Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

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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For his 2019 exhibition DAMNATION at Sprüth Magers, LA, Sterling Ruby presented a 33-minute video projection titled STATE. The piece compiles years’ worth of aerial footage of California’s prison system, which encompasses 35 adult institutions. The idea of incarceration and the USA’s prison system is something the multidisciplinary artist explored extensively for 15 years, with exhibitions between 2005 and 2008 before returning to the subject for DAMNATION; Ruby once described “Supermax penitentiaries as being an allegory for a contemporary hell … an inaccessible parallel world”.

Ruby’s studio, where his wide-reaching work is created – spanning ceramics, textiles, collage, drawing, painting, photography, fashion, video, metalwork, sculpture – is based in Vernon, California. And it’s here that the artist and his team were photographed by Mario Sorrenti for Another Man’s 30th issue, guest edited by Jo-Ann Furniss. “When I first moved to LA, I was fascinated by the extremely rural patches with people living on them, and then suddenly there could be a luxury high-rise condo. There are mountains with snow, the desert, downtown, and the beach – it’s a schizophrenic landscape,” Ruby told Furniss.

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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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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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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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Ezra Stoller photographed postwar U.S. architecture with the rigor of a true believer. His images—published widely in numerous trade magazines as well as in House Beautiful and House & Garden—presented modernism not as an avant-garde or utopian vision, but as a movement in situ, one born fully formed like Athena from Zeus’s skull. Yet a global war and an ocean unequivocally separate early twentieth-century experiments undertaken at the Bauhaus and by Le Corbusier from the postwar embrace of modern architecture by corporate leaders and the cultural elite in the United States.

In Stoller’s crisp, black-and-white prints, boxy-shouldered skyscrapers like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building (1958) or Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s building for Union Carbide (1960), both in New York, proudly rise above the city grid—steel and glass curtain walls towering over masonry edifices. These were depicted as the heroes of a new age. Stoller, always precise about natural light and time of day, photographed Mies’s structure at dusk; every floor is illuminated, and the building seems to glow with industry. His image of New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1959), taken looking straight up into the cylindrical belly of the building, freezes Frank Lloyd Wright’s experiential design of spiraling ramps into an iconic composition—modernism’s dynamism temporarily tamed.

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MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House: October 12, 2019 – February 16, 2020

Curator: Mimi Zeiger

Participants: AGENdA agencia de arquitectura, Tanya Aguiñiga, Pedro Ignacio Alonso and Hugo Palmarola, Laurel Consuelo Broughton—WELCOMEPROJECTS, Design, Bitches, Sonja Gerdes, Bettina Hubby, Alice Lang, Leong Leong, Jorge Otero-Pailos, Anna Puigjaner—MAIO, Bryony Roberts

Graphic design: still room studio
Catalog: PIN-UP
Catalog contributors:
Leslie Dick
Susan Orlean
Photography: Taiyo Watanabe
Catalog photography: Ian Markell
Exhibition design: Andrea Dietz
Exhibition fabrication/installation: Lauren Gideonse
Coordination and installation: Bedros Yeretzian
Tension bar design: alm project Read More …

Architecture has always had the power to become one of the utmost representations of an epoch: it materially manifests the spirit of its time. As we have edited, produced, and revisited our collection of magazines, events, podcasts, projects, and editorials, the role that criticism and theory have is indispensable for the confirmation of an architecture culture. Now, we are inviting others to join us and add their ideas, curiosities, and sketches. The Criticism Series asks architecture and thinkers to respond to a single question: What is the role of criticism and theory in architecture today? Read More …

The third edition of Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) opened its doors one day before Chicago school children gathered in Mies van der Rohe’s Federal Plaza as part of the Global Climate Strike. It begins during a month when President Trump feuded with California over housing policy and the state’s homelessness crisis, and at a time when shootings in Chicago’s West and South sides are reported every few days and the fires in Brazil continue to burn.

It was a week, like many weeks in recent memory, which underscored the themes of the biennial curated by artistic director Yesomi Umolu, curator/educator Sepake Angiama and architect Paulo Tavares.

Although its lowercase title …and other such stories might suggest a more recumbent position, this biennial is teaming with anthropogenic urgencies: violence caused by structural racism, global housing inequities, and scars left by colonisation and resource extraction.

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