Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

On February 17, 2009, less than a month after his inauguration, President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. A stimulus bill meant to jump-start the nation’s flatlined economy, the Recovery Act, as it was popularly known, promised nearly $800 million to state and local governments for the funding of “shovel-ready” projects.

The following year, the Ojai, California–based photographer Chad Ress stood on a dry lake bed in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and watched a tractor maneuver boulders into totemic piles in New Hogan Lake in Valley Springs, California. He was there to document a project funded by ARRA. The resulting photograph is almost boring. The frame captures signs of California’s epic drought; what was once covered in water is now dust. The sky is nearly white. Yet that line of rocks was evidence of money at work.

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Last spring, as stay-at-home orders set in and consumers cleared out store shelves, we learned something that we probably knew all along: You don’t think about toilet paper until you are desperate.

And if the lowly roll is overlooked, the design of the toilet paper holder is even less considered — until now. The Echo Park gallery Marta is presenting “Under/Over,” an exhibition of more than 50 toilet paper holders by an international lineup of artists and designers.

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“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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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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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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