- The New York Times‘ 1619 Project made waves this year, and it seems to resonated with a great deal of people. Recently a group of historians wrote a letter to the Times to refute some of the historical accuracy, and the letter, as well as the newspaper’s response, are worth your time to read. The newspaper’s response begins:
Since The 1619 Project was published in August, we have received a great deal of feedback from readers, many of them educators, academics and historians. A majority have reacted positively to the project, but there have also been criticisms. Some I would describe as constructive, noting episodes we might have overlooked; others have treated the work more harshly. We are happy to accept all of this input, as it helps us continue to think deeply about the subject of slavery and its legacy.
The letter from Professors Bynum, McPherson, Oakes, Wilentz and Wood differs from the previous critiques we have received in that it contains the first major request for correction. We are familiar with the objections of the letter writers, as four of them have been interviewed in recent months by the World Socialist Web Site. We’re glad for a chance to respond directly to some of their objections.
You may also be interested in the Atlantic‘s article about this back and forth.
- Diana Hamilton’s takedown of Jordan Wolfson is delicious, particularly since Wolfson peddles aestheticized violence and it’s really painful to see someone monetize that. Anyway, here is Hamilton’s take:
Wolfson does not refuse all received ideas about art. He repeats a handful of platitudes with apparent earnestness: that artists have nothing but their own intuition, that worrying about offending others prevents the creation of real art, that audiences should be grateful for the access they are given to artists’ consciousness, and that the kind of judgment-free letting go it takes to view his works is directly analogous to the personal peace he has won through daily meditation. But it is hard to take him seriously – does he mean it when he writes (in this magazine) that reading Jeff Koons quotes ‘opened [him] up to a state of non-judgement’? Like anyone who has gotten rich by hiring others with technical expertise, he credits his success to personal genius. But above all, he believes in form.
Artists and critics preoccupied with transgression love to repeat the word ‘form!’ to distract you from their reliance on visceral content. When William S. Burroughs writes about talking rectums with teeth and young boys spreading ‘jism around like tapioca’, he demonstrates the formal freedom of the cut-up method, what Oliver Harris calls ‘a way to systematize the drive to lose the undesired past’. When Vito Acconci masturbates in the gallery in Seedbed (1972), it is about his becoming ‘part of the architecture of the room’, and about drawing the audience into the performance by addressing them in the second person – a gesture analogous to Wolfson’s use of eye contact as a ‘formal bridge’ to his audience. When the Marquis de Sade’s Eugénie sews up her mother’s vagina after watching her be raped by a man with syphilis (Philosophy in the Bedroom, 1795), he is offering an example of what Gilles Deleuze calls, in 1967, ‘an astonishing development of the demonstrative use of language.’
- Jillian Steinhauer writes about Picasso and Françoise Gilot:
Many writers have devoted books to Picasso, from memoirs to academic tomes to biographies; the art historian John Richardson alone penned four volumes chronicling his 91 years of life. In fact, books about Picasso have become their own kind of cottage industry, which helps fuel his reputation as one of the world’s greatest artists. The appearance of each one seems to quietly bolster a long-standing premise: that here is a man continually worth discussing—and forgiving—because he was a genius who can never be fully understood.
Life With Picasso, which Gilot cowrote with the journalist and art critic Carlton Lake, was an unusual entry in the genre when it appeared in 1964. The closest analogue was Picasso et Ses Amis, a memoir by Fernande Olivier, the artist’s first partner, which was published in French in 1933 and coincidentally released in English the same year as Life With Picasso. Like Olivier’s, Gilot’s book is neither scholarly nor reverential but rather a tell-all of the couple’s time together, from their first meeting—by chance at a restaurant in Paris in May 1943, during the German occupation—to the bitter aftermath of their breakup. It’s intimate and gossipy as well as clear-eyed and insightful. It takes the larger-than-life figure of Picasso and repaints him as a brilliant but insecure artist and a loving but tyrannical man. It is an excruciatingly honest book.
No doubt for that reason, Picasso did not want to see it published. According to the introduction to the new edition, he initiated three lawsuits in an attempt to stop it, while some 40 French artists and intellectuals signed a petition to ban the book. (He tried to prevent Olivier’s memoir from being published, too.) After it came out, Richardson skewered Life With Picasso in the New York Review of Books, calling it “wretched” and accusing its author of “indiscretion masquerading as candor” and a “chip-on-shoulder malice which permeates—and ultimately invalidates—much of this book.” (Richardson later reversed course and became friends with Gilot; a favorable blurb by him appears on the back cover of the new edition.) Picasso, for his part, took out his fury on his two children with Gilot. After the book came out, he never saw them again.
- Writing for Arts.Black, Ladi’Sasha Jones explores notions of the interior and Blackness. Here’s a snippet:
t. Black interior art is improvisational. Emphemeratic. Always listening. The work of the seer and the seen.
u. In thinking about the relationship between the Black interior and art, one must understand the awareness the interior holds for power relationships between public observation and market absorption of the visual production of Black thought, design, and collective making.
v. Black interior design is found in the hybrid technologies employed by the Black homemakers artist Xenobia Bailey references within her work; the underground life-making of Black American maroons as researched by Dr. Sylvian Diouf; The Great Migration (and most Black migratory movements) as a spatial and economic imaginary; the liberatory architecture of bush arbors that are as Mario Gooden writes, “…perhaps one of the earliest examples of the subversive space-making of African [enslaved] slaves.”7 The interior is beautiful. It does not present the impression or volume of beauty but the actualization of it as free thought.
w. So much of Black interior form is shaped through tools and systems of codification, improvisation, and repetition. It is mark-making, the essence of residual occupancy or hyper-presence. This is manifested in Torkwase Dyson’s work The Terror of Black Interdetemincy, 2 (2019). The composition features a coupling of drawings that are resonant mappings of the illogic of anti-blackness. “The shape makes the Black,”8 states Dyson in reference to imaging radicality, stretching her technique of imbuing the somatic with abstraction.
- Chinese restaurants are closing in the US (in San Francisco, the share of Chinese restaurants shrank to 8.8% from 10%), but some point out that’s a good thing, as it indicates upward mobility:
“It’s a success that these restaurants are closing,” said Jennifer 8. Lee, a former New York Times journalist who wrote of the rise of Chinese restaurants in her book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles and produced a documentary, The Search for General Tso. “These people came to cook so their children wouldn’t have to, and now their children don’t have to.”
The retirements of the restaurant owners also reflect the history of Chinese immigration to the United States. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act halted what had been a steady rise in people coming from China. It was not revoked until 1943, and large-scale immigration resumed only after 1965, when other race-targeting quotas were abolished.
- How not to discuss African fiction, according to Ainehi Edoro. It begins:
The history of modern African fiction is essentially 100 years of branding disaster. In marketing African fiction, the conventional practice among publishers both in Africa and the west has been to simply tag a novel to a social issue. Such and such a novel explores colonialism. Done. So and so offers a searing representation of the scourge of misogyny. Done. Corruption takes center stage in so and so’s novel. Done.
African fiction is packaged and circulated, bought and sold not on the basis of its aesthetic value but of its thematic preoccupation.
This perception of African literature has a history. It can be traced to what I’ve come to think of as the anthropological unconscious of the African novel. Academic institutions were the first to notice that there was such a thing as African fiction. Today, when Teju Cole publishes a novel, it is reviewed by the New York Times as a literary work, right? It wasn’t always like that. In 1925, the English translation of Thomas Mofolo’s Chaka was published. Chaka is a beautifully dark and twisted take on the true life story of the Zulu King. It is a cross between fantasy and psycho-drama. The story is built around one of the most enigmatic and memorable literary figures you’d ever encounter. A cross between Amos Tutuola’s Palmwine Drinkard and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Mofolo’s Chaka is one of those lovely monsters that have captivated literature lovers since forever. In spite of all this, Chaka was featured in mostly history and anthropological journals published by university presses. In 1931, an academic reviewer describes Chaka as “a behavioristic study of Zulu Life under the despot Chaka” and then goes on to expound upon the “scientific value” of the novel. These scholars saw African fiction as a narrative documentation of African life that opened up access to the beliefs and values of African societies. But even when African fiction finally broke into the literary market, it never lost its anthropological allure. Publishers and critics became used to the idea that any fiction coming out of Africa must lay claim to some truth about Africa. It became the practice to market African fiction not around their literary attributes but around the social and political issues they address.
- Mel Magazine offers that Crying Jordan is the meme of the decade:
There are a number of memes you could argue as “the best of the decade,” or “most definitive” of the past 10 years. It was a boom time for frogs: Kermit, Pepe, Dat Boi. Earlier on, the normie energy of other animals — like Doge and Grumpy Cat — was hard to outmatch. (The less said about Harambe, the better.) Toward the end, Distracted Boyfriend showed real endurance. Both Drake and Tiffany Pollard were mainstays, as was practically all of SpongeBob SquarePants. The Rage Comics of 2010 vintage told us something of where we’d end up in 2019, dropping Galaxy Brain, “Is This a Pigeon?” and “Sir, This Is an Arby’s” to convey a broken discourse.
There was also Spider-Man Pointing at Spider-Man. That often came in handy.
But Crying Jordan was, to use my editor Cooper’s analogy, “the Forrest Gump of the decade.” It saw us through the entire stretch, witness to every agony and dishonor. The image of a steely champion dissolved in emotion was perhaps the exact match for a time that took us, cruelly and inexorably, from the first black president to… well, you remember. On the evening of the 2016 election, as unfathomable returns rolled in, Jordan mourned for us all.
- Ever wonder why there are so many fisheye photos on album covers? Vox explores:
- Trump fans are delicate, so when Canada’s CBC played a shortened version of Home Alone 2 that didn’t include the scene with Trump, they lost their minds:
After complaints began surfacing on social media, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation confirmed to ComicBook.com that Trump had been cut from the film. But the company said the decision was made “for commercial time,” not because it hates Trump. “As is often the case with features adapted for television, Home Alone 2 was edited to allow for commercial time within the format,” the CBC told the site.
In a tweet on Thursday, the broadcaster elaborated with a spokesperson saying the cut, along with several others, had been made in 2014. “These edits were done in 2014 when we first acquired the film and before Mr. Trump was elected president,” the spokesperson said.
While Trump hasn’t tweeted about the slight, it’s probably coming: Fox News and other corridors of the right-wing echo chamber are buzzing with the news. Trump’s son Don Jr. tweeted an article calling the edit “pathetic.”
The subject also came up on Fox & Friends on Thursday. Conservative commentator Mark Steyn said the CBC had cut Trump because it didn’t want viewers to see that Trump is not actually evil. “That’s who Donald Trump was before he was the new Hitler,” Steyn said. “I think they’re terrified of these little things that will remind people just how deranged his opponents are.”
- Thanks to the Twitch app, the small nation of Tuvalu (population 11,000), which owns the .tv extension, is cashing in:
- LA Taco ranked the year’s best tacos in Los Angeles:
After much deliberation and going bodies with Cesar Hernandez on Slack, the L.A. Taco newsroom has agreed that the following 19 tacos best represent the city of Los Angeles and shows why we are the best city to eat tacos in the U.S. Our criteria was flavor, innovation, regionality, and being the kind of spots we would love to take our friends and family to try when they are in town. Read them, download our map of them, and embark on the best taco crawl of all time.
- This will make you really wonder if Hollywood gives a shit about anything but money:
There’s an important tidbit in the piece, which suggests that a new era of control and centralization in Hollywood will soon be upon us:
[Netflix] now routinely ends shows after their second season, even when they’re still popular. Netflix has learned that the first two seasons of a show are key to bringing in subscribers—but the third and later seasons don’t do much to retain or win new subscribers.
So the company is trying to get new subscribers, and wants to keep old subscribers just happy enough to not quit the service. And there’s this other tidbit:
Ending a show after the second season saves money, because showrunners who oversee production tend to negotiate a boost in pay after two years.
This passage, and the whole article, is framed by the notion that Netflix is becoming more budget conscience and metrics-driven. But really Netflix’s strategy is straightforward market power exploitation. The company is cancelling shows that subscribers like, so it won’t have to pay creators the amount they would otherwise be able to get for making good commercially successful art. In other words, Netflix is subtly raising prices on subscribers and paying creators less for their work.
- This is depressing:
- The best Birth of Adam I’ve seen in ages. TikTok rocks:
Required Reading is published every Saturday, 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.