This week, tensions in Ukraine mount, responsibility of architects, aestheticizing politics, Spike Lee’s gentrification rant, Ai Weiwei on the internet’s influence on his work, and much more.
- “Ukraine: The Haze of Propaganda” by Timothy Snyder in the New York Review of Book
- “The crisis in Crimea could lead the world into a second cold war” by Dmitri Trenin in the Guardian
- “A New Crimean War? (Update: Stuff’s Getting Real)” by Juan Cole in Informed Comment
- “Putin’s Reckless Ukraine Gambit” by Eugene Rumer and Andrew S. Weiss in Politico
- “Russia and Crimean Possibilities” by Jacob Balzani Lööv in Eurasianet
- A British perspective on the history of Crimea and the recent turmoil
- A Russian perspective on Crimea
- The Guardian is liveblogging the latest developments in Ukraine
After Zaha Hadid’s callous comments earlier this week, Kiernan Long, writing for Dezeen, argues that architects should not (and cannot) absolve themselves of responsibility:
We cannot absolve ourselves of responsibility for the full range of implications of a project — as Zaha Hadid tried to week — any more than we can choose just to breathe the oxygen in the atmosphere, but not the nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Rykwert has earned a place alongside Ruskin and others because of the clarity of his commitment to an adulterated but rich and meaningful view of architecture.
All this is good democracy of a sort. We elect Congressmen and Presidents in much the same way, so why not actors, cameramen, writers, and all rest of the people who have to do with the making of pictures? If we permit noise, ballyhoo, and theater to influence us in the selection of the people who are to run the country, why should we object to the same methods in the selection of meritorious achievements in the film business? If we can huckster a President into the White House, why cannot we huckster the agonized Miss Joan Crawford or the hard and beautiful Miss Olivia de Havilland into possession of one of those golden statuettes which express the motion picture industry’s frantic desire to kiss itself on the back of its neck? The only answer I can think of is that the motion picture is an art. I say this with a very small voice. It is an inconsiderable statement and has a hard time not sounding a little ludicrous. Nevertheless it is a fact, not in the least diminished by the further facts that its ethos is so far pretty low and that its techniques are dominated by some pretty awful people.
Is the 1989 film Dead Poets Society “a perfect example of what Walter Benjamin called the ‘aestheticization of political life'”? Noah Berlatsky seems to think so:
Benjamin originally developed this concept as an explanation of fascism. But as Costello argues…it also, and often, seems applicable to political modernity more generally — whether the modern governments in question are fascist, communist or liberal democratic. Certainly, “Dead Poets Society” itself seems like an engine to subsume issues of democratic government and liberal individualism into aesthetics.
… Humanities and aesthetics are not marginal discourses in our society. On the contrary, they’re central to how we relate to politics and to power. We live in a time when mass politics involves the continuous manipulation of aesthetics. That’s why amateurish embrace of aesthetics, which Dettmar warns about, is dangerous — it leaves you at the mercy of whatever enthusiasm, or whatever dear leader, climbs up onto the desk.
Every wonder what happens in one second online? Well:
- 7.79 terabytes of info are transferred across the internet
- 1.6 websites are created
- 5,131 WordPress.com pages are read
- 1,363,426 spam emails are sent
- 10 minutes of tracks are uploaded to Soundcloud
- 4,051 photos are posted on Facebook
- 8 comments are posted on Reddit … and much more
The internet was abuzz regarding Spike Lee’s latest gentrification rant at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. The Brooklyn-born filmmaker, who moved to Manhattan’s Upper East Side in 2000, sounds like a grumpy old man, but he does make some good points while ignoring the role he played in gentrifying Brooklyn. Writer Gene Demby reminds us:
One theory of gentrification is that artists and creatives are a key part of its early stages, because they make an area more desirable for young people, and they have a lot of free time and the inclination to make old homes and neighborhoods pretty. Once those neighborhoods become cool, trendy places to live, the money follows. It’s not hard to see Spike as being implicated in that, even indirectly.
… Spike’s sale of his brownstone was the beginning of the Park Slope-ification of Fort Greene.
Remember Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In Collection” of stock images for Getty Images and how they were supposed to “represent women and families in more empowering ways“? Stassa Edwards, writing for The Toast, cast a critical eye on the collection and found some interesting things:
… what exactly does feminist stock photography look like? And what kinds of stock photography garners the approval of Sandbergian feminists?
… Though a number of the photographs tagged “African American identity” depict black women in professional situations, a significant number feature African women in “native” environments, posing directly for the camera à la National Geographic and performing labor associated with the third world. When one compares representations of African-American women with their white counterparts, then the “Lean In Collection” posits very different norms for each. Women of “Indian and Asian Identities” fare similarly. Needless to say, there are no white women depicted in “primitive” settings (the closest they get is camping).
… Absent from the website are stories about poverty reform or child care legislation – stories that might address structural discrimination rather than self-imposed hang ups. Like the stock photographs, they produce a kind of gender norm and prescribe what women should look like now. But visibility’s relationship to “empowerment” is slipperier than that. Visibility can be a “vise,” as Barthes would have it, which locks in the predetermined, preventing us from turning away and seeing competing accounts.
Founded in New York in 1917 by Polish immigrant and businessman Sundel Doniger, the company, now based in Westerville, Ohio, first fabricated medical syringes and, later, scalpels with interchangeable blades. In the 1930s, when an in-house designer needed a sharp edge to retouch a print advertisement, Doniger turned out a hobby knife similar in design to his company’s scalpels.
There has been some interest news and information on Glenn Greenwald’s First Look site, notably an article that examines how covert agents infiltrate the internet to manipulate, deceive, and destroy reputations:
One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.
… Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums.
Also of interest — and a very good read — is an article by Greenwald on the topic of “journalistic independence,” which was written after Pando Daily published an attack piece raising questions about First Look’s publisher Pierre Omidyar and his donations to various Ukrainian opposition groups over the last few years.
Ai Weiwei talks to the Creators Project about how the internet has impacted his art:
New project alert! A blog that automatically posts all Instagram photos taken at Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate in Chicago http://t.co/g04tSEP7IP
— Kevin Buist (@KevinBuist) February 28, 2014
The problem with fashion criticism isn’t the lack of honest opinion, argues Jason Dike in The Business of Fashion, but the lack of places to publish it:
Several of fashion’s most independent, well-versed, fearless and knowledgeable critics got their start working at local and regional newspapers. Horyn worked at Detroit News for four years. Robin Givhan started at the Detroit Free Press, where she worked for seven years. Lynn Yaeger worked at The Village Voice for three decades.
But The Village Voice — which was bought by New Times Media in 2005 and has seen circulation fall from 247,000 in 2006 to 124,998 as of December 2013, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations — no longer has a fashion section and never replaced Yaeger after her departure in 2008. Both the Detroit News and the Free Press now use syndicated Associated Press coverage in lieu of hiring their own fashion reporters.
Why is this important?
Because young writers working at these kinds of papers were able to learn their trade from experienced journalists and, critically, write in the context of a business that wasn’t totally reliant on fashion advertising for income. But with these kinds of outlets either shrinking, disappearing or slashing budgets, there is a chasm where this important stepping stone once was.
“As long as I can keep painting, I’ll do it,” he said. “When I stop breathing is when I’ll stop painting.”
Bruce Springsteen does his acoustic interpretation of Lorde’s “Royals” at a concert in New Zealand:
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.