Issue 29 August 2022

Issue 28 May 2022

Issue 27 February 2022

Issue 26 November 2021

Issue 25 August 2021

Issue 24 May 2021

Issue 23 February 2021

Issue 22 November 2020

Issue 21 August 2020

Issue 20 May 2020

Issue 19 February 2020

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

at POTTS
–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon
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Issue 18 November 2019

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Children of the Sun
at LADIES’ ROOM
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
at SMART OBJECTS
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg
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Issue 17 August 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
at NAVEL
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

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Issue 16 May 2019

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden
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Issue 15 February 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
at LAXART
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
at MOCA PDC
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 14 November 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 13 August 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown
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Issue 12 May 2018

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan
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Issue 11 February 2018

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn
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Issue 10 November 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Reviews
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 9 August 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects

Home
at LACMA

Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
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Issue 8 May 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth
Letter to the Editor
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Issue 7 February 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Generous
Structures
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

Ma
at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing
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Issue 6 November 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
at LACMA
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

Mertzbau
at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)
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Issue 5 August 2016

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Non-Fiction
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
at REDCAT
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)
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Issue 4 May 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Reconsidering
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
at LACMA
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room
at LACMA

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 3 February 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
F.B.I.
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
and LOUDHAILER
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
at ASHES/ASHES
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Issue 2 November 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
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Issue 1 August 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
MEAT PHYSICS/
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
SOGTFO
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
@barnettcohen
Mateo Tannatt
Photographs
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe
at LACMA

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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in lieu
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Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
MOCA Grand Avenue
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Murmurs
Nicodim Gallery
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Over the Influence
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Track 16
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Wilding Cran Gallery
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Various Small Fires
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Sara Cwynar and the Texture of Digital Pictures

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Sara Cwynar, Glass Life (detail) (video still) (2021). Six-channel 2K video with sound, 19 minutes. © Sara Cwynar. Image courtesy of the artist; The Approach, London; Cooper Cole, Toronto; Foxy Production, New York; and ICA LA.

I read critic Lucy Sante’s stunning essay for Vanity Fair, “On Becoming Lucy Sante,” from bed one morning this January, my phone’s brightness turned down as my eyes acclimated to the light. In it, Sante, who came out as transgender in 2021 at age 67, recalls her discovery of FaceApp’s gender-swapping filter, through which she subsequently fed “every image of myself I possessed, beginning at about age 12.” She writes: “The effect was seismic. I could now see, laid out before me on my screen, the panorama of my life as a girl, from giggling preteen to last year’s matron.”1

Though only a small part of the brave and elegant text, I’ve returned to this passage many times. It cracked something within me. By design, programs like FaceApp propagate an impossible and flat, hetero-patriarchal image of beauty, and imagining its use to quite opposite ends felt revelatory. It was also a profound reminder of the ways that our digital experiences are inextricably intertwined with, and not secondary to, our real lives. Sante’s experience insists upon photography’s capacity to do things, to affect our spirits and bodies in the physical world—a rich possibility given the insidious nature of the online spaces that our images increasingly live through and within. 

§

Sara Cwynar’s 6-channel video installation Glass Life (2021), the centerpiece of her first Los Angeles exhibition, which closed at ICA LA in May, underscores the idea that the filtered, pixelated, repurposed, and reproduced photographs and images that we make—and that make our digital worlds—play a meaningful role in our lives even as they are fed through ill-intentioned, corporate containers. Installed in a blue-carpeted gallery with hard, macaroni-shaped benches, the earnest and immersive 19-minute work employs a chaotic chorus of scrolling images; video clips; swimming CGI avatars; and a dense, essay-like voiceover in its exploration of how beauty, power, selfhood, and capital are expressed in our contemporary image culture. While many photographic endeavors default to a characterization of digital space as artificial or flat, Glass Life imagines the images that comprise so much of our digital experience as textured, reframing the way that we think about their marked impact in our bodies and lives. 

Sara Cwynar, Glass Life (video still) (2021). Six-channel 2K video with sound, 19 minutes. © Sara Cwynar. Image courtesy of the artist; The Approach, London; Cooper Cole, Toronto; Foxy Production, New York; and ICA LA.

To make Glass Life, Cwynar brought digitally-sourced images and photographs into the physical world, printing and arranging them in her studio before animating them on camera. Pulled largely from books, social media, e-commerce, and news sites, the printed cutouts were laid out atop grid paper between layers of glass that create a sense of physical distance between them. In the installation, the stream of unmoored images loops, rewinds, and changes pace (from fast to faster) across the largest central screen, while two smaller ones situated on either side linger on and expand certain moments. Meanwhile, a male voice actor reads a searching, referential text that spans the duration of the film (he begins didactically, declaring, “From Walter B. to Kim K.…”; but what follows is far more open-ended). Many of the images are identifiable, or at least familiar, as they contain logos, celebrities, and copyrighted characters. But each slides offscreen far too quickly to be truly legible. Among the rapid sequence of images are shiny apples and the early, rainbow iteration of Apple’s logo; the pig face emoji; a chest X-ray; Disney’s Pinocchio character; personal video footage from a racial justice protest, the remnants of the Barneys New York “blowout” closing sale, and an exhibition at Rome’s Galleria Borghese; screen recordings from the hype-y fashion retailer SSENSE; kitschy vintage ads; and a confetti-trimmed portrait of the 30 or so world leaders present at the 2019 G20 summit, including Trump, Putin, and the Saudi crown prince. This collage-in-motion approach is an apt visualization of what it feels like to be online, where images of our intimate, daily lives press up against memes, photographs of war, and filtered selfies of influencers peddling discounts on whatever product.

In offering even temporary physicality to the kinds of images we see almost exclusively on-screen, Cwynar insists upon their integrity, underscoring the particular marks they bear, which our eyes usually glaze over—reading them solely as functions of the apps and programs in which we interface with them rather than relevant components of the images themselves. But throughout the film, these peripheral details are permitted, and they are important to understanding the pictures. Images are framed within browser windows, Instagram feeds, and iPhone albums. They are made miniature as thumbnails and avatars or enlarged beyond their pixel depth. Some are partially covered by the Getty Images watermark, Youtube’s red “play” logo, or the fuchsia-colored units of measurement that materialize temporarily when an image is dragged around in Photoshop. These distinctly digital marks mix with analog ones, whose textures (the dot pattern characteristic of halftone prints, contact sheets, dust, degradation, age) have been further emphasized by their digital reproduction. Digital space, and the internet especially, has long been described as one that flattens its contents, negating a sense of distance, time, and nuance. But even as it presents digital images—(often) void of their original context—with speed and excess, Glass Life reinforces their objecthood in such a way that they do not collapse or meld together. Their surfaces are each dense with information and impact.

Many of the included images are absurd and disturbing, not in appearance but in context. (It was on my screen at home, watching via a viewing link where I could pause and rewind, that I could begin to unfold them.) The Saudi crown prince smiles, standing front and center in the G20 photo, taken just months after the brutal assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government. The chest X-ray belongs to Marilyn Monroe and was part of a suite of three that went for $45,000 at auction—even the insides of her body up for public consumption.2 Catching glimpses of these images as you sit, encircled by screens, makes the overstimulating effect of the digital realm—wherein you are always missing something—palpable in the body. Like the digital spaces that we inhabit, photographs can conceal systems of power. Rather than invoke false metaphors of flatness as a means of reducing or resisting those powers, Cwynar layers and unfurls them. But it is primarily the content of the poetic voiceover that imbues the work with criticality. Appropriately, Glass Life takes its title and focus from Shoshana Zuboff’s urgent 2019 book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, which uses the term to describe the broad degradation of privacy in the digital age—our lives, and our images, sold as data that’s used (at best!) to sell more things back to us. “Every casual search, like, and click was claimed as an asset,” Cwynar’s narrator declares, his voice at once authoritative, encyclopedic, and soothing: “we don’t mind.”3

But even as it exposes and prods the insidiousness of our online experiences, Glass Life manages a level of nuance that so much work about the internet tends to miss, asking how we locate and what it means to represent ourselves in these tenuous, bursting, and thin spaces, especially when every aspect of a life lived online is mined and exploited by corporate interests. “How do you know what size you are?/ In the glass life,” the narrator asks, “Or how much space to take?”4 Cwynar’s voice can be heard here and elsewhere in the voiceover, emanating from individual speakers near the back of the room where three smaller screens each feature a version of the same glitchy, tired-looking, stock AI character. Outfitted in swimsuits and caps, the robot audience mouth Cwynar’s parts of the script, which echo and merge with the male narrator’s voice in a kind of unintelligible hum. After a while, the ceaseless stream of images is like a hum, too. The swimmers close their eyes and sway.

Cwynar inserts herself amidst this flood of images. So beyond her voice, she is also visually present, appearing many times throughout the film: pinning printouts to her studio wall; posing before a green screen; running her hand over a collection of printed images and odd, plastic-y objects on a table. Most intimate, perhaps, is the inclusion of her iPad’s photo album, which she sends into a rapid scroll, swiping her middle and index fingers over the images. They span nearly a year. Personal snapshots—of neighborhood streets, in her studio, trying on what looks like a wedding dress—speed by and mix with screenshots.5 A New York Times headline reads, “There Is Too Much Happening.” Looking feels invasive, but the revelation of such private records—the kinds we all amass and rarely account for—seems to refuse straightforward participation in an image economy that works by making our lives look different or better or neat and digestible. In contrast to the highly produced advertising images that pop up on near-every website or the neat, curated carousels of social media, Cwynar offers a mess of images—the whole album. She occupies a vulnerable position by taking space within the very systems that she criticizes, suggesting that there is still a worthwhile reason for doing so. Her body and personal photographs serve as proxies for all of us who receive, contribute to, and are affected in real life by the images that we encounter and generate via screens.

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Depicting the vivid complexities of digital life is a challenging task for photography—nearly impossibly so for “straight” photography—because digital spaces are not by definition readily photographable. As such, many photographic projects engage with only the surfaces of these spaces and thus criticize our preoccupation with technology at the implied cost of “real” experience—relatively low-hanging fruit. Some of the earliest photographic responses to the onset of the digital age depict the ubiquity of screens in public and private spaces. Many of the photographs in Martin Parr’s book on global tourism, first published in 1996 and titled Small World,6 depict travelers taking photographs at cultural sites—iPhones, point-and-shoot cameras, and selfie sticks appear in outstretched hands before statues at the Vatican, the Mona Lisa, and other popular landmarks. Matthew Pillsbury’s gorgeous black-and-white series of long exposures, Screen Lives (2002–ongoing), comprises photographs lit only by the presence of glowing screens. In both instances, photographic subjects almost invariably read as distracted and unengaged, their attention turned to their devices instead of to the surrounding world. They appear to miss out on the “real” experience of looking as they obsessively document; they are absorbed by screens in even their most intimate moments. Even though they are also beautiful and amusing, these photographs feel critical of their subjects, portraying digital devices as mere portals to an empty, artificial realm. This critical eye is fair; it reveals uncomfortable truths. But these photographs show people engaging with their digital worlds without ultimately saying much about what that engagement feels like.

Many projects in the late aughts and 2010s focused more on the physicality of the digital realm, attempting to picture it in more self-reflexive ways. Tabitha Soren’s large-format photographs of images on iPad screens smeared with fingerprints in Surface Tension (2013–21) consider how we interact with untouchable images. In his environmentally-stressful installation 24HRS in Photos (2011), Erik Kessels filled an Amsterdam gallery with small printouts of all of the images uploaded to Flickr in a single day—the 350 thousand photographs piled high across the gallery’s rooms, their individual significance collapsing into an undifferentiated mass.7 And in David Horvitz’s Nostalgia (18,600) (2019–21), 18.6 thousand of the artist’s personal digital photographs were projected for a minute each and then deleted in a sort of protest against a perceived loss of photographic intention. Many of these projects are smart and compelling in their own right. Still, they each seem to represent the role of digital images in our lives somewhat reductively, focusing more on the distance and estrangement of photography than on what the proliferation of photographic engagement/ entanglement means or the kinds of possibilities it offers.

All rendered on backlit screens at 72 dots-per-inch, digital images have been broadly misunderstood as flat and smooth because they exist and unfold in a space similarly imagined as shapeless and in comparison to their analog predecessors or counterparts.8 Although Glass Life ultimately employs a 2-D medium, Cwynar subverts the surface-based nature of video to depict a digital life that feels lived-in: the film’s images are so intentionally chosen that even the appropriated ones are imbued with a sense of personal import. In this way, Cwynar uses images to trace a path through digital space that is less algorithmic than a record of impact, the massive and incessant weight of online images and information expressed through a distinct physical body. I do not know what is still possible for photography under the conditions of the glass life, but in depicting digital spaces as vivid, vast, and navigable, Cwynar suggests that there is value in swimming through the flood of images, and thus also reason to protect the independence and integrity of the spaces in which photographs now live. Photography has always been a malleable and transgressive medium in its implications and impact—on our bodies, psyches, and notions of self—and even within the troubling systems of our slick and irresistible digital world, using it in service of a genuine pursuit of the self against a flood of nefarious images and information offers rich and resistant possibilities.

Sara Cwynar, Glass Life (installation view) (2021). © Sara Cwynar. Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; 2022. Image courtesy of the artist; The Approach, London; Cooper Cole, Toronto; Foxy Production, New York; and ICA LA. Photo: Jeff McLane/ICA LA.

Erik Kessels, 24HRS in Photos (installation view) (2011). Image courtesy of the artist.

Sara Cwynar, Glass Life (installation view) (2021). © Sara Cwynar. Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; 2022. Image courtesy of the artist; The Approach, London; Cooper Cole, Toronto; Foxy Production, New York; and ICA LA. Photo: Jeff McLane/ICA LA.


This essay was originally published in Carla issue 29.

  1. Lucy Sante, “On Becoming Lucy Sante,” Vanity Fair, January 20, 2022, https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2022/01/on-becoming-lucy-sante.
  2. “Marilyn Monroe’s chest X-rays sell for $45,000,” The Telegraph, June 28, 2010, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/7858340/Marilyn-Monroe-chest-X-rays-sell-for-45000.html.
  3. Sara Cwynar, Glass Life, 2021, six-channel 2K video with sound, 19:02. Transcript courtesy of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Kelly Pendergrast argues that screenshots are part of the essential vernacular photographic language of our time, functioning as incredibly personal records that depict our digital experiences. Like the snapshot, “the screenshot is a gesture that lays claim to the act of seeing,” she writes—“a slightly piratic and makeshift activity, not yet subsumed into the seamless logic of other kinds of digital image making and distribution.” See: Kelly Pendergrast, “Screen Memories,” Real Life, January 14, 2021, https://reallifemag.com/screen-memories/.
  6. Martin Parr, Small World (Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2018).
  7. “Photos that changed the world – 24 Hrs In Photos,” Phaidon, May 2016, https://www.phaidon.com/agenda/photography/articles/2016/may/04/photos-that-changed-the-world-24-hrs-in-photos/.
  8. In 2014, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian published an open letter to the FCC in favor of net neutrality, writing that “the world isn’t flat; but the world wide web is.” His characterization of the digital world was meant to describe it as a democratized space—a level playing field—but from its inception, it has been imagined as a 2-D counterpart to the physical/ “real” world. Nathan Jurgenson’s illuminating writing on the subject argues that “the fallacy of web objectivity is driven fundamentally by digital dualism,” a term he coined to describe the pervasive notion that a divide exists between real and online spaces, the latter of which we understand as artificial by comparison. But “physicality can be digitally mediated,” he insists, and “what happens through the screen happens through bodies and material infrastructures.” See: Alexis Ohanian, “Y Combinator has filed an official comment with the FCC,” Y Combinator, July 14, 2014, https://www.ycombinator.com/blog/y-combinator-has-filed-an-official-comment-with-the-fcc/; Nathan Jurgenson, The Social Photo: On Photography and Social Media (New York: Verso Books, 2019), 82; Jurgenson, “Digital Dualism and the Fallacy of Web Objectivity,” The Society Pages, September 13, 2011, https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2011/09/13/digital-dualism-and-the-fallacy-of-web-objectivity/.

Erin F. O’Leary is a writer, editor, and photographer from the Midwest and raised in Maine. A graduate of Bard College, she has lived in Los Angeles since 2018. Through research, criticism, prose, and personal essay, she explores photography along artistic and sociocultural lines—her work concerned not only with how pictures look, but how the camera is used and what these images mean in, and for, our contemporary image culture.

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