ROUND-UP January 3-10, 2019

Hello dear readers! I On the Arts will be turning NINE years old in March! I've been doing this writing thing for a while. Here are the first pieces I got published in 2019.
"Jessica Barden gives one of the most intriguing performances of the year in The New Romantic, deftly managing her character’s conflicting layers of emotional naiveté and naked ambition. Blake may aspire to be in love, but she’s also perfectly fine with getting the physical trappings of love—or “romance,” as she puts it when negotiating the terms of her relationship with Ian. Romance, for Blake, is the grand gesture of Ian replacing her bike with an electric moped—a “sex moped,” Blake notes giddily when it’s delivered to her the morning after they consummate their relationship. If she can’t have a rom-com-worthy heartfelt connection with somebody, she’ll happily take the signifiers of those relationships instead."
"In works like “Engendered Species” and “Suck My Dowry,” the combination and mutation of living forms is more precise and expected: animal heads are grafted onto human bodies. But in “The Flood,” and “Blue,” we see that Taj aims to upend the entire biological systems of evolution and adaptation we have come to expect and understand on Earth. “The Flood,” for example, features a rooster’s head on a multi-armed human torso, but also has a cow’s head and another human head extending a sinuous snake’s tongue grafted on top of the rooster’s head, indicating that the new world in of beast / of virgin isn’t just a shuffling and reorganization of human and animal features, but is instead a total re-imagination of these different bodily components and what they might mean together. It’s a total re-conception of evolutionary adaptations and organs."
"The only color photographs in A Thousand Crossings also belong to this family-oriented cluster; “Bloody Nose” immediately steals your focus among this small grouping, where the top of the figure’s face is cut off, the blood flowing and merging with red lips as it smears down the torso and onto the boy’s hands and arms. The inclusion of this photograph also highlights the show’s thesis about memory, history, and commemoration: why is this mundane (albeit quite bloody) event something that Mann would have wanted to memorialize in a photograph? There’s a sense that her children were as much aesthetic subjects as they were small beings dependent on her care - that the desire to clean up the blood--to ameliorate harm--may have been in conflict with her desire to get it on camera--to commemorate this incident for posterity. It’s a question I often think of when I observe artists who use their families as subject matter--but it also ties back into A Thousand Crossings’ interrogation of how memory and the past are generated, and for whose benefit."
"The clichés of such fiction are, of course, ever-present: there are torrid hidden affairs, instances of secret parentage, another murder or two thrown in there for good measure—the expected genre twists and turns galore. (To Turton's credit, the rules of the plot are established quickly and engagingly, sparing us from pages of explanatory exposition.) The particular genius in having a protagonist like Aiden, who is as unknown to himself as he initially is to us, is that we are never left in a position where we are clawing after Hercule Poirot, trying to keep up with a mind we know surpasses our own. What Aiden knows at any given point is what we know, both about his true nature and about the lingering mysteries of Blackheath, and so he develops as a character before our eyes in real-time as the novel progresses."

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