- Sadiqa de Meijer writes for the Walrus about the racist history of the painter’s palette:
The first known artistic use of “flesh tone” in reference to a colour mixed from a basic range of tones is found deep in the colonial past, in a seventeenth century French painting manual. It occurs again as “Flesh Red” in Werner’s Nomenclature of Colour, an 1814 book that appends each shade with references to animal, vegetable, and mineral counterparts; its sole invocation of the human is in the pale, rose-pink tint. Premixed paint colours first arrived in the 1870s, created for convenience. The advantage of a “flesh tone” or “skin tone” is that it allowed painters of pale-skinned subjects to arrive at the needed colours with minimal adjustments.
The day I first discovered the term, I checked the other brands of paint; most had a similarly named product. I took down their company information and, from the campus library—where the internet lived at that time—wrote each one an email explaining why the terminology was normative and racist and advising them to drop the label. I wasn’t surprised to hear nothing back. There must have been gradual pressure from other directions, though, because a few years after my degree, I saw that the term “flesh tone” was occasionally replaced with the supposedly more neutral “portrait tone.” I thought of all the portraits I’d seen on campus, the ponderously framed paintings of esteemed white men in robes or suits. The new wording was exactly as problematic as the old, and it even more pointedly raised the question: Who is worthy of portraiture?
- Scholars are very concerned about the threat to cultural heritage in Artsakh/Karabakh, as the dictatorship of Azerbaijan has already started to demonstrate examples of destruction and erasure. A Smithsonian magazine feature, which mentions Hyperallergic’s reporting on the topic, says:
In a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Christina Maranci, a scholar of medieval Armenian art and architecture at Tufts University, voiced grave concern for the fate of Armenian cultural sites that will trade hands in the peace settlement. She notes that in October, Azerbaijani forces launched two targeted attacks on the Holy Savior Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shusha (known as Shushi to Armenians)—“a masterpiece of 19th-century Armenian architecture and a landmark of Armenian cultural and religious identity.”
Under the Russian-brokered deal, this cathedral and town will fall under Azerbaijan’s control once again.
“Ancient national treasures in Artsakh are at risk of complete erasure,” Maranci argues.
As de Waal writes for Eurasianet, Armenians say that multiple historic churches in the region are seriously threatened by the new arrangement. (An Azerbaijani statement counters this claim, noting, “The Christian heritage, irrespective of its origin will also be preserved, restored and put into operation at the highest level.”) Among others, the list of potentially at-risk sites includes the 12th-century Dadivank monastery in Kelbajar region and the Tsitsernavank basilica, a fifth- to sixth-century monastery near the Lachin district.
- Jordan S. Carroll writes about race consciousness in Dune and why fascists like it so much:
Popular SF narratives like Dune play a central role in white nationalist propaganda. The alt-right now regularly denounces or promotes science fiction films as part of its recruiting strategy: fascist Twitter popularized the “white genocide” hashtag during a boycott campaign against inclusive casting in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But Villeneuve’s film seemed to provoke greater outrage than normal because Herbert’s book is such a key text for the alt-right.
Dune was initially received as a countercultural parable warning against ecological devastation and autocratic rule, but geek fascists see the novel as a blueprint for the future. Dune is set thousands of years from now in an interstellar neofeudal society that forestalled the rise of dangerous artificial intelligences by banning computers and replacing them with human beings conditioned with parapsychological disciplines that allow them to perform at the same level as thinking machines. Spaceships navigate through space using the superhuman abilities of psychics whose powers are derived from a mind-enhancing drug known as melange, a substance found only on the desert planet of Arrakis.
- The slightly curmudgeon Caitlin Flanagan thinks you shouldn’t show your kids the popular (and classic) Rudolph Christmas special. She writes:
There’s a lot in Rudolph that people don’t seem to remember. At one point, the Abominable Snowmonster tries to murder Rudolph in front of his parents by smashing a giant stalactite on his head. As our gentle hero lies facedown, concussed and unresponsive, his own girlfriend—the beautiful, long-lashed Clarice—wonders aloud why the snowman won’t put the little reindeer out of his misery: “Why doesn’t he get it over with?” This was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, not The Third Man. Meanwhile, back at Santa’s workshop—a phrase that should connote only the jolliest of associations—a dark tale is unfolding. Santa, it turns out, presides over a nonunion shop where underproducing elves are deprived of breaks and humiliated; they dream not of Christmas, but of escape. Poorly constructed toys are thrown onto a bare and frozen island, where they cry and wander. How long have they been there? A year? A thousand years? One of the toys, A Dolly for Sue, looks perfectly fine—why has she been stuck with the misfits? Rankin finally admitted the nature of Dolly’s flaw in 2005, when he revealed that she suffered from “psychiatric problems.” The Island of Misfit Toys, it turns out, is but another atoll in the gulag archipelago.
The Queen’s Gambit begins almost as a parody of history: a disheveled Beth wakes up in a sumptuous hotel room in “PARIS 1967,” as a lavender intertitle boldly announces. The wallpaper, curtains, and décor here scream fin de siècle excess (especially in lead up to the turmoil of May 1968), but over the course of the show, this opulence settles into the pleasing background of its mise-en-scène. Nice wallpaper doesn’t necessarily hurt — but a period piece’s aesthetic immersion is typically meant to jar with the world’s imminent collapse. The world-building details in The Queen’s Gambit are instead literal and inert: Beth’s vintage beer cans and constantly coiffed hair provide visual pleasure and not much more. They signify in the show the same way they would at some hipster bar today. As Beth effortlessly wins a series of increasingly high-stakes chess games, even her frequent spirals into addiction — a product of growing up in an orphanage that plied her with tranquilizers — no longer register as moments of concern, so much as opportunities for cinematographic play while Taylor-Joy stumbles around in her underwear. Everything potentially traumatizing or problematic gets actively taken up as fodder for beauty.
- Remember when Facebook said it would ban Holocaust deniers? Well, Aaron Sankin of the Markup suggests it may have just helped them network better:
But as of mid-November, The Markup has found, numerous Facebook pages for well-known Holocaust denial groups remain active—and for users who find the pages, Facebook’s algorithms continue to recommend related content, effectively creating a network for pushing anti-Semitic content.
Facebook has long struggled to tamp down on quick-traveling misinformation and shape-shifting conspiracy groups, but many of the discriminatory pages The Markup found either belonged to groups with a long history of prominence within the Holocaust denial movement or directly referenced well-known anti-Semitic or white nationalist memes, making them seem like obvious targets for Facebook’s crackdown.
It’s unclear whether Facebook considers the posts and groups The Markup found unacceptable. The company did not announce how it would define Holocaust denialism, and the company did not respond to multiple requests for comment; all the pages and posts referenced in this article were still active as of Nov. 23 at 5 p.m. ET.
- A worthwhile podcast from iHeartRadio’s Behind the Bastards talks about “Elite Panic,” aka why rich people think other people are monsters. The really juicy stuff starts at the 20-minute mark.
Related: This older article explains why the mere thought of money makes people selfish:
To understand how money affects interpersonal relationships, the scientists told each participant they would have a conversation to acquaint themselves with another participant. While the experimenter went to retrieve the other subject, the participant was to set up two chairs for the engagement. The subjects in the money group put more physical distance between themselves and new acquaintances compared with control subjects.
When choosing between two activities–such as an in-home catered dinner versus four personal cooking lessons–the money-primed subjects chose individually focused activities more often. And when given the option of working with another participant or working alone on an advertising project, fewer money subjects chose teamwork.
- AP has an incredible — if shocking — investigation in the abuses in the palm oil fields industry in Malaysia and Indonesia. Journalists Margie Mason and Robin McDowell did a lot of interviewing, as AP explains in the preamble to the story:
The AP interviewed more than three dozen women and girls from at least 12 companies across Indonesia and Malaysia. Because previous reports have resulted in retaliation against workers, they are being identified only by partial names or nicknames. They met with female AP reporters secretly within their barracks or at hotels, coffee shops or churches, sometimes late at night, usually with no men present so they could speak openly.
The Malaysian government said it had received no reports about rapes on plantations, but Indonesia acknowledged physical and sexual abuse appears to be a growing problem, with most victims afraid to speak out. Still, the AP was able to corroborate a number of the women’s stories by reviewing police reports, legal documents, complaints filed with union representatives and local media accounts.
Reporters also interviewed nearly 200 other workers, activists, government officials and lawyers, including some who helped trapped girls and women escape, who confirmed that abuses regularly occur.
- Ryan Cooper offers a scathing review of Barack Obama’s new memoir. He writes in the Week:
A Promised Land is a maddening book. On the one hand, Obama’s graceful eloquence is there (if somewhat more forced than it was in Dreams), and his discussions of his family life and his relationships with his closest staffers is genuinely warm. Unlike virtually every book written by a politician, it is obviously his own work. Time after time Obama nails some bit of history or politics with a firm, confident touch — on the buffoonish yet alarming rise of Sarah Palin, the accidental origins and racist history of the Senate filibuster, or even on the basics of Keynesian economics.
But on the other hand, Obama elsewhere evinces a political naivete and passivity that borders on the incomprehensible. For the sake of brevity, let me address just the three most important policy decisions of his presidency: the 2008 bank bailout, the 2009 Recovery Act stimulus, and his foreclosure policy.
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.
Three Looted Antiquities at the Met Repatriated to Turkey
Nine other repatriated works were seized from Met Trustee Shelby White, whose collection was subject to a criminal investigation.
This week, the world’s lightest paint, Pakistan’s feminist movement, World Puppy Day, and were some of Vermeer’s paintings created by his daughter?
The Wider World and Scrimshaw
On March 28, join the New Bedford Whaling Museum online and in-person for a symposium on global carving traditions from across the Pacific Rim.
Who Will Decide on the Future of a Miami Native Burial Ground?
Native activists say sacred remains and objects dug up from a Brickell construction site should remain there, but mega-developer Jorge Pérez is pushing back.
How Can a Curator Approach South Asian Futurisms?
How do I acknowledge my shortcomings while reckoning with obscured histories and the exclusion of subaltern narratives in the fine art landscape? A working checklist for curators.
MCA Chicago Presents On Stage: Frictions
Will Rawls, Shamel Pitts | TRIBE, and Barak adé Soleil explore Blackness, queerness, movement, and dance in performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
The Complicated Legacy of Camilo Egas
The Ecuadorian painter, a leading figure of Latin America’s Indigenismo art movement, has been both praised and scorned for his representation of Indigenous peoples.
Tom Jones Zeroes in on Ho-Chunk Visibility
“I think about the young kids, the teenagers, and I think being able to see yourself represented in art is so powerful,” says the artist.
Haggerty Museum of Art Presents Tomás Saraceno in Dialogue With Dr. Somesh Roy
The artist and researcher will explore soot’s effects on climate change and public health in this online conversation.
Hundreds of Artworks by NYC Teenagers Go on View at the Met
The talented seventh through twelfth-grade students are recipients of the 2023 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.
NYC’s Flatiron Building Sells for a Whopping $190M
The sale to outsider bidder Jacob Garlick puts an end to the protracted legal battle between the iconic skyscraper’s five former owners.
McKnight Visual Artist Fellows Discussion Series at the Minneapolis Institute of Art
The series features 2021 Fellows David Bowen, Mara Duvra, Rotem Tamir, Ben Moren, and Dyani White Hawk in conversation with renowned curators and critics.
The Best Memes Roasting the “We ❤️ NYC” Campaign
A graphic designer on Twitter created a hilarious send-up of the universally reviled logo, and the rest is history.
Did You Know These Museums Were Free for New Yorkers?
The “Free Admission” campaign is advocating to make ticket pricing information more transparent to visitors, who may be confused or misled by institutions’ language.