Two artists use archival mugshots to radically different ends

In 2020, the artist Dan Paz purchased and downloaded a mugshot of their deceased father from a third-party criminal-search website for $29.99. They then transferred this photograph onto a copper plate using an antiquated process known as photogravure. Using a scraper and burnisher, the artist obscured their father’s face from the plate, rendering it smooth so that the facial features were no longer visible. They then inked up the plate and printed it on handmade paper. The white of the paper shines through the eradicated face so that it appears almost…

Several years years ago, when I had a full time job at an art gallery and never dreamed of getting paid to be a writer, I began a Wordpress blog. I wrote about whatever I felt like writing about and my blog developed a modest following. I never imagined that anyone would pay me to analyze the triple goddess symbolism in The Golden Girls, for instance, or speculate on the uncanny geometric properties of the Ghent Altarpiece, but that wasn’t the point. …

A musical film by Sparks provides a dark allegory of show business

It is possible to watch Annette, the surreal new musical film composed by the band Sparks and directed by Leos Carax, without any knowledge of the music that brothers Ron and Russell Mael have created together as Sparks throughout the last half century. However, as a fan of the band, I was interested to see how themes that have long been woven into Sparks’ music manifested themselves in a long-form narrative work. Annette is, on the surface, a film about the shadow side of heterosexual masculinity, a topic…

In December of 2005, the night before Christmas Eve, both of my parents were killed in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. A few days later, I was making arrangements in a funeral parlor in Texas with my sister, her husband, and my ex. We were all young and not very rich, and when we heard how much it was going to cost to have our parents’ remains shipped back to Wichita Falls from the crematorium in Fort Worth over the holidays, we decided to drive the 114 miles to pick them up ourselves.

The address we were given…

A documentary shows late 20th century conditions that became instrumental in 21st century politics

Nu metal might have been a flash in the pan, historically speaking, but that flash burned its brightest at a decommissioned Air Force base on the final night of Woodstock ’99, the sequel to 1994’s sequel to 1969’s legendary celebration of peace, love, and rock n’ roll.

The much talked-about first episode of HBO’s new music documentary series Music Box is titled “Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage.” As the title suggests, it focuses on Woodstock ‘99, portraying it as a series of unmitigated disasters that…

Why critiquing US institutions is such an emotional minefield

If you grew up in the American midwest during the 80s or 90s like I did, you might have a memory of being forced to stand on risers in a choir of bored children in the auditorium of a public elementary school and sing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” For those who did not share this cultural experience, that’s the song that goes:

I’m proud to be an American
Where at least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me
And I’d gladly stand…

The year is halfway over. In no particular order, here are ten new albums that I have been enjoying during the first half of 2021.

1. Spellling – The Turning Wheel (Sacred Bones)

On her third full-length as Spellling, Oakland-based artist Chrystia Cabral summoned a 31-piece orchestra to supplement her songwriting, with striking results. (I reviewed this album in The Wire 449.)

2. MSHR Liquid Conglomerate Presence Cycle (EHSE Records)

Recorded during a 2019 residency in Portugal, the latest from multimedia artists Birch Cooper and Brenna Murphy comprises four compositions of the duo’s hand-built sonic sculptures in action. (I reviewed this album in The Wire 449, and have written more about MSHR’s work here.)

3. Felinto Futuro Antigo Perpétuo

The climate catastrophe is violence perpetrated by the wealthy on the vulnerable

This week, parts of the Western United States and Canada reached previously unheard-of temperatures that Washington’s assistant state climatologist believes can be blamed, at least in part, on man-made climate change. Such analysis is by no means new. For more than a century now, scientists have been sounding the alarm about climate change. Even as an astonishing consensus has been building among experts in the field—more than 97% of actively publishing climate scientists believe that humans are causing global warming—their warnings have been met with well-funded propaganda masquerading…

The ‘anti-woke’ podcaster is paid well to perpetuate the status quo

Earlier this week, Joe Rogan was widely mocked for claiming on his podcast that the logical outcome of “woke” discourse is that “straight white men” will no longer be allowed to talk or go outside:

You can never be woke enough that’s the problem. It keeps going. It keeps going further and further and further down the line. If you get to the point where you capitulate where you agree to all these demands, it will eventually get to “straight white men are not allowed to talk.” Because it’s your privilege to express yourself when other people of color have…

A new law takes aim at content deemed to “exacerbate and inflame divisions”

On Wednesday afternoon, Idaho’s Republican governor Brad Little signed a bill into law that takes aim at what it calls “critical race theory.” Framing itself as a law to promote “dignity and nondiscrimination,” House Bill 377 makes it a crime for public educators—including at the university level—to promote the idea “that individuals, by virtue of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin, are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin.”


Emily Pothast

Artist and historian. PhD student researching religion, material culture, media, and politics. Bylines at The Wire Magazine, Art in America + more.

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