Travis Jeppesen

  • film February 19, 2019

    Metafictions

    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

  • “May the bridges I burn light the way”

    In the decade since its inception, Exile has partaken in several high-profile art fairs around Europe and attained an international profile as a major small gallery. But its growth has undoubtedly been impeded by gallerist Christian Siekmeier’s outspoken critical stance toward overarching power structures. In particular, he has refused to take part in much-lauded events such as Gallery Weekend Berlin, which he views as a kind of protectorate. Siekmeier embodies all the paradoxes of the individual burdened with a conscience, thumbing his nose at the gatekeepers’ pretensions toward exclusivity

  • picks September 14, 2018

    Charline von Heyl

    You could spend all day in this exhibition—Charline von Heyl’s first major European institutional survey—and not experience a moment of boredom, such is the fun and sophistication of the artist’s formal language. With more than sixty mostly medium- to large-format paintings on display, there’s much to get lost in. I find that von Heyl works best in monochrome; my favorite here is Bois-tu de la bière?, 2012, in which black lines on a pure yellow background sketch the perimeters of a TV-like box until, in the lower right-hand corner, they suddenly jut out toward the center, fracturing the imaginary

  • picks September 10, 2018

    “Black Light”

    The title “Black Light,” with its hippie signifier, might compel skeptical viewers to simply shrug off this exhibition. To do so would be to do oneself a great disservice. Subtitled “Secret traditions in art since the 1950s,” the show admittedly hosts a fair share of stoned, pale crystal-gazers hijacking Eastern philosophies during mystical quests for transcendence. But with more than fifty artists included, there’s still enough variety to constitute an intriguing and multiple-perspectived survey.

    Highlights abound at the show’s outset, including a section devoted to Jordan Belson, who made films

  • Flo Kasearu

    Flo Kasearu’s great ongoing project is where she lives. In 2013, she opened the Flo Kasearu House Museum in her home in a district of Tallinn comprising typical Estonian wooden houses. The property had belonged to her great-grandparents before her, but when the Soviets took over, it was nationalized, and the family lost the house that had been theirs since 1911. After the Soviet Union fell, Kasearu’s family waited twenty years for the final tenants to move out or to die in order to get the house back, by which time it was finally the artist’s inheritance. (The fascinating story of the house’s

  • diary June 05, 2018

    Crossing the Line

    IT IS NO EXAGGERATION to say that throughout the past month, the eyes of the entire wide-awake world have been on the Korean peninsula, with history being made on a near-daily basis. Even the German capital—home to an increasingly sizable Korean expat community and a host to both North and South Korea’s embassies, positioned within walking distance of each other—has not been immune to these moves. Whispers regarding the ambassadors of said embassies suggest that pleasantries were exchanged during a chance social gathering that took place around the time of the first summit between Kim Jong Un

  • Karla Black

    Karla Black makes the kind of artwork that the janitor has to be instructed not to sweep up and discard. This drugstore expressionist deploys all kinds of cheap finery in rendering her delicate, perishable spillage. Powders and eye shadow and colored toilet paper are sprinkled, splattered, and smeared across surfaces often equally tenuous, unless they are simply the given floors or walls of the spaces where her work is exhibited.

    Tattered instability is the appeal. Take a careless step and you just might destroy something. The tiny puffballs of Structure for Once (all works 2018), for instance:

  • picks March 30, 2018

    Tommy Camerno

    In his first solo exhibition in Berlin, the young British painter Tommy Camerno posits an “Astral Clubhouse” via eleven paintings, a sculpture, and an online video. The ongoing series, which he started last year, stems from the artist’s interest in author Carla Yanni’s research into the interior architecture of US mental institutions, wherein repetitive banality may play no small a role in exacerbating, rather than ameliorating, patients’ psychological travails. Camerno’s response is a house wherein every room is rooted in a different historical era, a different design aesthetic; a dwelling that

  • picks March 28, 2018

    “The Presence of Absence, or the Catastrophe Theory”

    The first iteration of “The Presence of Absence, or the Catastrophe Theory,” curated by Cathryn Drake, was shown in 2016 at Izolyatsia in Kiev, where the art space moved from Donetsk after the Russian occupation of the city in 2014. Nicosia, the world’s last divided capital, seems a fitting site for an expanded version of that exhibition, in which the notion of place proved to be never secure. That Cyprus is currently experiencing an unusual artistic renaissance, with a proliferation of largely artist-run initiatives blooming across the small island in spite of its highly complicated 1974 division

  • film March 02, 2018

    It Gets Worse

    IN THE TOTAL ABSENCE OF ANYTHING RESEMBLING A COHERENT AESTHETIC POSITION for most of this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, one turned to its “Forum” section for some vestige of curatorial integrity. Here, viewers could take in such promising marvels as the almost four-hour feature An Elephant Sitting Still (2018), the first and last film by Chinese novelist Hu Bo, who took his own life last year at the age of twenty-nine; Grass (2018), yet another feature by the endlessly prolific Hong Sangsoo, who also had a film in Rotterdam (and will likely show work at Cannes and Venice); and, in

  • picks February 27, 2018

    Louis-Philippe Scoufaras

    Louis-Philippe Scoufaras’s “Trilogy of Terror,” 2014–16, consists of single-shot videos, each ninety minutes in length, that stage confoundingly prolonged meditations on events from ancient mythology. The title of Omphalos, 2016, the final part and the subject of this exhibition, is rife with symbolic meaning; in ancient Greek, it means “navel,” the center of the world; an object or a place with great power.

    To rule over the earth, King Cronus first had to castrate and murder his father, Uranus. Later, Cronus would eat his own children in order to avoid a similar fate. Scoufaras’s distillation

  • film February 26, 2018

    Borelinale

    LAST NOVEMBER, A GROUP OF LOCAL FILMMAKERS PUBLISHED AN OPEN LETTER in Der Spiegel criticizing the Berlinale as the weakest of all international film festivals and calling for “a new beginning”: a clear reference to festival director Dieter Kosslick, whose contract runs out next year. Given the poor programming he has overseen and the subsequent general decline of the festival’s stature, the Berlinale is no longer at the level of Venice or Cannes as a serious forum for a rigorous assessment of the state of the art. Rather than listening to his critics with an open mind, Kosslick and his sycophants

  • film February 19, 2018

    Mixed Messages

    “HAVE YOU HEARD OF ‘AFROFUTURISM’?” responds the young artist, when her photographer asks why she’s hanging that ridiculous arrangement of electrical sockets over her painted face. “It’s this thing . . . It’s really big right now . . . and white people really like it for some reason.”

    With the international premiere of the brief, bold, and hilarious art-world satire This One Went to Market?, 2018, from Nairobi-based filmmaker Jim Chuchu’s brilliant new Web series We Need Prayers (2018–), produced together with the twelve-member strong Nest Collective, the Forty-Seventh International Film Festival