Culture: High & Low With Carolina A. Miranda
Cuba detains Tania Bruguera with Havana Biennial in full swing. How will the art world react?

The latest edition of the Havana Biennial kicked off Friday, but the Cuban artist everyone is talking about does not have a piece in the show.

Tania Bruguera was once again detained by the authorities on Sunday afternoon after staging a performance at her Havana home, in which she and others read passages from Hannah Arendt's "The Origins of Totalitarianism." A video by the civil rights group Patriotic Union of Cuba, embedded in this post, records the moment in which state security agents approach her on the street.

Bruguera was released that same afternoon. But the detention comes at an uncomfortable moment for the Cuban government — just as the art world has descended on the 12th Havana Biennial, an event that has drawn a jet-setting group of international curators, artists and collectors to the Cuban capital for exhibitions, parties and private studio tours.

All of it raises questions about Bruguera's continuing legal limbo. The artist is a Cuban national, but as an internationally...

Read more
Old-time music at a ranch? It's an American idyll

It is late in the afternoon, that time when the light begins to soften and the orange groves seem to shiver in the breeze. More than six dozen people have piled into a century-old farmhouse in the Santa Clara River Valley for an old-time music concert.

John Grimm and Beverly Smith, a pair of musicians from northern Georgia, lightly pick at the strings of their guitars. Notes reach up and then tumble down as they launch into the Carter Family tune "East Virginia Blues #2."

"I am just from East Virginia, with a heart so brave and true," the pair sings, Smith's twangy vocals bubbling up above Grimm's lower register. "And I learned to love a maiden with eyes of heavenly blue."

Heads bob. A field spaniel trots through the room. People snack on tangerines freshly picked from the trees outside. As the musicians reach the song's final bars, the audience is humming along.

This very intimate show is the brainchild of David Bunn, an artist and citrus farmer in Santa Paula who for the last six months...

Read more
Roundup: Vegas style in Turkmenistan, art's 'patron Satan,' fear of shiny planet

The leader of Turkmenistan builds an insane statue to himself. A cartoonist and activist is held in Iran. Plus: that strange intersection between LACMA and the Sony Wikileaks emails, the guy who shot Chris Burden in the arm, the Case Study House that may be in danger of being torn down, and the dark world of cholo Goth.

— Artist and political activist Atena Farghadani has gone on trial in Iran for drawing a cartoon criticizing a proposed law that would restrict birth control. Farghadani faces up to two years imprisonment and lashes. (She is being held at Evin Prison, the notorious Tehran detention center where cartoonist Mana Neyestani was also held — a story that the artist transformed into an excellent graphic novel.)  

— A fully functioning mosque set up by Swiss artist Christoph Büchel as an art installation at the Venice Biennale has been shut down

— In Turkmenistan: Building a cult of personality, one ridiculous sculpture at a time

— How LACMA turned up in the Sony Wikileaks...

Read more
'Cultural feeding frenzy': Art world descends on Cuba for Havana Biennial

Rosa Lowinger has been getting the invitations at a rate of two a day. The Los Angeles-based sculpture conservator, who writes frequently on Cuba and leads art and architectural tours of the country, is in the Cuban capital for the opening of the latest edition of the Havana Biennial. And the mood, she says, is frenetic.

"There are exhibits in every corner of the city: performances, collectives, interventions, you name it," she stated via email from Havana on Thursday. "It feels like the Monday night before Art Basel in Miami. The parties have already started with the Norwegian and Swiss embassies holding bashes for artists and VIPs."

Friday marked the opening of the 12th edition of the Havana Biennial, an event that has the art world abuzz. First launched in 1984 as an exhibition devoted to showcasing the the works of artists from Latin America, it has since morphed into a sprawling international affair with plenty of ancillary events. In the last half dozen years, it has attracted collectors,...

Read more
Old-time music in a citrus grove: Santa Paula's Deep End Sessions on Sunday

Banjos and fiddlers and 19th century murder ballads.

For roughly six months, I've been tooling up to the Santa Clara River Valley every few weeks, to catch a very special series of shows in the middle of a citrus grove. The Deep End Sessions concert series has brought together old-time musicians from all over the country for intimate performances held inside a century-old farmhouse belonging to artist and citrus rancher David Bunn. 

The audience generally doesn't number more than 75 people. Musicians and audiences all share the same living room floor. And afterward, there is a big communal chili supper. All of it is followed by an hourslong old-time jam session, in which musicians both expert and novice whip out their instruments and have at it.

In this way, I've seen Ben Townsend, a banjo player from West Virginia, tell stories about the musicians who taught him some of his repertoire. I've watched Jesse Milnes and Emily Miller's soulful duets (see the embedded video). And I saw banjo...

Read more
Moment of Friday: The Jay Z versus Marina Abramovic feud, illustrated