Weekend

Required Reading

This week, a guerilla florist, on being human, pop music from North Africa, the politics of Hagia Sophia, police lies, bunny kisses, and more.

Lewis Miller Design is a florist that knows how to make a visual splash. They create guerrilla installations and this time they’re in New York, and they look pretty great, often transforming otherwise banal moments into something bright and beautiful. Here they treat a NYC garbage can like a vase. More images on Colossal (via Colossal)

Resisters complained about appearance, comfort and freedom, even after the flu killed an estimated 195,000 Americans in October alone.

Alma Whitaker, writing in The Los Angeles Times on Oct. 22, 1918, reviewed masks’ impact on society and celebrity, saying famous people shunned them because it was “so horrid” to go unrecognized.

“The big restaurants are the funniest sights, with all the waiters and diners masked, the latter just raising their screen to pop in a mouthful of food,” she wrote.

When Ms. Whitaker herself declined to wear one, she was “forcibly taken” to the Red Cross as a “slacker,” and ordered to make one and put it on.

One-Third of New York’s Small Businesses May Be Gone Forever

You may know of the hemline theory — the idea that skirt lengths fluctuate with the stock market, rising in boom times and growing longer in recessions.

Perhaps publishing has a parallel; call it the blurb theory. The more strained our circumstances, the more manic the publicity machine, the more breathless and orotund the advance praise. Blurbers (and critics) speak with a reverent quiver of this moment, anointing every other book its guide, every second writer its essential voice.

Take “Luster,” by Raven Leilani, perhaps the summer’s most touted debut. It’s a book that has been so feverishly praised for its boldness, humor and sexual frankness that I was a little crushed to find instead a perfectly agreeable if uneven first novel — brisk and pleasantly pulpy, hobbled occasionally by some seriously mangled prose and pat psychology.

How can we imagine the role of artists and cultural workers amid conditions of pervasive crisis, as we transition indefinitely toward remote, mediatized forms of production and reception?

Would it be possible to assemble a toolkit of speculative, technologically-enabled practices; digital networks of mutual aid; and virtual para-institutions that could represent a meaningful contribution at the present conjuncture?

What new communicative forms could artists and cultural workers devise to stage generative interventions as many are living life onscreen?

After 1796, the clock disappeared from records. Over sixty years later, in 1861, the clock reappeared at a Paris auction, the first lot in the sale catalog. This 1861 sale catalog includes a detailed description of the clock, yet does not include the seller’s name. Fortunately, some copies show “Marquis de Saint-Cloud” handwritten on the cover.

However, there didn’t seem to be a Marquis of Saint-Cloud. It seemed like such a title did not exist, yet several other sales also sold artworks from this collection. Three mid-1800s Parisian auctions sold Saint-Cloud pieces, in 1861, 1864, and 1874. The printed title of the 1864 sale catalog says that the collection belonged to “M. le Marquis de S.-Cl…” and someone added a handwritten “oud” to complete the name.

In the Kemalist imagination, having the Hagia Sophia as a museum represented the best compromise, and they successfully “sold” this vision to the scholars in the West, many of whom to this day think this was a good “compromise,” albeit with various well-justified technical caveats as in the case of Blessing and Yaycioglu. This idea also worked very well for the urban Kemalist elite and their newly created middle class throughout the 20thcentury, because it did not require them to symbolically come to terms with the vast destruction visited upon the minorities of the land, from whom they had acquired significant aspects of their material and cultural wealth via direct or indirect appropriation, and it remained as a message to the provincial people they looked down upon as unwashed Muslims, who received the message: “stay down.”

For the later incarnations and generations of the beneficiaries of the Kemalist regime in society, it was perfectly fine for the Hagia Sophia to be used as a scene for nude “art” photos, but to have an Orthodox mass there would have been unthinkable.

  • Police lie, we know that, but what can be done to stop them?

This tendency to lie pervades all police work, not just high-profile violence, and it has the power to ruin lives. Law enforcement officers lie so frequently—in affidavits, on post-incident paperwork, on the witness stand—that officers have coined a word for it: testilying. Judges and juries generally trust police officers, especially in the absence of footage disproving their testimony. As courts reopen and convene juries, many of the same officers now confronting protesters in the street will get back on the stand.

Defense attorneys around the country believe the practice is ubiquitous; while that belief might seem self-serving, it is borne out by footage captured on smartphones and surveillance cameras. Yet those best positioned to crack down on testilying, police chiefs and prosecutors, have done little or nothing to stop it in most of the country. Prosecutors rely on officer testimony, true or not, to secure convictions, and merely acknowledging the problem would require the government to admit that there is almost never real punishment for police perjury.

Officers have a litany of incentives to lie, but there are two especially powerful motivators. First, most evidence obtained from an illegal search may not be used against the defendant at trial under the Fourth Amendment’s exclusionary rule; thus, officers routinely provide false justifications for searching or arresting a civilian. Second, when police break the law, they can (in theory) suffer real consequences, including suspension, dismissal, and civil lawsuits. In many notorious testilying cases, including Parham’s, officers blame the victim for their own violent behavior in a bid to justify disproportionate use of force. And departments will reward officers whose arrests lead to convictions with promotions.

  • The Renaissance myth of the lone genius is finally going away (albeit very slowly), but it’s also curious that this myth seemed to only appear in some fields, like food, very recently. This article about the fall of the chef genius is very interesting:

The elevation of the chef to front and center is relatively new. Until about 40 years ago, chefs were considered unglamorous, trolls of the stove, hidden behind the kitchen’s swinging doors.

With a few exceptions, they weren’t thought of as artists, or visionaries. They couldn’t generally aspire to magazine covers, or amass devoted, cultlike, international followings. They did not get book deals, or discuss their inspirations in interviews, or star in documentaries, or hire publicists to make horrific scandals disappear.

In his 2018 book, “Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll,” Andrew Friedman documents the mythologizing of chefs, and their rise from obscurity. He writes that before the 1970s and ’80s, chefs were “anonymous workhorses,” in many cases not only unknown, but thought of as interchangeable.

Two current Facebook employees and two former employees, who spoke anonymously out of fear of professional repercussions, said they believed the company had become hypersensitive to conservative complaints, in some cases making special allowances for conservative pages to avoid negative publicity.

“This supposed goal of this process is to prevent embarrassing false positives against respectable content partners, but the data shows that this is instead being used primarily to shield conservative fake news from the consequences,” said one former employee.

About two-thirds of the “escalations” included in the leaked list relate to misinformation issues linked to conservative pages, including those of Breitbart, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Gateway Pundit. There was one escalation related to a progressive advocacy group and one each for CNN, CBS, Yahoo and the World Health Organization.

Related: Fact checkers at Facebook are saying it’s a losing battle:

Last week both Snopes and the Associated Press ended their partnerships with the social network, after a tense couple of years trying, without success, to tackle the epidemic.

… It turned out that trying to fact-check a social media service that is used by a huge chunk of the world’s population is no easy task. We tried to make it easier by showing where disinformation would originate, but there were just too many stories. Trying to stem the tsunami of hoaxes, scams, and outright fake stories was like playing the world’s most doomed game of whack-a-mole, or like battling the Hydra of Greek myth. Every time we cut off a virtual head, two more would grow in its place. My excellent but exhausted and overworked team did as much as we could, but soon felt like we were floating around in a beat-up old skiff, trying to bail out the ocean with a leaky bucket.

Required Reading is published every Saturday, and it 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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