PRINT January 2018

Editor’s Letter

The Power of Good-Bye

Kia LaBeija, untitled, 2017, ink-jet print, dimensions variable.

I SHOWED UP on this magazine’s doorstep twelve years ago. I came cold, via a classified ad for an editorial assistant on some antique website called I had no connections, was broke and unworthy. I had all the wrong education and just some hot faith in art.

I ditched the education and kept the faith.

That faith has been useful lately, with a predatory tyrant wheezing and emitting bleak transmissions to the world from the control room like some horrible Reddit monster. I think about how he’s really just a tired and sad old man who like so many tired and sad men feels that if he could just … stay alive … long enough … and frighten enough people, all that fear and attention might help him to feel he won’t die.

When will it just die?

News now is fueled by the drives of angry or sad or self-loathing men who are scarring and scarred by their style of being, their embrace of a masculinity that holds power tight in its chest and pretends that it’s immanent. Such power gives nothing and feeds nothing except an incapacity to give a fuck. This asthmatic masculinity—the eclipse of what Paul B. Preciado in this issue calls “baroque technopatriarchy”—is pervasive and yet only one of many masculinities, some of them good and useful. It is a crippling disability, and perhaps we need to name it as such and open treatment centers to address it as we would a wounded animal or a toxic spill.

Then again, what treatments have these men offered us?

Anger is useful too. It is a battery and it is scissors and a shovel. There’s an anger that shines and flatters, makes big things look small and seemingly ancient structures look like old sheets flapping in some frozen night’s wind.

I am lucky in these times to be among brilliant people who know the uses and limits of anger, staff and colleagues in whom I believe, who inspire in their intelligence and bravery and desire to do right by others and to find new ways to be and to organize power. We’re still figuring things out at Artforum, as one sad man I once knew goes off, faces a fate of his own making. I don’t yet know how this future “us” is supposed to look. But we will listen, and we will try, and when we mess up we’ll be in the mess together.

I WANTED in this issue, my first as editor, to hear from artists and writers what they make of power. How do they use, without abusing, power when they have it. I wanted to recall the potent combative and curative forces of representation, to identify techniques for showing the world a better idea about what it should be.

Some of these people I’ve admired for as long as I can remember knowing art. Among them is Nan Goldin. I found her in Los Angeles one evening, idle, in an artist friend’s library, many summers ago. All great discoveries should emerge accidentally, from crashing with a friend. My discovery that night was The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. That book and its accompanying slide show have destroyed and lifted me in more libraries and galleries and museums than I deserve to have seen it in. It was perhaps my favorite work of art until I saw Goldin’s The Other Side, and since then I just wait for her to show me my next favorite thing.

Wherever she is she gives us her truth. Sometimes it is the beautiful mundane or the beautiful sad. Usually it is nonetheless beautiful. What she shows us in these pages has nothing to do, as far as I can tell, with beauty. It involves a kind of pain that can’t be transcended. Goldin’s addiction is also our epidemic, and the forces she holds responsible include a family, not as private as they used to be, that has profited directly from the unspeakable pain of others.

Sometimes you discover new artists, and their sight is a gift. A winter ago, in Chicago for the holidays, we took my boyfriend’s mom’s suggestion and went down the street to a shuttered bank retrofitted for a traveling exhibition called “Art AIDS America.” We spent hours there, becoming bleary-eyed, seeing things as if for the first time, and if it hadn’t been unmissable I might have missed it: a wall of photographs by an artist I immediately needed to know. Her name was Kia LaBeija.

When the young mother of the House of LaBeija came into Artforum’s offices last month, attended by her partner Taina Larot and the curator Alex Fialho, to work with us on her portfolio, I felt that rare burst of kismet. There is something marvelous and special about her self-portraits. Glamour dresses up the oldest wounds. She is an actress playing herself whole, and this somehow makes it so. I’ve spent a long time being weary of self-help and self-actualization, have acquired over the years a maybe unhealthy skepticism of transvaluation, of anything cathartic, really. I think I’m getting over that now.

David Velasco