Archive for October, 2021


Sunday, October 10th, 2021

Full of life, prepared for doom; this was the pervading atmosphere in which gay men in Toronto lived during the mid-90s, as I encountered it. I walked in – so to speak – on tragedy, but an exhausted state of tragedy penetrated by exuberance, ambition, and the bathos of ongoing daily life. As the losses of AIDS compounded it became a collective loss, yet the broken hearts and the bitter waste of lives remained and remain acutely personal, untouchable. I was born in 1977, and my self-awareness developed in relative lockstep with the ravages of the epidemic. I had missed the halcyon days of gay liberation, and was sheltered from the initial waves of chaos that had ensnared so many. My particular generational aspect was of coming after, incarnated along with the newly dawning reality. Recently, I came across my 8th grade yearbook and noted how many of the dedications expressed, mostly in rhyming couplets, variations of: “don’t get AIDS (but hope you get laid this summer).” The link between sex and death was unassailable, and any acted-upon desire seemed a tacit agreement with fate.

The fantasies and foreboding of my teenage compulsions suffused my suburban bedroom. When in time I discovered the gay village downtown, its climate – that admixture of energy and doom – felt as if I were, at last, breathing my native air. The village rag, Xtra!, littered my backpack, the spaces under my bed, and indeed my psyche, throughout my high school days. The final pages of each issue were a multitude of short obituaries titled Proud Lives, laid out in columns, accompanied by stamp-sized portraits. The penultimate pages were escort ads with business card-sized photos, which functioned as free porn. I reconciled both sections naturally and without analysis. Eros and Thanatos, youthful beauty’s destructive end, permeated the present just as it does queer history, as I was learning. During my last year of high school, a kid who liked comic books – I did not – turned me on to David Wojnarowicz’s Seven Miles A Second, which had just been published and was available at the comic book store in the mall. I was consumed by its sexy, hellish vision. Around this same time, looking through piles of magazines in the back of adult and gay bookstores, I was struck by the profound erotic variety in pornography from the early 80s and the pre-AIDS 70s, versus the contemporary iterations which seemed homogeneous, even philistine, in their narrow range of voyeurism. I was too young to feel nostalgia for this era, so I begun to see the anonymous faces and minor stars as heroes; as remote and worthy of adoration as the ancient Greeks felt their gods to be.

In 1997, at the age of 20, in my second year of art school I made Snapping Off; a rare video in my oeuvre, which has never screened outside of one lone Video and Performance class. Still, at the time, video was to me the most promising route for disgorging my sensibilities. I didn’t yet believe that art making should take time, and art making held a mythic, even spurious, relationship with livelihood. It seems like fiction to recall that I paid only $80 a month for the bedroom that provides the video’s setting (though $80 wasn’t always that easy to come by). Although Snapping Off seems like a slacker provocation, it was one of my first expressions of melancholy, a base Romantic yearning. It is a picture of me flailing, groping for some channel of communication. I had fled the suburbs, religion and family: I was the son of born-again Baptist minister; he himself had fled Peru as a teenager, and his own demons. The snapping rhythms were my attempt to send, receive, and respond to messages from a homosexual past I felt buzzing through me. Semaphoring from my side of the river Styx.

Paul P. first became known for drawings and paintings of young men that re-imagined found erotic photographs along nineteenth century aesthetic modes. The artist’s interest in transience, desire, cataloging and notation has expanded to include landscapes, abstraction, and sculptural works in the form of furniture. Solo exhibitions include Queer Thoughts, New York, 2021; Morena di Luna, Hove, 2020; Cooper Cole, Toronto, 2020; Maureen Paley, London, 2016; Massimo Minini, Brescia, 2011; The Power Plant, Toronto, 2007; Daniel Reich Gallery, New York, 2003.


Sunday, October 10th, 2021

September, 2021

I recently moved to New Mexico, a kind of familial mother country (my family history here presumably dates back thousands of years, before colonization and before “the border crossed us” as they say). I had never lived here but have known it intimately. New Mexico is the site of so many historical traumas: colonization, repeated displacement, and the resulting social, sexual, and psychological violence that have all been brought to bear on my now-fractured family history. My grandmother, an Indigenous woman, was raped and impregnated by the Mestizo man who is technically my grandfather; someone I never met but for whom I feel a mixture of contempt and empathy. My grandmother didn’t have many options. She was married to him. Painfully and paradoxically, trauma can sometimes beget intimacy. It also begets more trauma. My grandfather was soul-sick, a product and perpetrator of the violence he experienced. He struggled with substance abuse and his place in society, two not-uncommon results of said violence to which I can relate. I’ve been sober for nearly a decade. Though we never met, I understand my grandfather and his alcoholism intimately, too. In 1944, driving under the influence, he accidentally killed a woman. In order to avoid charges, he compensated her family with his farm and fled from New Mexico to Los Angeles, his own family in tow, before anyone could change their mind. That’s how my mother (and therefore, I) would be torn from our history in New Mexico and become products of LA. More violence.

In the months before my recent move to New Mexico, I thought repeatedly of my family’s history. I also thought about the meaning of “home.” I returned to a location in the high desert in Southern California, not far from where I grew up, among rolling hills on the periphery of Los Angeles proper. When I was younger, this little enclave was a place in which to take respite. It has been a place where I have intermittently made photographs over the last five years. It was the site and subject of my first monograph. Upon this return in the months preceding my move, the landscape had changed. In the absence of the beauty I had become accustomed to was an even more austere scene: gone was the tall, desert grass I had come to expect. Instead, everything was barren, save for a family of skeletons: one goat, several sheep. I immediately felt sadness. Later, I wondered about the sequence of events. Had the animals consumed the grass and then died of starvation? Had they been left there intentionally to clear the grass and pre-emptively avoid damage from wildfires that have become all too common in the face of climate change? Perhaps they had been there all along, hidden among dry foliage and thus invisible to my eye? I thought about the histories we can’t see and also about photography. I still don’t know what happened. What I do know is that I felt compelled: at first to take photographs, and later, to take these skeletons “home”, whatever that meant. Choiceless. I had inherited in them, like so many other things. They had become my bones. In the days leading up to my departure I thought of my mother and my grandparents as I began to wash, scrape, and clean them. It stopped mattering how or why they got there, only that I had become their custodian. No longer a subject of curiosity, the bones, and my care-taking, became an act of meaning-making. It’s not unlike the experience of making pictures, which often begins with discovery, and if I’m lucky, ends with metaphor.

The smell of the bones was unimaginable. I moved them from place to place: at first to my partners home and later my parents. These people love me, and in turn, I love these decaying objects to whom I feel similarly beholden. In the process, the bones accrued more psychic baggage and subsequently more meaning. The whole thing felt like a strange dream. I, who spent most of the pandemic without a home, found myself dragging these bones from place to place trying to find one for them.

Several weeks ago I finally left LA. I drove the bones 14 hours straight. At some point along the way, they stopped being objects and started to become family. I returned again to thoughts of my grandparents and my mother, the uncles who died of their addictions, and the aunts who loved them. Thoughts not just of violence but also love and redemption. Suddenly the trip from one “home” to another had become more about these things and less about me. My car smelled like decay. It made me think of the Silver Gelatin paper I print on, itself a product of animal-fat and precious metal. It made me think about the way in which, almost alchemically, it transforms light into latent image. I thought about the images we carry with us but can’t see. I thought about the limitations of the medium and the poetic potential therein. “Photography is only ever surface”. But it’s not.

I arrived late at night. First thing in the morning, I moved the bones out of the darkness of their respective bins and into the light. I placed them on the roof of the small casita I’m renting in rural Northern New Mexico. I resumed my task of cleaning while I watched the sunrise. It has been several weeks and they’re finally clean. Cared for. Most days my bones sit in the sun on the roof atop my small home facing the sky which is constantly changing here. My cousin says that’s why we’re so moody, that the sky is in our DNA. When it rains, I bring the bones inside. I think that means they’re home now. I feel lighter. I think that so am I.

Mark McKnight is an artist whose work has been exhibited internationally. His work has been written about in the Los Angeles Times, Interview, The New Yorker, GQ Magazine, Aperture, Art in America, Frieze, ArtForum, Brooklyn Rail, Mousse and BOMB Magazine, among others. Mark is the recipient of the 2019 Aperture Portfolio Prize, The 2020 Light Work Photo Book Award, and a 2020 Rema Hort Mann Emerging Artist Grant. His work is in the collection of The Henry Art Gallery, Seattle and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. His first monograph Heaven is a Prison, was published by Loose Joints in September 2020. In 2021, his work was the subject of two concurrent solo exhibitions at Klaus von Nichtssagend (NY) and Park View / Paul Soto (LA) as well as a commission at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson. Mark currently splits his time between Los Angeles and Albuquerque, where he is an Assistant Professor at The University of New Mexico.


Sunday, October 10th, 2021


There were many days in 1998 when I tried to understand what a straight life could look like. It was a crisis of identity and of meaning. My friend Jack and I discovered we could find examples of domesticity and labor in iconic rock and punk images. We restaged Bringing it all Back Home, Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ Blank Generation, the Heartbreakers, Patti Smith’s Easter and Horses, but transformed them from and to another kind of everyday life; one where “You Make Me” is about making a sandwich, and the tie Patti Smith wears on the cover of Horses is the one you wear to your temp job. You gotta put the ketchup of your broken heart back in the fridge, and every one’s gotta eat sometimes.

Jessica Jackson Hutchins lives and works in Portland, Oregon. Hutchins’s expressive and intuitive studio practice produces dynamic sculptural installations, collages, paintings, and large-scale ceramics, all hybrid juxtapositions of the handmade. As evidence of the artist’s dialogue with items in her studio, these works are a means by which the artist explores the intimacy of the mutual existence between art and life. Her transformations of everyday household objects, from furniture to clothing, are infused with human emotion and rawness, and also show a playfulness of material and language that is both subtle and ambitious. Based upon a willingly unmediated discourse between artist, artwork and viewer, Hutchins’s works ultimately serve to refigure an intimate engagement with materiality and form.


Sunday, October 10th, 2021

Since 2011, images of the war in Syria (destruction, burned bodies, armed men, refugee camps, migrants trying to cross sea and borders, often at the risk of their lives…) have been haunting the screens of our TV sets. Commissioned by the Belgian fund CoopMed, I went to Beirut where I was able to meet Syrian migrants who found the strength, despite the difficult reality of their journeys, the loss of their homes and loved ones, the economic distress, to rebuild a present in Lebanon. I have tried, through my photographs, to present each person, each individual, in his or her humanity. Out of the numbers and take the time to pose with dignity. Adila, Amani, Howaida, Eman or Hanan, all these women – because they are women! – have lent themselves, more or less spontaneously, to the meeting, have taken the time to retrace their journey, their adaptation to the Lebanese context (sometimes not very open to their person), and to present their activity to me. I hope that my images, which are more like ‘interviews’, will convey their ability to hope and their life force.

Adila Mohammad Lotfi Abdo

Adila comes from Idleb, in northwestern Syria. She settled in the Chouf region of Lebanon with her family in 2011, when the war broke out and after the death of her eldest son, leaving a son in prison. After three years of effort, she managed to get him released. He joined them. Adila has been working for six years in a soap factory. Her first credit application to Al Majmoua allowed her to buy olives for her own soap production. She now has a good number of clients. Every year, she makes an additional loan to buy her raw materials and live a little easier. “The loan is very small, but I live well”, said Adila.

Howaida Mohammed Al – Qabalawi

Howaida comes from Dar’a, in southwestern Syria. Fleeing the war, she arrived in Beirut with her husband and 3 children in 2012. She was able to survive thanks to the help of the United Nations. She followed a training in the field of aesthetics (cosmetics), which allowed her to work a little. But living conditions in Beirut were difficult and the family moved to Tripoli. There, her husband abandoned her and her children without giving any news. So she decided to move to Aley where she started working in a beauty salon. Her contract was of short duration: Syrians were not really welcome… Then Howaida learned about Al Majmoua’s micro-credits. This is how she was able to set up her modest hair salon at home in Aley. When asked if she wanted to return to Syria, Howaida replied that she could not do so, as her home region, about 100 kilometers south of Damascus, still under siege.

Hanan Mohammad Al Sabbat

Hanan is also from Idleb. She left Syria with her family at the beginning of the war, in 2011, to settle in Lebanon. When they arrived, they only had a thousand dollars in their pockets and their financial situation was no longer sufficient to pay for the care of Hanan’s husband, a diabetic. His retina has been damaged and since then he can no longer work. Hanan requested a loan from the group Al Majmoua and trained at the Lebanese Solidarity Association Basmeh & Zeitooneh. Thanks to Al Majmoua’s credit, she opened a modest clothing store in a room of her house. Every Saturday and Sunday, she is supplied in the Al-Rihab district, near the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila. Hanan does not wish to return to Syria until tensions, particularly in Idleb, will not have ceased. Their house was demolished by the bombings and they have nowhere to go with their four children.

Amani Mahmoud Romieh

Amani comes from Al-Salihiyah, in eastern Syria. She arrived in Lebanon in 2011 with her twins. Her husband had to stay in the country because of of a tendon rupture in the leg. Before the war, Amani sold clothing in Syria. She therefore decided to continue her work in Lebanon. Thanks to its loan from the group Al Majmoua, she opened her own store in clothes to Aley, where she moved in. Amani seems satisfied with the stability of her new life in Lebanon. Her children are in school and no one, for the moment, is thinking of going back to Syria.

Iman Salman

Iman comes from Ghouta, on the eastern outskirts of Damascus. She left Syria because of the war in 2013. She says her husband was trapped in their home for ten days, which pushed him to leave in a clandestine way to Lebanon shortly before his family. He took time to find accommodation in Aley, a job and then brought in his own.The remoteness of her country and her Syrian family was very hard to Iman. Until the day when the Terre des Hommes association proposed to her to become a volunteer teacher at home to refugee children, two hours a week. After that, she was offered a job and began to develop and organize educational activities for children. In addition, she requested a loan from Al Majmoua in order to create her own company of sale of artisanal preserves.

Taysir Batniji was born in Gaza, in 1966, and studied art at Al-Najah University in Nablus, Palestine. In 1994, he was awarded a fellowship to study at the School of Fine Arts of Bourges in France. Since then, he has been dividing his time between France and Palestine. During this period spent between two countries and two cultures, Batniji has developed a multi-media practice, including drawing, installation, photography, video and performance.


Sunday, October 10th, 2021

13th April 2020

Dear Sabrina,

Here’s the story I wrote for you. Don’t tell me I don’t do anything for you.
(Didn’t Seth Price get some hot cha-ching for writing a second-rate story? Fuck Seth Price)

4:48 Psychosis

I had a friend who I liked to tell what I really thought about things–or people–mostly people who were disgustingly enthusiastic about life and around whom I immediately felt superior. Maybe because it seemed like most of the time she’d agree, and if not agree, at least understand. She was the kind of girl who looked like she didn’t sweat. I could be wrong. She told me I had a large head for a skinny person, like a greyhound or Chupa Chup, so there’s obviously something missing in her, and unquestionably me: faulty brain synapses perhaps from our 4-year bout with alcoholism, but it’s because of this that neither of us noticed. To me, this gave her credibility. I was jealous of her sunny Los Angeles; it gave her an advantage in life, all that vitamin d, botox, favors from Silicon Valley, superfoods, and anorexia. But it was also true that Berlin had abbreviated itself over the past several years; Gorlitzer Park’s speed-pushers, weed dealers, patchouli, and vigilante’s had been nudged out by yellow unisex visors and frisbees, kites and seagulls. Which is to say: good riddance, Berlin drumming circles. I despised being in circles just generally, in the middle of them, on the edge of them, all of it. I hated introducing myself in theatres of the round with declarations of nationality and one fun fact because my idea of fun fact is to others, personal atrophy.

It’d been a busy week for her, ticking non-gendered or full-blooded Sioux boxes on art funding applications so she’d have the marginalized advantage; she was a fraud, and I was pretty supportive of it. That type of forgery makes people way less judgmental and puts me at ease with my own secret revelations; few people won’t judge you for pasting fake tattoos in nautical themes on your three-month-old newborn, and equally reassuring is knowing there are other people on earth as shitty as you. She didn’t know about a lot of things, pre-fab houses, for example, or confessional booths, or dangerous wildlife: things I knew a lot about.

I told her I was writing a new book with nine short essays, an ode to Salinger I told her, before admitting nine was just a modest number and I’d relinquished delusional ambition some time ago– around the time I realized I didn’t have any specific talent in life, mostly just the ability to make small nods to people that had actual talent. I didn’t mind. I had lots of ideas for career paths that I floated by her. Confused aspirations but still, solid options: private eye, sous chef, porn star, navy seal, career jobseeker on benefits, but I guess that’s basically the same as an artist. She didn’t have a shred of sanity, so I knew she’d humor me and my half-baked ideas. We’d toast to almost everything.

It was a Tuesday night when she rang, Arthur Russel’s ‘A Little Lost’ playing in the background, which always reminded me of the time I slept with my boyfriend’s friend in Copenhagen, then tried to cover it up. My childhood nemesis called me a slut every day for years, even when I was a virgin, so I figured since I had the reputation, I should make the most of it. I would’ve been pretty happy to take it to the grave, but Zuckerburg double-crossed me. I’ve since gotten over it—the Zuckerburg bit, not the cover-up. A moment later, she’d sprung into action. It was over Skype, so I saw her leave the room looking cute in a golden Dolce and Gabbana dress worth a cool 3k she’d scored for $40, not because she paid for it, just the cost of the Uber getaway all the way back to Pasadena. She disappeared for a good twelve minutes, came back without justifying her absence, and started talking–to herself more than me, but I had Pringles, so I didn’t really mind. I listened through crunches of salt n’ vinegar, missing a third or maybe half of what she said; it was an uncivilized hour in Berlin, but it wasn’t accounted for in the conversation, which required stacks of concentration and a nimble leap from salt n’ vinegar pringles to soft, and then hard liquor. She was deep in the dumps writing a diary entry for Artforum without getting any kudos for it, a ghost (blow)job for an artist who wanted the authorship credit and an editor who didn’t mind–an ethical merry-go-round hard to get off in the art world. Luckily, she was the daughter of a street light and cinnamon bun, which is to say she was sweet but harsh and confronted people easily, which went a long way in the art world. She said something to the editor like, ‘If I die and my name isn’t in there, I’m going to be really angry, and if I die and my name is in there, I’m going to be really angry, just not at you.” Her ethics were impeccable, but then again, your ethics don’t actually matter when you’re hot and a genius. She was a genius, sure, but I was ingenious (though my friends called it Machiavellian), so I had more experience getting what I wanted in ways that were unconventional… which is why she called me in the first place.

She was ‘privileged’ the task of applying for sizable funding to pay related costs to review the FIAC Art Fair–flights, crack motel, haircut, retinol, money to research the article, to write the article, then scratch out her face in the photograph. The artist getting the credit was also a tenured professor at CUNY with 76 articles and 6 books to his name that his research assistants wrote on smart drugs like Modafinil from their nine-person share-house in Skid Row. It was a routine story in the art world so I could multitask, loads of tabs open on my computer, shopping for Majesty Palms online, buying books by Donna Haraway, researching dictionary meanings for words in books by Donna Haraway. While she made good points, I watched her flatmate Keke float around in the background looking ill but sexy, like a picture of a serial killer on his deathbed–it was one of the reasons I started the pen-pal program at San Quentin. Life: I was obviously not in command of the situation.

In addition to ethical issues, hers was a cash-flow problem since the tenured academic and his combustible hairdo would get the favored percentage of the agreed-upon fee, and she the remnant, which was probably just enough to reimburse that Uber ride. She had his contact details saved in her phone as dial-a-god but wasn’t terribly committed to answering the lord. The professor was attached to his phone, tuned into his ringtone like it was his son since his underlings were scoring him hot authorships and publications in A+ peer-reviewed’s and modest returns from all the art crits his name had been commissioned, which I guess was his side gig and kept his readership broad. I took a covert screenshot of our Skype call; maybe I’d make an artwork out of it. Keke would be the surprising ghost you sometimes find in the background of photos, a talky background ghost, kvetching his crummy existence in some cringy Los Angelian vernacular I couldn’t know. I tuned him out at gnarly or any other street slang that ruined his sexy serial-killer vibes and watched him eat a pricey grapefruit like the surveillance camera that I was. He was studying supernovae and neutron stars at UCLA, though I was yet to understand how that was going to be useful. Keke wasn’t in our conversation but thought he was, and tipping his grapefruit spoon to the camera, lied, ‘Oh, I’ll be back,’ before sliding out of the room playing the harmonica.

She asked me what I thought of the whole charade, whether or not to debase herself, whether or not she should spar for authorship, and a few other things I accidentally crunched Pringles over. I went straight to the voice of authority that comes to me after 2am saying something like ‘If you don’t do it, there’s plenty of those enthusiastic types that would, and for free,’ which wasn’t really an answer, but it was the best anyone could do in their pajamas. She looked unconvinced, so I told her by the time I’d woken the next morning, I’d have a solution. I don’t think she believed me, but I was a woman of my word and enjoyed making life really difficult for myself–it’s how I dated my ex so long. My answers for myself were pretty uncompromising, but I was too out of shape to advise others and just generally unseaworthy–I found simple life practicalities difficult to navigate, once getting myself trapped behind one of those little tray tables on the plane. But I wanted to be helpful. I flapped around trying to find the book I’d been reading, a quote I’d underlined in Natasha Stagg’s Surveys, maybe that’d be helpful, or not, but my apartment had become the Bermuda Triangle since I’d had a kid, and I couldn’t find it anywhere. I Googled it quickly and read it out to her like I’d memorized it verbatim:

“People who watch and do not want to be watched, people who listen and do not want to talk, people who live vicariously, are just perverts, and no one should want them around.”

She was listening but also flipping through the San Fran Chronicle, eventually saying, ‘‘What’s that supposed to mean.” I told her I didn’t know, and we moved on.

We bitched about life for a while, complaints about our finances, the art world, climate change, Jehovah’s witnesses, our careers, the false bottom in academia, all while eating reckless foods and scheming up our next book collaboration that would rewrite the history of 18th-century pirates through a feminist lens, and be undeniably brilliant. Her very distant aunt on her mother’s side, Anne Bonny, the daughter of an Irish servant girl, had been a pirate of the Caribbean during the 18th century–she was very proud of her mother’s side. Anne was illegitimate, so her father disguised her as a boy, ‘Andy,’ and put him to work as a lawyer’s clerk. Lawyers often become pirates, I’m told. It was all very cliché, the red hair and fiery temper, yadda yadda yadda.. and the story culminates, if my friend’s version is to be believed, at the Beetle’s hit pop-song ‘My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,’ a delicious piece of pop-culture baklava, but whether or not I actually believe this changes from day-to-day. We swung wildly on ropes from buccaneer piracy to art writing piracy, where we’d remain for the rest of the night.

I had a distinct slackening of interest in the art world that’d made life pretty easy, I wasn’t stymied in its asthmatic shrubs and had an intractable position on the whole affair, but unfortunately, people don’t always want to know what you think, even when they ask you what you think. You’ve got to be able to tell the difference. She’d reject the contract if she had any integrity at all, but passing it on made her complicit in a whole other way. Keke was now back in the frame, eavesdropping like an underfed watchdog with the moral code of Nelson Mandela, and would’ve said his piece if my friend took on the article and fed the machine. Knowing this, she changed the subject abruptly; life was humiliating enough… ‘Everyone’s having kids, it’s disgusting, eleventh-hour kids, which is even worse…I hope to catch HPV, so I don’t have to get my tubes tied.’ The change of topic was obvious, even to a person wearing hibiscus flowers at 10am. I said something in thinly veiled code like, ‘Get HPV, don’t get HPV, it’s all the same in the end, but one of those is much easier to live with.’ She nodded like she’d understood, and Keke looked approving in the background, announcing his departure for his weekly dumpster dive, gleaning rotting fruit and the occasional rosehip oil from Health Food City. Our version of dumpster-diving wasn’t as romantic, but you have got to take what you can get.

‘You’re right, she said, ‘I’ll take the gig, and besides, there’s always San Fran Bridge.’

e x

Estelle Hoy is a writer and critic based in Berlin. Her second book, PISTI 80 RUE DE BELLEVILLE (After 8 Books, 2020) was just released, with an introduction by Chris Kraus. Her forthcoming, MIDSOMMER, cowritten with Sabrina Tarasoff, is scheduled for release from Mousse Publishing in 2022.