Maria Hassabi, STAGING, 2017. Performance view, Remai Modern, October 21, 2017. Photo: Danger Dynamite.

THE REMAI MODERN opened on October 21 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. A city of 250,000 founded as a dry temperance colony, supported by stores of potash and oil, and frequented by hobby hunters dispersing into the great Canadian prairies, Saskatoon would seem an unlikely place for a 130,000-square-foot beacon to modern and contemporary art. While a precirculated press release notes that its “launch aligns with the international trend of world-class museums opening in unexpected destinations”—boilerplate become gospel in the first weekend’s official ceremonies—there is much that such an appeal to art world universalism occludes, assumedly by design. Executive director and CEO, Gregory Burke (most recently at Toronto’s Power Plant), and director of programs and chief curator, Sandra Guimarães (by way of Portugal’s Serralves Museum), took pains to insist upon the “world-class”–ness of the building and its programs. The former is impressive, to be sure: Cantilevered over a bend in the South Saskatchewan River, architect Bruce Kuwabara’s homage to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater is gorgeously sensitive to geography and shifting light (not for nothing do the province’s license plates read “Land of Living Skies”); it is also willfully ambitious, with high and well-proportioned exhibition spaces scaled for art without being disproportionate to the body. Outside, its facade is assertive, even as it shares a wall with a neighboring performance venue. The nascent arts complex is flanked by the construction of a hotel and luxury residential development. Farm-to-table restaurants and the like have already sidled up to this burgeoning “River Landing,” even as a forsaken Sears was liquidating its stock just a few blocks away.

I was told by a travel bureau representative that the parcel was considered first for a sports hall of fame or for a Space Needle–like spire, and the Remai Modern’s bid for tourism is no doubt commensurate with this larger civic mandate, one which includes projected economic impact in jobs beyond the anticipated revenue from visitors. Indeed, there is an unmistakable pragmatism underpinning its rhetoric: philanthropist and namesake Ellen Remai, who contributed an astounding $16 million for the building and $15 million for international programming, as well as pledging $1 million a year for art purchases for the next twenty-five years, described her further gift of a comprehensive suite of some four hundred Picasso linocut prints, currently installed by Ryan Gander, as a “merchandising” prospect. This unapologetic, even strategic commercial opportunism, which she proffered in the context of a public opening, seemingly responds to criticism of profligacy and hubris mounted in the course of building of Remai Modern. (See, for example, this.) In short, Remai Modern surpasses and effectively entombs the collection of it precursor, the Mendel Art Gallery (this passage is acknowledged on wall labels that distinguish the core works as “Mendel Collection at Remai Modern”). The Mendel Art Gallery was founded in 1964 and shuttered in 2015, with plans for the new museum already well underway. The Remai Modern and its 8,000 pieces exist because the Mendel does not, though it is legally a separate organization with its own board, and about twenty of the previous staff made the institutional transition intact.

Tanya Lukin Linklater and Duane Linklater, Determined by the river, 2017, mixed media, dimensions variable. Photo: Blain Campbell.

The conversion of one to the other is a story involving multiple plot lines: of sentimentality for a lost past and the person of Frederick Mendel, a heroic cultural proponent of a free, public venue, who also happened to be a refugee from Nazi Europe and the founder of the meat-processing giant Intercontinental Packers; shifting values in an agrarian culture; and mostly, community activism and skepticism of what so much money, including a sizable amount committed by the Saskatoon City Council to erect the structure and now to keep it operational, will give back. The issue then is perhaps less a justification of the Remai Modern’s right to exist, and in this location, as it is one of its obligations now that it is there. Of course, there are requisite educational programs and a well-appointed studio outfitted with artisanal cubbies and elegant, diminutive stools. Community events are forthcoming, on and offsite. And thanks to another donor, admission is waived six days a year for five years (hardly a windfall), though the lobby gallery—the “Connect Gallery” as it is appropriately called—is always accessible without a ticket. Then there is the matter of programming and how it will communicate solidarity in practice. That the outward-facing projects thus far enlist nonstaff facilitators might be read somewhat skeptically. On the face of it, artists serving as guest curators also shoulder the responsibility of facilitating engagement. Currently an excellent collaborative installation and discursive program by Tanya Lukin Linklater and Duane Linklater, Determined by the river, 2017, brings together histories and objects relating to Indigenous ideas about the waterway, and also foregrounds the displacement of materials from communities and their installation as artifacts in museums—in general and rather more specifically; an upcoming project by Thomas Hirschhorn entitled What I can learn from you. What you can learn from me. will foster a non-hierarchical theatre of mutual recognition. Or such is the hope.

Lawrence Weiner, MANY THINGS LEFT ON THE BANKS OF A RIVER INEVITABLY TO BE SWEPT INTO THE FLOW, 2013, mixed media, dimensions variable. Photo: Blain Campbell.

In the meantime, “Field Guide,” curated by Burke and Guimarães, serves as the official inaugural group show. It comprises selections from the permanent collection alongside recent projects and installations, including Lawrence Weiner’s apt MANY THINGS LEFT ON THE BANKS OF RIVER INEVITABLY TO BE SWEPT INTO THE FLOW, 2013. Equally resonant: Pae White’s neon installation of graphic glyphs dotting the central stairwell is a form of light therapy conceived to offset Seasonal Affective Disorder (she designed and coded the software for the occasion). The galleries elsewhere harbor a capacious range of work, from Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Tristan Bera to Walid Raad, Rosemarie Trockel to Anton Vidokle—together with Canadian exemplars from the Mendel (Lawren Harris, Emily Carr, and David Milne) and contemporary artists from the region (Bob Boyer, Eli Bornstein, and Kara Uzelman). The lion’s share of work is “world class” and omnipresent—but many pieces are being shown in Canada for the first time. In this, the title suggests a process of discovery of the art world’s flora and fauna, and at best this experience is reciprocal. Uzelman’s installation dealing with the locality's involvement in the psychedelic movement was one such find for me, to say nothing of reconsidering the legacy of Clement Greenberg’s role in the development of abstraction through his association with the Emma Lake Artists’ Workshops (that is likewise signaled in the title’s additional reference to Color Field painting).

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Tristan Bera, Belle comme le jour (Beautiful as the day), 2012, HD film, color, sound, 13 minutes. Photo: Blain Campbell.

What was downplayed to a surprising extent (the Linklaters’ intervention stands as the conspicuous exception) is not only Indigenous art from the period under consideration, but an acknowledgement of the periodization as such registered in this organization, for it admits the positionality as long since determined. The museum characterizes its purview as the “art of our time, from Saskatchewan’s birth in 1905 onwards.” One might well quibble with the “our” here, or at least ask from whom this inheritance came and to whom it now belongs. On my visit, I also spent time at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, a former cattle ranch that’s now an archaeological fantasia: its vast reserve shows off a boon of historical artifacts evidencing human occupation across some 6,400 years. Located near downtown Saskatoon, the park is a sobering reminder of a different kind of time, and a different model of stewardship. Saskatchewan remains Treaty 6 Plains Cree territory and the homeland of the Métis. The galleries at Wanuskewin, the only ones devoted to contemporary Indigenous artists on the prairies, honor this. In some ways, the Remai Modern does, too, with the word for “Saskatchewan” written in Cree syllabics at the front entrance and that for “welcome” issued in six Indigenous and Métis languages displayed just inside, over a communal hearth. One can take Remai Modern at its word and imagine as more than eventuality the Indigenous programming to come. In fact, the Jimmie Durham show begun at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and now on view at the Whitney Museum in New York, arrives in Saskatoon for its final stop. A more equivocal celebration of Native culture I cannot envisage, if not in the work then certainly in the conversation it has generated. It may well be that unexpected destinations remind us where we already are. Remai Modern has an opportunity in this, too.

Suzanne Hudson

“History Rising” advertising for Burj Khalifa, Dubai, 2006. Photo: Brian McMorrow.

DO YOU REMEMBER THE DIALUP HANDSHAKE? Numbers being punched, assorted squeal-y gurgling, a series of high and low tones, and then the extended white noise? Dubai’s past decade of overtures towards the international art world felt a lot like this. The initial plaintive trilling gave way to a charging, moneyed insistence familiar to anyone on the global art circuit. We’ve finally logged on, and now it’s time to turn inward for phase two.

In the mid-2000s, I would drive past a massive billboard hugging the side of the highway. It depicted a rendering of a new downtown development with scooped-out waterways, luxury mixed-use complexes, and the world’s tallest tower, a cutout of which rose several feet above a dubiously tumultuous sky. Behind it, the actual Burj Khalifa slowly loomed, notching its own growth like a child being measured up against a wall. Emblazoned in one corner of the display was the tagline: History Rising. In June, Cardi B’s summer banger “Bodak Yellow” dropped. The video suggests luxury-as-usual, opening with an aerial shot of that fantastical cityscape made gleaming reality. Burnished sand dunes, camels, a sulky-looking cheetah, Cardi in a green niqab, men in dishdashas, a rain of Benjamin Franklins, and so on. This is Dubai as it works hard to be seen, even if, like the Sharjah Biennial, that image never quite touches the ground it purports to represent.

Official music video for Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow,” 2017

The funny thing about Dubai is that it’s a place where history comes after the future. History is the ad copy that sinters a rendering to reality and as such, it needs to be malleable and responsive enough to the needs of the market as well as the national project. This year saw a spate of retrospective shows, a relatively new phenomenon in a city whose myths are predicated on zero-to-hundred accelerated development. Remember the faintly ludicrous title of the UAE’s 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale participation “Lest We Forget”? It’s a phrase that has since become a running joke around here. The pavilion gestured towards that exhibition’s remit to examine architecture’s progress over the past hundred years, but focused on the 1970s and 80s; such is the tenuousness of historical memory. Lest we forget the eighties—! Of note this year was an exhibition of Syrian portraiture that inaugurated Concrete’s OMA-designed flagship space on Alserkal Avenue, Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s chilling audioscape of a Syrian prison and Mochu’s kaleidoscopic paean to Goan techno-spiritualism at the thirteenth Sharjah Biennial, Fouad Elkoury’s Cairene travelogues at The Third Line, an Art Jameel lecture performance from Ho Rui An, and Lala Rukh’s hushed seascapes at Grey Noise in what would come to feel like an elegy when the artist died this summer. At the same time, I would hesitate to place any of these in my personal top five for 2017, and it remains hard to shake that ever-persistent, insidious question of whether these shows were truly great, or just great for the UAE. Unequivocally stunning, however was the Picasso and Giacometti exhibition at Doha’s Fire Station, and the Bin Jelmood House slavery museum in the same city. Focusing on the trans-Indian Ocean slave trade in particular, with an emphasis on Qatar’s own complicity, its rigor felt all the more remarkable because slavery was only formally abolished in the Gulf in the 1960s and remains a touchy subject, to say nothing of its present-day analogs in Libya and ISIS territories.

And even when recent historical shows have fallen flat curatorially, as the majority of them have, it’s difficult to ignore their educational value: most of the artists included have never shown in the region. On that note the Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, which hit its stride this year with a remarkable Christian Bonnefoi presentation this winter, also took a look in the spring at artist-run spaces in 1970s downtown New York. The JPNF show found a sequel this fall with NYU Abu Dhabi’s hosting of its NYC counterpart’s “Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952–1965.” A fortuitous if very close coincidence, I was assured, yet in a country with so few institutions to begin with, it seems to telegraph a much wider desire for new conditions of possibility, new modes of art-making. The local scene has undoubtedly developed over time but it’s a brittle, uncertain maturity: what comes up seemingly overnight can disappear just as quickly. It’s also worth emphasizing the astonishing levels of support available to artists here, which ranges from free or heavily subsidized studio and exhibition spaces to fully funded MFAs abroad. Unfortunately the cost of living and generalized precarity of status (one that depends on your place of birth over your passport) leave few artists able to avail themselves of these opportunities.  

Lala Rukh, Beruwela x, Beruwela y, Beruwela z, 1996, C-prints on aluminum, 8 x 12" each.

Following the passing last fall of Hassan Sharif, the past few years’ furious documenting of the early years of the local art scene came to the fore. Very “Emirati Art History Rising,” with a side of hagiography, as if to make up for the decades in which these artists struggled in obscurity before supporting the arts became economically expedient. It’s worth remembering that even Sharif, arguably the country’s most illustrious artist, was relatively unknown just ten years ago. Perhaps Dubai didn’t need to go questing for international contemporary art after all. Like the last feel-good moments before a movie’s credits roll, maybe it actually was there all along, or so the new narrative goes.

Two major institutional shows in neighboring emirates anchored this impulse, along with a handful of smaller shows in Dubai, which mined the same well-trod territory. The mammoth Hassan Sharif retrospective “I Am The Single Work Artist,” which opened in November at the Sharjah Art Foundation, brought together over 300 works and impressed in its scale even as it suggested the kind of obituary drafted years in advance. At NYUAD this spring was “But We Cannot See Them: Tracing a UAE Art Community, 1988–2008,” encompassing the group of Emirati artists known as “The Five”—Sharif, Mohammed Kazem, Hussein Sharif, Abdullah Al Saadi, and Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, in addition to Ebtisam Abdulaziz—a rare woman in the years before female artists came to outnumber male ones—and, unusually, Jos Clevers and Vivek Vilasini, who were Dutch and Indian respectively. Also unexpected were two of the local artists included in the UAE pavilion for this year’s Venice Biennale, Vikram Divecha and Lantian Xie, residents-but-not-citizens as the Gulf litany goes, a move that feels radical in face of the country’s racialized hierarchy.

View of “Hassan Sharif: I Am The Single Work Artist,” 2017.

There’s a quote from German anarchist Gustav Landauer that I think about a lot. He says, “The State is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of behavior; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently toward one another … We are the State and we shall continue to be the State until we have created the institutions that form a real community.” When working in the arts here it’s hard to escape being the state or an extension of it, and to not be conscripted into a mythmaking that you, like the original Big Five artists, might not have necessarily signed up for.

And while it’s unlikely that anyone in the upper echelons of government is consulting Landauer, there has certainly been a concerted effort to dig in, build sustainable arts infrastructure, and most of all, to build institutions. Especially important are Alserkal Avenue’s pilot residency program, and the piñata of the new Abu Dhabi Louvre, which opened just a few weeks ago to much fanfare followed by a general slump in energy. Above all, the entrance of Saudi-funded Art Jameel, who have announced a generous commission cycle and opened a project space in anticipation of a 10,000 square-foot center currently being built on the old city’s arterial creek, presages a broader shift away from Dubai’s scene being primarily market driven—and perhaps a geographical shift too, away from the city’s purpose-built arts districts. No one’s really selling anyway—one dealer quipped that even commercial spaces here essentially function as nonprofits—and galleries are responding by staging fewer, longer-running shows and doing more international fairs to cater to their primarily foreign collector bases. Following last year’s deregulation of fuel prices, January 2018’s introduction of a 5% VAT promises to make the city even more unaffordable, further worrying dealers and denizens alike.

But the thing about that History Rising billboard? The sky never looks like that here. We don’t even get inclement weather unless clouds have been seeded or ionized into producing rain. Outside the UAE’s borders a proxy war in Yemen rages on, along with an open siege of economic attrition with Qatar, to say nothing of a global climate that feels like a sentient @Horse_ebooks tweet. Then there’s the US’s modified Muslim ban that continues to make interfacing with American fairs and institutions a difficult proposition, in addition to who knows what’s happening in Lebanon. Even the Sharjah Biennial, which was distributed across five countries this year, seemed to be hedging its bets. We’re largely insulated from that volatility here—this is very much the shelf stable city—yet like the sand and ants that inevitably find their way into the most sealed of interiors, it’s hard to keep the outside world out forever.

The Burj Khalifa under construction in Dubai, 2008. Photo: Imre Solt.

Rahel Aima

Bronze Herm, ca. 490 B.C.

 The world’s full of children who grew up too fast

Gil Scott-Heron, “A Sign of the Ages”

WITHIN A FEW HOURS OF HIS BIRTH, Hermes had already become a cattle thief, invented the lyre, & innovated the art of divine worship. “The alphabet, numbers, astronomy, music, the art of fighting, gymnastics, the cultivation of the olive tree, measures, weights, and many other things” were among his inventions, according to Plutarch. Hermes was both the herald of the gods and their psychopomp, as friendly with the ruling powers on Mount Olympus as he was with the living and the dead of our kind. He managed all this while simultaneously presiding over all commerce, speech, and writing; the arts of social life and diplomacy; and likewise overseeing cunning, trickery, and theft—especially where charm was involved. Like Visa in the 1980s and ’90s, he was everywhere you wanted—but also everywhere you didn’t want—to be. Being the god of roads, he was propitiated by both travelers and bandits. He is likewise the friend of all rappers and poets, who are often, of course, also liars and thieves. When Robert Johnson went to the crossroads in Rosedale, Mississippi, to sell his soul to the devil, Hermes (or perhaps Legba, with whom he is cognate) was there. The high deeds of little men, from David to Odysseus to Bruce Lee to Tyrion Lannister, are hermetic. Sleep, too, was under Hermes’s control. Even though dreams came from the high command (Zeus), it was up to Hermes whether or not you’d get to go to sleep at all.

The Romans called him Mercury.

Otherwise known as the hot little planet closest to our Sun, the metal that looks like a liquid mirror at room temperature, that which formerly could be found in thermometers, the neurotoxin that builds up in the bodies of fish, and the mystic substance crucial both to alchemical transformation and to metallurgy.

Mercury represents both brilliancy of mind and delusion. Both the faithful transmission of the message and its distortion. Mercury is the medium through which intellection moves, but also the infrastructure for the transportation of meaning. In Greece, there are trucking companies called METAPHOR: Trucking, a fundamentally mercurial art, is literally the transportation of meaning (in the form of matter) from one place to another. Language as transportation. The twitchy, subtle sensitivity, the agility (also anxiety) of the constant mirror—the faithful mirror, the funhouse mirror.

Our problem tends to be not so much that we kill the messenger, but that we ignore him. We ignore the delivery system and focus on “content,” on the thing delivered. And yet we are living in a moment when those who control the infrastructure, the networks themselves, are distorting profoundly and in many ways irrevocably the very substance of the world.

Likewise, Mercury stands for in-betweenness. He presides over the space between the human and the divine, between death and the afterlife, between the event and its reporting, between my brains and my mouth, between you and me. When we communicate, there is a neglected third party in on the game. A few years ago I would have joked it was the NSA. Now I might say it is Google, and any number of other corporate algorithms. But always, it is Mercury.

For writers, Mercury is always in retrograde. What I mean is, we understand that language has plasticity, and that it is as much an instrument of confusion and betrayal as it can be humankind’s crucial on-ramp to the truth. And here I need to acknowledge that Genesis begins with The Word, to wave at the whole Writing/Speech differential of Deconstructionism, to invoke everything you know & don’t know about the Linguistic Turn in philosophy, and to simply state that at this point on the planet, almost everybody writes. Everybody texts. And almost everybody writes emails. Mercury is always in retrograde. 

And yet, now that our lives are so exceptionally mediated, to the point that whole masses of people are somewhere on the spectrum between zombified and demon-possessed in the glow of their smartphone, Mercury in Retrograde is more of a gauntlet than ever.

The official dates this month are 3-22 December, and he’ll be dancing backward thru Sagittarius the whole time. Sagittarius represents philosophical synthesis and big-picture thinking; the vitality & sense of adventure required to discover the Meaning of Life; the search for overarching principles according to which the Good Life can be led. The main thing this particular retrograde means is our capacity to see the big picture is going to be seriously incapacitated. Moreover, Mercury is conjunct with Saturn during the first week of this phase, indicating both serious brain damage in authority figures and basically a total leadership breakdown.

You don’t need an astrologer to tell you that the chaos, viciousness, and mayhem that everything simple and good in our culture and on our planet is being subjected to is utterly insane. Likewise, the pressure this insanity is putting on the individual psyche is incalculable. There are probably people in your life who are losing their marbles right now. You may be feeling pressure on your own as well. If you are someone upon whom others depend—and really we all are, whether we’re single parents, freelancers, CEOs, or scenesters—consciously slowing down your decisionmaking, taking a few minutes to reflect before texting back, tabling your plans ands schemes for the future, and communicating with more care than ever will be crucial. I am not saying stop communicating for three weeks. On the contrary, the need to stand your ground and speak your truth is more urgent than ever. But every single syllable you utter must signify hospitality to the very highest good for all concerned. There are inflammatory glyphs in the sky this month. You must drop into the core of yourself and ask, with all your strength, what the best course of action for you is: use this retrograde period to apprentice yourself to this question, in all humility, in all sincerity. Practice alkalizing your nervous system by talking to yourself, even your organs and limbs, the way you’d pep talk your most cherished friend.

You’ve heard the normcore astrological warnings against buying technological devices, booking travel, or making career decisions during Mercury Retrograde. I’d like to add a simple recommendation, beyond telling you to try to keep your cool and breathe through your printer eating your resumé minutes before a job interview etc: propitiation. Remember the delivery system; remember that you, me, and everyone we know are being massaged hard by the medium. If crystals are a thing you do, try putting clear quartz, shungite, and cinnabar on or near your machines, both while they’re in use and sleeping.

Cinnabar on dolomite.

I WONDER if it has ever occurred to you to thank the various networks for transmitting, at lightning speed, the substance of your thoughts, your lusts? Possibly not. Possibly because the ethers dump so much immiserating garbage into your devices it’s hard to appreciate them sometimes. One needn’t be a believer to propitiate a god. It can be done prophylactically. Like Odysseus pouring out libations before setting out on the road, you too can touch the perfect body of the cosmos with your mind. Name the names of your beloveds and your ideals before you enter the fray of the internet, your workday, a difficult conversation, a project. Keep the phone away from the bed. Give thanks before you put your hand on it in the morning. Touch yourself, and/or your lover(s) before you touch your machines.

The Moon will be full on December 3 at 10:46 AM EST, (calculate for your time zone here) at eleven degrees and forty minutes in Mercury-ruled Gemini.

At the same moment, the Sun & Moon in opposition form a T-Square to Neptune in Pisces, Jupiter in Scorpio is in a strong trine with Neptune, and Mars in Libra & Uranus in Aries are locked in hard opposition. In other words, this is a moment of reckoning about spiritual self-concept of Earthlings, and likewise about the future of leadership on this planet. What we dream is as much a reflection of the hells on earth as it reflects our longings and needs. But again, you don’t need me to tell you that tempers are running high and that there is explosive pressure on us as individuals and as societies right now. The sky says so, and so does the shithouse wall. 

As Above, So Below, as Hermes Trismegistus said.

Gemini as depicted in Urania's Mirror, from a set of constellation cards published in London, ca. 1825.

What I can offer is a few words about Gemini you might not have heard. The cosmic twins represent the duality that came into the world when the creator separated light from darkness. Gemini is the Zen Beginnerhood of the zodiac, and it is good to remember the frolicsome play of babies first discovering the world as the foundation for all adulthood. If astrology functions on the mirror principle, reflecting here what transpires in the heavens, the duality of Gemini also speaks to the magic of diagnosis and to sacred asymmetry.

Castor and Pollux are not equal, and as twins, they are cyphers for the riddle of equality. But one had an immortal parent and the other one didn’t. One came first, and the other one second. Resolving disharmony into balance, asymmetry into perfect proportion, is the secret algebra of the soul’s mathematics. Think back to the caduceus Hermes/Mercury holds: the serpent wound around the staff represents the judicious use of medicine, which can either cure or kill depending on the dosage. And here we’re in Plato’s Pharmacy (I’m citing Derrida): In Mercury’s allegorical pharmakon, the serpent (poison) is wound carefully around the staff (discernment), miming the double helix of our DNA, this symbol, like we ourselves, is a mysterious—and mysteriously exact concatenation of good and bad, poison and antidote, rigor and mercy.

This month’s full moon is full of medicine, but the side effects can be severe.

I recommend partying the night of the second, and on December 3, you should get up early, hangover or bedfellow be damned, and write your spiritual autobiography.

Where did you first hear the word god, when did you begin (or cease) to believe in a “higher power,” what experiences have you had, whether within or outside the structures of normalized/organized religion, that have led you toward or away from what—and forgive the sloppy term—has lately been called spirituality? 

Into what or whom do you put your faith? Who are you, and who and where do you come from? 

Astrology teaches that we have many parents, and most of them are in the sky.

Speaking of parents, Saturn, the patriarch of the zodiac, enters Capricorn, the sign he rules, on December 20, just in time for the Winter Solstice the following day, during a Mars-Pluto square that indicates sexual rage in the collective, at once a desire to dissolve all existing forms of authority and a cluelessness as to what to replace them with—and looming behind all the smoke and hot air stands the same old bad white father. Ruthless power grabs, reactionary posturing, and a yearning to return to archaic modes of statehood are in the air. Watch out for the “adults in the room.”

By December 22, when the Sun follows Saturn into Capricorn, Venus in Sagittarius trine Uranus in Aries suggests structural upheaval but also real progress when it comes to women holding power, while Mercury squaring Neptune indicates but not merely replacing the men in rotten structures—on the contrary, this is a first sign of a mass movement on the part of women already in authoritative positions and femininity more generally taking its rightful place in the structure of our self-concept as residents on Earth.

On Christmas, Neptune in Pisces’ beams to Mars and Jupiter in Scorpio indicate a powerful and not un-Christian idealism in the air, and some deep thinking about how to deepen empathy and de-incarcerate what we repress in ourselves and likewise the populations America lives to lock up. All the Pisces in the air at Christmas can also indicate major escapist yearnings, so watch your consumption of drugs and alcohol, already normally higher at this time of year, there are indications intoxication can have heavier-than-usual consequences this time around.

On New Year’s Eve, a T-Square forms between the Moon in Gemini, Mercury and Sagittarius, and Chiron in Pisces, restating the Mercurial & Spiritual demands I’ve discussed above. It’s as though the outlines of a door to the next year have been drawn in the sky, and in order to find out the magic words we need to say to gain entry to 2018, working out what our spiritual wounds are, and just where our concept of the divine (and/or lack thereof) has caused suffering and escapism in our self-concept. A Yod to the Moon, also known as “the finger of God,” reemphasizes this point. Beaming energy from Pluto in Capricorn and Jupiter in Scorpio, this Yod is calling for us to conjugate the collective need to transform the structures of power and our individual needs to release shame and repression: New Year’s Eve calls for major Zen Beginnerhood, so that we may be reborn with the turning of the year with all the curiosity, attention, and affection of children at play.

Ariana Reines’s video from “Pubic Space,” her exhibition with Oscar Tuazon at Stuart Shave Modern Art, 2016.

Ariana Reines

Ariana Reines is a poet & playwright. She astrologizes at To read her November Piece for click here; to read her October piece click here; and to read her September piece click here.