OpinionWeekend

Required Reading

Zaha Hadid has unveiled her designs for a new wooden structure that will house
Zaha Hadid has unveiled her designs for a new Cambodian institution made up of five interwoven wooden towers to house the largest archive of genocide-related documents in Southeast Asia. A far cry from building trophy pieces for autocrats, which has become her signature of late. (via Dezeen)

This week, a new Islamic museum, a mysterious art dealer, protest objects, Palestinian food controversy, art of coding, kangaroos boxing, and more.

 Inside North America’s first Islamic art museum, and it is in Toronto:

And, in fact, the project—which has been nearly two decades in the making, and involved an estimated $300 million—is a three-act production. Across from the Aga Khan Museum is a structure concocted by Indian architect, Charles Correa, its raison d’être as an Ismaili Centre—a spiritual and cultural home for the community, locally. Intermediating between the two buildings, in a way that evokes such gardens as the Alhambra’s in Granada, Spain, is a formal park with tarmac-like walkways and reflecting basins, designed by Serbian-Lebanese landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic.

 The mysterious life of German-Canadian art dealer Max Stern:

Still, there was one subject on which Stern remained silent: his life in Europe. “When asked,” says Charles Hill, curator of Canadian art at the National Gallery of Canada, “he would say, Oh, that’s the past. I’m interested in the present.” And yet in conversations with his clients, he sometimes hinted that there was more to his story, cautioning them to avoid making purchases at auction houses where a painting or sculpture’s provenance was seldom fully revealed and often wilfully obscured. “Pedigree,” he liked to say, “is not only important in animals.

 A new exhibition at the V&A museum, Disobedient Objects, looks at the tools and totems of the last hundred years or so of political protest. Nick Richardson, writing for the London Review of Books, considers their power:

Using the enemy’s weapons against them is a common strategy, despite the curators’ endorsement in the exhibition catalogue of Audre Lorde’s assertion that ‘the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.’ One of the best alchemical weapons in the show is a 15-foot-long blanket with the Nike ‘swoosh’ on it that was knitted and crocheted by the ‘post-craft’ artist Cat Mazza and an international group of hobbyists. Where Nike tries to conceal the labour that goes into its products, Mazza’s piece makes the labour plain. It also challenges Nike’s claim to own its logo – how can anyone own a tick? – and contrasts the refinement of its makers with the thuggishness of their enemy. The shields made by the so-called Book Blocs, which have the covers of famous books on them, do the same thing: a photo of a riot cop lunging at Derrida’s Spectres of Marx nicely illustrates the point.

 Pittsburgh’s Conflict Kitchen, which is a project by Carnegie Mellon University art professor Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski, is a restaurant that only serves food from countries the US is in conflict with. Now, some members of the Pennsylvania city’s Jewish community are upset that the restaurant is featuring Palestinian food, and one writer, C.A. Pinkham, shot back:

This entire story is basically the exemplar of the problems I have with the culture into which I was born. This isn’t about Conflict Kitchen’s cuisine choice presenting a “one-sided discussion towards the Middle East.” It’s about the desperate need among certain parts of the American Jewish community to do everything possible to keep from allowing Palestinians to be humanized. A lot of American Jews live in unspoken terror that average Americans — the sort who’ve been conditioned to believe “Israel good, Arabs bad” — might someday open their eyes and see that hey, maybe the world isn’t as desperately simple as the rabidly pro-Israel crowd would like us to believe, maybe there are good and bad people on both sides of the conflict, and maybe indiscriminate killing from either party isn’t excusable under any circumstances. If Palestinians have a cuisine, if Palestinians have an identifiable culture, it suddenly becomes a lot harder for many Americans to unthinkingly regard them as sub-human.

 Is coding art?

A recent entrant to the “But is it art?” Olympics is computer programming. Coding, some of its practitioners claim, is an art form. This argument often hinges on the notion, promulgated by prominent industry figures like the venture capitalist Paul Graham, that coders are “makers.” They produce remarkable thingsessays crafted out of the programming languages C# or Javascript that, like a literary essay, depend on elegance, precision, and a knowledge of form. Their creations sometimes affect humanity on a massive scale. According to this calculus, the operating system designed by Steve Wozniak for the Apple II might be as important as Macbeth.

 Business Week writes about the “350,000 Percent Rise of Christopher Wool’s Masterpiece Painting“:

The journey of Apocalypse Now to the biggest night the auction world had ever seen is the story of the contemporary art market’s unprecedented rise and the forces behind it. An edgy work born of downtown New York street graffiti, Apocalypse Now passed through the hands of half a dozen owners, from a refugee who fled Nazi Germany to French billionaire François Pinault. One owner would hang Apocalypse Now in a childhood home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis on Park Avenue and transform the painting into a financial instrument, using it as collateral for a loan from JPMorgan Chase.

 Writer and gadfly Felix Salmon chides Business Week for this line in the same article:

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 Thoughts by John Leavitt on the true American diner:

True American Diners exist in a bubble of no-nonsense egalitarianism; they exist outside socioeconomic distinctions, because there is something for everyone. There are always at least two retired people at the counter; they will never speak to each other or anyone else. Someone is on the run from the law; someone is the law. There are always at least two teenagers in a True American Diner and they are simultaneously talking about nothing and having The Most Important Conversation Of Their Lives. You wouldn’t go there for a special occasion, but you can always go there after one: proms, weddings, or funerals.

 This is rather shocking: 30% of people in the United States don’t drink, while 10% drink 10+ drinks a day, which sounds like an unbelievable number:

drinks-usa

 One of the strangest things I’ve seen in ages is this video of kangaroos fighting in an Australian subdivision. Perhaps it is the suburban setting, but they look strangely CGI, particularly because their strong tails make them appear to almost levitate:

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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