Travis Jeppesen

  • 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

  • film April 05, 2012

    Transformers Too

    WITH ITS FUTURE UNCERTAIN owing to recent Arts Council funding cuts, the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival (March 23–April 1) returned with a bang this year, defying anyone who conjectured that it might lose its place as the cream of the queer-festival-circuit crop. In fact, the only real complaint heard among foreign delegates was that hardly anyone stepped foot outside the British Film Institute all week—a testament to the cornucopia of temptations comprising this year’s program.

    Indeed, connoisseurs and cognoscenti had a lot to juggle: a newly restored offering of Peter de Rome’s Super 8 porn

  • film February 27, 2012

    Past Lives

    THE BERLINALE’S final week jerked to a close, with most of the Saturday afternoon screenings half-empty due to a citywide transit strike, only to be madly replenished on Sunday’s Audience Day, whose ticketing system favors the general public rather than festival badges. Half-felt tips, bets, and assertions were traded among friends and industry insiders, but no single endorsement resounded. Consensus affirmed that, while not terrible, this year’s festival featured a less-than-spectacular program. There was a discernible lack of gut-punching “Mmph!” moments, a fact that gradually gave even the

  • film February 16, 2012

    Relationship Aesthetics

    IN RETROSPECT, 2011 was a great year for cinema. That year’s Berlinale memorably served as a barometer for bold statements, which ranged from Béla Tarr’s stark essay on finitude, The Turin Horse, to the sweeping AIDS documentary We Were Here. The prospects for 2012 are rather more humble, if the current edition of the Berlinale (or at least what I’d seen by its halfway mark) is any indication.

    One of the more pervasive trends is a shift away from the macro (large, worldly issues) and toward the micro (personal, domestic crises). Is this to be the year of the Relationship Movie? Two films that

  • film January 11, 2012

    Burroughs Deep

    BY THE TIME of his death in 1997, William S. Burroughs had achieved something that very few figures ever manage: He had become supra-human, a living, livid symbol. Only Burroughs’s own name can unite such disparate activities, output, and stances: writer, murderer, painter, junkie, public commentator, cultural critic, concept engineer. In addition to changing the face of literature, exploding the craft’s lexicon of possibilities with his early work, he redefined the role of the public intellectual, becoming his own creation, an “antillectual” who rebuffed even those countercultural movements

  • film November 07, 2011

    Real Change

    OUT OF BASIC PRACTICALITY, most festivals are content to build their programs on a “best of” format based on works submitted. This year’s DocLisboa, however, took a more ambitious curatorial approach: Any path one took through the hundred-plus films on offer guaranteed the opportunity to graduate with a new thesis on both the history and the current state of documentary film. While this will undoubtedly cement the festival’s reputation as an affair designed for fetishists of the genre, beyond merely filmic concerns, its framing by retrospectives of Harun Farocki and Jean Rouch—representing

  • film October 24, 2011

    School’s Out

    DECADES. They’re so much fun to look at from the outside, so miserable to inhabit. Nostalgia—commonly frowned on by intellectuals and forward-thinking folk—actually allows us to be in and out simultaneously, which might account for the enduring popularity of the nostalgia flick.

    Rewatching a film like Dazed and Confused eighteen years after its release means being lucky enough to have scored two tabs of nostalgia stuck together. For Richard Linklater’s second feature is just as much about the 1990s as it is about the ’70s—a fact that might have been lost on us at the time it hit theaters in 1993,

  • picks October 06, 2011

    Sergej Jensen

    Two thousand eleven has proved to be a volatile year for painting, with the deaths of some of the greatest brush wielders since Picasso (Lucian Freud and Cy Twombly), a return to abstraction, and continuing talk about the dematerialization and despecification of the medium. Sergej Jensen is a not-so-hidden referent here, if only because he continues to work within the framework of painting—extending his fabrics canvaslike on stretchers and hanging them up on the wall—while only occasionally using paint itself, preferring chance and accident in rendering what nonetheless end up looking like

  • film October 03, 2011

    Action Painting

    FILMING AN ARTIST AT WORK is not merely a challenge for the filmmaker but a potential trauma for the subject. Indeed, the dual process of scrutinizing and recording an act that is meant to be private amplifies the artist’s self-consciousness—and the effects can be detrimental. Legendarily, it drove Jackson Pollock to alcoholic relapse, eventually killing him. The key to a satisfying encounter between filmmaker and artist could be the trust that emerges out of a mutual understanding of the creative process; it is no coincidence that one of the few successful experiments in this regard happens to

  • diary September 15, 2011

    Alphabet City

    BERLIN IS MOSTLY RELAXING IN SEPTEMBER. As you walk through the graffiti-splattered streets, everything somehow looks beautiful when it begins to die—the leaves on the trees, the summer that never seemed to arrive this year—and then, suddenly, the Kunst Herbst arrives like a caffeinated jolt from an unexpectedly strong coffee. Of course, there’s no Art Forum fair this year to welcome the art-lusting masses back to town, but to be honest, it is not sorely missed. “Berlin is not an art fair town” was the refrain I heard repeatedly throughout the week from dealers and artists alike. And so Art

  • film September 15, 2011

    Real Deal

    I IMAGINE THOSE WHO had written off Cam Archer as yet another Gus Van Sant acolyte after seeing his debut, Wild Tigers I Have Known (2006), will be in for a shock when confronted with his latest film, Shit Year (2011), a mature work with a distinct, idiosyncratic approach to difficult questions.

    The film is ostensibly about Colleen West (Ellen Barkin), a middle-aged actress retiring from the industry and settling into a life of intensive self-isolation in a forest cabin. This deceptively simple premise serves as a convincing departure point for a prolonged meditation on solitude: Shit Year shows

  • picks September 13, 2011

    Max Beckmann

    For Max Beckmann, self-portraiture was a vehicle, a search for truth through physical representation. The present exhibition has gathered a handful of Beckmann’s several hundred graphic works, most of which are self-portraits, unveiling the narrative of one artist’s life—the autobiography of a face—through the brutalities of the first half of the twentieth century.

    In the earliest portrait, dating from 1904, the twenty-year-old artist is depicted with an earnestness and directness; to call it “innocent” would perhaps be going too far, but a certain glow in his eyes reveals a precarious wisdom.

  • picks August 22, 2011

    “Fly Through the Troposphere”

    With a focus on a representative handful of emerging Chinese painters, “Fly Through the Troposphere” is a thoughtful illustration of a pivotal transitional moment in the country’s history, and it indicates the sheer breadth, stylistic variety, and future possibilities of painting among China’s youngest generation of artists. For example, Qin Qi works in very large scales, often with an impasto so thick that it might very well come across in reproduction; his Fairy Palace, 2011, is a chaotic landscape of indefinable junk crowned at the top with a traditional gazebo and a crowing duck, its proud