This week, Syrian heritage under threat, invisible art, Franz West remembrance, Etsy’s feminist disappointment, Ai Weiwei as Warhol, fashion criticism and more.
UNESCO is ringing alarm bells at the nature of the threat against the Old City of Aleppo, which has been a World Heritage Site since 1986. The site, which I’ve had the pleasure of visiting on many occasions (I was born in Aleppo), is thousands of years old and sits in the heart of one of the world’s oldest cities.
Of course, this isn’t the only historic landmark under threat due to the escalating civil war in Syria. Other significant sites UNESCO is keeping its eye on are Crac des Chevaliers, Palmyra, the ancient villages in northern Syria and Damascus, which is reputed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.
Over at the London Review of Books, Brian Dillon looks at the Hayward Gallery’s half-century survey of “invisible” art, Invisible: Art About the Unseen 1957–2012:
The exhibition shuttles between the sublime idea of absolute nothing and the engaging reality of almost nothing. This oscillation has a prehistory, broached as much in certain artists’ attempts to articulate it verbally as in their near absconded works. Robert Rauschenberg’s “Erased de Kooning Drawing” (1953) is the record of a month’s careful rubbing out and therefore not exactly a pure void, more a palimpsest in reverse — in Jasper Johns’s words, an ‘additive subtraction.’ Such a work has also, of course, to live in a world that may fill it with meaning or form; John Cage had already observed of some white paintings of Rauschenberg’s that they were ‘landing strips’ for light and shadow. Cage, whose ”4’33”” is just the most notorious instance of an apparently silent work filled with inadvertent sound, liked to tell the story of visiting an anechoic chamber at Harvard, and in the absence of all other noise hearing the roar of his bloodstream and the electric whine of his nervous system. It’s more likely that he was experiencing mild tinnitus, but his insight holds: ‘What silence requires is that I go on talking.’
An amusing new mural by Italian street artists, Blu, celebrates vegetarianism.
This week, Austrian sculptor Franz West passed away. Darsie Alexander, the chief curator of the Walker, and the organizer of a big 2008 Franz West show in Baltimore, has written up her remembrances of the artist over at the Walker blog:
While clearly the visionary and mind behind every work, Franz relied on talented collaborators and helpers who contributed to the lively energy of his work environment and pushed his practice in new directions. He tracked the work of young artists and musicians closely, ending every Monday night at a live club near downtown that played deafening electronic music—one of his passions. In truth, I learned as much about this artist by hanging out with him as I did poring over a hundred hours of interview tape recounting his history.
I have a feeling that I really don’t have to do more than post the title for this article to make you want to read it:
“Etsy.com Peddles a False Feminist Fantasy: No, you can’t quit your day job to make quilts.”
Ryan Wong tackles Never Sorry, the documentary about Ai Weiwei for Asian American Writers’ Workshop. His words are thought provoking:
The frequent comparison of Ai to Andy Warhol is useful here. Warhol’s television-ready persona coincided with the explosion of mass marketing and pop culture in 1960s America. Ai caught the triple waves of the contemporary Chinese art boom, the international focus on political liberties in China, and the new media of blogging and tweeting. In 2007, Ai wrote on his blog: “The significance of Andy Warhol lies in the fact that while he was not widely recognized as a serious artist during his lifetime, his milieu and his works so far exceeded the expectations of the era that he changed the reality and ideals of American art.” Substitute “global art” for “American art,” and he could just as well have been writing a version of his own biography. Societies will occasionally attach to an artist a prophetic aura. If Warhol was the prophet of consumption, branding, and self-promotion, Ai has shown the power of creative dissent, feeding media-friendly stunts to a wide social media network and global art discourse.
We often hear chatter about the relevance of art critics, but how about fashion critics? Business of Fashion has this post that includes these options for critics in that industry that sound quite familiar to those in art:
Well, it seems the fashion critic has three choices. He can buy into the bullshit and accept the whole carnival of press handouts, photo shoots, styling gimmicks, the show and what they say about the actual clothes. He can puncture the bullshit and tell the truth about the lamentable standards of commercial fashion. Or he can play the honest broker and go halfway or simply find other things to write about such as the number of roses in a room and the names of the front row personalities.
And we present the new must-see art tumblelog post, Pubes in Ancient Athens.
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