Travis Jeppesen

  • picks April 08, 2015

    Revital Cohen and Tuur van Balen

    Revital Cohen & Tuur van Balen’s latest exhibition posits works of art in the age of bioengineered reproduction. The playful and speculative nature of their projects leaves the less-scientifically-informed viewer to wonder what is real and what is a hoax. In Pigeon d’Or, 2011, a series of interventions has been filmed in which biologists work together with pigeon fanciers in order to develop bacteria that will modify the birds to make them shit soap. Sterile, 2014, gives us goldfish that have been engineered so as to hatch without reproductive organs; each of the forty-five specimens was produced

  • film February 26, 2015

    Outside In

    SADLY IT HAS BECOME A TRUISM that any feature film with LGBT content, no matter how bad, will be accepted at the Berlin International Film Festival, and most likely featured in the art-house-friendly Panorama section. This was the case again this year with entries like Sebastián Silva’s Nasty Baby, awarded the Teddy for Best Feature, a spiteful celebration of New York City gentrification whose petty and charmless characters become increasingly unlikeable as the film wears on. Put them together with the types depicted on the HBO series Looking and you have solid evidence for John Waters’s argument

  • picks February 23, 2015

    Louise Bourgeois

    Tit and phallus are much the same. For instance, consider how both offer the purifying comforts of a white liquid substance rich in life-giving protein, nurturing our anguished doubts and returning us to an ideal, infantilized state. Those life-giving parts become the landscape of a series of watercolors on paper by Louise Bourgeois on view in this exhibition, all produced late in her life, circa 2003 and 2004. These breast-cocks are hills, and their only texture is dots, unhurriedly applied.

    Add to that the pregnant belly, as there are also two sculptures—one untitled, the other Pregnant Woman

  • picks February 12, 2015

    Ruth Campau

    Ruth Campau’s current exhibition begins and ends with two large-scale installations. In the first room, an array of shiny, sharp, and angular painted acrylic panels litter the floor. Campau has been painting colorful lines across these panels for the past decade, and here they are arranged in a pond of shards called Between the Past and the Coming (Eismeer) (all works cited, 2015), with an elevated gangway that allows you to walk around this geometric fuckfest for a multiplicity of views. The second major piece, Between the Past and the Coming, is very different in appearance. A monochromatic

  • film February 10, 2015

    All Relative

    WITH NEW FILMS from Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Terrence Malick, Guy Maddin, Peter Greenaway, Margarethe von Trotta, and brand new documentaries on Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Jia Zhang-ke, it would seem that one of the central theses of the sixty-fifth edition of the Berlin International Film Festival is that auteur filmmaking is far from dead. Of course, a close look reveals that some of these filmmaking giants are in better form than others. What’s more, the numerous glances into the margins afforded by the festival’s megalithic program—with several hundred films from all over the globe on

  • diary February 08, 2015

    The Thief’s Journal

    AFTER SPENDING THE PREVIOUS TWO WEEKS isolated in a borrowed apartment in Copenhagen, hammering out some five thousand words a day on an endless novel, me and my brain were ready for a thaw. So when the offer came to journey even further north to snowy Oslo, for the opening of “Melgaard + Munch” at the museum named after the latter, it seemed like the most counterintuitive move I could make at that moment. I instantly said yes.

    I’ve known Bjarne Melgaard for a little over a year now. We’re mutual admirers of each other’s work. His art adorns the cover of my last novel, The Suiciders, and we shared

  • film January 05, 2015

    Top of the Poppers

    ONE OF THE TAWDRIER ENTRIES on the schedule of this year’s inaugural Berlin Art Film Festival was a screening of Ebo Hill’s Bonking Berlin Bastards, with live dubbing by a duo (critic-programmer Toby Ashraf and filmmaker Telemachos Alexiou) calling itself “White Boys in Crisis.” In the universe of gay porn, a strong argument could be made for Bonking Berlin Bastards’s status as a millennial cult classic. When it came out in 2001, it put Berlin on the map for gay sex tourism and endowed the city with a reputation as a place where you could do nearly anything and get away with it—a bit like

  • Olafur Eliasson

    Ever since Olafur Eliasson debuted his Green River project (in which he introduced a nontoxic substance into a stream so that the water temporarily glowed a bright-neon green) in Berlin in 1998, rivers have been an obsession for him. Now, on a typically grand scale—I wonder whether anyone has ever challenged Eliasson to produce a work on a small scale, and whether he would be able to manage?—the Danish-Icelandic artist has created an entire riverbed in a wing of the Louisiana Museum. You walk down a long hallway with sterile white walls along a wooden floor, a sort of plinth, before

  • picks November 17, 2014

    Jaanus Samma

    For his current solo exhibition, Jaanus Samma has transformed the gallery space into a pop-up boutique, complete with display cases, racks, a full-length mirror, dressing room, couch, and a video collage blending shots of graffiti with models posing in the sweaters on offer. The patterns and messages emblazoned on the sweaters, knitted in a variety of colors and fabrics, were lifted from bathroom graffiti and wall tags Samma has recorded throughout his travels, and most of it quite cruisy. One hot-pink mohair creation plaintively inquires, “Tu veux voir ma bite?” (“You want to see my cock?”).

  • film November 15, 2014

    Utopia Station

    I ALWAYS LOOK FORWARD to the month of October because it brings the multitudinous possibilities of Doclisboa, one of the finest film festivals of its sort in Europe. The programming ethos of Doclisboa is as unrelenting in its commitments to politics as it is to poetry. It asserts the documentary medium as an art form with ambiguous categorical boundaries, favors formalist rigor over fluff, and offers the film festival as a site of knowledge production rather than a mere showcase or trade fair.

    This year, festival favorite Wang Bing won the best international feature award for his Father and Sons

  • Raymond Pettibon

    Alas, poor Pettibon! Poet sublime of cryptic fabulosity, inkpot noirist, and restless chronicler of the muck and ick that splatters so freely, then embeds itself like a cancer, forming the blackest recesses of American consciousness. His caustic wit cuts deep, even as it elevates him high above the tabloid trash-scape that feeds his dauntless foraging. Though the press release for his recent Berlin exhibition highlighted “new works,” the show, a dense mass of text-image amalgamations on paper, included some pieces dating as far back as 1981. But it doesn’t really matter, because Pettibon is

  • picks July 08, 2014

    Keith Vaughan

    “A Volatile Medium,” the title of this exhibition, is also how Keith Vaughan referred to gouache, the material and technique he employed increasingly in the last fifteen years of his life, following his 1962 retrospective at Whitechapel Gallery. He would often mix his gouaches with other materials, such as vinegar, to further increase the process’s volatility, finding a new sort of freedom in chaos and uncontrollability. As journal excerpts included in the exhibition reveal, Vaughan was something of an automatist, producing inspired studies of the male figure faster than his dealer could sell

  • picks July 02, 2014

    Geta Brătescu

    Although Geta Brătescu has been favorably compared to Louise Bourgeois—undoubtedly because of her gender and the longevity of her prolific output—a more apt comparison might be to Joseph Beuys in the sheer fervor of her fusion of the mythic with modernist abstraction. At the same time, her work is unburdened with the German meister’s pedantry—it is quite content to stand on its own. Having worked in solitude in her native Romania for much of the past century, Brătescu, born in 1926 and still going strong, was first brought to the attention of a larger audience when her work was included in the

  • James Benning

    Often misread as a structuralist filmmaker, James Benning is really more of a landscape poet. His work reflects a complete surrender to the mired totality of the natural world, yet he is ever mindful of humankind’s tinkerings and contaminations. In recent years, Benning’s oeuvre has extended beyond cinema—though, thankfully, he had not completely neglected it. His 2011 Two Cabins project was inspired by a perceived affinity between two philosopher-seekers of the American back-to-nature dream, Henry David Thoreau and Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski. On his own property in the Sierra Mountains of

  • slant May 22, 2014

    Critical Mass

    IN THE SPRINGTIME, Pyongyang is shrouded in a pale mist that gives the city an enchanted and ethereal quality. For a moment, especially when dawn breaks over the city and the sun becomes a distant perfect golden circle in the sky, you can almost forget that you’re in the capital of the most hermetic country on the planet. Such moments of reflection are few and far between—after all, you are never really alone here. The mandatory guided tours, the only possible means of traveling in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, may seem an imposition to free-spirited travelers used to doing their

  • film February 25, 2014

    Continental Drifts

    AS OUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY in the States froze their buns off, Berliners were subjected to a freakishly premature arrival of spring this February. I imagine that those who only visit Berlin for the annual Berlin International Film Festival had a tough time gaining their whereabouts, as the city must seem naked without its blanket of snow. And with several hundred films on offer in a program rife with big-name gala premieres on the one hand, and debuts by mysterious unknowns on the other, it seemed that no overarching agenda would emerge for those bound to spend most of the month in the dark. So

  • film November 20, 2013

    Absent Presence

    IT BEGAN WITH AN ABSENCE. Invited to serve as jury president at this year’s DocLisboa, where his new film Manuscripts Don’t Burn (2013) would close the festival, Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof had his passport confiscated by the authorities to prevent him from traveling abroad. This event takes place three years after Rasoulof’s arrest in 2010 for carrying out propaganda against the state. Like many banned directors in Iran, Rasoulof has shot his latest films clandestinely, owing to threats by the ruling regime. Exile used to be the punishment for crimes against the state. As the outside

  • film April 05, 2013

    Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

    CHANGE IS IN THE AIR, but is it happening fast enough? Certainly the season begs for more: The freezing cold and snowy winds of the past two weeks in London have established that spring has no intention of working her magic anytime soon. No big shocker for anyone coming from Berlin, and an excellent reason to seek shelter in the warmer climes of the British Film Institute, where the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival traditionally makes its home.

    Jeffrey Schwarz’s long-awaited documentary on John Waters’s most famous star, I Am Divine (2013), opened the festival. With well-crafted documentaries

  • OPENINGS: SUNG HWAN KIM

    FOR SUNG HWAN KIM, ideas are less the thing than stories. “I know that it doesn’t matter if things are true or not,” Kim begins in From the Commanding Heights . . . , 2007. “But this is a true story.” He launches into a narrative that starts out believably enough but grows increasingly fantastical, about a woman with a preternaturally long neck and a third ear on top of her head. As we hear his recorded voice, we see the artist’s face above a transparent sheet, which he draws on to illustrate the bizarre fable. From the Commanding Heights . . . jumps from one narrative mode and style to the

  • film February 26, 2013

    House of Style

    SELLING OUT IS HARD TO DO. One becomes known for a certain style, and then what? Several directors—Gus Van Sant and Wong Kar-wai among them—showed up to this year’s Berlinale with the sort of average pictures that made you yearn for their earlier, more definitively individual styles. But the best of the festival, as you might expect, arrived at the edges, with films like Richard Foreman’s Once Every Day and J. P. Sniadecki, Huang Xiang, and Xu Ruotao’s Yumen, both in the Forum Expanded program, traditionally the host of the more challenging modes of cinematic expression.

    Once Every Day, Foreman’s