Required Reading

This week, Ellsworth Kelly’s new Texas chapel, visiting the Trump border wall prototypes, woke in Arkansas, whitesplaining the Classics, drones at the Olympics, and more.

Artist Ellsworth Kelly’s new chapel at the University of Texas in Austin. It’s the first and only freestanding building designed by Kelly. (images via Dezeen)

“It’s like Donald Trump said, ‘Go to Toys R Us and bring me all the toys, and I will choose the best one,'” he says. “They can make the wall from here to the sky and we can find a way to get around it. Los mexicanos tienen maña.” Mexicans have knack.

His neighbor, Juan Manuel Hernandez Lozano, takes a dimmer view.

Hernandez was born in Mexico but was taken to Los Angeles without papers when he was about 5. He spent almost his entire life in Los Angeles and speaks English laced with the musical cadence of the Eastside. To prove his real-deal L.A.-ness, he shows me a Raiders tattoo.

Nine years ago, he was deported. His family lives in L.A., but he’s stuck in Tijuana. In that time, he has missed the funerals of both parents and a brother.

“It’s been hard,” he says. “I got sick over here. I have cancer. I should have been dead a year ago.”

I ask him what he thinks of the idea of turning the prototypes into a national monument.

“It’s a racist thing,” he replies. “Why would they do something like that? What are they getting out of it?”

If you were to play events such as the Venice BiennialWiener Festwochen, even Art Basel, as soundtracks, you could hear, just as in the case of Transmediale: capitalism capitalism capitalism Donna Haraway Silvia Federici capitalism capitalism capitalism Donna Haraway… This was my friends’ favourite joke during the 5 days we spent at HKW. Nothing else was funny.

Historically, Transmediale would deal with the artistic, social, political implications of technology. Something really wrong must have happened that hundreds of cool kids staring at their smartphone screen would come together to cheer at technophobic lectures in which Google was the sole equivalent of technology. I’m no expert in media culture, but something tells me that if the organizers had invited a bunch of Chinese hackers instead of, say, the ridiculous lot of masked hipsters telling Google to fuck off their beloved gentrified Kreuzberg, we would have had a much better idea of what technology can do for people, subversively or not.

This may be the most “woke” room in any mainstream American museum today, with works by Native American, African American and female artists far outnumbering the only work by a white man, Tansey’s virtuosic sepia-toned “landscape” of broken and toppled ancient statuary. But it’s not the crude metrics or race and gender that matter, rather, it’s the utterly new narrative of contemporary art that emerges from the museum’s conscious and thorough effort at inclusivity. And this applies not just to the identity of the artists on view, but to the kind of work they make, as well. Painting may not, in fact, be dead after all, nor figuration, to judge by the many fine contemporary works included in the museum’s expanding permanent collection.

It is an intellectual problem and, simultaneously, much more than an intellectual problem. For no amount of pedagogical reform or evidence that the ancient world was diverse — at least, none of that alone — is enough to counteract an injustice so insidious that it is embedded in our daily interactions with each other. Everyday experience is both the scene of the crime and the entry point into a larger system of racial oppression.

For this article, I reached out to classicists of color and asked them whether they had ever been made to feel as though they knew less about their area of expertise than white classicists, although their answers turned out to be far more complex than my question. Some agreed to talk about their experiences on the record. Others (understandably) expressed reservations — for various reasons, including professional ones. The very real fear of consequences is a common difficulty in bringing any sensitive issue, such as sexual harassment, to the surface, and one of the things such difficulty speaks volumes about here is how the hierarchical structure of the academy stifles the stories that need to be heard most. On a related note, I should admit that I focus on people from elite institutions, which is both a weakness of this article and a function of some privilege being necessary in order to talk about sensitive issues in public.

As the story about the poem went viral, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman demanded Israel’s popular Army Radio ban Geffen’s work, despite his canonical status in Israel akin to, or even exceeding, Bob Dylan. And, while Israel does not have a royal family, the Geffens belong to the legendary families of Moshav Nahalal, home also to his famous uncle, wartime hero and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan.

Lieberman slammed Geffen, suggesting his work was more suitable for the Hezbollah television network. He said: “The State of Israel will not provide a platform for a drunkard who compares a girl who perished in the Holocaust and a hero who combated the Nazi regime with Ahed Tamimi, a brat who attacked a soldier. Geffen’s headline chasing is sickening and outrageous.”

As an arts community we can’t afford to watch our best talent shoved under the bus for fear that we might lose a limb while digging them out. We’re in this together.

The psychological violence we face as children never leaves us, and too often is amplified by coming out to our families, or, conversely, the toxic burden of keeping secrets. As we grow into adulthood, we face economic violence from systems set up to empower straight men. AIDS and its costs hover over all of our lives (but if you attend an AIDS conference, nobody says the word “gay” any more). In social-work jargon, we are now called “men who have sex with men,” a phrase that reduces our lives to a singularity based on sexual practice while at the same time negating an entire culture.

The mainstream gay media, most of which is not owned or operated by actual queer people, attacks us with images of Olympian god-like men, men we can never become. Every year, too many of us commit suicide and too many of us get beat up on the streets. We go missing, and nobody looks for our bodies.

My eagerness to stand up for the powerful is frightening,
I’m always showing up when a sepulcher needs some whitening,
In short, with polished intellect and soul authoritarian,
I am the very model of a New York Times contrarian!

There’s nothing I like more than the chance to play Devil’s advocate,
My beat is moral virtue comma complete, total lack of it,
I’ll only call you “victim” if it’s clear that you’re a predator,
I’m lucky to have landed with a sympathetic editor.
Hate-reading makes my columns all go viral like canarypox,
Present me with the truth and I will turn it to a paradox,
I’ll spew undoubted bullshit till you’ll swear that it’s veracity,
Sometimes vocabulary gets confused for perspicacity.

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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