PREVIEW: Aftermath: Landscapes of Devastation

Aftermath: Landscapes of Devastation offers an unflinching look at environments wrought with decay and destruction. Opening at UMMA this Saturday, the exhibition forces viewers to search for traces of beauty amidst landscapes of despair.



On view January 13th – May 27th at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (525 S. State St).

Presented by the Herbert W. and Susan L. Johe Endowment, with support by the University of Michigan Department of Screen Arts and Cultures and the School for Environment and Sustainability.

REVIEW: Accidental Photographer: Seoul 1969

Dr. Margaret Condon Taylor’s snapshots of 1969 Korea offer a glimpse of a nation on the brink of rapid transformation—a moment of stillness before the spectacular growth to come. The U-M Nam Center for Korean Studies’ presentation of Accidental Photographer: Seoul 1969 showcases Taylor’s work from this period, revealing the beauty of a Seoul in transition.



Taylor’s focus is attuned to the humans that make up the city, whether confronting or turning away from the camera. Her shots capture opportune moments through muted tones; ethereal Ektachrome whites and blues transfix viewers. Despite the images’ presentation without object labels, the exhibition is remarkably clear. Each image teases a hint of a hidden-away historic Seoul.



In her photographs, Taylor documents a Korea that is now inaccessible in many ways. Her visual archive of the capital city, however, can still be visited. Accidental Photographer presents the human essence of a Seoul that we as viewers pray still persists today.

PREVIEW: Red Circle: Designing Japan in Contemporary Posters

Explore the 1980s work of three Japanese artists who shifted outside opinions of their country with their striking graphic designs. Red Circle: Designing Japan in Contemporary Posters presents the pioneering joint efforts of Ikko Tanaka, Shigeo Fukuda, and Kazumasa Nagai.

On view January 6th – May 6th in the Jan and David Brandon Family Bridge at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (525 S. State St).

Presented by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and the University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies.

REVIEW: The Square

At first glance, Ruben Östlund’s The Square appears solely to be a satirical look at an art world off the rails. Yet the film is interested in a broader social critique; we ourselves are not exempt from contributing to the insane ongoings of the fictional X-Royal Museum in Sweden.

Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, The Square has no shortage of overblown on-screen ridiculousness, from painting chimpanzees to palace raves, but we recognize realities of the contemporary art world and its penchant for elitism within it.



Direct parallels can be seen between events at the X-Royal and those in real-world art spaces. Security personnel watch museum visitors give galleries barely a second of their attention, and a millennial duo from an outside marketing agency infuriate with their self-assurance. Museum events drip in inscrutable art-world language, and a custodian casually vacuums up an installation made up of gravel mounds.

Through his provocative live performance, “The Jungle,” the artist Oleg—brilliantly played in all his discomforting glory by a bare-chested, crawling Terry Notary—runs through a grand dinner gala attacking event attendees. The limits of violence that we are trained to transform and accept in the name of art are tested here.



In Claes Bang’s performance as the suave X-Royal curator Christian Nielsen, we see the larger questions that Östlund raises about the art world and its detachment from reality. The film regularly spotlights this character’s interactions with disenfranchised members of Swedish society, specifically beggars and panhandlers. As the film shifts between the cash-flush private museum and the outside world, the curator struggles to balance these unwelcome interruptions to his work and family lives.



Though The Square might let on as a film centered solely on bashing indulgent art-world practices, its commentary extends far beyond to implicate members of any audience.

REVIEW: Human Flow

In his latest documentary Human Flow, internationally renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei compiles footage from over 23 countries to underscore the scale of the global refugee crisis. Often, the artist—drone camera in tow—tackles his charged subject matter from a distance. Rather than attaching the film to a select few individuals, Weiwei instead opts for sweeping panoramas of unstable migration currents.


Image Source: Human Flow


As the film skips from country to country, the scaled-out narrative blurs experiences for empathy-generating effect. African migrants reach Italian shores without any acknowledgement of their countries of origin. Their newly arrived bodies produce visual spectacle. These plainly labelled Africans huddle together, wrapped in glinting gold thermal blankets. The only possible response to these deracinated images of hardship is the immediate gut reaction to nonspecific distress.

An elderly Rohingya woman in a Bangladeshi refugee camp glares silently at a camera that refuses to cut away. She is not probed any further. Small moments such as these—unwelcome intrusions into the everyday—are fleeting reminders of the director’s interest in refugee flow over refugee. Weiwei forsakes focus on the individual in service of showcasing a tremendous collective suffering.


Image Source: IndieWire


One potential benefit of Human Flow‘s narrative expanse is commonalities drawn between worldwide migrations. Viewers are jetted from place to place to follow a story across continents, and no nation is left unchallenged. The film makes the urgent suggestion that we are all responsible for the wellbeing of the planet’s peoples.

An Afghan woman at the Greek-Macedonian border states, “No one leaves their country lightly.” Though often minimizing the individual experience of migration, Human Flow ultimately conveys the weight of these journeys and the moral imperative of addressing the refugee crisis today.


Image Source: The Hollywood Reporter

PREVIEW: 95th Annual All Media Exhibition

The All Media Exhibition at the Ann Arbor Art Center has showcased local artists since 1922. The annual competition enters its 95th iteration this year, promising an eclectic mix of work juried by Allison Wong (Director of the Wasserman Projects).

On view from December 15th – January 13th at the Ann Arbor Art Center (117 W Liberty St). Opening party and reception featuring winner announcements on Friday, December 15th from 6-9PM.