Staff Picks: Crayoned Cartoons and Computer Corruption


This Week’s Reading


James Hoff, Stuxnet No. 1, 2014, chromaluxe transfer on aluminum, 30″ × 24″. Image via BOMB

I caught Susan Te Kahurangi King’s exhibition at Andrew Edlin Gallery before it closes this weekend, and I’m glad I did. I’d never heard of her, but her cartoony, figurative drawings have affinities with work by some of my favorite artists: Gary Panter, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Barry McGee, and Peter Saul. King hails from New Zealand (her middle name is Maori), and has drawn prolifically since childhood. The show contains work she made when she was only about a decade old; these drawings aren’t notable for their technical prowess but because their imagery and composition carry over into the drawings she made when she was older. That is to say, these are forms and arrangements that have preoccupied King for much of her life. Tightly packed configurations of Bugs Bunnies and Donald Ducks and other figures—sometimes colored with bright crayons, other times left as outlines—are frequently cloistered on one side of the paper, resembling fragments of ancient tablets. Most works in the show are from the sixties and seventies; King mysteriously stopped drawing in the eighties and has only now taken it up again. Here’s hoping this is only the first of many exhibitions to come. —Nicole Rudick

For a few months now I’ve been irritating my friends, colleagues, and loved ones by using one of the artist James Hoff’s contaminated ringtones. Call me up and anyone nearby will hear a version of Apple’s standard iPhone Marimba ringtone infected with the ILOVEYOU virus, a computer worm from 2000. This sounds like exactly what it is: broken. A familiar motif corrupted with static, screeches, and squelches, and so rendered at once annoying and unsettling. (“Your phone is fucked,” a guy once told me on the street, his voice suggesting that a close relative of mine had just died.) The infected ringtones are part of Hoff’s vast, viral canon: he’s reduced a stunning variety of images and songs to code and then reconstituted them with corrupt code inside. “My newer work definitely draws from everyday phenomena inside the background noise of pop culture,” Hoff told BOMB earlier this year: “computer viruses, ear-worms, and syndromes. All of these are illnesses, broadly speaking. Viruses, like art, need a host, preferably a popular one … Like traditional illnesses, computer viruses travel through networks of communication or trade … A few years back I felt the need to try and to reconcile my creative process with the language of code, which is touching everything these days. It’s to the point where I don’t even know if you could say that this table right here (knocking on table) doesn’t have code underneath it.” It’s hard to think of an artist today engaging more profoundly with the seamy underbelly of our technocracy—and as hacking scandals continue to make headlines, his work only becomes more relevant. —Dan Piepenbring

Blanche McCrary Boyd was my creative-writing advisor at Connecticut College. For more than twenty-five years, she’s collected scores of young writers—many of us inattentive, hungover, and horny—vying for a seat in her twelve-person fiction seminar. To call her a deft storyteller would be an understatement; Blanche would routinely fill our three-hour sessions with tales of addiction, recovery, and everything in between. I picked up her second novel, The Revolution of Little Girls (1991), in an attempt to recapture the awesome terror of her voice—and it did not disappoint. Blanche’s familiar tone is unavoidable, especially so in her protagonist, Ellen Burns. A delightfully wry and impulsively adventurous southern belle, Ellen stumbles headlong into an affair with another woman. But not before spending her early years stealing fish, getting drunk on spirits of ammonia, and hypnotizing a dean or two at Duke. Ellen is charming when graceless and wonderfully nasty when need be. A definite mainstay in lesbian literature, Blanche’s novel is a wild trip of insight, uncomfortable giggles, and old-fashioned wisecracks. —Alex Celia