Required Reading

This week, bad but effective design, Time magazine’s “subversive” cover, a good bad review of the Trump Grill, the alt-right targeting of left-wing art spaces, and more.

Michael Fullman’s “Intersection” features moving beams of light that respond to and seem to survey visitor interaction at Day for Night in Houston. It’s one of roughly a dozen light installations at the music and art festival. (photo by Allison C. Meier/Hyperallergic)

By reproducing a Kodachrome color palette, the Time cover makes us reimagine the cover as if it were an image from the era of Kodachrome’s mass popularity. (Where your mind goes when thinking about leaders from the era of World War Two, segregation, and the Cold War era is up to you.) This visual-temporal shift in a sense mirrors a lot of the drives that fueled Trump’s rise. Trump ran a campaign based on regressive policies and attitudes — anti-environmental protection, anti-abortion, pro-coal, etc. This election was not just about regressive policy choices, but also about traditional values (defined primarily by the Christian right), about nostalgia for American greatness and security, about nostalgia for a pre-globalized world.

  • Madonna speaks about her own difficult history with the music scene. At one point she talks about being paralyzed by the relentless depictions of her as a whore or a witch. She reached for unexpected sources for support: ” I took comfort in the poetry of Maya Angelou, in the writings of James Baldwin, and in the music of Nina Simone.” Watch it here.
  • The “Make American Great Again” hat may have been universally panned by designers, but it definitely contributed to the Trump win. Diana Budds writes about the success of this “bad” design:

As we move on from the 2016 election and contemplate the role of design in subsequent political campaigns, understanding the difference between good and effective design is imperative.


It was a joke to many. This rankled documentarian Michael Moore, who saw the jokes and jabs at the hat as the embodiment of a liberal bubble that didn’t understand the Middle American voters who the Democrats were trying to court. Moore appeared on the MSNBC show Morning Joe on November 11 and told the hosts exactly why dismissing the hat and laughing at it showed how Democrats and the media didn’t understand the true gravity of what the hat symbolized to some voters.


Forest Young, head of design in the San Francisco office of Wolff Olins, tells Co.Design that while the hat is not good design, it is good branding. “Ten years from now, the winning charades team assigned the phrase ‘Presidential Election 2016’ would have simply mimed the motion of someone putting on a baseball cap,” Young says. “The presidential theater here is a play with a single prop . . . Not unlike Yorick’s Skull from Hamlet—the prop of death that symbolically eliminated the differences between people—the illusion of an everyman society was expediently rendered by a billionaire wearing a baseball cap.”

  • Is the alt-right targeting left-wing spaces after the Ghost Ship fire as a way to silence them? Some think so. A experimental comedy venue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn — which was vocally anti-Trump — got shut down, and some people suspect a right-wing comic named Louie Bee called the cops:

“The Trump supporting comic and I got into [it] on Facebook the other night about us being a SJW venue,” Fathelbab told us in an email today. “Vowed to see us kicked out onto the streets. The next day, marshals get an anonymous call and then we’re shut down that night. Don’t have a smoking gun, only a suspicion because of the coincidence in timing.”


The venue is vacating its home at 272 Grand St., and is working on finding a temporary home for shows, plus a new home for the Fuck Donald Trump Marathon.


Bee grew up on the southside of Williamsburg, dons a “Hillary for Prison” shirt in his Facebook profile and voted for Trump. He was banned from the Experiment earlier this year for several reasons including harassing female comics, Fathelbab said. Bee said it was for telling off-color jokes about women during an open mic when he was trying out new material. He describes himself as a libertarian and conspiracy theorist in online profiles.

You can read into Hsieh’s works a relation to almost any major concept in modern society. They are statements on existentialism, time, love, isolation, ennui, angst, interconnectedness, freedom; they raise political questions of incarceration, homelessness, bureaucracy, immigration and citizenship, public space.


At the same time, the works are solely about experience: intangible, ephemeral, beyond words and ideas. They are fully contained in action. Hsieh’s works are so compelling, in part, because anyone could do them; to my knowledge, no one has tried. Unlike other works of art, they are not a question of originality, or talent, or concept, or fame. They are a question of will.

Donald Trump is “a poor person’s idea of a rich person,” Fran Lebowitz recently observed at The Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit. “They see him. They think, ‘If I were rich, I’d have a fabulous tie like that.’” Nowhere, perhaps, does this reflection appear more accurate than at Trump Grill (which is occasionally spelled Grille on various pieces of signage). On one level, the Grill (or Grille), suggests the heights of plutocratic splendor—a steakhouse built into the basement of one’s own skyscraper.


Renowned butcher Pat LaFrieda once dared me to eat an eyeball that he himself popped out of the skull of a roasted pig. That eyeball tasted better than the Trump Grill’s (Grille’s) Gold Label Burger, a Pat LaFrieda–branded short-rib burger blend molded into a sad little meat thing, sitting in the center of a massive, rapidly staling brioche bun, hiding its shame under a slice of melted orange cheese. It came with overcooked woody batons called “fries”—how can someone mess up fries?—and ketchup masquerading as Heinz. If the cheeseburger is a quintessential part of America’s identity, Trump’s pledge to “make America great again” suddenly appeared not very promising. (Presumably, Trump’s Great America tastes like an M.S.G.-flavored kitchen sponge lodged between two other sponges.)

The fact-checking organizations helping Facebook identify and flag fake news do, however, stand to benefit from the tool. If a Facebook reader wants to find out why a story has been labeled “disputed”, they can click on a link to an article by the fact-checking organization explaining the decision. This could mean a traffic boost to those sites.


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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