ReactorWeekend

Required Reading

by Hrag Vartanian on February 16, 2014

door-1

Austrian artist Klemens Torggler has designed an ingenious new door that he calls a “flip panel door” (Drehplattentür), and Christopher Jobson of Colossal featured it this week. (via Colossal)

This week, Jasper Johns speaks about his new series, Gehry critique, world press freedoms, what makes a good photo, origin of the word fuck, scientists make nuclear fusion, and more.

 Jasper Johns gives a rare interview to the Financial Times and the article gives us a preview of his latest work, which they describe as his “most personal.” And then there’s this about his relationship with Robert Rauschenberg:

He and Rauschenberg became exceptionally close, taking studios in the same building, making money by designing window displays together for Tiffany’s, and pushing one another artistically. They are frequently described as lovers. As recently as 2013, some critics scorned them – and MoMA, on the occasion of its show, “Johns and Rauschenberg” – for not being blunt about the nature of their relationship. When I asked him several years ago if he and Rauschenberg had been romantically involved, he retorted, “How is it relevant?” For Johns, who once said that while growing up he always felt like a guest in someone else’s house, what mattered was that he’d finally found “kin”.

 Gizmodo’s Geoff Manaugh wants you to know that “Frank Gehry Is Still the World’s Worst Living Architect” #ouch — though honestly, there are soooo many other worse architects out there so not sure why Manaugh has an axe to grind with Gehry:

Gehry long ago stopped pursuing any interesting material or tectonic experimentation — and he used to be an interesting architect! — to become the multi-billion dollar equivalent of a Salvador Dalì poster tacked to the wall in a stoned lacrosse player’s dorm room, an isn’t-it-trippy pile of pseudo-psychedelic bullshit that everyone but billionaire urban developers can see through right away.

 Umm… wow! NPR reports that “Scientists Say Their Giant Laser Has Produced Nuclear Fusion.”

 Think magazine reflects on the museum boom in Asia, and writes:

But if art is all these things, how can museums cope? What should they collect and what should they do? This conundrum is perhaps best captured in the very name of Hong Kong’s museum in the making: M+. The name articulates the desire to exceed the common understanding of what museums are and can be. But as M+ and other museums in Asia find themselves wrestling with these issues, they have a number of examples to look to in the rest of the world.

 Some of you might still be warm and fuzzy from Valentine’s Day, but did you know the holiday has some rather dark origins:

The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival — or longer, if the match was right.

 The true and incredible story of the United States’s first black female slave novelist (h/t @ainaabiodun):

Everybody during slavery times recognized that virtually the entire white population of the slave states was engaged in a conspiracy to prevent the slaves from acquiring even a basic education, let alone the kind of literary sophistication that is generally needed to write a good book. The slave narratives demonstrated that, even so, some of the slaves had ended up at least modestly educated. The authors of those narratives appeared to be Houdinis who had made a double escape — from bondage and from enforced illiteracy. They were people of superior talent. Only, how could that be so, if the slaves belonged to an inferior race? Nor could their achievement be dismissed merely as the feat of isolated individuals.

 Is Amazon bad for books?

Recently, Amazon even started creating its own “content” — publishing books. The results have been decidedly mixed. A monopoly is dangerous because it concentrates so much economic power, but in the book business the prospect of a single owner of both the means of production and the modes of distribution is especially worrisome: it would give Amazon more control over the exchange of ideas than any company in U.S. history. Even in the iPhone age, books remain central to American intellectual life, and perhaps to democracy. And so the big question is not just whether Amazon is bad for the book industry; it’s whether Amazon is bad for books.

 Reporters Without Borders have released the 2014 World Press Freedom Index, and here the top 10 “free” countries:

  1. Finland
  2. The Netherlands
  3. Norway
  4. Luxembourg
  5. Andorra
  6. Lichtenstein
  7. Denmark
  8. Iceland
  9. New Zealand
  10. Sweden

Germany comes in at #14, Canada is #18, Australia is #28, UK is #33, France is #39, and the US comes in at #46. The least free nation is Eritrea, followed closely by North Korea, Turkmenistan, Syria, Somalia, and China.

 High fashion’s ugly secrets:

The criticism that the fashion industry promotes an unhealthy ideal, and that models are extremely thin, you know, is legitimate. But what most people probably don’t realize is that that body type is really based on casting girls instead of women. And so there’s a labor dimension to that, that I think people are oblivious to.

 Jörg Colberg has some thoughts on this year’s World Press Photo contest. He wonders what the criteria should be and how subjective the decision is:

For this very reason I don’t want to discuss whether or not the 57th World Press Photo of the Year is a great picture. The jury decided it is. You might agree — or not. But it really doesn’t make much sense to argue over what a great picture is. Instead, there is a lot to be gained from looking at other people’s great pictures and to try to see what they see.

… It’s very, very hard to disentangle what we know about a photograph from what is actually in it from what that photograph makes us feel. It’s not impossible, though.

And this nugget:

One of the ways to get around what we humans read into pictures is to ask the machines what they think.

 In response to this week’s announcement that the Museum of Modern Art is storing the metal facade of the American Folk Art Museum, there’s this hilarious image:

 Things just got ugly for LGBTQ people in Kansas:

The bill that just overwhelmingly passed the Kansas House of Representatives is quite something. You can read it in its entirety here. It is premised on the notion that the most pressing injustice in Kansas right now is the persecution some religious people are allegedly experiencing at the hands of homosexuals.

 On the origin of the word “fuck“:

Instances of fuck before the fifteenth century are rare. Despite it commonly being classed as one of the Anglo-Saxon four-letter words, Jesse Sheidlower (author of an entire book on fuck, and past editor of the OED so he knows what he’s talking about) suspects that it came into English in the fifteenth century from something like Low German, Frisian or Dutch. While ‘fuck’ existed in English before then it was never used to mean rogering, instead it typically meant ‘to strike’ (which was, way-back-when, related to the word that became fuck because it’s a kind of hitting … ). Anything that appears earlier is most likely to be the use of fuck to mean ‘to strike’. If you wanted to talk about making whoopee in a dirty way, the Middle English word to use was swive.

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning EST, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts or photo essays worth a second look.

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