Not actually Valentine's day related (unless you want it to be?)
Hello from yes, another plane, but this time another country, as well—Mexico, which I will tell you about next week, including some CDMX recommendations, if you want them. (You’re gonna want them!) I told you I worked best on planes. What’s the various random unidentified cylindrical floating objects’ excuse? Happy Valentine’s day! To you and our new alien overlords! It’s a silly holiday, drenched in sugar and sparkles, but I respect any reason to shower someone you love with affection and/or trinkets. Need a last minute idea? Flowers are a can’t miss. Or just write a heartfelt note and tuck it somewhere surprising. Make it an actual valentine, with cut up paper fringe or scalloped edges. A construction paper heart! Why the hell not. They deserve it. Not currently romantically entangled? Send one to a friend in the mail. If I got such a thing from someone as special and thoughtful as you, even—especially!—days or weeks after the fact, well. I’d simply love you forever. My current plan is ideally to find somewhere to get foot massages x 2. And possibly line dancing. Not necessarily in that order. (More on that later if I actually go.)
Let’s rewind a little. I did some very New York things while in New York the week before last—I went to the Guggenheim to see the gangbusters Alex Katz exhibition before it closed. I made(!) a pizza(!!) at the city’s best pizza spot(!!!), Lucali. (I said it! Fight me.) I went to Bergdorf’s on an errand, which always makes me feel like I’m back, baby. I took a cab! It turns out that I missed cabs! I even had a night just sitting around with some of my favorite brilliant women catching up and shooting the shit, which is the kind of soul-affirming thing you can forget how much you need—especially in these days of constant digital contact (the sweet’nlow of actual human connection)—until you do it. And I saw the Hopper exhibition at the Whitney, which I really encourage you to do, too, if you can, before it closes March 5. For years I don’t think I ever really “got” Hopper. I knew it was good. Beyond that, it was just what my drawing teacher used to teach us how to do perspective. It didn’t move me particularly. I’m not going to say it was this exhibition that changed my mind—the intervening years and a lot of art history did that—but it’s good enough that I think it could sway even the most half-interested museum-goer. (Here’s an interesting piece on it from the New York Review of Books.) So go! If you haven’t yet.
Thanks for reading Here We Go! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
The reason I was in New York was to see The Yanomami Struggle at The Shed. It is a fantastic exhibition—I wrote about it at length for Vogue, where you can see some of the images, too, but if you get paywalled I’ll include the story at the bottom here, too, it, and you, mean that much to me!—I can’t explain how satisfying an exhibition it is to visit. It’s fascinating, enraging, invigorating. The Yanomami are an indigenous group in northern Brazil who’ve been on the edge of extinction ever since outsiders decided that they might like some of their land, and minerals, and resources, too. The photographer-turned-activist Claudia Andujar, herself a survivor of the Holocaust, has been photographing them for the past half century, using the images she’s taken of everything from spectacular shamanic ceremonies to the mundane and everyday to advocate for their rights and protection. Along with her photographs and a few excellent documentary films about her and the project, the show also does the brilliant thing of including works by Yanomami artists, some of whom (along with the 91 year old Andujar), were also there at the opening, speaking to press through interpreters. They just want people to see them, to see their humanity, and care. It’s really a worthwhile show. It’s hard to think of anything more worthwhile. If you’re able to, I highly recommend you go and see it. And block in some extra time to watch the film portions, they’re totally absorbing.
Some lighter fare? I watched this funny little BBC show I’d never heard of before on the flight. Chivalry, starring Steve Coogan and Sarah Solemani. It’s sort of a “#MeToo rom-com,” only definitely less awful than that sounds. It’s sort of like that actually quite underrated Matt LeBlanc show Episodes meets Starstruck (I loved Starstruck, if you haven’t seen it, immediately add to list, it’s a proper rom-com on HBOMax, with shades of a gender flipped Notting Hill. A very real delight!). There are some funny bits of Chivalry with an intimacy coordinator, Sienna Miller as a “difficult” starlet, Wanda Sykes as a studio exec, even a running through the airport scene par excellence. It’s not perfect, but at 6 episodes it was a totally fun and fine way to spend a few hours. If you fly United, you’ll find it there. If you don’t, I haven’t the foggiest. Channel 4? Britbox?
A recommendation! An app that saves my sleep while on the road: Endel. It’s like amped up white noise. (They call it “personalized soundscapes.”) You can set an alarm so it wakes you up gently and very gradually, like my beloved OneClock does at home. There are settings for non-sleep activities too, like yoga and working out and housework and getting into a flow state creatively, but as someone who’s had to play 10 hour white noise YouTube channels on a makeshift speaker (turn volume all the way up, put your phone in a cup next to your bed) in noisy hotel rooms more than once, it’s a life saver. (I also love the power nap setting: set the timer to 25 minutes and go. Rise feeling rested as anything.) 5 stars!
A good watch: Pamela, A Love Story, the Pamela Anderson documentary on Netflix. Jeeze louise has this woman had good therapy. I want whoever she’s seeing! I can’t remember the last time I’ve witnessed someone so at peace, including with the frequently truly vile hand they’ve been dealt. From repeated childhood sexual abuse to horrible (also frequently abusive) boyfriends and husbands to having her entire burgeoning career derailed by the theft and exposure of her most private moments via sex tape… whew. It sounds grim, I know, but it isn’t, because she isn’t. She has a loving and supportive family, including her two sons, who clearly adore and want to protect her. She could be furious at the world, at Hulu for that dumb show (which apparently no one even called her about before making), at the media, which because of her physical proportions made her a punchline instead of a victim, but instead she just wants to love everybody. God bless her. Not for nothing but I’m also loving her current styling on this press tour. She looks great. I want only the best for Pam, okay? Team Pam!
A very good read: this terrific David Remnick profile of Salman Rushdie in the last New Yorker. It’s not a short piece, but between the fatwa, five marriages, and being stabbed nearly to death last year, well, he’s got a lot going on.
Beautiful new bedding alert! Ukraine-based linen company Sea Me sent me some really pretty lavender linen pillowcases and now I want like 15 sets of the full kit and caboodle, all in shades from a Ladurée macaron box. (Ladurée has a new Mercer hotel collab, too. Cute!)
Anyways. Here we are. Here I am. Taxiing! Hurtling through space and time in a metal and plastic winged tube. It never ceases to amaze me! Up next/now, Frieze week in Los Angeles. How much art can we handle?
As always, thanks for being here. Come back again soon, ya hear? (I can’t get away with that, can I? We’ll blame it on the altitude.) If today has you feeling any sort of way that’s less than brimming with ardor or adoration for yourself or someone else, well. I think that’s true of most of us, whether we be currently paired off or flying through this life solo. Does it help to know that I love you? Does it help to know that the aliens may arrive at any moment? (Okay, enough alien jokes, we all know it’s likelier a terrifying foreign spying apparatus.) Give yourself some grace. I’m going to try to, too. And not just today. See you next week!
A New Exhibition at the Shed Explores a Return From the Edge of Extinction
February 3, 2023, vogue.com
When photographer Claudia Andujar first arrived in Yanomami territory in northern Brazil in the early 1970s, she intended to take photographs of the indigenous Yanomami people for a new politically minded Brazilian magazine, Realidade. But ultimately the images she made—many of which make up the mournful, hopeful, deeply moving exhibition The Yanomami Struggle, currently underway at The Shed in New York— only constitute a fragment of her legacy for the Yanomami. Even as she embedded with and documented the lives and traditions of the Yanomami people, the now-91-year-old Andujar, taught them to defend themselves from threats both immediate—the increasing outside encroachments that had begun with the Brazilian military dictatorship in 1964—and existential. The discovery of valuable minerals like gold, uranium, and cassiterite in the Yanomami territory in the 1970’s brought prospectors and miners and other undesirable outside attention—and with it, disease, pollution, exploitation, deforestation. For many indigenous people across Brazil it meant total annihilation. A WWII refugee who fled Hungary as a child and whose entire patriarchal family was murdered at Auschwitz and Dachau, Andujar had experience with annihilation. She was not, she explained through an interpreter at a press conference this week, content to sit back and watch history repeat itself.
The photographs that Andujar took of the Yanomami in 1971, and those that she has taken in the half-century since, along with various works on paper and film by Yanomami artists, are part of a traveling exhibition co-organized with the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain and the Moreira Salles institute in Sao Paulo. It is an exceptional exhibition, with work that is staggering in its volume (there are over 200 works by Andujar and around 80 by Yanomami artists), and the scope and depth of its intimacy.
There are images of births and deaths, hunting and gathering, projects and play, ruminative portraits of bellies and nipples and lips and eyes, communal huts lit ceremonially aflame, of shamanic rituals and the accordant visions. Some are straight reportage style, some capture their more mystical and cosmological themes (Andujar calls these “the spirit of the forest”) using photographic techniques like multiple exposures and infrared film. The works on view are deeply resonant: It is impossible to see these images of and by the Yanomami and not become aware of how precarious their lives are, how threatened every aspect of their existence has become due to the craven principles of economic progress at all (environmental) costs. The Yanomami, and indigenous people like them, are the front line of the question of how viable the future will be on this planet. Or as Fondation Cartier’s artistic managing director Hervé Chandes told Vogue, “We are at a tipping point. After the Yanomami, it’s all of us.”
Andujar’s experience of surviving the Holocaust is what built trust with and reverence for the photojournalist, shaman and leader Davi Kopenawa says. Andujar wasn’t just exceptionally creative with a camera; she was a survivor, one who knew what it was like to be up against an enemy who rejects your very right to exist. She knew the importance of telling the story on a human level. Her photographs were so effective at stoking empathy and rallying support for the Yanomami in the late’70s that she was briefly expelled from the region by the government, leading her and fellow activists Bruce Albert and Carlos Zacquini to create the the Pro-Yanomami Commission (or CCPY). This nonprofit led the fight for the protection of Yanomami land and encouraged initiatives like vaccination programs to protect the Yanomami against fatal infectious diseases like tuberculosis, measles, and most recently, the COVID-19 epidemic. (One of the exhibition’s more moving sections includes Andujar’s “identification portraits” from the 1980s, a kind of vaccine card for a people who can use multiple names and do not rely on formal documents, but which here call to mind Andujar’s familial trauma, namely the marking of the Jews during the Holocaust.) Spurred on by the CCPY, a presidential decree demarcated the Yanomami territory in 1992, though the new borders didn’t stop illegal gold miners from murdering 16 Yanomami people a year later, a horror which is evocatively referenced in Andujar’s short film The Yanomami Genocide: The Death of Brazil, which plays on loop in a somber semi-circular theater at The Shed. The titular struggle, this show emphasizes, is very much not over.
“[Andujar] is not Yanomami, but she is a true friend,” Kopenawa said in remarks that have been since memorialized on one of the exhibition walls: “She taught me to fight, to defend our people, land, language, customs, festivals, dances, chants, and shamanism. She explained things to me like my own mother would. I did not know how to fight against politicians, against the non-Indigenous people. It was good that she gave me the bow and arrow as a weapon, not for killing whites but for speaking in defense of the Yanomami people.” This exhibition, Kopenawa told Vogue, is another sheaf of arrows in his quiver: The hope is that visitors will come, educate themselves, and demand change.
The election of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is a reason for cautious optimism: Lula began his presidency by revoking all of Bolsonaro’s anti-Indigenous and anti-environment measures, and created the country’s first Ministry of Indigenous Peoples, headed up by Sônia Guajajara, of the Guajajara/Tentehar people, a staunch defender of the Amazon. But it’s unclear whether these measures are enough in the face of the ruin and devastation that have already occurred, and whether they will actually be enforced without global attention and the pressure it brings. “It’s a war. It’s a war,” Chandes said. “It’s the Amazon, it’s the air we breathe. And it’s the beauty of the world, too, by the way.” Yes, Kopenawa agreed: “It’s worth fighting for.” Maybe the people who come to see this show will want to fight for it too.
The Yanomami Struggle is produced by the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, the Moreira Salles institute in Sao Paulo, and in partnership with the Brazilian N.G.Os Hutukara Associacao Yanomani and Instituto Socioambiental, and is at The Shed from February 3–April 16, 2023.
Thanks for reading Here We Go! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.