Required Reading

Mysterious white American flags appeared on the top of the Brooklyn Bridge this week. Authorities are still scratching their heads. (via @alexandroh)
Mysterious white American flags appeared on the top of the Brooklyn Bridge this week. Authorities are still scratching their heads. Gothamist has the story. (via @alexandroh)

This week, defining “public,” the Mona Lisa of digital art, the most modern curator, Baffler online, white flags over Brooklyn, the Chinese role in WWI, Americans eligible for Man Booker prize for the first time, and more.

 A seemingly simple question by Anil Dash, “What Is Public?” is anything but:

There’s no real restriction preventing Google from popping up your home address, likely place of work, a recent photo, and accurate political donation data when someone searches for your name. Public data is public.

… Public is not simply defined. Public is not just what can be viewed by others, but a fragile set of social conventions about what behaviors are acceptable and appropriate. There are people determined to profit from expanding and redefining what’s public, working to treat nearly everything we say or do as a public work they can exploit. They may succeed before we even put up a fight.

 What is the Mona Lisa of digital art? I contributed my opinion to this article by Rob Walker for Yahoo Tech, and yes, I agree that the notion of a “Mona Lisa” isn’t really a good fit for digital art, but nonetheless I think it is useful to discuss:

Fittingly, however, given the endlessness of the Internet, there was no real consensus. Maybe, then, the whole idea of the iconic work has been, as techno-enthusiasts like to say, disrupted: In the future, we’ll all have our own personal “Mona Lisa.”

 Two troubling articles from Jewish writers about the state of Israel and its current invasion of Gaza:

Gabor Maté, “Beautiful dream of Israel has become a nightmare” in The Toronto Star (July 22, 2014)

In Israel-Palestine the powerful party has succeeded in painting itself as the victim, while the ones being killed and maimed become the perpetrators. “They don’t care about life,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says, abetted by the Obamas and Harpers of this world, “we do.” Netanyahu, you who with surgical precision slaughter innocents, the young and the old, you who have cruelly blockaded Gaza for years, starving it of necessities, you who deprive Palestinians of more and more of their land, their water, their crops, their trees — you care about life?

Etgar Keret, “Israel’s Other War” in The New Yorker (July 25, 2014)

In 2014, in Israel, the definition of legitimate discourse has changed entirely. Discussion is divided between those who are “pro-I.D.F.” and those who are against it. Right-wing thugs chanting “death to Arabs” and “death to leftists” on the streets of Jerusalem or Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s call to boycott Arab-Israeli businesses protesting the operation in Gaza are considered patriotic, while demands to stop the operation or mere expressions of empathy about the deaths of women and children in Gaza are perceived as a betrayal against flag and country. We are faced with the false, anti-democratic equation that argues that aggression, racism, and lack of empathy mean love of the homeland, while any other opinion—especially one that does not encourage the use of power and the loss of soldiers’ lives—is nothing less than an attempt to destroy Israel as we know it.

 The Atlantic calls the Museum of Modern Art’s Paola Antonelli, the “most modern curator,” and they’re right:

You don’t bring Minecraft to MoMA, however, without provoking some “whither culture?” chattering among the art-world elite. Pac-Man so close to Picasso! As The Guardian sniffed in late 2012, months before the exhibit opened: “Sorry MoMA, Video Games Are Not Art.”

Antonelli dismisses such dismissals. She is, as an operative in the field of cultural curation, progressive. And she is, in this, part of a long tradition at MoMA. During the museum’s early days, in 1934, the architect and curator Philip Johnson put on an exhibition he called, simply, Machine Art. It took familiar industrial objects—a cash register, a propeller, a microscope—and, by displaying them outside of their normal contexts, called attention to their form. Antonelli aims to do something similar with her own acquisitions: to remove them from their familiar settings and encourage us to see them differently. She likes objects that are a bit dirty, a bit messy. (On the one hand, Apple’s Bauhaus-inflected products have “had an amazing influence,” she says, encouraging “people toward this purist, perfect design.” On the other hand, she confesses: “I think that a little dirt is good.”) She puts a vial of sweat on a pedestal at MoMA, and dares us to draw our own conclusions.

 You should know that The Baffler magazine, “The Journal that Blunts the Cutting Edge,” has made its archive available online for free. Some notable items:

And while some people and publications have been trumpeting the news that the New Yorker archive is also free, in fact it isn’t, though they are making some collections of favorite works available for free online.

 LA Times art critic Christopher Knight reviews the Huntington Library’s new art galleries:

The American collection still needs powerful examples of Spanish Colonial painting or sculpture. The story of American art was once told only in nationalist terms, starting in the East and moving West, as if an aesthetic version of Manifest Destiny. But history isn’t that linear or neat: When Duncanson was on his first sketching tour of the Hudson River Valley, the American Southwest was part of Mexico.

 For the first time, the prestigious Man Booker literary prize has included Americans for consideration:

The 13-book longlist, which was revealed on Wednesday, features American authors for the first time; last year, the prize rules were amended to allow entries from authors of any nationality, so long as the novel was originally written in English and published in the UK. Previously, only writers from the UK and the Commonwealth were eligible for the prize.

 The South China Morning Post published the incredible story of how hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers, the largest non-European labour contingent, played a role in World War I:

A Chinese map of the world during World War II with Allied powers in red and the Axis in blue. (via SCMP)
A Chinese map of the world during World War II with allied powers in red and the enemies in blue. (via SCMP)

Britain shipped more than 84,000 Chinese labourers through Canada in a campaign kept secret for years in the then British dominion.

“In view of the suspicion that certain Chinese are being used as a medium of communication by enemy agents”, Canada banned news outlets from reporting on the train convoys that crossed the country on their way to France.

Six weeks after the Athos sank, the first contingent of Chinese workers arrived in Vancouver on board the RMS Empress of Russia. There, they boarded trains, journeying more than 6,000 kilometres to Montreal, St John or Halifax on Canada’s Atlantic coast. “They were herded like so much cattle in cars, forbidden to leave the train and guarded like criminals,” the Halifax Herald reported in 1920, when transports had ended and Canada’s censors allowed coverage.

Once in France, 140,000 workers went to ports, mines, farms and munitions factories. They repaired roads, transported supplies and dug trenches near the front lines, risking German artillery shells.

 A video by HipHopGamer that discusses the issue of racism in video game journalism (h/t @Fengxii):

 A global “I Stand With Palestine” meme has been emerging around the world:

Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 10.57.55 AM


While a few celebrities offer their social media support for Israel.

 The Eater blog has created this mock up of what almost every hip restaurant menu in NYC looks like, and I have to say it is rather accurate:


 If you’ve ever been confused by Manhattan neighborhoods and where one begins and ends, then this map should be useful, though I have to say I’ve never heard of Rose Hill, Radio Row, or Ansonia — though I never hang out in these areas either (via Shannon Leslie’s Facebook profile page):


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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