Weekend

Required Reading

This week, in praise of negative reviews, the tallest building ever to be demolished, the queer history of Ancient Egypt, hiding the history of the Midwest’s mysterious mound cities, and more.

A skyscraper in Hawaii will include a vertigo-inducing swimming pool, allowing brave swimmers to look down through its transparent base. More info on Dezeen. (via Dezeen)

This list of complaints is meant to argue that literary criticism should be critical just for the sake of it, giving an unflinching excoriation of a book’s content or a cold-eyed assessment of what it lacks. Hardwick herself underscored this when she pointed a finger at the “torpor,” the “faint dissension” and “minimal style” that had infected the book review in her time. What’s new is that this faint style has developed a politics or an ethics that gives non-judgment in the book review a high-minded justification. Per its pronouncements, all reviewers (and readers) must check their biases and privilege prior to engaging with a text.

Union Carbide will become the tallest structure ever demolished by peaceful means, grabbing that mournful title from the 1908 Singer Building, which came down in 1968. The de Blasio administration is cheering: last year’s East Midtown upzoning was intended to produce just such behemoths. The multibillion-dollar project will throw off about $40 million to improve streets and subway stations, and rack up thousands of construction and office jobs. It’s true that Park Avenue between 47th and 48th Street is as fine a spot for a supertall tower as any in Manhattan. Given that One Vanderbilt, now under construction, is heading for 1,400 feet, the next JPMorgan Chase tower seems positively stumpy. Unfortunately, a building stands in the way of this glorious future, and this one is special.

The mirror object that includes Bright’s image was “not an artwork,” according to Beloufa and Désanges. It was not for sale, they said, and though it was contextualized within the project by information about Bright’s action at the Whitney Biennial, it was one of several images, texts, and ideas “reproduced, mostly without permission.” They wrote, “Sorry, we should have talked to you. And it is too late. . . . It was part of the accumulation of medias, informations, documentations and reproductions we’ve put together to open the conversation about the complexity of the relation between art form and power representation—about domination strategies and counter strategies from every field and country.” They added that the process of sourcing their material is inevitably “problematic and bound to fail.”

In an email to ARTnews, Bright confirmed that he had received Beloufa and Désanges’s email, but said that it was not clear enough which parts of the work were removed and that Beloufa’s use of his image was not dissimilar to the way Schutz used Till’s image as “raw material.” “From the message that Beloufa sent me this morning, I find it very peculiar that his work inside of an art institution, under the scope of the work being a part of an art exhibition, is ‘not art,’ according to Beloufa,” Bright said in an email yesterday. “I find that to be a huge contradiction that negates any accountability. If the work is not an ‘artwork,’ then what is it, then?”

Babel-fish earbuds

Google’s Pixel Buds show the promise of real-time translation, though the current hardware is unreliable.

Early archaeologists working to answer the question of who built the mounds attributed them to the Toltecs, Vikings, Welshmen, Hindus, and many others. It seemed that any group—other than the American Indian—could serve as the likely architects of the great earthworks. The impact of this narrative led to some of early America’s most rigorous archaeology, as the quest to determine where these mounds came from became salacious conversation pieces for America’s middle and upper classes. The Ohio earthworks, such as Newark Earthworks, a National Historic Landmark located just outside Newark, OH, for example, were thought by John Fitch (builder of America’s first steam-powered boat in 1785) to be military-style fortifications. This contributed to the notion that, prior to the Native American, highly skilled warriors of unknown origin had populated the North American continent.

According to author Wael Fathi, this is far from the only allusion to queerness in Ancient Egyptian culture. For other examples, he cites the Egyptian Book of the Dead, written in 970 BCE (not to be confused with the Tibetan Book of the Dead, written sometime in the 8th century CE). Its female author writes, “I never had sex with a woman in the temple.” Who knew so much suggestion could be packed into the phrase “in the temple.” There are also numerous allusions to same-sex sexual activity and gender bending among the tales of Egyptian gods. And in the Book of Dreams (circa 1200 BCE), different fates are laid out for the woman who has sex with a married woman versus the one who has sex with a single woman.

On the day in 2015 when he faced off against Jill Weatherford, a South Carolina Realtor whose tenants had taken him in, he showed up in a sweat-drenched suit, having walked the four miles to the courthouse in the Charleston sun. He had somehow compiled a list of her past tenants and began rattling off the names, falsely accusing Weatherford of being a slumlord. “I said, ‘I’ve never met this man in my life,’ ” Weatherford told me. “I’ve been doing this for 33 years and never seen anything like it.” When he stepped before Judge Marvin Williams in Philadelphia, to accuse Melissa Frost of destroying his property, Williams told him, “I find you to be totally incredible. I don’t believe a word you say — and, frankly, you’re frightening.”

During the run-up to the election, the Trump and Clinton campaigns bid ruthlessly for the same online real estate in front of the same swing-state voters. But because Trump used provocative content to stoke social media buzz, and he was better able to drive likes, comments, and shares than Clinton, his bids received a boost from Facebook’s click model, effectively winning him more media for less money. In essence, Clinton was paying Manhattan prices for the square footage on your smartphone’s screen, while Trump was paying Detroit prices. Facebook users in swing states who felt Trump had taken over their news feeds may not have been hallucinating.

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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