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The new Library of Birmingham opened this week, and its design by Dutch architectural firm Mecannoo is certainly eye-catching (check out the impressive details). The building is being described as, “the largest public library in the United Kingdom, the largest public cultural space in Europe, and the largest regional library in Europe.” (image via Greg Robson’s Flickrstream)

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.

 Writing about the new Iran Modern show at Manhattan’s Asia Society, New York Times critic Holland Cotter writes:

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 …

 Vandalog conducted an experiment last month on their blog, as they only posted images of illegal work, rather than the legal work that is often passed off as “street art” nowadays. RJ has some important thoughts on the issue:

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.

 The New York Times explores a new book that explores the boundaries of race in America almost a century ago, Carla Kaplan’s Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Harlem Renaissance “draws on a wealth of far-flung archival evidence to illuminate the lives of white women who might have arrived in Harlem as slummers and tourists but stayed as patrons, activists, hostesses and wives, courting — and sometimes deserving — suspicion and ridicule from both sides of the color line.”

 One middle-class white South African family decided to pick up their lives and move into a shack in a black township in South Africa. They blogged about their experience and give you some insight into the lives of poor people in South Africa, of course not everyone is happy that they are doing this.

 Did you hear about the building in London that melted a Jaguar?

 Tyler Green’s new Modern Art Notes podcast focuses on his listeners and their stories about the Detroit Institute of Arts and its importance in their lives:

 Another great comic from Grant Snider, about his new neighbor “Magritte” (as in the Surrealist)… read the whole thing here:

 Fascinating question in terms of 21st century multiculturalism, “Is there a Jewish identity in videogames?” One videogame specialist replies:

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.

 Author Jhumpa Lahiri on “immigrant fiction“:

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.

 The history of the animated gif told as a fairy tale through a presentation comprised entirely of animated gifs (h/t Tricia Wang):

 And for your laugh today, presenting the worst twerker ever:

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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Required Reading

This week, LA’s new Academy Museum, the intersections of anti-Blackness and anti-fatness, a largely unknown 19th century Black theater in NYC, sign language interpreters, and more.

Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

One reply on “Required Reading”

  1. It’s worth watching the Jimmy Kimmel reveal about the twerking video (SPOILER: It’s fake, and they produced it).

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