Weekend

Required Reading

This week, architect unions, Aaron Sorkin writes a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Hal Foster on the new MoMA, Zadie Smith on Celia Paul’s new memoir, Kanye in Wyoming, and more.

French firms Coldefy & Associés and RDAI have beaten competition from Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Studio Libeskind to build a museum and memorial dedicated to the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. The design is impressive, even if we’re not sure what the museum will exact exhibit and focus on. There are more images at Dezeen. (via Dezeen)

The question of why architectural workers (a term that includes designers as well as the administrative, communications, human resources, and business development workers who make the profession externally legible) haven’t unionized is richly complicated. It has as much to do with general labor consciousness under capitalism in the United States as it does with the idiosyncratic structure of the profession itself. It is difficult for workers who consider themselves middle class to imagine that they need a union. It difficult for workers who manage themselves on baroque systems of informal interpersonal relationships (“Our office is a family!”) to imagine they need a union. It is most acutely difficult for workers who do not consider themselves workers at all to imagine they need a union (this point explained is with greater clarity in Marisa Cortright’s excellent piece in Failed Architecture).

In the United States, the middle class is not a solid status. What we have instead is a gradient between precarity and privilege. However, from The Fountainheadto How I Met Your Mother, popular representations of architects code the profession as comfortably middle (or even upper) class. When I speak with architectural workers in the Architecture Lobby about unions, one of their top motivations for pursuing unionization is the gap between their material conditions and the myth of middle-class status. We ask each other, on your salary and benefits alone, can you afford a medical crisis? A pregnancy? Student loan payments? A mortgage? Retirement? Yet one of the many hesitations about unionization is the hope that keeping their heads down and eventually being promoted to management will afford them these forms of stability. But in most architecture firms, even those with yearly reviews, the path to promotion is murky and the trained managerial class is flimsy at best. This stagnation leads to instability, with workers leaving to seek opportunity elsewhere and often getting stuck again. Firms then find themselves retraining and retraining staff while steadily losing institutional memory.

One hears this talk everywhere, and what strikes me about it is how natural the rationale has come to sound, not only the corporate logic of ‘expand or die’ but also the neoliberal order that subtends it all: more than natural, it appears necessary. Usually that is a sure sign that an ideology has won. Yet cracks have begun to show in the post-Occupy, high-Trump era. We know that funding patterns follow wealth distribution, that fewer and fewer people give more and more. But why bow down to them for the tax break and the journalistic love that they receive in return? Why not tax them up the wazoo, redistribute accordingly, and spread some joy to cultural institutions too? Or simply make admission to museums free, as it is in other countries that are far poorer? MoMA, for one, might be resented less. In any case, the tacit truce that many of us have made with such museums – if you deliver impressive shows in beautiful galleries, we won’t ask pesky questions about funding – is under pressure. The worm has turned on toxic philanthropy, and many want to call trustees out. ‘MoMA Board member and CEO of BlackRock, Larry Fink, is the second largest shareholder of prison companies GEO Group and Core Civic,’ one open letter states. ‘With over $2 billion in contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), these companies have been responsible for 70 per cent of all immigration detention.’ I wonder which of the great modernists in the MoMA collection, brought back from the dead, would leave the museum in protest. Not many, I imagine, but some. Most of the Russians, many Dadaists, maybe Diego Rivera, Fernand Léger, and even Picasso (at least for the gesture), some Latin Americans, a few others.

In the head of the muse were the eyes of a painter. At the time, she was at her easel, watching Freud enter the basement life-drawing class at the Slade School of Fine Art, where he was a visiting tutor. He liked to make a dramatic entrance. In Paul’s case, it all happened with unseemly speed. In a moment he is beside her; she shows him some drawings she has done of her mother; a painting of her father. He touches her back, suggests they go for tea, and after that tea, they get in his car:

As we drove west the low autumn sun was blinding. He took my hair and wound it around his fingers and started stroking my throat with a soft rotating movement. I felt his knuckles on my throat through my hair. He stared at me fixedly and told me I looked so sad. He asked me for my phone number.

There’s no mystery as to why. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy built on theocratic law. Free expression is forbidden. Illegal. A criminal act.

The modern idea of art is exactly opposite. Apostasy — the abandonment or renunciation of official or establishment belief — is integral to it. A diverse cosmopolitan culture cannot function without free expression.

There’s no mystery as to why. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy built on theocratic law. Free expression is forbidden. Illegal. A criminal act.

The modern idea of art is exactly opposite. Apostasy — the abandonment or renunciation of official or establishment belief — is integral to it. A diverse cosmopolitan culture cannot function without free expression.

I spent the entire night after that show thinking I had let down other survivors by not punching up harder. I kept feeling that I should’ve said more, that I should’ve been stronger. And I share these feelings with you not because I don’t know that I’m strong, but because I know that so many survivors feel this way all the time.

I’ve felt weak for not being able to name my attackers when others could. I’ve hoped that the rapist from high school, the rapist from college and the rapist from my Brooklyn apartment never become powerful, because I’m not at all prepared to endure the consequences of speaking out against them in hopes of protecting others.

The first time I ever felt a bit of strength or healing after being raped was when a stranger on a sexual assault awareness blog typed to me, “I believe you and it’s not your fault.” If you’re reading this, and no one has ever said that to you, for whatever it’s worth, I believe you. It’s not your fault.

I’m tired. I’m tired of missing work because of a trauma episode. I’m tired of spending an entire week thinking about rapists instead of thinking about jokes. I’m tired of losing friends and family because of rapists. I’m tired of losing sleep because of rapists.

Most people don’t have the resources to employ a battalion of fact checkers. Nonetheless, while you were testifying before a congressional committee two weeks ago, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked you the following: “Do you see a potential problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements?” Then, when she pushed you further, asking you if Facebook would or would not take down lies, you answered, “Congresswoman, in most cases, in a democracy, I believe people should be able to see for themselves what politicians they may or may not vote for are saying and judge their character for themselves.”

Now you tell me. If I’d known you felt that way, I’d have had the Winklevoss twins invent Facebook.

How the citizens of Cody will process these remarks should be interesting. According to the New York Times, 73.6% of Park County, where Cody is located, voted for Trump, and 2018 U.S. Census Bureau statistics indicate that 95.9% of the county’s residents are white, while just 0.7% are black. Seventy-one percent of Wyoming residents practice some form of Christian religion, including Mormonism, according to the Pew Research Center for Religion and Public Life.

A number of Cody locals were willing to share their initial opinions. Thirty-year-old Wyoming native Kersten Michelson, who is black, says that after her 9-year-old son spotted West shopping at Walmart, he told her that the rapper’s bodyguard was holding his groceries. “Kanye needs to get rid of his damn security guards,” she says. “He looks crazy! He needs to act normal and acclimate.” 

West’s Sunday Services have attracted Brad Pitt, Katy Perry, Paris Jackson, Tyler, The Creator and Diplo among other celebrities, and a main concern among locals is that he and Kardashian’s presence will spark an influx of entitled wealth. They don’t want Cody becoming another Jackson Hole, a resort town about a five-hour drive away where billionaires go to ski. “If you want to change everything, you won’t last long here. We are happy the way we are,” says Gail Nace, owner of the Silver Dollar Bar, a popular local watering hole.

Others see West and Kardashian as a welcome disruptive influence. “We can be open to new ideas, thoughts and processes and be better for it,” says Cherie Fisher, 50, owner of The Village Shoppe boutique in Cody. 

Although the fries are reasonably crisp, their insides are mealy and bland in a way that fresh-cut potatoes almost certainly would not be. The sole — yes, I’m the person who ordered the sole at Peter Luger — was strangely similar: The bread crumbs on top were gold and crunchy, but the fish underneath was dry and almost powdery.

Was the Caesar salad always so drippy, the croutons always straight out of a bag, the grated cheese always so white and rubbery? I know there was a time the German fried potatoes were brown and crunchy, because I eagerly ate them each time I went. Now they are mushy, dingy, gray and sometimes cold. I look forward to them the way I look forward to finding a new, irregularly shaped mole.

Literary forms, political forms. At times, Beckett’s narration of the loss of sovereignty, status, and control, and his understanding of collapsing structures of power, seem too ambivalent for our moment. In enormous poverty, his characters devote some attention to negotiating their change in fortune. They don’t want to kick a slave but will, eventually, if a chicken bone is involved. While we are not forced to feel sorry for these bowler-wearing deplorables, Beckett’s condemnation of them is far from complete: he recognizes himself to be thoroughly implicated in their lot. But out of his own literary disinheritance, Beckett developed a whole poetics of decline, a minimalism not without its optimistic and productive qualities.

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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