"For me, it's about reading the city in terms of its absences, but it's also about capturing a sense of fragility and political negligence, and questioning literature's role in all that. ... Of course, all cities are palimpsests—one can read into the layers of their histories—but many cities also do a very good job of wiping out their past." This is one of Valeria Luiselli's responses when I interviewed her for BOMB.
This summer for the contemporary art museum Arnolfini in Bristol UK, I wrote an essay-as-ghost-story as a new commision for their show The Promise. Haunted by Sarah Ann Henley, the only women to survive the 250-foot jump from Bristol's famous suspension bridge (a Victorian engineering miracle by Isambard Kindom Brunel), the essay ties together Bristol, Brutalism, slavery, patchs of gum, traffic bollards, three virgin sisters and the story of lead shot, made by falling precipitously from a tower. It starts here:
"Look up. A woman tumbles from the sky. The mud on the River Avon glistens silver in the light at low tide. Her skirts billow around her like a parachute as she spins over and over. Time, life, love is suspended as her fall slows, and she wonders what she is doing here, as she panics, as she hits the mud. The drop is more than 75 meters. She lives. She has hurled herself off the Clifton Suspension Bridge and over the next hundred years becomes one of only four to survive. Two of that number are children. They plummet over the side together a decade later."
Here's a link to the pdf.
And it includes images by Kate Newby including this, which I love...
In May for the opening of the Isa Genzken show at the Kunsthalle Wien, I gave the opening lecture, one that pulls together everything from the Lenape tribe in New York City to the Bauhaus, Mies, a ghost office park in Paris and ghosts of the city and what the city should be, not to mention skating on Wall Street at 3 am and the buildings I have crushes on. They all became a way to talk about Isa Genzken's work.
This month in The Believer Peter Schjeldahl and I discuss the profundity of pyrotechnics, in specific his annual display on a hillside in rural upstate New York. I've often felt that Schjeldahl, also the New Yorker's art critic, is an artist himself. He'll deny any such claims but spends his year planning the action for the next. The Believer's Process Interview is generally given over to an artists's discussing the process behind a single piece, so here in our interview he talks about his process and professes universal truths ...
"What if you stop and cut off the analogy you’re about to make and leave it open? But what if I stop there, rather than completing the image the words connect to? What if they’re not like anything? What any analogy exposes is not the exact thing itself but its failure, that it’s not this thing. Hold back and there’s a gap, the space the simile was going to paste over. Let the hole remain and you expose something more profound, certainly more unfinished and shaggy than the thing you were going to compare it to in the first place." What happens when language fails us? When words are just poor approximations, and they smooth over the weird and wonderful. Meet Kate Newby, who I write about for The Weeklings and whose art can be radically slight, and is failed by trying too hard to describe it.