Travis Jeppesen

  • diary April 16, 2020

    Zooming Out

    WHO KNEW 2020 WOULD END UP THIS WAY, with someone asking me to stare at American flags on my laptop screen and write about it for Artforum? But that’s precisely what I’m doing on day thirteen of my fortnight of mandatory home quarantine in Shanghai, having recently returned from a post-Wuhan COVID-19 evasion tour. It’s eight o’clock in the morning: I’m wiping sleep out of my eyes with my hand-sanitized fingers and pouring gratuitous amounts of black coffee down my throat, keeping an ear out for the body-condom-ensheathed volunteer from my neighborhood committee who bangs on my door twice a day

  • Zhang Ding

    Zhang Ding’s work to date has centered on immersive installations that feel less like discrete artworks than intangible experiences. “Opening,” at ShanghART in 2011, waived the art in favor of spectacle, re-creating a nightclub interior in the space of a gallery. “Buddha Jumps over the Wall,” in 2012, turned Shanghai’s TOP Contemporary Art Center into a kitsched-out banquet hall for the nouveau riche, recalling the kinds of interiors that have become increasingly common in China’s coastal cities over the past decade. In London in 2015, “Enter the Dragon,” named after the iconic Bruce Lee movie,


    TIANZHUO CHEN’S PROJECTS and personae radiate a new animism: His chthonic protagonists carry ancient feelings, yet arrive like fresh symbols to our world. His performances—whether in theaters, museums, or nightclubs—are neo-Taoist hallucinations in which anarchy is joyfully permitted to take over, to override and overwrite the horrific banalities of the present. Chen invites the audience to wander through these spaces: to gaze, to daze, to, as in last year’s Trance, dance and meditate to hazy beats as they glide past diapered bodies. This immersive protocol is suffused with Chen’s own yearning

  • Zheng Bo

    Botanists and gardening enthusiasts have debated whether playing classical music helps a plant grow. But how about licking it? What if one starts to fellate the plant or, rather, one of its leaves? Nature abhors a vacuum, but does it really object to a nice long suck?

    A young man moves his tongue up and down the length of a frond, tonguing the curled green bud at the end as though it were the head of an erect penis. Simultaneously, he moves his squatted ass crack up and down along another stem, groaning all the while, essentially being spit roasted by these two leafy exemplars of nature’s finest.

  • Karla Black

    Curated by Alison Ferris

    Surprisingly, given her many European fans, Karla Black has not yet had a major museum exhibition in the United States—until now. This show will feature fifteen of Black’s famously ethereal sculptures from the past decade—composed from such materials as makeup, cellophane, powder, petroleum jelly, and sugar paper—alongside two new works created specifically to accommodate the architecture of the Des Moines Art Center’s I. M. Pei building. In addition, paintings and sculptures selected by the artist from the museum’s collection (including works by Louise Bourgeois, Helen

  • Haroon Mirza

    The highlight of Haroon Mirza’s first solo exhibition in China, “Tones in the Key of Electricity,” is a new work, Copy of 9/11–11/9, 2019, a maximalist four-channel video and sound installation that attempts to encapsulate the maximal insanity of the period we have just lived through and whose consequences we continue to endure: that is, the era stretching from 9/11/2001, the day of the attacks on the World Trade Center, to 11/9/2016, the day Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. The room is partitioned into two, with the four freestanding screens in one space and a circle of

  • “An Opera for Animals”

    I once had a cat who sang. His name was Atmos, and he became quite famous. His meow was pure and tender but was also capable of different registers, allowing him to express a wide range of emotions. He also had quite a tonal range, preferring to greet arriving guests with a high-pitched yelp, but when engaged in conversation at more intimate moments, or when receiving physical affection from a human creature, he might yawp in a subtler tenor whose affirmation could quickly put the most troubled and confused spirit at ease. His success in the opera was naturally aided by the black coat of fur he

  • Kim Inbai

    Kim Inbai titled one of his monographs Eliminate Points, Lines, and Planes (2014). That would be a bold commandment for any artist, but for one who works in the traditional media of sculpture and drawing, it reveals a truth so wise that very few ever grasp it, and those who do can rarely accept it: that to align yourself with the impossible is the only position worth considering.

    Much of Kim’s work has taken the form of sculpture, but it has often been fed by drawing. He selects drawings to be turned into three-dimensional objects, and then as often as not draws upon those objects. The resulting

  • “In My Room”

    Autofiction, as a genre, has sought to burn the safety blanket of detachment that poets and novelists often hide under, positing instead an authorial “I” that is very much “me,” but presenting occurrences that may or may not be factual. One of the landmarks of autofiction, Guillaume Dustan’s 1998 novel In My Room, brought its author instant notoriety for its (self-) portrayal of drug-fucked faggotry in mid-1990s Paris. Scenes drift from the eponymous bedroom to the darkroom and to the dance floors of Le Queen, a world of almost totally impassive hedonism, where happiness comes in forms that can

  • Zhou Tao

    In the beginning, there is the body. When we first become aware of it, as infants, it is our everything; then it becomes what allows us, through play, to discover our connection to everything else. So much of Zhou Tao’s early work is body oriented, as this survey exhibition reveals. In Mutual Exercise, 2009—essentially the video documentation of a performance that took place throughout the streets of Guangzhou—two young men carry each other around, taking turns playacting as either passive object or active subject. They lift each other’s bodies and arrange them in absurd positions and situations

  • Erkan Özgen

    In the wake of violence, what we are often left with is language, which foments its own battles—battles without bloodshed, perhaps, but nonetheless haunted by violence. “Today,” said the artist Erkan Özgen in a recent conversation, “language doesn’t work.” The four documentary videos comprising Özgen’s recent solo exhibition all grappled, more or less, with such failures of verbal communication.

    The longest video in the exhibition, Purple Muslin, 2018, comprised a series of interviews with Yazidi women living in a refugee camp in northern Iraq. This Middle Eastern minority group—whose monotheistic

  • Taipei Biennial 2018

    Curators Francesco Manacorda and Mali Wu titled this year’s Taipei Biennial “Post-Nature—A Museum as an Ecosystem.” The theme was not exactly a startling choice, given that the Anthropocene is the art world’s issue du jour—though locally it feels like less of a cliché, as environmental activism played a key role in Taiwan’s democratization process in the 1980s and ’90s. Up until 1987, when the country was under martial law, criticizing the government directly was impossible. Staging pro-environmental demonstrations, however, was a subtle way for citizens to protest the dictates of the ruling

  • film February 19, 2019


    I SAW FEWER FILMS THAN USUAL at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, or “Berlinale,” for the simple reason that there was little in the program that interested me. I suspect I’m not alone. Especially among those of us coming to Berlin from Rotterdam, which—along with Locarno—is one of the continent’s second-tier festivals that increasingly manages to upstage Berlin’s first-tier status. One can only hope that the pronounced lapse in the quality of the programming that critics have been bemoaning in broken-record mode for years now will finally be allayed in 2020, when Carlo Chatrian

  • film February 14, 2019

    Based on a True Story

    SO FAR, IT’S RAINING REALITY at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival (or “Berlinale,” for short). If only someone would invent an umbrella that protects against blades, bullets, and toxic masculinity! The world would certainly be a better place, but then what bitter truths would be left for all these cinematic bigwigs to unpack?

    Among the most talked-about films this year is the latest from Fatih Akin, The Golden Glove—named after the trashy Hamburg pub that Fritz Honka frequented in the early 1970s. Honka enjoyed drink and the company of middle-aged to elderly prostitutes, most of them

  • film February 07, 2019

    Good with Faces

    WITH ITS EXPANSIVE PROGRAMMING AND BOLD CURATION, the International Film Festival Rotterdam is a standout event on every European cinephile’s calendar. In that regard, this year’s edition was not an exception. Packing into twelve days everything from the latest statements from seasoned auteurs to the distilled essence of the next generation, Rotterdam was the one place this festivalgoer was eager to arrive at and sad to leave (food and weather aside).

    My journey began with a screening of Tsai Ming-liang’s new film, Your Face. Departing from the wandering, dreamlike narratives he has become known

  • “1913: The Brücke and Berlin”

    It was a momentous year, not just in the wider history of modernism—with the publication of such landmark works as Blaise Cendrars and Sonia Delaunay-Terk’s Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Jehanne of France and Guillaume Apollinaire’s Alcools—but in particular for the Expressionist collective known as Die Brücke. Having relocated to Berlin from Dresden, Germany, two years previously, in 1913 three of the group’s remaining protagonists—Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff—were preparing a chronicle that was to serve as both a catalogue and

  • picks December 03, 2018

    “Something huge, something major, something great and disastrous”

    In this unusual but highly compelling pairing, curator Michael Rade has brought together the paintings of E.M.C. Collard and the texts of Brian Tennessee Claflin, the latter in the form of audio recordings. Claflin was a fixture of Berlin nightlife who ran PORK, the orgiastic performative be-in at the gay darkroom club Ficken3000 until his untimely death in 2014. Less known is his body of work enveloping a diverse array of media, including painting, photography, and writing. In Mumbai and Berlin, text fragments posthumously recorded by performance artist Jasper Siverts, we are offered a glimpse

  • Survival Kit 10.0

    The theme of this year’s edition of the Latvian capital’s annual contemporary art festival, Survival Kit, was the broadly interpretable notion of “outlands.” This was meant to encompass any number of ideas, from the peripheral status of cities such as Riga and other Eastern European capitals in the international art world (along with, perhaps, the inference that it is on these peripheries, outside the watchful eye of the market and the gaze of trend spotters, where the truly exciting and innovative developments are taking place) to the even more remote position of those “other places” that are

  • books November 29, 2018

    Gone Guy

    Chalk: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly by Joshua Rivkin. Melville House, 2018. 478 pages.

    SINCE HIS DEATH IN 2011, there have been whispers of a Cy Twombly biography. A book that might, finally, through impeccable research—a thorough examination of the artist’s life and times, not to mention the literary, historical, and artistic references endowing his oeuvre with a dense texturality—shed light on the enigma of Twombly, slashing through the cliché portrayals of a Jamesian aristocrat abroad to reveal the fertile creative psyche of the man who broke all the rules, who overwrote all languages to

  • Carsten Nicolai

    Among sound-art aficionados, Carsten Nicolai enjoys princely status. Operating under his own name as well as under the pseudonym Alva Noto, Nicolai has collaborated with such luminaries as Ryoji Ikeda and Einstürzende Neubauten front man Blixa Bargeld. In an unlikely coup for an experimental musician, Nicolai, in collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto, composed the score for the 2015 Hollywood film The Revenant. He also makes visual art, much of which reflects his interest in science. His works are often ambitiously scaled; for a (alpha) pulse, 2014, he projected synchronized light frequencies onto