2017: The Year According to Tracy Ma
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2017: The Year According to Tracy Ma

Sara Cwnyar, Tracy (Cezanne), 2017, courtesy of Sara Cwynar and Foxy Production, New York

Tracy Ma is a Hong Kong–born Canadian graphic designer. She was formerly the deputy creative director of Bloomberg Businessweek. She runs a graphic design practice in her studio in Chinatown, New York, and is an adjunct faculty at Parsons School of Design.

Nathan For You, Season 4 Finale

Nathan Fielder’s Comedy Central show is very good. It mines hidden social norms and awkward interactions and human greed and our corrosive narcissisms and puts them into these perfect mini to-go snack packs. I think the the season four finale really marks a true evolution of his very particular art form. Perhaps a hint of what’s to come.



Kamasi Washington’s installation Harmony of Difference at the 2017 Whitney Biennale really moved me. I visited the museum early afternoon on a Friday on the first true Spring day of the year and I was the only person in that little dark room—just me, really good acoustics, searing imagery, and the bench I forgot I was sitting on.



Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017, exhibition view at Tate Modern

I enjoy a Tillmans photo every now and then and he has like “omggg hero” + heart eyes emoji status among most of my contemporaries but it wasn’t until seeing this show at the Tate Modern that made me finally “get” his eyeballs. Seeing some of them huge really did it. Plus the curation was great. I loved the printed ephemera.



I think one of the reason why this movie has an emotional imprint on me is because it managed to make use of my own very real yearning for the past as an empathy vehicle for its plot; scaffolded by the three-decade gap in real time, paralleled by the film’s fictional time. Cringy Q&A with movie-people are always like “the so-and-so _______ (costumes, “the way color is used”, the set, the VFX…) is so important it’s basically its another ‘”character” but I want to make a case that nostalgia here—not cheap spray-hosed aesthetic nostalgia like an 80s soundtrack—but nostalgia as an intangible feeling, is truly its own character in this film.

And I really like the way the scenes are framed, the sets, the lighting; Roger Deakins says in American Cinematographer that their main influence was the work of architects and how they use light in their buildings.



Miyako Bellizzi’s costumes were very cool.



Jia Tolentino’s opening paragraph in “How Men Like Harvey Weinstein Implicate Their Victims in Their Acts,” published in the New Yorker in October, was an emotional boon in the immediate aftermath of the Weinstein reports. The warm intelligence of her writing, in general, but especially this year, really helped me think thoughts and feel feelings and find an inner strength I never could achieve on my own.

Studio Ma

2017 was the first year that I truly worked 100% for myself. Before freelancing full-time it was hard to gauge whether or not there is a real marketplace or exchange for the kind of work I want to make. I worried endlessly for years at Bloomberg that it was the last place on the planet that would pay $$$ for the freedom to make my work and that I will make printed spreads forever and ever stretched to infinity until the day I die, but  2017 has proven that that is not the case at all.



This year I was especially glad to find a good narrative and just ignore everything else for a bit. Greta Gerwig is a very good narrative maker. The movie has a great mix of light humor and heavy soul.


I didn’t feel much for the Hulu show, but its cultural currency in 2017 is worth reflecting on. I re-read the book in the Spring. The first time I read it was in high school, when I was 15 or 16, and I remember afterward feeling very, very profound and mature. I had a much more nuanced reading of it as an adult. The two very different readings of the same text made me reflect on Gloria Steinem’s “women lose power as they age” quote, and make me hopeful about my own growth/understanding/wisdom as a human.


I thought the performances were A+ but I particularly liked one of its central themes: the basic human need for social contracts and how they are at odds with personal drive and creativity, which are selfish in nature.


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