Weekend

Required Reading

This week, people who match art, landscape architects and mass shootings, Henry David Thoreau’s two-million-word journal, tabloid art history, and more.

Photographer Stefan Draschan patiently waits for people who match the art they’re looking at to come by and then snaps a photo. There’s a whole Tumblr of images. (via peoplematchingartworks.tumblr.com)

He pretty clearly meant to provoke strong reactions and he has. A group of Chinatown-based activists have called out the piece as racist “poverty porn,” pure and simple, and demanded its removal. At best, the installation is a serious misfire, as some preliminary canvassing on the artist’s part might have revealed. The ethical indeterminacy that has worked in other contexts for him backfires here. It reads as nasty condescension. And, really, can a portrait of a “lost” ethnic neighborhood as a study in tawdry dysfunction read any other way? Not in the class-and-wealth co-opted New York City of today.

The bulk of the film archive consists of documentaries made by former museum director Alfred Bailey, who led the institution from 1933 to 1969.

“He really changed the museum,” says O’Connell, who describes him as “a field man,” traveling to six continents on numerous expeditions. “He went to the most out-of-the-way, most difficult places you can imagine, and somehow he always took a movie camera and a tripod with him.”

The main thing to take into account for these designers is how people move — or perhaps, more accurately, stampede — in response to threats. Researchers draw from studies of how people move, observations of real-life tragedies, and computer modeling in order to determine how people behave in crowds: how they get stuck, trampled, or endanger others in their attempts to escape.

  • People often think of “Walden Pond” (1854) as Henry David Thoreau masterpiece, but what about his two-million-word journal that blends science and personal observation. Andrea Wulf makes the case that it deserves our serious attention:

What the 32-year-old Thoreau quietly did in the fall of 1849 was to set up a new and systematic daily regimen. In the afternoons, he went on long walks, equipped with an array of instruments: his hat for specimen-collecting, a heavy book to press plants, a spyglass to watch birds, his walking stick to take measurements, and small scraps of paper for jotting down notes. Mornings and evenings were now dedicated to serious study, including reading scientific books such as those by the German explorer and visionary thinker Alexander von Humboldt, whose Cosmos (the first volume was published in 1845) had become an international best seller.

As important, Thoreau began to use his own observations in a new way, intensifying and expanding the journal writing that he’d undertaken shortly after graduating from Harvard in 1837, apparently at Ralph Waldo Emerson’s suggestion. In the evening, he often transferred the notes from his walks into his journal, and for the rest of his life, he created long entries on the natural world in and around Concord. Thoreau was staking out a new purpose: to create a continuous, meticulous documentary record of his forays. Especially pertinent two centuries after his birth, in an era haunted by inaction on climate change, he worried over a problem that felt personal but was also spiritual and political: how to be a rigorous scientist and a poet, imaginatively connected to the vast web of natural life.

Just as troubling to many scholars are questions about the origins of some of the museum’s artifacts. The Greens bought their ancient items on the antiquities market, which brims with looted material and forgeries. In July, these issues exploded into the news when Hobby Lobby agreed to pay a $3 million fine and forfeit nearly 3500 cuneiform tablets and clay seals that were smuggled into the United States after the Greens purchased them. According to cultural heritage experts, these artifacts are very likely among the hundreds of thousands of objects looted from Iraq since the 1990s. The museum points out that only artifacts owned by Hobby Lobby—not any in its own collection—were targeted by the investigation. Still, an untold number of other artifacts in the Green collection— including some transferred to the museum—may also be tainted, Magness says. “Many [unprovenanced] antiquities surely come from illegal excavations or looting of archaeological sites,” she says.

Twitter was built at the tail end of that era. Their goal was giving everyone a voice. They were so obsessed with giving everyone a voice that they never stopped to wonder what would happen when everyone got one. And they never asked themselves what everyone meant. That’s Twitter’s original sin. Like Oppenheimer, Twitter was so obsessed with splitting the atom they never stopped to think what we’d do with it.

An estimated 10 percent of Los Angeles is covered in asphalt thanks to the city’s sprawling network of roads and parking lots. On sunny days, the heat retained by these paved surfaces can make neighborhoods feel far hotter than those in more rural areas — a phenomenon known as the “urban heat island effect.” Now, Los Angeles is experimenting with painting its pavement grey to help significantly lower temperatures.

  • “Many of us know this famous picture of Tommie Smith and John Carlos. But few know the bravery and tragedy of the white guy, Peter Norman.” Here’s the story:

  • A really funny thread showing Betty Draper as an Edward Hopper character:

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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