COLUMNS

  • No Fun

    10 AM ON THURSDAY, March 5, 2020: That was when I was supposed to have a coffee in Tribeca with the artists who use the pseudonyms Eva and Franco Mattes. I would be in town for the art fairs, and scheduling this meeting with the Italian duo, who are based in New York, was my consolation for missing “What Has Been Seen,” their survey at the Phi Foundation for Contemporary Art in Montreal. Before Facebook transformed the internet into a place where we use our real (or “real”) names, Eva and Franco began making Net art under the moniker 0100101110101101.org, focusing on how identities and information

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  • Helter Shelter

    My first impulse when this all began was to buy groceries. My second was to see how people were doing. The art world, for all its flaws and fissures, is a community, and it’s the one I’ve got. When its trappings recede in a time like this—as if there were any time like this, exactly—you’re left with the people. I’ll be talking to some of them over the next couple of weeks, seeing how they're doing materially, emotionally, physically, financially, and so on.

    —Domenick Ammirati

    FOR THE PAST FEW YEARS, I’ve been living illegally in the leaky garage of a former funeral parlor, which had been converted

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  • Letter from Tokyo

    THINGS HAVE SEEMED CALM in Tokyo during the pandemic. I am tempted to write ominously calm, but in all honesty, things do not feel ominous to me—and this absence of ominousness is what is so discomposing. Yes, there is the constant hum of anxiety emanating from the television, where ongoing criticism of the government’s prevention and containment measures are heard, and where pundits speculate on how the postponement of the Olympics will impact the economy. But everyday life goes on, even despite warnings about a second wave of cases: people dine out, ride trams, and even stop by the galleries

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  • The Losers Conspiracy

    I GOT SICK IN PARIS on Wednesday, March 11, before the French government ordered the confinement of the population, and when I got up on March 19, a bit more than a week later, the world had changed. When I went to my bed, the world was close, collective, viscous, and dirty. When I got out of bed, it had become distant, individual, dry, and hygienic. During the sickness, I was unable to assess what was happening from a political and economic point of view because the fever and the discomfort took hold of my vital energy. No one can be philosophical with an exploding head. From time to time, I

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  • Maintenance Work

    THERE HAVE BEEN harrowing interviews with doctors, sobering podcast hits by experts, and on-the-ground reporting, but when it comes to images of the coronavirus pandemic, the defining ones have been almost entirely ancillary, at least a step removed from the actual devastation. That has made it difficult to grasp its human toll. Many funerals occur without mourners, the sick deserve their privacy, and cartoon renderings of COVID-19 baffle. And so the most visible images related to the crisis have been the time-lapse videos of China speedily building hospitals, the footage of Italians singing

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  • Letter from Spain

    THREE WEEKS AGO, ARCO art fair closed in the same pavilions on the outskirts of Madrid that have just reopened as an emergency field hospital. It will treat mild COVID-19 and allow regular hospitals to cope and focus on the more serious cases.

    Three weeks ago, I couldn’t have imagined I’d be writing the above words.

    But in a matter of days that feel like centuries, Spain has shifted from apparent normality to an officially declared state of alarm accompanied by rigorous domestic confinement and war economy measures announced by a government that, last Sunday, extended the mandatory isolation period

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  • Our Crown

    “ALL OF HUMANITY’S PROBLEMS stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” wrote Blaise Pascal, but it is the peculiar trick of his—will it do anymore to call it “Occidental”?—culture, whose principles and values have crept in everywhere, to make it seem as though it invented the idea that any of us belong in a room alone ever, for any reason. 

    Yet here we are, living out the apotheosis of that. And whether we’re in the room alone or not, the psychological task, the spiritual task has been universalized. In order to handle it, the luckiest among us—those of us who are staring down

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  • Weapon of Choice

    A DECADE AGO, while living in Houston, Texas, I volunteered as a patient escort at the city’s Planned Parenthood downtown office. Then located on a busy street, the reproductive-care clinic’s public location attracted a diverse cross-section of the anti-choice movement. The scenes outside the office ranged from the bizarre to the ghoulish. In a modern interpretation of the Battle of Jericho, one man circled the building seven times every afternoon and blew on a shofar, in hopes that the clinic would crumble to the ground. Busloads of students from religious high schools in Houston’s conservative

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  • Zero Hour

    IN LONDON ART SCHOOLS, there has been an intense flurry of activity and an extraordinary show of solidarity among staff which runs counter to the typically competitive atmosphere between the so-called “elite” institutions of the Royal College of Art, Goldsmiths College, University of the Arts London (including Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion, the Chelsea, Camberwell, and Wimbledon Colleges of Arts, and London College of Communications), and the Slade School of Fine Art (University College London), where I work. Before the strike commenced, staff across these schools began sharing

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  • What’s Cooking America?

    OUT HERE IN LOS ANGELES, the volunteer army supporting Bernie Sanders has grown into something vast, extraordinarily creative, and superdiverse. Among its cadres of thousands, artist and musician Kim Gordon has rolled up her sleeves to help with phone banking, canvassing door to door, and now, with the help of director Mariko Munro and poet Elaine Kahn (full credits here), she’s got her own cooking show, Cooking with Kim, a new “semiotics” of the kitchen to demonstrate Bernie’s recipe for a better future. If Bruce Connor makes a sandwich, Kim Gordon bakes a cake, whose ingredients include Medicare

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  • TRUE ROMANCE

    I WAS IN LOVE WITH TWO PEOPLE and I had traveled to their country to be near them. 

    I already had a lover, with whom I had been suffering a disappointment, and I had just completed a large and demanding work of art, so in many ways I no longer knew who or what I was, or what good I could possibly be to anybody. 

    I am only telling you these things, and in such a dispassionate way, because I want to tell you about a dream I had, in which my great-grandfather appeared, and his many progeny—

    But the dream won’t make sense unless you know I had traveled a great distance to be near these people, that

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  • Great Expectations

    MY FIRST ENCOUNTER with the work of Derek Jarman was imageless. Or more precisely, it was sonorous: The artist voiced a text that was at once a celebration and a lament of a life of love and loss that accompanied a projection of pure azure: “In the pandemonium of image I present you with the universal Blue. Blue an open door to soul. An infinite possibility becoming tangible.”

    This was the director’s last feature, Blue, released in 1993, less than a year before his death from AIDS. As his disease progressed, he became partially blind and his vision would frequently be overtaken by a field of

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