This week, Mandela is gone, Hopi artifacts go on sale in Paris, smarm is bad, books on Lucian Freud, playing da Vinci’s piano-cello, and more.
”His Day is Done – A Tribute Poem for Nelson Mandela” by Dr. Maya Angelou, a video message delivered by Angelou on behalf of the American people in memory of Nelson Mandela:
“All the musicians we interviewed, from street musicians to musicians like B.B. King and Estelle and a few of the bigger names … they were all touched by Mandela and they all had this need to, I guess, to pay tribute to him,” said writer-director Jason Bourque.
An interesting piece about Mandela’s relationship to violence (he was not non-violent):
For Mandela, violence was a tactic. As Christopher Dickey noted, “when it came to the use of violence, as with so much else in his life, Mandela opted for pragmatism over ideology.”
Mandela’s own explanation of the his group’s approach to militant tactics was nuanced, highlighting again that violence is not one stable category:
We considered four types of violent activities — sabotage, guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and open revolution. For a small and fledgling army, open revolution was inconceivable. Terrorism inevitably reflected poorly on those who used it, undermining any public support it might otherwise garner. Guerrilla warfare was a possibility, but since the ANC had been reluctant to embrace violence at all, it made sense to start with the form of violence that inflicted the least harm against individuals.
Lawyers representing the Hopi tribe and an advocacy group lost a court battle in France to halt the auction of sacred objects:
Corinne Matouk, a lawyer who represented the Drouot auction house said the law was on their side.
“In French law there is nothing stopping the sale of Hopi artifacts.”
But let’s get at the deeper substance. What defines smarm, as it functions in our culture? “Smarm” and “smarmy” go back to the older “smalm,” meaning to smooth something down with grease — and by extension to be unctuous or flattering, or smug. Smarm aspires to smother opposition or criticism, to cover everything over with an artificial, oily gloss.
Writing about the Surviving Sandy show, curated by Phong Bui, Roberta Smith of the New York Times writes:
There are many reasons for living in a great city like New York. One is all the time you can spend in the company of strangers — made possible by the city’s streets, public spaces and its magnificent (if flawed) public transportation system — which is both humbling and creatively stimulating.
There’s also the high frequency of, to borrow the urban activist Jane Jacobs’s words, “people with ideas of their own,” who help keep a city alive and moving forward on countless fronts in art and in life. Some even become indispensable friends. Thus evolves another vital component of life in New York: the family you weren’t born with, that elaborate network of support based on shared passions, sympatico personalities and regularly crossing paths.
Writing for Adbusters, Chris Hedges explores “What happens to a society that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion?” and boy is he angry (and over the top):
It is the cult of self that is killing the United States. This cult has within it the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandiosity and self-importance; a need for constant stimulation; a penchant for lying, deception and manipulation; and the incapacity for remorse or guilt. Michael Jackson, from his phony marriages to the portraits of himself dressed as royalty to his insatiable hunger for new toys to his questionable relationships with young boys, had all these qualities. And this is also the ethic promoted by corporations. It is the ethic of unfettered capitalism. It is the misguided belief that personal style and personal advancement, mistaken for individualism, are the same as democratic equality. It is the nationwide celebration of image over substance, of illusion over truth. And it is why investment bankers blink in confusion when questioned about the morality of the billions in profits they made by selling worthless toxic assets to investors.
Julian Barnes of the London Review of Books takes a look at two books about painter Lucian Freud:
Freud always lived a high-low life: dukes and duchesses and royalty and posh girlfriends on one hand, gangsters and bookies on the other. The middle classes were generally scorned or ignored. He also had high-low manners: unfazed and relaxed in royal circles, a stickler for good manners from his children, but also indelibly rude and aggressive. He did whatever he liked, whenever he liked, and expected others to go along with it. His driving made Mr Toad look like a nervous learner. He would assault people without warning or, often, excuse. As a refugee child he would hit his English schoolfellows because he didn’t understand their language; as an octogenarian he was still getting into fistfights in supermarkets. He once assaulted Francis Bacon’s lover because the lover had beaten up Bacon, which was quite the wrong response: Bacon was furious because he was a masochist and liked being beaten up. Freud would write ‘poison postcards’, vilely offensive letters, and threaten to have people duffed up. When Anthony d’Offay closed a show of his two days early, an envelope of shit arrived through d’Offay’s letterbox.
And finally, in one of the most bizarre posts I’ve encountered in a while, Salon publishes a piece by Lindsay Abrams that explores the myths of dolphin intelligence:
Unsurprisingly, given dolphins’ near-universal popularity, people got upset. And for the record: no, they’re not dumber than chickens; no, they’re not rapists; but yes, they, like most animals, can be violent. And while they’re smart, said Gregg, it doesn’t make much sense to call them the “second-most intelligent species.” It’s also highly unlikely that they communicate in a language called “dolphinese” — at least, not as linguists would define it. And they probably don’t have psychic abilities (although you should never say never).
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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