COLUMNS

  • 1000 WORDS: YINKA SHONIBARE

    King Gustav III of Sweden (1746–1792), who waged and won a war against Russia, was a keen amateur actor and a figure of ambiguous sexuality. That a masked ball at the Royal Opera served as the scene for his death by an assassin’s hand gave his demise an appropriately symbolic twist. Yinka Shonibare’s first film, Un Ballo in Maschera, 2004, a coproduction by Swedish Television and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, is a choreography based on the king’s assassination, featuring thirty dancers attired in Shonibare’s trademark pseudo-African batik. Filmed at Confidencen, a private theater previously

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  • 1000 WORDS: MARK DION

    Throughout his career, Mark Dion has engaged classificatory systems in both the natural sciences and museological practices, underscoring not only how we order the messy boundaries between nature and culture, but also the more contested dynamics of control and exclusion manifested by acts of social policy and cultural preservation. He has collected plant, rock, and animal specimens in locales as diverse as the Amazon and New York’s Chinatown; rearranged the holdings of natural and cultural history museums in Switzerland and Spain; and conducted archaeological digs in New England and London. Now

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  • 1000 WORDS: ANTHONY McCALL

    More than thirty years after British-born artist Anthony McCall created his now-legendary Line Describing a Cone, the first of his “solid light” films, the elegantly simple 1973 work—a projected white dot that slowly grows over thirty minutes into a circular line on the facing wall, eventually filling the dark space with a conical “volume” whose vivid corporality is a beguiling trick of light and atmosphere—remains one of postwar art’s signal explorations of perceptual boundary states. Light and dark, stasis and movement, substance and immateriality, cinema and sculpture: As with all McCall’s

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  • 1000 WORDS: MATTHEW BARNEY

    Anyone who knows (and who doesn’t?) Matthew Barney’s recently concluded Cremaster cycle, with its baroque symbolic systems and rituals of performance, should be at least partially primed for De Lama Lâmina (From Mud, a Blade), a collaboration between the artist and American-Brazilian musician Arto Lindsay for this year’s Carnival in the Bahian city of Salvador. Staged as a performance but scripted and filmed for possible future exhibition, the work is intriguing, not in the least because Barney’s identification with the Cremaster films has been so extreme, a decade-long realigning of art production

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  • 1000 WORDS: ELLEN GALLAGHER

    For the past decade, Ellen Gallagher has charted the contours of worlds both fantastic and unimaginably real, where minstrel-show ephemera contaminate otherwise elegant compositions to the visible chagrin of blushing penmanship paper; the dark history of the Middle Passage is refracted through a watery heterotopia of swirling oil and ink; and bulbous lips and bulging eyes cling stealthily to the icy porcelain geometry of a mock jungle gym. All the while unburdened by the dictates of identity politics (for which she has too often been cast as a cipher), Gallagher has recently turned her attention

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  • 1000 WORDS: LIISA ROBERTS

    Liisa Roberts appears this month in the 2004 Whitney Biennial with a project that has emerged, in true Duchampian fashion, definitively unfinished. The Finnish-American artist’s What’s the Time in Vyborg?, initiated in 2000, takes as its starting point that city’s municipal library, designed by Alvar Aalto in 1927 and completed in 1935, symbolizing the modernist aspirations of a newly independent Finnish state (Vyborg, then Finland’s second largest city, was called Viipuri at the time, changing names when annexed by the Soviets in 1944). Severely damaged during the war, the library was subsequently

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  • 1000 WORDS: MARC CAMILLE CHAIMOWICZ

    After moving from his native Paris as a boy, Marc Camille Chaimowicz spent the remainder of his youth in the somewhat less exciting surroundings of English new-town suburbia, before going on to art school. His family’s move, coming as it did in the aftermath of World War II, was felt as a bizarre wrench that continues to inform his work. He now divides his time between London and Dijon. With a deep interest in France’s modernist literary legacy yet equally alive to subtle shifts in the terrain of contemporary pop culture, Chaimowicz has, since the early ’70s, defied straightforward categorization

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  • 1000 WORDS: PAUL McCARTHY

    If politics acquaints a man with strange bedfellows, they become stranger still in the hands of Paul McCarthy, whose latest project, Piccadilly Circus, 2003, stars George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, and England’s late Queen Mother (in triplicate). McCarthy filters Bush’s grave new world order through his trademark carnivalesque: Piccadilly’s protagonists wear clown shoes, speak in glossolalia, and cover one another with viscous goo. Exhibited last fall to open Hauser & Wirth’s new London space in a historic former bank, a listed Lutyens building on Piccadilly, the installation filled three floors;

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  • 1000 WORDS: FABIAN MARCACCIO

    Born in Argentina, Fabian Marcaccio has lived and worked in New York City since the late 1980s, although many of his larger exhibitions have been in Europe, including “Multi-Site Paintant” at last year’s Documenta 11, and “Paintant Stories,” which appeared at museums in Cologne and Stuttgart in 2000. His life and career take him all over the world, and he works on a scale to match: This past spring he created a huge outdoor project on a beach in Belgium that addresses everything from abstract painting to politics.

    Some painters continue to think intently about the history and meaning of painting

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  • 1000 WORDS: TACITA DEAN

    In the voice-over to Sans Soleil (1982), Chris Marker offers a typically aphoristic remark: “We do not remember; we rewrite memory much as history is rewritten.” The linkage between history and memory, their common constructedness, is also evident in the films of Tacita Dean, who, while ostensibly celebrating the formal languages of structural film—duration, framing, sound, and editing—engages the process of memory and resignification that sets in when history lets go of its protagonists, and their actions, objects, and characters become forgotten. Almost all of Dean’s films center around one

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  • 1000 WORDS: YANG FUDONG

    At the 50th Venice Biennale, Shanghai-based artist Yang Fudong presented The Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest, 2003, the first part of his new filmic pentalogy, The Seven Intellectuals, an adaptation of the traditional Chinese stories known as “The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove.” The first installment (shot in 35 mm black and white) begins the series’ exploration of the ambiguous position of intellectuals in contemporary China—their longing for individual freedom in the shifting context of an emerging capitalist economy. Yang, who was born in 1971 in Beijing and graduated from the China

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  • 1000 WORDS: JENNIFER PASTOR

    In April, I met Jennifer Pastor at Carlson & Co., a high-end fabrication facility in the San Fernando Valley where, with a crew of technical assistants, she was putting the finishing touches on a large sculpture titled The Perfect Ride, 2003—an incredibly odd yet credible translation of a dam, which would soon be shipped to the Venice Biennale for its debut. Morphing between a sort of sci-fi behemoth and fantastic hot rod, the work comprised everything from sections of surrounding hillside to a river, with the baroque convolutions of an elegant water-circulation system begging for scrupulous

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