caps with long-sleeved white shirts and knee-length trousers, the defining

  • 1000 WORDS: JOHN AKOMFRAH

    FEW ARTISTS WORKING TODAY share the depth of John Akomfrah’s understanding of African diasporic culture, particularly its complex entanglements with the shifting course of global politics, postcolonial experience, and the seductive structures of popular media. As a founding member of the acclaimed Black Audio Film Collective, Akomfrah contributed to the now-disbanded group’s filmic studies of great twentieth-century intellectuals, activists, and cultural figures such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.; of social developments such as the Black Power movement championed by Michael X in 1960s

  • OPENINGS: JUSTIN BARTON AND MARK FISHER

    “MEMORY DISORDER provides a compelling analogy for the glitches in capitalist realism,” claimed the cultural theorist Mark Fisher in 2009. Such glitches in the current socioeconomic order are explored in On Vanishing Land, 2013, an audio essay by Fisher and the writer and sound artist Justin Barton—their second joint venture in what one hopes is a continuing collaboration. The work, largely narrated by Barton atop an electronic music sound track, offers a psychogeographical recounting of a trip to southeast England—a landscape that leads Fisher and Barton to various provocative historical

  • Mark Boulos

    In his large three-channel video installation, No Permanent Address, 2010, Mark Boulos presented the rugged life and personal stories of members of the New People’s Army (NPA), a Communist guerilla movement in the Philippines designated a terrorist organization by the EU and the US. The artist spent eight weeks living among two of the group’s peripatetic squads to make the twenty-seven-minute-long video. The footage shows the company’s members trekking through dense jungle, conducting military routines, and resting on hammocks strung between trees. Short interviews with individuals shed light

  • “Yang Fudong: Estranged Paradise, Works 1993–2012”

    “Inspired by Chinese films of the 1920s and ’30s, the work of Shanghai-based Yang Fudong receives its first major museum survey in the West this spring with a show jointly organized by the Kunsthalle Zürich and the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.”

    Inspired by Chinese films of the 1920s and ’30s, the work of Shanghai-based Yang Fudong receives its first major museum survey in the West this spring with a show jointly organized by the Kunsthalle Zürich and the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. The exhibition promises a rich selection of the artist’s films, cinematic installations, and photography from 1993 to the present, offering European (and, soon, American) audiences a chance to further their understanding of his practice—including its relationship to

  • Jeremy Deller

    THIS RETROSPECTIVE presented a formidable challenge: How to organize a show of an artist who has defined his practice precisely by working outside the white cube? The problem of institutionalization is hardly uncommon, of course—artists who work site-specifically confront similar challenges—but Jeremy Deller’s profound social engagement raises the stakes. With its conventional approach, however, the Hayward Gallery exhibition skates over the contradictions: It focuses on Deller’s commemoration of folkish creativity (the show is titled “Joy in People”) but invites aesthetic appreciation

  • ART AFTER NATURE: THE POST-NATURAL CONDITION

    THE NIGHT SKY may never have looked as disturbingly different as it did in Black Shoals Stock Market Planetarium, 2001/2004, for which the London-based artists Lise Autogena and Joshua Portway projected an array of otherworldly constellations onto a planetarium-style dome. Each astral body corresponds not to nature but to a publicly traded company, as a computer program translates the real-time financial activity of the world’s stock exchanges into glimmering stars. At Tate Britain in 2001, the piece connected to a Reuters news feed; at the Nikolaj Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center in 2004, it

  • “Decolonizing Architecture/Art Residency”

    WHAT WOULD AN ARCHITECTURE of decolonization look like? And how might it shift the terms of debate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? These are among the ambitious questions addressed by the Decolonizing Architecture/Art Residency, an art and architecture collective based in Beit Sahour, a town outside Bethlehem. The group—which now has dozens of collaborators, varying from project to project—was founded in 2007 by Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, and Eyal Weizman, all of whom operate in the nexus of architecture, theory, and political representation. Strategic and utopian at once,

  • “The City Is a Burning, Blazing Bonfire”

    This group show, curated by Fiona Parry, deftly brought together the work of three artists and one collaborative project, all linking art, energy, and ecological systems. Taking its title from Henri Lefebvre’s characterization of the city as a blazing site of powerful flows, interlinking colossal quantities of physical and human energy, it poignantly assembles various artistic dealings with the urban environment from distinct geopolitical and aesthetic approaches. A seventeen-minute video by Deimantas Narkevičius, Energy Lithuania, 2000, explores the history of Elektrènai, a town built in the

  • “La Triennale 2012: Intense Proximity”

    This third edition of Paris’s La Triennale—tellingly titled “Intense Proximity”—is set to advance artistic director Okwui Enwezor’s important contestation of nationality and nativism by highlighting relational geographies and migrant figures. The show will unfold from the newly expanded Palais de Tokyo to neighboring institutions along La Colline des Musées, with an approach to cultural transnationalism inspired by twentieth-century ethnographers Marcel Mauss, Michel Leiris, and Marcel Griaule.

  • Yang Fudong

    Yang Fudong’s black-and-white film Fifth Night, 2010, offers an allegory of philosophical searching in Shanghai’s old town over the course of one night in the 1920s. The roughly ten-minute piece (shot in 35 mm and transferred to HD video) follows several characters who, with pained expressions, wander around carriages, vintage cars, and a table set with laboratory-specimen jars (one with a live fish swimming around in it) as bicycle rickshaws pass by, workers attempt to repair an old tramcar, and men in business suits sit silently on a couch placed on a platform in the middle of the square.

  • 11th Biennale de Lyon

    “A Terrible Beauty Is Born” is a curious title for a French biennial organized by a Buenos Aires–based curator, given the strong associationof W. B. Yeats’s phrase with the Irish revolution of 1916, but the rubric nonetheless heads this exhibition, framing Victoria Noorthoorn’s nineteen-point quasi manifesto celebrating art’s poetic potential.

    “A Terrible Beauty Is Born” is a curious title for a French biennial organized by a Buenos Aires–based curator, given the strong association of W. B. Yeats’s phrase with the Irish revolution of 1916, but the rubric nonetheless heads this exhibition, framing Victoria Noorthoorn’s nineteen-point quasi manifesto celebrating art’s poetic potential. Conjoining neo-Surrealism (“mysticism, phantasmagoria, hallucination, delirium, the game, chance, and abandonment” are noted in point 2) and a Wildean vision of contradiction, the show will feature work by a global mix of

  • Gerard Byrne

    This well-deserved midcareer survey of the work of Dublin-based artist Gerard Byrne will offer a comprehensive overview of the artist’s films, photographs, and installations.

    This well-deserved midcareer survey of the work of Dublin-based artist Gerard Byrne will offer a comprehensive overview of the artist’s films, photographs, and installations, which creatively redefine the parameters of theatricality and reenactment, historical memory, and mediated construction. By thematically referencing—and, importantly, engaging and building on the representational structures of—modernist playwrights such as Bertolt Brecht and Samuel Beckett, Byrne’s projects make them relevant to postwar conjunctions of modernist architecture and visual

  • OPENINGS: GOLDIN+SENNEBY

    COULD THE SHADOWY WORLD of offshore banking somehow harbor an incarnation of Georges Bataille’s secret society, Acéphale? This bizarre and provocative proposal is the premise of Headless, a project begun in 2007 by the collaborative team of Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby. Its symbol, a headless man, pays homage to Acéphale’s adoption of André Masson’s notorious drawing of a gruesome decapitated figure—a perverse inversion of Leonardo’s enlightened Vitruvian Man—with a skull in place of his groin. The Swedish artists’ examination of how financial systems relate to forms of invisibility

  • The Otolith Group: Thoughtform

    Founded in London in 2002 by artists and cultural theorists Kodwo Eshun and Anjalika Sagar, the Otolith Group (a 2010 Turner Prize nominee) examines the nature of human memory and perception through a mesmerizing array of films, texts, and media-related activities.

    Founded in London in 2002 by artists and cultural theorists Kodwo Eshun and Anjalika Sagar, the Otolith Group (a 2010 Turner Prize nominee) examines the nature of human memory and perception through a mesmerizing array of films, texts, and media-related activities. Expanding beyond the documentary genre by crossing appropriated footage with science fiction, the group assembles a montage of experimental images and sounds that narrate the history of our postcolonial, postsocialist present. Nine of the collective’s works from the past seven years will be staged at MACBA,

  • THE DISCOVERY OF SLOWNESS: THE FILMS OF MANON DE BOER

    MANON DE BOER’S 16-MM FILM Dissonant, 2010, begins modestly but invitingly. The first movement of Belgian composer Eugène Ysaÿe’s 1923 Sonata no. 2 for Solo Violin plays over a black screen, the music quoting from Bach’s joyous Partita no. 3 in E major, which intertwines with and increasingly yields to Ysaÿe’s own dazzling modernist tones. After a brief passage of white leader—a self-reflexive gesture common in the Dutch artist’s films—a close-up appears of the dancer Cynthia Loemij listening intently to Ysaÿe’s two-minute composition (one that she’s never had the chance to dance to, until now,

  • Rabih Mroué

    ALTHOUGH WIDELY KNOWN for his performance pieces that build imaginative scenarios revisiting his country’s traumatic civil war (1975–90), the Lebanese director, playwright, actor, and artist Rabih Mroué has only now gained his first solo show. We can credit BAK curator Cosmin Costinas for this exhibition of Mroué’s videos and installations, which, owing to their wit and philosophical depth, confirmed his status among the leading figures of his generation of Beiruti artists.

    Not surprisingly, given Mroué’s primary association with stage appearances, the strongest pieces here were concise videos

  • Rosalind Nashashibi

    Organized jointly by the ICA and the Bergen Kunsthall in Norway, this first major survey of Rosalind Nashashibi’s reflexive cinematic investigations into visual gestalts, surveillance systems, and perceptual memory included five 16-mm films and two photographic projects. In Rehearsal, 2009, greeted visitors first, a photographic installation of ninety-six medium-size shots of an opera rehearsal in Berlin, their unspectacular documentary views capturing the actors’ transformation into fictional roles. Serving as an apt analogue for Nashashibi’s practice, the piece stages representation as a