Weekend

Required Reading

This week, a newly authenticated van Gogh, critics hate Thomas Heatherwick’s “Vessel,” US soft power and the literary avant-garde, National Museum of the American Indian’s magazine is available for free online, and more.

Left, Vincent van Gogh, “Vase with Poppies” (c. 1886, oil on canvas, 21 1/2 x 17 3/4 in. (Bequest of Anne Parrish Titzell. 1957.617), right, Rotated X-ray with lines on “Vase with Poppies” // After nearly 30 years of doubt, the Wadsworth Atheneum has authenticated it’s “Vase with Poppies” painting as a real work by Vincent van Gogh. A 1957 bequest
from the writer and French Impressionist collector Anne Parrish Titzell, the painting was exhibited at the important 1913 Armory Show in New York City. Using digital x-ray and advanced infrared reflectograms, researchers have also discovered an earlier painting (right) underneath the current composition. (images courtesy Wadsworth Atheneum)
  • There is so much hate for Thomas Heatherwick’s “Vessel” in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards, and here are my two favorites (though you should make sure to read Michael Kimmelman’s take on Hudson Yards at the New York Times). First, Feargus O’Sullivan at City Lab:

Because, frankly, many of Heatherwick’s projects stink. Time and again, his designs crop up in urban ensembles that look as if the dystopian world of Orwell’s 1984 had been given a kooky Wes Anderson makeover. It’s not aesthetics that are the inherent problem, however. The issue is that the kind of developments that Heatherwick’s structures brand appear playful but are actually loci for a queasy mix of distraction and surveillance, places that promise cheerful hi-jinx but which enforce consumption-driven regimentation on their users. Look at the Vessel (which some wags have already informally renamed “the Shawarma,” thanks to its resemblance to a spinning meatloaf-cone). Here’s a fun $200 million tower of staircases that invites visitors to clamber—but only under ludicrously strict conditions and control. Like many of his projects, it’s essentially a gaudy monument to being only ever-so-slightly free.

Then, Kate Wagner at The Baffler:

It is a Vessel for capital, for a real estate grift that can charge more for an already multi-million dollar apartment because it merely faces it. It is a Vessel for a so-called neighborhood that poorly masks its intention to build luxury assets for the criminally wealthy under the guise of investing in the city and “public space.” What is public space if not that land allocated (thanks to the generosity of our Real Estate overlords) to the city’s undeserving plebeians, who can interface with it in one of two ways: as consumers or interlopers, both allowed only to play from dawn ‘til dusk in the discarded shadows of the ultra-rich? Unlike a real neighborhood, which implies some kind of social collaboration or collective expression of belonging, Hudson Yards is a contrived place that was never meant for us. Because of this, the Vessel is also a Vessel for outrage like my own.

Indeed, black Puerto Rican artists are becoming increasingly visible locally and internationally, and they are connecting with the aesthetic and spiritual traditions of the broader African diaspora. Yet the history of Afro–Puerto Rican art is not widely known. A galvanizing moment for some black artists in the territory came in 1992, amid official commemorations of the five-hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s landfall in the Caribbean. While myriad exhibitions celebrated Puerto Rican art past and present, the culture of black Puerto Ricans was broadly represented by traditional craft practices divorced from contemporary art. Seeking to redress this cultural split, curator Edwin Velázquez Collazo organized the 1996 exhibition “Paréntesis: ocho artistas negros contemporáneos” (Parenthesis: Eight Black Contemporary Artists). The show, at the Institute for Puerto Rican Culture in San Juan, featured work by Daniel Lind Ramos, Awilda Sterling-Duprey, Ramón Bulerín, Arleen Casanova, Eneid Routte Gómez, Gadiel Rivera, Jesús Cardona, Liz D. Amable, and Velázquez Collazo. In pointed statements offered along with their work, the participating artists asserted their identity as black Puerto Ricans and contemporary artists who rejected an inherent link between blackness, folklore, and craft.
By including the word “negros” in the Spanish title, Velázquez Collazo was indeed challenging “the absurdity of black invisibility in a mestizo society,” as one observer wrote about the show. Most critics, however, reacted negatively to the premise and attacked the exhibition’s title as well as the artists’ statements about race. José Antonio Torres Martinó, a prominent critic and artist, published a column refuting the artists’ claims of systemic racism. Torres Martinó accused the eight artists of being divisive and trying to import conflicts endemic to American society to Puerto Rico—a common defense against accusations of homegrown racism.

“Relentless monitoring” and co-optation of literary sites, outlets, and works became the US state-funded norm to counter, mollify, moderate, neutralize, and defuse resistance and thus keep any form of “armed militancy” (especially black or Third-World affiliated) at foreign bay (130-131). Networks of foundation funding and State Department support provided the capillary flow of power and capital, covertly and more openly so at times across the sixties and seventies if still “under recognized” (141) in its pervasive impact and consequences as Spahr claims. At the university level, this meant “an institutionalization of these culturalist movements that would sever them from more insurgent and militant possibilities as they were located within the university” (139). Such networks of biopower helped to produce and contain racialized resistance, as Roderick Ferguson, Eric Bennett, and Jodi Melamed et al have noted, as recuperated within if not beyond the Cold War academy.

Challenging her own immersion in lyric ideologies of First World privilege and a university literary culture aligned with US “imperial globalization,” Spahr exposes claims, taking academic dominion as absorbed in her “avoidance” training at SUNY Buffalo, that “the modernist tradition excluded [valuing] writing that had direct connection to thriving culturalist and anticolonialist movements of the time” (8). “I was thinking,” Spahr admits while tracking her own counterconversion to “poetry’s [subaltern] socialities and prosovereignty literatures” in counter-nationalist Hawai’i in the 1990s and the alter- or other-than-Englishes then emerging, “in the way the State Department and the liberal foundations that worked with the State Department wanted me to think” (10). As Spahr will admit later in chapter three reflecting on another wave of stubborn nationalism, “in many ways this book is an autobiography about how my education [at Bard and Buffalo] told me that certain forms of literature were autonomous when they were not and how long it took me to realize this” (110). Still, Spahr’s will to cultivate resistance remains no less stubborn, no less deeply affiliated as material and literary intervention.

The case of Argosy University, a for-profit-turned-nonprofit chain of colleges—with branches in San Francisco, Dallas, Denver, Nashville, Inland Empire, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Sarasota, and Schaumburg, Illinois—shows how profiteering schools are just bad for their students. The company was recently placed in receivership and stripped of its access to federal Title IV higher education funding after it was found to be financially derelict. It had recently been taken over by the Dream Center, a Christian-oriented nonprofit that runs several other scandal-plagued corporate colleges, including the Art Institute and South University.

With about 60,000 students, Argosy converted to nonprofit status in 2017 under the Dream Center’s ownership. But the deal was controversial from the start, prompting two regional accreditation bodies to hold off on certifying the schools, citing suspected conflicts of interest, according to an analysis by TCF.

Last September, Swiss cheesemaker Beat Wampfler and a team of researchers from the Bern University of Arts placed nine 22-pound wheels of Emmental cheese in individual wooden crates in Wampfler’s cheese cellar. Then, for the next six months each cheese was exposed to an endless, 24-hour loop of one song using a mini-transducer, which directed the sound waves directly into the cheese wheels.

The “classical” cheese mellowed to the sounds of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The “rock” cheese listened to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” An ambient cheese listened to Yello’s “Monolith,” the hip-hop cheese was exposed to A Tribe Called Quest’s “Jazz (We’ve Got)” and the techno fromage raved to Vril’s “UV.” A control cheese aged in silence, while three other wheels were exposed to simple high, medium and low frequency tones.

  • I still can’t believe this story about Democratic Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg — but he doesn’t only speak Norwegian, but also appears to be conversant in Dari, Maltese, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and France. Talk about the anti-Trump:

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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