This issue was conceived by Catherine Chevalier and Jay Chung as part of a magazine residency program at the Kadist Foundation in San Francisco in November 2011.
We were told while putting together this issue that one of the main hindrances to San Francisco-based artists reaching out to an international audience was the city’s lack of a media outlet: Artforum had long ago moved to New York, and its potential successors and alternatives had all but disappeared. The Kadist Foundation, who had invited us to participate in their residency program for magazines, was hoping to position the city as a node in an international network by promoting exchanges with local artists, writers, and institutions. May, however, was completely unknown to the city, and it seemed paradoxical that the foundation had chosen to foster the local art scene by mediating it to the rest of the world.
“The international boondocks are in your head, not only in a geographic situation,” say the editors of 4 Taxis in an interview with East of Borneo editor-in-chief Thomas Lawson (“Questions about 4Taxis”). With the Kadist Foundation’s approach in mind, we came to the conclusion that we would do well to look at the cultural strategies and economies that have formed out of, or as a response to, the representation of place. May, whose content has largely been concentrated on cultural production in New York and Europe, could expand its scope with a self-reflexive critical analysis.
“Provincialism” was the first word that came to mind, but only because of how the question of place has been formulated in the past (see the essay “The Provincialism Problem” by Terry Smith (1974) and its reassessment in this issue, “There is No Provincialism Problem,” by Rex Butler and Andrew D. Donaldson). As Butler and Donaldson point out, the question has no answer; the difficulty is not in one’s locale but in its formulation as a problem in the first place.
The same could be said for Pacific Standard Time, a survey of postwar art from Los Angeles. The ongoing program was delineating the art history of the region at an unheard of scale, including exhibitions and events at over sixty official institutions. One saw with this concerted effort an attempt to promote a cultural capital to rival New York, an expensive but dubious marketing campaign. Los Angeles’s real rivalries, as essays by Alex Kitnick (“Neon Vernacular”) and Kappy Mintie (“Unearthing the Campesino”) suggest, take place on its own borders.
In contrast to the rhetoric of Pacific Standard Time, the elegiac tone of Ken Okiishi’s work isn’t about an insider’s familiarity, a city in decadence, burdened by its own crumbling mythology. The image of New York is given a temporal dimension. Occupy Wall Street was in full swing, and for some it was a good sign that the present felt like the past. Before flashing back to a half-imagined memory of the nineties and the rush that comes with an instability that has nothing to do with the banks (“The Threat of the Provincial”), Okiishi hesitantly quotes the feeling in the air: “New York feels like New York again.”