Travis Jeppesen

  • 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


    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


    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

  • film February 15, 2013

    Crime Wave

    NAVIGATING THE HUNDREDS of films comprising the Berlinale is nerve-wracking—you always feel like you’re bound to miss the big one, whatever that may be. Lest your Berlinale experience become a marathon of unwatchables showcasing poly-mediocrity James Franco, the best survival tactic is to ignore the hype. Creatures of instinct, some of us simply can’t do otherwise; inevitably, when I bump into someone I know, I’ll be asked for tips, at which point I am left temporarily paralyzed by the retrieval process as my companion’s face forms an embarrassed smile. Because his films so often evince the

  • picks January 03, 2013

    “Vertigo of Freedom”

    Inside: We are shrouded in darkness—necessarily so, as most of the works are video-based and projected along the walls with a raised platform accelerating our path through the works, which can be better thought of as instances: i.e., what freedom might mean in a Europe finally finished with all its wars, both cold and hot. Jakup Ferri explains An Artist Who Cannot Speak English Is No Artist, 2003, in a broken, elementary English that is nearly incomprehensible, yet movingly reminiscent of Gertrude Stein’s emploi of repetition, which seems to all the more enforce the abhorrence of linguistic

  • slant December 22, 2012

    Travis Jeppesen

    “Joan Mitchell: The Last Paintings” at Hauser & Wirth, London (February 3–April 28, 2012) The most unjustifiably underappreciated Abstract Expressionist, Mitchell painted as intensely as she lived. This intensity galloped to a defiant crescendo as sickness and death encroached, as the paintings gathered for this exhibition made ringingly clear, with their electricity, thick drunken lines, and preponderance of bright blues—primary color of vitality.

    Hai Bo’s “The Blind” at Pace Beijing (July 25–August 31, 2012) “[T]o see and have the color stay where color stays, to see and have the water lie

  • film December 12, 2012

    Family Portrait

    THE BIOPIC is not typically revered by serious cinephiles. Its generic restrictions as an exercise in hero worship or, worse, food for the celebrity lore–hungering denizens of the culture industry, tend to transform the most earnest endeavors into sentimental odes to Everymans. If the subject was recently or is still alive and well known, then there is little left for the critic to judge other than how much the portraying actor is “like” the actual person, thus debasing the dramatic art, reducing the creator of a complex character to that of a mere mimic.

    Indeed, against mimetic standards, it

  • picks November 07, 2012

    Oleg Kulik

    Oleg Kulik’s latest exhibition consists largely of photographs of the artist having sex with different animals. To be fair, Kulik makes these relations somewhat less shocking by becoming an animal himself; in his most famous performances, he is transformed into a mad dog, barking at and attacking bystanders. Video and photographic footage of one such performance features the nude artist roaming the streets outside a Kiev gallery on all fours, barking and lurching wildly at the scandalized audience. In the “Deep into Russia” series, all taken from a 1993 performance in a village called Dubrovky

  • film November 06, 2012

    Eternal Return

    ONE MORNING IN 1992, in a cornfield in northeastern Germany just over the Polish border, two Romany men, illegal immigrants from Romania, were shot and killed by local hunters who supposedly mistook them for wild boar. Investigation of the case was shoddy. Neither of the victims’ families was informed that a trial took place. The two killers were deemed innocent. Twenty years later—in a time when the two would be considered citizens of the European Union—director Philip Scheffner carried out his own investigation, resulting in Revision, one of the highlights of this year’s DocLisboa. Scheffner

  • film October 25, 2012

    Doc Holiday

    AS GARY INDIANA once observed, the best novels are essentially plotless, completely resistant to any effort one might undertake to submit them to the painful castration of synopsis: Indeed, maybe Borges got it right by implying that the best way to summarize a novel like Don Quixote would be to recopy it word for word. A majority of the filmmakers whose work populates this year’s program at DocLisboa would likely concur with these ideas. If you’re looking for a forum that’s going to interrogate the hell out of the notion that arises in your mind whenever you hear the term “documentary film,”

  • picks October 12, 2012

    António Bolota

    A round hole has been dug in the floor of the gallery’s front room, about the size of a foot bath. A perfectly round globe made of metal has been inserted into it. Or, not inserted—for the effect is more akin to an emergence: a silver ball of a world birthed from a cement inferno. Or, not emergence—for emergence implies movement, and the only movement is that which is reflected in the shiny, harsh, metalloid surface: namely, yourself and whatever other living beings happen to be in the gallery at that particular moment.

    This is the first of two new works by António Bolota. The Portuguese artist

  • picks October 01, 2012

    Andrej Dubravsky

    Painter Andrej Dubravsky’s summer studio is situated within walking distance of a lake in his hometown of Bratislava, Slovakia. Each morning, he would swim out to a small island which he’d explore by foot before returning back, emerging from the water only to dive into the day’s work. The resulting paintings, marked with a fluidity in their thin acrylicized surfaces that could have been spat straight from the mouth of the summer solstice herself, debuted in a 5 AM sunrise exhibition on the island the first week of September, where invited guests could trudge through weed-lined paths to discover

  • picks September 15, 2012

    “Mansudae: Landscapes from Pyongyang”

    Soldiers steadfastly guard the entrance to the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s largest and most important center of artistic production. The studio boasts four thousand employees, of whom approximately one thousand are artists and craftspeople. It is here where the famed bronze memorial statues of Kim Il Sung are made along with, in recent months, those of Kim Jong Il, whose deification throughout the country has been underway since his death last December. Foreign visitors to Mansudae are forbidden to enter those parts of the studio where the sacred

  • diary September 07, 2012

    Mass Media

    IT SEEMS THAT EVERYONE who goes there comes back feeling that they have had the definitive experience, having attained the truest and most accurate understanding of that most mysterious of countries—or at least this is how so many of the accounts read. And yet I, returning now from my second trip, feel less certain, more perplexed than ever before. Which only makes me want to go back again.

    Most people are surprised to learn that someone holding a US passport can legally visit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as it is officially known, or North Korea, as we are wont to refer to it in

  • film July 28, 2012

    Over the Edge

    OLYMPIC FEVER FLAGGED in the British capital in the weeks leading up to the big event’s inexorable landing. But this year’s East End Film Festival were perfectly content to jump on the Olympic bandwagon or propagating Hackney’s long-expired self-proclamation as the Capital of Cool; it’s a magical land where trust-funders have no problem whatsoever living side by side with the area’s impoverished minorities and immigrants—so long as the latter don’t mind the rent hikes.

    Not everyone can be a happy camper, as Ted Nygh’s Riot from Wrong strove to demonstrate through an excavation of the underlying

  • picks July 09, 2012

    Chen Wei

    Everything is meticulously staged in Chen Wei’s photographs. A standout work in his debut exhibition in Shanghai focuses on a handmade Ping-Pong table: a makeshift slab of wood with a layer of yellow paint on it, with a cutout of More brand cigarette cartons strapped on as a dividing net. On one end resides a single cardboard paddle, its handle formed hastily out of layers of tape. The floor is littered with disused, dented balls: the disjecta of games past. The sun casts a late-afternoon window frame shadow across the desolate interior. Day is done, no more fun.

    In another image, tomatoes seem

  • picks July 09, 2012

    Zhang Ding

    “Buddha Jumps over the Wall” is one of those legendarily impossible Cantonese dishes, taking hours or even days to concoct, and a veritable nightmare for vegans, consisting as it does of an avalanche of meat and fish ingredients, which vary slightly according to individual recipes. The meal takes its name from an apocryphal tale about a Buddhist monk who couldn’t resist the savory smell emitted from his next door neighbor’s crockery, and jumped right over the wall to demand a taste, momentarily abandoning his vegetarianism.

    Zhang Ding’s version of the soup consists of duck, pig, turtle, fish,

  • film May 09, 2012

    Boot Camp

    THE HALL WAS SET UP to cater to the trashy gay appetites of all who would trespass its borders over the three days in late April when “Camp/Anti-Camp,” a film festival–slash–academic conference–slash–performance orgy–slash–[fill in the blank] took over the Hebbel am Ufer 2 Theater, nestled on the banks of the Landwehr Canal in Berlin’s homey Kreuzberg district. Brushing past the obligatory beer bar, one was greeted with a live, functioning kitchen, courtesy of a duo calling itself Foodgasm (free chocolate muffins for all those willing to submit to a spanking). At the auditorium entrance, a book