PRINT September 2022


Spread from Booth Tarkington’s Penrod (Grosset & Dunlap/Doubleday, Page & Co., 1914). Illustration: Gordon Grant.


I found Booth Tarkington’s Penrod tucked away in my parents’ library, on a shelf that I was not supposed to reach until I was at least tall enough to see its contents. But I found it much sooner than that, around the time I was nearing Penrod’s age of eleven. In every respect, I was and remain Penrod, as well as his two friends Herman and his younger tongue-tied brother, Verman, who live with their family across the alley from Penrod’s family’s backyard. I am most especially Verman when he takes revenge on Rupe Collins, a local bully, for calling him and Herman “nigs” by earnestly undertaking to cut off Rupe’s legs with a lawnmower and chop the rest of him into bite-size chunks using assorted gardening implements (a lath, a scythe, a rake). Although my own African forebears were mostly Nigerian rather than Congolese, I do feel that a family resemblance can be credibly stipulated. Whenever the lights go out in my life, I recur to this inspiring and deeply satisfying narrative—for laughter, solace, vicarious pleasure, and a reminder that some prose writing can transcend the racist limitations of its author.

Adrian Piper is an artist and philosopher based in Berlin.

Jorge Luis Borges, June 1980. Photo: Paola Agosti/Opale/Bridgeman Images.


I owe the discovery of Uqbar to the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopedia. The mirror troubled the far end of a hallway in a large country house . . . down at that far end of the hallway the mirror hovered, shadowing us . . . we discovered (very late at night such a discovery is inevitable) that there is something monstrous about mirrors.
—Fragments from Jorge Luis Borges’s “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” (1940)

In the mid-1960s, I memorized all references to mirrors in Borges’s Labyrinths and recited them dressed in a mirrored costume, swaying slightly in place, mirrors clinking. This was the first text in my work. And my first performance, the mirror my first object as prop. A metaphor continuing with video, the monitor as ongoing mirror. I was and still am inspired by the writing of Borges, who reveals the darkness underlying: Mirrors are not innocent.

Joan Jonas is an artist living in New York.

Mentholated Pond pre-dessert, El Bulli, Roses, Spain, ca. 2009.


I always return to my dining experience at El Bulli in 2011, which became the zygote for my fascination with metabolic art. This was no ordinary meal but a full-throttle, truly transformational metabolic art-sensorial experience that lasted for seven hours and forty-two courses. Every phase was saturated in riveting anticipation: reading about the restaurant, looking at pictures of the food and fantasizing for months before finally sending a request to dine, waiting an agonizing full year to get permission, finally making the fated expedition to Roses, Spain. I remember driving through the nearby park and seeing the gorgeous Badia de Montjoi. The restaurant itself, with its warm tones, was like a Luis Buñuel film set. And so began the wildest dinner of my life.

The repast was peppered with strange delights, jolts, and gastrointestinal roller coasters. I remember a hollow frozen Gorgonzola globe you had to crack open. Also a surrealist jamon sandwich made of foam bread slices and some jamon gelée. But the real Rosebud moment was a haunting dish called Mentholated Pond, which later became the conceptual apparatus for my 2015 MIT List exhibition. It was a palate cleanser in a layer of ice sprinkled with matcha and brown sugar. As I broke through the frozen surface, a shocking blast of menthol sprayed up into my face.

I finally fulfilled a longtime dream in 2019 when I got the chance to meet Ferran Adrià and tour his property and archives. The years of exhaustive research he’d put into his cuisine and the modernist tools he’d developed to serve it were all intensely fascinating and superbly documented. I felt like I was being given some kind of secret cheat codes, the methods behind the work of a creative genius.

Anicka Yi is an artist based in New York.

Cover of Madonna’s Ray of Light (Maverick Records, 1998).


I’m convinced that without the melody that accompanied my ABCs, I would never have memorized the English alphabet. My memory is sonic, and while pictures have become tools to validate and propel me forward, it is sound that beckons me back––back into the dream, back into childhood fantasy and dancing barefoot in the kitchen, back onto the road and the long drives cross-country, back to the beach and islands of saltwater kisses. Just as there is “good art,” there is “good music.” A dangerous sentiment, to be sure, but I provoke and look to be provoked, compelled, transported, and mastered by masters of the craft. We witness a picture hung inside the white box transform, as if by magic. We lift our spirits with hymns of joy and drive deeper into sorrow with brokenhearted ballads. Captured like a genie in a bottle, the vibration of the human condition can be framed and commodified.

Madonna’s Ray of Light (1998) was the first object I stole. I needed to possess it. To study the symphonic landscape, alone, on repeat, louder and louder, to dissect the pattern of repetition. The disc itself may even have started my CD collection. I remember turning over the jewel case in my hands––the turquoise cover featuring a woman, sun-kissed in silk, hidden behind golden ringlets of windswept hair. Little did I know this was only an iteration of the woman––the woman who like me would chameleon again, who like me looked for liberation on the dance floor, who like me was asking to be loved. I can’t read music, but I could teach you the melody, could improvise and harmonize in private duet. I won’t remember your birthday, but I’ll remember every lyric on that album. And I’m not sorry. Pitch preserved in a cappella, spoken softly into the mirror under a towel of hair. Never forget who you are, little star. In 1998, I met Madonna and my first iteration.

Martine Gutierrez is a transdisciplinary artist performing, writing, composing, and directing elaborate narrative scenes to subvert pop-cultural tropes in the exploration of identity.