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              60th Venice Biennale, “Foreigners Everywhere”
              Ben Eastham
              The title “Foreigners Everywhere,” derived from the neon text works by Claire Fontaine that hang over the entrances to both sites of the international exhibition at the Venice Biennale, holds out the promise of a productive confusion. In the Italian expression visible on the reverse of the English, stranieri ovunque, the phrase carries a more overt implication of strangeness with the same edge of hostility, so that the visitor might brace themselves for a series of encounters that are—like the experience of foreignness itself—bewildering, unsettling, and fundamentally unsafe. But there is no need to do so. Because while the adoption of a bilingual sign as motto for the Biennale’s centerpiece exhibition suggests that its curator, Adriano Pedrosa, will embrace the miscomprehensions that are commensurate with translation, the reality is that everything will be explained to you. No space will be left for misunderstanding or its correlate, interpretation. The frustration of this exhibition is not that of the exile who, in a strange land, is unable to make sense of their surroundings but rather that of the tourist who is prevented from straying beyond the Potemkin village in which everything has been arranged to illustrate a point. This is not to …
              “Tongues of Fire”
              Daisy Hildyard
              From Grenfell Tower to the clothing factory fires of Gujarat, the wildfires of Sicily to those in California or New South Wales, the great fires of the past decade have all seemed to reveal something about the place that they destroyed. Caused by different circumstances, and burning on distant parts of the planet, what the fires share is this quality of revelation: each one shed light on the slower but relentless systems that made its devastation possible. You don’t need to contemplate the geopolitical causes of disaster, though, to know that fire compels attention. Its mesmerizing quality is everywhere in this group exhibition, shown over two floors in a former fire station, that places nineteen local civic relics and documents beside twenty-six international contemporary and modern works. Lungiswa Gqunta’s Feet Under Fire (2017) plays hypnotically slow video footage of bare feet, with scrubbing brushes strapped onto them, swinging over a rubble of charcoal and matches. Noémie Goudal’s film Below the Deep South (2021) sees flames licking and consuming a tropical forest, set to a soundtrack of distant bird calls. In John Gerrard’s CGI Flare (Oceania) (2022) a flag of pure flame waves over an unending stretch of water. In Tell
              “Day Jobs”
              Tausif Noor
              On the Reddit page for Contemporary Art last year, an anonymous 24-year-old, freshly armed with a BFA, poignantly asked for guidance on their career. Bemoaning their decision to take on a role producing marketing content—a shift in direction from days typically spent “reading art theory, reading different art journals online, making drawings and applying to open calls”—the ingenue expressed guilt for shirking their career while trying to save money for graduate education as an international student. The replies are overwhelmingly supportive, with most respondents reassuring the anonymous poster that they were far from alone, that they could find something relevant to their creative practice and still feel fulfilled, that there are tricks to live cheaply and work efficiently. One especially astute reply linked to a review of an exhibition that spoke to OP’s very question. Aptly titled “Day Jobs” and debuting at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, the exhibition, organized by Veronica Roberts, gathers some thirty-nine artists working in the United States between World War II and the present day, including some blockbuster stars whose career trajectories were part of their mythologies, like Andy Warhol (commercial illustrator and window display designer for Bonwit …
              Joan Jonas’s “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral”
              Filipa Ramos
              Arranged into families following a meticulous taxonomic logic, the almost 300 drawings presented at Drawing Center reveal the extraordinary bestiary that Joan Jonas has been compiling over five decades. Jonas has a unique capacity to traverse and merge artistic fields as varied as performance, sculpture, environment, and video installation, but what is illuminated by this exhibition, carefully curated by Laura Hoptman with Rebecca DiGiovanna, is how drawing runs through, across, and within every means of her expression, accompanying the development of her career from the 1960s to the present. The show also demonstrates how the artist has been bringing these disciplines together through drawing, as it becomes a practice akin to performing and editing, in a do-repeat-redo-repeat-erase-do-repeat method that connects the mind, body, and hand until the form emerges. Two drawings flank the entrance to the show (all works are untitled but classified by a reference number, in this case JJ084, circa late 1990s, and JJ085, from 2012), which also becomes its exit. These are two naked female torsos, as imposing and as head-, arm- and feet-less as the Winged Victory of Samothrace (190 BCE), made in the context of two live performances. In parallel to this, Jonas has blurred …
              Emanuel Proweller’s “Un souvenir de soleil”
              Ren Ebel
              Having survived first the Holocaust and then three years’ conscription in the Red Army, the Jewish-Polish painter Emanuel Proweller later said of his identity that it felt like “a jacket with a reversible lining.” The same analogy might be applied to Proweller’s paintings which, though unmistakably his own, routinely dress up in the various styles the artist encountered after moving to Paris at the end of the 1940s. Pilfering and distilling motifs of Fauvist landscape, Cubism, Hard-edge abstraction and proto-Pop appropriations of commercial graphic design, Proweller pursued striking, radioactive syncopations of color. Taken together, the paintings in this survey map a progression from strict geometrical abstraction to a more confident and eclectic mode in which Proweller’s dynamic planes of color begin to serve as set pieces for more recognizable forms. Often, these are laconic bodies or quotidian objects, sights from Proweller’s home in Créteil, on the outskirts of Paris, or his countryside studio in Ardèche. But the artist’s move toward figuration was less a means of representing his world than an opportunity for his colors to encounter one another at increasingly complex and unexpected boundaries. In Au bois de Chaville [In the woods of Chaville] (1974), sky blue and viridian …
              Tina Girouard’s “SIGN-IN”
              Cat Kron
              Performance art offers its viewer what other visual forms can’t: a direct address in real time. Yet in the years that follow its realization, the medium is susceptible to misremembering, or worse, indifference; its curators frequently resort to displaying a work’s discards in an effort to recreate the experience of its unfolding after the original audience has, quite literally, moved on. When it comes to Louisianian artist Tina Girouard, much of the imagined audience was never there in the first place. Girouard’s difficult-to-classify performance work—she remains best known within the art world for her collaboration with Carol Goodden and Gordon Matta-Clark on the restaurant-cum-happening FOOD—transpired primarily in downtown New York in the 1970s, and until recently almost none of it trickled down to the Bayou, an unfortunate fact given how prominently the region figured in her own artistic mythology. The artist’s method of repurposing the same materials in performance after performance inadvertently complicated the task of future curators and archivists who might hope to recreate specific iterations. Foremost among her props were eight twelve-foot lengths of floral-printed silk, on which she bestowed the typically mythical-sounding name “Solomon’s Lot,” and which she used in many of her performances throughout the 1970s. …
              Eva Gold’s “Shadow Lands”
              Jenny Wu
              The critique in London-based artist Eva Gold’s first US solo exhibition is spare and subtle. Consisting of six works on paper and two sculptural installations, the show conveys, in meticulous details and material choices, a message about the coercive economic power embedded in everyday cultural transactions. At the heart of the exhibition is “Pilot and Passengers” (all works 2024), a series of colored-pencil drawings of stills from Benny’s Video, Michael Haneke’s 1992 film about a violence-obsessed teenager disenchanted by his affluent upbringing, who murders a stranger in his parents’ home. Gold’s understated drawings, hung in identical, nineteen-by-twenty-six-inch frames, line three of the gallery’s walls. In Haneke’s film, a low tracking shot follows several pairs of hands as Benny, the teenager, covertly collects money for a pyramid scheme called Pilot and Passengers that he introduced to his friends during school choir practice. Gold’s lighter, less saturated images emphasize general forms over details. From afar, viewers might mistakenly believe that they are spying on people holding hands. Up close, one still feels like a voyeur, since Gold’s static renderings allow the eye to linger on the creases in the fabric of the boys’ jeans, the threaded borders of their back pockets, the …
              81st Whitney Biennial, “Even Better Than the Real Thing”
              Ben Eastham
              Walking through this survey of American art in the age of anger and anxiety, I kept returning to the curatorial statement’s seemingly innocuous proposal that new technologies are “complicating our understanding of what is real.” Are our horizons now so narrow, it occurred to me, that an algorithm’s ability to generate a derivative image is really more consciousness-expanding than such longstanding preoccupations of art as spiritual experience or the natural world? Or might the title’s appeal to something “better” serve to distract us from the already complicated and unarguably real events playing out beyond the walls of the museum, with which this biennial can seem reluctant to engage? A generation of artists are, on the show’s evidence, retreating from a hostile public sphere into their own carefully cultivated worlds. This tendency manifests both in the valorization of marginalized identities through the adaptation of folk traditions to the present—notably ektor garcia’s use of crochet to articulate a nomadic cross-border experience—and in the tendency towards opacity, most explicitly in the panels of smoked black glass suspended precariously over the audience’s heads by Charisse Pearlina Weston (of [a] tomorrow: lighter than air, stronger than whiskey, cheaper than dust, 2022). Many of the realities …
              Issam Kourbaj
              Tom Denman
              These twinned exhibitions span Issam Kourbaj’s responses to the civil war that has carried on in his home country since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, expanding to consider related conflicts in the Middle East and the broader plight of refugees. Trained in Damascus, Leningrad, and London, Kourbaj moved to Cambridge in 1990 and has over the past thirteen years harnessed metaphor’s literal Greek meaning—“to carry across”—to the archival impulse to catalogue and connect. Inspired by prisoners who smuggled their names out of a Syrian jail to let their families know they were alive, Urgent Archives, written in blood (2019) consists of disbound books and papers—perhaps the dead stock of an antiquarian bookshop or college library—loosely gridded on the floor, some “hovering” on blocks. In black, blue, and blood-red ink, Kourbaj has marked them with erratic lines and handwritten Arabic script. One book is stamped with the (English) words LEAVE TO REMAIN, signifying a refugee’s permission to stay in the UK—the granting of which is unguaranteed, racially biased, and often long-awaited in one of the country’s prisonlike detention centers. Every day since the uprising, Kourbaj has sewn a date stone into a tent fabric to create Our exile
              Angela Tiatia’s “The Dark Current”
              Stephanie Bailey
              Angela Tiatia’s single-channel moving image work The Dark Current (2023), projected onto one wall in a darkened room, opens with a body-as-landscape. A cropped, lateral view of a floral appliqued fuchsia dress follows the concave slope from breast to waist as dark waters lap in the background, like an island. The camera slowly pans to the side, following the cleavage’s arc until it reaches the face of a woman with a pearl perched delicately at one tear duct. The lens then rises over her to gaze down at her from above. Lying in black water atop a magenta panel, her arms move slowly to create a frame of rippling waves around her. The pearl is a portal to The Pearl (2022), an earlier immersive video installation not shown here, which was commissioned for “Matisse Alive” at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (2021–22), reflecting on Henri Matisse’s travels to the Pacific Islands through juxtapositions of his works with tivaevae quilts and commissions by artists Nina Chanel Abney, Sally Smart, Robin White, and Tiatia. Departing from Venus in a Shell (1930), a bronze sculpture that Matisse made the year he visited Tahiti, Tiatia composed The Pearl as a digital tapa, …
              noé olivas’s “Gilded Dreams”
              Suzanne Hudson
              With Patrisse Cullors and alexandre ali reza dorriz, noé olivas is a co-founder of the Crenshaw Dairy Mart, a collective and gallery with adjacent studio space dedicated, in their words, “to shifting the trauma-induced conditions of poverty and economic injustice, bridging cultural work and advocacy, and investigating ancestries through the lens of Inglewood and its community.” For a not-inconsequential time after its March 2020 opening and near-simultaneous pandemic-shuttering, it also served as the locus of art supply and food distribution—the latter in collaboration with Lauren Halsey’s Summaeverythang—extending the site’s history as a functioning convenience store. That it sits right under the flight path for Los Angeles International Airport provoked reckoning, from the first, with its imagined audiences alongside those more proximate. The group’s exhibition made in response to the virus, “CARE NOT CAGES: Processing a Pandemic,” lived online; olivas’s mural spelling out the same sentiment blanketed the parking lot as a horizontal billboard visible from above, coming into focus on a jet’s descent. The words function as an incantation but also an indictment, denouncing racial capitalism and the twinning of epidemiological and carceral disaster that the disease exacerbated but did not need to produce. “Gilded Dreams” follows this initial mandate, …
              Saskia Noor van Imhoff’s “Mineral Lick”
              Tom Jeffreys
              In 2021, Saskia Noor van Imhoff purchased a dairy farm amid the polder landscapes of Friesland in the Netherlands. The farm had been active for some four hundred years, but derelict for the past fifteen. van Imhoff approaches the site as a research project, entitled Rest, with the implication that the land, exhausted after centuries of extractive management, now finally has the chance to recover. With the land recuperating, the artist set to work: reactivating the farm not only as a site of agricultural production (prioritizing a certain conception of environmental responsibility over a profit motive) but also as a place for workshops, symposia, and other interdisciplinary activity. Meanwhile, van Imhoff has also reoriented her practice in response to the land, its historic uses and possible futures. “Mineral Lick” is the first UK solo show for van Imhoff, whose previous work has focused on hierarchies of value within collecting institutions such as museums and archives. Here, she foregrounds unexpected material combinations underpinned by a fascination with grafting, hybridity, and the recontextualizing of materials. GRIMM’s street-level windows have been washed with white shading paint and the interior glows with pink-red light—both echoes of the forced growing conditions of commercial greenhouse production. …
              “El fin de lo maravilloso. Cyberpop en México”
              Gaby Cepeda
              In her curatorial text for this group exhibition of Mexican artists mostly born in the nineties, Karol Woller Reyes defines a “generational imagination.” It belongs to artists who have “naturally incorporated some creative strategies” such as digital montage and circuit bending into the production of paintings and sculptures that also abound with references to pop-cultural figures from Pokémon to Pepe the Frog. The implication is that the art of today is shaped by the technologies and media environment of its makers’ adolescence. Shared access to cable TV and computers during childhood does not, however, a generation make. One of the narrow aisles that encircles the warehouse-like main gallery at Museo El Chopo housed the first, smaller part of “El Fin de lo Maravilloso.” Tucked to the side of the glass-walled gift shop were pieces by YOPE Projects collective crowded into a scaffold structure resembling an open-air market; a very early José Eduardo Barajas painting of cloudy emoji-like figures (Cirrus, Socrates, particle, decimal, hurricane, dolphin, tulip, Monica, 2018) in a freestanding wooden frame; and ¿Estamos, Kimosabe? (2020) a much-exhibited soft sculpture of a Mexican Bugs Bunny by Paloma Contreras Lomas—which judging by the dirt on its paws, has seen better days. …
              Mary Helena Clark’s “Conveyor”
              Chris Murtha
              There’s a card trick midway through Mary Helena Clark’s Neighboring Animals (all works 2024 unless otherwise stated), a two-channel video projected into a darkened corner. While an elderly orangutan watches from the other side of his enclosure’s window, two human hands press a single playing card against the thick safety glass. Holding a stick in one hand, the ape nimbly picks up the card, now (miraculously!) on his side of the barrier. After giving it a sniff and twirling it around in his hands, he places it back on the glass, tapping it a few times with his makeshift wand—perhaps his attempt to send it back through the seemingly porous window. Clark edited this video—a zoo’s promotional clip gone viral—to preserve some mystery on behalf of the orangutan, cutting the ending so that the card, instead of falling to the ground, remains affixed to the glass. A collage of sampled footage, still pictures, medical scans, and her own camerawork, Neighboring Animals scrutinizes the thresholds between inside and outside, human and beast. The left channel consists solely of yellow subtitles with no corresponding voice, a pastiche of quotations on the topic of disgust. Alongside illustrations of chained and leashed animals from …
              Esther Mahlangu’s “Then I Knew I Was Good at Painting”
              Ben Eastham
              This retrospective of the Ndebele painter and unofficial artist laureate of post-Apartheid South Africa presents two origin stories. The first, from which its title derives, tells of how Esther Mahlangu first identified as an artist when, having been reprimanded for daubing the walls of her family home as a child, she persevered until she was good enough to be permitted by her mother to paint its façade. The second, taking place several decades later, arrived when a group of European researchers came to her village to seek out the woman responsible for decorating the house in their photograph. “We want you,” they said, “to come to Paris.” The invitation was to participate in the 1989 exhibition “Magiciens de la Terre” at the Centre Pompidou, a show that continues to cast a long shadow over attempts to decenter or decolonize the representation in western institutions of global visual culture. Mahlangu contributed a reproduction of her own painted Ndebele house (reproduced in miniature in this exhibition), setting in train a career so prolific that her vivid polychromatic designs now serve as visual shorthand for Nelson Mandela’s vision of South Africa as a comparably vibrant and harmonious “rainbow nation.” These instantly recognizable patterns—since …
              Catherine Opie’s “Walls, Windows, and Blood”
              Sylvie Fortin
              They say ghosts, vampires, and the soulless cast no shadows. Shot in a Vatican City emptied of visitors during the pandemic summer of 2021, Catherine Opie’s new photographs provocatively reshuffle different threads of her longstanding inquiries—the spectrum from transparency to opacity; communal spaces; the body as/and architecture; queerness and institutions. With its succinct, descriptive enumeration, the exhibition’s trinitarian title “Walls, Windows, and Blood” implies unsettling visual conversations to which she gives form with a selection of images from three new series (all works 2023), clustered in grids, lined up along walls, and proceeding in colonnades. No Apology (June 5, 2021), a large photograph of Pope Francis delivering a speech from a top-floor window of his residence overlooking St. Peter’s Square, greets visitors. A lone white man dwarfed by statuary and muffled by the resounding whiteness of the colonnaded plaza, he floats above a blood-red banner bearing his coat of arms. In his short allocution, uttered in the wake of the traumatic discovery of unmarked graves at the former Church-run Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, the pontiff acknowledged (apologies would have to wait) the Catholic Church’s complicity in both the colonial dispossession of Canada’s Aboriginal communities and the accompanying systematic …
              Amalia Pica’s “Aula Expandida”
              Noah Simblist
              How might our understanding of education better incorporate communication, participation, and play? And what would be the consequences of that expanded approach? Such questions have been at the center of Amalia Pica’s work for many years, drawing partially on her early experience as a primary school teacher. Her first solo exhibition in New York attends to the manifold aspects of learning across a group of collages, sculptures, and video works organized around a new interactive installation. Two understated large-scale graphite and watercolor drawings, School sheets in adjusted scale (or an exercise in how to go back to all the things I hadn’t thought of yet) #1 and #2 (both 2011), are based on notebook paper with “Rivadavia” printed in an elegant cursive in the margin. This references Bernardino Rivadavia, the first president of the London-based artist’s birth country of Argentina, using a font based on his signature. The stamping of state power into the very books in which young people learn how to write signals the reproduction of the ideological subject through a form of repeated inscription. This has chilling implications in the context of the military dictatorship (1976–83) into which Pica was born. Her 2008 video On Education depicts …
              “Fokus: Hamed Abdalla”
              Kaelen Wilson-Goldie
              The Egyptian artist Hamed Abdalla painted mothers and farmers and letters and landscapes but the subjects he returned to most often, in each of the many disparate phases of his career, were lovers. This jewel box-sized exhibition devoted to Abdalla’s work, organized by Morad Montazami and Madeleine de Colnet of the Paris-based publishing and curatorial project Zamân, features six of his amorous pairings. The earliest lovers in the show are Les Amants de Shemm Ennessim [The Lovers of Shemm Ennessim], from 1953, a sweet gouache on silk paper showing a couple in traditional dress, facing each other demurely in profile but slyly extending their arms to embrace. The figures appear stylized and flattened, and clearly, Abdalla was inspired by a celebrated genre of hand-painting on glass depicting Antar and Abla. Those two are the hero and heroine of pre-Islamic poetry (composed by Antar himself, full name Antarah Ibn Shaddad) relating the episodic adventures of a black warrior poet who was born a slave but became a knight and the smart, beautiful woman who defied her family to be with him. The last of Abdalla’s lovers, in a show conceived as part of a series and wedged into the museum’s permanent …
              “Another Beautiful Country: Moving Images by Chinese American Artists”
              Vanessa Holyoak
              The Chinese term gūanxi describes a web of relations between friends, family, lovers, co-workers, even corrupt politicians. It evokes a sense of community and belonging that can prove elusive for the diverse group of people commonly referred to as “Chinese American.” A moniker that points to allegiances, however fraught, to the two countries it references, “Chinese American” is a one-size-fits-all label that attempts to forge a singular identity out of a heterogeneous array of diasporic experiences shaped by displacement, immigration, and cross-cultural translation. Curated by Dr. Jenny Lin, “Another Beautiful Country: Moving Images by Chinese American Artists” hinges on another transcultural exchange. Drawing connections between gūanxi and French-Martinican philosopher of opacity Édouard Glissant’s notion of a “poetics of relation,” the exhibition posits relationality over identity as an alternate cornerstone of contemporary Chinese Americanness. Referenced in an introductory essay in the exhibition catalogue written by Dr. Lin, Glissant’s emphasis on diasporic relation is espoused throughout the show—which includes areas for repose and relation amongst exhibition-goers—and enacted through real and speculative social encounters between family, friends, and strangers staged within the works themselves. Drawing its title from the Chinese word for America, 美國/měiguó, which translates literally to “beautiful country,” along with the …
              Tania Bruguera’s “Where Your Ideas Become Civic Actions (100 Hours Reading The Origins of Totalitarianism)”
              Eugene Yiu Nam Cheung
              In Germany’s increasingly censorious intellectual climate, Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof staged the Cuban artist Tania Bruguera’s “Where Your Ideas Become Civic Actions (100 Hours Reading The Origins of Totalitarianism)” inside its main hall. This participatory public reading of—and discussion around—Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) was spread across four days, featuring the artist alongside writers such as Masha Gessen and Deborah Feldman, prominent artists in Berlin including Candice Breitz, and people from “the museum’s neighborhood.” Speakers—mostly solo, sometimes in a trio, and even as a chorus—addressed the audience amid a spare scenography: a single rattan-upholstered rocking chair, illuminated from above by a beam of golden light. Hospital-gray bean bags and cardboard stools were strewn before it, stretching out towards the entrance of the museum and luring visitors into a collectivized consideration of “power and violence, plurality and morality, politics and truth.” Microphones were connected to a sound system scattered haphazardly around the space, and synchronized with speakers outside the institution facing Invalidenstraße, a thoroughfare leading to Berlin’s central station, a few hundred meters away. Like the work’s title, Bruguera’s sonic gesture felt prescriptive—as if it were the artist’s duty to break Arendt out of the institution and onto the …
              Madeline Hollander’s “Entanglement”
              Maddie Hampton
              In profile, the six rounded disks at the center of Madeline Hollander’s latest exhibition appear glamorously extraterrestrial, the bright bulbs of the track lighting glinting in their polished chrome surfaces. Arranged in a grid on curved, white pedestals, the satellite-shaped objects are constructed from parabolic mirrors, a hole cut at the top of each to reveal a sinewy figure cast in aluminum, revolving atop a bifurcated circle of colored glass. Based on Hollander’s personalized notation system, specific silhouettes and colors correspond to a precise movement so that, taken in concert, the six figures play out an entire choreography, spinning perpetually in place. Viewed at the right angle, the maquette doubles, ascending out of the mirror like a ballerina from a jewelry box to create the illusion of a perfect pas de deux—not a limb out of place, nor a posture skipped, as both “dancers” rotate in flawless synchronicity. Titled Entanglement Choreography I-VI (all works 2023), the objects are designed as miniaturized visualizations of quantum entanglement, the theory that two particles can be interdependent, mimicking one another across both space and time, the action of one entirely conditional on that of its partner. Quick and loose with her interpretations of the …
              Suneil Sanzgiri’s “Here the Earth Grows Gold”
              Phil Coldiron
              Go past the Tiffany glass, the inventory of deco design and the wing of feminist art that still bears the name Sackler, and finally, tucked away, you’ll find a small enclave of two rooms comprising Suneil Sanzgiri’s solo institutional debut, “Here the Earth Grows Gold.” The smaller of these galleries contains: a sculpture, Red Clay, Stretched Water (Return to the Source) (all works 2023), a kind of provisional hut built of black bamboo and printed images; a minute-long loop of 16mm film, My Memory Is Again in the Way of Your History (After Agha Shahid Ali), in which a digitally-animated banner reading “Your History Gets In The Way Of My Memory” flutters atop waves; and quite a lot of wall text (the one written by the artist himself, demanding that the Brooklyn Museum divest itself of various ill-gotten items in its collection, might reasonably be taken as the show’s fourth work). Moving through a curtain to the centerpiece, the digital double-projection Two Refusals (Would We Recognize Ourselves Unbroken?), maybe the first thing you notice is the gap between its screens: each canted slightly off an unseen wall, they funnel vision to the six inches or so of space between them. …
              Jane Jin Kaisen’s “Halmang”
              Dylan Huw
              A group of elderly women labor silently, weaving and draping long sheets of white cotton around an islet of black volcanic rock. The twelve-minute film installation’s supplementary materials explain that these women have spent much of their lives working together as haenyeo—an occupation dating back centuries, in which women freedive to harvest seafood for their families on Jeju Island, south of the Korean Peninsula—and that this precise setting is one of shamanic significance, associated with the goddess of wind who gives the film its title, Halmang (2023). The Jeju-born, Denmark-based artist’s patiently observational study of these “women of the sea” emphasizes their status as workers by foregrounding, in lingering close-ups, their aged, scarred faces and hands as continuous with the aged, scarred rock. A soundtrack of crushing waves lulls the viewer, until the film’s confronting climactic image: the islet depeopled and draped in the white cotton. This land, born from geological shock and host to centuries of politically contested narrative, will outlive us all. Halmang gives this tightly focused exhibition at Manchester’s esea contemporary its title and centerpiece. With a refreshing formal lucidity, it literalizes themes of familial and geopolitical ties that have been central to Kaisen’s work in film …
              Ho Tzu Nyen’s “Time & the Tiger”
              Adeline Chia
              Meditations on the nature of temporality abound in Ho Tzu Nyen’s latest video work, T for Time (2023–). We have explainers on timekeeping traditions in the East and West; a vignette about a man who maintains Singapore’s oldest public clock; the origins of Greenwich Mean Time; metaphysical musings on non-linear time (“time conceived as a viscous fluid… it does not pass and has no rim… it pools”). Accompanying most of these are digital animations that sometimes illustrate the concepts—like imagery of a molting ouroboros—and visuals with less obvious connections to the theme, such as recurring scenes of political protest and incarceration. Most of the text is sung by a male narrator in seemingly improvised melodies. Content, which is shuffled by an algorithm, starts to repeat only about seventy-five edifying minutes in. I was intrigued, stimulated and entertained, but couldn’t escape the feeling of being lectured to. This has something to do with the video’s heavy reliance on text: this work narrates itself. Ho’s self-narrating, self-theorizing, and sometimes even self-interpreting practice involves a thorough immersion in a range of research topics, resulting in a cathartic showing and telling that has become his signature style. “Time & the Tiger”, a mid-career survey …
              Pedro Lasch’s “Entre líneas / Between the Lines”
              Mariana Fernández
              Pedro Lasch’s mid-career survey at Laboratorio Arte Alameda begins with a painting—the ultra-deadpan McSickle, grande no. 1 (2003)—depicting a yellow hammer and sickle fusing with the “M” of McDonald’s on a red background. These two colors also happen to make up the Chinese flag. The painting exemplifies the multiple layers of Lasch’s practice: the artist is best known not so much for making things as for creating opportunities for social encounter and collaboration through his roles as an activist, educator (he teaches at Duke and is the director of its FHI Social Practice Lab), and cultural organizer (with the collective 16 Beaver). Yet the thematic survey “Pedro Lasch: Entre líneas / Between the Lines” manages to avoid the document-heavy trappings into which displays of socially engaged art sometimes fall because of how well Lasch’s social practice translates into objecthood. The survey shows that whether in the form of painting, installation, props, performance scores, or game instructions, Lasch has long been thinking about the tensions between colonialism and cultural exchange, and using art as an entry point into public engagement with a decolonial agenda. These themes are on full display in the mural painted on the back wall of the main …
              Hanan Benammar’s “The Soil Is Fertile But For A Distant Seed”
              Natasha Marie Llorens
              Here lies idealism. This my first impression of a marble tombstone that marks the entrance to the second floor of Bomuldsfabriken Kunsthall. Instead of a name or a set of dates, it bears the words awareness, insight, and knowledge in Norwegian. Hanan Benammar’s sculpture ERKJENNELSE, INNSIKT, KUNNSKAP (2020), re-stages a comment by an established historian on NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) regarding a previous work by the artist, Antiphony (2019), in which Benammar set up a calling service that put visitors in touch with strangers to discuss a range of concepts, such as emptiness, chaos, silence, violence, boundaries, and doubt, staging exploratory and open-ended one-on-one discussions. The art historian cited in the more recent sculpture dismissed Antiphony as lacking any significant “awareness, insight, or knowledge.” Those qualities were properly represented by figurative marble sculpture, in this historian’s view, because “marble is art with a capital A.” It is tempting to dismiss the notion that art must be made in marble to represent insight as reactionary provincialism, an inconsequential view in the broader context of geo-political crisis. Yet such dismissals echo the ways in which the conspiratorial claims emanating from what Naomi Klein, in her 2023 book Doppelganger, dubbed the “Mirror World” …
              Kwan Sheung Chi’s “Not retrospective”
              Stephanie Bailey
              Everything about Kwan Sheung Chi feels elusive, even when he’s telling you about himself. Take the artist’s press release for “Not retrospective,” which includes “less [sic] than 40 recent and previous sculptures, photographs and videos.” A biography cites two solo shows Kwan staged in 2002, one year before he graduated from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and one year after his joint funeral-as-exhibition with artist Chow Chun Fai, when they burned their art. The first is “A Retrospective of Kwan Sheung Chi” at Hong Kong’s 1a space, for which there is scant online record. The second is “Kwan Sheung Chi Touring Series Exhibitions,” described as ten “major” exhibitions at different Hong Kong venues that apparently involved Kwan photographing himself in each site. Kwan has long resisted the market’s tendency to commodify artists by leaning into commodification as a systematic process that resonates with the conceptual grid—an approach that couches critical gestures within layers of satire. Divided into three sections, “Not retrospective” stages this sleight of hand. It begins with a small white cube crudely built from wooden boards like a stage set, where a trio of pennant banners strung up at the entrance made from dust jackets for Marx’s …
              Astrid Klein
              Xenia Benivolski
              Astrid Klein’s photowork Untitled (Je ne parle pas,…) (1979) presents two cut-out images of Brigitte Bardot—posing in a baby doll dress and, again, coquettishly looking back over her shoulder. In broken, typewritten French and English are the words “je ne parle pas, je ne pense rien” (“I don’t speak, I don’t think”) and “to paint my life, to paint my life, so many ways.” It’s a fitting prelude to this exhibition, which is something of a house of mirrors. Trapped behind the museum glass, like sexy cats in apartment windows, large photographic works fill the walls, each featuring a beautiful woman while slyly reflecting the viewer. In Untitled (la sans couleur…) (1979), a reclining woman awkwardly turns her head to look at me with an enigmatic smile. Loosely draped in a sheet on an unmade bed in the dark, she is a body in waiting. These gazes are not exactly inviting; if anything, they somehow lack emotion, as the title reflects: “masks without color.” But there is something cool, even powerful, about their magnetic resignation. Like several in the show, the image is arranged with visible marker framing and taped sections, giving the impression that this composition sets the stage …
              Alfredo Jaar’s “El Lado Oscuro de la Luna”
              Juan José Santos
              Is that hysterical laughter? And are those accelerated heartbeats the phantasmagoric echoes of Chile, circa 1973? These sounds are not leaking into the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes but are rather the reverberations of an album released that same year: Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, which plays on a loop in this exhibition of works made by Alfredo Jaar between 1974 and ’81. Jaar was seventeen when General Pinochet’s coup d’état tore his country apart, and the young artist sought refuge in this soundtrack of madness and despair. Pink Floyd’s front-man and lyricist Roger Waters last year released The Dark Side of the Moon Redux, a “reimagining” of the album from which this retrospective takes its title. Where he chose to replace David Gilmour’s guitar solos with homiletic spoken word, curator Pablo Chiuminatto has gone the other way. Rather than over-explain, Chiuminatto’s approach offers little contextualization or research for Jaar’s early works, which mark a turning point in the career of one of Latin America’s most significant artists. The restrained curation lends the show a provisional feel, an analysis of sketches by an obsessive apprentice. These range from Jaar’s initial experiments with dry-transfer lettering methods, such …
              Deimantas Narkevičius’s “The Fifer”
              Michael Kurtz
              The centerpiece of Deimantas Narkevičius’s current exhibition at Maureen Paley is a holographic screen—a small block of glass on a sleek metal shelf. A nightingale appears in the glass and lands on a branch that hangs there, while audio plays of a flute mimicking birdsong in sync with the movements of its beak. It flies out of view again and then returns, left and right, left and right. On an adjacent wall is another branch of sorts—a bark-like bronze cast of the cavities inside a flute—and nearby hang two small black-and-white images: a 1920s photograph from the Lithuanian State Archive of a soldier playing the flute by a window and a digital recreation of the same scene from directly outside the building. This perplexing constellation of objects is named after the shadowy figure in the photograph, The Fifer (2019). Holography represents the height of illusionism, elaborately conjuring animated three-dimensional images. But the nightingale’s restless movement in and out of frame continually calls attention to the screen’s edges, where the projection falters and the empty glass block becomes visible. The illusion is further ruptured by the flutist’s birdsong which, isolated from any ambient sound, is unconvincing. Each item here performs a …
              Naoki Sutter-Shudo’s “End of Thinking Capacity”
              Gracie Hadland
              Naoki Sutter-Shudo addresses the current critical landscape with a series of seven “Critical Figures” and twelve paintings. Installed in only one half of the gallery, the audience of figurative sculptures faces a wall on which is hung a row of large graphic canvasses. Each is adorned with a formal accessory made of flimsy material: a wire twist-tie shaped into a tie, a fake lettuce hat, a shirt made of bubble wrap or a plastic bag. The figures’ apparent attempts to present as professional are rendered ridiculous by the nature of their clothing. They look as though they’re dressed for a nineteenth-century salon—complete with bonnets, big collars, and ties—rather than a contemporary art gallery. Each figure’s body has an intricately constructed apparatus holding a wind-up metronome with a bell (some in 3/4 time, others in 1/4 time) and has a unique look, height, and facial expression tending towards the bizarre—one has three heads, for example. The viewer is able to wind up the “critics,” letting them spin their wheels while looking around the show. The result is a rhythmic kind of chatter punctuated with the ding of a bell, as if to signal a lightbulb moment. Sitting atop stacks of white …
              Jan Van Imschoot’s “The End Is Never Near”
              Jörg Heiser
              Belgian painter Jan Van Imschoot’s first major retrospective—the show that should gain him the belated international recognition his work deserves—spans four decades, seven rooms, more than eighty paintings, a bar, and a small cinema. And it starts with a landscape-format painting sitting smack across the entrance. A cherub or cupid, though with no wings, painted much larger than life, reclines against an indistinct, darkly looming background. The little big fellow has apparently nodded off, his nipples, shiny belly bottom, and tiny weenie standing out like bumps and craters on the surface of a full moon. The motif and the title Amore Dormiente (2018) pay direct homage to Caravaggio’s Sleeping Cupid (1608), a small painting at home in the Uffizi. But homage immediately turns into, well, what? Parody? Grotesque exaggeration? In this adaptation, cupid’s face is wreathed by a shock of auburn hair, a rather adult skyward nose, sagging cheeks, and eyes swollen half-shut, like an old drunk’s. Instead of a bow and arrow in his left hand, in his right he holds a handwritten letter in French, signed by van Imschoot, which translates as: “Aposematism in painting: on linguistic confusions and the mimesis of lies, or the challenge of the …
              “As Though We Hid the Sun in a Sea of Stories”
              Olexii Kuchanskyi
              Against a backdrop of constant territorial changes in the former Soviet countries and the ongoing war in Ukraine, “As Though We Hid the Sun in a Sea of Stories” explores the “geopoetics of North Eurasia.” The term denotes heterogeneous, yet tightly interconnected, political and cultural contexts under oppressive regimes, ranging from the Russian Empire to contemporary Russian imperialism via Soviet colonialism. Framed in the handout by HKW’s director, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, as a way of “being and seeing the world through the prism of the Global East,” the show tries to avoid any “totalizing vision” in favor of multiple subjectivities and geographies. To achieve this, the show’s curators—Cosmin Costinaș, Iaroslav Volovod, Nikolay Karabinovych, Saodat Ismailova, and Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon—have scattered the artworks across the museum in a way that foregrounds their discreteness, each piece separately lit and surrounded by empty space. Stories of colonialism, resistance, and artistic experimentation are encapsulated in these “monads,” yet the aversion to a “totalizing vision” extends to the bewildering absence of wall texts from the galleries (viewers hoping for context must flip through the handbook, which lacks a general plan of the show, to find a work description). The exhibition’s main space is filled …
              “Self-Determination: A Global Perspective”
              Judith Wilkinson
              “Everyone has the right to a nationality,” states article 15 of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (1948) and “no one shall be deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.” As part of “Self-Determination: A Global Perspective,” Banu Çennetoğlu has filled the Irish Museum of Modern Art’s East Wing Gallery with three gigantic bouquets of gold helium letter balloons. Each bouquet, a mass of oversized jumbled letters, spells out a different article from the declaration. Throughout the course of the exhibition the balloons that make up right? (2022–ongoing) will deflate, lowering to the ground, until nothing remains but their empty carcasses. An initiative of Annie Fletcher, IMMA’s director since 2019, “Self-Determination” explores the establishment of new post-World War I nation-states—including Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Ukraine, Turkey, Egypt, and Ireland itself—focusing on the role that art and artists played in statecraft and the formation of the national imagination. The site of the exhibition, the Royal Hospital Kilmainham (built in 1684 as a home for retired British soldiers), holds significance in the construction of the Irish nation. It was considered as a potential headquarters for Oíreachtas Shaorstát Éireann, the newly established government of the Irish Free State …
              Shubigi Rao’s “These Petrified Paths”
              Katherine C. M. Adams
              In Shubigi Rao’s new film These Petrified Paths (2023), censorship is always tied to the threat of repressive territorialization. Early on, we are introduced to a “former professor of Russian literature, now beekeeper on the side of the road to Daliyan” in Turkey, who embodies a theme of the exhibition at large: how a struggle over literature and written culture has led to a fight over ecology, terrain, and the right to live freely on one’s Indigenous land. In the film, this process is inflected by the historical function of Armenian literature as a tool of nation-building, forging claims to place for a people often on the verge of statelessness. As one featured subject remarks of the region’s history, the Armenian genocide is also “cultural genocide.” These Petrified Paths details (among other threads) the lengths to which Armenian intellectuals have gone to preserve their heritage: one participant describes how an elder member of the community buried his books in the ground, with the intent that they be dug up only upon the retreat of repressive state forces. Toward the end of the film, an interlocutor alludes pessimistically to the contemporary Armenian government’s attempts to “sell off” part of the country …
              “Intimate confession is a project”
              Valentin Diaconov
              Curated by Houston-born curator Jennifer Teets, “Intimate confession is a project” looks at what her academic inspirations—Lauren Berlant, Ara Wilson, Kai Bosworth—have called “affective infrastructures.” Here, the phrase denotes a way of thinking through how infrastructures, designed to facilitate the movement of goods and people with maximum efficiency, can produce varied emotional affects. In a catalogue essay, Teets writes that this group exhibition is “informed” by Houston. Here, perhaps more than anywhere else in America, infrastructure is the city: the crumbling roads, the non-existent sidewalks, and the looming if stealthy presence of oil refinement and finance. The show opens with model houses made from old Bible covers by Chiffon Thomas. Attached to the ceiling over the staircase to the exhibition floor, they hover like ghosts. Thomas was inspired by the neighborhoods of his Chicago childhood, but the shaky silhouettes of these model houses could be Houston’s Third Ward, or any poor community where a church promises a better life perspective than the current economy and policy. In a transgenerational dialogue the curator’s great-grandmother, Josie Ann Teets, an amateur songwriter, meets a young French artist. Josie Ann wrote and published The Oil King Buggie in 1975. The show contains a notation …
              An-My Lê’s “Between Two Rivers/Giữa hai giòng sông/Entre deux rivières”
              Jacinda S. Tran
              In 1968, army photographer Ron Haeberle shot Vietnamese civilians indiscriminately massacred by US ground forces in the hamlet of Mỹ Lai. His photographs circulated widely—including a color photo of corpses strewn across a road featured in LIFE magazine that, in 1970, with support from the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Workers Coalition incorporated into an antiwar poster overlaid, in blood red, with the text “Q. And babies? A. And babies.” When MoMA withdrew its support for the poster, AWC staged a protest to illuminate board members’ tacit support of the war in Vietnam. The museum promptly assimilated AWC’s poster into their own collections, institutionalizing institutional critique. Half a century later, MoMA exhibits “Between Two Rivers/Giữa hai giòng sông/Entre deux rivières,” a survey of multimedia works by Vietnam-born An-My Lê, whose large-format photographs are known for their staging and depictions of militarized landscapes. Lê focuses on what the visual reveals and obscures; how a range of quotidian landscapes may be conceived as “always already military.” Though Lê left Vietnam as a teenager after the fall of Saigon in 1975, the specter of war and its spectacularization informs her approaches to representation. In “Viêt Nam (1994–98), Lê returns to her birth …
              “Green Snake: women-centred ecologies”
              Stephanie Bailey
              Of all the works in this gathering of cosmological and ecological perspectives, one is anchored directly to the exhibition title. Two moon gates open up the wooden frame enclosing Candice Lin’s Kiss under the tail (all works 2023 unless otherwise stated), where floorspace padded with tatami mats hosts ceramic cats, one with a house for a head, and an indigo-dyed carpet whose patterning replicates a nineteenth-century diagram of a castration by a western missionary who studied eunuchs in China. These gates, and the transformational space they envelope, reference a central location in Tsui Hark’s 1993 movie, Green Snake, a retelling of an ancient Chinese folktale about two female snake demons who endeavored to become human. In the film, the single-minded White Snake pursues the love of a studious male, while the free-wheeling, shapeshifting Green Snake tries to understand the desire that drives her centuries-long companion to her doom. In the end, Green Snake rejects the human world with its apocalyptically heteronormative devotions and questionably immutable morals, realizing she had known love as an affirmation of life all along. So she returns to the water, or rather to nature; an idea that runs through this show. Projected onto a massive wall …
              35th Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts, “from the void came gifts of the cosmos”
              Kate Sutton
              When Ibrahim Mahama agreed to serve as artistic director of the 35th Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts, he sought inspiration on a domestic scale. The simple conceptual sketch he prepared for this edition—titled “from the void came gifts of the cosmos”—shows a rudimentary bedframe, with a few unidentified objects stashed underneath. This curatorial approach attempts to reclaim an everyday architectural recess from the realm of monsters and recognize it instead as a space of potential. But dark things come from under the bed, the darkest of which may be nothing at all. Mahama applies the metaphor of the void not only to architectural and ideological infrastructures, but also to emancipatory movements that operate within structures of colonial domination. Chief among these is the Non-Aligned Movement: a political experiment that rejected the either/or imperialism of the Cold War era in favor of a multilateral understanding of the world. Its foundations were laid at the Bandung Conference in 1955, the same year that the Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts launched. Fresh from its split and subsequent rapprochement with the USSR, Yugoslavia offered a meeting ground for representatives from both sides of the Iron Curtain, and the biennial was expressly crafted to strengthen …
              Pacita Abad
              Tausif Noor
              To discuss the life of Pacita Abad is to enumerate the diverse places to which she traveled (some sixty countries across six continents), her expansive artistic output (nearly 5000 large-scale works), and the litany of materials and techniques she applied to the surfaces of her signature stuffed-and-quilted canvases, or trapuntos (sequins, beads, batik prints, and phulkari embroidery, to name just a few). Over a thirty-two-year career—she died of cancer in Singapore in 2004—Abad sidestepped hierarchies between craft and high art and unraveled received notions of the local, national, and global, pursuing instead a vibrant eclecticism that was often at odds with the dominant artistic movements of her time. The retrospective at SFMOMA—arriving from the Walker Art Center before stops at New York’s MoMA PS1 and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto—follows Abad’s artistic career as it was shaped by global postwar politics from the aftermath of national decolonization movements in Asia and Africa in the 1960s, through the humanitarianism of the 1970s and ’80s, and the heyday of multiculturalism in the US in the 1990s and early 2000s. In this, Abad’s trapuntos in particular function as what the curator Shabbir Hussain Mustafa has aptly termed an “archive of the …
              Andrea Bowers’s “Joy is an Act of Resistance”
              ​R.H. Lossin
              The first work that one encounters on entering Andrew Kreps’s gallery might be mistaken for an extension of the gallery’s commercial operations. Trans Bills (2023) consists of fifty-four black ring binders, arrayed on a shelf to the left of the front desk, labeled with the names of states that have passed legislation restricting the rights of trans citizens. The work’s blandness is perhaps the point. Quietly running in the background of clownish Republican performances of parental rights and viral videos of religious zealots is a legislative machine producing the reams of paper progressively restricting the rights of trans people to work, receive medical care, and live basic social lives. In a mere two years, 1,006 anti-trans bills have been introduced by state legislatures. An additional sixty-three have been introduced at the federal level. At the back of the first-floor gallery is a 47-minute single-channel video of a trans prom organized by four teenagers as both an adolescent rite of passage and a protest—two things that are, for many trans youth, inseparable. The footage is visible from the gallery’s entrance, and the contrast between the young faces and the scale of adult animosity ranged against them is the show’s most valuable …
              Mit Jai Inn
              Jenny Wu
              In Shirley Jackson’s allegorical short story “The Lottery” (1948), villagers gather for a game of chance in which they draw slips of paper, all blank but one, from an old black box. Children, adults, and elders alike, accustomed to the tradition, participate with a mixture of anticipation and boredom. The ending reveals that the prize, known to them all along, is the stoning of an unlucky villager. Mit Jai Inn’s first US solo exhibition also features a large quantity of “stones” and a lottery that, in subtler ways, uncovers a set of human behaviors integral to the functioning of society and politics. Here, the Chiang Mai-based artist, whose work is often framed as a form of social practice infused with Buddhist teachings, sets up a participatory piece titled after a recent sculpture series, Marking Stones (2022). Visitors are invited to submit pledges for “positive action” for a chance to win one of these sculptures. The title of the series is a tenuous reference to the bai sema stones used by Buddhist communities in Southeast Asia to mark their territory: the sculptures are, in fact, fully functional baskets, lamps, and stools. Around two dozen of these candy-colored wares occupy a room …
              Paul Pfeiffer’s “Prologue to the Story of the Birth of Freedom”
              Juliana Halpert
              Trying to find a critical entry point into—or exit from—Paul Pfeiffer’s retrospective is not unlike the challenge of navigating its labyrinthine layout of walls, ramps, and rooms within rooms. An architecture designed by the artist with Hollywood sound stages in mind slowly unveils a spectacle of spectacles, showcasing over thirty works spanning the past twenty-five years and dizzying ranges of scale, duration, material, and method. Pfeiffer is best known for his bite-sized video works, which sit here alongside extra-large installations, miniature dioramas, full-scale sculptures, room-wide projections, and expansive photo series. Video durations range from four seconds to ninety days. Most of his moving-image works have no sound, but the space hums with the distant, ambient clamor of a crowd. Michael Jackson’s voice has been replaced by that of a Filipino choir. The Stanley Cup levitates in mid-air. Marilyn Monroe and Muhammad Ali have been scrubbed out of their respective beaches and boxing ring. Raucous activity and haunting absence somehow go hand-in-hand. If there’s a true North to Pfeiffer’s practice, it might be mass media’s protean relationship to consumer technology, how the latter shapes the former and vice versa. It’s a marvel to witness the artist’s use and abuse of both, …
              Delcy Morelos’s “El abrazo”
              Michael Kurtz
              Here lie the ruins of the American avant-garde. Wood salvaged from an installation by Dan Graham, offcuts from a felt piece by Robert Morris, and scraps of flooring from a Dorothea Rockburne display. Mounds of soil recall Robert Smithson’s geological samples and rows of pipe echo Walter de Maria’s Broken Kilometer (1979) of brass rods lined up on the floor. These fragments now sit in darkness, illuminated only by four shaded skylights. They are arranged across the space along with sheets of corrugated metal, parallel stacks of wooden planks, and hundreds of small pieces of Colombian pottery. Everything is dark brown and sitting on a crust of mud which rises up the walls to a high-water mark, I later read, left after the gallery flooded during Hurricane Sandy. Despite their simple forms and materials, the objects become mirage-like in this dimly lit monochrome expanse. Walking down the pier of clean floor that stretches into the room, I try to perceive the scale and texture of the things around me, but they evade my grasp. The light fades and they retreat further. Cielo terrenal [Earthly heaven] (2023), the first of two installations by Colombian artist Delcy Morelos at Dia Chelsea, is …
              Henry Taylor’s “From Sugar to Shit”
              Novuyo Moyo
              The people in Henry Taylor’s paintings are usually surrounded by slabs of color, a graphic sensibility he shares with his high school peers and alternative comic book artists Los Bros Hernandez, whom he credits with setting the bar for his work. “I always thought, ‘Damn, they draw so much better than I.’ So I started just practicing my draftsmanship because of them. They intimidated me.” Taylor worked for ten years as a technician at Camarillo State Mental Hospital while studying at CalArts, providing assistance to some of the area’s most vulnerable people and at times featuring them in his drawings and paintings, developing the empathetic lens through which he would continue to frame his subjects. Set in Hauser and Wirth’s Parisian multi-story outpost, and consisting of works made between 2015 and 2023 (the most recent made during a stay in Paris over the summer), “From Sugar to Shit” connects past and present, interior and exterior, public and private. Taylor’s subjects range from famous faces to personal acquaintances, but his frank, inquisitive approach sees both groups as equally worthy of commemoration. It’s not always clear whether he works from memory, archival materials, a live sitting, or a combination of these, but …
              Sanya Kantarovsky’s “The Prison” with Yasuo Kuroda’s “The Last Butoh”
              Jennifer Piejko
              Tatsumi Hijikata spoke with his entire body. At Nonaka-Hill, Yasuo Kuroda’s photographs of his performances of Butoh—the form of dance theatre he founded in postwar Tokyo—are displayed alongside new paintings by Sanya Kantarovsky, advancing the latter’s interest in Japanese folklore and traditions. The subjects on the canvases resemble the dancers in the photographs, as if painted from hazy memories or fever dreams. Though not directly depicting the same figures or moments, the two approaches to image-making are complementary: both capture the depths of estrangement, enveloped dislocations, and solitary sorcery of performance. Each lone figure in Kantarovsky’s paintings expresses a different facet of pain. No Longer a Dog and I am a Body Shop (all Kantarovsky’s works are dated 2023) show figures who mirror traditional Butoh performers, turned away and covered in the Japanese white paint of mourning over their faces and limbs, ribs visible through their nearly translucent skin. In Bleeding Nature, the dancer suffers from the kind of wound that a Butoh dancer might feel in phantom form: an open gash over a bloody heart. Their bottom half disintegrates into ribbons, dangling from their fingertips and torso into a swirl of entrails that fertilizes a surrounding field of flowers …
              2nd Sharjah Architecture Triennial, “The Beauty of Impermanence: An Architecture of Adaptability”
              Nick Axel
              The second Sharjah Architecture Triennial—featuring twenty-nine architects, artists, and designers across two main venues (the Al Qasimiyah School and Old Al Jubail Vegetable Market) and a handful of off-site locations—reckons with the cultural and ecological legacies of colonialism and modernity. The work shown does not, in the words of its curator, the Nigerian architect Tosin Oshinowo, simply acknowledge a wrong or apologize for the past. Instead, the contributions demonstrate modes of practice that build new worlds from the ruins of the present. Ideas of “impermanence” and “adaptability” here describe creative responses to conditions of scarcity that draw on ancestral ways of knowing and resourceful forms of making, and “beauty” as a celebration of survivance. This triennial is in many ways a spiritual successor to Lesley Lokko’s international exhibition at the most recent Venice Architecture Biennale, “The Laboratory of the Future.” Beyond the handful of contributors to appear in both, in these exhibitions architecture is often a starting point, theme, and subject more than an end with pre-defined means. This approach liberates the exhibition from the representational conventions of architectural media (drawings, diagrams, models, maps, and photographs) in favor of immersive installations, sculptural works, films, and more that overcome the alienating …
              Shilpa Gupta
              Paul Stephens
              Recent New York Times headlines point to American perceptions of India’s increasingly prominent role in global affairs. “Can India Challenge China for Leadership of the ‘Global South’?” “Will This Be the ‘Indian Century’?” “The Illusion of a US-India Partnership.” “US Seeks Closer Ties With India as Tension With China and Russia Builds.” “US Says Indian Official Directed Assassination Plot in New York.” “An Indian Artist Questions Borders and the Limits on Free Speech.” The last headline refers to Mumbai-based Shilpa Gupta, whose work obliquely explores the emergent global polycrisis (a term popularized by Adam Tooze) in which India plays a central part. Although Gupta’s art is deeply engaged with contemporary political events, it is not headline-driven. It resists didacticism, in part, through being polyvocal, as exemplified in her standout installation Listening Air (2019–23). Defying simple description and rewarding patient immersion, Listening Air consists of multiple microphones-turned-speakers that play songs of labor and resistance from around the world. As the songs fade in and out, listener-viewers in the dimly lit room slowly begin to perceive themselves as members of a temporary community. The effect is ethereal and meditative. Gupta’s two concurrent New York exhibitions, at Amant and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, accord …
              Lisa Brice’s “LIVES and WORKS”
              Louise Darblay
              “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at,” goes John Berger in his classic BBC show Ways of Seeing (1972), his big blue eyes staring intently at the viewer while he demonstrates the impact of centuries of male gaze—from canonical paintings to contemporary advertising—on the way women perceive themselves. “The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed is female. Thus she turns herself into an object of vision: a sight.” In Lisa Brice’s paintings, which wander the corridors of western art history, women look at themselves, but no longer through this mediated perspective: the muses, models, and mistresses come to life, turning from passive objects into active subjects, becoming the authors and surveyors of their own image. This new series by the South African artist, presented on the ground floor of Ropac’s Marais space, bristles with punkish energy. Two large, cinematic canvases mirror each other on opposite walls, their horizontal compositions drawn from Édouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882). In the most obvious riff on his work, Untitled (after Manet & Degas) (all works mentioned 2023), the Folies-Bergère has turned into a women-only cabaret, populated by sexy and brazen dancers (including Manet’s sad-looking barmaid, …
              12th Seoul Mediacity Biennale, “THIS TOO, IS A MAP”
              Jason Waite
              “THIS TOO, IS A MAP” questions the conventional relationship of map to territory, looking “to model multi-spatial and multi-subjective histories and knowledge.” Directed by Rachael Rakes with associate curator Sofia Dourron, the show features works by sixty-five artists chosen not as representatives of particular nations but for their embrace of transnational approaches. The diasporic bent of this list reflects an expansion of (and alternative approach to) cartography to articulate myriad overlapping personal roots and routes. One example is Tibetan-American artist Tenzin Phuntsog, whose video Pure Land (2022) attempts to trace landscapes across the American West that look similar to images of a homeland he’s never visited. In the film, he messages these images to his mother to comment on or verify their similitude. In the construction of these unknown nostalgic landscapes, the images Phuntsog takes are uncannily similar to their Tibetan counterparts. The comparison highlights the possibility that any space can be made into a home. At the same time, it floats subtle questions of what defines any given place. What lies underneath a landscape was the focus of one of the more unique venues of the biennale: an emergency bunker built for the former military dictator Park Chung …
              “Indian Theater: Native Performance, Art, and Self-Determination since 1969”
              Alan Gilbert
              In November 1969, a group of Native activists sailed across San Francisco Bay and occupied Alcatraz Island, home to the infamous prison that had closed in 1963. The occupation lasted until the summer of 1971, when federal authorities besieged the island by cutting off the electricity and water supply before government agents and local police removed the dozen or so remaining inhabitants. The year 1969 also saw the publication of the pamphlet “Indian Theatre: An Artistic Experiment in Process,” written collaboratively by Lloyd Kiva New (Cherokee), Rolland Meinholtz (Cherokee), and students at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It called for the combination of contemporary theater practices with performative and ritual aspects of Native societies in an effort to bring marginalized Native stories and cultural forms to a reimagined stage. The large survey exhibition “Indian Theater: Native Performance, Art, and Self-Determination since 1969,” curated by Candice Hopkins (Carcross / Tagish First Nation) at the Hessel Museum of Art, opens with archival documents in vitrines highlighting these two historical moments. Pages of “Indian Theatre: An Artistic Experiment in Process” are given pride of place at the entrance next to undated, grainy black-and-white videos of Native performances …
              Neïla Czermak Ichti’s “J’adore vous faire rire”
              Natasha Marie Llorens
              A diminutive and oddly classical homage to the eponymous character in Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic horror film Alien, entitled Bolaji resting between two takes (2023), is tucked into one corner of the front room of Anne Barrault’s gallery in Paris. The painting is small, the facture thick, with a palette in shades of white. The composition’s contrast is rendered in a warm maroon tone that reminds me of blood coagulating at the edges of a flesh wound. Despite this latent suggestion of violence, Franco-Tunisian artist Neïla Czermak Ichti’s portrait of the infamous being eschews the sexualized viciousness of its on-screen presence. Seated on a cheap plywood block, visibly marked by use, with its massive head resting on long, thin forearms, the alien just looks tired, like a construction worker on a fifteen-minute break. Czermak Ichti became obsessed with Bolaji Badejo, the twenty-five-year-old Nigerian art student inside Ridley’s oppressive latex costume. She based the painting on one of only a handful of production photographs of the costumed actor between shots. Badejo was born in Lagos in 1953, immigrated to Ethiopia with his family in the aftermath of the Nigerian civil war (1967–70) and then to the UK. The one-time movie star …
              Jessica Segall’s “Human Energy”
              Cassie Packard
              Jessica Segall’s transgressive exploration of desire and petroleum unfolds to the beat of a mechanical soundtrack. The work of Berghain resident DJ Steffi, building on Segall’s own recordings of active oil fields, the piston-like pulsations fuse petro-extraction and the nightclub. Desire—for dominion, capital, commodities, relations—has always powered industry; here, industry clearly powers desire, too. Petroleum’s libidinal imaginary encompasses everything from imagery of women virtually fornicating with automobiles to the more abstract seductions of movement, convenience, ease, and accumulation. In Human Energy (2023), a dispersed four-channel video installation with sculptural elements (titled after Chevron’s slogan), Segall renders these fetishizations with erotic effect. On one channel, the scantily clad, gloved artist climbs and mounts a pumpjack. She rides it as if it were a mechanical bull, moving her hands back and forth to steady herself while the machine repeatedly plunges into the earth. The video was shot in Kern County, California, which is responsible for the vast majority of the state’s oil and fracked gas production and boasts some of the worst air pollution in the country, a burden disproportionately borne by the region’s most vulnerable communities. Panoramic open sky, mountain range, sunset: our petro-cowgirl deploys the tropes that have characterized fantasies …
              Ali Cherri’s “Dreamless Night”
              Cathryn Drake
              Ali Cherri’s The Watchman [Nöbetçi] (all works 2023) follows a young Turkish Cypriot officer stationed at a watchtower in Akincilar, a district encircled by the meandering border drawn across Cyprus after the Turkish invasion of 1974. Adjacent to the closely patrolled United Nations Buffer Zone, it is a desolate, transitory place where nothing really happens. On the horizon are the crumbling ruins of a village abandoned by Greek Cypriots. When the loudspeaker announces the end of his shift, Sergeant Bulut doesn’t move, his bloodshot eyes staring into the camera as if hypnotized by the drone of cicadas. The soldier’s routine is occasionally interrupted by a robin crashing into the dusty glass, leaving a splotch of blood and feathers; Bulut dutifully retrieves each body and records the collateral casualty with another tick on the wall. This film is not about a particular place: Cyprus, a geopolitically strategic territory that has passed from empire to empire since antiquity, here stands for the postcolonial state of the world and, with much of its population exiled within their own country, the existential condition of so many in contemporary society. On the southern coast lies the British Overseas Territory, a legacy of colonial rule. Turkish …
              Lisa Tan’s “Dodge and/or Burn”
              James Taylor-Foster
              Slicing through subterranean exhibition halls that were previously university laboratories for research in accelerator physics, Lisa Tan’s first institutional show in Sweden tenders its own spatial logic through the metaphor of neurological disorders. Visitors are received by an ink-drawn diagram based on Oliver Sacks’s 1970 sketch of “migraine and neighboring disorders” (from a book said to have been written over just nine days, aided by an undisclosed psychoactive substance). Here, the diagram is superimposed on a detailed schematic of the galleries: I enter the exhibition through “protracted vegetative reactions.” Tan treats Sacks’s diagram as a tool, scaling it up to a dizzying and dysfunctional domestic space by way of partial walls which operate as spatial dividers, passages, atmospheric zones, and display environments. Rhythmic and austere, this site-specific installation of previous works lays bare the delicate negotiation between control and collapse on which our lives depend. As an organizing principle, Promise or Threat (2023) reveals how rooms are diagrams that shape the ways in which we interface with the world. We move like ghosts, seen and unseen, between spaces that give form to the inner self: the anxiety of a family dinner, the pressure of a deadline, the monotony of a …
              22nd Biennial Sesc_Videobrasil, “Memory is an Editing Station”
              Oliver Basciano
              If the Global South is itself an imagined community then, this edition of Videobrasil suggests, therein might lie its emancipatory power. Exhibitions focused on the Global South are in welcome vogue, from the current Bienal de São Paulo to next year’s Venice Biennale, but Videobrasil has been ploughing the furrow for thirty of its forty years now. While curators Raphael Fonseca and Renée Akitelek Mboya took a line by poet Waly Salomão as their guide to select sixty artists from thirty-eight countries out of 2,300 open submissions, this edition is most effective as a snapshot of the conscious and unconscious preoccupations of a constructed region. One that, for the curators, stretches from South and Central America, to Africa, Asia, and former Soviet states (as well as Indigenous artists from any continent). This region, the curators suggest, is “a plural and fertile accumulation of visions.” What binds this imagined community together? On a series of plinths, Ali Cherri has placed what seem like stone monuments of antiquity—which they are, in part. The scrunched, snarling face and neat mane of Lion (2022) is a historic architectural fragment that the Lebanese artist found in a Beirut antique shop. The bulky clay body, however, …
              Meredith Monk’s “Calling”
              Patrick Langley
              Oude Kerk is a fittingly resonant venue for Meredith Monk’s first—long overdue—retrospective in Europe. This massive thirteenth-century church houses highlights from a polymathic six-decade career that respond to (and echo in) its cavernous nave, with its vaulted wooden ceilings and looming pulpits, its high choir and chapels. To visitors (such as myself) who have only previously encountered Monk’s work via recordings, “Calling,” curated by Beatrix Ruf of the Hartwig Art Foundation, is a revelation. It brings together hypnotic video installations, sculptures, and archival material, yet the result is cohesive, not cacophonous. Each work has space to breathe. Together, they form a harmonious whole. Several pieces have been revised or reimagined for this show. Amsterdam Archaeology (2023), an iteration of a work first shown in 1998 and the first viewers see upon entering, is one example: a red ziggurat for the display of objects donated by city residents and dipped in beeswax (or “Beuys wax,” as it risks being known in art contexts). These yellowish, translucent cauls point to the union, evident across this exhibition, of industrious and protective instincts. Monk has for decades sought the holistic union of art and healing. Installations housed in freestanding (and judiciously soundproofed) rooms extend …
              Lutz Bacher’s “AYE!”
              Michael Kurtz
              The first room of “AYE!” is carpeted with fine sand. Audio from Philip Kaufman’s 1988 film adaptation of The Unbearable Lightness of Being fills the air. “Tomas,” a woman asks between kisses, “what are you thinking?” To which Tomas replies: “I’m thinking how happy I am.” The clip loops—the lovers locked in this tender moment, accompanied by piano music and the thrum of rain and windscreen wipers—and with every repeat becomes more cloying and meaningless. Four television screens in a row to one side emit a white glow which fades each time the loop ends, an electronic sunset on the beach. There is a formal resonance between the artificially uniform texture of the sand, the blank monochrome screens, and the eternally recurring sweet nothings. In these elements—nature, entertainment, love—we seek comfort, but here find them in a state of entropy: metronomic, sterile, vacuous. A child in red dungarees arrives at the door and points at me. “There’s a big man in the sandpit,” she announces to her father, getting his reassurance before dancing freely across the room. She writes her name in the sand, and in doing so shares something that the pseudonymous Lutz Bacher, who died in 2019, never …
              New Red Order’s “The World’s UnFair”
              Stephanie Bailey
              Occupying a pocket of undeveloped land in Long Island City, “The World’s UnFair” is a principled riot. Created by New Red Order (NRO), a “public secret society” facilitated by artists Jackson Polys, Zack Khalil, and Adam Khalil, this carnivalesque fairground, supported by Creative Time, is presided over by Ash and Bruno, a sixteen-foot animatronic tree with LED screens nestled in cellular tower branches and a furry five-foot tall beaver, respectively. The pair talk about the legacies of settler colonialism on the land where they stand, Lenapehoking—a forest, they say, the last time they met. America’s original multi-millionaire John Astor is mentioned: he made his fortune in the fur trade that all but decimated beaver populations, before acquiring land in Manahatta and making “a killing off renting to incoming settlers.” The politics of land is at the heart of this roadshow. Staked into the earth is New Red Right to Return (2023), a wooden post with directional markers naming Lenape diasporic nations displaced by settlers due to the fundamental difference between the colonial European treatment of land as a commodity and the Indigenous American understanding of it as a communal resource. That discrepancy complicates the narrative that the Lenape sold Manahatta …
              Jo Ractliffe’s “Landscaping”
              Sean O’Toole
              Jo Ractliffe has for decades been photographing the charged and ravaged landscapes of her native South Africa. For nearly as long, she has bristled at the insufficiency of the art-historical term “landscape” in encapsulating her interest in terrains where histories of occupation, use, conflict, and violence do not obviously declare themselves. Sometimes, and only partly in jest, she has used the term “blandscape” to characterize her abstruse images of nothing much in particular, be it a locked gate to an Apartheid-era torture site or desert landscape linked to a forgotten Cold War battleground. Last year, when Ractliffe was shortlisted for the 2022 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize, she repeated this dislike, describing landscape as a “difficult term,” more descriptive of an outlook or prospect than a space or place. “I think of [landscape] less as a ‘subject’, or genre,” she adds, “than the medium through which I can explore questions of violence, conflict, and memory.” Ractliffe’s new exhibition “Landscaping,” her first major statement since her 2020 survey exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, extends her interest in land as tangible fact and immanent subject. It is a remarkable career statement. Her thirty-four black-and-white photos, the majority taken over the …
              Candice Lin’s “Lithium Sex Demons in the Factory”
              Jonathan Griffin
              The story, as literary theorist Peter Brooks has observed, is today’s dominant cultural form. To Brooks, this “overabundance” of narrative is worrying: he criticizes the deference of virtually all strands of culture (not only literature, TV, and movies but art, museology, and—especially—news media) to the persuasive rhetorical power of the story. I share many of his concerns. “The universe is not our stories about the universe,” he writes, “even if those stories are all we have.” In the artwork of Candice Lin, however—an artist who nests stories inside stories, who researches, remembers, speculates, and concocts in equal measure, all at once, without hope or intent to persuade—the story becomes a lubricative medium that enables the destabilizing of sense, the de-centering of singular subjectivities, and the unpicking of neatly tied conclusions. “Lithium Sex Demons in the Factory,” the Los Angeles-based artist’s multimedia exhibition at the non-profit Canal Projects in New York, is near-impossible to summarize, except by telling stories. Let me start with one. In the 1970s, female workers at Japanese-operated factories in rural Malaysia experienced demonic possessions and spirit attacks. Workers at these factories hailed not just from Malaysia but China and India too, so bomohs (Malay shamans) and healers …
              Coco Fusco’s “Tomorrow, I Will Become an Island”
              JS Tennant
              It comes as no surprise that “Tomorrow, I Will Become an Island” opens with documentation of Coco Fusco’s Two Undiscovered Amerindians Visit the West (1992–94): her justly famous performance with Guillermo Gómez-Peña, staged at the moment the world was tussling over how best to commemorate, or denigrate, the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s so-called “discovery” of the Americas. A prime benefit of the Cuban-American artist’s first major retrospective—curated by Léon Kruijswijk and Anna Gritz—is to be able to trace the arc of suggestive continuities within her impressive thirty-year body of work. In Two Undiscovered Amerindians, Fusco and Gómez-Peña toured the world in a cage where they were displayed as “natives” of a recently discovered Caribbean island. A subsequent film, The Couple in the Cage: A Guatinaui Odyssey (1993), captures this performance and reactions from the public, its footage intercut with a montage of real-life circus sideshows, world fairs, and racist “ethnographic” dioramas. Attendants, acting as ringmasters, invite passersby to interact with the couple, who speak no English. Bananas are fed to them through the bars; the “female” can be made to dance; five dollars grants a titillating fondle of the “male specimen’s” genitalia. The island’s name, Guatinau, would be pronounced, in …
              Lin May Saeed’s “The Snow Falls Slowly in Paradise”
              Jesi Khadivi
              In What is Philosophy? (1991), Deleuze and Guattari write that “art is continually haunted by the animal.” Looking back through millennia of artistic production, we see representations of our beastly counterparts everywhere: as companions, deities, workers, or raw material. Likewise, John Berger has argued that “the parallelism of their similar/dissimilar lives allowed animals to provoke some of the first questions and offer answers.” Yet a life in common, and the reciprocal gaze that humans and animals once shared, was lost in the West with the development of nineteenth-century capitalism. The practice of German-Iraqi artist Lin May Saeed brings the image of the animal from the periphery back to the center. Saeed devoted her life, sadly cut short by brain cancer at the age of fifty last month, to the cause of animal liberation. Her work avoids agit-prop depictions of animal suffering and instead draws on myths, stories, and fables so that we might “imagine a kind of time travel with a focus on the human-animal relationship” and “think about our common future” by looking at the past. “The Snow Falls Slowly in Paradise,” in which Styrofoam sculptures and reliefs, figurative wall works, drawings, and videos are shown alongside animal sculptures …
              Steirischer Herbst ’23, “Humans and Demons”
              Joshua Simon
              In the opening speech for “Humans and Demons,” her sixth edition as curator of Europe’s longest-standing annual contemporary art festival, Ekaterina Degot stated that the exhibition “is not about good and evil” but “status quo and evil.” This distinction informs the four main exhibition sites and programs deployed through the city, organized according to the trajectories of three historical figures—and one object—to live or pass through Graz during or after World War II. These are represented in each venue by a curatorial research installation: a collection of records owned by Nazi officer and jazz enthusiast Dietrich Schulz-Köhn, alias Dr. Jazz (1912–99); the personal archive of physicist Stefan Marinov (1931–97); an AI rendering of the Zürich-born Brazilian artist Mira Schendel (1919–88); and a copy of a 1925 postcard showing pacifists holding a banner on which the word “Friede” (Peace) was later changed to “Frieda” to avoid Nazi persecution. This year’s Steirischer herbst takes place against the backdrop of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, among the many lessons of which is that we never really left the twentieth century. In that context, and in such a historically saturated exhibition, the above installations are a brilliant move. They free participating artists from archival …
              Jota Mombaça’s “A CERTAIN DEATH/THE SWAMP”
              Harry Burke
              In the final chapter of her 2016 book In the Wake, Christina Sharpe meditates on the weather, which for her signifies the “pervasive climate” of antiblackness in the modern world. Her argument is shaped by the insight that “new modes of writing, new modes of making-sensible” are needed to account for the quotidian violence of the colonial present. Jota Mombaça’s “A CERTAIN DEATH/THE SWAMP” builds on these contentions through a series of artworks that address the weather and, when viewed together, make up an atmosphere. While preparing for the show, Mombaça researched the disastrous flash floods that struck western Germany and neighboring countries in 2021, as well as Berlin’s origins as swampland, drained in the 1700s. What would it mean, the artist asked herself, for cities to turn back into swamps? until the last morning (2023), made in collaboration with Anti Ribeiro, Darwin Marinho, and Luana Peixe, is her oblique answer to this. The looping, fourteen-minute video studies the mangroves and marshlands of Pará in her native Brazil. Its long, pensive shots of clouds recall John Constable’s cloud studies of the 1820s. For the Romantic painter, clouds exteriorized emotions and symbolized modernity’s scientific advances. To today’s eye, they also refract …
              “Emerging Ecologies: Architecture and the Rise of Environmentalism”
              Matt Shaw
              In March 1949, the cover of Popular Science magazine featured Ray Pioch’s brightly colored drawing of architect Eleanor Raymond’s Dover Sun House, a Massachusetts home developed with solar engineer Maria Telkes and heated exclusively by solar energy. Part Rockwell painting, part architectural section, and part science diagram, the illustration drew on Pioch’s experience drawing instruction manuals for the U.S. Navy during World War II. It shows an idyllic family in their well-tempered living room, kept warm by the energy captured through south-facing windows and stored in canisters of mirabilite, or Glauber’s salt, a mineral well suited to storing solar heat in the day and releasing it after dark. The cover represents the best image of post-war Pax Americana, but with a twist: a bright optimism that the sun was the future source of America’s energy needs, not oil. The cover serves as a lively introduction to “Emerging Ecologies: Architecture and the Rise of Environmentalism,” the inaugural presentation by the Emilio Ambasz Institute for the Joint Study of the Built and Natural Environment. Curated by Carson Chan, the show attempts to draw lines in the sand about what “ecology” and “the environment” mean in architecture from the 1930s to the …
              Michael Rakowitz’s “The Monument, the Monster, and the Maquette”
              Rachel Valinsky
              The exhibition’s title, alliteration and all, has the ring of an Aesopian fable. The Latin etymology of monument, Michael Rakowitz spells out on the edges of a sculpture, are trifold: caution (to remind, to advise, to warn), protest (demonstrate, remonstrate), monstrosity (monster). And indeed, around the gallery, the monstrous is everywhere in sight. Its forms are many: to the right, Behemoth (all works 2022), a colossal black plastic tarp obscuring the suggestion of an equestrian figure below rises tall only to fall to the ground as the fan powering its ascent clocks out. At the center, American Golem, poised on a decorative white wooden tabletop, an assemblage of found antiques and papier mâché sculptures (a strategy the artist has previously used for reproducing objects looted from Iraqi museums, highlighting the calls for their repatriation). The central figure, which stands on a stack of marble slabs, greets the viewer from the top of its bell-mold body and fired-clay mask—a copy of the Babylonian monster Humbaba. Gazing out at the viewer, its composite arms outstretched, it recalls Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus (1920), but even more grotesque. It doesn’t just stand on the wreckage of the past, propelled toward the future: it is …
              40th EVA International, “The Gleaners Society”
              Ben Eastham
              In Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893), a lost tourist complains that the maps are much better in his homeland. So advanced are the cartographers there, he boasts, that they long since moved beyond puny pocket-maps to execute a map of the country “on the scale of a mile to the mile.” It hasn’t yet been spread out, he concedes, because “the farmers objected.” Yet on realizing that this perfect map very closely resembled the territory, his compatriots instead learned to navigate “using the country itself.” So now they have no need of maps. This parable is used to support Stephen Wright’s proposal, cited by Sebastian Cichocki in his curatorial statement for an exhibition program scattered across Limerick, that art should also operate “on a 1:1 scale.” By a logic that might seem strained even to Alice, Wright suggests that artists take their cues from Carroll’s cartographers and make art that is coextensive with reality. This seems spectacularly to miss the point of the joke: if you don’t need maps, then you don’t need cartographers; if reality is its own representation, then you don’t need artists. If you want to intervene directly in the existing systems, you need …
              Billy Bultheel and James Richards’s “Workers in Song”
              Kirsty Bell
              “Workers in Song” inverts the current artworld logic of exhibitions augmented by performance programs, and instead positions the live event as the centerpiece and the exhibition its supplement (some of the performance elements, along with a soundtrack, remain on show at WIELS until October 8.) Borrowing their title from a Leonard Cohen song, Belgian composer Billy Bultheel and Welsh artist James Richards staged a collaboration that examines the elasticity of such live events, questioning the relations of appropriated artifacts (poems, films, artworks) to newly constructed material (collaborative videos, sound, banners), of spoken word to music or imagery, and of live performance to pre-recording, thus the very nature of liveness itself. It takes place in an exhibition room sparsely adorned with banners, rudimentary props (folding chairs, desk, piano), and two large screens hanging opposite each other. Four angled bleachers sit the audience “in-the-round.” A reperformance of Ian White’s Ibiza (2010) is the first of a nine-part program that is dense, heady, jarring, tender, anxiety-inducing, and shot through with moments of beauty and pathos. Liveness was central to the late artist and curator White’s thinking: he saw the rehearsed gesture and performer’s presence as a “false promise” of the live, finding liveness …
              “The Weight of Words”
              Caleb Klaces
              Here are some of the phrases the visitor will encounter at “The Weight of Words,” a group show featuring eighteen living artists and writers working across sculpture and poetry: “WHAT IF NOT EVERY WORD IN YOUR SENTENCE;” “Traducing Ruddle;” “as you wlak [sic] the distance changes; ” “stilllife;” “EFEND DIGNITY COPY AND ORIGINAL.” Out of context, these formulations sound more like material gathered by a lexicographer or anthropologist than lines composed by a poet. Yet the works that feature them are poetic in the best of senses: distilled and suggestive, affecting in ways I can’t quite explain and yet will remember. The curators, Clare O’Dowd and Nick Thurston, argue that the works on display represent the meeting of two traditions that have been artificially separated and codified. Sculpture and poetry are taught and interpreted as distinct disciplines, when they are in fact intimately connected by purpose and technique. Several of the artists here point to literature in their work: Joo Yeon Park’s kit-like engraved aluminum is a fragment of potentially infinite architecture such as that imagined in Jorge Luis Borges’s “The Library of Babel” (1941); a commissioned text by poet Anthony (Vahni) Capildeo, swimming amongst fish in a blue vinyl …
              35th Bienal de São Paulo, “choreographies of the impossible”
              Kevin McGarry
              The Oscar Niemeyer building that houses “choreographies of the impossible,” the 35th edition of the Global South’s oldest biennial, is as much protagonist as background. Located in the bustling urban park of Ibirapuera, the art inside this architectural leviathan is only separated from the city’s greenery by glass walls, and its entrances are open six days a week. There is no charge to enter, monetary or otherwise: visitors needn’t reserve, wait, or check in with personal data like email addresses or postal codes, but can glide in and out as if the show were an extension of public space. This allows for viewing at a leisurely pace—important, given that there’s no quick way to tour 270,000 square feet of impossible choreographies. A short wall text jointly attributed to the curators (Diane Lima, Grada Kilomba, Hélio Menezes, and Manuel Borja-Villel) touches on the subversion of temporal structures in a selection of works “based on cosmologies and models of governance where time is conceived as a spiral, without the rigidity of established structures and chronologies”—although a spiral is a type of structure, too. Perhaps it would be more precise to say that the curators attempted to eschew linearity. While they have successfully …
              “Elusive Edge: Philippine Abstract Forms”
              Carlos Quijon, Jr.
              While framed as a non-survey exhibition, “Elusive Edge: Philippine Abstract Forms” presents a compelling cross-section of geometric abstraction in the Philippines, from its postwar formation to postmedia experiments that extend its legacies. Featuring the Cubist impulses of Vicente Manansala’s 1960 still life featuring the titular mango and papaya, the linear flourishes of Fernando Zobel’s Castilla XXII (1957), Leo Valledor’s color field appropriation of the Philippine flag (1981), and more contemporary brick paintings by Maria Taniguchi (2018), the exhibition makes a worthwhile attempt to revisit this particular visual idiom and to renew the stakes for thinking about it both in and beyond its art-historical, stylistic, and disciplinary contexts. The exhibition, curated by Patrick D. Flores, accomplishes this by a broadening of categorical parameters: “abstract forms,” rather than “abstraction”—as evidenced in this show, the former is less burdened by modernist influence than in fleshing out these forms’ own tendencies. True to its title, “Elusive Edge” emphasizes how gestures of abstraction overlap with forms and disciplines beyond visual art, such as architecture and design. The dense hang of “Elusive Edge,” which features more than sixty artists and eighty works, foregrounds differences in the works’ stylistic intentions while allowing points of commonality to emerge. …
              Liverpool Biennial, “uMoya: The Sacred Return of Lost Things”
              Novuyo Moyo
              Given Liverpool’s role as a major hub for the slave trade during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it’s surprising that past editions of the city’s biennial have not engaged more directly with this subject. The legacy of slavery haunts the port city: it can be seen in the many warehouses by the docks, the streets named after slave traders, and the monuments addressing it. This year’s biennial dives fully into that history, guided by Cape Town-based curator Khanyisile Mbongwa’s approach, rooted in remembrance but also in the seeking of potential avenues to healing. “uMoya: The Sacred Return of Lost Things” featured over thirty artists finding ways to engage with a city whose links to slavery and its legacies are inextricable, in a way that manages to look to the future as well as the past. In the Tobacco Warehouse, Albert Ibokwe Khoza’s multimedia installation and performance piece The Black Circus of the Republic of Bantu (2022) goes back to questions of bodily autonomy, mining the histories of human zoos and exhibitions by examining their performance practice. As a South African artist whose work is sometimes staged in the west, they question the relationship between themselves and their audience, …
              Niklas Taleb’s “Solo Yolo”
              Marcus Verhagen
              The photographs in the first UK show of the Essen-based artist Niklas Taleb describe intervals and cadences rather than people or events. In particular, they outline the rhythms of the home: most of them show the artist’s apartment, where, it would seem, time passes slowly. Arranged in a spare hang across the gallery’s two small-ish spaces, these are reserved images in which rooms feature more prominently than the family inhabiting them. Often untitled yet all dated 2023, they are populated by toys and crockery, computer screens, flowers, and mementos. The remains of a snack sit on a carpet, multicolored building blocks are balanced on the rim of a drawer, snapshots of relatives are tucked in the gilt frame of an old print. In their reticence, these glimpses into the day-to-day life of a household leave viewers to establish what narrative and thematic continuities they can. The family itself is largely offstage. The shadow above the building blocks may be the artist in silhouette. Elsewhere, a woman, his partner perhaps, files an infant’s fingernails, but only their hands are visible. Social life makes a marginal appearance in two pictures of visitors absorbed in their own thoughts. In the liveliest scene here, …
              Hiroshi Yoshimura’s “Ambience of Sound, Sound of Ambience”
              Sam Thorne
              While the artist and pioneering ambient composer Hiroshi Yoshimura was recording his debut album, in 1982, he visited the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, which had opened a few years before. Struck by how this curving Art Deco building framed a series of views onto tree-lined gardens, he approached a curator about the possibility of playing his record in the galleries. They agreed, and so Yoshimura’s first album—titled Music for Nine Post Cards—also became his first public commission. Made in a home studio on a Fender Rhodes electric piano, this collection of glistening vignettes is one of my favorite albums, nine sketches of a museum informed not by its artworks but by glimpses through its windows. The track titles—“Clouds,” “Blink,” “Dream”—read like a list of the motifs and compositional approaches that would preoccupy Yoshimura for the rest of his life. Over the course of the next three decades, he produced dozens of acoustic soundscapes, meditative site-specific compositions for locations all over Japan: shopping malls; a subway line; even a funicular, the written score climbing at the same twenty-two-degree incline as the actual mountainside. Yoshimura’s was an unusual mode of public art. Small-scale but also spacious, it had nothing in …
              Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s “Radiant Remembrance”
              Murtaza Vali
              In Ken McMullen’s experimental film Ghost Dance (1983), Jacques Derrida proclaims that “Cinema is the art of ghosts, a battle of phantoms. It’s the art of allowing ghosts to come back.” This assertion of film’s proximity to the spectral plays out across Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s video installations, three of which anchor “Radiant Remembrance.” Blending animist beliefs held by Indigenous communities across Southeast Asia with the importance given to reincarnation within Buddhist theology, Nguyen uses film as a medium, not just as the material form of his art practice but as a channel through which to conjure forgotten pasts, narrate counter-memories, and confront historical violence and ecological destruction. After all, what are ghosts, if not simply our ancestors, and our memories of them, continuing to radiate their presence to us? What is remembrance if not simply a form of reincarnation? These capacities are most clearly articulated in The Specter of Ancestors Becoming (2019), an immersive four-channel video installation about the descendants of the tirailleurs sénégalais—Senegalese soldiers conscripted to fight for the colonial French army in the First Indochina War who fathered children with Vietnamese women. That conflict ended a year before the 1955 Bandung Conference, which sought to build cooperation …
              Christopher Kulendran Thomas’s “FOR REAL”
              Ann Mbuti
              If history is written by the victors, asks Christopher Kulendran Thomas’s exhibition, is reality a construct of the dominant narrative? What then does it mean to write a history of the defeated? The artist’s work starts from the struggle for Tamil independence during the 1983–2009 civil war and its aftermath, and moves onto the larger questions that arise from its failure. Reflecting on the ethnic oppression that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and forced his family to flee the country, Kulendran Thomas’s collaborations with Annika Kuhlmann suggest that art can influence our perception of not only history but reality itself. Mixing historical facts, storytelling, fiction, and deepfakes, his work offers a glimpse into a reality that exposes the dominant one as just one well-told version of many. The two previous iterations of this exhibition—at London’s ICA and Berlin’s KW—opened with the struggle for utopia before moving on to contemporary art: at Kunsthalle Zürich, the order is reversed. The looping twenty-four-minute video Being Human (2019), installed within a plywood construction, is the first video to encounter when visiting the exhibition and it reflects on the relationship between the end of the war and the flourishing of contemporary art in Sri Lanka. …
              “Everybody Talks About the Weather” and “Thus waves come in pairs”
              Laura McLean-Ferris
              One of the most remarkable things about living through a permacrisis is how much seems to go on as normal. Art exhibitions, for example, continue to get organized amid deranging heat, the lurid smoke of forest fires, and the wet wreckage of floods. In Venice, the precarious lagoon city now heavily reliant on a high-tech flood barrier system, two shows are currently on view that propose methods for curating art in this atmosphere of environmental collapse and change. Weather as metaphor, weather as context, weather as catalyst and catastrophe. There are a lot of exhibition-making strategies being tested in Dieter Roelstraete’s rangy “Everybody Talks About the Weather” at Fondazione Prada, but the show bears some relationship to the “report.” An LED screen with a grid of television weather forecasts from around the world is installed in the foyer, where a collection of glossy professionals with blow-dried hair gesture in front of colorful maps. This motif—newsy, mediatic, even a little silly—is echoed in the exhibition’s information panels, which resemble newspaper front pages with headlines, data, and “stories” about the artworks on show. This is the third in a series of major exhibitions across Prada’s venues that have marked a turn towards …
              “Substitutes”
              Eliel Jones
              In light of the ongoing conservative backlash against legislative advances for trans rights in Spain, the UK, and Germany, trans visibility remains paradoxically both a requirement for survival and the greatest threat to trans people’s safety. In a first for the artist-run space W139, which for its forty-four years has focused on the production and presentation of new work, a recent exhibition combined historical and contemporary artworks to create a dialogue between past and present experiences of bodily and gender autonomy. “Substitutes” brought together artists who have subjected their bodies to abstractions, disguises, and transformations to find ways to be both present and absent, visible and invisible. At stake is a desire to refuse the logics that demand proof or validity of one’s existence, and to fight back against requirements that are deemed necessary for the recognizing of unruly bodies as legitimate. Johannes Büttner’s sculptures of loaves of bread pierced with flesh-tunnel holes were hung on the wall and propped on shelves at the entrance and in the gallery’s reading room. Recalling the literal and symbolic body of Christ, the works invoke St. Thomas the Apostle’s insistence on probing Christ’s flesh—not satisfied with seeing and smelling his wounds—to satisfy his …
              Martine Syms’s “Loser Back Home”

              Juliana Halpert
              In an early scene of The African Desperate (2022), Martine Syms’s first feature film, her protagonist, a Master of Fine Arts candidate named Palace, hosts four professors in her studio for a final review. In turn, each teacher performs their own version of art pedagogy in Palace’s general direction, lobbing vague questions and cloudy critiques her way. “It’s all just so figurative,” comments Rose, the snidest, and most overtly racist, of the bunch (played perfectly by Syms’s longtime gallerist, Bridget Donahue). She gestures at the work: “It’s just a family, right?” Palace, skeptical and evasive up until this point, finally shoots back: “Haven’t you read Saidiya Hartman? Of course I’m responding to the African desperate. Staking my claim to opacity.” Opacity is the name of Syms’s game in “Loser Back Home,” the artist’s first exhibition with Sprüth Magers, in her native Los Angeles. That scene was at the front of my mind as I toured the two floors, attempting to parse the show’s manifold logics, feeling a bit rebuffed at every turn. Opacity—and the right to stake one’s claim to it—was a concept crafted by Édouard Glissant in his Poetics of Relation (1990) as a means of protecting and preserving …
              “Repetitions”
              Cathryn Drake
              To the extent that repetition signifies a failure to progress, it is anathema to our industrious modern society. Yet the word embodies a paradox: in every iteration there is a difference, if only because it occurs in a different moment, a movement forward in time and space. Repetition gives us another chance. The group show “Repetitions”—featuring artworks by Nikos Alexiou, Beppe Caturegli, Panos Charalambous, Thalia Chioti, Maria Ikonomopoulou, Alekos Kyrarinis, Christina Mitrentse, Nina Papaconstantinou, Nikos Podias, Efi Spyrou, and Myrto Xanthopoulou—presents meditations on the theme. The repetetive manual processes involved in the making of some of these works seem to express transformations more spiritual than physical, detected visually, if at all, in barely perceptible marks on the surfaces or slight irregularities in form. Nikos Podias’s Fragment (2022) is a delicate lattice constructed of fragile found papers such as teabags, with stains derived from rose petals and black tea evoking the “blood, sweat, and tears” commonly attributed to acts of painstaking creation. The even more ephemeral Black Curtain (2007–8), a delicate structure of reeds, paper, and string by the late Nikos Alexiou suspended on the wall nearby, is a tense yet tenuous membrane that seems to hover on the thresholds of …
              Aziz Hazara’s “No Dress Code”
              Edwin Nasr
              “How then can we clean centuries’ worth of waste?” asks Françoise Vergès, reflecting on the devastation wrought by imperial conquests in the Global South. The question hangs over “No Dress Code,” artist Aziz Hazara’s affronting solo exhibition at Berlin’s PSM Gallery, which reflects upon the US military occupation of his native Afghanistan through the prism of trash. Speakers housed in four modified, bright yellow–plastic jerrycans play soundscapes recorded by the artist over the past decade across Kabul. The title of this sound installation, Bushka Bazi (2023), is the Afghani name for these containers; together with the soundscapes, they conjure a distinct sense of place, but also of context. Introduced to the country through international aid cargos, they have been put to numerous uses since—from water carriers in peri-urban areas suffering from poor infrastructure to petrol-filled explosive devices used by the Taliban. I am looking for you like a drone, my love (2021–22) is a large-scale photograph of colossal heaps of discarded material, sweepingly installed in a panoramic layout so as to cover the walls of the gallery’s central space. At first glance indistinguishable from the type of imagery disseminated by climate advocates to draw attention to environmental degradation, the …
              “O Quilombismo”
              Jesi Khadivi
              The reopening of Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt was marked by three days of performances, concerts, lectures, readings, rituals, and blessings under the banner “Acts of Opening Again: A Choreography of Conviviality. Those familiar with incoming director Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung’s program at Savvy Contemporary, which he founded in 2009 and quickly established as a forum for deliberation, experimentation, and sociability, will recognize a continuation of its ethos of conviviality and hospitality as an integral aspect of institution-building. Yet how might such values transition to the larger scale of a bureaucratic German institution, which operates according to different metrics than more fluidly structured art spaces? How does a curatorial stance of cultivating intimate spaces within institutions ultimately expand the channels through which we can engage with art and with each other? How does an invisible curatorial material like intimacy manifest itself within an exhibition? And finally, how might such a politics of conviviality be enacted within what Ndikung has referred to as “the belly of the beast”? These questions pervaded my thinking about “O Quilombismo,” a show whose concept and content are entirely entangled with the act of thinking how to “institute.” The inaugural exhibition in HKW’s new program …
              Gelare Khoshgozaran’s “To Be The Author of One’s Own Travels”
              Dylan Huw
              Gelare Khoshgozaran describes herself as an “undisciplinary artist and writer.” Across her work, she harnesses the capaciousness and flexibility of the essay form to articulate the possibilities inherent in exile. Her 2022 essay “The Too Many and No Homes of Exile,” for example, articulates the “limbo” of a life marked by latency and anticipation. While it draws on the artist’s personal memories, its emphasis—as in much of her work—is on forming associations and fostering solidarity across contexts of displacement. “You look at the map of Los Angeles,” she writes of the city in which she now lives, “and identify a map of exile.” Her first solo exhibition in Europe, curated by Eliel Jones at Delfina Foundation’s cavernous central London space, features three moving-image works that reflect the lyricism and political intentionality of her written work. Born in Tehran in 1986, during the Iran-Iraq War, Khoshgozaran is particularly invested in making way for alternative, affirmative practices of living. She channels this wide-ranging understanding of exile into a methodology—and something approaching a narrative—in The Retreat (2023), the exhibition’s longest, loosest work. Described in the press materials as “visual expansion” of Khoshgozaran’s 2022 essay, the film stems from an “exile retreat” organized by …
              Momentum 12, “Together as to gather”
              Novuyo Moyo
              The twelfth edition of Momentum, held on Jeløya island in the coastal town of Moss, is an experiment in non-hierarchical models for curating biennials, with Tenthaus at the helm. As part of its open, participatory process with an emphasis on local contexts, members of the collective invited an artist or collective each and worked in reverse from there to find points of intersection and connecting threads between the participants. Most of the works are contained in Gallery F 15’s main space, a few spilling out onto the farm grounds outside. Inside, the educational platform and art collective Gudskul—formed of the three Jakarta-based collectives Grafis Huru Hara, ruangrupa, and Serrum—have expanded on the collaborative vision of the curators with Stitching Ecosystems: GUDHAUS (all works 2023). The “work” functions as a space where visitors are invited to engage in knowledge-sharing and communal processes. It’s also a semi-archive of the collective’s interventions and projects driven by these same notions. Outside, an extension of a project staged also in ruangrupa’s Documenta 15, Stitching Ecosystems: Gudkitchen-Tentskul, was only partially activated at the opening as the kitchen wasn’t yet functional. Placed for now under a banner by Nayara Leite that reads “I AM GLAD WE …
              “Schema: World as Diagram”
              Paul Stephens
              This exhibition of diagrammatic works juggles some of the most contested categories in contemporary art—and manages to keep all its curatorial balls in the air. Despite the broad sweep of its title, the show is tightly curated and requires multiple viewings for its full scope to set in. With an emphasis on painting, this meticulous grouping of fifty-plus artists undermines simplistic, outmoded art-historical binaries that oppose figuration and abstraction, conceptualism and expressionism, scientism and humanism. To call it expansive feels like an understatement. The show takes its title from Thomas Hirschhorn’s Schema: Art and Public Space (2016–22), an exuberant multimedia collage-manifesto. Rudimentary and improvisational, Hirschhorn’s patchwork of ideas and contexts places the works in the show under a utopian-communitarian umbrella—exemplifying David Joselit’s claim in his 2005 essay “Dada’s Diagrams” that “the diagram constitutes an embodied utopianism.” Hirschhorn’s Schema might usefully be juxtaposed with Dan Graham’s 1966 work of the same name—sometimes taken to represent the apex of early informatic anti-figural conceptualism. (A show devoted to Graham’s Schema at 3A Gallery closed, coincidentally, several weeks before this exhibition opened.) Graham intended his work to be “completely self-referential” and meant to define “itself in place only as information.” Simply a text without …
              Jes Fan’s “Sites of Wounding: Chapter 1”
              Wong Binghao
              In one corner of Jes Fan’s latest exhibition is a glass globe that fits snugly into a receptacle resembling a half-opened, upright clam’s shell. Titled Left and right knee, grafted (all works 2023) and installed on a ledge in the curve of the staircase that leads down into the gallery, the sculpture’s treasure is only visible from above; from below, only its undulating, opal façade can be seen. The body parts and procedure referenced in the artwork’s title are hardly, if at all, discernible in the artwork’s form; an obtuseness compounded by its relatively inaccessible position in the exhibition space. Like the “pearl” it protects, this artwork reveals its meaning only in glimpses. Indeed, even the exhibition’s figurative sources are hidden in plain sight: all of these seemingly abstract sculptures are cast from knees, chests, and torsos. Arranged in a vertical line, Left and right knees, three times is composed of six wall-mounted aqua resin basins, each approximately the same size and shape and spaced evenly apart. Despite the mathematical connotations of its title, the sculpture resembles an outlandish cascading fountain adorned with esoteric insignia. Fan mimicked an oyster shell’s palette by sanding various pigments—yellows, pinks, browns, and blues—onto aqua …
              María Magdalena Campos-Pons’s “Liminal Circularity”
              Kimberly Bradley
              According to Yoruba myth, only one of the seventeen deities sent by the supreme being Olodumare to populate the earth could do so. After her sixteen male co-divinities failed, Oshun, the goddess of water, fertility, love, and protection, used her sweet waters to revive Earth and create its creatures. At Galerie Barbara Thumm, María Magdalena Campos-Pons pays homage to Oshun with the vibrant gouache triptych Untitled (2021). The artist was born in Cuba in 1959, the year the Cuban Revolution succeeded; Oshun is an important figure in Santeria practices, integrated into Latin American and Caribbean belief systems via the slave trade. Here, a female figure’s outstretched arms cradle a burst of dark-brown blooms, framed by yellow petals—a stylized sunflower spilling over three framed pieces. The sunflower is a symbol of Oshun, and the piece, an invocation of sorts, exudes generosity, abundance, and hope. Campos-Pons—whose ancestry is Yoruba and Chinese as well as Cuban—is experiencing her own burst of recognition. She’s been known, shown, and studied since the 1980s, but institutional exhibitions in both the Global North and Global South have since 2020 arrived in a rush like the flowing waters she often depicts in her multimedia work. While this reflects …
              Aria Dean’s “Figuer Sucia”
              Katherine C. M. Adams
              One enters Aria Dean’s exhibition “Figuer Sucia” through Pink Saloon Doors (all works 2023) that open onto a vaguely neo-Western mise-en-scène. An ambiguous gray sculpture—heavily textured, with densely packed contours that evoke layers of folded skin and the crushed musculature of a horse—sits on a wooden pallet at the center of the room. This mildly cubic, contorted sculptural figure (FIGURE A, Friesian Mare) appears to be cowering, its subject’s equine body nearly unrecognizable. Dean’s recent exhibition at the Renaissance Society, “Abattoir, U.S.A.!,” took the slaughterhouse as a way to examine the limits of subjecthood. Its central film work walked the viewer through the environments of factory farming. While Abattoir, U.S.A.!’s featured architecture was outfitted for the killing of animals, the rooms it showed remained empty, painting a backdrop of violent and eerie subjectification. Like that project, “Figuer Sucia” is implicitly connected to Dean’s longstanding reflections on how Blackness is conditioned for and as social material. The contorted not-quite-object, not-quite-subject of FIGURE A might seem to show the implied, absent victim of that prior project. Yet “Figuer Sucia” calls the source of such brutality into question. It examines a violence that is not only in the scene we are witnessing, but …
              “Common”
              Keely Shinners
              Just 300 meters away from A4 Arts Foundation is the Castle of Good Hope. Built by the Dutch East India Company in the seventeenth century, the oldest surviving colonial building in Cape Town stands today as a symbol for a set of interwoven colonial relations: land expropriation, capitalist accumulation, racial subjugation, environmental degradation. Its very architecture—the pentagonal bastions, the high stone wall, the garrison, the prison—epitomizes the strategies at the heart of these formations: to dominate and exploit the commons. In South Africa, these strategies were articulated during colonialism, elaborated by Apartheid and endure, structurally and systemically, to this day. Curated by Khanya Mashabela, “Common” asks how artists and activists, past and present, negotiate this destruction of the commons and its commensurate social relations. The first artwork one encounters upon ascending the stairs at A4 is a telling example of what is at stake in this exercise. Sue Williamson’s twelve photographs document Naz and Hari Ebrahim’s final weeks in a home marked for demolition in Cape Town’s District Six. Declared a whites-only area by the Apartheid state, the family was evicted and their home bulldozed in 1981. In those final days, amidst cups of tea and cigarettes …
              “The Casablanca Art School”
              Oliver Basciano
              In the early 1960s, Mohamed Melehi was “an immigrant, a lost person” in Minneapolis. Later there would be a move to New York and friendship with the likes of Jim Dine and Frank Stella, but at that time the Moroccan artist was a junior teaching assistant at the College of Art and Design and felt like an outsider in the American Midwest. There’s a heaviness to the 1963 acrylic painting that he titled after the city, which opens this exhibition. A block of pitch black pushes down on the monochrome red of the canvas’s bottom half. The colors, included in Marcus Garvey’s pan-African flag and other motifs of left-wing liberatory struggle, hint at Melehi’s politics. He could be hoisting a flag over American territory. Then again, he was never the kind of artist to take make his point so didactically. Ultimately the work remains a painting not a banner: sandwiched in between the red and black is a narrow strip of yellow and grey. At Tate St. Ives, Minneapolis hangs next to two of the very few figurative works in this survey of the Casablanca Art School, a post-independence generation of teachers and students from the Moroccan institution, where Melehi …
              Paige K.B.’s “Of Course, You Realize, This Means War”
              Travis Diehl
              At the opening, the red and white helium balloons were in everyone’s face. Now, at the show’s close, they’re at your feet, like a deflated Great Pacific Garbage Patch, pressing visitors closer to Paige K.B.’s intricate collages on wood panels, pastiches of art-historical material, and political sound-bites; closer to the web of found objects and deadpan references supplementing the paintings, to the sour red walls they hang on. The balloons make it hard to take in the show from a safe, not to say critical, distance. No measured overview allowed, only deep diving, unpacking, conspiring. The balloons suggest a constellation so dense and rubbery it’s a blob, the trampled ribbons like the red yarn in the disgraced detective’s storage unit—their significance all wadded up and too close to see. Maybe that’s too much weight to attach to party decorations that never got cleaned up. But why weren’t they cleaned up? Why are they on the checklist, inaccurately, as 99 Red Balloons of Diplomacy (all works 2023 unless otherwise stated): “Thirty-one red balloons,” when some are white? A checklist on a PDF dated May 17—two weeks after the opening? But the balloons fit the vibe. They insinuate themselves into a scenography …
              Rirkrit Tiravanija’s “We Don’t Recognise What We Don’t See”
              Christine Han 
              The formally diverse series of works that anchor Rirkrit Tiravanija’s new solo exhibition each highlight the accelerating inequity among living beings and propose tentative frameworks for their reconciliation. On entering the exhibition, the visitor is greeted by framed prints of five Old Master paintings which have been appropriated and adapted by Tiravanija. In twinned reproductions of Pietro Longhi’s Il rinoceronte (1751), for instance, Tiravanija has altered or partly obscured the original image of Clara—the first rhinoceros brought into Europe from Asia—as depicted in a Venetian carnival. The implication of the title (untitled, 2020 [we are not your pet], 2023) seems clear: to disrupt the idea that nature as distinct from humanity is something to be tamed and subordinated. Then there are the mysterious, seemingly empty spaces in Jan Brueghel the Elder’s The Temptation in the Garden of Eden (ca. 1600). Where are the horses, swans, tigers, antelopes, and hares? I did as the gallery told me and shone a UV flashlight onto its surface, where now I could discern the peculiar, enigmatic shadows of departed birds (screen-printed onto the image with solar dust ink by the artist) perched on trees. They appear morbid, gentle, and undefined. Should we be thinking …
              Nasreen Mohamedi’s “The Vastness, Again & Again”
              Stephanie Bailey
              In 1964, Nasreen Mohamedi, who moved to Mumbai from Karachi three years before Partition, wrote about the experience of continuous conflict. “I sit here and try and find a unity,” she wrote in her diary, “not between religions but between people and people.” The artist had returned to India the previous year from Paris, where she studied lithography following her first solo show at Gallery 59 in Mumbai’s Bhulabhai Desai Memorial Institute. A black-and-white photograph showing Mohamedi in her studio is displayed among others in “The Vastness, Again & Again,” curated by Puja Vaish at Mumbai’s Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation. In the image, dated ca. 1959–1961, Mohamedi sits among abstract paintings resembling those she made in the 1960s (she rarely dated or titled her work). One such composition in “The Vastness” is an abstract blue-scale oil on canvas impression of what resembles a hazy waterside structure and its reflection, recalling the palette knife and roller compositions of V.S. Gaitonde, with whom Mohamedi shared an affinity for abstraction, Zen Buddhism, and Paul Klee. An untitled 1966 canvas by Gaitonde, of grey-scale marks on a blue horizon, is among the few pieces by Mohamedi’s contemporaries curated into this multi-dimensional reflection on the …
              Juliana Huxtable and Tongue in the Mind
              Harry Burke
              As a teenage indie fan, I spent countless hours on peer-to-peer file sharing platforms like LimeWire and Kazaa, and later blogs and MySpace pages, on which I discovered bands like the Velvet Underground, Boredoms, and Gang Gang Dance. Each products of art scenes, these acts not only soundtracked my adolescence but, by showing me alternative ways of listening and living, sparked my curiosity for contemporary art. In their New York City debut at National Sawdust early last month, Tongue in the Mind forged a novel branch in the art-rock lineage. The project follows almost ten years of collaborations between artist Juliana Huxtable and multi-instrumentalist Joe Heffernan, also known as Jealous Orgasm, who are joined by DJ and producer Via App on electronics. Huxtable’s art practice spans creative registers, and muses on themes including furry fandom and the psychedelic edges of queer desire. An acclaimed DJ, her inventive sets defy genre and expectations, whether she’s playing Berghain or the basement of a bar. Tongue in the Mind synthesizes these pursuits, and evidences the trio’s musical and artistic maturation. The performance was the finale of “Archive of Desire,” a week-long ode to the Alexandrian poet Constantine P. Cavafy (1863–1933), programmed by the …
              “El Dorado. Un territorio”
              Sylvie Fortin
              For days, I couldn’t get Charles’s gold supertunica off my Instagram feed. The newly minted king had leveraged gold’s hallucinatory power: he could count on Meta’s algorithm, designed to mine attention. The word “hallucination” was coined by Thomas Browne, to whom the English language owes more than 750 others, including “computer,” “coexistence,” “exhaustion,” and “indigenous.” These disparate expressions of power, currency, and representation coalesce in “El Dorado. Un territorio,” on view at the waterfront Fundación Proa in La Boca, where the Spanish landed in 1536, as the Matanza River—South America’s most polluted waterway—meanders past the art institution. Developed collaboratively by Fundación Proa, the Americas Society (New York) and Museo Amparo (Pueblo, Mexico) to explore the myth of El Dorado, its multivalence, and its contemporary resonances through the work of Latin American artists, the project comprises three distinct exhibitions. This serial form reflects, according to the organizers, the concept’s core elusiveness and its diverse manifestations around Latin America since 1492. It also refutes the very idea of Latin America—a geopolitics imagined by colonial capitalism and sustained by neoliberalism—by presenting three locally-specific approaches to the myth. In Buenos Aires, the project’s first iteration brings together works by twenty-seven contemporary and several anonymous …
              “A Posthumous Journey into the Future”
              Natasha Marie Llorens
              I fell into a Star Trek hole during the pandemic. That period was saturated with the overwhelming nausea I felt watching people with power respond disastrously to the crisis, both at the micro level of small art institutions and the macro level of national politics. By comparison, the people responsible in the Star Trek universe—Worf, Dax, B’Elanna Torres, Jean-Luc Picard (maybe not Riker, he always struck me as a bit lecherous)—seemed principled and empathetic. It was like Pepto-Bismol for the mind, a thick, bubble-gum pink pharmaceutical relief to an on-going shitshow. The series’ version of reality included an intact concept of the future and clear protocols for every kind of existential crisis. I found that, given the circumstances, I could ignore the Federation’s institutional resemblance to the United Nations and its problematic and unexamined investment in rationality. Everyone deals with future-dysphoria differently, but a recent group exhibition at the Uppsala Art Museum, “A Posthumous Journey Into the Future,” struck me as a rich study of the alternatives to escapism. It presents the work of nine artists whose works consider the intractability of the future. Curator Rebecka Wigh Abrahamsson justifies the ensemble as an example of archipelagic thinking, a notion proposed …
              69th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen
              Ben Eastham
              Styling itself as the “oldest short film festival in the world” as well as, rather less memorably, the “largest festival in North-Rhine Westphalia,” the annual gathering of filmmakers and producers at Oberhausen offers the latest opportunity to reconsider questions that have shadowed the festival almost since its inception: what do we mean by short film, and how does it relate to the wider fields of cinema and contemporary art? As the classification has been subsumed into “moving image” and migrated online and into the gallery, should we now think of it as a testing ground for approaches that might percolate into mainstream film-making, another channel through which artists might express ideas not confined to a single medium, or a discrete art form with its own histories and non-transferable stylistic characteristics? In proposing rather vaguely that it might be “the experimental field on which future film languages are formed,” the festival’s own literature betrays some of the anxieties arising from the attempt to corral proliferating styles, formats, and economic networks into an overextended category. First impressions of the International Competition were that its curators were perhaps too eager to accommodate all these possible interpretations, and several more besides. Entries were divided …
              18th Venice Architecture Biennale, “The Laboratory of the Future”
              George Kafka
              In a recent interview with the New York Times, Norman Foster questioned why “we shouldn’t be converting seawater into jet fuel and decarbonizing the ocean at the same time.” Meanwhile, the 10,200sq mile Neom mega-project planned for the Saudi Arabian desert comes with claims of a “new benchmark for combining prosperity, liveability and environmental preservation.” As the architecture profession contends with the ingrained relationship between climate emergencies and built environments, both statements exemplify a tendency towards techno-solutionism in vocal sections of the industry—and betray an approach to design that overlooks material extraction and environmental destruction to justify extravagant capitalist projects behind weak masks of sustainability. For all its challenges—the unmanageable volume of content, the density of text, the opacity of curatorial approaches—the 18th edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale offers a firm and timely challenge to this trend. Typically understood as a global state of the union for the profession and broader spatial practices, this edition (titled “The Laboratory of the Future” and curated by Ghanaian-Scottish architect and academic Lesley Lokko) is largely unflinching and rigorous in its selection of projects which reject techno-solutionist sustainability, opting instead for a showcase of architecture for “decolonization and decarbonization.” These themes run through …
              Prismatic Ground 2023
              Leo Goldsmith
              “The situation now is quite different,” the critic Fred Camper wrote in 1986. Camper, in his much-debated essay of the same name, was marking what he termed the “end of the avant-garde” in film: a transition away from an earlier conception of artists’ cinema, from the 1940s to the 1960s, as a more or less unified aesthetic movement, one premised on an “original sharpness and uniqueness” under whose banner the avant-garde filmmaker marched as a kind of aesthetic shock-trooper, and toward a more uncertain future, “dissolving in a kind of indistinct haze, in which the degree of difference from the commercial mainstream […] seems to be lessening.” In his essay, Camper mounts his arguments in largely formal terms, suggesting that the drift of experimental filmmakers into academia since the mid 1960s, the routinization of films into avant-garde “sub-genres,” and a postmodern distaste for the language of “masterworks” and grand statements, signaled the terminus of the avant-garde’s distinctive and urgent project. But surely other factors, including the rise of video and the partial dispersal of the New York avant-garde scene—which increased access to the means of media production and widened the often narrow coterie of its adherents—led to the impression that …
              “Retrotopia: Design for Socialist Spaces”
              Sierra Komar
              To turn left upon entering the darkened exhibition hall of “Retrotopia: Design for Socialist Spaces” is to encounter a motley, utterly heterogeneous collection of objects ranging from the decorative to the domestic to the medical. Nestled against one wall is Cosmic Fantasy (1965): an experimental public sculpture work by Lithuanian artist Algimantas Stoškus consisting of luminescent slabs of stained glass arranged, Tetris-like, on a series of suspended geometrical forms. Adjacent to this is a mint condition Saturnas vacuum cleaner—the ultimate kitschy fusion of lofty, celestial aspirations and household banality—complete with orbiting moon wheels and ring. In a vitrine just opposite the Saturnas is the least recognizable item of the group: a tubular, vaguely biomorphic form that appears to be woven out of some sort of textile. This, it turns out, is one of the first vascular prostheses ever made: a specific model of artificial aorta manufactured in 1960s Lithuania using re-engineered German ribbon-weaving machines. Selected by Lithuanian curator Karolina Jakaitė, this eclectic assemblage of objects and artworks (along with contributions from other Lithuanian creators like sculptor Teodoras Kazimieras Valaitis and architect Vytautas Edmundas Čekanauskas) is one of eleven unique “capsules” that comprise the collaboratively curated “Retrotopia.” In its simultaneous diversity …
              “Heavy Rotation Infra-habibi-technics”
              Najrin Islam
              Unassuming objects—such as grocery cartons, essential supplies, orange peels, shopping carriers, polythene bags, suitcases, a towel, and a lighter—occupy a large hall of Kunsthalle Bern. Elsewhere in the space, a discarded scratch card lies on the floor beside stacked chairs and potted foliage on wheels. Assembled by artist duo Valentina Ornaghi and Claudio Prestinari, these tableaux stage a material sensorium of the ubiquitous. Fragments of Campo del Cielo meteorite are dispersed across the walls in various permutations as well: a cosmic extension of the morsels that constitute the ordinary. In “Heavy Rotation Infra-habibi-technics,” makeshift infrastructures such as these evoke motion and traffic as well as incidents and happenings that are furtive, off-ledger, or premised on informal networks. These unmoored objects—available to touch and vulnerable to pilfering—are presented in ways that resist easy attribution to the contributing artists, attesting to a different logic of exhibition-making. This reluctance to discretize the works further manifests in the illustration of weather patterns that substitutes for a labelled floor plan, indicating a merging of indistinct “atmospheres.” The orange peels, for instance, refer to a film shown in an enclosed space on the floor below. In Cow Heaven Brawl Cloud (2023), the artist Laura Nitsch films …
              Nalini Malani’s “Crossing Boundaries”
              Jayne Wilkinson
              After more than fifty years as a pioneering video and installation artist, Nalini Malani maintains a rigor, criticality, and joy that transcends her work’s challenging subject matter. Given that this is the Karachi-born Indian artist’s first solo exhibition in Canada, it’s a curiously small sampling of projects, but nonetheless encompasses the conceptual approaches for which she is best known: strong feminist and activist perspectives on issues related to gender, race, bodily autonomy, and democratic rights; highly charged source material drawn from current or historic events; diverse literary references combined with shadowy, impressionistic figuration to produce immersive video environments; and an ongoing concern with erasure as both aesthetic device and political gesture. Can You Hear Me? (2018–20) is the centerpiece here, a nine-channel installation comprised of eighty-eight individual iPad animations projected across three walls. Each short segment repeats its own brief narrative in frenzied, arhythmic patterns, and is accompanied by a musical score that ranges from soaring and dramatic to cacophonous to (sometimes) barely audible. It’s a tumultuous and relentlessly dynamic experience, with no single focal point. Much like a painted or sculpted frieze, there is no distinguishing one vignette from the next, no firm contours to scenes that bleed across …
              14th Gwangju Biennale, “soft and weak like water”
              Jason Waite
              The cavernous exhibition hall of the Gwangju Biennale was built in 1994 and intended to host only one exhibition. Walking through the same structure—comprising four mega halls connected by ramps, and still in use by the biennale—feels like exploring an abandoned world expo site. These vast spaces have vexed curators from Okwui Enwezor to Maria Lind, yet this year’s artistic director, Sook-Kyung Lee, has embraced the rickety structure. Instead of constructing new white walls to conceal the building’s decline, Lee and her team have largely left the space as it stands, with the exception of a few partitions of uncut boards and natural-fiber panels. This sensitivity to exhibition environment carries through a thoughtful, slow-moving show that allows ample space for each work to be considered on its own terms. Reflecting Lee’s artist-centric approach, it’s a relatively intimate biennale: seventy artists, many presenting new commissions. A focus of these is textile installations, which demand a particular attention to their making. I-Lann Yee’s Tepo Putih Ikan Masin (Salted Fish White Mat, 2023) is a hanging composed of woven-together north-Malay mats, typically used for drying fish and in other domestic settings. A colorful, shimmering work, it brings disparate references to mind, including kintsugi
              SofijaSilvia’s “Pendulum”
              Tom Jeffreys
              SofijaSilvia’s photography touches upon those tender, knotted moments when care for the more-than-human becomes almost inseparable from a politics of domination and control. She returns to loaded institutional sites—like zoos, cemeteries, botanic gardens, and museum storage units—but also places in which aesthetics are more subtly constructed—nature reserves, managed woodlands, and the private retreat of a Communist dictator. Employing various deft framing and display strategies to bring together work across a range of scales—from A6 to 1.5 meters across—made between 2001 and 2022, “Pendulum” addresses local and global catastrophes: earthquakes, forest fires, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Its very presence at the University of Zagreb’s botanical garden is a result of the 2020 earthquake that damaged almost 2,000 buildings across the city, including the Art Pavilion, which had commissioned the exhibition and which remains closed. “Pendulum” responds both conceptually and materially to this context. The garden opened in 1891, when Croatia was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It is a reminder of botany’s proximity to imperialism, and SofijaSilvia effectively unsettles the epistemic hierarchies upon which such institutions were founded. Most of the works are inside a high-ceilinged timber pavilion, built to exhibit wooden products made by prisoners at a forestry exhibition in …
              Counterpublic 2023
              Noah Simblist
              What is a public? According to the literary critic Michael Warner, it is a relation between strangers bound together by law, belief, or shared experience. But as he also points out, the public is a dominant community that excludes subaltern groups who must form “counterpublics” to create alternative forms of community and discourse to survive the onslaught of structural oppression that the public produces. This notion inspired the St. Louis–based triennial Counterpublic, founded in 2019. Its second iteration features thirty commissioned artworks spread throughout the city. Artistic director James McAnally, along with a curatorial ensemble that included Allison Glenn, Risa Puleo, Diya Vij, and the “public secret society” New Red Order, chose artworks in relation to a city that has faced both Indigenous displacement and racial violence, from the 1857 Dred Scott case to the 2014 murder of Michael Brown by Ferguson police. The resulting exhibition successfully calls attention to the ways in which these and other complex histories are embedded within the city’s urban fabric. Counterpublic 2023 feels like a combination of Documenta 15, centered on community and collaboration, and Prospect, a triennial that focuses on the social and political dimensions of New Orleans. Its deep …
              Bispo do Rosario’s “All Existing Materials on Earth”
              Elena Vogman
              A number of extravagant garments, marked by generous color schemes and complex embroidery, open the first of three luminous rooms in “All Existing Materials on Earth,” curated by Tie Jojima, Aimé Iglesias Lukin, Ricardo Resende, and Javier Téllez. Its central piece, Manto da apresentação [Annunciation Garment], catches the eye with a multiplicity of details, inscribed with colored threads against a light-brown ground: signs and drawings of objects, names, numbers, abbreviations, and streets of Brazilian cities, utensils, boats and a model of a large sailing ship. A photographic portrait of the artist wearing his magnum opus reveals not a fashion designer but a Brazilian psychiatric patient. The descendant of Black slaves, Arthur Bispo do Rosario (1909/11–1989) spent forty-one years of his life in mental health institutions while accomplishing his “mission.” On the side of the short exhibition text, another mugshot-like portrait of the artist is displayed on the patient card from Colônia Juliano Moreira, the hospital where Bispo was interned. He is described as “indigent,” a wandering Black beggar bearing no documents. The card repeats the police record from December 1938, when Bispo was arrested in Rio de Janeiro and diagnosed with “paranoid schizophrenia.” It was the month of Bispo’s revelation: …
              Elizabeth Price’s “Sound of the Break”
              Lua Vollaard
              A tremble, a silence, and a piercing clatter: “Sound of the Break” derives its name from a sequence in Elizabeth Price’s video installation A RESTORATION (2016), which displays what a voiceover calls “a great hectic gathering” of archival images of vessels from Oxford’s Pitt Rivers and Ashmolean museums. A disembodied choir argues that these objects are made to be broken, so that their echoes can resound. When a Boscobel Oak wineglass falls and breaks off-screen, the choir declares it “a small sacrifice” of which “the great rumble resonates.” A RESTORATION brings together many of Price’s recurring motifs: choirs of synthetically generated voices; archives absent from the historic record; interwoven technological histories; architectural plans as conceptual metaphors; sardonic institutional critiques; and untold feminist cosmologies. It is one of four works in her solo exhibition at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt (the building, fittingly, is also home to a music school). Two dark spaces, each displaying two video works shown consecutively on loop, connect to a central viewing room in which four screens show new video lectures, made in 2020 during lockdown in London. Other works here include FELT TIP (2018), on how information technologies transformed the workplace; UNDERFOOT (2022), on the sonic …
              “Refigured”
              Travis Diehl
              Among a spring flush of screen-, code-, and tech-related museum shows, “Refigured” at the Whitney stands out for its concision. The exhibition’s frame may seem vague—the human figure vis-a-vis technology at times verges on a universalized body—but the five works by six artists pulled by in-house curator Christiane Paul from the Whitney’s holdings maintain a fairly tight focus on the physical possibilities of digital bodies, from statues to demigods to talking heads. In Auriea Harvey’s Ox (2020) and Ox v1-dv2 (apotheosis) (2021), for instance, a muscular, berobed humanoid called Ox—which the wall label describes as an avatar for the artist—appears three times over: a pigmented statuette around 20 cm tall, a 3D model presented on a monitor, and an AR version pinned nearby and visible through an iPad tethered to its plinth. The artist’s intentions notwithstanding, Ox exists in digital and psychic “space” as a concept, a potentiality, and these various renderings are all concessions to display in a physical room. In fact, as each new struggling trillion-dollar metaverse venture demonstrates, even state-of-the-art interfaces between the digital and physical “realms” remain pretty clunky (and the hardware here is not state of the art). The redundancy of Ox means there are …
              Raqs Media Collective’s “1980 in Parallax”
              Patrick Langley
              Charles Jencks was a pioneer of postmodern architecture—or “bastard classicism,” as his American detractors put it. In 1979 the American-born polymath and his wife, the garden designer and historian Maggie Keswick Jencks, purchased a large townhouse in London’s Holland Park and extensively redesigned it over the next five years. At once a family home and a “built manifesto,” The Cosmic House nods to Ancient Egyptian, Baroque, and Hindu architecture, modern science and urban planning, the Zodiac, western philosophy, and much else besides. Jencks integrated his eclectic references into a rich (and kitsch) symbolic scheme that sought to reconcile micro- and macrocosms: domestic pleasures and cosmic immensities; private gags and philosophical traditions. A cantilevered spiral staircase at the center of the building, for example, doubles as a model of the solar year with fifty-two steps for each week; at its base is Eduardo Paolozzi’s circular mosaic Black Hole (1982). Leading off from this mosaic is the basement gallery, home to an elegant exhibition by New Delhi-based Raqs Media Collective. (Jencks was co-designing the gallery with his daughter Lily until his death in 2019; the museum opened to the public two years later.) Founded in 1992 by Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula, and …
              Bayo Alvaro’s “¡Suéltame!”
              Gaby Cepeda
              Bayo Alvaro’s recent sculptures—evocative of strange, alien flora—recall Karen Barad’s descriptions of a “queer performativity” of nature. In this conception of the natural world, nothing is ever exclusively male or female, animate and inanimate; nor is it simply good or evil. Rather, there is endless potential for change and intra-action. The pieces in Alvaro’s third solo show in Mexico City and his first with Deli—a recently opened branch of the New York gallery—appear laced together in symbiosis, reflecting the ways in which living beings continuously tend towards and transform one another. The young Mexican artist has previously worked across photography, collage, and installation. Here, the focus is on sculpture. The fifteen pieces lushly spread across Deli’s spacious, four-room gallery showcase Alvaro’s approach to sculpting forms that defy easy categorization, ambiguously poised between plants and animals, living creatures and inanimate objects. Alvaro’s objects are particularly lucid examples of a common trend in contemporary sculpture: his seductive treatment of materials sets him apart from more discursive, didactic attempts. Each room feels thoroughly articulated. Pieces are placed in proximity, as if engaged in intricate dialogue, while smaller works are arranged as if to form an intimate ecosystem. Such is the case in the …
              “Bruno Schulz: The Iron Capital of the Spirit”
              Ewa Borysiewicz
              In 1942, the Jewish-Polish artist and writer Bruno Schulz was murdered in the street by a Nazi officer. Though his weird and immersive short stories—many of which are set in his hometown Drohobych and in a dreamscape rendered after it—have lasted, most of his art perished with him. The small fragment of his visual oeuvre which survived the war has often been sensationalized, reduced to mere embodiments of the artist’s masochistic and fetishistic fantasies. Thankfully, here curator Jan Owczarek proposes a more nuanced take, setting Schulz’s work alongside that of contemporary artists who share his interest in forging personal, ambivalent mythologies. The title of the show is sourced from an interview with the artist in which he suggests that artists tend to explore a limited number of subjects across their creative lives. The exhibition charts the handful of visual themes towards which Schulz leaned—genre scenes against a city background, or conversations set in tiny rooms—but his overarching subject, returned to obsessively, was the depiction of gendered power dynamics. The opening work—a 1919 self-portrait in pencil on paper—serves as a good example. Here, we see the artist, his gaze fixed on the beholder, leaning in front of a drawing board. The …
              “Unschöne Museen”
              Aoife Rosenmeyer
              One institution considers another: in a pugilistic text that frames the dense exhibition “Unschöne Museen” [Unbeautiful Museums] at gta exhibitions—part of the ETH Zürich’s architecture department—curators Fredi Fischli, Niels Olsen and Geraldine Tedder mention that recent events at the Kunsthaus Zürich catalyzed this show. The latter behemoth is currently addressing questions of provenance and funding after unflattering investigations into its relationship with donor Emil Georg Bührle. In 2021 the Bührle collection, on long-term loan, went on show in a purpose-built Chipperfield-designed extension to the Kunsthaus. Bührle, who died in 1956, became rich selling arms to Germany under the Nazis; his businesses later cooperated with the government of South Africa under Apartheid. The Kunsthaus’s gestures towards openness in this regard—such as commissioning ongoing additional research on the provenance of works in the Bührle collection—feel overdue. Nonetheless, it’s staggering for anyone who arrived in Switzerland this millennium that Hans Haacke exhibited Buhrlesque at Kunsthalle Bern back in 1985. Recreated at gta, two shoes made by Bally (a Bührle subsidiary) double as candle-holders on an altar decorated with other Bührle references—all venerating a framed issue of Paratus magazine (the official periodical of the South African Defense Force) celebrating a South African military visit …
              “Cinema of Sensations: The Never-Ending Screen of Val del Omar”
              Herb Shellenberger
              A quick survey of a handful of my peers—among them several experimental filmmakers, curators, and academics—revealed that none of them recognized the name José Val del Omar (1904–82). This came as a surprise to me, given that Val del Omar is perhaps the most foundational filmmaker of Spanish avant-garde cinema. My peers’ responses were ample if anecdotal evidence that the Museum of the Moving Image’s “Cinema of Sensations: The Never-Ending Screen of Val del Omar” is not only much needed; it should also provide an eye-opening look at the work of a visionary artist who is too little-known outside his home country—even to those who are invested in the subject of experimental film. “Cinema of Sensations,” in the museum’s temporary exhibition gallery, demonstrates that Val del Omar was not just a filmmaker but a technician and inventor, cultural critic and theorist, and a trailblazing artist whose work and ideas spilled across many forms and media. This chronological exhibition opens with Val del Omar’s first films, made in rural towns that he visited during the early 1930s as part of the Misiones Pedagógicas (Pedagogical Missions) literacy campaign. It closes with the techno-futuristic experiments developed at his P.L.A.T. lab, a live-in studio space …
              Rose B. Simpson’s “Road Less Traveled”
              Alan Gilbert
              The new human may not be very human after all, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As Sylvia Wynter argues, the Western concept of the human—or, more specifically, the category of Man—was created at the dawn of the early modern period to establish distinctions between Europeans and non-Europeans that granted the former the right to enslave and exterminate Indigenous populations in what came to be called the Americas, before quickly pivoting this framework toward Africa. The movement away from divine, Christian authority to a secular and legalistic one rooted this constructed racialism in the developing discourse of humanism. And while the consequences resulting from the designations “human” and “not human” quickly spread throughout the economic networks of the era, they were also generated in the cultural sphere with its race- and gender-specific “overrepresentation of Man,” as Wynter terms it. What is the legacy of this European idea of the human when considering the proliferation of various modes of figuration in contemporary cultural production? Rose B. Simpson’s “Road Less Traveled” contains ceramic humanoid sculptures that look simultaneously ancient and futuristic. Do these works represent a human form that exists on either side of the five-hundred-plus-year history delineated by Wynter? In …
              73rd Berlin International Film Festival, “Forum Expanded”
              Asia Bazdyrieva
              The “Forum Expanded” section of the Berlinale, an assemblage of exhibitions distributed across three venues and any number of screens, charts the points at which cinema meets the visual arts. This year’s edition, titled “An Atypical Orbit,” aimed to set in motion “fluctuating proximities—political and personal legacies which often lie in shambles” and to “challenge the status quo through exhibiting works that redefine cinema.” In attempting to solve two problems—to host a platform for political articulation, and to critically engage with moving images and media as such—the Forum Expanded faced a conundrum: its archival and historiographic approach, as well as the aesthetic and political emphases in the overall selection of works and conversations, induced a certain lethargy: a sense of being unwilling or unable to respond to those current emergencies which do not yet have established narratives. In Betonhalle’s entrance corridor, Tenzin Phuntsog’s Dreams (2022) set up the exhibition’s dream-like ambience. The work portrays a sleeping couple— immigrants from Tibet to the US—floating in space against a quiet, blueish monochrome background. The pair reappear in a two-channel video, Pala Amala (2022), posing silently in nondescript settings. These large-screen, meditative works sat in contrast to the small, phone-like screens which …
              18th Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival
              Dylan Huw
              This year’s Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival (BFMAF) took place for the first time in the spring, befitting a rich slate of films that explored themes of renewal: of history, archives, and land. Loosely dedicated to emergent practices in the space where “cinema” and “artists’ moving image” intersect, BFMAF has since its inaugural 2005 edition taken as given the intertwinement of the aesthetic and the political, and refused antagonisms between fiction and non-fiction, shorts and features, old and new. While experimental documentary forms dominated its eighteenth edition, many highlights looked to the liberatory capacities of narrative fiction and performance, as subjects and strategies of excavation. A mini-retrospective of films by Anastasia Lapsui and Markku Lehmuskallio, curated by long-time BFMAF programmer Herb Shellenberger, formed one throughline. The duo’s films are made among the Nenets people of Arctic Russia, of whom Lapsui is a member. Their distinctly embedded cine-poetics—a “Fourth Cinema” practice developed over the last four decades—anchored a festival in which queer and Indigenous modes of documentary fabulation proliferated, as filmmakers exploded specific ties to land and place through performative, sublime, and fantastic means. Life on the CAPS (2022), the final part of Meriem Bennani’s sprawling trilogy of speculative fictions, …
              “Signals: How Video Transformed the World”
              Dennis Lim
              “Video is everywhere,” begins the wall text at the entrance to MoMA’s largest video show in decades, as if on a cautionary note. Equally, to borrow an aphorism from Shigeko Kubota, subject of a recent MoMA exhibition: “Everything is video.” (It is worth noting that Kubota said this in 1975.) In tracing the evolution of video from its emergence as a consumer technology in the 1960s to its present-day ubiquity, “Signals” covers a dauntingly vast sixty-year span. A lot happened—not least to video itself—in the years separating the Portapak and the iPhone, half-inch tape and the digital cloud, and as the material basis of video changed, so too did its role in daily life. This sprawling, frequently thought-provoking show proposes a path through these dizzying developments by considering video as a political force. In their catalog essay, curators Stuart Comer and Michelle Kuo call the exhibition “not a survey but a lens, reframing and revealing a history of massive shifts in society.” Not incidentally, this view of the medium—as a creator of publics and an agent of change—is in direct contradiction to a famous early perspective advanced by Rosalind Krauss, who in a 1976 essay wondered if “the medium of …
              Martin Wong’s “Malicious Mischief”
              Mitch Speed
              In a 1988 catalog essay, the poet and critic John Yau sketched out the social dimension of Martin Wong’s painting and sculpture. A self-styled “representative of an economically oppressed urban class consisting largely of Blacks, Hispanics and Asians,” the American artist had been snubbed by curators and critics. A quarter-century after Wong’s death, this injustice has been corrected, and this Berlin retrospective of his antic, steamy, humane, and superlatively accessible take on Chinatown San Francisco and New York, from the 1970s to the ’90s, has been lauded. But there’s an anxiety buried in this enthusiasm. In depicting a disappeared America, Wong’s retrospective holds a mirror to the lost world which surrounds KW itself. “Even now,” Wong wrote in a hand-calligraphed 1986 press release, “it’s like the moment in these paintings never existed.” His home cities—his subject—were being gentrified to oblivion. In 1984, New York Magazine wrote of Wong’s downtown Manhattan: “nowhere have the tensions and dramas of [gentrification] been more starkly displayed.” Set aside the differences between the cities and eras, and the same has recently been true of Mitte, the Berlin district in which KW is situated. Nocturne at Ridge Street and Stanton (1987) shows an unpeopled but warm …
              “Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952–1982”
              Kim Córdova
              This March, OpenAI launched GPT-4: the most sophisticated iteration of the chatbot launched last year. Buried in a white paper concurrently (and quietly) released, OpenAI noted that when asked to solve a CAPTCHA during testing, GPT-4 pretended to be blind and hired a TaskRabbit worker to solve the test on its behalf. “No, I’m not a robot,” GPT-4 told the worker. The exchange makes clear that the societal effects of corporations vying for industry dominance, through the kinds of AI software that Hito Steyerl has called “statistical renderings,” are only just beginning to emerge. Opening during this new space race, “Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952–1982” at LACMA meets this precarious moment with a review of the early collaborations between artists and computers. “Coded” presents art made when access to computers was limited to the military, well-capitalized conglomerates, and select universities. By settling its focus on the late- to mid-century era, the show evades both novelty and the obsolescence traps common when technology is the subject. During this period, the outputs of mainframe programs were constrained to paper printouts, plotters, or microfilm: not the media we might now associate with digital art. But traditional materials were no guarantee for …
              Peter Wächtler’s “A Life on Stage”
              Pedro Neves Marques
              In many of Peter Wächtler’s video works, nothing much seems to happen. In Untitled (Vampire) (2019)—one of four such works on show alongside a series of gesso and bronze sculptures of planes and animals in his first exhibition in Portugal—a Nosferatu copycat, living within the dusty and humid confines of a mountain castle, spends his time writing letters to be delivered at the nearby village; kisses his undead wife on a balcony at night; sleeps with his arms folded over his chest; then goes back to writing letters. In 2013’s animation Untitled (Rat), an anthropomorphic rat repeatedly wakes up in its bed, leaves, presumably goes about its life, and returns back home in the evening. All we are offered by way of context is a single, hand-drawn shot of the rat’s proletarian room. In 2018’s Untitled (Clouds), a quirky dragon with a cutesy straw hat flies about a landscape reminiscent of Conan the Barbarian. In Like a Palace (2022) a group of time travelers hop between epochs—the Stone Age; Ancient Greece; the Industrial Revolution; Late Capitalism. All of these works, except the last, have circulated widely in museums and galleries. Like a Palace is a premiere, yet the complexity of …
              Refik Anadol’s “Unsupervised”
              ​R.H. Lossin
              It is widely accepted that propaganda makes for bad art. But propaganda is not always an Uncle Sam poster. Sometimes it is a towering, spectacular argument for the supremacy of the machine; an exercise in post-industrial American triumphalism, surveillance technology, and repressive deep-state R&D disguised as visually appealing, non-referential images. The United States has a long history of cultural campaigns aimed at furthering its imperial goals. The Museum of Modern Art’s historical connection to the CIA is—like Radio Free Europe and the Congress for Cultural Freedom—among the more notable examples of the government’s intervention in our civic life. But despite our awareness of these operations, the potential propaganda function of abstract and non-representational art rarely enters into its critical reception and evaluation. Perhaps the idea of propaganda is so thoroughly wedded to realism in the American imagination that MoMA’s collection seems unimpeachable. Maybe the term “propaganda” has become, through popular use, something that is only used by one’s political opponents. While it is tempting to argue that cultural control is now mediated by a confusing, irresponsible, and diffuse spectacle of corporate greed, Refik Anadol’s “Unsupervised” (2022) suggests that we should reconsider the utility of a more vulgar analysis of visual …
              “People Make Television”
              Brian Dillon
              For much of its century-long history, the BBC has been an object of nostalgia in Britain. It began as a private company, and in 1927 a royal charter decreed its mission to “inform, educate, and entertain” the nation; the corporation is funded today by a television license levied on all households that watch its output. The public-service remit always appears to have been better fulfilled in the past, during a vague and movable golden age. Public service, of course, has rarely meant public access or participation. An exception was the work of the Community Programme Unit, which in 1972 began soliciting program ideas from interest groups and campaigning organizations. Around three in ten proposals were accepted; successful applicants were then provided with a small budget, a production team, and a final say in the show’s edit—subject to legal niceties and the BBC’s sometimes vexing commitment to “balance.” Copies of the finished programs were given to the groups who devised them, but most were never broadcast again. “People Make Television,” an absorbing exhibition at the newly reopened Raven Row, includes over 100 of the CPU’s programs (alongside other public-access projects of the time), and seems to conjure a genuine lost era …
              Charles Atlas’s “A Prune Twin”
              Erik Morse
              When Charles Atlas quit as filmmaker-in-residence at the influential Merce Cunningham Dance Company, in 1983, after more than a decade, he decided to embrace a younger generation, a different continent, and a more public medium. These changes coalesced around the Pandean figure of Michael Clark, a former prodigy of London’s Royal Ballet School who in 1984 began to sketch out a punk- and club-inspired choreography with his own newly founded dance company. That same year, Atlas produced two works of videodance—a genre of experimental dance film, popularized by Atlas and Cunningham, in which choreography is designed for the camera rather than the stage. These two films, Parafango (1984) and Ex-Romance (1984/1987), feature performances by Clark, Philippe Decouflé, and former Cunningham dancer Karole Armitage. They are set in vernacular places such as airport lounges and gas stations, and are spliced with news footage, presenter commentary, and video transmission signals. Both spotlight Clark as the enfant terrible of London’s post-punk underground, and the combination of his fauvist choreography with Atlas’s camp visuals captured a Baroque aesthetic that would characterize its queer subculture throughout the decade. A Prune Twin, originally commissioned by London’s Barbican in 2020, consists of a multi-channel video projection sourced …
              Regina José Galindo’s “Anestesia, Anistia, Amnesia”
              Oliver Basciano
              In 1960, angered by the deeply skewed land deals between the right-wing dictatorship and US companies such as United Fruit, a group of left-wing army officers tried to wrest control of Guatemala. They failed and over the ensuing 36 years, tacitly aided by Washington, the government coordinated the murder and disappearance of an estimated 200,000 people, most of them indigenous Maya civilians. In her video La Verdad (2013), for more than an hour, the Guatemalan performance artist Regina José Galindo reads out traumatic testimonies from the victims of these events. Shot from a single static camera, it is the first of three documentary works in this small show, each of which is given its own room. Galindo wears a white top against a black background, reading in monotonous Spanish from a stapled block of paper: “they took out the baby and tied it up and there were some who got together to make a fire.” It continues in this gruesome and unsettling vein until, around five minutes in, a man enters the frame. Galindo stops reading and puts her head back. The man injects a dental anesthetic into her gums. As the drugs begin to work, the artist continues, her …
              Merlin James’s “Arrivals”
              Jonathan Griffin
              My attention is more or less guaranteed by any exhibition that offers, within the initial sweep of its first gallery, a painting of an airport luggage carousel; a near-monochrome canvas, composed from grubby, rectilinear sections; a close-up picture of a blowjob; and a boisterous abstraction incorporating a tail-wagging dog and a swipe of glitter. All of the above were painted by the Glasgow-based, Welsh-born artist Merlin James, who has long been notorious for the confounding heterogeneity of his output. At any one moment he might be working on a landscape, an interior, an amorphic abstraction, a painting on translucent fabric showing off its elaborately contrived stretcher or frame, and/or an erotic painting of Betty Tompkins-level explicitness. Sometimes, he has said, he doesn’t know which direction the painting will go in when he starts. Often, his media extend beyond acrylic on canvas to include sawdust, metal filings, clear acrylic medium, ash, floor sweepings, or clipped human hair. Though widely respected in Europe, he is less well-known in California. “Arrivals”—which shares its wry title with that painting of the airport—is his first exhibition in Los Angeles, and the first time that many local viewers will encounter his elusive and occasionally perplexing work. …
              Dhaka Art Summit, “বন্যা/Bonna”
              Pallavi Surana
              Drawing inspiration from a literal translation of Bonna—the Bangla word for flood and a common girls’ name—this sixth edition of the Dhaka Art Summit looked at the social and ecological impact of climate change in Bangladesh. Under the direction of Diana Campbell (the curator’s fifth edition), this theme is channeled through the imagination and playfulness of the eponymous fictional child as she grows up in an environment under threat. Of the many dichotomies that this edition sought to challenge across its nine days—disaster and regeneration, natural and built environments, binary gender norms—the most noticeable friction was between criticality and approachability. Campbell has insisted that she sees this research and exhibition platform as closer to a music festival than a biennale, noting that the previous iteration attracted half a million visitors. This attempt to navigate between the expectations of a visiting international audience professionally engaged in the art world and the desire to appeal to a large local audience resulted—across more than 120 artists, over half of them showing new commissions—in a curatorial impulse to foreground work deemed approachable and entertaining. Scattered through the main venue of the Shilpakala Academy were large-scale, colorful, eye-catching works. Bhasha Chakrabarti’s Tender Transgressions (2022–23)
              Beatrice Gibson’s “Dream Gossip”
              Juliet Jacques
              Beatrice Gibson’s first solo exhibition in Italy takes its title from Alice Notley’s column in the self-published 1990s New York zine Scarlet. In the column, Notley invited readers to transcribe their dreams, printing them alongside articles, poetry, and editorials about the AIDS crisis and the Gulf War, sharing with the Surrealists a feeling that dreams were both aesthetically striking and politically potent. Gibson’s response to Notley’s work includes three films. Ordet’s main space is dominated by the newest, Dreaming Alcestis (2022), in which Euripides’ heroine inspires a portrayal of the process of dreaming, and how external stimuli, experienced by day or night, shape the unconscious imagination. In Dear Barbara, Bette, Nina—a four-minute work made in Palermo in 2020 and presented on a small monitor, with headphones, to one side of the room—Gibson reads from a phone a letter to three older women filmmakers over a shot of her hands at rest. Deux Sœurs Qui Ne Sont Pas Sœurs [Two Sisters Who Are Not Sisters] (2019), loosely adapted from a Gertrude Stein screenplay written in 1929, is shown on a large screen in its own room. It provides a collective portrait of Gibson’s influences, friends, and collaborators—including Notley herself—in a time …
              Sharjah Biennial 15, “Thinking Historically in the Present”
              Ben Eastham
              On her first visit to Africa in the early 1970s, Angela Davis was surprised to find her speeches interrupted by dancing. Being pulled from the lectern whenever an idea moved her audience showed the philosopher and activist, she tells filmmaker Manthia Diawara in a work commissioned for the fifteenth edition of the Sharjah Biennial, how damaging is the western separation of intellectual speculation from embodied action. She proposes art as the form through which these two expressions of human freedom are reconciled. How it might do so is the question that haunts this sprawling exhibition of over 150 artists “conceived” by the late Okwui Enwezor and curated by Hoor Al Qasimi. The difficulty is encapsulated by Diawara’s Angela Davis: A World of Greater Freedom (2023), which joins incendiary footage of Nina Simone singing “Mississippi Goddam” (1964) to Davis’s testament that the song did more to mobilize resistance than a thousand books. Simone’s performance leaves no room to doubt it, but the black box in which the film is screened leaves no space in which to dance it. Similarly, Bouchra Khalili’s The Circle (2023) combines accounts of the campaigns by which French-Arab workers asserted their rights in the early 1970s with …
              Gordon Matta-Clark and Pope.L’s “Impossible Failures”
              Katherine C. M. Adams
              Gordon Matta-Clark’s film Bingo X Ninths (1974), which features a precise dismantling of all but the core of an abandoned house, has been projected at large scale along the first wall of 52 Walker. The door to the exhibition space intersects the projection, such that gallery visitors irrupt onto the image as they enter and exit. A perfectly circular hole, cut straight through the same gallery wall, also interferes with the clean transmission of the film. A layer of dust from this incision lines the gallery floor. It’s tempting to view such strategies as a literal self-reflexivity built into the gallery design: Matta-Clark’s canonical building cuts overflowing onto the gallery’s walls, making their mark on the present architectural space. Yet the pairing of Matta-Clark and Pope.L for “Impossible Failures” performs a different function, complicating Matta-Clark’s practice on a more fundamental plane. Here, Matta-Clark appears to work vertically, in the air, through various forms of physical suspension, while Pope.L works laterally, low-to-the-ground, worm-like. Drawings by Matta-Clark with subjects such as High Rise Excavation Diving Tower (1974) show lofty engineering schemes that seem to resist the pull of gravity. The artist’s three exhibited films all emphasize, to varying degrees, aerial vantage points …
              Transmediale, “a model, a map, a fiction”
              Orit Gat
              “Alexa, I used to bark at you, now I say please and thank you.” This is artist duo !Mediengruppe Bitnik describing their work Alexiety (2018), featuring music written for the virtual assistant. It begins as a love song between user and device, then gradually gets darker. They discuss the work during a panel about the “Digital Middleman” with artists Farzin Lofti-Jam and Simone C Niquille, moderated by Silvio Lorusso, as part of the five-day Transmediale festival at the Akademie der Künste, which is complemented by exhibitions at the AdK, as well as a citywide public art project, “Out of Scale.” The Digital Middleman panel, its participants explain, developed during preparation from a larger discussion of our relationships to the platforms and corporations that shape our digital lives to a conversation about how companies like Google and Apple have come into our homes. Transmediale, the veteran arts festival begun in the late 1990s (with precursors dating back to the ’80s), has grown from a focus on the relationship between art and technology to a reflection on how our interactions with technology are now conditioned by its developments. Many of the works on view and panels in the festival considered advancements in, …
              Luis Camnitzer’s “Arbitrary Order”
              Paul Stephens
              Luis Camnitzer’s A to Cosmopolite (2020–22) is a marvel of precisely executed conceptual art—or as Camnitzer might prefer, “contextual art” (a term he has advocated since the 1960s). Writing through a 1972 Webster’s unabridged English dictionary, Camnitzer covers the gallery walls in prints that match each definition to a screenshot of the first search result from Google Maps that corresponds to it. The title of the exhibition is something of an oxymoron: by combining two classification systems, the cartographic and the lexicographic, Camnitzer reveals a myriad of cultural and political interconnections. The search results in A to Cosmopolite are proximate to Camnitzer’s own location in Great Neck, New York, thus making the project personal as well as global. Someone in Camnitzer’s digital orbit named their corporation “Aleatoric Media, LLC,” and that entry, like many others, stuck out to me as a viewer. I found the best way to explore the work was to read, in alphabetical order, every red location name—which took approximately an hour. When a name intrigued me, I consulted the corresponding definition and took a photo with my phone—reincorporating the physical work on the wall into my own personal datasphere. This work is, importantly, a remediation of …
              Reinhard Mucha’s “Der Mucha—An Initial Suspicion”
              Kirsty Bell
              For the last four decades, Reinhard Mucha has been making sculptures and installations that speak in the tongue of bureaucratic systems and engage a distinct object vocabulary. There are standardized furnishings of museum display and archiving (dark wood frames, felt linings, plate glass) but also behind-the-scenes elements of technical installation and found materials from the past. Elaborate wall-based sculptures are part display-case, part carefully crafted autonomous structure, revealing their workmanship with cross-section views. Rooms built within rooms provide extra spatial frames. There is something fetishistic in Mucha’s reverence for these textures and his compulsive collecting and archiving of materials and documents, but his works pointedly question whether what to show is equal to how. These tendencies unfold to the full in this two-venue retrospective—the 72-year-old artist’s first—in his hometown of Düsseldorf. A single large hall on the ground floor of K20 brings together several significant installations, the centerpiece of which is Das Figur-Grund Problem in der Architektur des Barock (für dich allein bleibt nur das Grab) [The Figure-Ground Problem in Baroque Architecture (for you alone is only the grave)] (1985/2022). This virtuosic construction conjures a Ferris wheel and “wall of death” from shiny aluminum ladders, office chairs and tables, trussed …
              “EXIST/RESIST – Works by Didier Fiúza Faustino: 1995–2022”
              Nick Axel
              Along their descent down the ramp into the MAAT’s ovular, central exhibition space, visitors encounter a series of angular, austere, and imposing structures that are formally reminiscent of military architectures. Like medieval castle walls, with embrasures mediating the simultaneous necessity to look out while not letting anything in, gaps between the structures obstruct and frame views into a brightly illuminated, enfilade-like space. The perceptual logic of concealment and revelation is carried further by a series of circular cuts made to the structures’ inward-facing walls that confess their hollowness while presenting a panoply of material from the architect/artist’s dynamic, evolving, and multifarious practice. Over the nearly thirty years covered by this mid-career retrospective, Faustino has worked with buildings, installations, furniture, prosthetics, video, photography, speculative design, performance, and more to confront and transform the normative limits of architecture and the body, which, as his work proves, inextricably condition one another. This is evident in Asswall (2003), which creates a literal hole in a wall the size of a single body, and Home Suit Home (2013), which refashions stiff carpet into a garment for the body. But it is perhaps best demonstrated by the scale model of One Square Meter House (2001–06), a …
              Walter De Maria’s “Boxes for Meaningless Work”
              Valentin Diaconov
              The Walter De Maria exhibition at the Menil has everything: guns (HARD CORE, a film from 1969, shows Michael Heizer and an actor dueling in the desert), swearing (“Color, Size, Shape, Shit” is number 25 on the list of One Hundred Activities, a score work from 1961), and even the faint possibility of a romantic encounter in the form of a pink mattress and a pair of headphones playing seductive and relaxing field recordings of the Atlantic’s steady breath (Ocean Bed, 1969). “Boxes for Meaningless Work” does not, of course, contain De Maria’s most iconic pieces—The Lightning Field and New York Earth Room (both 1977). But the show is rich enough to serve as a solemn reminder of what passed as artistic expression in the golden years of American Imperialism, when it was still possible for Minimalists to repackage the formal purity that had denoted universal social progress for Russians and Germans in the 1920s. It is interesting to look at the sea change in relationships between the avant-garde and infrastructure over this period. If the Soviet artist would overreach towards a platonic ideal of a sexless, classless, and ageless society, an approach best exemplified by El Lissitzky’s About Two
              “Tangled Hierarchy 2”
              Ben Eastham
              At the heart of this group exhibition curated by Jitish Kallat are reproductions of the five envelopes on which Mahatma Gandhi, under a vow of silence, wrote messages to Lord Mountbatten on the eve of the Partition of India. The first of his scribbled responses to the last Viceroy of British India reads: “I am sorry / I cannot speak.” The phrase introduces some of the paradoxes that animate this brilliantly executed show about an historical trauma that continues decades later to be felt: silence as protest, mourning as action, absence as presence. The show opens in violence. Visitors to an exhibition ranged over two floors of a warehouse space in the backstreets of Fort Kochi are greeted by Zarina’s Abyss (2013), a woodcut print which renders the Partition line as a white chasm running like a wound through a black page, Mona Hatoum’s standing globe Hot Spot (Stand) (2018), its land masses marked out in burning electric filaments that cast the room in threatening red light, and the sound of bombs dropping, the source of which is Mykola Ridnyi’s Seacoast (2008). Shot in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, the short film syncs the noise with …
              Andrea Fraser
              Wendy Vogel
              In 2005, Andrea Fraser’s consideration of the art world appeared to undergo a transformation—from externalization to embodiment. “If there is no outside for us, it is not because the institution is perfectly closed,” she wrote. “It is because the institution is inside of us, and we can’t get outside ourselves.” This sentiment of identity entrapment is nowhere more evident than in her latest work, This meeting is being recorded (2021), in which the shape-shifting artist portrays seven white women in a closed-door meeting about internalized racism. The ninety-nine-minute video—which is based on real conversations and debuted at the Künstlerhaus Stuttgart before traveling to the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles last year—forms the nucleus of Fraser’s first US commercial gallery show in 13 years. The five works on view, from the late 1980s onward, get a new, retroactive reading from her current perspective of grappling with the complex, emotive terrain of racial privilege. Fraser’s best-known performances offer pitch-perfect approximations of art speak and style, from staid guided tours to overblown acceptance speeches by egotistical artists, threaded with a feminist criticality toward gendered modes of presentation. Two major works from the 1990s, commissioned by the Wadsworth Atheneum and the São Paulo Bienal, …
              Ali Eyal’s “In the Head’s Sunrise”
              Dina Ramadan
              “In the Head’s Sunrise”, a quiet yet compelling exhibition of Ali Eyal’s recent drawings and paintings, captures the intricacy and complexity of the young Iraqi artist’s practice; the emotional texture of the work, accomplished through rapid, forceful strokes, is immediately striking. Individually and collectively the works recreate moments from life in Eyal’s hometown—referred to only as small farm—where he came of age amidst the violent turmoil of the US-led invasion of Iraq. The titles of the pieces underscore Eyal’s propensity for narrative along with his acute awareness of its limitations; each enigmatic label ends with “and,” indicating its incompleteness, and suggesting that every encounter is a beginning, like tugging on a loose, seemingly extraneous thread that unexpectedly unravels the entire fabric. Three heads walking between towns, and (2022) is the immediate focal point of the exhibition and reflects the mythological nature of Eyal’s work. The large canvas hangs like a banner, hands snatching at its sides, attempting to tear through the composition. Three women’s heads attached to makeshift bodies, an assemblage of ill-fitting and dislocated ligaments, dominate the canvas. They are reminiscent of the three fates, their thick black hair unfurling behind them like billows of smoke, each home to …
              “AMOUNT”
              Alice Godwin
              The subterranean rooms of artist-run space Simian, in Copenhagen’s Ørestad district, could easily be mistaken for an underground bunker after the industrial apocalypse. Ørestad itself is a curious reminder of failed human design: an eerily deserted hangover from a bold urban plan to transform this area of wetlands on the edge of a nature reserve into a metropolitan center with gleaming glass buildings and a floating metro line. In the bowels of an old bicycle lockup, it feels as if the only souvenirs of the old industrial world are artworks by Toke Flyvholm, Yuri Pattison, Naïmé Perrette, and Lucie Stahl. Perrette’s documentary-style video Both Ears To The Ground (2021) is the engine of an exhibition that addresses the climate crisis. Projected on a wall in an intimate space within the first room of the gallery, the video focuses on the town of Berezniki in the Ural mountains and establishes the themes of collective amnesia and aestheticization that run through the exhibition. Once a beacon of Soviet industry, the town is now blighted by sinkholes created by the potash mines beneath. For residents, the sinkholes—warmly referred to by nicknames such as “the grandfather”— are a part of daily life. We are …
              “Aaron Douglas: Sermons”
              Ladi’Sasha Jones
              The works on view in this group show, in which several contemporary artists respond to the legacy of Harlem Renaissance-era painter Aaron Douglas, are united by a Black existential affinity with literature and the natural environment. The exhibition is constructed around four works by Douglas from the museum’s Walter and Linda Evans Collection of African American Art that center two of his key interlocutors: James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes. Three are illustrations to Johnson’s poetry collection God’s Trombones (1927), a striking articulation of religious oratory, while the fourth illustrates Hughes’s poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” (1921), and accompanied its original publication in The Crisis. It’s a poem that Black folks have long held as a psalm, its closing lines reverberating across generations— I’ve known rivers: / Ancient, dusky rivers. / My soul has grown deep like the rivers. This meeting of Black thought, art, and letters—a history of cross-disciplinary connection—sets the stage for the contemporary works in the show, and guides the exhibition’s curatorial framework. The gallery is dimly lit, with a humming cacophony of sounds and dancing imagery bleeding between the gallery’s archways from four stand-out video works. A commissioned piece by Akeema-Zane and Rena Anakwe, Our
              keyon gaskin with Zinzi Minott and Moya Michael
              Rachel Valinsky
              keyon gaskin, Zinzi Minott, and Moya Michael weren’t just stalling. Barely visible beneath their semi-opaque hooded cloaks, and positioned at various points around the entrance to Artists Space, they outlined the terms of their performance clearly: “Once we get moving feel free to roam around the space. We will be all over the place … We might get close to you … Keep your hands to yourself … Be mindful, be careful … We’re at work.” We “waited” for things to start—though, of course, they already had. gaskin—an artist living in Portland, Oregon who performs both solo and in movement-based groups—has frequently made active audience engagement a feature of their pieces, eschewing passive consumption of black and queer performance by primarily white audiences. At the first performance commission held across Artists Space’s 8,000 square feet, audience-performer interactions were diffuse in part because of the building’s size—the performance took place over several rooms, and not all of it could be witnessed simultaneously. Visibility, its trappings and attendant politics, were not so much withheld as decentered. “We can’t see everything,” gaskin and their collaborators cautioned at the start, implying that neither should we. “Remember, this is a performance, but not your performance. …
              Aarati Akkapeddi’s “A·kin”
              Michael Kurtz
              Aarati Akkapeddi’s work exploits the uneasy interaction of analog and digital—paper and pixels—to convey the strangeness of both our warped view of the past through dog-eared images and the mediation of the present by algorithmic technologies. “A·kin,” at London’s Photographers’ Gallery, continues the Telugu-American artist and programmer’s practice of using machine-learning algorithms to analyze and manipulate historical images. The installation combines Akkapeddi’s family photographs from the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu with those from an archive created by the STARS research collective of Tamil studio photography from the 1880s to the 1980s. Akkapeddi used an image classification model called VGG-16 to sort the photographs into a grid based on formal similarity, and then divided them into twelve generic groups: portraits of children propped up by an object, for instance, and close-ups of couples in which the man stands on the left. These “clusters” are arranged across a gallery wall within the interlocking forms of a kolam—a pattern drawn with rice flour at the entrance of Tamil homes to bring good fortune and exclude evil spirits. A larger composite image at the center of each group collates the surrounding photographs as if to identify what they share, while interviews …
              Beatriz Santiago Muñoz’s “The Navel of the Dream”
              Natasha Marie Llorens
              Watching Beatriz Santiago Muñoz’s silent 16mm film Otros usos [Other uses] (2014) is like looking into a kaleidoscope made with old snapshots too nondescript to make it into an album but nonetheless strangely fascinating. A composite image of four shots of a tranquil sea, each aligned to the edges of the frame, spins in a circle. As they oscillate, the distant shoreline in each shot tilts and merges with the next. The anachronistic sound of the projector, installed on a pedestal in the gallery, combines with the faint heat produced by the machine to heighten the body’s senses, like the effect of ASMR. I feel that Muñoz wants me, the viewer, to feel disoriented, employing a combination of the images’ banality and their movement to lull me into a dream state. They want to suspend my desire for narrative resolution and a fixed horizon. Both Otros usos and another silent 16mm film projected beside it, Black Beach/Horse/Camp/The Dead/Forces (2016) do have a precise physical referent: the island of Vieques in the Caribbean near Puerto Rico that the US Navy used as a bombing range and a training ground for over sixty years. In Otros usos, Muñoz’s carefully folded image is …
              Sissel Tolaas’s “RE____
              Murtaza Vali
              A visit to Sissel Tolaas’s “RE_________” is unnerving, exciting, and, ultimately, strangely liberating. Countering the deodorization of social and cultural life, in the West especially, Berlin-based Tolaas has for three decades worked to remind us of the importance of smell in how we experience and understand ourselves, in our relationships to others and to our environments. She first records and deconstructs real-world smells into their molecular components, then synthesizes and represents them as olfactory artworks, demonstrating how smell remains a vital carrier of information and mode of communication. Airborne and inseparable from breath, our awareness of smell has been, inadvertently, heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic. To properly experience Tolaas’s exhibition means ignoring the invisible, omnipresent, aerosolized threat of contagion that has haunted public life of late and shedding our masks to inhale fully, freely, openly, again and again, as we touch, scratch, sniff, and lather up with objects and surfaces previously handled by strangers. Dubbing herself an “inbetweener,” Tolaas, who has a background in art, linguistics, and organic chemistry, shrewdly plays the affective and visceral punch of smell and the objectivity and empiricism of scientific method against each other. Her artificial reconstructions remain mimetic, ultimately unable to traverse a sort …
              Mungo Thomson’s “Sideways Thought”
              Francesco Tenaglia
              Mungo Thomson is a California-born conceptual artist in the lineage of John Baldessari and Ed Ruscha. His works often appear in serial forms that change over the years, adapting to different display contexts and making a virtue of repetition itself—framing, editing, and magnifying found objects and images from popular visual culture. At the center of his solo presentation at frank elbaz gallery in Paris is a strong example of this tendency. Projected in the gallery’s darkened first room is Volume 5. Sideways Thought (2020–22). Part of the artist’s “Time Life” series of stop-motion animations that draw on encyclopedias and other sources of found imagery, the video consists of a montage of every photograph of Auguste Rodin’s sculptures available in books about the artist’s work. The idea is to mimic, or allude to, the operations of a high-speed scanner while transforming paper archives into digital databases for universities or research centers. Yet the breakneck speed of the editing also illustrates an artistic possibility: that an artwork can be generated from the processes of digital sublimation. Thomson’s use of ancillary documentary materials, and indexical and archival practices (those building blocks of art history), extend into Rodin’s desire to capture the naturally continuous …
              Okayama Art Summit 2022, “Do we dream under the same sky”
              Jason Waite
              The main venue for this year’s Okayama Art Summit, directed by Rirkrit Tiravanija, is a 1930s elementary school that has been vacant for the past twenty years. It is therefore surprising to encounter swarms of uniformed middle-school students circulating around the grounds as part of a school trip; then again, an uncanny sense of historical repetition is a hallmark of this edition of the triennial. Take Cambodian artist Vandy Rattana’s “MONOLOGUE Trilogy” (2015–19). This three-screen installation opens an oneiric portal to the lush forests of Kâmpŭchéa, still haunted by the Khmer Rouge’s atrocities. Rattana’s poetic grappling with the loss under that regime of his own sister, whom he never met, unfurls with images of the artist wading through the overgrown landscape, punctuated by slow shots of fantastical rituals invented to establish a connection to the land and its textures. The durational melancholy that results contrasts with the abundance of nonhuman life that fills the frame. An intricately woven cinematic tapestry, “MONOLOGUE Trilogy” decelerates time. Its slow, haunted temporality permeates the rest of the summit. Upstairs, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s installation The Word Silence Is Not Silence (2022) invites viewers into a small room that features two chairs in front of a …
              Carol Bove’s “Vase/Face”
              Orit Gat
              A friend once called me out for overusing “the viewer” in my writing. “What does this viewer stand for?” he asked, suggesting that to use an abstract generality as a stand-in for the self absolves the writer of having to account for their own presence. Initially I saw this as a comment about the politics of being a body in space; that viewers are not interchangeable, experiences matter, and they are distinct. This conversation convinced me that the personal can be a powerful position from which to reflect. So, here goes: I stood in front of Carol Bove’s new sculptures at David Zwirner and related to them in a way that is intuitive and emotional, a way that made a specific viewer of me, one whose life seeps into the looking. Though they’re made of metal, I saw their softness. I kept staring at the meeting points of two bits of steel, and found in them a connection. Bove’s exhibition, “Vase/Face,” includes two sets of works presented across two rooms, two presentations that differ in scale, color, and treatment. In the main space are four large-scale sculptures made of stainless steel and laminated glass with heat-fused ink. The sandblasted stainless …
              Bangkok Art Biennale 2022, “CHAOS : CALM”
              Max Crosbie-Jones
              The titles for the first two editions of the Bangkok Art Biennale (BAB), “Beyond Bliss” and “Escape Routes,” were catchy rhetorical constructions that signposted a sanguine worldview: art can help us survey, process, and perhaps even surmount the multipolar reckonings of the Anthropocene. Setting a similarly salutary tone for the third edition—the last in a trilogy, according to artistic director Apinan Poshyananda—is “CHAOS : CALM.” During the opening symposium, Loredana Pazzini-Paracciani (part of a four-strong curatorial team alongside Nigel Hurst, Jirat Ratthawongjirakul, and Chomwan Weeraworawit) remarked that the title’s colon allows for all states in between, rather than enforcing a binary. Her assertion left the tonal spectrum wide open, yet the thematic scope is wider still: BAB 2022 is a heaped potpourri of over 200 au courant artworks ostensibly united around capacious notions of disarray and harmony. Works that evoke dialectics between societal structures or belief systems are piled in alongside those that summon disorderly nature, and others of a more lived and personal bent. Circling the upper floors of the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (BACC)—the largest venue—is a heady, often unnerving experience. “Your voice is powerful and it will be heard,” says a pensive AI avatar of Kawita Vatanajyankur, a …
              Nikita Kadan’s “Victory over the Sun”
              Xenia Benivolski
              The 1913 opera Victory over the Sun describes an attempt to capture the sun in order to overthrow linear time and reason. The work ushered in artistic traditions that came to shape Soviet Futurism: it’s where Malevich’s black square, for instance, made its first appearance (on a set curtain). Nikita Kadan’s exhibition, which takes its title from the opera, is anchored by a wall-hanging neon sculpture entitled Private Sun (2022) which refers to a classic of Soviet-era design: a window grate, ubiquitous in large apartment buildings, with bars like the rising sun. Where the avant-garde original advocated for the destruction of the present to clear a path for the new, the Ukrainian artist’s use of the architectural feature suggests a darker notion: of being held captive in someone else’s idea of the future. Hanging in the main space of the gallery is a series of charcoal drawings. In one, titled A Sun-headed character in a garbage bag (2022), Kadan renders a black trash bag akin to those rumored to have been used to transport the bodies of soldiers killed during Russia’s invasion. Over the trash bag presides an unsmiling black sun. In another, similar drawing (The Sun I, 2022), a black …
              1st Korkut Biennale of Sound Art and New Music
              Nikolay Smirnov
              The first biennale of its kind in Kazakhstan set out to combine sound art with a decolonial paradigm or, as curator Anvar Musrepov put it, “to find a correlation between experimental sound and the local culture, which is more audial than visual.” It fulfilled this mission through a convergence of the new posthuman ontologies being manifested in sound art with neo-traditional trends in decolonial thinking, in particular shamanism and animism. The symbol of this convergence is the mythological Turkic musician and shaman Korkut. According to legend, he created the kobyz, a bowed string instrument which in his hands was capable of imitating all possible sounds, and was later used by the baksy, or Turkic shamans. While Korkut played it, he was immortal. Although he eventually got tired, fell asleep, and died, he gained eternal life in the world of spirits and memory as the one who healed people through the power of art and music. As a core component of the national identity, a demiurgical healer, and the personification of radical avant-garde aspirations like the search for immortality, Korkut is a fitting figurehead for artistic speculations on shamanism, magic, and healing in the Kazakh context. Two concerts became the central …
              Dozie Kanu
              Aoife Rosenmeyer
              Dozie Kanu blocks the entrance to Francesca Pia’s gallery with a low, square platform studded with cents. I take the H marked out in shinier coins to connote “Helipad” and edge past it into a series of bright rooms arrayed with sculptures composed largely from found metal objects. Among them is hang something metric (all works 2022), which makes a crucifix-like coat rack from a 150 cm rule atop a coiling metal pump component. Though from Texas, Kanu now makes his ambiguous objects in a studio in rural Portugal. The influence can be seen in the selection of decorative Portuguese keyhole plates painted onto the wooden tabletop of aro pillars chukwu dinners, which is supported by thick metal pipes. Deep blue panelling collars the ceiling, rather than the base, of the central gallery: General State of Judgement and Concern. Its velvety hue is a pleasing touch, making the space a little cosier, and easier to imagine these objects in a living room. The patina on the tortured metal sheet in the light fitting Explosion Proof is so appealing—was there an explosion or is it to signify antiquity, accelerated for your convenience? It’s not all to my taste though. Chair [
              18th Camden International Film Festival
              Lukas Brasiskis
              Some documentary festivals prioritize the needs of the regional or international film industry, while others strive to present politically urgent and aesthetically groundbreaking nonfiction films to their audiences. Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) has been successfully combining these two strategies for almost two decades. This year’s program consisted of thirty-four feature-length and forty short films from forty-one countries spread around screening locations in Camden and Rockland. The premieres of big-budget documentary productions expected to entertain American movie goers as well as Netflix and HBO streamers—such as Sr (all works 2022 unless otherwise stated) by Chris Smith, Tamana Ayazi and Marcel Mettelsiefen’s In Her Hands, and Compassionate Spy by Steve James—were held at the Opera House in Camden, while the majority of artists’ films were featured at Rockland’s Strand Cinema and at a massive industrial dock turned into a movie theater. Following executive and artistic director Ben Fowlie’s injunction that “festivals must take risks” and senior programmer Milton Guillén’s invitation to accept the challenges cinema poses, the best films in this year’s iteration prompted audiences to reconsider what documentary cinema is and what it can do. Katya Selenkina’s Detours (2021), the winner of this year’s Cinematic Vision Award, is an experimental …
              2nd Hacer Noche, “Promised Land”
              Kim Córdova
              Hacer Noche—an independent biennial directed by a former employee of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Francisco Berzunza—aims to establish connections between Oaxaca and international contemporary art discourse. The first edition, in 2018, set a high bar. The second, titled “Promised Land” and curated across ten venues by Elvira Dyangani Ose, strives to set the history of global leftist activism in dialog with Mexican art history. Yet sparse curatorial framing, alongside a casual commitment to presenting works with basic information for the visitor, leave the overall throughline too vague to be persuasive. The main exhibition, at Museo de Las Culturas de Oaxaca in the Santo Domingo convent, features two salons of works by eighteen artists on plywood displays. Among these are several coups in the form of institutional loans, including paintings by Mexican artists Rufino Tamayo and David Alfaro Siqueiros classified as “artistic national monuments” whose loans require federal approval by the museum’s sister institution, the National Institute of Fine Art (INBA), and from UAE-based Barjeel Art Foundation, including a painting by Dia Al-Azzawi, a pioneer of modern Arab art. Significant care has gone into establishing a dialogue between celebrated and underknown artists. Curiously, however, little contextual information is provided …