Updated every Thursday, DIGEST is our editorial team’s picks of the week’s most relevant and interesting articles, essays and videos from the art world and beyond. DIGEST explores topics as wide-ranging as the art market, technology, feminism, art history, the internet, politics, and economics.
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My Weekly Digest 15.11.2018
Unhuman helpers. AI is rapidly changing the service and care industries. We have become accustomed to in-home AI assistants, such as Alexa and Siri, but perhaps know little about how their personalities or characters developed. New research shows that people prefer honesty: nobody wants to be fooled by bots pretending to be human; rather, we accept AI when it is completely transparent with regard to its artificiality. In other news, Google’s sibling Waymo (a subsidiary of parent company Alphabet) will launch its driverless car service in select US cities next month, completing with rivals Lyft and Uber. To ease the anxieties of new users, human drivers will initially chaperone the self-driving cars.
– The New York Times Magazine | Bloomberg
Feminism. For the first time, ArtReview’s annual ranking of the art world’s 100 most influential figures includes a non-individual, selecting #metoo as number three. Although this coveted spot speaks to the power of the movement, it sits beneath mega-dealer David Zwirner and artist Kerry James Marshall. In a new video series, Artsy interviews successful female leaders in various industries. This week MoMA Senior Curator Paola Antonelli reminds young women that it’s ok to ask for help—from their friends, colleagues, supervisors, and families—in both professional and personal settings.
– Artnet News | Artsy
California fires. With the death toll at 56 and thousands displaced, the ongoing California wildfires are among the worst in the state’s history. Burning at the rate of one football field per second, Camp fire, as it has been named, completely destroyed Paradise, a town of 26,000 people 170 miles north-east of San Francisco. To the South, Woosley fire menaced Los Angeles, having burned 97,620 acres. In Malibu, several historic structures including houses designed by Frank Gehry and Frank Lloyd Wright have been affected; the Paramount Ranch was destroyed. Both fires appear to be partially contained.
– The Guardian | Artnews
Fakes and fraud. Operation Demetra has recovered 25,000 stolen artefacts, most of which date back to when Sicily was a Greek colony from the eighth century BC onwards. On 4 July, 23 arrests were made across Sicily. However, the smuggling ring extended to Germany, the UK, and Spain. The Art Newspaper wonders how the investigation (and others like it) might continue post-Brexit. In Paris, the Musée Jacquemart-André is displaying two versions of Caravaggio‘s Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy in its recent survey on the sixteenth-century Baroque painter. This side-by-side pairing reopens a scholarly debate: experts are divided as to which painting came from the artist’s hand. Perhaps neither—there are eight known reproductions of the work by followers of the artist.
– The Art Newspaper | Artnet News
Ill health is increasingly linked to questions surrounding identity and politics. In this week’s essay, Nina Power examines relationships between the capable body and capital, sickness and capitalism, and imagines what a collective, artistic attitude to illness could look like. Somewhat hopefully, she concludes: “contemporary art can potentially serve as a diagnostic of both the causes and the cure—to depersonalise illness without rendering it purely abstract, and to identify malign forces and causes without falling entirely prey to them.”
– Nina Power
My Weekly Digest from 08.11.2018
Women in the House. This week, groundbreaking campaigns made history in the US midterm elections, as women, POCs, and openly LGBT candidates ran (and won) in record numbers. New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the youngest woman elected to Congress, at age 29. A member of the Democratic socialist party, Ocasio-Cortez unseated a 10-term congressman. Sharice Davids, who is openly lesbian, and Deb Haaland have become the first Native American congresswomen in Kansas and New Mexico respectively. In the Midwest, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have become first Muslim congresswomen.
– The Guardian | The New York Times
Queens. Amazon has revealed that it has selected Long Island City in the Queens borough of New York City as the site of one of its two new headquarters. How will Queens change after the tech giant’s arrival? The New York Times speculates that the decision could lead to better public transportation—or perhaps, the creation of an Amazon-only subway. In other news around the borough, the Queens Museum appointed Sally Tallant, Director of the Liverpool Biennial, as Executive Director. Tallant will replace Laura Raicovich, who stepped down due to political clashes with the museum’s board.
– The New York Times | New York Magazine | Artforum
Regulation. Changes to the EU’s Copyright Directive may prevent social media users from sharing photos of artworks on platforms such as Instagram or Facebook. A recently introduced filter checks images against a database of copyrighted materials that could be considered visually similar. Opponents of the Copyright Directive fear the threat posed by increased filtering. For example, YouTube’s family-friendly “Restricted Mode” mistakenly filtered out banal videos of same-sex couples last year. In the US, tech specialists wonder if similar regulations could be proposed now that the Democrats control the House.
– Artsy | Recode
History of dominance. Paradoxically, the majority of canonical artwork depicting rape was made by male artists. Jia Tolentino revisits Ovid’s Metamorphoses and canonical artworks to examinehow rape is presented in mythology as a method of exerting male dominance over women’s bodies and the land. In response, she references the recently closed exhibition The Un-Heroic Act, which presented an intergenerational survey of work by contemporary women artists, aiming to fill this art historical gap. Also righting the wrongs of the canon, artist and activist Michelle Hartney staged a performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in which she affixed new wall texts to the works by Gaugin and Picasso, revealing their mistreatment of women and, in particular, young girls.
– The New Yorker | Artnet News
These days even the most mundane job descriptions call for creative applicants. Buzzwords, such as “creative industries”, “the creative economy”, “the creative class”, or simply “creatives” seem to be everywhere, but what do they actually have to do with creativity? Oli Mould’s Against Creativity explores the history and capitalisation of creativity and its ties to neoliberalism. Our contemporary understanding of creativity refers to the ability to make something out of nothing—to tap into our inner entrepreneurial selves.
– Oli Mould
Weekly Reading from 01.11.2018
Witches and zombies. Did you know the contemporary motif of the witch, with her bubbling cauldron and pointy hat, stems from the persecution of alewives? Following the Black Death, many women had to undertake traditionally male roles, such as brewing beer. Elephant examinesthe history of witchcraft and collaborative feminism alongside the practices of contemporary womxn artists and a new exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary. In 2011, the term “Zombie Formalism” emerged to describe the outbreak of paintings that echoed Abstract Expressionism and achieved rapid market success. A new report remembers the apocalypse and looks at the few who outlived the fad.
– Elephant | The Guardian | Artnet
Strike. What happens when we ‘pause’ the digital world? Google employees in Zurich, London, Tokyo, Singapore and Berlin have organised an unprecedented series of walkouts to protest the company’s treatment of women. Their demands include equal pay, transparency and better handling of sexual harassment cases. In India, authorities are shutting down the Internet in order to quell increased violence caused by fake news circulating on platforms such as WhatsApp.
– BBC | Wired
Working class. Studies have documented extreme class inequality in creative industries, and the art world is no exception. Artists Laura Footes, Dominic Dispirito and Scottee share their experiences of navigating art schools, galleries and cultural institutions from a working class background. Committed to making art more accessible, Zarina Muhammad and Gabrielle de la Puente formed The White Pube to shatter that bubble by writing about contemporary art on their own terms, and with emojis. In this week’s review of the Liverpool Biennial, they call attention to systemic issues prevalent in many arts organisations, including unpaid internships, a lack of staff diversity and the abuse of workers.
– The Barbican | GQ | The White Pube
Yemen. In light of the assignation of Jamal Khashoggi, the US and the UK, Saudi Arabia’s biggest arms dealers, are calling for a cease-fire in Yemen. Three and a half years of war has killed at least 10,000 people and displaced millions. If the conflict continues, starvation could take the lives of 12 to 13 million civilians in the next three months. Furthermore, Al Jazeera speaks with Yemeni children who have returned to school after a Saudi-led attack (using US-made missiles) killed 42 of their classmates.
– The New York Times | The Guardian | Al Jazeera
Information, hope and panic can spread as quickly as the flu. Commissioned by the Wellcome Collection, Radio Influenza is a new artwork by Jordan Baseman that remembers the 1918 influenza pandemic on its centenary. Developed from in-depth archival research, Radio Influenza consists of daily podcasts, the first of which was released today, that explore and interpret how news, rumour, health information and dis-information were shared at the time.
– Jordan Baseman
Weekly Reading from 25.10.2018
Art-right. Classicists have known for quite some time that Greek and Roman sculptures were painted, and yet the myth of their colourlessness persists. Many find colour reconstructions made possible by new technologies almost campy and certainly bizarre to modern eyes. However, the group most reluctant to accept these not-so-new findings is the alt-right, who clings to a biased and untrue understanding of classical studies in which uncoloured marble sculptures (incorrectly) evidence a lineage of white supremacy dating back to the Greeks. Meanwhile, in Germany, the Bauhaus Foundation has been accused of ceding to the alt-right by cancelling an anti-right-wing group’s upcoming performance. Art world figures, including Daniel Birnbaum, Kasper König, Hito Steyerl and Anne Imhof, have signed an open letter, which claims that the Foundation has “done serious damage to democracy and cultural life in Germany, Europe, and beyond”.
– The New Yorker | Artnet | e-flux
Trans language. The Trump administration continues its campaign to define trans and non-binary people out of existence domestically and now globally. During recent meetings of the UN’s Third Committee dedicated to human rights, US diplomats repeatedly advocated for the removal of the word “gender” from all documents. In light of this news, we wanted to share some worthwhile reads that embrace gender fluidity not only as a subject but also through form. Among the picks are Jordy Rosenberg’s Confessions of a Fox, Andrea Lawlor’s Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl and, of course, Virginia Woolf’s classic Orlando.
– The Guardian | The New York Times
Saudi boycott. British starchitect Norman Foster is leaving the advisory board of the $500 billion Saudi megacity project NEOM, after the Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir finally admitted that the killing of Jamal Khashoggi was a “rogue operation”. Foster’s decision to withdraw from the project comes after similar announcements of boycotts by major arts institutions. Last week, the Met and the Brooklyn Museum rejected Saudi funds for projects linked to a broader Arab art initiative, and Columbia University cancelled a talk by a Saudi artist.
– Artforum | Artnet | The Art Newspaper
Automation speculations. Despite tech CEOS and politicians having expressed concern over the seemingly inevitable possibility of widespread job loss due to automation, some economists predict that the shift will be less sudden but more gradual and complex. Senior economist at the OECD Glenda Quintini notes, “The fact that a job can be automated doesn’t mean it will be”. Factors such as the cost of labour or social desirability may determine whether AI will be implemented in a particular industry. In Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work, academics Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams argue that society’s reluctance to adopt automation stems from an obsession with work as “the only means of self-fulfilment”.
– Recode | Bookforum
How should one curate in the post-internet age? Taking on this question, Boris Groys opens by discussing the gap between (international) exhibition practice and the tastes and expectations of the (local) audience. Exhibitions, like reproductions, remove a work of art from its time and place, “the here and now”, and “send it along a path of global circulation” he explains. Thus, according to Groys, “curatorial selection should be a kind of anti-selection, a transgressive selection… [that] becomes relevant when it crosses the dividing lines that fragment the internet and, more generally, our culture.”
– Boris Groys
Weekly Reading from 18.10.2018
Playing the field. In 10 to 15 years, there will probably be three internets, one for US, China, and Europe respectively, due to differing censorship regulations. This division may prove complex, as technology companies are developing platforms for all possible internets: Google, for example, is working on a search engine for China called Dragonfly. The New York Times Editorial Board writes, “If the future of the internet is a tripartite cold war, Silicon Valley wants to be making money in all three of those worlds.” In an industry built on job-hopping, what is the line between healthy competition and stealing intellectual property? Google filed suit against Uber for having poached the leader of its self-driving cars unit.
– The New York Times | The New Yorker
Khashoggi’s murder. Earlier this month, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had been living in the US, disappeared during a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Despite evidence suggesting that the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (M.B.S.) may have orchestrated his death, Trump seems overeager to presume his innocence. One might ask, on what grounds? According to The New Yorker, M.B.S.’s violent, impulsive character has been visible for some time now.
– The Guardian | The New Yorker | The New Yorker
Still separated. Even though the US government has insisted that it stopped separating families at the border, children continue to be detained—only now practice has moved behind closed doors. Helen, a five-year-old Honduran girl, was not only separated from her grandmother, but also convinced to sign away her rights. With the help of a social media campaign run by the alliance Families Belong Together, Helen was found and reunited with her family. Nevertheless, families, especially if they are undocumented, risk everything to free detained minors.
– The New Yorker | The New Yorker
Ireland and Brexit. What will happen to the UK/Irish border post-Brexit? Adrian O’Neill, Irish Ambassador to the UK, worries that the government is “backsliding” on Theresa May’s promise to keep the border open, as per the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. An Irish writer based in London, Megan Nolan shares her growing frustration surrounding the extent to which the English people she encounters are ignorant about Ireland and their country’s colonialist history.
– The Guardian | BBC | The New York Times
Realised as a book and an exhibition, Allan Sekula’s Fish Story charts the imaginary and material geographies of the advanced capitalist world. His work also challenges traditional documentary photography, while underscoring its role in labour history. The ICA London will be hosting a discussion on 25 October in light of MACK’s republication of the book, which was first published in 1995. Can’t wait for the book launch? Find a bootlegged PDF of the seminal work here.
– Allan Sekula
Weekly Reading from 11.10.2017
“1.5 to stay alive”. The previous consensus among climate scientists had been that an increase of the global average temperature by 2 degrees Celsius should be the absolute limit. However, new research shows that a hundred million people would be affected by climate-related issues and poverty, even with an increase to 1.5. Hurricane Michael’s rapid growth might serve as testament: in a little more than a day, it changed from a Category 1 to a “worst-case scenario” Category 4. As of this afternoon, the storm has devastated Florida and Georgia, whose politicians are climate change deniers, and is now making its way through the Carolinas.
– The New Yorker | The Guardian
Selling pain. This week on Wall Street, Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar is selling his blood in 10-millilitre vials, the price of which is determined by the current stock of price of America’s most prominent defence contractors. The proceeds from his performance will go to hospitals in Yemen and Gaza. At Frieze, what did not sell was Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme’s installation containing bricks and flora from demolished Palestinian villages. On view at White Cube Bermondsey until 11 November, Doris Salcedo’s Palimpsest lists the names of those who have died in the migrant crisis.
– Artnet | Artsy | White Cube
Creating value. The market finally appreciated women artists that it had previously ignored, with works by Faith Ringgold and Helen Chadwick having sold over Frieze weekend. In addition, dealers discuss how they “scour the margins of art history for overlooked artists”, many of whom are women and people of colour. Is this increase in visibility and market acceptance for the right reasons?
– Artsy | Artsy
More than a ‘faux pas’. A GCSE textbook has been pulled after stereotyping Caribbean dads as “largely absent”. Neither the publisher Hodder Education nor AQA knew of the racist paragraph’s inclusion, despite having reprinted the 2014 book in 2017. In the same vein, Melania Tump decided to wear a white pith helmet, a common symbol of European colonial rule, during her visit to Kenya.
– BBC | The New York Times
Essay. Whether looking at photojournalistic images of the victims of Hurricane Michael or considering what it means to capitalise on human suffering, Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others comes to mind. Read an excerpt here in which Sontag responds to Virginia Woolf by posing a question: are images still effective in their ability to make horror vivid, forcing people to “take in the outrageousness, the insanity of war”?
– Susan Sontag