This week, the secret of the pyramids, morality of architects, bell hooks on Sheryl Sandberg’s “faux feminism,” photographing “whiteness,” Whitney Biennial on Charlie Rose, and more.
Some physicists believed they’ve discovered one of the secrets of the ancient Egyptian pyramids:
Physicists from the FOM Foundation and the University of Amsterdam have discovered that the ancient Egyptians used a clever trick to make it easier to transport heavy pyramid stones by sledge. The Egyptians moistened the sand over which the sledge moved. By using the right quantity of water they could halve the number of workers needed.
Shaunacy Ferro considers the moral responsibility of architects when dealing with dictators and other nefarious characters:
Architecture does not exist in a vacuum. Moral ambiguities can arise at every stage of the building process — from who you’re willing to take on as a client, to what kinds of structures you’re designing, to who will actually build it (and under what conditions). Would you build for a dictator? Would you design a prison? Would you build in a country that has exploitative labor laws?
And she asks a number of prominent architects their opinions:
“Our responsibility is to use architecture as an instrument of positive change,” Diller tells CoDesign. On the one hand, that means DS+R doesn’t build weapons factories or create designs that glorify dictatorship. Yet architecture can also serve as a critique, and Diller explains that “projects that appear morally dubious at first glance may be camouflaging radical, progressive ideas.”
Re/code’s take on the recent Silicon Valley Contemporary art fair is a fascinating view from inside the tech world and their perception of the event:
“Silicon Valley buyers don’t want something pretentious. They’re too smart for that. They don’t need that,” Glimcher said, slapping the temporary whitewashed wall next to Josef Albers’s 1967 painting “Homage to a Square.” “We’ve got a $450,000 Albers on plywood. That’s what you want here.”
And this great passage:
“And if [the tech elite] start here, then they’ll do it in New York and Austin and Kuala Lumpur. That’s how it works. That’s how it happened in the hedge-fund world. Twenty years ago, [art dealer] Larry Gagosian put a big black X on the foreheads of every big fund manager, and went one by one.”
He paused and adjusted his glasses.
Things, though, are different in Silicon Valley. “The hedge-fund people amassed their fortunes when they were in their 40s. They had kids. They had wives. Here, they’re 25. You’re just not thinking about art yet. It’s too young, it’s too hardworking. They’re maybe too smart,” said Glimcher. “The hedge-fund guys are stupid enough — and by that I mean dumb and arrogant — not to know they were being ripped off in the beginning. They just knew they wanted to start buying art. Everyone here is too smart for that.”
Over at Feminist Wire, bell hooks has a lot to say about Sheryl Sandberg‘s Lean In and what she says is Sandberg’s “faux feminism.” She writes:
Although Sandberg revised her perspective on feminism, she did not turn towards primary sources (the work of feminist theorists) to broaden her understanding. In her book, she offers a simplistic description of the feminist movement based on women gaining equal rights with men. This construction of simple categories (women and men) was long ago challenged by visionary feminist thinkers, particularly individual black women/women of color. These thinkers insisted that everyone acknowledge and understand the myriad ways race, class, sexuality, and many other aspects of identity and difference made explicit that there was never and is no simple homogenous gendered identity that we could call “women” struggling to be equal with men. In fact, the reality was and is that privileged white women often experience a greater sense of solidarity with men of their same class than with poor white women or women of color.
… It should surprise no one that women and men who advocate feminist politics were stunned to hear Sandberg promoting her trickle- down theory: the assumption that having more women at the top of corporate hierarchies would make the work world better for all women, including women on the bottom. Taken at face value, this seem a naive hope given that the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchal corporate world Sandberg wants women to lean into encourages competition over cooperation.
Charlie Rose interviewed two of the curators (Michelle Grabner and Stuart Comer) of this year’s Whitney Biennial, and a few artists (Zoe Leonard and Jacolby Satterwhite), and it is rather boring, but here it is:
Photographer Myra Greene has a new series that examines “whiteness” and what that means:
“Race is such an important measure of visuality and photography to me and how I see photographs.”
So Greene embarked on a project to see if she could “portray whiteness.”
“The title ‘My White Friends’ took a while to concretize, but I started out saying I’m going to photograph my friends, my mentors, my peers in a demonstration of whiteness, not necessarily portraits, but them demonstrating some aspect of whiteness in a visual way.”
And PBS Newshour’s Art Beat had a follow-up post exploring what was missing and what seemed odd:
John Seed shows his great sense of humor when he considers what Old Masters “artist statements” would’ve been like. For instance, Titian:
“Woman, goddess, subject, object and signifier: Venus activates both the Utopian and Dystopian spaces of the Venetian Palazzo. By inducing an affirmative valence of feminine/objective lucidity Venus poses a question: has our tendency to privatize desire further affirmed or disenfranchised her archetypal significance?” – Tiziano Vecellio
… or Fragonard:
“By disrupting the implied heteronormative discourse of antediluvian mythology, my paintings imply a personal mythopoeic narrative that both transcends and embodies the male gaze. By investigating the callipygian forms of a complex homosocial nexus in an anti-Lacanian context I depict a multitude of redundant, overlapping and coded tasks and roles.” – Jean-Honore Fragonard
In this era of museum hubris, critic Mary Louise Schumacher thinks the Milwaukee Art Museum should reconsider its current building plans:
Unfortunately, the museum is proposing a dose of dullness for our most prized public space, a revision of a much more elegant design unveiled two years ago by architect Jim Shields.
… While it’s tempting to argue the merits of Shields’ better design over the other, I believe the museum should simply stop building for a time. What is called for is both a bit of Midwestern frugality and a bolder vision for the future that would involve reconditioning the existing site, addressing larger questions about the lakefront and considering a bold move off campus that could have a great impact on the city.
The fascinating story of the Anne Frank of the Armenian Genocide and the continuing search for the Hollywood film that told her story and is mostly lost today:
Over time, copies of the film were lost, destroyed or deteriorated — not an untypical fate for the films of that era. No known remaining full copy exists today. And the history books on the early silent-film era have mostly ignored “Ravished Armenia/Auction of Souls.” What had been a pioneering movie attended by many influential persons is now mostly ignored. However, it has not fallen into total obscurity: Canadian-Armenian film-maker Atom Egoyan and Armenian Genocide scholars continue to search for missing footage of this landmark film.
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.