Required Reading

This week, a new Scottish museum, white supremacy and white artists, an art critic records a year of his professional life, fake images of Islamic science, the battle over Classics, and more.

The V&A Dundee, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, have been revealed and the museum opened yesterday. Kuma designed the building to evoke the dramatic cliffs of Scotland’s coastline. “The big idea for V&A Dundee was bringing together nature and architecture, to create a new living room for the city,” he said. See more images on Dezeen (via Dezeen)

When white art that is meant to address white supremacy fails, the reason most often given for that failure is that the white artist hasn’t taken the time to listen to the groups they imagined they were advocating for. In an interview in the Los Angels Times, Durant addressed his failure to engage with his subjects in a non-traumatizing way by saying that, “The museum—and I’m sharing the blame —didn’t reach out to the community. We didn’t think of it, to start a dialogue before we started building it. There was no information.”

This is, no doubt, a large part of the issue. But it doesn’t get at what seems to me to be the underlying problem at hand: white artists often fail at this work because they haven’t centered themselves within the violence of their own whiteness. Had any of them placed themselves in the position of the aggressor instead of the victim, and then asked themselves what it means to inherit the violent history of being born white, I imagine some different kinds of art might have been made.

Over the course of a month I typically see more than 100 exhibitions, sometimes many more. To quote from Bourdon one last time: “Much of what I see is mediocre and forgettable, but I never feel my time is wasted.” Even when I am not a fan of something I come across, I can usually find something about it that I like. (And if I can’t, that’s fun in its own way.)

The irony is that these fake miniatures and objects are the product of a well-intentioned desire: a desire to integrate Muslims into a global political community through the universal narrative of science. That wish seems all the more pressing in the face of a rising tide of Islamophobia. But what happens when we start fabricating objects for the tales we want to tell? Why do we reject the real material remnants of the Islamic past for their confected counterparts? What exactly is the picture of science in Islam that are we hoping to find? These fakes reveal more than just a preference for fiction over truth. Instead, they point to a larger problem about the expectations that scholars and the public alike saddle upon the Islamic past and its scientific legacy.

  • “If you think about an African-American kid growing up in the projects, who’s autistic and schizophrenic, and now has their paintings collected by MoMA, that’s such an incredible achievement. The chances are a billion to one.” Interview with William Scott and Tom di Maria, Creative Growth’s longstanding director:

Do you know where his idea of reincarnation spaceships came from?
TdM: I don’t know where he got the idea. The idea of resurrection and going to heaven may have started with the church. He’s not one for the artifice or the affect of religion. He gets right to the core and promotes the belief that everyone on the planet should support one another. He now has work in important collections: at the MoMA in New York, the SFMOMA, The Studio Museum in Harlem… If you think about an African-American kid growing up in the projects, who’s autistic and schizophrenic, and now has their paintings collected by MoMA, that’s such an incredible achievement. The chances are a billion to one.

Any humanities classroom, in other words, is therefore a lab, and to sharpen our scalpels and grow our knowledge, we need specimens to dissect. And I think whatever I call the classes I teach, that is what we are doing — exploring, through a set of specimens, whichever set, the broader shape of the human interaction with times gone by, yesterday, and in some ways, tomorrow. What we are doing—whatever the name on the schedule says—is learning how to use our tools, such as they are, so that we can use them on anything.

Power is certainly at issue in the abundance of weaponry forged from the material, both functionally and metaphorically. Watch out for this specific weapon, the weighty, elemental material says. Whether straightforward spears and daggers or elaborately decorated shields, axes and throwing knives, iron armaments possess physical strength.

Yet, a very different kind of muscle is represented when a gifted craftsman has the talent and expertise to forge iron into something that is dazzling to look at. Watch out for the sharp and clever people who made it, a deft design declares. They are powerful too.

Are specialized fine-arts programs in high schools—such as Toronto’s Etobicoke School of the Arts—prep schools for potential BFAs, replicating the art-world’s inequalities? Or are they a necessary evolution in secondary-school arts education?

But just how essential is plate tectonics for life? Hints can be found from our own planet’s history. Around 2.5 billion years ago the sun was so cold that Earth’s liquid oceans should have been frozen in a snowball-like state—only they were not. Scientists think plate tectonics, which acts as a global thermostat, might have been our savior by creating volcanoes that spewed carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, helping it to retain more heat. Then, as the sun grew brighter and hotter, rainfall scrubbed the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and plate tectonics later subducted it into the Earth’s mantle (the layer of hot rock above the core), locking it away. It is this cycle, which acts on million-year timescales, that helps keep Earth’s temperature stable enough to support life.

Nearly 40% of female suicides occur in India

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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