Artist Tom Burr, whose decades-long body of work considers built spaces and their particular histories, offers this deeply felt and insightful collection of readings on the current pandemic crisis. With a historian’s sensibility for the long view, Burr’s list looks to what this moment means for the future’s experience of shared but intimate place.
Saint Paul: A Screenplay - Pierpaolo Pasolini
Before this all began I was finishing up an exhibition to open March 12th in a Baroque church in Milan called Saint Paul the Converted. This unrealized screenplay by Pasolini became part of my thoughts and materials for the project, and I read it several times over, not knowing then that my project too would go unrealized. At least for now. Trauma, fascism, and blindness figure in this adaptation of the biblical conversion story transposed to the 20th century, with classic Pasolini poetics, politics and idiosyncratic perversions.
‘Capitalism Has Its Limits’ - Judith Butler
This short piece was written after Elizabeth Warren, and before Bernie Sanders, pulled out of the presidential primary. This was one of the earlier and most succinct considerations of the larger health and economic ramifications of Covid-19, and how the virus and its e?ects emphatically underscore the need for a democratic health care system in the United States. It’s a political call for compassion and care as we enter into the next months.
‘My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need It Anymore?’ - Gabrielle Hamilton
In this New York Times piece from the third week in April, New York City restaurant owner Gabrielle Hamilton reflects on the current moment that led her to the decision to suspend operations at Prune, a day or two before the o?cial announcement was made requiring all restaurants to close their doors. With remarkable candidness she lays out the financial stakes of running a small restaurant - or any small business - in an increasingly brutal climate of speculation and gentrification. But its Hamilton’s very beautiful descriptions of the tightly peopled space of the tiny restaurant, that resound; the sounds and smells and sensations of close proximity that amount to a distinct form of pleasure. The experience Hamilton describes might be transposed to other evaporating common spaces of pleasure that o?er no guarantee of surviving, for reasons that are not resulting from, but have accumulated into, this precise moment in time.
‘Learning From The Virus’ - Paul B. Preciado
Paul P. Preciado has become one of the most important voices in the last several years, and this recent piece published in Artforum only reinforces that. As a Foucauldian, I was thankful to see the philosopher’s thinking and biographical position figured in relation to the Coronavirus pandemic, emphasizing throughout, the clear trajectory of the relationship of power to the body. Immunity status is presented as intertwined with isolation, and also with privilege. Disconnection and distance, with domination. The new telecommunications-as-community, as forms of incarceration. But a choice is proposed, of, on the one hand, allowing the forms of control being perfected through the confluence of crisis and capital to render us utterly submissive, or, of opening up the possibility of some form of emancipatory “mutation” of those conditions. Preciado concludes, “Governments are calling for confinement and telecommuting. We know they are calling for de-collectivization and telecontrol. Let us use the time and strength of confinement to study the tradition of struggle and resistance among racial and sexual minority cultures that have helped us survive until now. Let us turn o? our cell phones, let us disconnect from the internet. Let us stage a big blackout against the satellites observing us, and let us consider the coming revolution together.”