To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from artist-musician C. Spencer Yeh to designer Na Kim, playwright Sibyl Kempson to the Black Futures project—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015.
“I’m a London-born, US-educated woman of Moroccan and Iraqi descent,” says Tala Hadid. “Sometimes I feel that I have a foot in both/all worlds. This hybrid existence, though sometimes complicated, is also a space of freedom that allows a particular way of seeing—to belong to all, and yet to none.” A filmmaker and photographer who trained as a painter, Hadid is the director of several award-winning short films including Your Dark Hair Ihsan (Tes Cheveux Noirs Ihsan) (2004) as well as the feature-length film Narrow Frame of Midnight (2014). In 2010/2011 she worked on an independent project entitled Heterotopia, a series of photographs documenting life a New York City brothel. Her most recent work, House in the Fields, a documentary film project depicting rural life in Morocco’s Atlas mountains, was screened at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival; it won a Final Cut Award at the Venice Film Market.
A return to the work of Judith Butler this year has brought with it a wiser view on the difficult and dangerous world in which we live and the spaces that we share. Two works in particular have been profoundly enlightening: Frames of War and Precarious Life. In her words, a speech given at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm:
We live together because we have no choice, and yet we must struggle to affirm the ultimate value of that unchosen social world, and that struggle makes itself known and felt precisely when we exercise freedom in a way that is necessarily committed to the equal value of lives. We can be alive or dead to the suffering of others, – they can dead or alive to us, depending on how they appear, and whether they appear at all; but only when we understand that what happens there also happens here, and that “here” is already an elsewhere, and necessarily so, that we stand a chance of grasping the difficult and shifting global connections in which we live.
I’ve spent this past year in Marrakech, returning with joy to this glorious city at the foot of the Atlas Mountains in between travels across the world for screenings of my last film. It is a city of enormous energy, An African City, Berber and Arab, Muslim, Christian and Jewish, under a strong sun and lit by the most beautiful and lucid of light, where the line between private and public space is constantly shifting, a city of the global South, of artisans and musicians, of young people and old, a mix of different classes and peoples living in close proximity in that fine balance of what can be called peaceful co-habitation.
Stephen F. Cohen
I’ve been listening this past year to a weekly conversation on a podcast, between Stephen F. Cohen, a scholar of Russian and Soviet political history since 1917, Professor of Russian Studies and History Emeritus at NYU, and Professor of Politics Emeritus at Princeton University, and John Batchelor, who hosts the radio news magazine The John Batchelor Show. It has been, and continues to be, a highly informative and intelligent conversation and analysis of world events and relations with Russia.
This year has been another important one exploring the beautiful books and translations from Brooklyn based not-for-profit press Archipelago Books.
In the words of Roberto Bolaño: the cowardly don’t publish the brave. Long live New Directions.
I was lucky to have been introduced to the Moroccan choreographer, Bouchra Ouizgen, and to her wonderful work and her troupe of dancers and collaborators. Here is dance filled with the élan of life, a fusion of the best of Moroccan tradition and a modernity that transcends easy labeling.
Full video of the last show at the Centre George Pompidou in Paris here.
In 1963, filmmaker Agnes Varda took thousands of photographs of Cuba. She hid them in a box and now, years later, they have been uncovered and are on display at the Centre Pompidou in Paris until early next year. A joy to discover!
The Wind in High Places
One word for The Wind in High Places by John Luther Adams: sublime. Listen and you can feel the cold bite of the air, the breath of wind on the skin, the vastness of the open sky and of nature unfolding eternally.
Carol Reed’s 1949 The Third Man was lovingly and rigorously restored and re-released this year. A joy to behold.
On December 12, at 12:00 pm, more than 10,000 people took over Avenue de la Grande Armée in Paris to unfurl long red lines to honor the victims of climate disasters and show their commitment to keep up the fight for climate justice. This year has ended, among other things, with the historic Paris Climate accord.
Every government seems now to recognize that the fossil fuel era must end and soon. But the power of the fossil fuel industry is reflected in the text, which drags out the transition so far that endless climate damage will be done. Since pace is the crucial question now, activists must redouble our efforts to weaken that industry. This didn’t save the planet but it may have saved the chance of saving the planet.
And lastly, in memoriam: Chantal Akerman.