Weekend

Required Reading

This week, roadside America, Alexandra Stock hates Christoph Büchel’s Venice project, quitting Instagram, failed utopias, the AirPods disaster, and more.

This image of The Donut Hole on Amar Road, La Puente, CA, is one of over 1,400 images in the Library of Congress’s “Roadside America” set on Flickr. It’s full of amazing copyright-free images you should check out. Btw, can you believe that The Donut Hole has a perfectly situated drive-thru? (via flickr.com/library_of_congress)

Writing about Büchel’s project goes against my better judgement. Four friends asked independently of each other to please not give it more attention than it’s already received, but this fucking boat project made me both sad and mad and I have to push back at what Büchel is doing, even if that means feeding the publicity — actually, especially in light of the tame acceptance it has received in the press. A friend who works as a curator in Amsterdam suggested that the work is a much-needed one-liner in a sea of art in the biennale that demands a lot of time and attention (but even she drew a line at a price tag of €2 million). The thing is, being able to turn the deaths of hundreds of migrants into a one-liner isn’t a sophisticated intellectual feat, it’s just white privilege, with or without an art context.

In no uncertain terms, and not cloaked in neutral art speak, I find Christoph Büchel’s Barca Nostra vulgar and terrifyingly violent. I am repelled by the artist’s obliviousness — regardless if it’s performed or not — to his privilege, and by the curators and organizers who enabled him, but also by the damage the work has already done and might continue to do when it comes to feeding into the idea that being detached from life by one degree is part of the package deal of being in the arts. Even an art context cannot swallow this one whole.

Most of them say Instagram made them feel bad, or took up too much of their time, or in Kaitlyn’s case, made her sad after a breakup.

The whole podcast is worth a listen.

Since it opened, 4,200 appointments have been made, accommodating some 13,200 people. None have had quite the presence of Westlund. He refers to staff by first name — “I usually e-mail Mary” — Mary Lister, the assistant director for collections — “and ask, ‘Can I see these things next time?’ ” he said. When he needs guidance on where to look next, “Miriam” — Miriam Stewart, the museum’s curator of the collection for the division of American and European Art — “gives me good advice.”

His looking has shed light all around. “He brings as much to us as we hope we bring to him,” Lister said. “I think we’re just always so wonderfully surprised by his enthusiasm. His exploration of the collection helps us look at it in a different way.”

The particles that make up these elements were created 13.8 billion years ago, during the Big Bang. Humans extract these elements from the earth, heat them, refine them. As they work, humans breathe in airborne particles, which deposit in their lungs. The materials are shipped from places like Vietnam, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Peru, Mexico, Indonesia, and India, to factories in China. A literal city of workers creates four tiny computing chips and assembles them into a logic board. Sensors, microphones, grilles, and an antenna are glued together and packaged into a white, strange-looking plastic exoskeleton.

These are AirPods. They’re a collection of atoms born at the dawn of the universe, churned beneath the surface of the earth, and condensed in an anthropogenic parallel to the Big Crunch—a proposed version of the death of the universe where all matter shrinks and condenses together. Workers are paid unlivable wages in more than a dozen countries to make this product possible. Then it’s sold by Apple, the world’s first trillion-dollar company, for $159 USD.

For Trump, however, this royal dinner was clearly more than the usual state visit, as the New York Times pointed out on Tuesday. While Trump has worked hard to build his life into a glittering, eponymous brand, there has long been a royal-specific yearning in the Trump family. What is less known is that this desire arguably dates back to Trump’s mother, an immigrant maid who came to America almost 100 years ago and bequeathed to her fourth child the notion that all that glitters really is gold.

Unlike his mother’s origins, Trump’s obsession with the royals — the human epitome of his old go-to word, “classy” — is hardly a secret. Besides all the gold T’s and his gilded Versailles triplex in Trump Tower, there’s the family crest that Trump essentially stole from the socialite who built Mar-a-Lago, modifying it to remove the word “Integritas” but keeping the three rampant lions.

… Pundits like historian Doug Brinkley have blamed Trump’s obsession on his autocratic political bent — he wanted to be “King Donald.” Or simply a penchant for outrageous marketing strategies. But the true source is likely a far more personal inheritance: A Trump family secret is that his mother worked as a maid in the household of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie.

Quite why US taxpayers were funding Trump’s four very definitely adult children to come on a family holiday to London has never been explained by a White House administration whose only consistent policy has been “never explain, never apologise”. Yet, in an administrative snafu, someone with self-awareness has been hired to run the White House’s Instagram account and he or she notably cut the Trump juniors out of all photos posted of National Lampoon’s London Vacation. Even Ivanka only makes a fleeting, possibly accidental appearance, even though, as we all know, she has a very important job in the White House that she totally got on her own merit.

This is to say nothing of Wolf’s unhinged public pronouncements. She has alleged the American military is importing Ebola from Africa with an intention of spreading it at home, that Edward Snowden might be a government plant and that she has seen the figure of Jesus while she was (inexplicably) in the form of a 13-year-old boy. She appeared on Alex Jones’s show, and accused the government of intercepting and reading her daughter’s mail.

Throughout it all, she remains impervious to criticism. “I’m lucky,” she said in a recent profile in The Guardian. “I had a good education. I know my books are true.”

Not accurate or factual, but true. This is a key to understanding why charges of sloppiness or misrepresentation don’t seem to stymie, or even embarrass, writers like Wolf (or Jared Diamond and Annie Jacobsen, who have both been involved in similar scandals in recent weeks, facing them with the same blithe indifference). The issue isn’t simply that publishers don’t spring for fact-checking and leave writers vulnerable to making such errors. These writers see themselves in service of something larger than grubby reporting. “The important thing is that these stories are told,” Wolf recently told The Times of London. They are the emissaries of great stories, suppressed stories, and if they take liberties or eschew careful research — as consistently as Wolf has done — it is because they believe they have a right to them, that the story, the cause, somehow sanctions it.

  • The best part of the news that there will be a ‘straight pride’ parade in Boston has been all the responses, including this humorous take:

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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