Medium Cool

New York

Oscar Lucien O’Brien and Terence O’Brien Pincus at the September 10, 2017 memorial for their father, Glenn O’Brien, shown at right in a 2006 photo by Todd Eberle. Photo: Todd Eberle.

WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT, it’s kind of presumptuous for someone to declare that your memorial is “what you would have wanted,” when probably what you really would have wanted was to be there for it, basking in the praise and chuckling at the euphemisms.

There are very few times when anyone could dare speak for Glenn O’Brien, but I feel confident saying he would have both approved of and attended the glamorously depressing memorial for him held earlier this month at the SVA Theater in Chelsea. For one, the evening was more akin to a greatest-hits tribute than a parade of black crępe. This was planned not as an evening of cherry-picked memories to elicit tears and laughter, but an abbreviated marathon—like a 10K, say—of readings of pieces that O’Brien had authored over five decades of being a raconteur.

“Glenn would have hated having people get up and tell stories,” explained Gina Nanni, his Hitchcock-blonde widow, afterward. “He would have gotten up at every one and yelled, ‘That’s not how it happened at all!’”

How it did happen was that the writer (and frequent Scene & Herd contributor) Linda Yablonsky and Nanni corralled thirty-six speakers who aligned with O’Brien’s myriad stints, tastes, talents, and moments (and he had more facets than a flawless Tiffany brilliant-cut). The speakers—including Vincent Fremont, Carroll Dunham, Lynne Tillman, Jerry Saltz, Hailey Gates, Anne Kennedy, Joseph Kosuth, Andy Spade, and dozens more—either chose or were entrusted by the evening’s two executrices with a selected (and condensed) piece of O’Brien’s writing.

The five hundred or so people in attendance were a testament to the wide net that O’Brien, who was born in Cleveland in 1947 and died in New York in April, cast loftily across the worlds of art, music, fashion, media, and film. Chloë Sevigny, Fabien Baron, André Balazs, Barbara Gladstone, Olivier Zahm, Joshua and Ben Safdie, Claudia Gould, Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Alan Faena, Ian Schrager, Anne Pasternak, Chris Blackwell, Sam Shahid, Roberta Smith, Ted Muehling, Tara Subkoff, Danny Fields, Alison Sarofim. And that’s not even including the artists: Richard Prince, Nan Goldin, Larry Clark, Will Cotton, Dike Blair, Billy Sullivan, David Salle, Julian Lethbridge, Dan Colen, Adam McEwen, Jean-Philippe Delhomme, Hanna Liden, Peter McGough, Marilyn Minter, Blair Thurman, Collier Schorr, Rita Ackermann, Ouattara Watts, Haim Steinbach, Jayson Musson . . .

After an introduction by Yablonsky, Fremont—who was on hand for O’Brien’s start in publishing in the early 1970s, working for Andy Warhol’s Interview as an editor/writer—began the show with a 2016 piece about the Warhol photographer Billy Name: “I wanted to live in those pictures and hang out with the stars.” Next, Christopher Bollen (playing O’Brien) and John Giorno (playing Warhol) reenacted a 1977 interview that O’Brien conducted with Warhol (and which the former brilliantly edited into sterling Andyisms).

There was an impressively wide array of texts. Three speakers read from O’Brien’s 1980s Artforum column “Like Art: Glenn O’Brien on Advertising,” including one from 1987, performed by Esquire editor Michael Hainey, about the ridiculously unsexy ads for condoms during the AIDS crisis. From Paper in 1997, Colter Rule read a piece on what we could expect if O’Brien were crowned king, and Joan Juliet Buck read about the disrespect (fiscal and otherwise) accorded to writers. From O’Brien’s 2011 book How to Be a Man, Richard Hell and Christopher Wool read his directions for using vulgar insults correctly, and Laurie Simmons read his directives on how to be a host. Eric Goode read a poem from a posthumously published book, Ruins with a View. The show was closed with brief and moving remarks from his two sons, Terence and Oscar.

“Even though we all know the writing, it was so enlightening to take in the enormity of his achievement,” said Jeffrey Deitch. “He’s one of the great humorists of our time, and it’s very rare that someone can write so well about music, art, fashion, politics, and so on. I came out saying that Glenn O’Brien is our Baudelaire—and when people want to understand what it was like in New York during this period, they will read Glenn’s writings.” (Is he our Nostradamus too? Deitch read from a 1990 piece in which O’Brien predicts that Donald Trump will be the president.)

At a dinner after at the Bowery Hotel, I heard again and again that O’Brien’s passing felt like the end of an era—the end of a culture that was in, about, between, from, to, for, and by downtown New York. Of a culture that began a half-century ago with the birth of Warhol’s Factory and reached a kind of zenith in the 1980s in Lower East Side nightclubs and SoHo galleries and cooler-than-you magazines like Interview, Paper, and Details (and this one). Of a culture that was then decimated by AIDS, decentralized by the internet, and displaced by the metastasizing financial industry, not to mention upstaged by the new professional creative class (a vicious spiral in a voraciously upscaling New York epitomized by, say, the Bowery Hotel itself).

Indeed, you could argue that this world died some time ago, that only our illusions of it live on in holdouts like O’Brien, who weathered the transition so well by playing the artful twentieth-century man of letters while delivering the twenty-first-century Pro goods. With several once-prominent magazine people both speaking and in the audience (names withheld to protect the delusional), the night also felt like a memorial for the Day of the Writer itself, another profession rendered redundant by the ongoing extinction of Printasaurus Rex and the millions of SEO-savvy pancreatives who can just do stuff for free on their phones during the boring parts. And with the art and fashion worlds having been reduced to globally nomadic trade shows that must be grammed, tweeted about, and sold, who has time to read anyway?

The irony is that O’Brien was among a handful of people who helped lay the framework for today’s social media, which is, after all, just unmediated media. The simple idea behind Interview was to publish (more or less) what people really said, just like the idea of Pop was to celebrate what people actually saw. Insofar as some of the Downtown Baroque that O’Brien helped invent might have been esoteric to many, O’Brien was to the Twitter-born as exoteric as Simon Cowell.

So, in the end, O’Brien was a writer who was so much more than a writer—and a New York fixture who was truly, in the end, a man of the world and who managed, in the end, to transcend all of it and be, in the end, Glenn O’Brien.

David Colman

Monica Bonvicini’s Belt Out, 2017, at the Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam. (Except where noted, all photos: Gökcan Demirkazik)

EVEN BEFORE TURKEY’S failed foreign policy of “precious isolation” materialized, we weren’t big on neighbors.

Despite Turkish-language proverbs such as “Neighbors [even] need the ashes of each other,” my generation was taught to fear the neighbor (who coveted “our” land and resources) during “National Security” classes at school, and we returned to homes where thick curtains would—almost magically, of their own accord—shut tight moments after sunset. In a 2001 video simply titled Neighbor, Bülent Şangar captures this tension: Like in a first-person shooter game, the artist follows his neighbors’ movements with the barrel of a gun from behind semitransparent tulle curtains—shooting the video at the same time.

Although Şangar’s work is not part of “a good neighbor,” the Elmgreen & Dragset–curated fifteenth edition of the Istanbul Biennial, it addresses the question at the heart of the show: How do we live together without descending into mediocrity, (auto-)censoring, and communal violence? In a country where state violence has become the norm, the genius of “a good neighbor” lies in its seeming banality, which, as Michael Elmgreen suggested with Nordic politeness at the press conference, “may be a conscious choice on the curators’ side.”

Every other choice was also conscious—and calculated. For the second time in a row, the biennial used a high school for its press conference (this time, the four-hundred-year-old Saint Benoît French High School instead of the Italian High School); the rest of the exhibition seemed like a counterpoint to Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev’s dizzying, scavenger-hunt-like Fourteenth Istanbul Biennial, which included thirty-five locations (including mobile, imaginary, and underwater ones). Elmgreen & Dragset’s spans just six locations, all (except one) within short walking distance; more than thirty new commissions from fifty-six artists formed a manageable—even cozy—parcours that eschewed high-flown theory and curatorial poetic license. In contrast to the all-caps title of Christov-Bakargiev’s “SALTWATER,” Elmgreen proclaimed: “a good neighbor is always written in lowercase. Anything can come before or after . . . and I would like to think there is an invisible question mark at the end.”

Left: Artist Xiao Yu. Right: Ingar Dragset and Michael Elmgreen, artists and curators of the fifteenth Istanbul Biennial.

After the meticulously kept verdure of Saint Benoît, Xiao Yu’s stubborn donkey at the entrance of Istanbul Modern proved quite a contrast (and a controversial one at that). Inside, an austere and pared-down sculptural narrative dominated, with forceful propositions from Adel Abdessemed, Candeğer Furtun, Lydia Ourahmane, and Rayyane Tabet linking representational regimes to our built environments. A remarkable exception was Kaari Upson’s magnificently dark set of Oldenburgian-cum-informe furniture and objects, including urethane paper towels and an armchair for “The Artist Is Present”–length use.

On my way out, curator Jens Hoffmann (and artistic codirector of the Twelfth Istanbul Biennial) anxiously asked the pervasive question: “Are people coming?” “They” did come after all, but without the fanfare of guided patrons’ circle tours and sit-down gallery dinners hosted at Cezayir Restaurant. Most international professionals seemed to be hunting solo instead of in packs: From Hoffmann to CAMH’s Bill Arning to Delfina Foundation’s Aaron Cezar, they entered my vision only briefly. So it was a shock when I saw a big friendly table hosting an Al Serkal Avenue dinner and another studded with Tate Modern’s Clara Kim and Vassilis Oikonomopoulos at the experimental eatery Yeni Lokanta. (But who were those people who rode the Contemporary Istanbul cars emblazoned with the letters “VIP”? That and the rationale behind covering an art fair with fake grass remain a mystery.)

Back at the Galata Greek Primary School, visitors were treated to a generously installed group of works that resonated with the inherent dichotomy in Elmgreen & Dragset’s own artistic practice. Elaborate, fictive immersive environments (Pedro Gómez-Egańa’s dazzling elevated apartment on wheels, operated by live performers, and Scenario in the Shade, Jonah Freeman & Justin Lowe’s four-room extravaganza on subcultures as chosen families) competed with simple yet heartrending gestures, such as Erkan Özgen’s and Dan Stockholm’s works on trauma and death. Stockholm’s negative casts of his own hands were mounted on metal scaffolding tubes like the ones he used to touch every single surface of his father’s home after he passed away, whereas Özgen’s video showed a deaf and mute Syrian boy, a refugee from Kobanî, recounting an extremely violent series of events with bodily gestures—a shattering survivor testimony that I found problematic due to the lack of the artist’s mediation.

Left: Artist Bahar Yürükoğlu and Pilot Galeri’s Amira Arzık. Right: Artist Burçak Bingöl and Collective Çukurcuma’s Naz Cuguoğlu.

But it was a trio on the third floor of the Pera Museum that really got me: Tatiana Trouvé stacked painted bronze casts of all the soaps her assistants used during preparations for her exhibitions since 2002 in a gradually thinning, fragile-looking column next to Lee Miller’s shocking mise-en-scčnes in the abandoned apartments of Eva Braun and Adolf Hitler (including an auto-portrait in Hitler’s bathtub). A subversive monumentality and interest in human traces also prevailed in Fred Wilson’s pseudo-encyclopedic installation Afro Kismet, in which he covered two large walls with unconventional Iznik tiles boasting rich mauves, sandy browns, and petroleum greens (as opposed to the Ottoman red, blue, and green). An homage to the largely invisible or no longer existent Afro-Turkish communities, the walls spelled “Mother Africa” and “Black is beautiful” in calligraphic Arabic script. Only the tiles in Rüstem Pasha Mosque could rival the splendor.

A certain Istanbullite brand of oxymoronic elegance, combining understated splendor and epicurean ostentation, was in evidence at the opening ceremony in the gardens of Palais de France, as well as at Ömer Koç’s soirée at the Abdülmecid Mansion in Kuzguncuk, on the other side of the Bosphorus. Due to heavy bridge traffic, I arrived at the mansion as disgruntled as the rest of the international press corps, but this turn-of-the-century neo-Orientalist jewel box—empty save for two dozen works from Koç’s private collection—made me forget all about that.

Inside, Bige Örer and I shared our astonishment at how such dramatic interiors—where every surface is intricately painted, marble, ceramic, or intarsia—brought the best out of the works on view. The private obsessions of Turkey’s most influential arts patron were theatrically laid bare: Besides the obligatory pair of photographs by Elmgreen & Dragset, the spotlit, deformed bodies of Patricia Piccinini neighbored Daphne Wright’s upturned Stallion and Swan made of white marble dust and resin. The first Turkish prima donna to perform in Europe, Semiha Berksoy seemed to give birth to a cock in an electrifying self-portrait from 1974. And I thought the mysterious and worldly Academic Life Room Model, 1783, by Austrian master Franz Xaver Seegen was a stand-in for the elusive collector, who insisted on pronouncing Istanbul with a hard i in the old-fashioned, true Istanbullite way. Oh, and there were rhinoceroses. Lots of them.

Left: Artist Candeğer Furtun. Right: Artist Young-Jun Tak.

Mahmoud Khaled’s installation at a Bauhaus villa in Cihangir, Proposal for a House Museum of an Unknown Crying Man, was a museum complete with an audio guide—just like Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence a couple streets away—commemorating the fictional life of a lachrymose homosexual man who fled to Istanbul from Eygpt and purportedly built this house to avoid persecution. While the midcentury kitsch and sentimentality of Khaled’s work was not to everyone’s liking, I saw it as a subtle queering of Atatürk’s 1935 Marine Mansion in Florya—another inspiration for the artist—which laid patriarchal notions of progress on the psychoanalyst’s divan.

It took me a while to recover from the opening party at Soho House Istanbul (featuring DJ sets by, naturally, Elmgreen & Dragset) and its aftermath at the queer-friendly bar Gizli Bahçe. But eventually I crossed the Golden Horn to see the Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam in Balat. This beautifully renovated fifteenth-century bathhouse was a hair-raising epilogue to the rest of the show: Monica Bonvicini occupied the male apodyterium (where men undressed) with two sculptures, one of which spelled out GUILT in polished stainless-steel mirrors that reached thirteen feet high. Seeing her Kaaba made from men’s belts (Belt Out) in the adjacent caldarium made me realize why she was relegated to the quieter, more conservative side of the water. I shivered and sweat from the heat coming from the two other sculptures—cascades of long LED lights held together in a Hesse-like fashion with electrical cables and wires. Having lived most of my life under an Islamist populist autocracy, this sensation was strangely familiar: at once homey and totally unfamiliar.

As the sun set, I ditched my plans to see the only remaining work of the biennial, an Ugo Rondinone installed outside the biennial’s “neighborhood” precincts. A permanent gift to the city from Koç Holding, sitting atop a municipal cultural center in Beşiktaş, this rainbow-colored text sculpture was first exhibited in Taksim Square at the Paolo Colombo–curated Sixth Istanbul Biennial in 1999—exactly a month after the big August 17 earthquake. It was comforting to think that I would forget about it in time, eventually seeing it on the bridge highway one night on my way back from the Asian side, only to be gently reminded that I shared Rondinone’s question with almost everyone in this scarred yet bustling, ever-captivating megacity: Where do we go from here?

Gökcan Demirkazik

Ugo Rondinone’s Where Do We Go From Here, 1999/2017. (Photo: Onur Dogman)

Running with Scissors

New York

Writer Kat Herriman with the RUN Cafe menu. (Photo: Kaitlin Phillips)

ON JUNE SECOND, two weeks before the Summer Solstice, the artist Aurel Schmidt told me she’d been forced to hire a bartender for openings at her gallery Romeo to deter underage beer-stealers. (Nothing like a new crop of thirsty teens.)

The art world’s part-time fakirs—downtown purists sating themselves with free beer and fresh art, and occasional communal-style meals from the likes of Rirkrit Tiravanija and Agathe Snow— did okay from 6 to 8 PM on Thursday. The last night of the summer! For Susan Cianciolo’s “RUN Prayer, RUN Café, RUN Library” at Bridget Donahue, self-serve lime-and-apple sangria was available, albeit in Dixie cups. I kept waiting for people to complain about the booze rationing, or at least recall swishing with fluoride in kindergarten—even when you had a summer cold and could not breathe through your nose! But they didn’t. Everybody was in a good mood. I mean, they were perspiring, obviously. “We have air conditioning,” said Donahue, shaking her head. (Artists like her because she tells the truth, and I must say I like her snappy e-mails.)

The crowd waited patiently for quesadillas personally grilled by Steven Arroyo, the cult owner of LA’s twenty-five-seat Escuela Taqueria. (“He flew in from Los Angeles,” said Cianciolo affectionately.) He’s the strong silent type. A self-contained man! A man unlike the man waiting in line behind me—who I refuse to quote on the grounds that he’s an adult still telling strangers he “went to Bard.” (Why must I make this joke at every party?)

Sensing that I was disturbing the chef’s innate purity, the benign kind that radiates off all humans who like their work, I lurked around the silent, acne-free women Cianciolo solicited and dressed for RUN PRAYER— a performance-art work from 6 to 7 PM, of ten women sitting in a meditation circle. Like a sewing circle that doesn’t gossip! Among them was downtown’s designer Maryam Nassir Zadeh (Cianciolo was wearing MNZ’s apple-red low-heeled shoes). “Who I casted in it was very important to me, I knew they could do it,” said Cianciolo. “They’re all women. That’s what made it so special.”

They did not rehearse, and they were all beautiful in that I-don’t-wear-makeup-French-girl-way. They had what I’m going to call ANGEL SKIN (Peau d’ange), a kind of French lace I learned about while flipping through Sew a Beautiful Wedding by Gail Brown and Karen Dillon in an effort to improve myself in the RUN Library “house.” Especially artist Maia Ruth Lee, the pregnant woman who “famously” walked the Eckhaus Latta runway last week. (The Cut approved.)

On the back of one of the sitters’ chairs was a piece of printer paper with very lightly drawn pencil writing, perhaps explaining the ritual:

women prayer group
history of female saints
being with source
happy with or without symbol
women prayer circle
saints holding hands
holding energy
trees plants

And at the very bottom: I Don’t care if you don’t fucking like me (in cursive).

At the opening of “RUN Prayer, RUN Café, RUN Library” at Bridget Donahue.

I can’t think of anyone in the world who doesn’t love Susan. It’s fairly obvious that she’s popular and angularly beautiful in the vein of Rita Ackermann (they used to be roommates)—but absolutely zero percent divisive, a sort of quiet healer type to all those sober people from the ’90s. (The first JSTOR result for “Susan Cianciolo” is “God Save the Zine.”) Almost everyone I spoke to at the opening said they’ve worked with Susan “forever.” Most just quite literally said, “Oh. I love Susan.”

“She’s fantastical,” said Kat, the young woman who just spent three months organizing Cianciolo’s archive. “You know? It’s like she’s somewhere else . . . Someone gave her a NY tourist scarf, and she made it into a pleated skirt.” (In an interview turned palm reading for Index in 1999, Dam Darcy told Cianciolo: “You have a very long pinky, which signifies that you’re very intuitive, you run on your dreams a lot.”)

As at all openings, starved for some New York neuroticism, I began wide-eyeing literally anyone who would have me. A bubbly woman with a cup of sangria breathlessly introduced herself. “I’m Susan’s neighbor!” She had seen the artist around Fort Greene for five years, only recently learning who she was. “It’s good to know she’s doing something!” We looked at the artist across the room, so well postured and secure. “She just is laughing over there,” said her neighbor brightly.

The neighbor really wanted to introduce Susan to “my friend Susan, who lives in Soho,” and also a friend of hers named Sibyl, “who is doing a performance-art piece about the first day of fall tomorrow at the Whitney Museum.” (“It’s like anti-pretentious and also based in a lot of real ritual.”) Sibyl is Sibyl K-e-m-p-s-o-n. The neighbor wanted to introduce me to Jennifer Krasinski, who she knows from the theater world a lonnnng time ago. “I think she’s written for things,” she said. “I know!” I didn’t say. (Another neighbor of Cianciolo’s posted about being the artist’s neighbor—quite the community in Brooklyn you have there!)

Eventually I found my real friends, by which I mean the painter Sam McKinniss, and waited for people to find him. Within minutes, artist Torey Thornton, of A-Ron’s gallery Moran Bondaroff, strode toward us, already speaking from across the room. “Lessssssss talk about it, lessss talk about it. Let’s. Talk. About. It.” They spoke, for some time, about McKinniss’s crisp white polo shirt from Uniqlo. (“I like white clothes,” said McKinniss, who was born and raised in Connecticut, and is looking very thin.)

Left: Artists Sam McKinniss and Torey Thornton. Right: Bunny Lampert, Susan Cianciolo, and Steven Arroyo. (Photos: Kaitlin Phillips)

Then there was a series of art gallerist blind items:

—How’s he dress? Button-up shirt in raw denim or a fucking muumuu?

—No, he’s in, like, Comme.

—Comme to the toe. All right, all right, all right. That can mean a lot of things. You’re either exotic or stiff.

Eventually, we made our way to the after party at Happy Ending, still discussing various sartorial and aesthetic concerns, like how this month the New York Times featured McKinniss and Thornton in an article called “The Beauty of Ugly Painting,” written by a twenty-six-year-old. Thornton anti-fashionably carried a DUANE READE BY WALLGREENS bag as a purse. (“My partner—my partner doesn’t exist, but if I had one, we wouldn’t collaborate,” deadpanned Thornton. Actually I think he was serious.)

FYI: Happy Ending is now called Better Times, because Happy Ending had a “woman problem.” Or as my friend Dan Allegretto succinctly said: “I guess they took down their ticker tape: Forty days since our last rape!” On the telephone outside, a woman was mock-screaming into her cellphone for the benefit of the smokers, since smokers are the best gossips (because they don’t really believe in the future): “I’m sitting between Brett Ratner and Harvey Weinstein and they’re both like, “How are you?” They’re like violent weirdos, I like it . . . Half of what I do is not my job.” I’m sure she was phoning someone in Los Angeles, because who cares in New York anymore about Harvey Weinstein, unless he’s optioning your novel, just to shelve it for ten years.

Inside, Jamie Simone, a model and freelance DJ at Beverly’s—whom I know from Instagram as Pool Honeys—explained that she’s getting a rotary phone and moving to LA, where her Instagram handle will play better. “I’m not going to pay you back,” she told McKinniss after charging a drink to his tab. “But you know I’m a generous friend. The most joy—I don’t know if it’s like a Cancer thing—the most joy—I’m a Cancer—the most joy I get is from giving my friends joy.” Some people just have great energy.

McKinniss pointed out Bridget Donahue’s mother perched at the bar. “Are you the mother,” I asked. “Yes, and I’m trying to behave myself,” she said, and asked if I knew Thor Shannon. I nodded noncommittally. “Last opening he gave me a cocktail, and I danced on the bar. So this time I’m trying to behave myself.” Me too, me too.

Kaitlin Phillips

History Again


Rehearsal for Gerard & Kelly’s Modern Living at the Farnsworth House. (All photos: David Huber)

THE WEEK BEFORE LAST, fifty miles east of Downtown Chicago, on the bank of the Fox River in Kendall County, where Trump beat Clinton by a hair, a young woman in a neon-green getup and white volleyball kneepads stood on the deck of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and made a small request: “Welcome. Please take off your shoes or put shoe covers on.”

We’d stepped, a gaggle of globalists, into a rehearsal for Modern Living, a new performance by artists Brennan Gerard and Ryan Kelly commissioned for “Make New History,” the Second Chicago Architecture Biennial, directed by Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee and timed to coincide with the Expo Chicago art fair. Modern Living is the third in an ongoing series of works sited at canonical modernist residences—after the Schindler House in California and the Glass House in Connecticut—exploring how queer intimacy is produced outside of dominant ideas of family. For the next hour we moved as we pleased, my own attention tacking, bicuriously, between two dancers—a WO (Julia Eichten) and a MAN (Zack Winokur).

I stretched booties over my soles. I ambled inside. “Rub the belly button. Expose the clavicle. Twist the hips,” intoned WO. When I returned to the deck, MAN had shed his pants and shirt and kneepads. Now he was upright, butt-naked, his Hanes around his ankles and hands above his head, posing as Alba, the Georg Kolbe bronze figure in the reflecting pool of the Barcelona Pavilion. There was shattered glass (prerecorded) and shrieks (live), followed by a séance at the dining table with incantations about tenuous client-architect relations. Then, to conclude, the two rendezvoused at the doorway, one on each side of the threshold. They leaned in face-to-face but remained separated by inches, repelled like opposed magnets. It was a fitting end to the performance and, as I would discover, an appropriate start to this biennial, which strained to keep reality at bay.

Left: Chicago Architecture Biennial artistic directors Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee. Right: Artist Amanda Williams.

On Thursday morning, fifty miles west of the Farnsworth House, at the Chicago Cultural Center on Michigan Avenue, Mayor Rahm Emanuel probably stood on a riser and said, “Welcome.” I say probably because that event was for local media and I—a member of the culture press—was invited to an earlier, Rahm-less “press breakfast,” where scones and sarcasm were served. “Imagine inviting 140 architects into your home and saying, ‘Do something,’” said Mark Kelly, Chicago’s culture commissioner. Imagine!

Fortunately, not all the biennial’s participants are architects (there are artists and even fashion designers among them) and Johnston and Lee are a capable pair of designers with significant pedigree (a renovation of the MCA Chicago just wrapped up, and their new building for the Menil Drawing Institute in Houston will open next year). In terms of curation, this year’s biennial is sharper and more refined than the inaugural edition. Off-site projects and affiliated programs were pared back and better edited. The Garfield Park Conservatory—a sprawling hothouse and civic wonder—hosted an installation by François Perrin and an elegiac performance by Ana Prvački, who collaborated with architects SO-IL on whimsical full-body air filters for the brass quartet. The Graham Foundation presented an exhibition by David Hartt exploring Moshe Safdie’s unfinished Habitat Puerto Rico project from 1968.

More apparent to me this year were the peculiarities and hierarchies of the main venue (a onetime library). Displays in corridors with fluorescent lighting and dim ground-floor galleries pale in comparison to those in elegant former reading rooms. The show’s visual and philosophical tour de force, Vertical City, is reserved for the finest space, Yates Hall. For this, Johnston and Lee invited fifteen architects to revisit the Chicago Tribune Tower competition of 1922, a watershed event that has inspired polemical copycats over the years, most famously the zeitgeist-defining exhibition of postmodern “late entries” organized in Chicago in 1980. The 2017 towers—sixteen-foot-tall scale models—were presented alongside the 1922 proposals of Adolf Loos (an oversize Doric column) and Ludwig Hilberseimer (an orthogonal slab-and-column structure), thereby framing the exercise, I think, as a blurring of two iconographic regimes once seen as binary. The term “scale models” is misleading, however. Better to treat them as totemic—one-to-one depictions of process and sensibility rather than representations of inhabitable buildings. What you see is what you get, and I’m certain you’ll be seeing them on Instagram for the next four months.

Left: PIN-UP’s Felix Burrichter and artist David Hartt. Right: Graham Foundation director Sarah Herda and architect Jürgen Mayer.

A symposium organized by the Harvard Graduate School of Design on Thursday afternoon cemented Vertical City’s importance, with six of the eight architect-panelists participating in the tower pageant. GSD dean Mohsen Mostafavi had a hunch that practitioners today treat history differently than they did in 1980, and he was proved correct. While postmodernists preferred quotation and pastiche, the panelists spoke of “fusing,” “merging,” and “copying” (ŕ la Nicolas Bourriaud’s “Postproduction” or Lawrence Lessig’s Remix Culture). Emanuel Christ described “history as the toolbox,” but if you remixed the metaphor, swapping out “toolbox” for “database,” his notion of “searching for solutions” would still hold. In practice, the biennial’s title isn’t an imperative, a fiery call to action, but a droll command: Siri, make new history. Instead of an open commons with a wide range of producers, its operating procedures are more akin to contemporary platform-capitalism, under which a few rarefied institutions—in this case, the Modern Movement, the West, the Ivy League—determine the rules.

It’s a small wonder then that opinions divided along old borders. Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao contended that “history occurs through people.” Burkina Faso–born, Berlin-based architect Francis Kéré took a long look at the starched audience and, with palpable melancholy, remarked, “Architecture is far, far, far away from people.” This humanist impulse extends to the functional and social concerns of their respective towers—awkward prerogatives considering the unspoken agenda of the biennial, which was more didactic than its curators let on. History is a synonym for a brand of formalism advanced by a loose network of architects, most of them San Rocco–reading Europeans in their forties, who are represented in the exhibition by OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen, 6a, Christ & Gantenbein, Kuehn Malvezzi, PRODUCTORA, Sam Jacob, Go Hasegawa, Christian Kerez, and Pezo von Ellrichshausen, among others. (Were Johnston and Lee not the gatekeepers, they’d be included.) A talented bunch of designers, they reject the razzle-dazzle of the digital and the programmatic preoccupations of Rem Koolhaas, and their calling card is an austere yet casual aesthetic of simple geometries and bold platonic shapes. The Loos and Hilberseimer of Vertical City belong to this coterie’s canon, and outsiders became reluctant interlopers.

“Why does architecture have to be an enemy of modernism?” asked Go Hasegawa, rhetorically, during a Friday afternoon conversation with Kersten Geers, part of a series of talks organized by Columbia University GSAPP. Hasegawa was speaking of his education in Japan, but he then generalized. “We, as a generation, are free from this trauma. Maybe we can be more honest.”

Left: Architect Florian Idenburg and artist Ana Prvački with performers. Right: Architect Kazuyo Sejima.

If I may be forthcoming, or Freudian, I’d contend this pluralism is less a triumph over intergenerational conflict or patricide than a survival tactic—a form of affect-management at a moment of overwhelming crisis. In the face of Silicon Valley futurism and a toxic political discourse (as I write: “Trump Tweets Doctored GIF of His Golf Ball Hitting Hillary Clinton”), the invocation of history is regarded as a reassertion of liberal democratic values—a soothing theme that all of us can, and must, get behind. Yet just as obnoxious tweets of politicians are not politics, historical objects and styles and persons are not history. Politics and history are processes, and the biennial, by isolating form-making from the production and occupation of space, precludes an active role for architecture.

“What do you think?” I was asked countless times during the opening, in corners of galleries and back seats of cars. There’s a certain way of asking that question—wherein sincere curiosity is shadowed by gut-level uneasiness—that says more than any answer. The tone was the answer. As with any big thematic exhibition, individual participants offered compelling counternarratives to the theme (for instance, Gerard & Kelly’s Modern Living and DOGMA’s Rooms, a survey of famous domestic spaces from antiquity to the present, examined how social formations are entangled with the activity of living). But the larger curatorial frame, an adventure in disengagement, failed to convince me why this biennial should matter. Architecture felt small, isolated, gutless, and inconsequential. Architecture felt squandered. There it was, inches from the city and a world apart.

David Huber

View of Vertical City installation at Chicago Cultural Center.

Rama Lama Ding Dong


Left: Advisor for collectors of books Nathalie Daviet-Thery. Right: Chevalier Roze's Ombline d'Avezac.

“MARSEILLE WAS BUILT ON A HISTORY OF FAILURES,” curator Cédric Aurelle gushed. Our friendly little group—which included Véronique Collard Bovy, the chic producer of the city’s flagship event Art-O-Rama—stood sipping white wine and philosophizing about the decline of French civilization outside M-Arc/Le Box, the space that collectors Marie-Hélčne and Marc Féraud were opening with an homage exhibition to artists Pierre Bertrand et Francois Morellet. That evening, the former coastal slaughterhouse turned art hangar hosted a bizarre mix of fellow travelers from Berlin, Warsaw, Lisbon, Paris, Mexico City, and Los Angeles, a mélange of rough warmth on the eve of Marseille’s close-enough-to-international art fair.

The tiny boutique fair opened the next day at La Cartonnerie within La Friche Belle de Mai, a former Seita cigarettes factory. Sumesh Sharma from Clark House Bombay joined us at Camille Hunt’s booth, regaling us with tales of elephants, gifts from India to the Prague zoo. More exotic things were to be found at the booth of book-specialist Nathalie Daviet-Thery: “This is the only fair we do,” she told us. From there we hopped the tram to Marseille’s natural history museum, where Mark Dion’s solo show, in partnership with the Paréidolie drawing fair, flaunted his signature bioparaphernalia.

“The rosé is warm,” moaned a lady at the self-service tables lodged between the magnificent pillared outdoor galleries of the palace built by Henry Espérandieu, while we sampled Lillet framed by Antoine Louis Barye’s majestic animal sculptures. “Check out Mounir Fatmi’s Exile Pavilion,” the artist Orlan told us at sunset, before we headed back to La Friche for the fair’s dinner. The complex was barely letting anyone in—Art-O-Rama wasn’t the only game in town. The grounds were also taken over by concerts, outdoor ball games, and skateboarders. Art-O-Rama director Jérôme Pantalacci greeted guests at Les Grandes Tables, and although things moved quickly, by dinner’s end we had missed the party on the rooftop. And so we followed dealers Nerina Ciaccia and Antoine Levi and curators Cristiano Raimondi and Sarah Cosulich, who recently joined Manifesta from Artissima, for a nightcap at the other Longchamp Palace—an über-popular Art Deco bar attracting people from all walks of life.

Left: Artist Martin Soto Climent and curator Chris Sharp. Right: Artists Marie Péjus and Christophe Berdaguer.

The next morning I (not so gracefully) jumped in a shuttle with Olivier Millagou (one of the two artists on the board of Art-O-Rama with Davide Bertocchi) toward Littledancer, a studio hosting Amandine Simonet’s solo show, sponsored by Isabelle and Roland Carta. The non-French speakers soon moved to the next stop, the Alain Xoual collection, located in the former mansion of a barrel-maker. (“His descendants live downstairs,” claimed our host.) Dealers Jean-Pierre Neumeister and Silvia Bonsiepein updated me on all the Berlin gossip in front of Xoual’s textual portrait by Anne-James Chaton before heading to the eight-month-old Double V Gallery, the Bobo shop/popup gallery space Chez Jogging, and the Cantini Museum for the excellent exhibition from the collection of the International Center of Glass and Plastic Arts (Cirva).

If I’d made time for a quick jump in the Mediterranean, delicious but for the occasional pink jellyfish, at the Prophet Beach prior to Luigi Fassi’s tour of the fair, I would have mentioned the filming of the fifth installment of the Taxi movies’ cruising black racing cars—and a bride—on the John Fitzgerald Kennedy corniche, but that’s not my style. From the fair, our shuttle to the rue du Chevalier Roze (a string of galleries sponsored by real estate investment firm d’ANF Immobilier to revitalize the area between the Vieux Port and the picturesque Panier district) was halted because of street protests—“welcome to France!” said our driver, laughing. The stroll was worth it, the beat on the street was “similar to that of 1990s rue Louise Weiss,” said curator Lorenzo Benedetti, with the opening of a group show at galerie Crčvecoeur, Sébastien Reuzé at Galerie Catherine Bastide, and a Martin Soto Climent show curated by Chris Sharp at Atlantis.

More popups in temporary spaces opened in the parallel rue de la République. A poetic show of sounds and objects by Julien Creuset in a forthcoming H&M made it hard to leave for Triangle France’s gala. The party’s special draw was its location: the seventeenth-century Fort Ganteaume, overlooking Marseille’s harbor. (There were also harsh floodlights and tombola-like entertainment, but it was all for a good cause.) We retreated to the soiree organized by Paradise / Maison de ventes Leclere, where a self-absorbed Nicolas Bourriaud DJed for an empty space. “Here,” said Nicolas Veidig-Favarel as he handed me a cold beer from his bag. “I am from Marseille—I always come prepared.” A cool attitude to hold on to as the September’s back-to-school trepidation dawns.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva

Left: Artist Orlan. Right: Artist Virgile Fraisse and dealer Arnaud Deschin.

Take Me to the Other Side

Los Angeles

Left: Artists from the Hammer's exhibition “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985.” Right: Future Ladies of Wrestling (F.L.O.W.). (All photos: Trinie Dalton)

WHILE YOU-KNOW-WHO attempts to separate us with walls and reversals, Los Angeles is locating protest and empowerment in inclusivity, and rewriting art history through a grand rejection of borders, thanks to the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. This colossally inspiring five-month initiative, featuring exhibitions, performances, and programming at more than seventy institutions, extends the post–World War II art-historical conversation launched with “PST: Art in LA 1945–1980” (2011–12) into the shared history between the region and Latin cultures, not only within Los Angeles, but throughout Southern California.

Who could have imagined the politically fraught timing of these openings, given that this iteration was at least four years in the making? For four days last week, I experienced a fortifying pride in the reassertion of a kinder American identity. Never before have I heard curators take such overtly politicized stances in their toasts; unprecedented was the camaraderie among exhibitions in heavily funded, refined museum surveys and DIY artist-run spaces, where “radical hope,” as Junot Díaz recently called it, tends to dwell. PST: LA/LA is about leveling ground and celebrating those who have been ignominiously left out. By building access to under-the-radar work, viewers must consider why and how borders form in the first place, and what we’re going to do to thwart future exclusions.

Left: LAXART deputy director Catherine Taft, Hammer Museum director Ann Philbin, LAXART executive director Hamza Walker. Right: Artist Lecia Dole-Recio, MoMA curator Stuart Comer, Erin Cassidy, and Desmond.

It is fitting that when I started my marathon last Wednesday, at LACMA’s preview for three exhibits, including “Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico, 1915–1985,” a group was forming around the coolest guys in the section examining Chicano civil rights: Johnny Gonzalez, aka “Don Juan,” and David Botello, who helped launched LA’s Chicano mural movement around 1971. Describing their collaboration El Monumento de la Raza, 1970, a drawing for a never-realized architectural monument that would have featured a pyramid-shaped fountain flashing Mexican-flag colors with red, white, and blue, they compared themselves to ambassadors, gathering public-art ideas as they drove their VW Bug from East LA to Mexico City. The Don handed me his slick business card: “Don Juan Initiatives: Revitalization, Innovations, Community Cultural Educational Tourism.” I paid my tributes to El Monumento’s neighbor, Yolanda Lopez’s classic activism poster—Who’s the Illegal Alien, Pilgrim?, 1978, featuring an Aztec warrior pointing angrily at the viewer in an Uncle Sam pose—and then wandered across to another exhibition, “A Universal History of Infamy,” featuring sixteen US-based Latino and Latin American artists. Highlights here include El NuMu, an egg-shaped portable museum from Guatemala, and Carolina Caycedo’s Serpent River Book / Libro Río Serpiente, 2017, a snaking accordion book rich with maps, texts, and photography investigating the socio-environmental impacts of river dams on Brazilian indigenous cultures. How little has changed.

Left: Artist Jennifer Juniper (JJ) Stratford and artist Giles Miller. Right: Instituto de Visión director Omayra Alvarado and artists Sandra Llano-Mejia and María Evelia Marmolejo.

The rest of my viewing day was dedicated to ICA LA’s phenomenal show of Martín Ramírez and Hauser & Wirth’s “Building Material. Process and Form in Brazilian Art,” which aligns contemporary materialists such as Erika Verzutti with 1950s and 1960s Brazilian Neo-Concretists. The evening’s Hammer Museum dinner, held at the gallery for a mere two hundred people, was supercharged after Ann Philbin’s remarks about “speaking truth to power” in America’s oppressive political climate, a situation not exactly shocking to the artists featured in “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985,” who have worked, unfortunately, through worse regimes. Omayra Alvarado, the director of Bogotá’s Instituto de Visión, graciously invited me to her table to sit with artists Sandra Llano-Mejia and María Evelia Marmolejo. María and I discussed her life in Queens and hummingbirds in her native Colombia. Which pieces in the show were hers? “Oh, the period, the placenta . . .” What a treasure to meet a spirit sister of Carolee Schneemann’s!

Grand Park’s PST: LA/LA launch party downtown on Thursday morning was packed with civic energy thanks to cheerful volunteers and the Afro-Cuban band Ori dancing to usher in a Brazilian goddess of creativity. Apt context for Helen Molesworth’s heady, feminist walkthrough of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Anna Maria Maiolino retrospective: five decades of work made in Venezuela and Brazil, at times under military dictatorship. This buoyant and triumphant exhibition features material charting starvation, oppression, and sexism, all while introducing viewers to a heretofore underappreciated luminary of Conceptual art, Minimalism, and even Pop. Inspired by Maiolino’s indefatigable attitude, I made several gallery stops, including GAVLAK for a nostalgic glance at an installation by Los Super Elegantes. But this day’s clear champion was JJ Stratford’s packed-like-sardines performance at Human Resources in Chinatown, starring F.L.O.W., or the Future Ladies of Wrestling. This local crew wipes out traditional machismo in an infamously bawdy sport with their queer, trans-feminist takeover. In the ring, when Candy Pain karate-chopped a series of wooden signs labeled “I.C.E.,” “PATRIARCHY,” and “DACA,” the crowd booed, hissed, and cheered with collective joy.

Left: PST: LA/LA volunteers Lorena Alamillo and Maricela Cueva. Right: LA MoCA chief curator Helen Molesworth.

Days three and four were dedicated to exciting, newly opened shared spaces. ProyectosLA, a nineteen-gallery commercial popup, is an innovative architectural revision of hamster-like art-fair booth gridding. Its “no borders” open floor plan, architects Ezequiel Farca and Cristina Grappin proudly explained, now has double meaning given DACA’s recent challenge. Ruberta, a tiny, garage-size exhibition space next door to the Pit in Glendale, is shared among galleries from Mexico City, Guatemala City, and Bogotá. It opened with a group exhibition that will be followed by five successive two-month residencies dedicated to each gallery, ingeniously and economically availing their exposure. Next, Timo Fahler, cocurator of BBQLA, showed me around the downtown area bordering Boyle Heights. BBQLA brings collectivity to curation and generously mentors underserved kids. Wunderkind Max Oppenheimer, who heads BBQLA’s Meatgrinder initiative, a “youth-oriented art club community building contextual conversation,” escorted us to nearby Ibid Gallery to offer his astute opinions about Alejandro Almanza Pereda’s sculpture Sticks and Stones (California Decline), 2017, featuring precariously teetered palm-tree trunks and faux-classical column ruins as an ode to LA, which, thanks to earthquakes and global warming, might be swallowed into the ocean any day now. But, hey, what else is new?

The grand finale was the Hammer’s “Radical Women,” which is much too brilliant and consequential to summarize here. As pivotal to art history as was LA MoCA’s 2007 “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution,” this survey brings together more than one hundred artists from fifteen countries. Just outside the show is an elaborate time line charting victories of women’s liberation in the nations represented by each artist. The opening event was truly ecstatic; witnessing so many artists, fists raised, gathering for a photo brought teary-eyed hugs. A message board near the bar, where women anonymously pinned highly personal answers to questions about women’s rights, and particularly violations of those rights, reinforced a sense of solidarity and lent the whole event—which estimated two thousand guests before the night was through—an emancipatory universality. I could write a book about how great this show is, but first I had to Instagram Regina Silveira’s Arte, 1976/2017, an edible piece displayed for munching: Cookie language, we all speak it. Yes, we all speak the language of boundlessness, and must continue to, regardless of what’s to come.

Trinie Dalton

Left: Art Cologne director Daniel Hug with dealer Jochen Meyer and artist Julia Müller. Right: Art Berlin director Maike Cruse.

BERLIN IS IN THE MIDST OF CHANGE, both seasonal and structural. Seasonal because a summer of torrential rain has finally given way to the blue skies and orange hues of autumn, and structural because, as Forbes said earlier this year, Berlin has “turned into a thriving global capital that draws investors.”

One of said investors is the respected fair Art Cologne, which has now merged with art berlin contemporary (abc) to create Art Berlin. This event was inaugurated last week and, as most of Berlin’s art world succumbed to the flu, sales soared for art and Ibuprofen alike.

The city’s exponential development seems motored by the merging art, techno, and startup scenes, as successful DJs become collectors and investors. Two openings in reappropriated (that is, gentrified) buildings marked an early start to Berlin Art Week: Haegue Yang’s towering venetian-blind installation at Neukölln’s KINDL Centre for Contemporary Art (a former brewery) and the Volksbühne’s contemporary dance festival, mounted by new artistic director Chris Dercon and French choreographer Boris Charmatz, at one of Tempelhof Airport’s defunct hangars. As the sun set across the vast horizontal park, a pink glow was cast upon hip-hop, house, and vogue dancers, who moved into the darkness.

Left: KW director Krist Gruijthuijsen. Right: Curator Octavio Zaya, dealer Barbara Thumm, and artist Dread Scott.

Tuesday was marked by the late Brazilian designer Bea Feitler’s exhibition at Wolfgang Tillmans’s project space, Between Bridges. Following his anti-Brexit campaign, Tillmans is again engaged in politics, encouraging young left-wing German voters to turn up for the September 24th general election.

Wednesday saw Willem de Rooij’s opening at KW Institute. My own cold brought me down, but I was determined to make it out to Potsdam’s historic Villa Schöningen, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where British artist and poet Billy Childish is showing paintings. His haunting, introspective works depict figures and landscapes inspired by Edvard Munch and Egon Schiele. Performing a cappella music and poetry for the first time in more than a year, he thrilled audience members, including Berlin stalwarts Eva & Adele—“I’m meant to read some poems, that’ll get rid of ya!”—while his dedicated dealer, Tim Neuger, told me about his first-ever meeting with Childish, traveling hundreds of miles to find the artist seated at a grand piano. The museum’s founder is the charismatic Mathias Döpfner, CEO of publishing company Axel Springer, who talked of his passion for the building—which was designed for a Prussian King and later abandoned by a fleeing Jewish family. Cocktail revelers returned to Berlin for a party bathed in red light at BRICKS, while I went home for a hot lemon-and-ginger.

The next day, Art Berlin’s opening was marked by an energy that has been lacking from the fair’s prior iterations. One hundred and ten galleries from sixteen countries came together to expand the former output by presenting contemporary and modern art, attracting collectors including Harald Falckenberg (who claimed it was the best fair he had been to in years), Uli Sigg, and the Boroses. Booths ranged from Sprüth Magers’s chaotic John Bock extravaganza, complete with acid-green walls, to Gillmeier Rech, participating in a Berlin fair for the first time, and Norway’s Galerie Opdahl, which showed the dreamily corporeal sculptures of British artist Rebecca Ackroyd. OUTSET’s award went to Julian Charričre and Julius von Bismarck, whose work Objects in Mirror Might Be Closer Than They Appear, 2016–17, will join the Sprengel Museum’s collection in Hannover.

Left: Artist Geoffry Farmer, Schinkel Pavillon director Nina Pohl, and Maria Eve Lafontaine. Right: Dealers Amadeo Kraupa-Tuskany and Nadine Zeidler.

The evening’s opening took place at the Hamburger Bahnhof, where the surreal “Festival of Future Nows 2017” mixed performances featuring an indoor forest, drones, interactive screens, and walking doors. Highlights included Fabian Knecht’s The Falling Man—Knecht is known for setting fire to the roof of the Neue Nationalgalerie—and the festival’s founding director Olafur Eliasson could be seen wandering the cavernous hall.

A multitude of gallery openings took place the following evening, in the former East and West alike. Esteemed visitors, including Hito Steyerl, perused the videos at Harun Farocki’s exhibition at Galerie Barbara Weiss. (Farocki, who made more than ninety experimental films, died in 2014 and also has a retrospective at the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein.) Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler launched a new gallery just next door, an exciting step for this interesting pair, and is currently showing Andreas Crespo’s videos and drawings.

Cycling down the road, I popped into Monica Bonvicini’s show at the Berlinische Galerie, where her giant scaffold and wall divide the space in two, and nearby, ChertLüdde is showing the archive of Ruth Wof-Rehfeldt, an East German artist now in her mid-eighties who stopped working when the wall fell in 1989 and who was included in this year’s Documenta 14. In Schöneberg, there was British sculptor Holly Hendry at Arratia Beer, whose strata of rose marble, jesmonite, and oak are intestinal in appearance, and Michael Simpson at Blain|Southern, an octogenarian painter whose elegant renderings of stairways were presented by the gallery’s Craig Burnett and Jess Fletcher.

Performance at BRICKS by Isabella Fürnkäs for Berlin Art Week launch party. (Photo: Camila McHugh)

I went onto Sprüth Magers’s dinner at Le Petit Royal, where artist Jon Rafman’s charming mother, Sandra (a pediatric psychologist), greeted visitors in a whirl of excitement about her son’s brilliant gallery show. I chatted with artist Simon Denny, Future Gallery dealer Mike Ruiz, and Feuerle director Daniele Maruca, who kindly invited me to visit the collection of Asian art the next day, housed in a World War II bunker—an offer I gleefully accepted, despite staying out until the early hours of the morning partying with Julia Stoschek at Kudamm Karre, a smoky knieper in a shopping center.

Despite being ready to collapse into a heap of tissues by the weekend, I found time to visit the Schinkel Pavillon on Saturday, where Geoffrey Farmer’s show of sculptural reproductions from antiquity to modern times perfectly complemented my experience of the Feuerle Collection. During the institution’s dinner at the Kronprinzenpalais (Crown Prince’s Palace), I sat with Stoschek Collection director Monica Kerkmann while Schinkel director Nina Pohl heaped rightful praise on Farmer.

The week came to a fitting end on Sunday as I met with Art Berlin director Maike Cruse, who had just returned from giving a tour to supercurator Hans Ulrich Obrist. Though ever cool, she had caught the—now infamous—Berlin cold. She was happily ready to fall into fall, hot off the heels of a successful fair that has seen her signing another three-year lease at the venue, Station Berlin. I just hope a year is enough time to recover before round two.

Louisa Elderton

Now I Know How Joan of Arc Felt

Henningsvćr, Norway

Stine Janvin Motland in Adam Linder's To Gear a Joan. (Except where noted, all photos: Kate Sutton)

JOANS, GET OUT HERE with your skills . . . UP!

The call-to-arms at the core of Adam Linder’s To Gear a Joan came from a pert, partially armored performer following a slow parade around the attic space of the Trevarefabrikken, an old cod-liver oil factory lately serving as a “social shelter.” Conceived as a “wearable libretto,” “activated” by the Stavanger-born vocalist Stine Janvin Motland, Linder’s performance will recur throughout the September run of this year’s Lofoten International Arts Festival, which kicked off the Friday before last in Henningsvćr, a comely little fishing village roughly one hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Motland was perfect for the part, with the delicate, darting features of a sparrow offset by an austere slate of close-cropped bangs. Her breastplate’s near-symbiotic fit and the sea-stone smoothness of its carbon-fiber finish made the performer look simultaneously futuristic and ancient. In her rich, Regina Spektor–like chirp, Motland warned her unseen foes: “Joans have grown thicker skin.”

But what use a Joan of Arctic? “This history of conquest, expansion, and extraction, this mining of resources and overcoming of nature—it all has such a masculine energy to it,” Linder explained during a publicly broadcast Skype call from Switzerland, where he was prepping his solo show at Kunsthalle Basel. “I started thinking about feminism—not as an essentialized representation of women, but rather as the philosophical principles that might come from the feminine.” He saw his Joan as equal parts ecofeminism and feminist pessimism, both troubled by the proximity to the sea and the ocean’s complicity with capitalism, “what it has carried and what it has buried.”

Left: LIAF artist Daisuke Kosugi. Right: LIAF Curators Milena Hřgsburg and Heidi Ballet with LIAF director Svein Ingvoll Pedersen.

“It’s amazing how much of the artists’ thinking mirrored our own,” LIAF curators Heidi Ballet and Milena Hřgsberg marveled after Linder’s talk. “I Taste the Future,” their theme for this year’s edition, challenged participants to imagine life 150 years from now. “It’s difficult to talk about the future in such a loaded moment,” Ballet confessed. “We wanted to move past apocalyptic scenarios and get into a more playful way of thinking.”

“None of the artists took the 150-year prompt that literally,” Hřgsberg added. “But this was the premise for a conversation about what a shared future might look like.” The emphasis on “taste” was key, as it lifted the discussion out of the usual theoretical maelstroms. “I guess we could have just as soon called it ‘I Smell the Future,’” Hřgsberg admitted.

The curators drew from two archives, which are on view within the exhibition. The first culls science-fiction titles such as J. G. Ballard’s The Drowned World, Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia, and Arthur C. Clarke’s The Deep Range—fantasies of utopian/dystopian futures, almost all connected to the ocean. The second archive traces the intertwining of national branding and resource extraction, a critical conversation when the consequences of one society’s consumption can be conveniently shouldered off onto peoples on the other side of the globe. Undercurrents of nation-state mythologies and their attendant racial inequalities churned through the works of Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Sondra Perry, Youmna Chlala, and Ho Tzu Nyen, each of whom proposed a novel measure (from gilded mouth grills to the color blue) for charting the bathtub rings of receding colonialist regimes and the oncoming tides of capitalism.

Still from Fabrizio Terranova's Donna Haraway—Story Telling for Earthly Survival, 2016. (Photo: Kjell Ove Storvik/NNKS)

It was no surprise that the festival found its anthem in Donna Haraway’s 1984 “Cyborg Manifesto.” The renowned theorist makes a cameo appearance via Fabrizio Terranova’s Donna Haraway: Story Telling for Earthly Survival, a ninety-minute film that needlessly seeks to upstage its magnetic protagonist with green-screen high jinks, including the arrival of sofa-size jellyfish, serenely streaming behind her desk chair. Haraway’s message—as endearing as it is exacting—does not need special effects to resonate.

Still, jellyfish made a ready mascot for the festival’s theme, given their association with adaptability and the implicit conviction that the politics of the sea will soon supplant those of land. As Lisa Rave’s 2014 film Europium reminds us, the very compounds that make our iPhones and LCD displays possible—the so-called “rare-earth minerals”—are, true to their name, not exactly in abundance. The ocean floor remains one of their last potential lodes, spurring recent attempts to legally peel the seabed from the waters above, allowing for mining rights to be bought or bartered, despite the supposedly international waters: in effect, privatizing the ocean.

Rare earth is not the only resource the sea offers, as Belgian artist Filip Van Dingenen reminded audience members during his Seaweed Cutting, Collecting and Conservation Project workshops, conducted throughout LIAF’s opening weekend. Participants learned about the myriad applications of the sea plants (“Weeds is really a misnomer”) while using a press to create impressions of harvested species. I pointed out that Van Dingenen’s signature logo—“CCCP”—could be read in Russian as “USSR.” “Printmaking has always been connected with revolutions,” he reasoned.

Henningsvćr feels ripe for a revolution, albeit maybe on a more modest scale than the one posited by the festival. Poised between its history as one of the capitals of the fishing industry and its looming potential as a site for the extraction of the ocean’s still largely untapped mineral resources, the town of 450-ish has temporarily settled into the uneasy lull of Airbnb tourism. For its first edition based in this village (previous outings have centered on the “big cities” of Svolvćr and Kabelvĺg), LIAF headquartered in Trevarefabrikken, though the exhibition overflowed to two other former fish factories at opposite ends of the walkable enclave. Elin Már Řyen Vister’s ebullient contribution, Dear Henningsvćr and the Ocean that Embraces You!, made the most of the compact terrain with an “outdoor sensory walk” cobbled together from oral histories of the village, punctuated by Sea Sámi mermaid yoiks at the water’s edge.

Left: Eglė Budvytytė's performance Liquid Power Has No Shame. Right: Director of the Norwegian Art Council Kristen Danielsen, Vĺgan Municipality mayor Eivind Holst, and Trevarefabrikken's Andreas Hjelle.

Another crowd-pleasing coastal commission was Daisuke Kosugi’s Good Name (Bad Phrase)—a title nicked from Gayatri Spivak—which occupied the Henningsvćr Stadion, a blank slate of eerily clean artificial turf hanging over the picturesque tip of the island. Viewers listened through headphones to four different audio tracks, each mingling storytelling with a set of instructions. As an intermission, listeners were treated to “I’m My Own Grandpa,” quite possibly the world’s most upbeat ode to incest.

Eglė Budvytytė’s Liquid Power Has No Shame also took to the (few) streets, sending three gender-fluid performers on a steady, sultry progression from Trevarefabrikken to the rocks lining the shore. Their placidly lurid gyrations were explicitly directed toward nature rather than the human audience; this omnivorous, interspecies eroticism manifested in their glossy hoodies, embroidered with oblong octopi. “A boy on a tricycle just asked me where the people in gold are,” Budvytytė beamed. “The kids in the village have been watching us practice, so they now know all the moves.”

A prized component of LIAF’s programming is its outreach to school kids. (The mayor of the Vĺgan Municipality, Eivind Holst, pledged that all one thousand of the district’s pupils would tour the exhibition.) Students—albeit of the slightly older, aimlessly “arty” variety—already made up the majority of revelers at Friday’s official launch. I noticed artist Markus Degerman herding a busload from the Trřmso Art Academy, while curator Joanna Warsza sailed in with ten participants from her CuratorLab at Stockholm’s Konstfack. While the room was clearly gearing up for dancing (“Club Night,” I kept hearing), I eyed the above-the-Arctic pricing for alcohol and winced. “How do students afford to drink here?” I asked Degerman. “On the drive here we pulled over at a discount supermarket,” he shrugged.

I ducked back to the Henningsvćr Bryggehotell for a fireside glass of wine with curator Jarrett Gregory, in town on a research trip for her new post at the Hirshhorn Museum. At breakfast the next morning, we asked art historian Hanne Hammer Stien if we had missed anything. “The Northern Lights?” I had forgotten that above the Arctic Circle, the stakes for early bedtimes were higher than just missing a few choice party fouls.

Left: Daisuke Kosugi's Good Name (Bad Phrase) at Henningsvćr Stadion. (Photo: Kjell Ove Storvik/NNKS) Right: People's Kitchen Tromsř's Liv Bangsund.

The true social centerpieces of the opening weekend were the communal lunches, prepared by People’s Kitchen Henningsvćr, an offshoot of the eponymous Tromsř initiative. The meals were prepared exclusively with surplus or expired foodstuffs from the grocery stores in neighboring Kabelvĺg. I had first encountered dumpster-diving a decade ago while studying in the Bay Area, and, I admit, the concept still left me queasy. At the time, the practice was something of a shibboleth for a certain set of co-op kids, mostly East Coast scions for whom the reclaimed cheese plate offered entre to a world of communal showers, conspicuously dirty sweaters, and polyamorous entanglements with lavender-dreaded white girls.

The People’s Kitchen Tromsř founder, Liv Bangsund, quickly dispensed with this stereotype. Warm and slightly maternal, she has a way of speaking that makes you feel like she’s about to give you a cookie. The idea had originally rooted as part of her MA in art and sustainability, but Bangsund wanted to push it further, outside the art world and into partnerships with local environmentalists. For People’s Kitchen Henningsvćr, this meant reaching out to groups such as the Lofoten wing of Framtiden i vĺre hender (The Future in Our Hands), an Oslo-based environmental advocacy group. “Lofoten is full of people who come to surf, to climb, to be with nature,” Bangsund told me. “These are people who tend to be interested in climate change, who reject capitalism and collect surplus food.” She paused, then added: “But really I got the idea from South Hackney.”

The People’s Kitchen Henningsvćr set up shop in the town’s Festiviteten, inviting all who were interested to pitch in with cooking and cleaning. The extravagant Saturday lunch was met in kind by a swell of underfed art students and curious onlookers. By the time Warsza, Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, and I had made it through the line, little was left but cauliflower soup and potato chips. Across the table, Van Dingenen caught my eye: “We should have brought some seaweed.”

Sunday afternoon, I tried my luck once more at the communal table, comforted with the breakfast-buffet nectarine tucked into my tote bag. The art students had all left that morning, filing out of town in a backpacked progression along the main road. (“It’s like watching the last day of Glastonbury,” writer Harry Thorne remarked.) An eye-popping spread greeted me at Festiviteten, with full platters of colorful salads, meatballs, fried fishcakes, apple crumble, and crepes, with two kinds of sauces: chocolate and “other.” It was an embarrassment of riches. Debating the ethics of going back for seconds, I recalled a line from Linder’s libretto: “And you ask why the future cannot be tasted? Cause to blink in the present has left more wasted.”

Kate Sutton

Left: LIAF artist Youmna Chlala. Right: Curators Natalie Hope O'Donnell, Anne Szefer Karlsen, and Tone Hansen.

Emory Memories

Modica, Italy

Left: Dealer Corrado Gugliotta and artist Emory Douglas. Right: Dealer Sveva D'Antonio and collector Francesco Taurisano.

THE MODICA STOP on the erratic airport bus from Catania was more rugged than I expected for an ancient UNESCO World Heritage spot. But a few hills down the road we were engulfed by the voluptuous Baroque architecture that defines this beautiful Sicilian comune: “The historical center is over there,” the driver beamed.

Sveva D’Antonio of Laveronica Arte Contemporanea met me at the parking lot with a disarming smile and the equally disarming presence of seventy-four-year-old Emory Douglas, the graphic artist behind the Black Panther newspaper (1967–80). Douglas had wanted to go on a stroll, and picking me up was as good an excuse as any. Celebrating the gallery’s ten-year anniversary, Corrado Gugliotta and D’Antonio had invited the revolutionary designer to share his experience and artwork with the community in a laudatory, aptly titled show, “Freedom Is a Constant Struggle.”

Struggle was the furthest thing from our mind, though, as we were treated with a visit to Cooperativa Sociale Quetzal La Bottega Solidale, a fair-trade chocolate laboratory, where Monia Berti and her perky eleven-year-old son Giacomo educated us on the bittersweet economy of cocoa—from its history of exploitation to its spiritual Aztec history. Dinner followed al fresco with antipasti, arancini, and ricotta.

Left: Collectors Grazioso Attilio and Stefania Giazzi with Pablo the dog. Right: Artist Francesco Lauretta and Jonida Xherri.

The next day collector Francesco Taurisano picked us up in front of San Pietro church to take Gugliotta’s car to Scicli (another late Baroque gem). The scenic trip was accompanied by a sound track of the E Zezi Workers Group, a mid-1970s band created by Alfasud car factory workers. Insurrection was the theme of the day. At the Convento del Rosario Scicli, Laveronica had organized an emulation of the Black Panthers’ free breakfast program in collaboration with Maria SS. del Rosario Day Centre for Juveniles, which cares for kids from disadvantaged families.

“I was the old man then, twenty-one going on twenty-two,” Douglas said, laughing while pointing at his slide presentation, underscoring the early Panthers’ extreme youth. Sixty-five Sicilian kids patiently surveyed photos of the African American revolutionary group––founded in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale––feeding children (and at times distributing as many as ten thousand bags of groceries), handing out shoes, and sending ambulances to communities where officials wouldn’t venture. After a roaring “Thank you!” the mob rushed the tables for a sugar-coma-inducing breakfast. Assisting the sisters were collectors Ignazio Manenti and Francesca La Terra, intern Sarah Lewiecki, and artist Guglielmo Manenti, who created a satirical illustration of the Black Panther Party logo for kids to color, and a logo with Laveronica’s name. Running back and forth, children stopped to hug Douglas, their affection palpable.

That evening we headed to the city of Ragusa, known for its Baroque and fascist architecture. “Welcome to our headquarters,” said Pippo Gurrieri of the Ragusa-based Sicilian anarchist group Sicilia Libertaria. (Gurrieri collaborated with the gallery last year on a project by artist Jonas Staal and curator Matteo Lucchetti.) We toured the three-floor building as our guides explained the construction of the Multiple User Objective System ground station (MUOS) in Niscemi, a US military transmission facility. “Every war the US starts, they do it from Sicily,” said Gurrieri, whose group is part of the “No-MUOS” movement that calls attention to the harmful effects of electromagnetic radiation on nearby inhabitants and wildlife. The evening’s meal was gluten-themed: fries, a lot of them, and pizza. Nearby, on a concrete platform, an outdoor karaoke station provided Laveronica’s team and friends a stage to celebrate their anniversary.

Left: Arist Rosario Antoci. Right: Artist Guglielmo Manenti.

Saturday night the gallery officially opened. Our crowd filled the narrow cobblestone streets in front of the exhibition space, and then headed to CoCA, which was hosting an outdoor presentation by Douglas. “It is small, but it has the expression of a dream,” said Rosario Antoci, as I pointed out the romantic setting.

We fetched beers with artists José Angelino and Federico Baronello and settled in for Douglas’s impressive account of the images he had authored over the years, tributes to the causes he and the Panthers fought for. The list was long: the assassination of Bobby Hutton; Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics medal ceremony; the 1972 silent protest by US Olympic runners Vincent Matthews and Wayne Collett; the high veteran suicide rate; Nixon, Obama, Trump, Guantanamo Bay.

Douglas shared his message matter-of-factly, always clear on right and wrong, but never putting one group above another. “Racism is as strong today as it was then,” he later told me, and while no doubt true, I found his very presence reassuring. The night went late at Singola Organic Restaurant, where we danced, drank fancy white spritz, ate cannoli, and fused two seemingly disparate worlds: Sicilian dolce vita and the fight for human rights as visualized by the former minister of culture of the Black Panther Party.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva

Left: Chocolate Lab's Monia Berti. Right: Emory Douglas with the day care kids at the Convento del Rosario Scicli.