Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

When Robert L. McKay, the architect best known for designing and founding the first Taco Bell, died in early October, news of his passing spread nationwide on the AP Wire. The Los Angeles Times ran an obituary, as did Fox Business and news outlets in Kansas and Nebraska – places that were unlikely to have flocked en masse to hard shell tacos before McKay opened his doors in 1962.

In 2015, McKay’s original building was moved from the Los Angeles suburb of Downey to Taco Bell’s corporate headquarters in Irvine, California. Images from that migration reveal his early vision for a hacienda-type fast-food eatery: mission-style arches across the facade, red Spanish tile roof. Riding down the freeway – doublewide on the back of a flatbed truck – the lowly taco stand merged dogged American entrepreneurism and classic Mexican design. Taco Bell is not on the curatorial checklist of Found in Translation, an exhibition on view until January 2018 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) about the design influences between LA and Mexico, but it could be. Or, given how a fast-food restaurant best known for stoner Meximelt binges and questionable slogans – “Make a run for the border” – transmitted Mexican design imagery across the country, it should be. Read More …

Four decades after the publication of the first issue of WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing, the premise seems almost impossible. Los Angeles is bone dry. Five years into a drought, the very thought of water, steam, mud, sprinklers, or pools is decadent. El Niño, a fever dream for Californians—a lover who teases, but never delivers. And, at a time when the Internet is an endless well of sexual imagery and oversharing, it’s hard to fathom the idea that nakedness could be liberating, avant-garde, absurd, or playful—all guiding tenets of WET. This ethos is exactly why the magazine, founded by writer, editor, and artist Leonard Koren in 1976, is still relevant. Wetness undermines assumptions and upsets conventional understandings; bathing suggests that, even in a media-saturated environment, intimacy is possible, in both private and public spheres. Read More …

In June 2015, at the start of an almost halcyon summer compared with our last, President Barack Obama described the slow pace of democratic change to comedian Marc Maron. “Sometimes the task of the government is to make incremental improvements or try to steer the ocean liner two degrees north or south so that ten years from now, we’re in a very different place than we were,” he said, suggesting that a 50-degree turn was unmanageable. Fast-forward through a vicious election season, an unnerving inauguration, and a hot rash of executive orders, and it feels like not only has the ocean liner turned 50 degrees, it’s capsized.

While individuals can take to the streets, the phone, or social networks to voice their political views on a furious host of contemporary issues, cultural institutions are like ocean liners, stately and slow to turn. (Some are careful not to upset their donors or nonprofit status by taking a stance.) Increasingly, though, museums, journals, and universities—as agents of curators, editors, and faculty—have quickened their pace. Rather than pledging allegiance to the new administration (ahem, AIA), these organizations are making super-relevant programming that sheds light on the complexity of worldwide political, social, and economic issues. Read More …

When photographer Lynn Saville was a child, her parents had a cabin in rural Vermont. Fascinated by the dark, she’d stand on the back porch and stare into the dense woods. The bright pool of light created by a single porch light would gradually fade into the trees, until darkness eclipsed the view. “To see the one light source was … a refuge,” she recalls.

Today, Saville roams cities on foot between twilight and dawn in search of the perfect shot. Equipped with a couple of digital cameras (a Nikon and her new favorite, a Sony mirrorless A7r II outfitted with a Zeiss 28mm lens) that she tucks under her loose-fitting jacket, she searches for the uncanny quietude and sense of wilderness that comes overnight, when most people are asleep. Read More …

The Chicago Athletic Association excitedly welcomes Petra Bachmaier to discuss her dynamic collaborative art practice which has captivated the eyes and minds of Chicago and beyond. And Mimi Zeiger, a Los Angeles-based Critic, Editor, and Curator to moderate this conversation.

“For more than 10 years, Luftwerk have created art installations that merge elements of light and video with facets of architecture and design. Their 2010 commission to create a new media exhibit for the centennial celebration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House helped them discover a deeper resonance with architecture and pursue and a growing interest in how experiences of space and site are augmented through light and sound. With immersive works at sites such as Fallingwater, Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, Tampa’s Kiley Garden, Chicago’s Millennium Park, the Garfield Park Conservatory to name a few, their artwork blends history, architecture, and contemporary media to open new aesthetic conversations within public spaces. Projects to date have been featured in periodicals such as Architectural Record, Dwell, The Creators Project, design boom, and more. Recent awards include an Endorsement Award for Innovation from Surface Magazine, a Media Art Award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and featured projects honored by the American for the Arts Public Art Network (PAN). Petra Bachmaier, originally from Munich, works collaboratively with her partner Sean Gallero. The duo met during studies at SAIC and formed Luftwerk in 2007.” – David Zivan

It’s hard to believe that it was only last month that Robert Ivy, executive vice president and CEO of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), pledged the national organisation and its membership to working with president-elect Donald Trump.

Issued just days after the election, the tone-deaf timing of the obsequious memo provoked reactions from The Architecture Lobby, critic Michael Sorkin and Equity in Architecture (among others), who rejected the AIA’s stance as politically representative of professional architects. Read More …

When media artist Refik Anadol arrived at Los Angeles International Airport in 2012, the first thing he did was rent a car and drive to Walt Disney Concert Hall. Jet-lagged after his long flight from Istanbul, where he was born and was immersed from an early age in computing, cinema, and photography, he stood outside in awe. “I was dreaming of what would happen if this building was embedded with memories, intelligence, and culture,” says Anadol. Read More …

Security, immigration, and defense dominated our political rhetoric this presidential election season. But while Donald Trump argued for a wall between the United States and Mexico, an art exhibition installed at the Presidio, a former military post in San Francisco, calls attention to historic defensive landscapes and the impact of contemporary conflicts on individuals. Read More …

The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT), whose swooping form hugs the bank of the Tagus River in Lisbon, Portugal, welcomed 22,000 visitors on its opening day in early October. Designed by British architect Amanda Levete and commissioned by the EDP Foundation, the cultural wing of gas and electric corporation Energias de Portugal, the museum is the latest addition to the foundation’s historic campus, which includes the renovated Central Tejo power station, whose main building and old boiler and turbine halls have been converted into galleries and art spaces. Read More …

I admit it; I’ve retreated. In the midst of a scorching summer of bigotry and violence, where every day serves up another horror at home and abroad, I’ve taken to bed. I soothe myself with heavy doses of the genteel diversity pictured on The Great British Baking Show (or Bake Off in its homeland), where layers of pastry unify a country polarised by Brexit.

Other nights I indulge in Mr Robot, caught up in a world of digital unrest where the hackers are good guys operating in the name of equity, not a possible foreign power trying to disrupt an election. Read More …