Jibade-Khalil Huffman, IF THIS MEANS YOU, 2016, single channel video, color, sound, 5 minutes 45 seconds.

Jibade-Khalil Huffman is an artist working fluidly across poetry, video, photography, and installation. Fence Books has published most of his poetry—including the collections Sleeper Hold (2015) and 19 Names for Our Band (2008). Currently an artist in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem, he will present recent works in the group show “Tenses,” which is on view there from July 14 through October 30, 2016. Huffman is also opening a solo show in Los Angeles of a newly commissioned series of works. Titled “Verse, Chorus, Verse,” this exhibition is on view at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) from June 29 through August 14, 2016.

I STARTED MAKING ART because there were things I couldn’t articulate in writing. Occasionally I would have some sort of projection in the mix while reading poetry, but then projections became primary and now I see myself as an artist who uses text. I like working with media that already exist and exploding them with poetry. If you asked in one sentence what I do, it’s that. Leveling hierarchy is also important to me, both ethically and formally. I don’t want text to ever be more important than the visual. Objecthood as it relates to language is interesting to me—how do you make language as present as objects?

At LACE there will be primarily video works. IF THIS MEANS YOU is made of found stock footage of products and commercials in one frame and then a text is on screen for one second. It cuts really fast so the viewer has to attempt to catch up and process both the visual and the written. Also on view will be You, or, RGB, or, The Color Purple, a large projection I shot with performers walking through the neighborhood of Inwood in Manhattan. The installation will also have a room you can look into through peepholes to a three-channel video projected over paintings on tablecloths that are hung as screens. When you have to move and go up to the wall and look through a hole, looking becomes less passive than it usually is, but it’s not participatory either. It’s this in-between. The show is titled “Verse, Chorus, Verse,” and there is also going to be a live performance presenting excerpts of an ongoing long-form poetry project I’m working on with Triple Canopy concerning hip-hop, music videos, race, and visibility in media.

I’ve never been in two shows that open in such quick succession. The photographs in the Studio Museum exhibition are part of my exploration of collage, painting, and photography and are made from stuff that I’ve been shooting out in the world and then bringing into Photoshop and taking them through a process of collage. I shoot six or seven photographs of the same thing, layer them, and then remove parts. Early on, I also knew I wanted to work with found windshields. I wanted to play around with the defrosting lines on them as lines, as drawing. I’m thinking about these as another kind of viewing screen. There will be wall works partly lit by some projections so there are moments where a photograph is changed by video. I’m interested in an exhibition that isn’t fixed—there might be three minutes when a part is just dark, you can’t see it, and that’s OK. In some cases you’re watching a flat-screen through a windshield, and you’re watching a video of people in a car behind a windshield behind a windshield.

This work is meant to be dark. There’s a lot of rage. I’m interested in therapy versus religion in the African American community and wanting to deal with that as a subject along with existential rage, anger, and depression—things that still aren’t really talked about in the black community. There’s more trust from an older generation in religion versus therapy. Within a black church, the pastor will often pause the sermon before it begins and say, “Congregation, turn to your neighbor, say, ‘Neighbor, God is good,’ ” or something like that. In the Studio show, there will be a screen print of a text that reads, “Turn to your neighbor, say ‘Neighbor,’ ” and it’s called Call and Response. It’s the first piece I made for this show and it’s also a reaction to a meme spawned by the Drake and Future album What a Time to Be Alive. (The meme had Future dressed up as a pastor saying, “Congregation, turn to your neighbor, say ‘Neighbor, what a time to be alive.’ ”)

What happens in this process of taking this verbal thing and not memorializing it, but fixing it, is interesting to me. If I want to make a work about police brutality and being a black man in America in 2016, there is a responsibility. Poetry allows me to be the person being attacked, the eighteen-year-old in the hoodie and the person standing outside of that. Writing provides me with the ability to slip in and out of different registers and that is ultimately why I’m working the way I do.

— As told to Paige K. Bradley

Martin Creed


View of “Martin Creed: The Back Door,” 2016. Photo: James Ewing.

A large-scale expression of his ongoing interests in play, rhythm, and scale, Martin Creed’s exhibition “The Back Door” will be on view at the Park Avenue Armory in New York through August 7, 2016. His largest survey in the US to date, it features two new commissions, a retrospective of his films and music videos, a troupe of roving musicians, and evenings of cabaret. Creed’s latest album, Thoughts Lined Up, will also be released July 8 from Telephone Records. Additionally, Creed's Public Art Fund project UNDERSTANDING, 2016, is on view in Brooklyn Bridge Park through October 23, 2016.

I WANTED to do a show that’s looking out at the world instead of in. The Armory’s drill hall is such a huge space, occupying a whole block; its sheer size is one of its most obvious features. It’s scary. I didn’t want to make something big just to fill it, and I didn’t want to create a world inside. I wanted to look out onto the world.

Something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is that art galleries, studios, and houses can be cut off from the world. They are designed to keep things precious and away from dirt and difficulty. I think this produces a great danger: you’re looking away from life and not toward it.

When I was here on a visit I noticed a roller shutter on the back door of the building that opens onto Lexington Avenue. It just happened to be open with some trucks driving in. The view from the hall onto the street was amazing. So the whole exhibition was then designed to make that view of the street into something that could be enjoyed, almost like a film of real life. The main space is empty and dark to try to maximize the view of the street when the back door opens. I was working on just doing that and nothing else. But then I started thinking about making new films to alternate with the roller shutter opening and closing. ’Cos if the roller shutter were open all the time maybe you’d just get used to it.

The new films show people opening their mouths, and in each person’s mouth there is food. The camera zooms in on the person, and the person opens and closes their mouth. It’s like a nature film, in slow motion. The people I filmed are important to me: my mother, my partner, my stepdaughter, and my oldest friend.

As for coming up with things, I don’t really know…but I often write things down in a notebook. I also make a lot of audio recordings, so ideas often are spoken or written down. If they keep coming back to me, maybe that’s what makes me do something—basically to try and get rid of the idea because I don’t want to hear the bloody voices in my head anymore.

There are roving musicians in the show that are singing arrangements of songs I’ve been working on recently, little lyrics repeated from voice notes I’ve recorded and turned into songs. The songs are a lot like the other works: a little thing magnified or amplified. Some little thing, but then you make a song and dance about it.

Martin Creed performs “Let’s Come to an Arrangement” for 500 Words.

I’ve been thinking a lot about work as a way of tidying up. The world is a mess. If you concentrate on a little bit of the world and you make a little composition, you’re effectively tidying it up. You could say that a song is noises tidied up, made slightly neater. Rhythm is a form of neatness that separates the sound from the world. What you might call dirt over there you put in the trash, and this bit here you keep, you care about it for some reason.

I actively try and work with people—do a painting for example with others, make music with a band, put on a show with a gallery or a curator, many different people. I like being on my own, but I’m scared that if I’m on my own too much I go into a deluded bubble world. When I work with people I have to state my ideas, get them out from under the table, and I think that helps me to work out whether they’re worth doing. It feels like often works are started and finished by using words to talk about them, even if the final work isn’t finally taking the form of words.

I also try to work from the basis that I don’t know what is best: to not prejudge, to just see what happens, to use words as well as actions and things. The ultimate idea would be to make onstage and offstage the same thing. If only your feelings could be more directly turned into something. That would be better work, more full of life.

— As told to Laura Hoffmann

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Rudiments, 2015, HD, color, sound, 12 minutes.

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin are a collaborative duo whose photography-based practice explores themes of institutional authority, surveillance, and consent in an era of rapid technological advances. Here they discuss their recent book, Spirit Is a Bone (Mack, 2015), as well as their first US solo exhibition, which is on view at the Baltimore Museum of Art through September 11, 2016.

IN MARK TWAIN’S 1905 pamphlet King Leopold’s Soliloquy, he assumes the persona of King Leopold bemoaning the arrival of the camera, the “incorruptible Kodak.” This new technology is able to bear witness to the atrocities the king was committing in the Congo, and undermining the lies that he could previously manage in the press. Surveillance, of course, has since reached new levels of horror. Our book Spirit Is a Bone uses technology developed in Moscow, just now being rolled out worldwide, which allows the state to create a three-dimensional photograph, a digital life mask, of citizens in crowded public places—made without any consent or knowledge. They call these “non-collaborative portraits,” and the phenomenon marks a fundamental shift in portraiture, where for the first time there is no relation between the imagemakers and the subject—the citizens. Using this same technology, we re-created August Sander’s entire life’s work in four days by casting all of his “categories” of people on the streets of Russia. Our poet is the wonderful Lev Rubinstein and the revolutionary is Yekaterina Samutsevich, from Pussy Riot.

We’ve spent some time in war zones, so when approaching new work, we decide to take some steps back and examine the beginnings of when young people give over to hierarchy, authority, and power. Virginia Woolf nailed it in Three Guineas, when she said that if men were not in control of education, business, and government, then perhaps there’d be a chance for peace. We gained access to a cadet camp in Liverpool—it’s a grim military base where schoolkids between the ages of seven and seventeen get sent to learn how to march, drum, drill, and obey orders. What we didn’t tell the military was that we were coming with a bouffon—a dark clown whose performance teeters on vulgarity. Each evening our bouffon held workshops with the kids, effectively getting them to unlearn the day’s discipline. This power play is the basis of our film Rudiments, which is currently showing at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Trailer for Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s Rudiments, 2015.

We typically work in spaces populated by journalists, not in an artist’s studio or on a film set. But we treat these settings as backdrops to a performance, a dance with authority that inevitably ends in us being booted out. We are curious about how these institutions of power function, from the military to psychiatric hospitals. The state’s increasingly insidious command of our lives is acutely troubling. As photographers we always try to remember that the technology of imagemaking is never morally neutral, that it always embodies the ideology of whoever uses it. So much of our work is about seduction—getting permission to enter these spaces to gain an understanding of the workings and then find some way of fucking them over, of exposing the machinery.

— As told to Gabriel H. Sanchez

Frank Stella


View of “Frank Stella and Synagogues of Historic Poland,” 2016.

Frank Stella’s assemblage series “Polish Village,” 1970–74, is making its debut in Europe as part of the exhibition “Frank Stella and Synagogues of Historic Poland,” on view through June 20, 2016, at the POLIN Museum in Warsaw. Here Stella discusses the show as well as the genesis of the works, their exhibition history, and what it means to present his works in Poland, where the titular inspirational wooden synagogues once stood.

THIS SERIES has been exhibited before: at the Fort Worth Museum of Dallas in 1978, the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1987, and the Jewish Museum in New York in 1983, to name a few venues. This is the first time, though, that the works are being seen in Poland. This is worth noting only because the forty or so works in the series on display are based on photographs and drawings of wooden synagogues in eastern Poland. All of these buildings had been burned down by the Nazis. I came across the images in Maria and Kazimierz Piechotka’s book Wooden Synagogues (Arkady, 1959). The photographs and drawings from the book are part of the exhibition, as is a close-to-scale reconstruction of the roof and painted ceiling of a synagogue that once stood in the city of Gwoździec.

The carpentry of the synagogues is incredibly sophisticated on a formal level. The interlockingness—the complex geometric connectedness of each part of the building, which is visible in the photographs—really attracted me. My own works for the series began as simple forms on a flat plane. In the end, the final works are a kind of projected relief, if you hang them on the wall, or architecture models if you lay them on the ground. This was the first time, I suppose, that I directly dealt with relief.

Interestingly, the constructivist line in modernism in the early twentieth century can roughly be traced from Moscow to Berlin via Warsaw; this is mirrored in reverse by the path of the Nazis that led to the destruction of these wooden synagogues. The memory of the death of constructivism as well as the synagogues is embedded in the works.

The works weren’t really about the synagogues (any more than they were about constructivism), but that’s what they inevitably have to be about. You can’t get away from where the works came from. That is, my series wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for the drawings I saw. Robert Rauschenberg once said that his paintings are an invitation to look somewhere else. You do what you can do and hope that people will look beyond the things themselves.

And I don’t know about the exhibition in Poland. People seem to like it, which I think is nice. It’s tough in a way—the work is in a museum of the history of Polish Jews, and I’m not Jewish and I’m not part of that history. But the synagogues are part of the history of art. And so it’s inevitable that you react to that.

— As told to Alpesh Kantilal Patel

Thom Andersen, The Thoughts That Once We Had, 2015, digital video, black and white and color, sound, 1 hour 48 minutes.

Thom Andersen lives in Los Angeles. For over fifty years, his films, including Red Hollywood (1995) and Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003), have critically engaged the documentary form. A retrospective of his work will run at Anthology Film Archives ‪from June 3 through June 12, 2016. The screening series will also feature his latest full-length film, The Thoughts That Once We Had, plus the New York premiere of two new shorts.

MY WORK ISN’T EXPERIMENTAL, IS IT? People call Los Angeles Plays Itself an essay film; personally, I prefer to call it a documentary. I think that when you go see a documentary film, you should learn something, and I don’t think that’s such a radical idea, actually. Of course we learn from a good fiction film as well, although maybe it’s a different type of truth. I think all films should aspire toward truth, but people misunderstand the idea when it comes to movies. They think of truth as being accuracy, and that is unobtainable by the nature of film, which is selection by framing and editing. Truth is simply an aspiration, like any other classic virtue—charity, for example. Sometimes you may give money to a beggar, but other times you keep walking.

There’s definitely an argument made in Red Hollywood, and maybe more successfully in Los Angeles Plays Itself. They’re about an ethics of filmmaking. For my newest full-length film, The Thoughts That Once We Had, Deleuze’s books Cinema 1: The Movement Image and Cinema 2: The Time Image were a main source of inspiration—and the other main source was when Turner Classic Movies had a marathon of MGM’s musical compilation That’s Entertainment! in 2013 to 2014, which, strange as it seems, was how I discovered Hollywood musicals, because I had never really liked them before. Deleuze makes a separation between what he calls realism and what he calls naturalism. And the three directors who he considers as naturalists were all blacklisted in one way or another. Erich von Stroheim was personally blacklisted, because he was too profligate in his methods of filmmaking. Luis Buñuel and Joseph Losey were both victims of the anticommunist blacklist. The naturalists are like the physicians of society, making a fundamental critique of the way things are. The real world is a derived milieu that has its roots, its origins, in something deeper—that can also be a characterization of Marxism, which is concerned with looking below the surface of social relations to get to its origins. But realists are concerned with the surface itself.

Get Out of the Car began as a little study of distressed billboards, which was an intentionally dumb idea. But from there it made sense to go to other kinds of signage, murals, some rundown buildings. Almost all the music in the film is either Latino or black in origin. The music of Los Tigres del Norte, for example, expresses the feelings of indocumentados. That also says something about the history of Los Angeles and where it is now. It ended up being a movie about immigration as well as black culture in the city.

Most of the things that we filmed in Get Out of the Car are gone now. The murals are pretty much all destroyed. There’s nostalgia there, but it’s not something I’m going to apologize for. I’m not one of those who’s contemptuous of young people; I think that I’m just the opposite. In the Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy accused The Thoughts That Once We Had of a “leftism so tiresomely doctrinaire that it’s quaint.” Red Hollywood got the same treatment when it first came out, but maybe its time has finally come. When it played at Lincoln Center in 2014, the audience was very young. That was encouraging, because I don’t think of leftist politics as some vague, exhausted dispute. What happened in the past, the way in which the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 turned labor unions against one another for instance, and the suppression of the left in the United States, that’s a history that is still with us.

— As told to Travis Diehl