COLUMNS

  • On and On and On

    ERIK MET ME for dinner in Stockholm, where I had a few hours to kill before my night train north. We sat alone in the large and self-consciously old-fashioned restaurant in the central station while a second wave of Covid-19 ravaged the Swedish capital. Unlike in Germany, establishments—and, crucially for my visit, exhibitions—remain open here. Throughout the pandemic, the state has declined to enforce the use of masks and social distancing, appealing instead to people’s sense of civic responsibility to control the virus, though the government is now reconsidering this strategy. “It sounded

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  • Gloves Off

    BACK IN JULY, after the pandemic in China eased due to draconian border control and contact tracing measures, the Chinese Super League was able to resume matches. People had been joking about how torturous it would be for the rest of the world to have only Chinese soccer games to watch—a running gag here on the mediocrity of the sport in this country. Earlier this month, Shanghai Art Week’s two main offerings, ART021 and West Bund Art & Design, seemed to be the only art fairs opening offline in the world. Unlike football games, they were not televised to the rest of the world.

    From November 9 to

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  • Rave New World

    “THE DANCE FLOOR is so much smaller than I remember.” This is the main feedback you’ll hear from visitors to the recently opened Boros x Berghain exhibition that fills Berlin’s old power plant–cum–legendary nightclub until it’s safe for techno-heads and leather-gays to return to their natural habitat. It used to take hours to get from one end to the other, or so it seemed. Now a small, wonderful Andro Wekua painting lends the space an almost domestic atmosphere. One of Anna Uddenberg’s mannequin sculptures humps the counter in the upstairs Panorama Bar; Sandra Mujinga’s tall hooded figures lurk

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  • Reservoir Dogs

    AFTER FOUR HOURS OF HUFFING MY OWN BREATH under a mask on the bus from Vilnius, stepping out in Latvia’s capital for the second Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art (Riboca) felt like entering a pre-Covid wonderland: Masks were not seen anywhere, bars were full, and foreign languages spilled out into the streets. The surrealism intensified the next morning, when guests from around the world(!), their brains buzzing from the mimosas on offer, were greeted by Riboca’s founder, director, and, finally, the curator Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel under Ugo Rondinone’s rainbow-painted plywood poem

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  • Low Relief

    I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, dear reader, but I really have not been getting out much. I hunkered down the second week in March, resurfaced briefly for some protests, and then resumed the shadowy, unproductive, vaguely counterfactual Covid-era life—a weird, slow-dripping speedball of paranoia and complacence topped off with knifing hangovers of despair. It’s gotten a little old. Therefore, when asked by the editors to report back from Thursday’s L.E.S. Summer Night—an evening of gently extended hours among some thirty-odd Lower East Side pandemic-parched galleries waiting open-mouthed for a quenching

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  • Agit Chop

    FOR THREE WEEKS, a six-block radius in Seattle was one of the freest spaces in America. The Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) was never planned—rather, it sprang up spontaneously after the police, who had violently suppressed the Black Lives Matter movement at their door for weeks, were ordered to abandon their own precinct. Protesters decided to pitch tents and set up an encampment and, after some deliberation, came up with a list of demands, including defunding the Seattle Police Department by 50 percent. As this no-cop zone flourished into a lively village, local artists including Kreau,

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  • Washington Postcard

    A VIDEO PROJECTION on the facade of the US Department of Justice building played to an audience of one for its debut last week in Washington, DC.

    Moments after the light beam touched the limestone, an agent from the US Department of Homeland Security arrived, demanding to know who the projectionists were with. They weren’t “with” anybody, one of the four of them said. The agent made a call on a radio. He put his face in their faces. He shouted. Military jeeps swept down Pennsylvania Avenue, but they glided past the tense nighttime scene.

    The standoff lasted only minutes. The projection squad

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  • Signs Are Everywhere

    BEFORE ANYONE GOT STARVED ENOUGH to sneak out for a fuck or a socially distanced porch hang, we took drives. On a recent Saturday, I visited the Westside edition of “Drive-By-Art,” an outdoor exhibition billed as “public art in this moment of social distancing” and organized by Warren Neidich, Renee Petropoulos, Michael Slenske, and Anuradha Vikram. On the way, I passed through Silver Lake and Echo Park, where a number of Artemisa Clark’s replicas of posters from New York in 1987—when Carl Andre was on trial for second-degree murder of his wife, Ana Mendieta—remained stapled to telephone poles

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  • Say Anything

    MY FAVORITE WORK OF ART so far this year was made by anonymous Chinese netizens: They took the transcript of a 404’d interview with the nation’s earliest Covid-19 whistleblower and reuploaded it on WeChat in various “useless” codes, including HEX, emoji, oracle bone script, and one of J. R. R. Tolkien’s invented languages, Sindarin. Their ideal audience, one imagines, was the censors themselves.

    At the Timezone 8 Café in the 798 Art District on May 22, the first day of Gallery Weekend Beijing, I briefly sat in on a meal with curator Zhang Hanlu, artist Wang Tuo, and critic Yang Beichen, who were

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  • Lights On

    FOR ALL ITS STRIVING, Houston has long struggled to make claims for art-world preeminence. That changed last Saturday, when the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, became the first major American museum to reopen its doors to the general public after closing in mid-March to help stem the spread of Covid-19. The MFAH was positioned to make this leap due to a combination—magical or nefarious, depending on one’s view—of the state’s gung ho Republican governor, the city’s hygiene-friendly sprawl and competent Democratic leadership, and museum director Gary Tinterow’s unflagging ambition to keep up

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  • Hello Again

    IT’S BERLIN GALLERY WEEKEND, or week seven of corona quarantine, which means face masks are obligatory on public transport and in shops, and I’m busy with the third volume of Proust and how-tos for making schnitzel zu Hause. Meanwhile, leaving the house is the new Instagram: potentially bad for your health, but a great source of affirmation, where sanitary salutations—foot and elbow pumps—accumulate like Likes. “We are walking on thin ice,” reminded Mutti Merkel as galleries started reopening last week. But everyone is so happy to see you. At Galerie Barbara Weiss, Bärbel Trautwein and Daniel

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  • 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

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