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- E-flux has translated a German-language interview with curator Okwui Enwezor about his farewell to Munich:
SPIEGEL: What do you think about Germany?
Enwezor: Germany was so important for my intellectual and professional development. I was offered so many opportunities—Documenta, many other projects, incidentally also in Munich. For me in 2011 it was much more natural to move to Munich than, for example, to Stockholm, simply because everything here is more familiar to me, because I am well connected here. So I have a long and good relationship with this country. But I am dismayed by the evolution it is taking now.
SPIEGEL: What do you notice?
Enwezor: The political climate in this country is causing many people to give up everything that has been achieved in the past decades. And you can see that most clearly in dealing with the refugees. When I was appointed head of Documenta in Kassel in 1998, Germany was then arguing about dual citizenship. But today’s debate, the level of hostility, is really dangerous. Cultural institutions have to take a stand against the other values. One should not hand art over to the populists.
- Leah Sandals, writing for Canadian Art, discusses how #MeToo is being presented in two recent museum exhibitions:
As an arts journalist, I too am left surprised and disappointed at the extent to which the ROM—a widely respected institution which just had its highest-attendance year ever—has handled this situation. I’m upset about the way it has distanced Abichandani from the very exhibition her own experience prompted. It’s clear both from this and other instances that museums have a lot to learn about dealing with sexual assault and its survivors. Until that learning happens—on the part of museum management, administrators and CEOs, curators, writers and educators—many survivors are being put at risk of further harm in the process.
“Under patriarchy we get any response and we are supposed to be grateful for it, when we all know the situation demands a lot more than that,” Abichandani says. “I’m a survivor, and minimizing my experience just makes me feel invisible again.”
- You may know the work of important intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois, but do you know his thoughts about aesthetics?
I have also been thinking about the weird Du Bois alongside the Du Bois who contributed a set of beautiful, colorful, proto-modernist data visualizations to the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900. While The Souls of Black Folk is itself a kind of ghost story, shaped by the tropes of supernatural fiction (“life within the Veil”), the Du Bois infographics utilize clean lines and a modern style to represent Black life in America. The data visualizations contain no shadows or shading, only stark lines and bold colors: a wildly different aesthetics of the color line. While Du Bois’s fiction is fascinatingly “out of step” with Black literature of his own moment, the 1900 data visualizations were purposively forward and future-looking. As part of the exhibitions put on display in the American Negro Exhibit at the Paris Exposition, the infographics sought to imagine a place for African Americans, especially Black Southerners, in the future, in and against Social Darwinist discourses of “race suicide” in this same historical moment.
- A look at the aesthetics of the British mosque and how its changed over the years:
Clove: How does the architecture of British mosques reflect their local context, as compared to mosques in countries with a more prominent Islamic architectural heritage?
SS: The earlier built mosques, from the 1970 to 90s, did attempt to incorporate examples of local architecture – this could be materials, or other architectural elements. Mosques built from the late 1990s and into the 2000s started to be more architecturally autonomous, attempting to be more literal replicas of traditional Islamic architecture from Muslim countries.
Q: I guess the flip side of that is the way “whiteness” is often discussed in progressive spaces. I find this to be a tricky thing to talk about. But I’m a white liberal Jew living in Brooklyn and I genuinely think I have more in common with the “average” person in Brooklyn, as big and diverse as it is, than I do with either the “average” white person in Appalachia, or the “average” white Republican in a Texas suburb. I find it’s hard to find the language to express that. It seems to me that there’s something going on with the language that seems to imply the problem is white skin itself — like white skin gives rise to problematic politics and behavior, rather than the problem being reactionary politics, or racism, or whatever.
A: Right. Yeah, and I think that’s perfectly reasonable. We should remember that it’s not inevitable that the label white should mean very much to its bearers. Some people are thinking, “I’m a white person, so I’m going to do this,” and a lot of people don’t. Now, it would be reasonable to point out that if you’re not otherwise marked, then one reason why many liberal-minded white people don’t think about being white is that they don’t have to worry about the color of their skin because it isn’t, in the context of interactions with officials and so on, likely to be burdensome to them. But I think that it’s perfectly proper to insist that essentialism about whiteness is as absurd as essentialism about blackness or any of these other identities.
You know, on the one hand, however you feel about your whiteness will sometimes make a difference to what happens to you — and on the other hand, it may not matter very much, to you. You may not think of your whiteness as having to do with anything except regretting the role of racism and so on. So that’s to make the point that identities have both a subjective and an objective dimension in some sense. They matter to how the world treats you, but they also matter to how you feel about the world, and the very same label can have very different subjective meanings for the people who bear it, and it can also lead to very different objective results in different circumstances. And all of that’s worth remembering.
- A former student of NYU professor Avital Ronell, Andrea Long Chu, says she believes the accuser claiming the “feminist” theorist sexually harassed him:
The irony is that those who survive this destruction often do so at the cost of inflicting the same trauma on their own students. Avital, now a grande dame of literary studies, who Reitman alleges bragged to him of a “mafia”-like ability to make or break the careers of others, still feels persecuted. She makes it the job of those around her to protect her from that persecution: to fawn, appease, coddle. The lawsuit against her reads as a portrait, not of a macho predator type, but of a desperately lonely person with the power to coerce others, on pain of professional and psychic obliteration, into being her friends, or worse.
And this part:
Meanwhile, on social media and on their blog, the queer-studies scholars Lisa Duggan and Jack Halberstam dismissed the blowback against Avital as neoliberalism meets sex panic meets culture clash, straight people apparently being unable to decipher the coded queer intimacy of emails like “I tried to call you a number of times, unfortunately couldn’t get through, would have liked to leave a msg” [sic].
That Avital’s defenders are left-wing academic stars is not particularly surprising if you’ve spent much time in the academy. The institution has two choices when faced with political radicals: Ax them, especially if they are graduate students, or promote them. Make them successful, give them awards, power, enormous salaries. That way, when the next scandal comes along — and it will — they will have a vested interest in playing defense.
- No one has been more critical of Democrats in the US than Glenn Greenwald, and Ian Parker (writing for the New Yorker) decided to profile him. And I can certainly relate to his words about Twitter:
Greenwald has tried to cut back on social media. “My No. 1 therapeutic goal is to reduce my Twitter usage,” he said. He gave a glimpse of his relationship with that site when, half seriously, he recalled his reaction to a difficult moment of parenting: “I went to pick a bunch of fights on Twitter to get it out of my system.” Miranda used to encourage Twitter breaks by unplugging the Wi-Fi router; a few months ago, he took away Greenwald’s phone. Miranda said that “Glenn receives so much hate” on Twitter. He went on, “Subconsciously, that goes somewhere. To not be exposed to that energy, it’s better for him.” Greenwald no longer carries a phone; he does all his tweeting from a laptop, and aims to finish before lunch. He told me this at the end of a day that included an afternoon tweet calling a Clinton-campaign official a “drooling partisan hack.” Reminded of this, Greenwald said, “I’m still a work in progress,” and laughed. Several weeks later, he announced to colleagues, on Slack, that he was further disengaging from Twitter; he also deleted twenty-seven thousand old tweets, saying that there was a risk that their meaning could be distorted. This was two weeks after he had criticized Matt Yglesias, a journalist at Vox, for regularly deleting recent tweets, “like a coward,” so that “you have no accountability for what you say.”
- Crazy Rich Asian continues to do well at the box office, and there continued to a steady stream of essays on the movie. Some notable ones, include Muqing M. Zhang’s piece for Colorlines:
DeLaGhetto, whose real name is Tim Chantarangsu, is a Thai-American YouTuber with 3.8 million followers who produces comedy out of stereotypes of Black American culture. Similarly, Huang is a Chinese-American chef—and writer of the book that “Fresh Off the Boat” was based on—who has been extensively criticized for speaking in fake AAVE, admitting to performing Black American culture and harassing Black women. Meanwhile, South Asian-American Koshy and South Asian-Canadian Singh also specialize in a brand of slapstick comedy that heavily incorporates Black American aesthetics.
But more interesting than their shtick is why Asian-American audiences enjoy watching Asian Americans performing caricatures of Blackness.
This dream of an Asian subject so impenetrably protected by wealth, so inculcated in faultless taste and beauty, so globally at ease, and so properly educated that he or she can go anywhere and not suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous racist discrimination accrues its most intense gratification under the assumption of universal anti-Asian racism. The movie offsets this bleak note by giving its (Asian/Asian-American) viewers the satisfactions of what Rey Chow calls “the ethnic detail”: conversational bits of Hokkienese, Cantonese, and Singlish; delectable shots of familiar street foods; lingering echoes of a pop song in Mandarin. There is a profound pleasure in all this recognition (even self-misrecognition is recognition) for an audience who rarely gets to see this much “Asianness” in the mainstream media. Let me remind us that in 2018 we witnessed the first play by an Asian-American woman playwright on Broadway, and it is called Straight White Men. And although Young Jean Lee’s brilliantly constructed play makes it acutely clear that we cannot think of that category without all that it excludes, the irony of this fact tells us much about the still dearth of opportunities for Asian-American writers, performers, and story lines.
- Life is strange sometimes, like this newsflash (wait for it):
NBC solemnly announces death of Sen. John McCain.
Wait for it. pic.twitter.com/xAqZ3HtvHa
— Rob Beschizza (@Beschizza) August 26, 2018
Walt Disney built his media empire animating fairy tales; he did not start making films set in a Nazi-occupied Europe by choice.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye features a riveting performance from Jessica Chastain, but proves less interesting than the documentary it’s based on.
In The Contest of the Fruits, the art collective Slavs and Tatars investigates language, politics, religion, humor, resilience, and resistance in a pluralistic world.
Rafał Milach sharply documents three international border walls and how they impact our sense of identity and memory.
Protesters splashed paint on the entryway of the Museum of Modern Art in Midtown, Manhattan.
Seven artists and curators, including Dona Nelson, the featured artist for this year’s Tim Hamill Visiting Artist Lecture, are giving public talks at BU School of Visual Arts.