This week, Daumier, Art Spiegelman, stolen art, José Clemente Orozco, Batkid, transgender poetry, Chinese censorship, and more.
Over at the London Review of Books, Julian Bell takes another look at Honoré Daumier’s oil paintings at the Royal Academy’s exhibition of the 19th century artist:
But some fifteen years before that, Daumier started reaching for oils, and his dealings with this high art medium expanded the fault lines opened up by his clay experiments. He tends to approach oils as if a matrix of free brushwork could deliver his ideas to him as lucidly as lines drawn with crayon or pen: but the paint keeps sliding the thought out of his hands, transmuting it into something less precise in meaning and possibly more glamorous.
Tablet Magazine talks to graphic novelist Art Spiegelman about his retrospective at the Jewish Museum, and, as expected, he has good soundbites:
Art Spiegelman: For me, it’s sort of like, “OK, Zionism existed before the Holocaust — but the Holocaust is the broken condom that allowed Israel to get born.”
So, at that point, what are we remembering when we remember the Holocaust? Are we remembering that Jews specifically have to do whatever is necessary to ensure their own survival at the expense of others, who share a large part of our common DNA?
Q: That seems like a very pleasant humanistic lesson to pass on to one’s progeny, no?
AS: The thing you can remember is “Nobody ever liked you, they’re not going to like you, so fuck ’em. And therefore Israel is going to do whatever it has to do to survive, by God.” Or the other lesson could be, “We got shafted because we were a landless people without a power base and therefore, what? We create another landless people without a power base?”
What is the legacy of Mexican painter José Clemente Orozco? Sadly, his murals aren’t always in very good shape in his native land and people have wondered whether it is partly because of their content, which have more relevance today than ever:
Orozco’s murals inside the Supreme Court are especially tough for Mexico to embrace. The most prominent panels depict a justice system in chaos. Corrupt lawyers pull an unconscious client through piles of paperwork. Masked men have knocked over one Lady Justice, while another reclines in a chair, drunk and passed out. It is not so different from the Mexican justice system of today, with its incompetence and corruption that yield conviction rates of only 2 percent.
Which is perhaps why the court refuses to allow photographs of the work without prior consent, acquired through a process that officials said would take around 15 days. It may also explain why a court-appointed guide, showing law students around on a recent afternoon, focused on a more abstract Orozco painting showing Mexico’s riches of gold and oil.
“I’m sure the people in the Supreme Court would love for his murals not to be there,” Mr. Luke said. “It’s a mirror that reveals their own corruption.”
Making money from stolen paintings — particularly famous ones — is not a straightforward matter, and those who try to do so fall broadly into two categories. The first, most common type is the naïf, who steals a painting but has laid few plans beyond the theft itself. He soon discovers that the painting’s notoriety has rendered it toxic, and he can’t sell it. The work of art becomes burdensome and worthless — to him at least. A more sophisticated criminal, on the other hand, recognizes that a pilfered masterpiece is a unique commodity and that in order to profit from it, he needs to think more like a derivatives trader than a pickpocket.
Your guide to how to get censored on China’s Twitter, Sina Weibo, as provided by Pro Publica:
For five months, our software has been quietly checking 100 Weibo accounts, keeping track of every post containing an image and returning repeatedly to see if those posts were deleted. Our collection has grown to nearly 80,000 posts, of which at least 4,200 — more than 5 percent — were deleted by censors. We also gathered a team of people proficient in Mandarin to read and interpret 527 deleted images collected during a two-week window this summer.
What did they find?
A political image manipulation can transform innocuous phrases such as “giant yellow duck” into a commonly understood metaphor for the tanks at Tiananmen Square.
“Chinese Internet users have mastered the use of irony as protest,” Jason Ng wrote in his book Blocked on Weibo. “Emphatically pro-government comments online such as ‘Socialism is good’ and ‘I have been represented by my local official’ are often meant to be satirical.”
This is where human censors come in. The company employs hundreds of people to delete posts that have slipped past the filters. Forbidden messages don’t live long after being posted. Researchers have found that nearly 30 percent are gone within 5-30 minutes and 90 percent are gone within 24 hours. The censors take an especially dim view of posts that go viral or promote any type of collective action.
Definitely click through to check out their interactive feature.
An infographic of the most popular books of all time.
One of the most fantastic reads this week is the fake press release the US Dept. of Justice’s Northern California office issued for the Batkid “Make a Wish” foundation event in Gotham (aka San Francisco). If you don’t know what Batkid is all about, visit this summary on Circa, but otherwise, here’s an excerpt of the fake release:
SAN FRANCISCO/GOTHAM – Edward “E.” Nigma, aka, “The Riddler,” and Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, aka, “The Penguin” were formally arrested today and charged with multiple counts of conspiracy and kidnapping for their all too familiar villainous ways in Gotham City, according to Melinda Haag, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California and FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson.
The unique and somewhat unprecedented indictment not only outlines the charges against “The Riddler” and “The Penguin” but it also includes a special thanks to a certain caped crusader who was pivotal in making this day a reality.
What if trans poems have to be self-consciously trans: to reflect awareness of the label on the part of an implied author? To reflect not only a voice or a persona that crosses or confuses gender, but an implied author who set out to do so, in dialogue with a modern, named identity? That’s the definition of trans poetry that emerges from Troubling the Line, and it serves the book well. The anthology works not only as a set of explorations for what trans poetics might mean, but also as a coming-out party for an identity category, a set of people (myself among them) who are exploring an identity that a person (not only a poem) can have.
Art Market Monitor makes a good point. Why are people horrified by the prices paid for art but not the salaries paid to sport stars (even though they’re comparable)?
And in what can only be described as “eww” … two Belgian university professors decided to test the 10 most borrowed books at the Antwerp library for germs and they discovered that not only did all 10 books contained traces of cocaine but that copies of Fifty Shades of Grey tested positive for traces of the herpes virus. I’m guessing these weren’t ebooks.
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.