Required Reading

Paddy Johnson of AFC picks this attractive image for her GIF pick this week. (via AFC)
Paddy Johnson of AFC picks this attractive work as her GIF pick this week. (via AFC)

This week, photography’s truth, the media’s numbness to torture, the clock of the Met Museum, mass art, a photo no one would publish, mistakes in Medieval English architecture, and more.

 John Macpherson explores the topic of photography and the nature of “truth” as it relates to conflict zone photojournalism (h/t @jmcolberg). He writes:

Events of the last few weeks in the Middle East have raised some interesting questions about emotion and ‘objectivity’ in news reporting.

… I guess in written/spoken journalism ‘bias’ or rather ‘emotional bias’ is easier to spot – as the Jon Snow example demonstrates.

But what of photography? The same seething anger might be coursing through a photographer’s brain, driving instinctive adrenaline-fueled shutter-button-presses. What of these images, made more from outrage than calm and reasoned rationality: can we accept them? Or do they also somehow become ‘tainted’ by emotion, and thus easily dismissed as simply more propaganda? Of course they may be dismissed after the fact, depending on their end use, but what of their actual taking?

 The media’s failure to report on torture properly since 9/11:

It was oddly fitting, then, that when the Supreme Court ruled that Bush’s 2002 executive order was in fact illegal — a conclusion the White House implicitly acknowledged this summer when it began lobbying to effectively shield interrogators and officials from potential violations of the War Crimes Act — there were few headlines about that either.

 Meet the curator at the Metropolitan Museum who is responsible for making sure all the institution’s clocks are on time:

As far as the museum’s collection, “I think we have something in the nature of 100 clocks and 200 watches. but that’s a guess,” she says. “And if you want to say the curator doesn’t know, I guess you’re right.” Her favorite clock is a grandfather-style one by Joseph Knibb, of London, from around 1685. “It literally purrs when you wind it,” she says.

 Peter Schjeldahl considers the mass-oriented tendencies of the art world today and what that could mean:

It is idle to lament democratizing developments that have been inexorable for well over half a century, and paralleled by innovations in contemporary art: Abstract Expressionism’s exploded scale, Pop’s mirroring of mass culture, minimalism’s at-a-glance self-evidence, conceptualism’s recourse to boundless thought, installation art’s funhouse sociability. (The newest wrinkle, performance art, may, with admirable efficiency, simply have someone in the crowd behave peculiarly.) But something grim is happening to the reception of the traditional modes, mainly painting, that still define art for most people.

 A straight white American man writes for Guernica about loving James Baldwin and learning to write about race:

As a writer, I had always wanted to be someone’s golden child: a disciple, an apprentice, a protegé. I had studied with Harold Bloom at Yale and absorbed, almost without thinking, the tenets of The Anxiety of Influence, that literature was a family romance, that “strong poets wrestle with their strong precursors, even to the death.” And I had assumed that my strong precursors had to be white American men; as an undergraduate, I read every one I could find, to the exclusion of anyone else … In Bloom’s terms, I was a failure: a weak ephebe, an idealizer, an orphan. From another perspective, I was a bad actor: bad at performing versions of literary whiteness I’d somehow never quite believed in.

 The story of a photograph from the first Iraq War that no one would publish:

But after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, Jarecke developed a low opinion of the photojournalism coming out of Desert Shield, the pre-war operation to build up troops and equipment in the Gulf. “It was one picture after another of a sunset with camels and a tank,” he says. War was approaching and Jarecke says he saw a clear need for a different kind of coverage. He felt he could fill that void.

… Hermanson found the idea of photographing the scene distasteful. When I asked him about the conversation, he recalled asking Jarecke, “What do you need to take a picture of that for?” Implicit in his question was a judgment: There was something dishonorable about photographing the dead.

 Drone photography offers new perspectives on some familiar and not-so-familiar things:


 Zoe Williams tackles the National Gallery’s new rule that allows photographs (including selfies). She opines:

In short, there is nothing to fear, for either the art crowd or the custodians of the human spirit. The National Gallery will not be overrun by people taking selfies for the same reason it is not full of people in bikinis; we humans have a keen sense of humiliation, exposure, pride, vulnerability. That’s what makes us worth painting in the first place.

 The title of this article by Luke Malone says it all and it is as chilling as it sounds: “You’re 16. You’re a Pedophile. You Don’t Want to Hurt Anyone. What Do You Do Now?” He writes:

We have a few go-to archetypes when it comes to pedophilia: There is the playground lurker, the chat-room predator, and the monstrous (often religious) authority figure. These men are usually middle-aged, unrepentant serial abusers who are caught only after remaining undetected for years. But what about the preceding decades? When do these urges first begin to manifest?

 Considering Etel Adnan’s poetry over at The New Inquiry:

Adorno wrote that philosophy lives on because the moment of its realization has passed. The same could be said of poetry. Like philosophy, poetry does not “promise that it [will] be one with reality.” Instead, it is liberated to explore alternatives. This seems to be true for Etel Adnan, at least, whose works have been recently collected in the generous, two-volume set spanning her literary career. Media of any kind “lives on” because that which is more or less generally assumed to be its “task” remains unfinished, compelling it, as Adorno wrote, “to ruthlessly criticize itself.” For Adnan, poetry has been tasked with memory and memorialization, which for her it never seems to get quite right. Someone is always forgotten.

 Vice News has a good look at the “gentrification wars” in Istanbul, following people in a revolutionary group who are trying to save their neighborhoods from bulldozers and government-imposed development:

 The unbelievable story of how the NYPD lost its surveillance files on The Young Lords, a radical Puerto Rican nationalist group. Gothamist writes:

The NYPD doesn’t seem to have any record of the destruction of the documents or notice of the files’ transfer, and Fernandez hasn’t been able to find any of the records in the municipal archives, so just what’s going on remains unclear.

Perhaps the NYPD is still sitting on the documents, and isn’t turning them over. Maybe the documents were destroyed, in violation of the Handschu order. Or the files are moldering unindexed and forgotten in some municipal closet. The NYPD declined to comment for this story.

 A silly but fun post on great mistakes in Medieval English architecture.

 And presenting the “Humiliated Etsy Boyfriends” of Etsy vendors … I guess love will make you do (and wear) a lot of crazy things:


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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