• On the Ground: Chicago

    I DECIDED I WOULD SOMEDAY MOVE TO CHICAGO when I was in the ninth grade, as I stood in a hotel bathroom scrubbing a henna tattoo off of my arm. Prom was coming up, and my Pentecostal boyfriend thought the shooting star I’d acquired at the Navy Pier looked “trampy.” We were on our high school’s band trip to the city, marking my first adventure without my parents, who were back at home in Iowa, on the brink of a poisonous divorce. The illusion of freedom that Chicago offered was intoxicating, and I began to see a city I could aspire to: She had neither time for controlling men nor other people’s

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  • Days of Awe

    ONE TIME WHEN I WAS ON MUSHROOMS Richard Pryor took possession of my body and proceeded to give a lecture to me and my friends on the origins of hot peppers and the true meaning of wheat.

    He explained that how hot peppers got hot was terrible things were done to them, especially with fire—they were horrifically burned, in sick and twisted ways—which led to great strife and suffering on the part of the peppers. He continued that indeed the only way for a piece of matter to transmit heat and energy is for great heat and energy to have been transmitted into it. All of this was communicated not the

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    IT’S HARD THESE DAYS to stand out as a performance space in New York. Every arts venue in the city seems to be developing a hybrid visual art and performance program: the Whitney Museum of American Art, the New Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1, the Park Avenue Armory, Performance Space New York. Even the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a performing arts series. So what’s a new cultural venue to do? One idea is to make it really, really big—say, two hundred thousand square feet. Another might be to hire Diller Scofidio + Renfro to design an eye-catching structure with some kind

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  • Desiring to Understand

    In conjunction with our special feature on what, where, who, and when is Enlightenment in the Summer 2018 issue of Artforum, scholar Jennifer Uleman contributes thoughts on the phenomenology and reality of reason.

    IN 2004, I was part of a public debate, designed to take up a controversy, engage the off-campus community, and maybe generate new dues-paying members of our departmental Friends of Philosophy. The debate was on same-sex marriage. Like most of the audience, I was in favor, qualms about heteronormativity notwithstanding; the university’s Catholic chaplain was against. We were in Miami.

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  • In the Skin of a Lion

    LATE IN THE SUMMER OF 1999 I was in love with a crust punk. We met one night when he and his friend panhandled me after I couldn’t get into a nightclub. Well maybe it was more of a bar. I don’t know because I couldn’t get in. I didn’t have a fake ID. Anyway, the friend was pale and skinny, scabs up his greenish arms. He just made the guy, who said his name was Johnny, look better. Johnny was hale and tan in his boots and ripped t-shirt. He got kicked out of seventh grade, he said, for reading Isaac Asimov, and out of his girlfriend’s Boston College dorm because he wanted her to open her eyes

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  • All My Trials

    THE MATERNAL BODY INCLUDES THE CHILD. The maternal body includes the dilated aura inside and outside the body that admits, and nourishes, another: thus it is also the enveloping aura into which consensual lovers are welcomed. And the magic space that is ripped open when thieves enter looking for easy wealth and plunder. The cultures now ruling the planet treat it similarly.

    Textbook medical astrology will tell you Cancer rules the breasts/chest, the stomach, and the alimentary canal. Which, it seems to me, would include not only what extends from the buccal opening but also our first channel for

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  • Nocturne

    In conjunction with our special feature on what, where, who, and when is Enlightenment in the Summer 2018 issue of Artforum, scholar A.B. Huber contributes thoughts on darkness below.

    A 2001 ATLAS OF NIGHT SKY BRIGHTNESS suggests that light emissions from sites of habitation, industry, and transit shroud the earth in a radiant haze. Satellite views of earth testify to a profound and widespread loss of nighttime darkness, and the atlas “provides a nearly global picture of how mankind [sic] is proceeding to envelop itself in a luminous fog.” Beneath this fog it can seem human eyes never close, not

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  • Satori

    In conjunction with our special feature on what, where, who, and when is Enlightenment in the Summer 2018 issue of Artforum, writer Michelle Tea contributes her response below.

    I ATE THE ENLIGHTENMENT IN A COOKIE. It did nothing. I was twenty-four years old and had spent Christmas morning at the home of an acquaintance, not even much of a friend, not really. A DJ with a shaved head and pierced septum, obsessed with Chinese ghost movies. A jolly person whose home contained oddities – a taxidermy bat; a photo of her own ass, splotched from a heavy spanking, pinned to the refrigerator. In her kitchen,

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  • Festina Lente

    MY BREASTS & THE BASE OF MY ABDOMEN & THE FLESH AROUND MY KIDNEYS are filling with particles of sorrow. This is what gets disbursed into me monthly. It is my most reliable wage. The languishing weakness that presses down on my inguinal hinge. The gently eviscerating heat and dread licking up at my root from my inner thighs. Humiliating it gently, without words or situations, drawing upon it as an insect might draw from a flower, bidding me procreate.

    Welcome to my minimum monthly allotment of suffering.

    Welcome to the technology by which I feel the world, which comes through me by nothing but the

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    THE FUNNY THING about ships is that you have to weigh them down to keep them afloat. Historically, stones, soil, sand, wood, and bricks placed inside a ship’s hull have provided this weight. At the end of a voyage, the ballast is dumped, to be repurposed as building materials or to settle as soil. It becomes a pedological archive: A portion of the ground beneath Manhattan’s FDR Drive is built from the rubble of British buildings demolished during World War II; the area came to be known as Bristol Basin. Meanwhile, Liverpudlian stones that were a by-product of the trans-atlantic cotton and tobacco

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  • Cosmic Wonder

    EARLIER THIS MONTH, the artist Zhao Yao experienced what it’s like to be a pop star, preparing for a one-show-only event at the Workers’ Stadium in Beijing. Built on the tenth anniversary of the new China in 1959, the stadium has been a cultural and sports center for the past six decades, accommodating various activities, but mostly football games and pop music concerts in recent years. It’s also surrounded by the most popular nightclubs in Beijing.

    To the stadium, Zhao brought his 108,000-square-foot painting, The Power of Nature. Think of it as a massive rug made of cloth and fabric, on which

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  • Diamond Cutter

    SIX HUNDRED AND FORTY-FIVE YEARS AND SEVEN DAYS AGO, in the city of Norwich, a recluse named Julian beheld the whole of creation in the palm of her hand, in an orb the size of a hazelnut. It was here that W.G. Sebald taught for forty years, at the University of East Anglia, and where, in the opening pages of The Rings of Saturn, we find him prostrate in a hospital room—and then standing at the window there—having collapsed a year and a day after a summer’s walk across the county of Suffolk.

    I am writing you from my office at UEA, where, rereading The Rings of Saturn, I seemed to smell the rising

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