BY STANDING IN THE ZONE CREATED BY THIS DRAWING, AND FOR THE PERIOD YOU REMAIN THERE, YOU DECLARE AND AGREE THAT YOU ARE A CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Born in Zambia and living in London, Young knows a few things about such language: a dual citizen of the US and the UK, her art has focused on political and judicial systems and the codification of power. In a year of profound challenges to legal and political norms, in the US and abroad, Young seems a perfect voice for reflecting on the year 2017.
TRUMP’S ANTI-MUSLIM TRAVEL BAN
If 2017 was in some sense summed up by the summer’s solar eclipse, like an uncanny symbol of dark and shady times in America, it was previsaged for me by a trip to Dallas in early Feb 2017 for my solo show at Dallas Museum of Art. Having landed at Dallas airport, I blearily wheeled my suitcase into the arrivals area to be greeted by an astonishing sight: a mayoral press conference in full flow, and hundreds of shouting protestors with placards, outraged at Trump’s freshly emergent anti-Muslim travel ban. The mood mixed anger, chaos, empathy, community and solidarity, whilst volunteers handed water and food, and offered free legal advice to travelers emerging from detainment.
US GUN LAWS
At Dallas Museum of Art, this legal “small print” on the front doors asks visitors to deposit their guns at the museum’s reception. A small but chilling reminder of the madness of US gun laws.
COMMERCE, RELIGION, DESIRABLE SHOES
I enjoyed my sneaky 15 minutes in a born-again Christian youth meet-up and gospel singalong in Las Vegas’s uber-trendy streetwear retailer Institution 18b. I didn’t have the heart to tell the loved-up, super-welcoming attendees that I was just there to use the facilities in an otherwise toilet-free zone of disused warehouses and halfway houses otherwise called the Arts District, or that I was cynically chuckling at this particular conflagration of commerce, religion and desirable shoes, but in terms of weirdly intense interludes, this one got my 2017 vote.
THE BOAT IS LEAKING. THE CAPTAIN LIED.
This exhibition at Fondazione Prada, Venice was a brilliant collaboration and testament to the ongoing creative dialogue between artist Thomas Demand, writer and filmmaker Alexander Kluge, and theatrical designer Anna Viebrock. With extraordinary layered interconnections between works and their stagings, and between such diverse practices, the show felt like a dérive inside itself. One could spend hours, probably days, and not get to the end of this show and its meditations on politics, law, performance, propaganda, and the wonderfully complex borders between cinema and photography. A manifesto, perhaps even a benchmark for ambitious, playful group shows with labyrinthine intellectual and artistic depth.
OPEN HOUSE LONDON
This annual weekend celebration of London’s architecture, in which over 800 buildings (notable and otherwise) generously open their normally-closed doors to the public. For snooper-researchers such as myself, as well as the hundreds of thousands who take to the streets, it is a fascinating moment to enter, explore, and photograph London’s concealed bastions of power, including “gentlemens’ clubs,” government buildings, start-up workspaces, and corporate HQs.
NOTTING HILL CARNIVAL
The Notting Hill Carnival—one of the world’s largest street festivals—is an iconic moment in London’s annual calendar, an end-of-the-summer, two-day celebration of Caribbean culture, public space, color, fat basslines, wild sound systems, and OTT outfits. It’s an amazing sense of community pride and street culture. Even in the year of the Grenfell Tower fire, an atrocity and mass loss of life sited in this very locale, people still felt a need to come together, to express themselves and to celebrate their community.
2017 may also be remembered as the year that women decided “they are not taking this shit anymore.” The fastest-moving social change we’ve seen in decades—we (all) must keep it moving in 2018 and beyond.
BLUE PLANET II
Blue Planet II, a landmark BBC TV series fronted by David Attenborough—doubtless coming to an internet download or TV station near you soon—features a breathtaking series of oceanic explorations, many of which had never before been filmed. This is probably the most beautiful and astonishing nature footage I can recall. For example, in an episode on kelp forests, we see a fight between an octopus and a voracious shark—the octopus wins by nimbly inserting its tentacles into the shark’s gills mid-attack, nearly suffocating it. As well sections showing the incredible feats of scientific and film-making prowess involved to achieve such remarkable footage, each program also contains galling reminders of nature’s fragility in the face of climate change and pollution—and thus is hopefully a call for collective action.
My vote for word of the year, possibly/probably also word of next year, too.
STAN DOUGLAS AT VICTORIA MIRO
I really enjoyed Stan Douglas’ new photographic works at London’s Victoria Miro gallery. He took cable TV news footage of the 2011 London riots and generated two vast and digital tableaux, which read, at first glance, as stunningly detailed aerial photographs of riot scenes seen from drone-eye view. Once one realizes—and it is not at all obvious—that the works are only “data,” the categories collapse most provocatively between news media, documentary photography and painting.