OpinionWeekend

Required Reading

Photographer Phoo Chan captured this spectacular image last year near Kitsap, Washington. It shows a crow riding atop a bald eagle and the whole series is mesmerizing. (via Colossal, and everywhere else on the internet)
Photographer Phoo Chan captured this spectacular image last year near Kitsap, Washington. It shows a crow riding atop a bald eagle and the whole series is mesmerizing. (via Colossal, and everywhere else on the internet)

This week, history of barbecue, Damien Hirst’s mid-life crisis, conceptual poetry’s bigotry, the ISIS dildo flag, a crow rides a bald eagle, the first 3D-printed office, and more.

 The history of barbecuing you might not have known about:

Barbecue is a form of cultural power and is intensely political, with a culture of rules like no other American culinary tradition: sauce or no sauce; which kind of sauce; chopped or not chopped; whole animal or just ribs or shoulders. And, if America is about people creating new worlds based on rebellion against oppression and slavery, then barbecue is the ideal dish: it was made by enslaved Africans with inspiration and contributions from Native Americans struggling to maintain their independence.

… If anything, both in etymology and culinary technique, barbecue is as African as it is Native American and European, though enslaved Africans have largely been erased from the modern story of American barbecue. At best, our ancestors are seen as mindless cooking machines who prepared the meat under strict white supervision, if at all; at worst, barbecue was something done “for” the enslaved, as if they were being introduced to a novel treat. In reality, they shaped the culture of New World barbecuing traditions, from jerking in Jamaica to anticuchos in Peru to cooking traditions in the colonial Pampas. And the word barbecue also has roots in West Africa among the Hausa, who used the term “babbake” to describe a complex of words referring to grilling, toasting, building a large fire, singeing hair or feathers and cooking food over a long period of time over an extravagant fire.

 Conceptual poetry and its authenticity and race problem:

The decentered self imagined by these poets is the elite white self. If the ethnic self is an unmediated body, Goldsmith and Perloff imagine themselves as a disembodied white self: the self as hero of individualism and technology, a cogito levitating freely above the racial mob. As for the Internet, it goes without saying that Second Life, The Sims, and Minecraft did not replace reality. Blacking up on Twitter did not make Vanessa Place black. Instead, the Internet has consolidated our new tribal clubhouses, as group identities like ISIS and Gamergate show, and invented more innovative ways to oppress underclasses, harass women, and gentrify public space. Rather than resisting the status quo of our techno-libertarian overlords, like a good avant-garde should, Conceptual Poetry revels in the Singularity theologies of Silicon Valley body-phobia. For its occupants (otherwise known as us), the Internet has erected the empire of Big Data, a surveillance regime unparalleled in human history. Rather than diluting identity, electronic identification has granulated it, so that we are tracked by location, user-submitted photo, purchasing history, class status, and viewing history. When New York City recently indicted seven separate gangs, almost half the evidence came from police Facebook-stalking of 300 black youth crews. More globally, American military forces deploy biometrics identification units in Afghanistan, where drone operators view the body from above, annihilating all the adult-aged males they see into pure death.

 Is Damien Hirst having a mid-life crisis? Sounds like it:

People close to Hirst seem just as confused about what drives him as he is himself. “He’s a hooligan and aesthete,” said Mat Collishaw. “This is not a normal combination of characteristics.” His halting attempts to talk about hitting 50 convey a real anxiety. “If you’re going to get hit by a bus on the way to chemo, you just don’t know where [death] is coming from,” he said, sipping from a mug of redbush tea. Yoga and his healthy lifestyle might help him to live longer, or just to die better. “You lose your grip anyway. You lose your grip before you die, I think that’s the problem. So I guess it’s how to embrace it in some way.”

… The majority of Hirst’s studio employees now toil in the pristine, high-security confines of a vast complex at Dudbridge in Gloucestershire. Hirst said he drew inspiration from Andy Warhol’s Factory, but if Warhol’s studio was part production line, part salon, Hirst’s main studio is all about industry.

 The ISIS dildo flag ignited laughter and discussion everywhere last week (particularly because one CNN reporter thought it was perhaps “real”), but the Guardian published a piece by the creator, who explained:

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The decision to make the flag was a simple one: a sense of outrage at Isis’s brutal advance across North Africa, Libya, Syria and Iraq. Medieval ideologies and barbarism were being spread and recorded through that most modern of expressions, social media, with that flag ever-present. It has become a potent symbol of brutality, fear and sexual oppression. If I wanted to try and stimulate a dialogue about the ridiculousness of this ideology, the flag was key.

… The Pride festival is a pure celebration of the finest aspects of humanity: of tolerance, togetherness, acceptance and liberation, the polar opposite of what Isis stands for. If there was anywhere where my flag had a voice, it was there. And I had an invitation to march in the parade with a friend involved with “Alien Sex Club”, an art project exploring the HIV syndemic by John Walter.

 ISIS is supposedly selling looted art online:

Archaeologists estimate that as much as $300 million worth of antiquities are now flooding the market through Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan as part of Islamic State’s transactions.

Danti, a professor of archeology at Boston University, said he has seen a spike in the number of uploaded photos of cuneiform tablets and antique stamp seals. Some are fake, including Greco-Roman coins manufactured by a Romanian crime ring.

The U.S. International Trade Commission reported that between 2012 and 2013 when Islamic State expanded its reach, American import of declared antiquities from Iraq increased by 672 percent and those from Syria by 133 percent.

James McAndrew, who worked for 27 years for U.S. Customs and Department of Homeland Security, said nonetheless he doesn’t expect major artifacts looted by Islamic State to emerge in New York, London and Geneva for at least a decade.

 Kevin Wheatcroft has quietly amassed the world’s largest collection of Nazi memorabilia. Why?

It is hard to say how much the echoes of atrocity that resonate from Nazi artefacts compel the enthusiasts who haggle for and hawk them. The trade in Third Reich antiquities is either banned or strictly regulated in Germany, France, Austria, Israel and Hungary. None of the major auction houses will handle Nazi memorabilia and eBay recently prohibited sales on its site. Still, the business flourishes, with burgeoning online sales and increasing interest from buyers in Russia, America and the Middle East; Wheatcroft’s biggest rival is a mysterious, unnamed Russian buyer.

 Do artists have rights to the murals they paint on buildings? It’s complicated:

California muralist Kent Twitchell was in a hotel room in Sausalito, Calif., when he got the call — his six-story mural of Ed Ruscha in Los Angeles had been painted over. It was June 2, 2006, a date he remembers vividly because it was the day he lost his mural, and also the day of his daughter’s wedding.

Twitchell had worked on the mural over the course of nine years, and it was ruined in one day.

“It’s hard to describe,” he says. “It’s like being kicked in the stomach, I guess. It takes the wind out of you.”

So he took the case to court. He sued the U.S. government, which owned the building, and 11 other defendants for damages under the Visual Artists Rights Act, which prohibits the desecration, alteration or destruction of public art without giving the artist at least 90 days’ notice. He won $1.1 million, which is regarded as the largest win under VARA.

“If the work is destroyed, it’s like part of your resume being destroyed,” says Eric Bjorgum, the lawyer who won Twitchell’s case, and the president of the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles.

 One tour guide got some very uncomfortable questions about slavery:

1) People think slaveholders “took care” of their slaves out of the goodness of their hearts, rather than out of economic interest

There is a surprisingly prevalent belief out there that slaves’ rations and housing were bestowed upon them out of the master’s goodwill, rather than handed down as a necessity for their continued labor — and their master’s continued profit.

This view was expressed to me often, usually by people asking if the family was “kind” or “benevolent” to their slaves, but at no point was it better encapsulated than by a youngish mom taking the house tour with her 6-year-old daughter a couple of years ago. I had been showing them the inventory to the building, which sets a value on all the high-ticket items in the home, including silver, books, horses, and, of course, actual human people. (Remember that the technical definition of a slave is not just an unpaid worker, but a person considered property.)”

For most guests, this is the most emotionally meaningful moment of the tour. I showed the young mother some of the slaves’ names and pointed out which people were related to each other. The mom stiffened up, raised her chin, and asked pinchedly, “Did the slaves here appreciate the care they got from their mistress?”

 Such a great response … Why the Washington Post “Can the Arts Save Baltimore?” Article Made Made Me Throw Up in my Mouth:

Even a well-meaning and art-aware real estate developer works from a top-down model: they buy the property, develop it, and fill it. There are a number of local business leaders and real estate developers who have invited artists to sit at the decision making table and these collective decisions tend to be the most inclusive, sensitive, and useful to the arts community, and larger community as a whole. Some of these folks were briefly mentioned in this article, but the author didn’t discuss those initiatives or conversations. She focused on real estate in Baltimore’s Station North Arts & Entertainment District.

 Did South Africa have a chance after Apartheid? Naomi Klein writes about the South African example of how a progressive movement was defanged by negotiations with the white establishment:

Some commissioners felt that multinational corporations that had benefited from apartheid should be forced to pay reparations. In the end the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made the modest recommendation of a one-time 1 percent corporate tax to raise money for the victims, what it called “a solidarity tax.” Sooka expected support for this mild recommendation from the ANC; instead, the government, then headed by Mbeki, rejected any suggestion of corporate reparations or a solidarity tax, fearing that it would send an anti-business message to the market. “The president decided not to hold business accountable,” Sooka told me. “It was that simple.” In the end, the government put forward a fraction of what had been requested, taking the money out of its own budget, as the commissioners had feared.

 Dubai will be home to world’s first 3D-printed office:

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The structure will be produced layer-by-layer using a 20-foot tall 3D printer. In a matter of only a few weeks the building will then be assembled on site. It will be the first building of its kind at this scale and put into real use.

Not only is the building in 3D print but all interior furniture, details, and other structural components will use the technology.

Those assembling it will use a mixture of Special Reinforced Concrete (SRC), Glass Fiber Reinforced Gypsum (GRG) and Fiber Reinforced Plastic (FRP). This combination will make it the most advanced 3D printed structure ever built at this scale and the first to be put into actual use.

 A clever street artist plays with the buffers and authorities:

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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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