OpinionWeekend

Required Reading

Sometimes emojis can say it all. (via @guan)
Sometimes emojis can say it all. (via @guan)

This week, Picasso and global inequality, mistaking art for a garbage can, Twitter’s abuse problem, gayness vs. homosexuality, and more.

 Neil Irwin writes “The $179 Million Picasso That Explains Global Inequality“:

One of the most important findings of the leading economists who study inequality is that wealth and incomes at the very top are “fractal.” What they mean is that when you zoom in on the upper end of wealth distribution, patterns repeat themselves in an ever more finely grained pattern.

… In other words, the number of people who, by this metric, could easily afford to pay $179 million for a Picasso has increased more than fourfold since the painting was last on the market. That helps explain the actual price the painting sold for in 1997: a mere $31.9 million, which in inflation-adjusted terms is $46.7 million. There were, quite simply, fewer people in the stratosphere of wealth who could bid against one another to get the price up to its 2015 level.

 Heba Kayal, who just graduated with a degree from Columbia University in modern art history and curatorial studies, posted this on Facebook on Friday (and it’s reproduced here with permission): “Just got told off for throwing a cookie wrapper in a black bin by very rude & irate gallerist… Turns out the black bin was a work of art #frieze #nyc #art”:

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Perfectly classic.

 Artist Mark di Suvero interviews architect Renzo Piano about the new Whitney Museum. It begins:

MARK DI SUVERO: Renzo, I have some questions for you. I would like to ask you why you do so many museums? [laughs]

RENZO PIANO: I don’t know why. Because they ask me. Also, Mark, really, I do much more than museums. What I really long to do are public buildings. I love that—a concert hall, a school, a library, a hospital. Everything that is public makes a city a better place to be. Because you make a place where people share values: they come, they stay together. It’s much the same as a museum.

DI SUVERO: But the museums that you’re known for …

PIANO: Museums tend to do a better job. It’s about wondering.

DI SUVERO: Imagination.

PIANO: Yes, it’s about imagination. But take, for instance, something I was working on this morning: We’re making a big building for Columbia University for the Mind Brain Behavior Initiative. It’s about the structure of brains, and we’re working with the scientists there. And those people are equally queer, like artists.

 A thoughtful piece — though a few lines (like, “Everywhere, the global circulation of images and commodities goes hand in hand with increasing partitions in the social sphere: segregation, cultural difference, inequality”) are suspect for being contradictory — published in the e-flux journal about the idea of space, labor, and the internet:

Though the internet was hailed as a solution to all kinds of perennial problems—blogs will solve the issue of the corporate consolidation of the press; Bitcoin will solve currency manipulation and rampant corruption in financial markets; social media will fix the democratic deficit—the digital economy entails a shift from a formal to an informal economy, which replaces formal benefits, like salaries, pensions, and social safety nets, with “likes” and barter, while the formal benefits accrue to the very few.4Under the twin pressures of financialization and what is called “the sharing economy,” capital has emancipated itself from its direct relationship to labor—which is not to say that it has done away with work; it has just overcome the need to pay formal salaries, along with the claim to formal possessions.

… If we understand digital space as a territory in its own right, we need to scrutinize how said territory is being mapped. This is not happening with Borgesian fidelity, as the corporate interests that are trying to describe this territory are not concerned with accuracy or diversity, nor are they interested in the imaginary (in old maps, unknown lands were often inhabited by fantastical beings, like sea serpents, monstrous beasts, or mermaids, whereas the maps of the digital world are being drawn in Silicon Valley, with little regard for mapping unique or differentiating characteristics of space). Instead of imagining how one could inhabit the spaces being mapped, the digital topographers labor to create a homogeneous landscape where a user is a user is a user, disregarding the social and cultural “accidents” in the landscape, and filling the unknowns in the map with replicas of themselves.

 Women, Action, and the Media has released a report on Twitter’s “abuse problem,” and it explains:

The vicious targeting of women, women of color, queer women, trans women, disabled women, and other oppressed groups who speak up on online has reached crisis levels.

And one of the interesting charts (I encourage you to read the whole thing):

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 What killed the infographic?

Infographics, it seems, are a dying breed. Except that in talking to a dozen data visualization experts across the world’s top studios, I learned that the story is far more nuanced. Once a playground for independent designers, data visualization has evolved into something more mature, corporate, and honest about its failings. The quirky, experimental infographics that once peppered the Internet may be disappearing. But that’s only because data visualization, as a medium, has finally grown up and gotten a job.

 J. Bryan Lowder explores what differentiates gayness from homosexuality, and he brings up issues that have long been debated by gay aesthetes:

Implicit in the notion that an apartment like mine can “be gay”—and that you, despite any politically correct training against saying so, could easily recognize it as such—is an understanding of gayness as something more than a basic sexual orientation. The concept of a “gay apartment,” like “gay literature” or “gay mannerisms,” suggests that gayness also comprises a set of markers or values or practices that manifest themselves in the spaces and objects and relationships that gay men create. (While cultural gayness, as I’ll try to define it here, is not the exclusive province of men, their history as its most visible advocates will necessarily bias this piece.) If you believe [Edmund] White and [Neil] Bartlett as I do, gayness may be found not just in whom you sleep with, but also, perhaps, in the sort of sheets you insist on sleeping between.

 Hilarious! The LA Times does their own (spoof?) version of the typical New York Times story about visiting Los Angeles and finding people can actually live there, but in their version someone from LA moves to NYC looking for the comforts of home:

She landed an apartment in Brooklyn, which she’s heard is similar to the Eastside of Los Angeles.

Unlikely though it may seem, Cadenas is part of a trend: Angelenos have always loved visiting New York, but lately they have embraced the city as a place to live. According to Census data, between 2008 and 2012 almost as many Angelenos moved to New York as New Yorkers moved to Los Angeles.

Southern Californians are overcoming their fears of subway germs, and reversing the American directive to go west. They’re finding that New York is more than a capitalist prison that runs on the fumes of the finance industry and nostalgia for CBGB. It now offers many of the lifestyle amenities that their hometown has boasted for decades.

Not too long ago, Angelenos thought of New York as a veritable food desert; as recently as the 1990s, poppy-seed bagels were considered the lone culinary standout. These days, however, New Yorkers can sidle up to the juice bar 3 Roots in Greenpoint for liquid kale and wheatgrass, or stop by Sun in Bloom in Park Slope for a raw-food lunch.

 Witness accounts of crimes can be very unreliable. The New York Times looked into the issues and provides some interesting examples related to the police shooting of a hammer-wielding man in Midtown Manhattan:

There is no evidence that the mistaken accounts of either person were malicious or intentionally false. Studies of memories of traumatic events consistently show how common it is for errors to creep into confidently recalled accounts, according to cognitive psychologists.

“It’s pretty normal,” said Deryn Strange, an associate psychology professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “That’s the hard thing to get our heads around. It’s frightening how easy it is to build in a false memory.”

 Mongolians take memory very seriously:

Called the “international master of memory” in the Mongolian Press, Khatanbaatar has participated in the World Memory Championship himself, and is the best known mental athlete in his home country. As the director of the Mongolian Intellectual Academy in the capital Ulaanbaatar, he is now training hundreds of children and adults, some as young as kindergarten age, who are interested in flexing their cerebral muscles, using mental calculations, speed readings and Rubix Cube deciphering.

The practice has paid off. Organized, consistent and steadfast, Mongolians are a fixture at international memory competitions. Only China boasts more competitors with world rankings.

 The sounds of hard drives failing, arranged by manufacturer.

 What New Yorkers listen to on jukeboxes … namely, lots of Rolling Stones, Jay Z, Beyonce, and Romeo Santos. Here’s the top 10 artists in Williamsburg’s 11211 area code (which is where Hyperallergic HQ is located):

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Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, 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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