SAN FRANCISCO — Pollution and health have been on the Chinese mind as of late. From dead pigs in Shanghai to tips for avoiding bad air in Beijing, a clean environment can be difficult to find. Smog and water pollution have become a feature of China’s urban landscape, creating a hazard not just for Chinese citizens but people all over the world.
One February evening, Brooklyn-based artist Enrico Miguel Thomas carried his drawing board a few paces away from where he had been illustrating from a counter in Grand Central — leaving behind a bag full of markers and a folded-up easel. After a brief moment of gathering the necessary detail on his subject, which he characterizes as having taken no longer than five minutes, he turned to find a swarm of police officers gathering near his bags. After approaching them, claiming the bags, and identifying himself as an artist, the MTA police officers insisted on “clearing” his bags with a K-9 bomb-sniffing dog.
As a way to guide public opinion to a collective obedience, governments around the world have employed art. These visual modes of propaganda can be powerful and moving, and they haven’t disappeared, as proved by the playing cards showing members of Saddam Hussein’s regime distributed by the US during the 2003 Iraq invasion. The British Library in London is opening an exhibition that examines extensively this tradition of control.
The Hannah Arendt Prize in Critical Theory and Creative Research is a $5,000 essay prize awarded in an annual competition for those interested in the juncture of art and creative research and in the principles at the heart of the arts and humanities, including sense-based intelligence; the reality of singular, nonrepeatable phenomena; ethical vision; and consilience between inner and outer, nature and reason, thought and experience, subject and object, self and world.
While staggering auction record peaks were summited this week by some talented human artists, a more amateur representative of an underrepresented artist species is expected to gain some auction attention of his own. Photographs by Mikki the chimpanzee are estimated to fetch between $75,000–100,000 at Sotheby’s.
The word “expo” conjures big visions: grand pavilions, ferris wheels, exotic exhibitions, a world’s fair. But last Sunday, a different kind of expo opened at MoMA PS1, in Long Island City, Queens — Expo 1: New York, the latest curatorial effort of the institution’s director, Klaus Biesenbach. It’s not quite a world’s fair, but Expo 1, which is the result of a ongoing partnership between MoMA and Volkswagen, riffs on the idea by comprising many pieces that fit loosely together as a whole. It might best be described as an exhibition of exhibitions, or an extremely multifaceted exhibition, or an exhibition that’s “not only an exhibition,” as Biesenbach said at a press preview last week. He also talked about it in terms of wrapping “an envelope around the building [MoMA PS1],” while curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, a co-organizer of the show, called it “almost like a Russian babushka.” This was shortly after Obrist posed the essential question from which Expo 1 sprang: “What is a large-scale exhibition for the 21st century?”
The shadows of memory and haunting of the afterlife are entwined through three shows currently open on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side. While perhaps odd choices for the warming weather that generally restores life to the streets, these exhibitions dwell more on death, offering some intelligent contemplations of how art can function as a form of remembrance.
André Malraux, the prolific French critic and Minister of Culture under Charles de Gaulle, once wrote that art is an “anti-destin,” a revolt against destiny. And by that measure, the country’s recently-released report calling for a tax on internet-connected devices to fund cultural production qualifies simultaneously as artless and a work of art in itself.