This week, Iran in New York, the lack of illegal street art, racial boundaries, Jewish identity in videogames, Magritte as a neighbor, bad twerking, immigrant fiction, and more.
That America and Europe are still barely awake to this reality makes an exhibition like “Iran Modern,” which opens on Friday at Asia Society, invaluable educationally. That the show is also terrifically good-looking, threaded through with human drama and composed of work that is both cosmopolitan and, over all, like no other art, doesn’t hurt.
True, the exhibition isn’t necessarily what it might have been in an ideal world. Longstanding United States sanctions against Iran have prevented the borrowing of almost any art from within the country itself …
And then there is the issue of laziness that I mentioned. Well, not really laziness, but it’s just easier to post about the legal piece is sitting right in your inbox than to go out searching through flickr or actual streets (if you’re lucky enough to live near a lot of street art) in search of something brilliant but still illegal.
Or maybe street art just doesn’t mean the same thing that it once did. Maybe mural festivals and the ease of finding legal walls has elevated the genre. Artists can spend days on a mural without worrying about police rather than sneaking around at night and working as quickly as possible. With plentiful legal walls, maybe some artists don’t see the need for working illegally anymore. Can the same goals be achieved at a legal wall as at an illegal spot? I don’t think so, but some may disagree with me.
There’s something oddly inherently Jewish about the medium itself. The point of Judaism and the point of video games isn’t just to create a set of rules. If all games were were a set of rules to follow, they wouldn’t be fun. If all Judaism was were a set of rules, no one would keep them. Rules are there to create what my good friend the game designer Eric Zimmerman calls the space of possibility.
I don’t know what to make of the term “immigrant fiction.” Writers have always tended to write about the worlds they come from. And it just so happens that many writers originate from different parts of the world than the ones they end up living in, either by choice or by necessity or by circumstance, and therefore, write about those experiences. If certain books are to be termed immigrant fiction, what do we call the rest? Native fiction? Puritan fiction? This distinction doesn’t agree with me. Given the history of the United States, all American fiction could be classified as immigrant fiction. Hawthorne writes about immigrants. So does Willa Cather. From the beginnings of literature, poets and writers have based their narratives on crossing borders, on wandering, on exile, on encounters beyond the familiar. The stranger is an archetype in epic poetry, in novels. The tension between alienation and assimilation has always been a basic theme.
Required Reading is published every Sunday morning EST, 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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