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Ours is a City of Writers

New approaches to writing are everywhere in evidence across the contemporary art world. In Los Angeles, home of East of Borneo, X–TRA, Les Figues Press, MATERIAL, and the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, to name a few venues where art meets writing, critical and discursive engagement with art and art writing is especially pronounced.

Kill Time Objective

for the sake of my acoustic self I lead out of danger an anonymous pack from the building entrapment secured by militia

Every Type of Sun

Now and then after a difficult day I have a repeating dream of me as a child coming home from school and sitting down to draw. And I draw suns. I use every crayon in the box.

10. Everyone’s Desire to be Happier than Everyone Else’s Desire to be Happy.1

*This title originates from a ten-point missive entitled “Dear World” from Ridykeulouse’s archives, composed in collaboration with longtime comrades Nicole Eisenman and Laurie Weeks.

The Impossibility of Existing in Los Angeles

Among the fossilized remains of creatures to be found preserved in the Tar Pits underneath Los Angeles, there was a single human woman. The La Brea Woman is at least 10,000 years old and the first known person that Los Angeles buried.

The Body of the Email

An orange cab pulls over to the side of a busy downtown street. A woman looks at a crumpled piece of paper in her hand as she waits for her change from the cab driver.

Lie Down as Far as You Can You Are the Sky1

I arrive in Los Angeles by way of canyons and sunsets firing up the sky each night as we drive west, and finally enter the city one morning at the very beginning of the fall.

Pimp This Shit

A little over a decade ago, Mike Kelley confessed: “Art is the only arena in American culture in which difference is tolerated. I mean, I don’t even think it exists in politics.

“Stop me if . . .”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: American city, prone for too long to the temptations associated with its homegrown industries, is “discovered” by some writer at the New York Times.

Institutions, When Will You Open Your Doors?

I write this in solidarity with women of color; women who bear histories of slavery, colonialism, and migration; women whose great-grandmothers picked your cotton, whose grandmothers cleaned your houses, whose mothers labored in sweatshops to sew your clothes, to get us, their daughters, to the place where we are today—college-educated and “professionalized.”


There have been four issues of MATERIAL in eight years—an annual in spirit, a bi-annual in practice, despite our best hopes. The story of each issue, as we can see now, has been about clearing a space: for the mixed-up, the un-thematic, the must-be-said.

Inside Man

Michael Ned Holte is a writer, independent curator, and co-director of the Program in Art at the California Institute of the Arts.


Vanessa Place was the first poet to perform as part of the Whitney Biennial; a content advisory was posted.


Dr. Nizan Shaked is Associate Professor of Contemporary Art History, Museum and Curatorial Studies at California State University Long Beach. Her book The Synthetic Proposition: Conceptualism and the Political Referent in Contemporary Art, forthcoming with Manchester University Press, is a recipient of the 2015 Wyeth Foundation for American Art Publication Grant. Shaked has been a member of the X-TRA Contemporary Art Quarterly editorial board since 2008.

Eight Haikus For B.H.


Prison of Realty

You know what they say: what you own can own you. When the guest editors of the present issue of the Rail call Los Angeles a city of writers, I can’t help but agree.

Excerpt from A Sublime Madness in the Soul

Silton presented this performative work in August, 2015, through the windows of her then-studio in downtown Los Angeles, amidst rapid gentrification in the area.

Double Bind: An Excerpt

This excerpt appears on pages 66 – 68 in Rhea Anastas and Leigh Ledare, Double Bind (New York: A.R.T. Press, 2015). Dialogue by Rhea Anastas and Leigh Ledare; Introduction, Anastas; Preface, Ledare; Photography, Ledare. Editor, Alejandro Cesarco, assisted by Kylie Gilchrist, 264 pgs. Courtesy the authors and A.R.T. Press Art Resources Transfer, New York.


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2016

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