July 19, 2019
On the vernacular modernism of I.M. Pei (1917–2019)
July 19, 2019
On the vernacular modernism of I.M. Pei (1917–2019)
July 8, 2019
A part of America occupying the White House. A part of America populating the Mall.
The sense I got was of a takeover—rather than people secure and calm in the exercise of their rights to assemble. Like the left occupying Zuccotti Park, the Trump supporters were exactly where they weren’t supposed to be; but, unlike Occupy, they brought a message of exclusion to one of the most visibly public spaces in America.
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June 21, 2019
Grenfell, two years on
As well as sadness, the air of the vigil contained a throb of rage: two years on from the fire, the government’s failure to make any meaningful steps towards accountability continues to spark fury. When it was his turn to take the stage, British-Iraqi rapper Lowkey, who witnessed the fire and wrote a piece that has become something of an anthem for the tragedy, used the opportunity to denounce neoliberalism in verse. Just a few months prior, models and activists wearing 72 Dead and Still No Arrests? How Come? t-shirts had occupied the runway at a London Fashion Week event, a demonstration organized by the advocacy group Justice4Grenfell. Strictly speaking, the shirts’ claim is no longer true—Reis Morris, a community member who lost family in the fire, is currently serving a two-month prison sentence after allegedly threatening a fire chief during a conversation about the fact that the tower’s plastic cover was coming off. A few blocks away from the tower, someone has strung a banner with the words I am Reis Morris along the side of an overpass. There are some fires that get put out and some fires that don’t.
Good buildings are adaptable
Buildings like these are everywhere in America. More particularly, they’re the pre-1990s inner sprawl around the multi-lane peripheries of older Eastern cities; the outer downtowns of St. Louis, Indianapolis, and other cities of the lower Midwest; the inner downtowns of the Sun Belt; and pretty much all of Oakland, California. In New York City these buildings tend to be the dull-seeming libraries, schools, police stations, and fire stations built in the ’60s and ’70s, as well as a lot of storefront offices and some of the old white-brick apartment buildings you see throughout Manhattan.
Architecture functions as the remnant, what’s left when the dust has settled; or architecture can be the weapon, the means by…
Images have become not only animate, but incarnate.
Seemingly insincere, jokey phrases flip and become the nexus of an argument. Concomitance carries weight. A border of an image can be like the border of a nation-state; tension accumulates at an edge. For an image, the tension lies in the difference between the logics created within the picture plane and outside it. For nation-states, it is often the same—tension between colliding desires, incompatible ways of understanding, communicating, and seeing.
July 18, 2018
On Adrian Piper
In an essay from 1988 called “The Joy of Marginality” Piper made explicit the scope and purpose of her own political and socially-critical art. “My work is an act of communication that politically catalyzes its viewers into reflecting on their own deep impulses and responses to racism and xenophobia, relative to a target or stance that I depict,” she wrote. To achieve this goal (or any goal of effecting psychological change through art), Piper thought it was essential to engage the viewer in what she called the “indexical present” of the work of art: a here-and-now created in the transaction between artist and audience. (Conversely, she expressed skepticism about the efficacy of “global political art” that attempts to educate or persuade the viewer concerning a situation represented as being external to the viewer’s own experience). In another text, “Performance: The Problematic Solution,” Piper championed the didactic and the confrontational as central aspects, or modes, of this form of artist–viewer engagement.
June 30, 2018
An interview with the designers behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign
We’re in a revolutionary moment, so we went straight to the history of grassroots, civil rights, and social justice movements in search of a common language we could participate in. One that Ocasio-Cortez could participate in and that she belongs in. The most inspiring figures to us were Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, the cofounders of the National Farmworkers Association. They had a positive, uplifting message about bringing power to the people. It resonated so deeply with who Sandy the person was, and who Sandy the candidate became, that it was a good fit.
January 29, 2018
The philosophy of David Hockney
In the central gallery housing Hockney’s drawings is a crayon portrait from 1974 of Andy Warhol, looking frail and a little lonely on a stuffed green chair in Paris. A comparison between the two artists, who were friends, is instructive. The parallels are clear: both gay, blond icons of Pop art, both protégés of Henry Geldzahler, both sons of working class parents, both prolific and witty writers. But here the similarities end, and the two artists begin to seem like inversions of each other. After the initial erotic frenzy of his work from the 1960s, the sexuality in Hockney’s art largely retreated behind discreet visual conventions; sex in Warhol was comparatively hardcore, particularly in his films. Likewise, the theme of death is explicit in Warhol and circumspect in Hockney. Warhol’s narrative voice is arch and elusive, willfully blank; Hockney’s direct and incisive, and at times, almost doggedly earnest. But the most striking zone of commonality and difference has to do with the way the two artists treated the issue of mechanical reproduction.
Turning the pages of the manual—A in a circle, B in a circle, C in a circle, D in a circle, E in a circle, F in a circle, G in…
September 22, 2017
On the pasts and places of Game of Thrones
What gives Game of Thrones its strange credibility and its seeming complexity, its gravity and its sense of place, its sensation of depicting a lived-in world uncannily like our own, are those cities and buildings. They’re somehow sufficiently unfamiliar-yet-familiar to seem like real old places.
September 20, 2017
On documenta 14
Obscurity of purpose; immediacy of experience; the foregrounding of a nameless parallel space, shorn of concrete social orientation: these qualities enveloped huge swathes of the exhibition. In a paradoxical turn, the greater the formal emphasis on participation, egalitarian engagement, and the banishment of hierarchy, the less political commitment, or the articulation of a clearly defined viewpoint, appeared possible. It’s a turn that has been noted before, most magisterially by Claire Bishop in Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship (2012). One foregrounds a “symmetrical situation of the encounter of equals,” only to wind up with incoherence and a teleology of open-endedness. Social relations were skated over, as projects like Social Dissonance melded more or less anonymous participants into spontaneous collectives. Artists tacked on political motives as loose premises or ex post facto revelations, unintegrated into any aesthetic whole.