COLUMNS

  • Picture People

    A COLLECTOR OF FAMILY PORTRAITURE was telling me that these days nobody wants to prove Mark Twain right. “You do know the Twain quote, don’t you?” It was Sunday morning, and the nonchurchgoing milled about the Mercantile—Cincinnati’s toniest library—waiting for Teju Cole to begin a talk. The collector of family portraiture and I were discussing the city’s ascendency as a cultural hub. I said yes (“Of course!”) but I had sort of forgotten. Later, I Googled the full quote: “When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it’s always twenty years behind the times.” Now as

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  • Do You Feel Free Now?

    ON MONDAY AFTERNOON, Chelsea Manning arrived at the Royal Institution of Great Britain on Albemarle Street for her first public appearance in the UK.

    She had flown into London the morning prior, accompanied by two immigration lawyers in case she was detained. Last year, Manning was denied entry to Canada, and this August an Australian tour had to be conducted via video from Auckland after a “delay” in the decision to grant her a visa. She was met at the airport by ICA director Stefan Kalmár, who arranged the trip and Monday’s conversation with the aid of a cast including Vivienne Westwood; the

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  • Swan Song

    DEVONTÉ HYNES’S SONGS always remind me of a phrase my grandmother would say when people—and there were dozens of them—would share a moment of deep reflection or truth with her. She’d echo their words with “Take ’em to church, honey”—not because their truth posed any religious reference but because of the nature and universality of what was being expressed. Taking someone to church is a means of sharing one’s faith and teaching one’s gospel. Hynes’s songs serve as emotional guides to process heartache, insecurities, and selfhood, but experiencing his latest tour, under his long-term moniker Blood

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  • Fair and Folly

    “I HOPE IT ISN’T TOO DISTURBING,” a well-dressed white woman said to her friend as they considered whether to enter a sound installation about police violence at the Eleventh Joburg Art Fair earlier this month. The installation, placed right by the entrance to the fair, was the work of Haroon Gunn-Salie, the 2018 winner of the fair’s annual FNB Art Prize. It featured a black box in which an immersive soundscape was suspended from the ceiling, making listeners feel as if they were underground. We sat on the floor, and soon the voices of mine workers washed over us, in an anti-apartheid protest

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  • Remember the Time

    TAXI DRIVERS IN KOREA DON’T TALK MUCH, and with the fear of confusing them even further, I’ve learned to just hand them my phone and help as they put on their reading glasses to zoom in on my destination. While being transported around Gwangju and Seoul earlier this month, I thought of last year’s hugely popular South Korean film A Taxi Driver and Chia-En Jao’s 2016 video Taxi. But, really, the first thing you notice in these cities is that Google Maps does not work. You can search for your destination and see your position, but the app cannot provide a route. This, upon further research, is

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  • Apocalypstick!

    FIRST CAME WOODSTOCK, the legendary 1969 hippie festival. Then came Wigstock, the world’s foremost drag queen festival, which reigned annually in New York City from 1984 to 2003. A few small-scale revivals have followed, but it wasn’t until September 1 that the event got the spectacular comeback it deserved. The seven-hour extravaganza, dubbed Wigstock H.20, was held on the sprawling rooftop of Pier 17, a five-story complex jutting out on the East River and featuring stunning cityscape views.

    As always, the format was a marathon variety show hosted and curated by Wigstock’s figurehead, Lady Bunny,

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  • Down in Front

    BEFORE THE CUYAHOGA RIVER CAUGHT FIRE, searing into the public’s imagination an unfair but dogged metaphor for a Cleveland in decline, Tennessee Williams is rumored to have delivered a sicker burn: “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” The claim isn’t entirely without truth. In 2018, Cleveland—with its deindustrialization, police violence, segregation, and purple politics—is a microcosm for “The American City,” which is in fact the subtitle of the inaugural edition of FRONT, a multimillion-dollar international triennial that

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  • Everything Old Is New Again

    ONE REASON I’VE ALWAYS LOVED THIS PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL is the faded splendor of the city itself. An ancient limestone gem of some fifty thousand inhabitants, Arles lies along the Rhône River, bordering the swamps of the Camargue. Should you go, mosquito repellent is a must for Arles’s nights. Roman remnants, such as the arena and the theater, silently compete with early Christian and Romanesque churches. Residential homes and nineteenth-century industrial buildings further bridge the eras. During the opening week at the beginning of July, many of these venues hosted events and workshops, book

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  • Braving the Elements

    AROUND LUNCHTIME ON THE LAST THURSDAY IN JUNE, I found myself at a table on a terrace with an absurdly beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea. Behind me was the kind of low-slung corporate resort hotel that is typical of La Marsa, one of several suburban tourist towns east of the capital of Tunisia, Tunis. I scanned the horizon from left to right. A thin dark line separated the deep blue sky from a vast expanse of light sparkling turquoise. It was a ridiculous sight, a shimmering paradise, laughable in its right-there realness. I was distractedly sharing a meal with about a dozen people, flanked

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  • Breathe In

    “STOP TALKING.”

    “Stop talking.”

    “Stop talking.”

    “No, really, stop talking.”

    Unusually for an auctioneer—albeit a very part-time one—White Columns director and chief curator Matthew Higgs isn’t one to raise his voice. And his English wit is sufficiently dry that American ears often have difficulty in distinguishing a genuine word from an ironic one. So it took him a few attempts to convince the crowd at the nonprofit institution’s recent benefit auction that his characteristically affectless request was meant to be taken seriously. Eventually, however, things settled down and bidding on

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  • Attention Deficit

    ON A RECENT MONDAY EVENING, a few hundred people who loved the late composer and lyricist Michael Friedman assembled at Joe’s Pub in New York for the Song Makes a Space, a benefit concert of his work organized by the Civilians, the company Friedman cofounded with Steve Cosson. The night’s goal was to raise money for the Michael Friedman Legacy Fund, which will finance the proper archiving of his materials and the recording of his unrecorded music, so they can be housed at the New York Public Library.

    “The song makes a space” is a line from the final number of The Fortress of Solitude, a 2014

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  • Soft Ruins

    ON A WHITE MARBLE COLUMN, topped by the goddess Athena, that presides over the Pedion Areos Park in Athens, someone has scrawled in black an anarchy symbol. A few steps farther—under lush green trees down Mavromateon Street, past dozens of stray cats haunting the shadows cast by grand bourgeois apartment buildings—are clusters of humans talking under the streetlights in the sticky humidity of the June night. It’s only when you get close do you see they’re cooking and smoking heroin, tongues of flame licking at glass tubes. Beaming down from the fifth floor of one of the buildings, a neon heart

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