Did You See This?

Challenging Narratives

Sarah Walker in Ashley McKenzie’s Queens of the Qing Dynasty (2022)

Happy May Day. We usually wrap weeks, not begin them, with these five-point roundups, but there’s a lot to catch up with:

  • The new Artforum features a special section, “The Screen Age: Video’s Past and Future,” with a keynote essay by Alex Kitnick. After sketching a brief history of video art and offering a concise survey of its current state, Kitnick writes: “Painfully incapable of competing with the claims made upon it by the streams of video in the outside world—from TikTok to Xbox to the 24/7 news cycle—video art now officially joins the ranks of the museum.” That observation segues nicely into reflections on one current and two recent exhibitions, with Tina Rivers Ryan writing on MoMA’s Signals: How Video Transformed the World (on view through July 8), Erika Balsom on People Make Television at Raven Row in London, and Anna Lovatt on I’ll Be Your Mirror: Art and the Digital Screen at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. The section also includes contributions from artists Seth Price, Martine Syms, Tiffany Sia, and Cory Arcangel.

  • With Laura Citarella’s Trenque Lauquen winding its way through theaters, Samuel Brodsky has written an excellent profile for Filmmaker of El Pampero Cine, the Argentinian filmmaking collective founded in 2002 by Citarella, Mariano Llinás (La flor), Alejo Moguillansky (Castro), and cinematographer Agustin Mendilaharzu. “The four members collaborate and work on each other’s films as producers, editors, writers, actors, and cinematographers, sharing credits across over twenty different films in the past twenty years,” writes Brodsky. “Each film presents itself as a puzzle waiting to be solved, nesting stories within stories in a multitude of genres and styles. They lean on the side of adventure and mystery with a literary twist, as if the Indiana Jones franchise were rewritten by Borges or Bolaño.”

  • “Exploring themes of African spirituality, desirability, internet culture, and visceral motifs that are rendered into its literal celluloid fabric, Quiet As It’s Kept is an organic progression of one of the most electrifying visual artists working today,” writes Ruun Nuur, introducing an interview for the Notebook with director Ja’Tovia Gary, who insists that the film is an inquiry into The Bluest Eye and not an adaptation of Toni Morrison’s 1970 debut novel. “I come from a long line of preachers and evangelists and prophets and people who sing, people who tell stories, orators,” says Gary, “and a lot of that storytelling tradition has laid the groundwork for how I see and feel, how I move about structuring narrative.”

  • A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, the subtitle of Tony Kushner’s landmark 1991 play Angels in America, “could be applied as well to Queens of the Qing Dynasty, Ashley McKenzie’s quixotic film about a ‘queer friendship romance’ between a suicidal young woman and a non-binary Chinese immigrant whom she meets while hospitalized,” writes Darren Hughes for Metrograph Journal. The film, which premiered in the Encounters program at the Berlinale last year and opens on Friday, “isn’t so much a telling of the evolving relationship between Star [Sarah Walker] and An [Ziyin Zheng] as a heightened, sensory-triggering experience of it.”

  • On “The Blanks from Hell: Fatal Attraction’s Children,” the latest episode of the ongoing Erotic ’90s season of You Must Remember This, Karina Longworth discusses five films “about homes and workplaces invaded and threatened by sexy outsiders.” She dove into the making of—and immediate response to—Adrian Lyne’s 1987 thriller last summer. A new Paramount+ series recasting the story for 2023 premiered over the weekend, and it has Adam Nayman revisiting the original at the Ringer. “The idea that some movies are valuable—and even important—not in spite of their shortcomings but because of them doesn’t have much traction at the moment,” he writes, but “the very qualities that made Fatal Attraction and its creators into heavies in [Susan Faludi’s 1991 book Backlash] render it oddly monumental thirty-six years later.”

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