COLUMNS

  • In the Wind

    ENCOUNTERS, BY DEFINITION, occur unexpectedly. Woven within the fabric of everyday life, like a tear, an encounter cracks the familiar. But how do you prompt this experience when the “encounters,” as the title of Timișoara’s current Art Encounters Biennial suggests, are expected to happen? One answer: you entwine the mystery of place. Located within the Banat, a geographical and historical region divided between Romania, Serbia, and Hungary, Timișoara has been defined by centuries of migration, both forced and voluntary, and is home to a deeply rooted, at times conflicted, ethnic diversity. (

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  • Sashay Away

    I HAD FORGOTTEN how brutal London can be. Brutal in the sense that there is nothing effortless about everyday life in this gray world capital. After four days of tubing, training, queuing, and sprinting around the seventeenth edition of the Frieze Art Fair, I was back on a plane across the big pond. Sinking into my seat, finally feeling somewhat at rest, I opened Benjamin Moser’s Susan Sontag biography to page forty-nine, where I had left off when my plane had touched down on the tarmac at Heathrow a few days prior: “I’m only interested in people engaged in a project of self-transformation,”

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  • Fan Dancers and Marabou Prancers

    AS A DRAG QUEEN, it’s easy for me to relate to the burlesque scene. Both worlds abound with larger-than-life exhibitionists, dazzling musical numbers, campy humor, punny names, and flashy female artifice. The big difference, of course, is that burlesque displays a heck of a lot more bouncing boobs, many of which were on display at the recent New York Burlesque Festival and its climactic Golden Pasties Awards.

    Founded by one of the scene’s most accomplished performers, Angie Pontani and events promoter Jen Gapay, the festival dates back to 2002, which is several years after the modern-day burlesque

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  • Dear World

    Part I. Youth Climate Strike in NYC

    September 19

     “Fossil Fuel to the Climate Strike? We should take public transport.”

     “We have a drag queen in heels in a 40 lb. wig. Tell her that.”

    STRIKING WITH GRETA’S MOM requires its own hair and makeup detail. Aside from Greta, only New York’s reigning drag queen Lady Bunny could part the sea of young strikers during last week’s blistering Friday, when #ClimateStrikeNYC protestors marched from Foley Square to Battery Park. It was as if Bunny’s presence completed the unfinished third act of Moses and Aaron by Arnold Schoenberg, who laconically noted about

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  • Desperately Seeking Sublimation

    I CAME TOO EARLY.

    Sex, like going out, carries the risk of the anticipation being a more visceral experience than consummation. Art is supposed to save us from this sad gambit, but when you mix all three—as at the opening of the Pornhub-sponsored exhibition “The Pleasure Principle” at Maccarone in Boyle Heights—you may end up sitting in your car for twenty minutes, wearing a strapless top that smooshes your boobs, waiting for the place to fill up, trying to feel the vibe.

    I had a sexting appointment with Karen Finley, one of the original NEA Four, as part of her Sext Me If You Can performance,

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  • Coup de Graz

    “STYRIAN AUTUMN SOUNDS LIKE BEER TENTS AND NATIONALISM,” a bike messenger said to me upon my return to Vienna from Graz, where I attended the Fifty-Second Steirischer Herbst, Europe’s oldest contemporary art festival. “It’s precisely the opposite,” I retorted. “Think cool graphic design and radical leftist politics—you can add quotes around ‘radical,’ depending on your temperament.” But is this time-honored event actually so incongruent with its rustic surroundings, the undeniably progressive typeface aside? Graz is a place where everything, including Ekaterina Degot’s program, walks the line

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  • Blurred Lines

    WHERE IS THE LINE between ideas and feelings? I dwelled on this blur when I arrived in Bogotá—an eleven-hour hop from London—to plunge straight into ARTBO 2019, the city’s fifteenth international art fair. The short-circuiting effects of jet lag, plus Bogotá’s infamous soroche, left me drifting between the booths, yet I quickly found this porousness mirrored in the fair itself, which showcased contemporary art from across South America. Certain themes began to emerge across the Corferias convention center: border crossings, loopholes in consensual reality (both political and bodily), counter-narratives

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  • Wings of Desire

    “THE LIGHT FROM THIS SCULPTURE IS PERFECT FOR SELFIES,” crooned Nicolas Endlicher, a DJ and cofounder of Herrensauna, a monthly queer techno party (its name translates to “male sauna”) at Tresor. It was the opening night of Berlin Art Week. We were at Julia Stoschek Collection, where WangShui debuted video installations intended to activate the “hallucinatory spaces” of transitional architectures. Around the corner at FRAGILE, I swapped notes with artist Dr. Lakra and dealer Ida Yang about the corporeal afterimage of techno—that midweek sensation of muscles still pulsing to the weekend’s BPM—as

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  • General Assembly

    THE BERGEN ASSEMBLY marked my first trip to Scandinavia, and as a Henry James fan I hope I may be forgiven if I play a bit of the wide-eyed American abroad, marveling at the tall Nordics with their precise beards and high-tech outerwear. Meanwhile, I had brought no umbrella to literally the rainiest city in Europe and shivered constantly under a dampening white denim jacket. It was also, for me, a rare trip to an international biennial, which (Venice notwithstanding) tends to come in different flavors than our American festival exhibitions—more discursive, more searching, more ragged, more

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  • Where Angels Fear to Tread

    I WAS A TOUCH DISPIRITED, then thwacked by nausea—and that was before New York Fashion Week started. It was not an auspicious beginning to what’s supposed to be the most . . . perhaps not wonderful, but certainly most telling time of the year, especially for those in touch with Virginia Woolf’s frock consciousness and harboring a serious concern for the soul’s window dressing—aka “fits”—or for those who just really personally identify with their place in a seating arrangement. As RuPaul once noted in his autobiography, “We’re all born naked, and the rest is drag.” So, what guises for cloaking

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  • Playful Slash Erotic

    IT BEGINS IN UTTER BLACKNESS. A Pierre Soulages kind of blackness, that is, uptown at Lévy Gorvy, where the nonagenarian French painter is being celebrated in advance of a major to-do at the Louvre later this year. I’m always impressed with, and a little confused by, the stamina of any artist who can find a winning formula and stick to it—Soulages has been making black abstractions exclusively since 1979—without succumbing to some deep boredom or soul-despair. The artist, says senior director Emilio Steinberger during press remarks, “is a bit of a unicorn”—in that he knew just about everyone,

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  • Counter Culture

    “IT’S AN INTERESTING MOMENT FOR REGIONALISM,” writer-curator Leah Triplett Harrington remarked one night at dinner. We were catching a breather after Nic Kay’s moving, sinuous concluding procession through the predominantly black and Latinx neighborhood that hosted the inaugural edition of Saint Louis’s Counterpublic triennial. A ravey closing party followed in the stained-glass church turned punk club that housed Cauleen Smith’s Sky Will Learn Sky, a stunning video and banner installation. Harrington was referring to the spate of new biennials in American cities such as Cleveland, Atlanta, and

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