Blogs Untitled (Blog) Paul Schmelzer

Nine-year editor of Walker magazine (1998-2007), Paul returned to the Walker as web editor in September 2011. A freelance writer and blogger, he writes on art, media, and activism for publications including Adbusters, Artforum.com, Ode, Utne, Cabinet, Raw Vision and at his personal site, Eyeteeth. Award-winning former editor of the Minnesota Independent, his interviews with architect Cameron Sinclair, artist Rirkrit Tiravanija and activist Winona La Duke appear in the book Land, Art: A Cultural Ecology Handbook (Royal Society of Arts). @iteeth

Mirza and Butler Guest-Edit Art News From Elsewhere

Current events underpin much of the work of London-based artists Karen Mirza and Brad Butler. Their notion of “non-participation” stems in part from an experience in 2007 when they witnessed protests by the Pakistani Lawyers’ Movement outside the Supreme Court  in Islamabad. Viewing from within the National Gallery as the event–culminating with violence against demonstrators […]

Current events underpin much of the work of London-based artists Karen Mirza and Brad Butler. Their notion of “non-participation” stems in part from an experience in 2007 when they witnessed protests by the Pakistani Lawyers’ Movement outside the Supreme Court  in Islamabad. Viewing from within the National Gallery as the event–culminating with violence against demonstrators by government authorities–unfolded outside, they began to consider the ways that museums and the broader art world are cut off from contemporary social and political realities.

From April 15–19, 2013, in preparation for the April 18 opening of their Walker exhibition The Museum of Non Participation: The New Deal, the artists will take over Art News From Elsewhere, the section of the Walker homepage that aggregates news and views from the art world and beyond. Along with their stint as guest news editors, the pair agreed to share a list of their favorite ten online news sources. These publications suggest the global, ethical, and aesthetic vantage point–and possibly the actual news sources–that will guide their first-of-a-kind takeover of our curated news feed.

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IanRobertDouglas.com: A Cairo-based writer, editor, and professor of politics, Ian Robert Douglas is a member of Executive Committee of the BRussells Tribunal, coordinator of the International Initiative to Prosecute US Genocide in Iraq, and cofounder of the Centre for Global Geostrategic Analysis.

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Socialism and/or Barbarism: “Notes on a once & future nightmare,” artist, author, and theorist Evan Calder Williams’ blog for The New Inquiry.

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no.w.here open studio:  A blog, edited by Piotr Krzymowski, documenting the events and ideas surrounding no.w.here, the nonprofit artist-run organization Mirza and Butler founded in 2004 in London.

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Mute: A London-based online magazine and biannual publication dedicated to “exploring culture and politics after the net.”

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The BRussells Tribunal: Founded by artists and intellectuals in 2003, this think tank, activist group, and antiwar organization “tries to be a bridge between the intellectual resistance in the Arab World and the Western peace movements.”

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Militant Esthetix: “Esther Leslie and Ben Watson plunge the into theory and art conspired into existence by the praxis of Walter Benjamin, T.W. Adorno, Kurt Schwitters,” and others.

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ArtLeaks: Like Wikileaks for the artworld, this online platform for international  artists, curators, art historians, and intellectuals aims to document and expose “the abuse of their professional integrity and the open infraction of their labor rights.”

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Precarious Workers Brigade: A UK-based organization/campaign formed to “demand, create and reclaim” equal pay, free education, democratic workers, and the Commons.

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ArtTerritories: A platform, presented in English and Arabic, where artists, thinkers, researchers and curators can “reflect on their art practice and engage in critical exchange on matters of art and visual culture in the Middle East and the Arab World.”

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Bring In Take Out Living Archive: An evolving laboratory, exhibition, and public archive of women artists and feminist art, with editions so far in Zagreb, Ljubljana, Sarajevo, and Vienna.

Artists Installing: Abraham Cruzvillegas

A bit of deconstruction preceded the installation process for Abraham Cruzvillegas: The Autoconstrucción Suites: Prior to the Mexico City–based artist’s arrival, all the non-load-bearing walls in the Target and Friedman galleries–including the one separating the two spaces–have been removed. It’s the first time since the Walker expansion opened in 2005 that the galleries have been […]

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A bit of deconstruction preceded the installation process for Abraham Cruzvillegas: The Autoconstrucción Suites: Prior to the Mexico City–based artist’s arrival, all the non-load-bearing walls in the Target and Friedman galleries–including the one separating the two spaces–have been removed. It’s the first time since the Walker expansion opened in 2005 that the galleries have been opened up into one, creating a massive, 9,500 s.f. exhibition space. Cruzvillegas, who traveled to Minneapolis with his wife and daughter, has been on-site the past two weeks preparing the exhibition for Friday night’s preview party and its public opening Saturday. Gene Pittman and Olga A Ivanova of the Walker photography department have been tracking the installation process, capturing the space as it changes and the artist as he works.

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Gary Hume’s Snowwoman Comes to the Garden

In anticipation of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden’s 25th anniversary this summer, a new winter-themed work has just been installed, Gary Hume’s Front of Snowwoman (2002). On loan until this fall from the collection of Peggy and Ralph Burnet, the cast-bronze snow-being temporarily replaces Jacques Lipchitz’s Prometheus Strangling the Vulture II (1944/1953), which has been on […]

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Gary Hume’s Front of Snowwoman (background) with George Segal’s Walking Man (1988). All photos: Paul Schmelzer

In anticipation of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden’s 25th anniversary this summer, a new winter-themed work has just been installed, Gary Hume’s Front of Snowwoman (2002). On loan until this fall from the collection of Peggy and Ralph Burnet, the cast-bronze snow-being temporarily replaces Jacques Lipchitz’s Prometheus Strangling the Vulture II (1944/1953), which has been on view on the easternmost edge of the park since its opening in 1988. Here’s a few shots from the deinstallation of Lipchitz’s work last week and Hume’s snowwoman on Wednesday.

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#OpenCurating: Yasmil Raymond on Curatorial Ambassadorship

Continuing #OpenCurating, its series of interviews and events exploring the ways Web 2.0 and social media technologies are informing new practices in art, the curatorial office Latitudes hosted an event in Barcelona recently with Dia Art Foundation curator (and former Walker curator) Yasmil Raymond. As #OpenCurating’s content partner, the Walker has participated in these conversations, both […]

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Yasmil Raymond (left) with Latitudes’ Mariana Cánepa Luna and Max Andrews at Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Februrary 19, 2013

Continuing #OpenCurating, its series of interviews and events exploring the ways Web 2.0 and social media technologies are informing new practices in art, the curatorial office Latitudes hosted an event in Barcelona recently with Dia Art Foundation curator (and former Walker curator) Yasmil Raymond. As #OpenCurating’s content partner, the Walker has participated in these conversations, both through an interview with our web team that launched the project in September 2012 and through publishing key pieces from the project on our recently redesigned homepage. Held February 19 at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, the event focused on Raymond’s work with Dia, where she’s been employed since 2009, and her current projects, including the forthcoming Gramsci Monument, a project by Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn that launches in July. In this excerpt from the full interview, Raymond fields questions on “curation,” including one from former Walker chief curator Philippe Vergne:

Latitudes:Philippe Vergne, the Director of Dia Art Foundation. Philippe’s questions are great but tough: “It seems today that everybody is a curator, that ‘curator’ is the new ‘DJ.’ How do you see the evolution of your own profession? Is there a different way to work with artists? And is Dia a place that has embodied proto-curatorial practices (in the 1970s) and post-curatorial practices (now)?”

Yasmil Raymond:As to how I see the evolution of the profession, I’ve only been in this profession for eight years — one year in dog years! But I do see an evolution in that the curators of the past like Harald Szeemann were so concerned with their authorship. Then we have great curators like Hans-Ulrich Obrist or Hou Hanru, Lynne Cooke or Catherine de Zheger, Ann Goldstein or Elisabeth Sussman, a whole generation of curators who I admire for their boldness and rigour on some levels, their scholarship and playfulness, their poetry. Some of them are phenomenal authors, they curate as if they were writing a book. I’m not interested in authoring in that way. When I write a text I am an author, but when I am working with an artist I’m not. I’m more interested in being a host. I look at it from the point of view of politics. I am the one that has to defend the work, first of all to my colleagues inside the institution, and to convince them that this is an exhibition that we need today, an artist we need to support today. Then we all have to convince the visitor. Winning those battles with enthusiasm and knowledge gives me real satisfaction. I’ve never thought of myself as a DJ, I’m not interested in playing to an audience in order to entertain. I am hostess, I make sure that the experience is unforgettable for the artist.

The artist Alejandro Cesarco recently gave a powerful talk at Dia about On Kawara, and it was like an artwork lecture, a homage to the great work of On Kawara. The next day I called him to thank him and he said to me that the experience of preparing the talk, of going to the archives, meeting the registrar, and so on, had really humanised his experience of the institution. I thought that was great. I’m a humanist and I want to insist on being humane, and for caring for the one-on-one, the face-to-face. So yes, I do think that Dia is gearing towards the post-curatorial in the sense that I don’t think artists need to be curated, I think artists need to be supported, enabled. And Dia means that, the word “dia” in Greek means “through,” and we have always said our mission is to facilitate, to be a conduit. So perhaps I’m not a real curator, I’m something else, an enabler, a vessel, and soon I’ll add ambassador to that list.

Latitudes:Let’s quickly move to the final questions. [Independent critic and curator] Maja Ćirić has asked, “What are the ‘cutting edge’ curatorial practices in United States today (spaces, agents, projects, exhibitions)?” And Agustín Pérez Rubio [Director, MUSAC, León, 2009–2013] asks, “As a curator with a Latin American background, how do you perceive the situation of Latin American art in the US, and more specifically in relation with Dia? Some of the most important Latin American artists lived or live in New York, from Felix Gonzalez-Torres to Luis Camnitzer… what is the relation with them?”

Raymond: “Cutting edge,” what is that? Well, I mentioned before The Artist’s Institute in New York, Anthony [Huberman] is asking very interesting questions about format, methodology and duration through his model of curating exhibitions. To answer Agustín, one of the founders of Dia in 1974, Heiner Friedrich, was a German art dealer who represented many of the artists than ended up entering the collection. There has been a few gifts since the 1970s but it is not like there was ever a plan or a committee deciding what to acquire, and we would need to have enormous resources today to commission or acquire large-scale projects in the same way as he did in the 1970s. So the idea of going back – not just to Latin America, but to any context – and to try to collect in depth a whole room of an artist such as Lygia Clark, it is just not possible. There is simply not enough work available to be able to go and buy a whole room now. Perhaps the situation is different with Felix Gonzalez-Torres. But in terms of this relating to my background, I don’t really work in that way. Perhaps my Latin gene is only active in my personal life. I’m interested in the energy of really extraordinary art, whether than happens to be made by Luis Camnitzer, or Gonzalez-Torres, or whoever, it doesn’t matter. But there is always a question of urgency. Gonzalez-Torres transformed what we understand today as art. But his work has been the subject of really important recent exhibitions and we need to weigh our priorities knowing that Dia cannot do it all. Perhaps one day, but not at the moment, we’ve made commitments to artists for the next four years.

“Completely Punk Rock”: Cindy Sherman’s (Nearly) Forgotten History with Babes in Toyland

“Cindy Sherman is totally, completely punk rock.” Lori Barbero has some credibility in making that assessment. Not only was she drummer of the late, great Minneapolis-based alt-rock band Babes in Toyland (1987-2001), but she and the band had deeper ties to Sherman. The artist’s photographs are on the covers of two Babes albums, her imagery […]

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“Cindy Sherman is totally, completely punk rock.” Lori Barbero has some credibility in making that assessment. Not only was she drummer of the late, great Minneapolis-based alt-rock band Babes in Toyland (1987-2001), but she and the band had deeper ties to Sherman. The artist’s photographs are on the covers of two Babes albums, her imagery was featured on stage banners created to accompany the band on the road (revealed below for the first time in nearly two decades), and the artist herself had a cameo—as doppelganger of lead singer Kat Bjelland—in a music video made during the band’s heyday.

Cofounded by Barbero and Bjelland in 1987, Babes in Toyland quickly racked up critical and popular success: They were asked by legendary British DJ John Peel to record with him; they were invited by Thurston Moore to tour with Sonic Youth in Europe in 1990 and at the Reading Festival a year later; they played Lollapalooza and got on-air props from the eponymous characters on MTV’s Beavis & Butthead, to name a few. But before all that, they released their debut album, Spanking Machine (Twin/Tone, 1990), which hinted at the band’s Shermanesque interests. “On our very first record cover, we’re all laying on our backs with all these icky dolls all around us,” Barbero recalls. Presaging later covers that featured doll imagery by Sherman, the shot played off the band’s name, while capturing Barbero’s interest in dolls. “I never had dolls when I was a kid. I just felt they were creepy,” she said. “Now I think they’re creepy and cool.”

Babes in Toyland (Kat Bjelland, Lori Barbero, Michelle Leon and Maureen Herman). Photo: Pat Blashill

Babes in Toyland (Kat Bjelland, Lori Barbero, Michelle Leon and Maureen Herman). Photo: Pat Blashill

She shared that she used to collect broken doll parts—pieces of antique dolls, particularly the bisque arms and legs—so, naturally, her favorite photos by Sherman are ones where Sherman is using prosthetic body parts. But the covers of Babes in Toyland’s Fontanelle (Reprise, 1992) and the EP Painkillers (Reprise, 1993) didn’t bear those images: they focused on dolls instead.

Barbero shared how the band met Sherman: “Tim Carr, who signed us to Reprise, is friends with all the New York City artists. He hooked us up with different artists.”

Barbero remembers meeting Vito Acconci in New York and Diamanda Galás coming to one of their gigs. She says she hung out with Robert Longo during a Babes tour stop in Paris. And Cindy Sherman would occasionally end up at their New York shows, including one Barbero recollected at CBGBs.

“She really liked us,” Barbero told me. “She came to see us  a few times, and I ended up hanging out with her at the end of the night. To be quite honest, I knew about her art, but after meeting her I really got into it.”

Through those conversations, an invitation came to visit Sherman’s SoHo studio to select artwork for use on album covers. “She opened a whole wall of drawers. I don’t know how many dozens we looked at,” she said. “I actually have six or eight photographs she gave me. She scribbled on the back, stuff like ‘This is a little too dark. I’d lighten it up,’ or whatever. Little notes.” Then, laughing, she added, “They’ve literally been in an envelope in a cupboard in my house until a year ago.”

Hand-painted Babes in Toyland stage banner based on Cindy Sherman's artwork. Photo courtesy Lori Barbero

Hand-painted Babes in Toyland stage banner based on Cindy Sherman’s artwork. Photo courtesy Lori Barbero

Equally hidden away were three stage banners that were based on Sherman’s cover photos. Sherman confirms that she gave the OK for the images to be hand-painted on a large stage banner and two scrims, but she states she never saw the final result. Few did: Barbero says the large size of the banners—somewhere around 25 x 40 feet for the largest—prohibited their use in winds above 5 mph, which is most days during outdoor concert season. “They stayed immaculate because they’re in this giant Anvil case,” she said. “That was ’92, and I just took them out two years ago.” (Barbero had enlisted her friend, Minneapolis gallerist Suzy Greenberg, to take a look at the artworks before Greenberg passed away in 2012.)

Stage scrims based on the Cindy Sherman photos on the Fontanelle and Painkillers album covers. Photo courtesy Lori Barbero

Stage scrims based on the Cindy Sherman photos on the Fontanelle and Painkillers album covers. Photo courtesy Lori Barbero

Sherman also appears in the video for the band’s 1991 single “Bruise Violet,” which, as Sherman herself reveals, includes footage shot in her old SoHo loft. In the video, Sherman and Bjelland wear matching white dresses and wigs, part of the “kinderwhore” aesthetic Bjelland is credited with creating. The video culminates with Bjelland choking Sherman’s character on a stairwell. The song and video have been interpreted as referencing the feud between Bjelland and Courtney Love, who was briefly a member of Babes in Toyland before going on to form the band Hole and popularizing the “kinderwhore” look. The song includes the lines, “You got your stories all twisted up in mine / You got this thing that follows me around.(Neither Bjelland nor Maureen Herman, Babes bassist from 1992 to 1996, responded to voicemail requests to discuss the band and its relationship with Sherman.)

Sherman was a natural during the video shoot, Barbero said. “Her just putting on the wig and looking like someone else, that’s what she does for living, so that was, to her, like making toast.”

Born in Minneapolis, Barbero left town in 2008—she’s now bartending and playing in various bands in Austin, Texas—so she won’t have the chance to see the Cindy Sherman exhibition in her hometown. But she still feels an affinity for the artist, and she suspects the feeling is mutual.

“That’s why I think all her walls were down, because I think she felt some kind of sisterhood,” she said. “Kindred spirits. I think that, just from observation, she thought it was cool that we didn’t get all dolled up. Kat was Kat, but you know, we is what we is. I think she was like that.”

The exhibition Cindy Sherman closes at the Walker on February 17, 2013.

Online Screening: Kim Beom’s Yellow Scream (2012)

After discussing his assembled materials–a primed canvas, oil paint mixed with turpentine, a size-3 flat hog-bristle brush–the video’s instructor begins: “The technique to this painting is to incorporate the sound of screams into the brush strokes.” Dressed in a pressed gray dress shirt and pleated pants, he explains to the camera, “A brush stroke done […]

Still from Kim Beom’s Yellow Scream (2012)

After discussing his assembled materials–a primed canvas, oil paint mixed with turpentine, a size-3 flat hog-bristle brush–the video’s instructor begins: “The technique to this painting is to incorporate the sound of screams into the brush strokes.” Dressed in a pressed gray dress shirt and pleated pants, he explains to the camera, “A brush stroke done with screaming is very different from a normal one. … The effect of the screams is recorded with the brush strokes.” He then dips his brush in a dab of lemon yellow paint, leans into the canvas, and lets out an anguished wail as he makes his first stroke: “Aaaaaaaaagh!”

Characteristic of the Seoul-based artist Kim Beom’s humor, the 31-minute video Yellow Scream (2012)–recently acquired by the Walker Art Center and shown for a limited time in its entirety on the Walker Channel–takes its inspiration from instructional television programs. The piece, the artist states, “is like the typical painting lessons of Bob Ross. What I was feeling in the theme of this video is the existential nature of contemporary art (and culture) as well as of artists. There are dynamics of many elements such as absurdity, the bizarre, intelligence, form, seriousness, and creativity.”

In that vein, the instructor, played by an actor, gives a deadpan course on technique, from priming canvases to color theory, while occasionally advising about the Zen-like quality of painting, from visualizing a balanced composition to controlling breath: “Now relax and try to feel your breathing, because screaming is part of breathing.” He then demonstrates his method, treating different types of utterances as if they’re artistic media or hues of paint. His brush strokes are variously accompanied by “a long scream that sounds like when you’re hurt, as if someone yanked your arm behind you or pulled you by the hair”; “a scream induced by psychological pain”; and “a more pained, wronged, and regretful scream.” Nearing the painting’s completion, he advises, “Let’s mix a bit of permanent green and add some refreshing hope and pleasure to the screams of joy.” The final work, he says, achieves a symphonic melding of color and emotion–a “clear, resonating chorus” of yellow.

Yellow Scream premiered at the Gwangju Biennale this fall and screened exclusively on the Walker Channel only from December 6–18, 2012. It will be presented on-site at the Walker in early 2013.

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Amaryllis and the 100th Anniversary of Tony Smith’s Birth

On the centennial of Tony Smith’s birth, Big Red & Shiny looks at the Minimalist sculptor’s 1965 work Amaryllis, a version of which was reinstalled last week outside the Wadsworth Atheneum. The 7,000-pound sculpture, made of painted Cor-Ten steel, was created in an edition of three: the Wadsworth and the Met each own one, while […]

Tony Smith and Martin Friedman, Walker director from 1961 to 1990, pose with Smith’s Amaryllis (1965/1968) in front of the former Guthrie Theater building, 1970. Photo: Walker Art Center

On the centennial of Tony Smith’s birth, Big Red & Shiny looks at the Minimalist sculptor’s 1965 work Amaryllis, a version of which was reinstalled last week outside the Wadsworth Atheneum. The 7,000-pound sculpture, made of painted Cor-Ten steel, was created in an edition of three: the Wadsworth and the Met each own one, while the Walker owns the third, which is on view in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. BR&S’s John Pyper describes the work:

If the flower is to be found in this sculpture, it hides its petals well. The Amaryllis is a cold weather flower that blooms readily and is associated through Ovid with devotion. Emerging out of the solid base (metaphorically its bulb), this metallic flower curves, possibly towards the sun. Created of strong triangular shapes, some truncated, the sculpture seems stable and solidly connected on the ground at some angles and balanced on a knife’s edge from others. The raised surface steadily grows out of its base. Depending on the angle, it forms an optical illusion, where it can seem shorter or taller as you circle it.

Born September 23, 1912, Smith passed away in 1980, but his legacy can be witnessed both with Amaryllis in the garden and in the galleries. He was patriarch of a creative family: his wife Jane was an opera singer, and two of his daughters, Kiki and Seton, are visual artists. Kiki Smith’s Kitchen is currently on view in the exhibition Midnight Party.

Tony Smith, Amaryllis, 1965/1968

Yesterday’s Newspaper: November 8, 2012

For the past two days–Election Day 2012 and the day after–we’ve been posting images of Dave McKenzie’s work Yesterday’s Newspaper as it appears in the exhibition The Living Years: Art after 1989. Changing daily, the work, as senior curator Clara Kim has written, “bridges the distance between events and times—between what is happening now and […]

Dave McKenzie, Yesterday’s Newspaper, 2007
T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2012 Photo: Gene Pittman

For the past two days–Election Day 2012 and the day after–we’ve been posting images of Dave McKenzie’s work Yesterday’s Newspaper as it appears in the exhibition The Living Years: Art after 1989. Changing daily, the work, as senior curator Clara Kim has written, “bridges the distance between events and times—between what is happening now and what happened yesterday—to reinforce how yesterday’s news may still live within the present moment and how the present may affect the future.” Above, the piece as it stands in the galleries right now.

Hear McKenzie discuss his work tonight at 7 during a free talk as part of Target Free Thursday Nights.

Yesterday’s Newspaper: Election Day

Dave McKenzie’s Yesterday’s Newspaper, now on view in The Living Years: Art after 1989, is so simple it runs the risk of being overlooked. A copy of yesterday’s local paper lays on a walnut slab the way it might sit on your front doorstep. But the humble work captures a monumental gap: between news that’s […]

Dave McKenzie, Yesterday’s Newspaper, 2007
T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2012 Photo: Gene Pittman

Dave McKenzie’s Yesterday’s Newspaper, now on view in The Living Years: Art after 1989, is so simple it runs the risk of being overlooked. A copy of yesterday’s local paper lays on a walnut slab the way it might sit on your front doorstep. But the humble work captures a monumental gap: between news that’s happened and news that hasn’t, what we know and what we don’t, yet. For the next two days, we’ll present images of this ever-changing work. Here’s how the piece—featuring the November 5 issue of the Minneapolis Star Tribune–looks today, the day before we find out the results of another historic election.

Hear McKenzie discuss his work at the Walker on November 8, 2012.

Hito Steyerl: Is the Museum a Battlefield?

At last week’s Creative Time Summit in New York–an annual conference on the intersections of art and social justice–an array of presenters took to the podium, including artist Steve Lambert, philosopher/cultural critic Slavoj Žižek, filmmaker (and just-named MacArthur “genius”) Laura Poitras, artist and organizer Jeff Chang (who discussed his book Total Chaos: The Art and […]


At last week’s Creative Time Summit in New York–an annual conference on the intersections of art and social justice–an array of presenters took to the podium, including artist Steve Lambert, philosopher/cultural critic Slavoj Žižek, filmmaker (and just-named MacArthur “genius”) Laura Poitras, artist and organizer Jeff Chang (who discussed his book Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop at the Walker in 2007), among many others. But from my vantage point, one of the most intriguing was by Hito Steyerl. The Berlin-based filmmaker and artist–whose work Red Alert (2007) was recently brought into the Walker collection, and who’ll be part of the exhibition 9 Artists, opening a year from now–addressed the question, “Is the museum a battlefield?” (more…)

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