Required Reading

This week, clear coffee, gender-variant Indigenous art, a drone’s-eye view, Melania Trump’s photographic eye, I.M. Pei at 100, critic Jerry Saltz’s former life as an artist, and more.

Brothers Adam and David Nagy have created the first clear coffee drink. It is made from Aracica beans and promises not to stain your teeth. (via My Modern Met)

But Indigenous feminist art of the late 1990s through the 2010s isn’t the Indigenous womanism of generations past. Indigenous womanism seeks to emancipate entire Indigenous communities, including men, believing deeply that the struggle of our men is our struggle as a people. Next-generation Indigenous feminist artists and thinkers do not seek to reconcile themselves to patriarchal peoples and institutions. Instead they unapologetically take up and take back space. They rage against the gallery and the current affairs of arts administration, asserting that their practices happen in the streets and around kitchen tables; that Indigenous feminist art and cultural writing is self-published, self-distributed and defined within and around community; and, above all, that they aren’t afraid to talk back to the man (or their men, for that matter).

In the 2017 Biennial, the idea of non-normative sexual and gender identities emerges through a more truthful array of lenses, surfacing visual approaches that limn questions of autobiography alongside economics and politics. Where the curators’ choice of artists ensures a space for more singular voices, so too does it invite a secondary reading of contemporary experiences of queerness that collectively complicate and modernize a historically fraught approach.

On the outside things were great. On the inside I was in agony, terrified, afraid of failing, anxious about what to do next and how to do it. I started not working for longer and longer periods. Hiding it. Then not hiding it. Until all I had left was calling myself an artist. At 27, I had what I think of as a one-year walking nervous breakdown. Which was shattering. I began having panic attacks; couldn’t be around people even though I was dying to be around them; got insomnia, took five-hour walks to wear myself down, was filled with bitter envy for everyone and everything. In this state of self-deprecating deprivation, I wanted what others had, hated anyone who had more space, time, money, education, a better career. To this day I tell all young artists to make an enemy of envy or else it will eat you alive. Like it did me.

Everyone has an eye, whether or not we see ourselves as photographers. What we choose to photograph and how we frame subjects always reveals a little about how we perceive the world. For someone like Melania, media-trained, controlled and cloistered, her collection of Twitter photography provides an otherwise unavailable view into the reality of her existence. Nowhere else — certainly not in interviews or public appearances — is her guard so far down.

What is that reality? She is Rapunzel with no prince and no hair, locked in a tower of her own volition, and delighted with the predictability and repetition of her own captivity.

Why not move to the White House? Let’s see.

  • Frieze magazine asked roughly 50 people around the world, “How Important is Art as a Form of Protest?” Some responded with art (some work better than others), but many responded with words, including Jimmie Durham, who said:

Where there is injustice, it is necessary that we protest. But, seeing that making art is neither a job nor a profession, protesting injustice by using art is really difficult. For me, no more difficult than trying to make art for decorating a room. What do we want in life, individually? It would be good for me if everything I do is on the side of liberation. An interesting and full way to live.

Amateur drone photography has already developed a distinctive set of subjects. The book is organized into sections such as “Urban,” with photos of city landmarks and street layouts; “Fauna,” with Planet Earth–style shots of animals; and “Probe,” which documents environmental threats like pollution and wildfires. The themes are decidedly unsubtle: The photographers are preoccupied with capturing a novel view of a familiar scene, or playing tricks with the camera’s height rather than using it to push the boundaries of symbolism or the format of the photo. Superficial content dominates form. Given the camera’s distance, the results also tend to be visually static, and even alienating to viewers.

… If drone photography often feels glib, it may be because pictures taken from the air don’t fit easily into clear, human-scale narratives. In fact, the looming presence of the machines threatens the order of life on the ground. In 2013, the novelist and photographer Teju Cole published a series of tweets composing “seven short stories about drones.” Cole inserted the machines into the beginnings of novels by Melville, Kafka, and Chinua Achebe, giving familiar stories abrupt endings, echoing the innocent lives that drones cut off in the real world: “Call me Ishmael. I was a young man of military age. I was immolated at my wedding. My parents are inconsolable.”

Given Pei’s penchant for elegant solidity, it’s ironic that the project that nearly sank the firm was the Hancock Tower in Boston, a glass edifice so ethereal that clouds seem to glide right through it. Construction of the tower damaged nearby Trinity Church. Then the curtain wall began to crack, and for a while workers patched the broken windows with plywood panels, making the façade look diseased. Finally, an engineer discovered that a strong wind might knock the structure over, and it had to be reinforced with 1,650 extra tons of steel. Pei’s partner Henry Cobb had designed the building, and the tower opened in 1976 to become a Boston landmark, but notoriety clung to the firm.

1. Your new friends Bob and Rita come to lunch and you serve them idlis, like your grandmother used to make.

2. They love your south Indian cooking and ask for the recipe.

3. You never hear from Rita and Bob again.

4. You read in the Style section of the Guardian about Rita and Bob’s new Idli bar in Covent Garden… called ‘Idli.’

I ask her some easy questions, but she answers them with increasing irritation. When we have been together for three hours, I feel it’s time to ask The Question.


It’s the same question that other black interviewers have asked her. A question she seems to deeply dislike—so much so that she complains about the question in her book. But even in the book, it’s not a question she actually answers: How is her racial fluidity anything more than a function of her privilege as a white person?


If Dolezal’s identity only helps other people born white become black while still shielding them from the majority of the oppression of visible blackness, and does nothing to help those born black become white—how is this not just more white privilege?

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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