ReactorWeekend

Required Reading

by Hrag Vartanian on July 13, 2014

Ever wonder what engagement rings looked like in history? This gold and enamel engagement ring with a Greek Inscription (c. 1175–1300 CE)  (image courtesy of the National Archaeological Museum, Athens, via Getty Iris Blog)

Ever wonder what engagement rings looked like in history? This gold and enamel engagement ring from the Byzantine Empire with a Greek Inscription (c. 1175–1300 CE) is part of the current “Earth and Heaven: The Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections” exhibition at the Getty Villa in Malibu, California. (image courtesy of the National Archaeological Museum, Athens, via Getty Iris Blog)

This week, why contemporary art museums are vital, the drawbacks of internet visibility, smells of the Byzantine Empire, working in the Domino Sugar Refinery before Kara Walker, all the Vermeers in the world, and more.

 Philippe Vergne, the head of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), offers a manifesto on why the contemporary art museum is such a vital thing. While it contains some troubling and meaningless cliches, such as “A museum of contemporary art is an ideal where great art meets great patronage and the other way around,” it is still a recommended read:

A museum of contemporary art is a factory of clouds and imagination; a place where time and spaces are liberated, freed from conventional wisdom. Not a place for transgression nor dissension, but a way of trespassing: a passage.

A museum of contemporary art is neither populist nor elitist. It is the location for innovation, experimentation and conversation. It is where ideas break open. It is place of accretion for which simultaneity defies accumulation and succession; it is a public place not a box, not a white cube, born from and for relationships between objects, ideas, projects, individuals and communities.

 A highly recommended read over at Model View Culture about the negative side of internet visibility:

We consider visibility to be desirable.

It is highly lucrative, much sought after. And yes, it is a huge asset in the careers and companies of many cishet white men. Visibility gets them jobs, raises, venture capital, customers, community support … chances at more visibility in a bountiful cycle of pageviews and cash, money and power. With visibility is supposed to come admiration, respect, access, affluence — and for most of such men, it delivers.

Yet for the rest of us, with visibility comes harassment, stalking, threats, loss of career opportunity and mobility, constant public humiliation, emotional and sometimes physical violence.

 A man who worked at the Domino Sugar Refinery for 20 years shares his experiences as a docent for Kara Walker’s “Subtlety” installation:

“I was the first person of color to work in the engineering office,” Shelton remembers. “I ran into a lot of problems in the refinery among…my own black brothers… the African Americans called me an “uncle tom” and the West Indians called me ‘white jacket, black jacket’. I did what I was told to do…as long as it was right. Uncle Tom is supposed to be someone who kissed butt but I never had to kiss butt.”

… Although strikes were common, the conflict that began in 2002 was especially bitter. “The foremen brought in scabs,” remembers Shelton. “I had to throw eggs at the strike and I had to lay in front of the trucks. As the strike went on we began to break. It was hard times…$400 a month unemployment…nothing like the $1000 a week we were making….bills were starting to back up…I crossed the picket line.” Shortly after the strike was settled, the Brooklyn refinery closed but a refinery in Yonkers remained open. Those who had crossed the line in Brooklyn were rewarded with better jobs in Yonkers.

 Russia is starting to create new laws to regulate the internet:

Russia’s parliament passed a law on Friday to force Internet sites that store the personal data of Russian citizens to do so inside the country, a move the Kremlin says is for data protection but which critics see an attack on social networks.

The law will mean that from 2016, all Internet companies will have to move Russian data onto servers based in Russia or face being blocked from the web. That would likely affect U.S.-based social networks such as Facebook, analysts say.

Coming after new rules requiring blogs attracting more than 3,000 daily visits to register with a communications watchdog and a regulation allowing websites to be shut without a court order, critics say the law is part of a wave of censorship.

“The aim of this law is to create … (another) quasi-legal pretext to close Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all other services,” Internet expert and blogger Anton Nossik told Reuters.

 Some troubling news for writers, as an Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) survey in the UK finds median annual earnings for professional writers have fallen to £11,000 (~$18,800), 29% down since 2005:

According to a survey of almost 2,500 working writers – the first comprehensive study of author earnings in the UK since 2005 – the median income of the professional author in 2013 was just £11,000 (~$18,800), a drop of 29% since 2005 when the figure was £12,330 (~$21,100) (£15,450 [~$26,400] if adjusted for inflation), and well below the £16,850 (~$28,800) figure the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says is needed to achieve a minimum standard of living. The typical median income of all writers was even less: £4,000 (~$6,800) in 2013, compared to £5,012 (~$8,500) in real terms in 2005, and £8,810 (~$15,000) in 2000.

 The Getty is exploring the smells of the Byzantine Empire, which is not how we traditionally think of history:

By the time the Emperor Constantine rechristened the town of Byzantium as Constantinople in A.D. 330, human use of aroma was sophisticated, intentional, and above all, well established. Moreover, thanks to great trade routes such as the Silk Road and the Spice Route, rare materials could be obtained from far away, though often at a fairly high price.

In the earliest years of Constantinople, the new emperor Constantine actually provided instructions about how perfume was to be used in his realm. As an example, take the book known as the Vita Silvestri of the Liber Pontificalis, which records his directions and budgets for the new Christian basilicas he had built throughout the Empire. Plans were customized to each basilica, but most often included a budget for spikenard oil to perfume the chandeliers, balsam oil for the Baptistries, and enough spices and incense to fill the holy days with holy smoke. For worship, scent mattered.

Further evidence for the smells of early Byzantium comes from another unexpected source, a book of commercial law attributed to Emperor Leo VI. His Book of the Eparch lists rules for perfumers—many quite specific, limiting their wares to “pepper, spikenard, cinnamon, aloeswood, ambergris, musk, frankincense, myrrh, balsam, indigo, dyers’ herbs, lapis lazuli, fustic, storax,” and determining the location of their shop stalls as “placed in a row between the milestone and the revered icon of Christ that stands above the Bronze Arcade, so that aroma may waft upwards to the icon and at the same time fill the vestibule of the Royal Palace.”

 Artsy founder Carter Cleveland says art in the future will be for everyone, and here are his six points:

  1. The art of tomorrow will be the technology of today.
  2. An “upper-middle-brow” of art will emerge.
  3. The art market will expand massively.
  4. There will be many more galleries.
  5. New artists will be discovered faster, and location won’t matter (as much).
  6. Education today will ensure the longevity of art in the future.

 All 35 of the world’s Vermeers in one image, and stories of people who want Vermeers by Rex Sorgatz:

Here are (presumably) all of Vermeer’s paintings. But they look like photo thumbnails, right? We will get to that. (via Medium)

Here are (presumably) all of Vermeer’s paintings. But they look like photo thumbnails, right? We will get to that. (via Medium)

Why would Vermeer have copied an obscure Italian painting? Copying was quite common then, not only as an act of training, but also for financial gain. So perhaps Tim’s theory was right — Vermeer was a copier.

 Wonder how special effect on the popular HBO series Game of Thrones work? This video demonstrates how:

Game of Thrones, Season 4 – VFX making of reel from Mackevision on Vimeo.

 And a Japanese exhibition teaches children about toilets and shit.

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning EST, and 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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