Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

“Reality, however utopian, is something from which people feel the need of taking pretty frequent holidays,” wrote Aldous Huxley in his 1932 dystopian novel Brave New World, and the sentiment is acute nearly 90 years later. The pandemic has intensified and accelerated a digital drift, as culture turns to the virtual— to Zoom, Animal Crossing, or TikTok—for ways to escape and normalize current conditions. Going on a reality holiday, however, risks setting up a needless opposition between activities in our daily lives and our online interactions. The truth is that we are all operating somewhere in between—and it is this middle ground where a number of emerging artists, architects, and designers are staking out territory, using this nonbinary space to address questions of subjectivity and identity. Read More …

The works of artist, educator, and social justice activist Corita Kent are packed with slogans and scripture. Her silk-screen posters from the 1960s and ’70s crackle with the energy of a time of social unrest. She pulled text and images from advertising and media, recombining them into compositions reflecting on the Civil Rights and peace movements.

“GET WITH THE ACTION,” demands a 1965 silk-screen titled for emergency use soft shoulder, its primary colors reminiscent of Wonder Bread packaging. “HOPE AROUSES AS NOTHING ELSE CAN AROUSE A PASSION FOR THE POSSIBLE,” says another piece from 1969 in black block letters on a bright-yellow field. Kent’s Pop art style is often compared to that of Andy Warhol— whose paintings of soup cans she saw in 1962 at Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles—often as defense of her legitimate claim to be part of the canon. Yet while the more famous artist traded in a cosmopolitan deadpan, Kent’s practice reflected her Catholic beliefs and humanity.

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The long-awaited follow-up to the now-canonical ‘Evil People in Modernist Homes in Popular Films’ (2010), ‘Sad People’ examines the filmic trope of housing unhappy characters inside of modernist architecture.

Case studies via ten characters / homes / films, from Colin Firth’s George Falconer inside John Lautner’s Schaffer Residence in Tom Ford’s ‘A Single Man’ (2009) to Brigitte Bardot’s Camille Javal inside Adalberto Libera’s Casa Malaparte in Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Le Mépris’ (1963).

Color imagery throughout. Essays by Erik Benjamins, Andrew Romano, Adam Štěch (Okolo), and Mimi Zeiger. Ed. by Benjamin Critton. Featuring the forthcoming type release ‘Sunset’ (late 2019).

  • 258mm × 352mm
  • 36 page stapled and folded publication
  • Heat-set web lithography
  • Edition of 2000

Joar Nango’s identity as Sámi, the Indigenous people of northern Europe, is central to his art and architecture practice. Yet in terms of discipline or medium, he actively defies categorization, choosing instead to mobilize the space in-between and across worlds. This is partly to find breathing room within his creative practice and partly political stance — strategic evasion as post-capitalist critique. Through site-specific installations, video, and zines, Nango actively investigates intersections between Indigenous and contemporary architectures, traditional Sámi construction, and new media. The results have a way of escaping the present; instead, they create a kind of feedback loop between past and future architectural narratives. 

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I can’t stop thinking about refugia. In the years, months, and days before the COVID-19 pandemic, the term was confined to the literature and philosophy of climate crisis, referring to pockets of life that through geographic isolation or species resilience manage to hang on in spite of the environmental forces against them. Think of clusters of Pacific Northwest barnacles nestled high on coastal outcroppings to avoid falling prey to sea snails. Or old-growth forests insulated from rising temperatures in cool mountain valleys.

As self-quarantine set in earlier this spring, the word refugia, at least for me, expanded in definition from specific ecological condition to conceptual touchstone—a necessary leap to metaphor when faced with planetary crisis. The magnitude of this pandemic falls outside human comprehension, but for the luckiest of us, refuge is manageable: a place of relative safety, of sourdough starters and online Jazzercise classes.

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“LACMA belongs to the people of Los Angeles County and it should reflect the tremendous diversity, creativity, and openness to change that can be found here,” reads a headline on the buildinglacma.org, a website ostensibly tracking the design and construction of the controversial, squiggle of a proposal by Swiss architect Zumthor.

Such marketing copy, written by the voice of Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) director Michael Govan, is meant to rally support (public and financial) under a banner of shared values. But that last phrase – openness to change that can be found here – is suspect on two accounts.

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Reading Countryside, A Report, a book of essays on rural areas by the Dutch architect and his research studio AMO, during the time of Covid-19 is like trying to learn to swim by watching a goldfish.

Produced as a catalogue to accompany the currently shuttered exhibition Countryside, The Future at New York’s Guggenheim museum, the small paperback has a silver foil cover designed by Irma Boom that glints appealingly as it catches the light. The words “Countryside in your pocket! $24.95” advertise an accessible price point.

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Envision an institution dedicated to making art. It is not a museum, nor is it a gallery. These are the spaces where art meets a public or, more crassly, where art meets its market and is given value. Instead, think of a studio environment. Can that same environment also foster in pupils the canny balance between creativity and pragmatism required to break into the art world today?

Artist Catherine Opie offers a hopeful yes, pointing to the new art center at UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, where she has taught since 1992. (She was named Lynda and Stewart Resnick Endowed Chair in Art this past December.) “Students are so incredibly vulnerable, and we live in a vulnerable time,” says Opie, whose work as a photographer often draws out the relationships between identity and place. They should feel that their studio building works for them, she adds.

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As a female writer who writes about female architects, I’m often asked to make lists of female writers and female architects. These requests mostly come from men. Well-meaning men, who want to do right by their differently gendered colleagues.

Although these asks raise the hackles on my back a little, I dutifully reply. However irritated, I’ve internalised my gendered role to be helpful. I want to promote my sisters-in-arms. I want to manifest an equitable field with my recommendations. And I fear that if I don’t answer another panel, lecture series, or exhibition will launch into the world with pitiful representation.

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Artist Lauren Halsey was born in Los Angeles, and her life and work are intertwined with the city — beauty shops in Watts, neon Colby posters, and the cheesy grin of Cheetos’s Chester Cheetah. Her recent solo exhibition at David Kordansky gallery was both a personal and urban archive. She filled the white-walled space to the roof beams with an installation that alternates between documenting brightly painted signs and black- and Latino-owned businesses in South Central, gone or facing demise due to gentrification, and modeling a speculative, Afrofuturist urbanism full of prismatic light. Halsey’s art world profile has steadily grown over the past few years, with awards and solo shows at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Young, queer, and black, she’s committed to making work that reflects and empowers not just her individual identity, but also her neighborhood, her community, and her friends, with whom she frequently collaborates. PIN–UP met Halsey before the closing of her installation to discuss, among other things, her plans to open a community center and dreams of becoming an architect.

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