The Don’t Do It guide to 2016: what to see, do and read this year

To celebrate our forthcoming Issue #10, “Beginnings”, the Don’t Do It team round up our favourite things from 2015 – and what we’re looking forward to next year.

Aleksi Koponen

2015

Agnes Martin at Tate Modern

Like a therapy session or an inner shower. A time warp. A melancholy calm.

Morgen und Abend at the Royal Opera House

Georg Friedrich Haas’ unnerving micro-intervals and Jon Fosse’s dazzlingly punishing libretto. Everything you could wish for a good night out.

Jennifer Cooke’s Apocalypse Dreams

Cooke’s latest gem of a collection after *not suitable for domestic sublimation. “how shit would it be if the end of the world/ was a rave in the snow. yet here it is.”

The Oresteia at the Almeida

Wunderkind Robert Icke’s rendering of the Greek play succeeded in everything that the other, much-hyped Greek play tried to but failed. It was current, raw and poised—Hara Yannas’ Cassandra especially breathtaking.

lines lines lines lines lines lines

Agnes Martin, Friendship (1963). Photo: Museum of Modern Art, New York

 

2016

Diane Williams’ new story collection Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine

McSweeney’s can’t put this out quickly enough. Williams packs all the four humours in one sentence.

A mountain of Wagner

Opera North’s Ring cycle at Southbank Centre and Sage Gateshead, Tannhäuser at the Royal Opera House, Tristan and Isolde in ENO and Helsinki, Parsifal in Berlin and in Stockholm.

Joanna Walsh’s Vertigo

The new story collection from Walsh, who gave us Grow A Pair and Hotel, finally published in the UK by And Other Stories. From her lapidary Hotel: ‘To show the family away from home is to show it at its most powerful. That it exists outside its setting without splitting, crumbling, is to show something almost invincible. To become invincible it must harden.’

Francis Bacon’s retrospective at Tate Liverpool

Discomfort over beauty.

The following, as I understand, is not actually forthcoming next year, but if I list it, maybe it will:

The English translation of Elfriede Jelinek’s Die Kinder der Toten

Gitta Honegger, I am begging you.

Stephanie Boland

2015: Events and exhibitions

I saw too many good things to count last year: Olwen Fouéré in Samuel Beckett’s Lessness at the Barbican, manipulating the archives of a dreamworld Stasi; Lanark at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow; Arthur Russell – Instrumentals, which shone despite a not-wholly-successful venue change; the Eames exhibition at the Barbican (on, still; prepare for three laps, minimum).

In Boston, Marilyn Arsem’s 100 Ways to Consider Time was warm, still and faintly unnerving. On the day I dropped by, Arsem was silently tallying seconds, pinning the completed pagefuls around the walls. Her performance continues at the Museum of Fine Arts until February 19th and is free with admission.

I was also lucky enough to catch Inspiration Japan at the Kunsthaus in Zürich earlier this year. Tracing the influence of Japanese art on the Impressionists, it unfortunately ended in May. The reviews, though, are well worth reading.

Books

I’m very into you, McKenzie Wark and Kathy Acker

There are a number of books which the Don’t Do It editors collectively fell in love with last year. The most memorable for me was I’m very into you, which collects the e-mail correspondence between McKenzie Wark and the late Kathy Acker. It’s full of things like this:

I know what you mean about slipping roles: I love it, going high low, power helpless even captive, male female, all over the place, space totally together and brain-sharp, if it wasn’t for play I’d be bored stiff and I think boredom is the emotion I find most unbearable (Kathy Acker)

and this:

I’m probably not a bad choice of person to whom to unburden yourself about Sylvère. I don’t have any preconceptions and I’m a long way away. It sounds like *he’s* the one with an identity problem. From your account it sounds like one of those things where he feels about an inch tall so he’s making out like you’re half an inch tall. It’s interesting how the value of the past with someone depends on how much they keep faith with that shared past. Sounds like an unpleasant experience. Old friends should know better than to disappoint us! Makes us question ourselves as much as them, as there is a bit of them in us, us in them… (McKenzie Wark)

Chris Kraus, of recent I Love Dick fame, is writing a biography of Acker at the moment (and yes; the Sylvère above is that Sylvère). 

I'm very into you. Photo: Semiotext(e)

I’m very into you. Photo: Semiotext(e)

Nicotine, Gregor Hens

Gregor Hens’ Nicotine was one of my favourite books from Fitzcorraldo Editions, a house doing consistently excellent things for essays and translated fiction. Hens’ thoughts on his addiction can be read over the course of a longish train journey, and they’re seductive even to this non-smoker. (It helps that Jen Calleja is a phenomenal translator; you can read an interview about the translation process in The Quietus here.)

The Dirty Dust, Máirtín Ó Cadhain 

A new translation of Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s Cré na Cille, The Dirty Dust, came out in April. With probably one of the best opening pages ever penned (“Fuck them anyway if they plonked me in the Ten Shilling plot after all the warnings I gave them”), this edition also comes with a fiercely brilliantly introduction from translator Alan Titley. I keep it by my bedside, which is probably terrible bad luck, but what can you do?

Other things I loved: Maggie Nielson’s Bluets (I came to this one late: it’s a 2009 emotional, thoughtful, erotic meditation on blue, being and seeing of); Frederic Jameson’s The Ancients and the Postmoderns: On the Historicity of Forms; Ali Smith’s take in Antigone; this hilarious interview; this piece on the mathematics of all-male panels; Spitalfields Life; Patti Smith’s M Train; Anne Enright on Antigone and the ongoing injustices of Irish church/state misogyny; everything by Rebecca Solnit.

2016: Events

Falling firmly in the DDI remit, the Whitechapel Gallery’s Electronic Superhighway (2016-1966) is first up in my diary for the New Year. The exhibition explores the influence of the internet on art from the 1960s onward, and features Olia Lialina, creator of the fantastic My Boyfriend Came Back From the War (1996), as well as Lynn Hershman Leeson’s early interactive installation.

Lessness, as mentioned above, is on in Dublin at the end of January. The performance is arresting, and I urge you to see it while you can.

With Shakespeare’s 400th, it’s going to be Bard-heavy year in the UK. The performance I’m most looking forward to is The Tempest at the Sam Wanamaker. Performed in a small space, by candlelight, I’m hoping for a break from the bombastic touch which has overwhelmed too many Tempest productions.

In June, I’ll be at St John’s Smith Square for Deep∞Minimalism. With a majority-female lineup, the festival celebrates music with the quality of thought, from JS Bach to Éliane Radigue and Jennifer Walshe.

From July, the Tate Modern will be presenting a Georgia O’Keeffe retrospective to mark the centenary (can you believe it?) of her New York debut. The perfect chance to get beyond the flowers and see the whole range of O’Keeffe’s work.

If I can make it back to Zürich sometime this year, I’ll be planning around the Dada jubilee. The city is hosting public lectures, exhibitions and events which explore the history and spread of Dada from 1916 to today. (It may run counter to several key tenets of the original manifestos but I can’t quite bring myself to care.)

The Kunsthaus — I promise I’m not in their pay — is also digitising their Dada collection, which will be available online this year.

Me on the way to steal your man

Dada New York, 2915.

Books

Vertigo, Joanna Walsh

Hotel (Bloomsbury Academic, £11.99) was another collective DDI favourite in 2015 (see below). Walsh is one of the most important writers today in terms of exploring the gap between the possibilities and actualities of female experience, and what it means to navigate that gap. To me she is therapeutic: heartfelt but poised, cynical but not hard.

Like Aleksi, I’m hugely excited for the 2016 UK release of her short story cycle Vertigo. It comes out in March from And Other Stories and promises to “[pull] us deep into the panic that underlies everyday life”.

The Good Immigrant

The Good Immigrant is an amazing crowd-funded essay collection asking what it means to be an immigrant (“or the child of one, or even the grandchild of one”) at a time when certain vocal commentators are fond of praising the egalitarian “melting pot” of British culture – while everything from police statistics to literary prize shortlists tells a different story.

Edited by Nikesh Shukla, it has contributions from various columnists, playwrights, writers, journalists, actors and comedians and comes out with Unbound in June.

Other new books I’ll be buying: Human Acts by Han King of The Vegetarian fame (Granta, January); In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri (Bloomsbury, February); Prix Goncourt-winning Maria Ndiaye’s Ladivine (Knopf, April); poetry collection Olio from Tyehimba Jess (Wave Books, April); the new Pushkin translation of Gaito Gazdanov’s The Flight (Pushkin Press, March); Amy Liprot’s The Outrun, out any minute now from Canongate.

Justin Raden

I didn’t read many newly published books last year, at least not for leisure. But there was an awful lot on offer this year. My list is limited to the things I didn’t manage to justify putting off for next year.

2015

Sphinx, Anne Garréta

Joe Milazzo keyed me into this when I interviewed him for issue #9, and it didn’t disappoint. Garréta is a member of Oulipo, but the riddle of Sphinx isn’t merely formal. The novel is un-gendered—admittedly a more impressive feat in its original French—but knowing this in advance is hardly a cypher. (Incidentally, Joe’s Crepuscule W/ Nellie would have made my 2014 list.)

Headless, KD 

Part ongoing performance art piece, part cheesy murder mystery; Headless is a slippery fish. I reviewed this for Entropy back in the summer and I’m still trying to figure out what the hell it’s all about.

The New Whitney and the Semiotext(e) Whitney Series

The Whitney series, a collection of 28 books, was published for the Whitney biennial, and so technically dates from 2014. But, seeing as the New Whitney opened in 2015, I’m going to cheat a bit and throw these together.

The New Whitney, situated in painfully upscale Chelsea and with an entrance that looks like an idealized Scandinavian airport ticket counter, is a difficult to read statement about the institution of art in 2015. I’m still not sure what is says, to be perfectly honest, but the viewing spaces are capacious and the opening exhibition, “America Is Hard to See,” impressively captured a range of divergent trajectories in American art.

Among the Semiotext(e) Whitney series publications, I would highly recommend Tony Duvert’s The Undiscoverable Reading. It’s a good introduction to Duvert’s fascinating oeuvre–much of which is, unfortunately, out of print in translation. Luckily, Semiotext(e) have recently translated Duvert’s Good Sex Illustrated and Diary of an Innocent with Atlantic Island forthcoming this year, all of which were previously unavailable in English.

Joshua Cohen – PCKWCK

Cohen live wrote a short novel over the course of five days, for five hours a day. It was mainly just fun to watch him chain smoke shirtless on the site’s webcam. The text is offline now, but a meatspace version is forthcoming from Useless Press and all the proceeds will be donated to the ACLU.

Hotel, Joanna Walsh

Just in time to make the list, I spent the last two days of 2015 reading Walsh’s book Hotel. I’m particularly fond of anything to do with itineracy, spaciality, and depression (so long as its not sentimental), so this felt like a tailor-made read for the end of the year.

The Whitney. Photo: Wikimedia/Bill Benzon

The Whitney. Photo: Wikimedia/Bill Benzon

 2016

For 2016, most of the things I’m looking forward to don’t really have broad appeal. But I am curious to see what fiktion.cc comes out with in the coming year. They’ve been publishing fiction on a web-based reader and in e-pub format in an experimental response to the apparent crisis in publishing.

I’ve been speculating privately for a while that they’ll eventually publish something by Elfriede Jelinek, who’s on their advisory board. Maybe 2016 is the year?