Four years: an eternity or an instant? Though the unimaginable presidency of Donald J. Trump is still in its infancy, its consequences seem already permanent, our history forever tarnished, our values junked for good. But as Ma Yansong, one of Beijing’s most trenchant young architects, tells us in an interview, four years isn’t even long enough to build an apartment block, let alone a future. It’s all so unprecedented that neither apocalyptic predictions nor assurances of continuity seem entirely credible. What we know from art is this: the times mark you whether or not you desire it, and dreams of withdrawal are as foolish from the president’s foes as from his make-it-great-again nostalgists. Artist or autocrat, you cannot take a pause from history.

Our sixth issue of Even is an uncommonly American one. Down in Washington, Lauretta Charlton revisits the Smithsonian’s heralded museum of black history and culture, whose forward-dawning narrative seemed on point in September but soured two months later. Up in New York, Allison Hewitt Ward picks apart our assumptions about art’s political efficacy, and wonders why we seem most confident in culture when it fails to make an impact. The role of art in times of crisis is not a new question for us, of course, and there are foreign lessons for this age of American unexceptionalism. Even no. 6 also plunges us into thrumming, wildly expensive Luanda, where music is all about who you know: Angola’s hip-hop stars drink with oil ministers in beachfront clubs, and MCs who rap about nepotism end up behind bars. We Americans had long thought of kleptocracy as a foreign art. It has come home, and all of us had better study.

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Portfolio

In Occidente, a dreamy enjambment of Brazilian and Portuguese history by the artist ANA VAZ, grainy 16mm footage of surfers and Sunday lunches gives way to Google Street View renderings of Lisbon’s Praça do Comércio, the regal central square built after the famous 1755 earthquake. The Enlightenment ideals the square embodies are tied up with the colonial missions that embarked from its adjacent port — and in fleeting shots of china and porcelain, silver and furniture, the Old World’s commodities seem on the verge of crying out their foul play. More recently, in the sublimely assured Há Terra! (Land Ho!), Vaz’s camera races through the long grasses of the Brazilian backlands, where a young woman keeps evading view. It first recalls early ethnographic cinema, but here there is no privilege from being behind the camera. If this is indeed the Anthropocene, we are all both hunter and hunted.

Even, a new magazine about art, culture, and politics.

We’re tired of hearing about culture as opaque and unapproachable. Even positions art, music, architecture, and film within the context of the world’s biggest stories, from the current crisis in Brazil to the rise of Spotify and Uber. Our serious, at times irreverent writing bridges the misunderstood gap between culture and the world.

Even More

Carey Young.
Dallas Museum of Art. Opens February 2.

Born in Zambia, based in London, Young at last gets her first stateside solo — which will include some of her most frank meditations on power and its abuses. Of note is her timely new film imagining a girls-run-the-world form of justice: it portrays female magistrates at the bombastic Palais de Justice in Brussels, the largest courthouse ever built.

Merce Cunningham.
Walker Art Center and MCA Chicago. Opens February 8.

Once it was nonsense to present dance in a museum; now no institution is complete without writhing performers in an oversized atrium. It all started with Merce, whose dances obeyed every rule and yet knew no limits — and whose achievements are invoked in this two-museum exhibition of his dances, sets, costumes, and films.

Wolfgang Tillmans.
Tate Modern, London. Opens February 14.

How could a post-Brexit show from Tillmans, who so passionately supported the Remain campaign — and created its iconic posters — not have rattling political undertones? The most dramatic turn in his work (which also marks the chronological beginning of the exhibition) occurred after the invasion of Iraq, and this show, as Tillmans tells is, has no lesser duty than “to defend the pillars of the free world order.”

Zanele Muholi. Maitland Institute, Cape Town. Opens February 15.

The inaugural show at this new arts institution goes to the South African photographer and activist who won international renown — but also faced violent reprisals — for “Faces and Phases,” her years-long project documenting the lives and loves of black lesbians. Lately, though, Muholi has turned to making self-portraits ironically accessorized with bottle tops, plastic bags, or cheap wigs, and her enduring glamour is both a personal provocation and a political action.