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.
August 16, 2017
Why shopping centers are booming in Mexico
While malls in the US have been on a steady decline, as the industry deals with the decline in brick-and-mortar sales that bode the “death of retail,” malls in Latin America continue on the rise. This is partially because online shopping has yet to take hold as it has in the US. According to Euromonitor International, in 2016, online sales made up only 2.6 percent of retail sales in Mexico, compared with 10.5 percent in the US. The death of retail—at least for now—isn’t a reality in Latin America.
August 4, 2017
Adrift with Allan Sekula
When Sekula died of cancer in August 2013 at age sixty-two, he left behind a remarkable legacy as a photographer, filmmaker, art historian, activist, and educator, though only a fairly small—albeit distinguished—tribe of artists and academics has taken stock of it. Much of his work is united by a consistent interest: wherever capitalism sought to hawk the fantasy of an immaterial economy, or to hide its stink in refrigerated shipping freight, Sekula made it his artistic practice to visualize and to describe its mechanisms of concealment.
June 29, 2017
Zadie Smith and the problem of her single story
When black people in America are three times as likely as white people to be killed by police it becomes hard to argue that there is no clear distinction between black and white life. But Zadie Smith suggests otherwise: her ultimate argument rejecting the notion of any one group owning black pain stems from her assertion that Americans are one, that “‘us’ and ‘them’” narratives are “therapeutic,” but ultimately a “cheap gag.” It’s a galling dismissal of the brutal reality of black lives in America, where white mass murderers are apprehended alive while black unarmed citizens are arbitrarily killed. I would imagine that Kalief Browder’s family might think differently, that the black teenagers on Rikers Island, arrested without trial, held in jail and coerced into confessions might think differently. The so-called “super-predators” who became victims of the Clinton “three strikes” bill and now fill America’s prisons might think differently.
May 10, 2017
Louis Kahn’s work is accessible, minimal, simple, solid, systematic, and self-evident. It is also the exact opposite.
Buildings that call attention only to themselves generally fail at everything else. So the sustained direct attention offered by a critic or writer about a building is always already a great distortion.
January 4, 2017
No matter what he was looking at, Berger never stopped asking uncomfortable and therefore stimulating questions.
One way of thinking of the uniqueness of John Berger’s accomplishment is that he wrote almost completely without irony. The particular joy of his work comes directly from this unyielding earnestness, a profoundly difficult thing to pull off.
December 22, 2016
Jane Jacobs cast her campaigns for urban justice as bids to restore an underlying common sense, not as transformations of the social order.
You might call Jacobs a Democratic Schumpeterian. Though she believed in the dynamism of markets and their propensity to push new, innovative work to grow, she wanted to stoke the egalitarian possibilities of this process within a society that favored established interests.
December 5, 2016
Residents in luxury buildings are rarely swayed by the economic calculus of saving energy.
Western architects’ blindness to these problems appears to be inversely related to the number of times they proclaim themselves to be forging a golden age of green architecture, producing one LEED-certified monolith after another
September 26, 2016
Wasn’t Pogofest the type of idea barely solvent towns pay marketing consultants millions of dollars to avoid?
The Okefenokee once took up a lot of room in the collective American unconscious. It was a space of danger and lascivious wonder, a kind of mystical hayseed Vegas.
August 19, 2016
On this episode of the n+1 podcast, we feature Jonathan Griffin, author of the book On Fire, in conversation with Paper Monument editor Dushko Petrovich. On Fire explores the phenomenon of studio fires and how artists recover in the aftermath.
March 10, 2016
Neighbors reported seeing a distraught Gorky hitting his head against the ground as the building went up in flames.
March 4, 2016
The Reconstruction of Warsaw
When the reconstructed Warsaw is praised, it’s usually the Old Town Square which is meant—a giant cobbled expanse, surrounded by a jagged skyline of sweetly marzipan-like Mitteleuropean buildings, with a market inside. This impressive visual effect, like a real civic hub, a real town center, means that for the neophyte it is easy to mistake it for the Polish capital’s agora, its heart, and to extend this to the Old Town itself. It didn’t take long staying here and living with a Varsovian to realize that it is no such thing.
March 2, 2016
Let’s pioneer the provision of communal eating facilities!
In Archaeologies of the Future, his heavy volume on science fiction and Utopia, Fredric Jameson argues that collective, social eating facilities are an essential part of any socialist Utopia. Why? Mainly because they immediately abolish in their very existence one of the main aspects of domestic drudgery, and of unpaid housework, liberating women to (alternately) ‘govern the state’ (as Lenin once put it) or at least to participate in the labour process.
February 29, 2016
Laura Poitras at the Whitney
Bed Down Location projects images of several night skies—over Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen—onto the ceiling of a dimly lit square space. There is a platform in the middle of the room on which you lie down and then look up at the skies. The title refers to the sleeping place of a military or intelligence target, and so what you’re supposed to do while lying on the platform and looking up is imagine that you are the potential target, that a drone might be circling far overhead and preparing to end your life.
August 28, 2015
Come for the Ferris wheel, stay for the moralizing.
August 21, 2015
Ryan Trecartin’s Priority Innfield
The arrow of time—whichever direction it points—is fraught with guilt. To age is to decline: that’s what we’re always told. To trace is to blame: that’s what we’re afraid of. To the extent that Priority Innfield confounds our understanding of sequencing, iteration, and cause and effect, it also lets us off the hook for crimes of chronology. By the end we may feel confused, exhausted, and epistemologically spent, but we also feel exonerated. We feel disempowered, but ready for play.
There is always nothing you can say that is absolutely right, but you must speak anyway.
Buildings are, after all, judged not just by how they look but by how they are used.
July 8, 2015
On Nakeya Brown’s In Private Moments
The photographs of Nakeya Brown spark a list of questions. What is a hot comb? What is a weave? Why do you burn or boil the edges of braid extensions? Each of these are little entry points into the unexplored and overlooked private lives and private decisions of black people, black women specifically.
June 29, 2015
Failure's more spectacular than success
“Hollywood lighting” calls to mind dreamy high-contrast glamour shots and unattainably lustrous skin, but the actual light in Hollywood is unforgiving.
April 1, 2015
On Claudia La Rocco
To take art as seriously as La Rocco does in her criticism is taxing. When “reality” intervenes—economic reality, social reality, the tedium of competing egos—the fall is hard, which leaves her wondering: What’s the point? In her poems and creative essays, uninhibited by the demands of speaking as a disinterested authority, La Rocco takes on the big-picture questions that trouble her—What’s the use of art and criticism? How can any of it survive? Why do we care?
October 1, 2014
Celebrating the mystery and ingeniousness of these human activities which, for lack of a better term, we call “contemporary art.”
In the late 1980s, a series of apparently unremarkable group exhibitions begin to take place in galleries and art centers around France. Each show is presented as a selection from the holdings of a pair of young collectors. Only gradually does the public start to realize that all the artists in these shows, which run the gamut of contemporary avant-garde styles, are in fact inventions of the “collectors,” a duo of artists who have taken the postmodern tendency of stylistic diversity to an extreme end.
February 28, 2014
The opening number of a diva is performed like an encore.
Divas (like queers, like dancers) must be smart, or at least smarter than their abusers. They must suffer shame and ridicule and emerge triumphant, strong as steel and wholly themselves. Let alone being a queer performer, being a dancer is already pretty queer. It’s a bizarre, strict, bound life—at least in childhood, when time is eaten up by training. The dancer-in-training might love the rigor, or she might not; regardless, she goes to class every afternoon.