Nazım Can Cihan and Aslıhan Demirtaş with Kaide (Plinth), 2016, at collectorspace, Istanbul. Photo: Ali Taptık.


Aslıhan Demirtaş is an Istanbul- and New York–based architect and designer whose practice often takes on unexpected, research-based projects. In Taksim Square, she is currently showing Kaide (Plinth), 2016: one and a half tons of earth rammed into a sixty-by-forty-inch rectangular prism, the dimensions of which are based on endangered, traditional urban gardening modules in the Yedikule neighborhood of Istanbul. A farmer, a composer, artists, and collectors have all been invited to contribute to Kaide for one week a piece in order to reflect on soil, memory, and displacement, as well as on the main premises of collecting. The show is on view at collectorspace through May 31, 2017.

THE WORK WAS BORN IN TURKEY, and its title, Kaide, has multiple meanings in the language: rules, ground, foundation, as well as a pedestal or a plinth. Pedestal has a Latin root that has to do with the foot, footing—it’s pie di stallo, “foot of a stall.” But when I looked up the Greek word for plinth, it was a pleasant surprise, because plinth means a piece of earth that has been baked. It’s a brick, so it felt appropriate given the physicality of the work to name it Plinth rather than Pedestal.

My collaborators and I debated about getting the soil from Yedikule Urban Gardens, which would involve dealing with bureaucracy and paperwork, since it’s a historic preservation site. And we did actually start this project by talking with the authorities. They were surprised and asked many questions about our planned excavation—where we’d want to take the soil, the shape of the excavation, and they basically required the submission of a drawing detailing the excavation. But we stopped there and did not take soil from the neighborhood, because, fortunately early on, I realized that we as activists in Yedikule have been fighting for a certain kind of conservation of the neighborhood: conserving by giving it a future.

Let me back up a bit and explain this. The Yedikule Urban Gardens have existed for sixteen hundred years. They date back to the Byzantine emperor Theodosius, who built the last land walls by the gardens. He was the one who originally bestowed basement spaces to the farmers. Over the centuries, there have been Greek farmers, Armenian farmers, and Albanian farmers; now, there are Black Sea farmers working there. The people change, but the soil remains, adapting itself to the different produce people want to grow. The activism around Yedikule is not geared toward freezing the gardens in time against the threat of real estate speculation. We do not want to keep the urban gardens as they are, as if they are artifacts from a bygone era. We want them to be free, and basically living. So if I take soil from Yedikule Gardens and put it in a gallery, I’ll be making it a nonliving art piece. That conflicted with our axis of activism and conservation.

With the framework of migration or leaving one’s homeland in mind, I asked myself this question: What is it to feel like a refugee in your own land, without having been displaced? The urban gardens have existed in Yedikule for hundreds of years; however, bulldozers are now waiting in front of them in anticipation of clearing space for mass housing projects or parks. Urban farming has a long tradition in Istanbul, but the city actually disowns that tradition now and is about to deport it as if it were an illegal alien. What if everything else changes around you—how do you become a refugee without even moving an inch? And I think this can be applied to anyone, not just to the bostans (urban gardens) but to any individual living in Turkey.

I think the exhibition at collectorspace is a refreshing gesture in terms of questioning what the word “collection” means, what a collector is, why people collect, and this issue as well: If something is in a collection, why does this make it more important than any other thing that is not in the collection? In my mind, it also underlines the artificially made distinction between the urban and the rural, since we place the Plinth at the heart of urban Istanbul, in Taksim. I’d like to say there is no urban without the rural, and there’s no rural without the urban. They coexist, which makes the loop back to the Yedikule Urban Gardens: If there’s no distinction between the rural and the urban, why would you not farm in the city?

Özge Ersoy of collectorspace and I have devised the program in an evolving scheme. We have left the programming flexible. We didn’t finalize who was going to be contributing at the beginning. We invited people, listened to them, and kept thinking about their gestures. So, in a way, like farming, it’s dependent on the seasons. There are cycles, and the climate changes. You could say it’s a way of cultivating collaborations, meanings, thoughts, and, most important, questions. Robert Smithson once said something like, “The city gives the impression that earth doesn’t exist.” Plinth is basically founded on this profound sentence. And this sentence always echoes in my mind.

— As told to Gökcan Demirkazik

View of “A Split During Laughter at the Rally,” 2017. Photo: Joerg Lohse.


New York–based artist, writer, and performer Juliana Huxtable brings her trenchant voice and #shockvalue flair to two new publications out this year: Mucus in My Pineal Gland, a book of her musings copublished by Wonder and Capricious, and Life, an apocalyptic sci-fi narrative cowritten with Hannah Black and published by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König. Here, Huxtable discusses her writing style as well as her debut solo exhibition, “A Split During Laughter at the Rally,” which is on view at Reena Spaulings Fine Art in New York through June 4, 2017.

I AM FASCINATED with Emory Douglas, who is perhaps best known for his work as the minister of culture for the Black Panther Party. He came up with nearly all of the imagery for their posters and newspaper. For this show, in addition to other works, I’ve made paintings loosely based on the style of Douglas, and then I took photographs of those paintings and overlaid text onto them. There’s also a video on view about conspiracy surrounding political protests, looking at protest chants in connection with call-and-response, rhythm, co-optation, and the history of hip-hop.

The show departs from a point of inefficacy—or, to use a problematically gendered concept, political impotence. There is an eclipsed sense of possibility in the prevailing models for engaging political action. This past November I went back and forth, but in the end I voted, and it felt so absurd. Yet I think there’s an inherent desire to exercise political agency, and our ability to navigate spaces in which this should happen is in peril. How can we start the process of animating something that might ultimately be generative?

I’m interested in conspiracy as a way of thinking through forming community and its slippages—as a productive strategy for coalition building that might speak more directly to the conditions we’re in than the Democratic Party, for instance. I think conspiracy can be radical in the sense that it’s engaging or seeking out information. You’re actively questioning what’s going on around you. And even if there are some loopy links and you’re filling in the gaps, there’s something there that’s different from apathy or nihilism.

Juliana Huxtable speaks with artforum.com.

I wanted to get into the aesthetics of conspiracy and American paranoia. If you delve into it, recently there has been a lot of Illuminati and UFO imagery. But a lot of that symbolism and the way that those images are laid out is actually directly related to imagery distributed by leftist radicals from the 1960s and 1970s; the image of the worker kind of gets replaced by the image of an alien. It’s interesting to me the way that the symbols within a sort of conspiratorial mode have been used, co-opted, adapted, and sampled. There’s enough symbolic power in the residual imagery to carry something.

My style of writing—whether for my recent publications or my artwork—is directly informed and inspired by the notion of schizoanalysis. Schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder, and bipolar disorder are different clinical designations of structures of thought that at this point are inherent to the social and epistemological conditions we’re in, which conspiracy is inherently linked to and carries the stigmas of. I don’t like to present things too directly. I err in the direction of ambiguity in a schizo way of processing. As opposed to the idea of what a single subject means, what a subject’s voice represents, and how that voice expresses itself as indicative or elucidating of the conditions that we’re in, I like the alternative idea of a schizophrenic voice: one that can’t reside with any stability in the first person, third person, and so on, and that doesn’t even permit a predictable relationship between subject and verb. You’re jumping between persons, switching characters and exploding history into a play place. Allowing myself space for that mode of writing and thinking to happen is a more honest and dynamic reflection of how I’m processing the world.

I wrote a lot of the text for my show, but I also found a lot of text that I repurposed: comments on YouTube videos about the destruction of the black family, and a quote from conservative right-wing radio talking about the infiltration of trans people, for instance. That’s one of the things that excites me about text. It’s slippery, but you can try and condition the space in which that slippage occurs. I would like to think that my practice is about conditioning a productive space for thinking and processing, so you’re getting spontaneous fragments and they’re settling in different ways.

— As told to Alex Fialho

Doug Wheeler

05.02.17

Doug Wheeler, PSAD Synthetic Desert III (detail), 1971, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view.


Doug Wheeler is an American artist based in New Mexico. In the 1960s he began working in Los Angeles, where he was one of the pioneering figures exploring how light and space could be used to establish experiential situations. At the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Wheeler is currently showing PSAD Synthetic Desert III, 1971, the first realization of a semi-anechoic chamber he originally conceived as a plan in 1968. The work is on view through August 2, 2017.

TO ME, A WORKING DRAWING is about experimental spaces or thoughts. I used to do what I called “equation drawings,” which I started making because I felt they allowed me to map space objectively. With my current show at the Guggenheim, I saw the original drawing I made in 1968, which is part of the Panza Collection there, and I realized what I wanted from the piece. I’ve since done about ten more drawings based on that one. Every time I do a drawing, I learn more about what I’m doing. I almost don’t need to actually realize a physical piece because I’ve been through the whole idea so much that I know it’ll work.

To make the Guggenheim space do what I’d drawn, the sound-reflecting areas had to be shaped in such a way that what sound does get generated will flow away, rather than bounce at you. In the space, which is off of the rotunda, the decibel level is usually quite high, but I wanted to get it down to ten decibels. The Guggenheim ended up calling up a sound lab called ARUP to help. The space has sound, but it’s a kind of sound that I’ve experienced when I would fly alone. There have been a few times when I landed on a dry lakebed a hundred miles from any road. When you’re in a place like that, where you don’t hear the motor anymore, the ticking of the metal cooling, or anything like that, you just listen while you’re looking into the distance and you hear sound come to you. I’m not talking just about the wind over the ground. You’re hearing sound that’s generated miles away, so it becomes disembodied, and it’s an incredible experience. That’s why I call these works Synthetic Deserts, because I’m trying to make a sensate experience. I’m not trying to duplicate it, or make a diorama of it, or anything like that. I’m just trying to create a place where you’ll have that kind of experience, and it will feel like the experience, but very obviously not be it.

This work has neon, like in the original plan, and the pyramidal absorbers. In the original drawing, they had a base of a two-foot square. These have an eighteen-inch base, and they’re skinnier than in my original drawing. I’m doing that to create more areas where sound will get trapped. The way I originally drew it, it wouldn’t work as well. So pyramid forms surround you. When you walk in, everything is sound-absorbing: the floor, the walls, the ceiling, and it’s all due to these pyramidal absorbers. And then there’s a platform that you walk out onto that’s in the middle of these absorbers. And then there is a wall that curves around you—not totally curving, but it’s got an eight-foot radius in the corners—and feels like my light walls feel.

Whatever sound people who come in will generate won’t do much because it doesn’t go anywhere. In the space I’ll be generating pink noise primarily. Pink noise is a frequency that is much more palatable than white noise. I had to shield the entire space, floor, walls, and ceiling—everything—with a sound envelope so that vibrations and all the things that the museum is generating won’t be able to get through. However, if it’s anything too low then what you would be hearing, which is very disconcerting, is your own body. You’d be hearing your heart and all these other things in yourself, and that could be very uncomfortable, and I don’t want that. I don’t want you to feel claustrophobic or anything. I want a sense of expansion to take place. Hopefully the viewer can become sensitive enough so that the space feels alive.

— As told to Alex Bacon

Susan Hiller

04.28.17

Susan Hiller, Homage to Marcel Duchamp: Auras, 2008, fifty color archival dry prints, each 12 x 12", overall 12 1/2 x 12 1/2'.


London-based artist Susan Hiller is known for her innovative media works, many of which incorporate elements of anthropology and psychoanalysis. One recent strain of her practice involves artworks that pay tribute to other artists whose works reveal an influence of occult or paranormal ideas, such as her ongoing Homage to Marcel Duchamp: Auras, 2008–, a collection of aura photographs, sourced online and digitally modified; the work is inspired by Duchamp’s Portrait of Dr. Dumouchel, 1910, which shows the sitter surrounded by colorful emanations. Here, she speaks about the aura works included in her current exhibition, “Susan Hiller: Paraconceptual,” on view at Lisson Gallery in New York. The show, which features a range of pieces made between the 1970s and the present, runs from April 28 through June 10, 2017.

I LIKE TO STAND IN THE MIDST of the whirlwind, and show what’s out there and what’s denied. For the most part, the artists in my homage pieces—such as Gertrude Stein, Marcel Duchamp, and Joseph Beuys—did not emphasize that their work carried forward a whole tradition of occult knowledge, but they referred to it and they used it, even when denying it. When Duchamp made his painting of Dr. Dumouchel, he didn’t talk about clairvoyance or ancient beliefs in auras. He adopted the idea as a painting device. I picked up on that and have contextualized it within our contemporary world, where more and more people are attracted to this kind of reality. I know our culture is in denial about a lot of things. Our hard-wiring as human beings probably prevents us from knowing a great deal about what is real, and each language also sets limits. But every once in a while people experience breakthroughs.

My approach to all this is political. The politics has to do with a conviction that it’s only in moments of liminality that anything new can come into being. Whether it’s an idea, a political action, an invention—it originates where we function creatively. This is of course very important in art practice but also socially and politically.

The desire to record and capture auras has two kinds of advocates. There are clairvoyants, who say they see colored emanations around people, from which they can tell the health, temperament, and well-being of the person according to the hues, brightness, or strength of the aura. And there is also the work of scientists from the nineteenth century onward, which has led to today’s specialized aura cameras. These don’t actually photograph auras, but they use computers to translate the electricity from a person’s hands into unique colored patterns around their portrait.

I am interested in demonstrating the connections among supposedly unique “genius” artists, and I am also interested in mapping out networks of the many people who are participants in the same kind of work but don’t situate it within the discourse of art. For example: Not all the people who post their aura pictures online want to be acknowledged as artists, but they do want to have those pictures seen. It’s interesting that the subject dissolves in a cloud of colored light. On the one hand, the image has a history, and on the other, it is enigmatically definitive of how we see ourselves in the digital age. You know, we are pixels; we’re light.

— As told to Allison Young

Edgar Heap of Birds, Genocide and Democracy, 2016, ink on paper, 15 x 22” each.


For over forty years, Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds has produced works that antagonize indigenous oppression and foreground his Cheyenne heritage. In recent monoprints, Heap of Birds merges political songs and anthems with his own writings—RED SKIN BOUNTY TIS OF THEE, reads one print in Genocide and Democracy, 2016, a piece he discusses below. That work is featured in “Reconstitution” at LAXART in Los Angeles, an exhibition that looks at the enduring legacy of identity politics and is curated by Catherine Taft and Hamza Walker. The show is on view through May 27, 2017.

I’VE BEEN MAKING MONOPRINTS like these for about fifteen years or so. I started printing them in Santa Fe with Michael McCabe, a master Navajo printer. He showed me a process where you paint backward on clear glass with a clear liquid. The result feels a little elusive, but I like it, because it’s different than my public art, which is more in your face with bold text. With these new monoprints, I never know what’s going to happen because of the liquid. Recently with Genocide and Democracy I started using solvents too, dissolving the letters even more.

It has been found that perhaps one hundred million indigenous lives were lost, throughout the Americas, due to so-called “contact” with Euro colonizers. Today countless tribal communities struggle to recover from genocide caused by war, violence, disease, loss of food sources, and encroachment of urban society upon the sacred Native medicine and natural world.

I began making these prints during the election. They illuminate the profound lack of electoral standing indigenous communities hold in democratic systems because of depleted population numbers and broadly dispersed demographics that span across many states and provinces, often from forced removal.

In some ways the prints in Genocide and Democracy look like they’re coming out of some bloody, violent event—blood is pooling on them, and there’s a violence implied by the words. I write texts but I also edit other documents, like the Declaration of Independence, which, if you just cut it down in a particular way, gives you the truth of a nation. It’s a racist document, with its talk of the savage Indians and so forth. I also found lines in songs like “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” that show the hypocrisy of justice, health care, sovereignty, and education in America and just put them together.

I like NBA basketball; I’m an Oklahoma City Thunder fan. So everyone sings “The Star-Spangled Banner” before each game and they put a hand on their heart. There’s a unified moral celebration, and prayers are offered. When you take that rubric and then pair it with the genocide and violence, I think that’s where you might have a flashpoint of recognition.

Excerpt from Edgar Heap of Birds’ interview for 500 Words.

I had to speak at a funeral on the reservation where I live just the other day. Death there is constant. Some of it is self-inflicted, but a lot of it is just based on problems on the reservation. And it’s not getting any better. There’s so much disenchantment there now—ill health from bad food provided by the government. It’s all sugar, salt, and processed—foods that will kill you. They give it away for free and then you get a horrible disease like diabetes from it.

My wife is Navajo, so we’re between the Cheyenne and Navajo Nations, traveling back and forth all the time. And her nation is really suffering too; they tested bombs in Nevada and the fallout came within the range of their reservation and dropped like rain—all these black particles gave everybody cancer. All the uranium mines there too. There’s just all of this tragedy and it’s not even like America has a blind eye to it, because Native people just aren’t visible in the US.

I was proud of how the tribes came together for the Dakota Access Pipeline protest, but I didn’t get too involved because I don’t with the buzzword things. We have a joke: “We’re Indian every day.” So that’s how I look at it, from the tribal standpoint. We did this activism before, we do it now, and we’ll do it later. People can get political when there’s a cause, sometimes a celebrity cause. But I wish they had kept going—there was a wonderful momentum. And I hope it channels into more activism and engages more non-Native communities. Because it was inclusive and that’s the way Native people are; we appreciate help. So it was wonderful in many ways, but the violent way it ended and how pushy it became was simply awful. Though I saw it coming when Obama left office.

— As told to Lauren O’Neill-Butler

Joe Goode

04.21.17

Joe Goode, Milk Bottle Painting 229, 2015, acrylic on board with milk bottle, 42 x 42".


Joe Goode’s deadpan images of milk bottles, suburban homes, open skies, forest fires, water, and smog are included in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Menil Collection in Houston; the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC; the Whitney Museum of American Art; and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Goode has worked in Los Angeles since the 1960s; his latest exhibition, “Old Ideas with New Solutions,” features recent paintings from several series he has been working on over the past half-century. The show opened on his eightieth birthday and is on view at Kohn Gallery in LA through May 13, 2017.

I WAS ALWAYS AWARE THAT MY WORK WASN’T POP. And Walter Hopps knew it too, even though he included me in the Pasadena Art Museum’s “New Painting of Common Objects” in 1962. I had the attitude of, I don’t care where you show me as long as you show me. It’s not very often I choose to revisit a series I’ve done before. On the occasions that I’ve done it, it was because I just felt that I really had a new way of seeing it. A good example would be the “Milk Bottle” paintings I started in the 1960s. First of all, the bottles sat on the floor in front of a canvas to look as though they came out of the canvas. And in this show, there are dark paintings with the bottles attached to them. I’ve always dealt with images that you could see through—usually glass, skies, clouds, or water. The “House” series from the 1960s was when I was just formulating this idea of being able to look through things. When you see a house or go by one of these very normal suburban homes, you instinctively know what’s inside it because you’ve been in a thousand of them. And that’s what really triggered this idea I had—even though you couldn’t see through something, on some level you knew what was inside.

One of the great things about Los Angeles is that it’s so open and it’s always been that way. I think that’s because of the geography, where everything’s spread out. Anybody could do anything here and it’s one of the very few cities where a person can do something that would normally offend you but you can just pick up and move. You don’t have to live with it. There’s a freedom here that’s been here since I first came, at least, and I don’t think it’s changed. People who don’t live here—they think of a large town, and it’s a large small town, is what it is. The people that came out here and gained recognition in the 1960s, one of the things that I think we all had in common—which was different from places like New York or Europe—was that each of us was working with vastly different imagery compared with artists in other places. I think that really singled this area out, and, in a way, it could have really inhibited it as well, but it didn’t, because of the right people like Philip Leider and John Coplans. Leider was from Northern California and John Coplans was from London, and so for those guys to come here, along with Walter Hopps and others, they were the ones that really put this place on the map. It wasn’t the artists, you know, because we were already working here and we were just the cards that they had to deal with. But they were the guys that did it. There’re plenty of places in the world with good artists that don’t have this happening. I think it was partially luck and partially circumstances, but if those things hadn’t merged together, I’m not saying people here wouldn’t have been recognized, because I think they would, but it would have been in an entirely different way.

— As told to David Muenzer