Required Reading

Japan leads the world in toilet technology, but this new design by Sou Fujimoto in the middle of Chiba’s Boso peninsula is not only the largest public toilet in the world, but stunningly beautiful. Check out other examples of beautiful Japanese public toilets over at Spoon & Tamago. (via Spoon & Tamago)

This week, Banksy charity sale is a bust, art and the 1%, looking at Norman Rockwell, opera’s future, creating contemplative spaces in video games, underwear that masks smells, and more.

 Oh geez, remember that Banksy work at Housing Works that supposedly sold for $615,000? Well, the buyer fell through:

“We are still looking into why he defaulted, and we reserve the right to sort of see what we’re going to do with it,” [Housing Works chief development officer, Matthew] Bernardo said. “But we were really looking to close the transaction so we could put the money to use.”

 Paul McLean writes about “Art, Free Speech, and the 1%” for The Brooklyn Rail:

Long after the Occupiers were evicted from Liberty Square, the people of Occupy, artists among them, successfully engage the problems the 99% face through practical and demonstrative, not just expressive, programs. Occupy Sandy is an example … In a rational and democratic arts ecosystem, the empowerment of artists to produce free art, a specialized iteration of speech, would serve society best.

 While there may still be opera lovers in the world, there is the growing realization that the art form may be facing serious challenges. Writing for The Telegraph, Rupert Christiansen reports:

Someone has to pay for it all, and while hard-nosed businessmen can no longer see the point of siphoning corporate donations to such a risky brand with only minority appeal, the generosity of philanthropic individuals is never going to be enough to plug the hole, whatever the tax incentives.

 This is pretty lovely. After winning the Nobel Prize in 1957, writer Albert Camus sent a lovely letter to his old teacher. It’s the type of letter that any teacher could only dream of receiving from a beloved student years later. It includes the lines:

But when I heard the news, my first thought, after my mother, was of you. Without you, without the affectionate hand you extended to the small poor child that I was, without your teaching and example, none of all this would have happened.

Last Thursday was Camus’s 100th birthday.

 Wow, The New Yorker‘s Peter Schjeldahl has some kind words for often kitschy American painter Norman Rockwell:

Someone then was bound to break the highbrow ice around Rockwell. Hysterical hostility to popular culture — enshrined in Clement Greenberg’s only too influential 1939 essay, “Avant-Garde and Kitsch,” which practically equates commercial art with Fascism — had dwindled. I was of the right generation, imprinted by the leveling of the elite and the demotic in Pop art, and it was an opportune stylistic moment, when photo-realist painting was, briefly, all the rage. More generally, the art world was already headed toward its present state, in which the gap between fine and commercial art reduces to a porous dotted line between stuff that is made to be marketed and stuff that is made to order.

 The New York Times has asked a number of New Yorkers, including art critic Paddy Johnson, to weigh in on “the cost of being an artist.” While it’s unfortunate that they cite David Byrne’s silly article on the topic, the debate is very important.

 The Grid explores the cost of a street corner in a major city like Toronto, where each street tree costs $2,000 Cdn, and each bike post-and-ring costs $310 Cdn.

 Could video games be altered to create “fleeting moments in order to create spaces for contemplative play”? Nicolas O’Brien thinks so. Writing for Rhizome, he investigates how artists and designers are exploring the possibilities and “creating contemplative spaces in which to approach a kind of interactive rapture.”

 Have you ever wondered how music in Ancient Greece sounded? The BBC finds out:

Some of the surviving melodies are immediately attractive to a modern ear. One complete piece, inscribed on a marble column and dating from around 200 AD, is a haunting short song of four lines composed by Seikilos. The words of the song may be translated:

While you’re alive, shine:
never let your mood decline.
We’ve a brief span of life to spend:
Time necessitates an end.

The notation is unequivocal. It marks a regular rhythmic beat, and indicates a very important principle of ancient composition.

In ancient Greek the voice went up in pitch on certain syllables and fell on others (the accents of ancient Greek indicate pitch, not stress). The contours of the melody follow those pitches here, and fairly consistently in all the documents.

 Harrowing photos of migrants making the perilous journey through the Arizona desert from Mexico to the United States:

During the summer of 2009, Nager spent two months working in Tucson and around Southern Arizona. He spent time with Border Patrol and activist groups who help people who are struggling in the desert. Nager spent a week at the sheriff’s office, which is the first official organization called when a body is found. He photographed inside the medical examiners office during an exam of an unidentified body. Additionally, he spent time with and photographed in the mortuary in Tucson where they cremate bodies that have been unsuccessfully identified.

 Beloved NYC video podcast Rocketboom documents the changes at one of the sites of Banksy graffiti in Chelsea revealing that graffiti truly is a very public conversation:

 And finally, there’s a ridiculous — but potentially useful? — new invention by British company Shreddies: underwear designed to stop farts from smelling. And civilization marches on …

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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