Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

Brasília is a living museum for monuments and architecture,” says photographer Daniel Shea, who recently traveled from his home in New York City to central Brazilto shoot the iconic modernist city. “The buildings retain their function, but the city is really a historical site.”

From the air, Brasília looks like a bird or an airplane—a city poised to take flight into the future. It was designed and built to do just that. In the late 1950s, Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek envisioned a new federal capital in the country’s rural interior, one that would leave behind the colonial baggage of the old capital, Rio de Janeiro. He held a competition, and an international jury selected Brazil’s brightest talents to conceive not just individual buildings, but the workings of an entire city. His forward-looking utopian dream was inaugurated in 1960, and today Brasília is known as an unusually intact time capsule of what we used to think of as the future.  Read More …

What is disruption, anyway? The term has been cast as a tech market tactic, a cultural trope, and a belief system of near-theological proportions. In an evening of performances and provocations, we considered many definitions of this watchword. Presenters offered perspectives of radical change ranging from activism and technology to equity and design:

Participants: It’s Showtime NYC subway dancers; Kimberly Drew, @museummammy and associate online community producer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Riley Hooker, editor, Façadomy; E. Tammy Kim, editorial staffer, The New Yorker, Jonathan Lee, design manager/lead, Google Design; Oscar Nuñez, program coordinator, Center for Urban Pedagogy; members of Picture the Homeless; Steven Thrasher, U.S. writer-at-large, The Guardian; and critic, editor, and curator Mimi Zeiger

Artist Janet Echelman creates extra-large, jellyfish-like sculptures—colorful net structures that compete with the size of buildings. Yet, to merely refer to their monumental scale is to ignore their subtle and surprising dynamic details. Her artworks aren’t set in stone; instead, they hang in the air, responsive to the wind. Each sculpture, made of ropes tied into netting with tens of thousands of often hand-tied knots, casts an ever-changing pattern of shadows on the urban environment. Read More …

At 8 a.m. on a Saturday in Phoenix, coffee brews inside the city’s sprawl of desert-colored homes and apartments and a chorus of AC units starts a morning hum. About a dozen people with sensible shoes and water bottles gather in a parking lot near the banks of the Rio Salado. The nearly horizontal rays of sun hit the Palo Verde trees, making them glow.

In the shade, Angela Ellsworth, the founder and managing director of the Museum of Walking, takes a head count and passes around a clipboard asking folks to sign a liability waiver for a contemplative nature walk through the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area. The activity promises an easy 3-mile loop. The paperwork, albeit bureaucratically par for the course, is part of the process—a commitment to a mostly-silent, two-hour hike led by our “curator of walking” for the day, a local musician and interpretive park ranger named Amber Gore.

Desert finches rustle in the brittlebrush as Gore leads us along the trail. She instructs us to listen to our feet crunching on the path, and as we do, the noise of the highway fades away and we’re surrounded by the sounds and smells of Sonoran wetland.

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Robert Irwin is all about context—or, more to the point, our perception of context. For close to four decades, he’s made art about how we see place and atmosphere: His gallery installations transform lowly fluorescent tubes and fabric scrim into otherworldly environments, and his carefully attuned landscapes offer up meditations on color, light, and time. His precise placement of one light bulb or one tree might lead viewers to reconsider their understanding of a window, a painting, or even the sky. So it’s a wonder to learn that the artist’s studio is no place of any note—a rental unit among a series of roll-up doors in a nondescript warehouse just north of La Jolla, Calif. Read More …

When SOM’s federal courthouse opens in downtown Los Angeles, the 633,000-square-foot civic edifice will feature a monumental new artwork from L.A.-based artist Catherine Opie. Over the course of her career, Opie has taken on many architectural subjects: freeways, modernist interiors, and even lonesome icehouses. The General Services Administration commissioned her six-panel photographic mural of Yosemite Falls, which is installed in the multi-story atrium of the boxy glass building. Mimi Zeiger spoke to Opie about architecture, nature, and justice. Read More …

At 95, the dancer, choreographer and activist Anna Halprin has no time for nostalgia. Last summer she celebrated her birthday with a performance on the dance deck at her home in Marin County. Bare feet on redwood boards, white hair framed against the pine trees beyond, she was as present and lively as when her late husband and collaborator, the landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, first built the deck for her in 1954. Read More …

“If all possible old building stock in Los Angeles was converted to creative office space, that still wouldn’t meet the demand for creative offices,” a commercial real estate broker once explained to me.

At the time, his company was trying to crack the workplace code: how to cater to the technology sector’s voracious taste for converted industrial warehouses and lofts? Established tech companies and startups alike had aligned the rough-and-ready aesthetics of the artist studio with the well-worn terms of Silicon Valley – disruption, innovation, and flexibility. Read More …

Last month, LACMA announced that James Goldstein — an eccentric personage familiar courtside at Lakers games — had promised his iconic John Lautner–designed home to the museum. The gift, which includes $17 million (£12.1 million) for preservation and maintenance, was widely reported along with the well-known piece of pop cultural trivia, that the house was featured in a Coen brothers’ film — as summed up with one clickbait headline: The Porn House From The Big Lebowski Has Been Donated to a Museum. Read More …

Architecture of Life. There’s nothing retiring about the ambitious title of the inaugural exhibition of The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). When the new building by Diller Scofidio + Renfro opens at the end of January, the sweeping survey curated by museum director Lawrence Rinder will fill all of the galleries with an imaginative, interdisciplinary, and international collection of some 250 works drawn from art, architecture, and science. Read More …