All posts by LARB Blog

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Another Chance to Understand: John Baldessari at the Marian Goodman Gallery

By Sam Sackeroff

How do you solve a problem like the avant-garde? That is a question that John Baldessari has been asking in one form or another for more than five decades. Since July 24th 1970, when, in an inspired moment of getting-over-it, Baldessari and his students at the University of California at San Diego burned the last-gasp gestural paintings that he had made between 1953 and 1966, he has been exploring different ways of pushing the most compelling elements of advanced visual art out of the ever-narrowing confines of academic modernism and into the rich and unpredictable space of actual looking. Continue reading

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Buffalo Bill — A Truth-Bending Showman for Our Times?

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

When Colonel William F. Cody, aka “Buffalo Bill,” died a century ago this week, the army scout turned Wild West Show star was still famous enough for newspapers published everywhere from Chicago and Shanghai to Berlin and Bombay to run his obituary.  Even as far back as 1917, though, Cody and his show, known for its reenactments of frontier battles and displays of trick riding, already seemed outdated. And yet, when a book project led me to immerse myself in materials on Cody, something peculiar happened.  I kept running across things that struck me not as throwbacks to the past but harbingers of things to come. Continue reading

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Tomorrow Belongs to Those Who Can Hear It Coming, Is Seu Jorge Listening?

By Matthew Stevens

On a windy night in December, Brazilian singer-songwriter and actor Seu Jorge played the last of three sold-out shows at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. Jorge was re-adorned in the pale blue tracksuit and red cap get-up made infamous by the card-carrying members of Team Zissou in Wes Anderson’s 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and perched on a chair among oh-so bijou stage dressing (coils of hemp rope, gas lanterns, a dainty ships wheel, and other such flotsam and jetsam). Despite the forced incongruity of his robust presence dressed and decked in these clichéd twee trappings, Jorge was persistently affable as he wound his way through a collection of tales and gags culled from his on-set experience of the filming of Life Aquatic, along with the acoustic, Portuguese-language David Bowie covers that were a significant component of the film’s sharp-edged, posh-stoner atmosphere. The show, billed as “The Life Aquatic / A Tribute to David Bowie,” was, as its title suggests, clumsy and mawkish in conception, and was saved from complete triviality by the sheer friendliness of Jorge’s performance. Continue reading

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Feminism in China and the Wandering Life: An Interview with Maura Elizabeth Cunningham

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

It has now been about half a year since Maura Cunningham started a new position with the Association for Asian Studies and switched from being a co-editor of to an occasional contributor to this blog, so this seemed a good time to check in with her about her new job.  It is also an apt moment to check in with her about her activities as a writer, since she has an article in the latest issue of the World Policy Journal. Continue reading

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A Modest Political Proposal

By Peter Lunenfeld

The political arithmetic of the 2016 presidential election is not looking good for the losers. New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle voted above rates of 70%, and in some precincts as high as 90%, against the Russian Enabled Winner of the Electoral College (REWEC seems more appropriate than POTUS). The inverse was true in Midwestern farm counties, Southern hamlets, Appalachian hollows, and Arizona suburbs. So with urbanites leaning one way, and the rest of the country the other, what are our united states to do? Continue reading

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Our Monsters Are Like Us: An Interview with Abdellah Taïa

By Sam Metz

Abdellah Taïa was born in a public library and grew up in Salé, the poorer, twin city that sits across the Bou Regreg River from Rabat. Though he now resides in France and hasn’t lived in Morocco for almost 20 years, it still figures largely in his fiction, which is often about “that specific time at the beginning of adolescence when […] you see what they want you to be, and how you are going to escape it.” Continue reading

Gopal Guru in Freedom Square, JNU. Image by Special Arrangement.

Post-Truth & the Culture of Dissent in the World’s Largest Democracies

By Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee

Political language … is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
-George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946

Oxford Dictionaries president Casper Grathwohl, upon announcing that “post-truth” has been chosen as the word of the year, predicted: “I wouldn’t be surprised if post-truth becomes one of the defining words of our time.” Since the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s nomination and eventual victory, the term “post-truth” has gained major currency. Grathwohl identifies this upsurge in “the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust for facts offered up by the establishment.” Continue reading