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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Weekly Reading from 27.06.2019
Campaigning. How are US presidential candidates using the Internet to further their campaigns? Bernie Sanders’ campaign is by far the most tech-savvy, with volunteers manning Slack channels, Facebook groups, meme pages, and more. Created inadvertently, a new meme has emerged in light of Elizabeth Warren’s calls to “average people” while using a blocked ID. Finally, Trump’s campaign paid for premium real estate on YouTube’s homepage during the night of the first Democratic debate. More people saw his ads than the debate itself.
– Vox | Vox | Vox
Diseases. Misinformation about vaccines has led to measles outbreaks across the US, which, until recently, hadn’t had a case since 2000. Groups on social media have ballooned fears that vaccines cause autism and cancer. The problem is that anti-vaxxers threaten herd immunity: when more than 5 per cent of a population is unvaccinated, viruses can spread to its most vulnerable. New research shows that as the Arctic melts, it will release carbon, methane, nuclear waste, and ancient diseases, to which humans are not immune.
– Wired | BBC
Fashion. At Paris Fashion Week, many of the standout men’s collections resulted fromcollaborations with artists, including Loewe and Hilary Lloyd, Rick Owens and Thomas Houseago, and Dior and Daniel Arsham. In a new interview series, Emmanuel Perrotin discusses why he encouraged collaborations with fashion: to put contemporary art on the map. Although the art world was shocked when Takashi Murakami did his famous collaboration with Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton in 2007, the two industries have since cozied, as art world darlings are now regularly included on Vanity Fair’s best-dressed list.
– The Guardian | Artnet News | Artnet News
Advertising. Berlin-based artist Dorothea Nold duped investors when she put up three billboardsadvertising (fake) luxury new-build developments at in-demand locations. Her project calls attention to Berlin’s booming property market, where rent has risen faster than anywhere else in the world. Elephant reminisces about a Fanta ad circa 2005, during which time parents were outraged by the portrayal of bad table manners. This nostalgic look back shows how the ad popularised the trend of self-parody in branding.
– The Guardian | Elephant
How does one find a balance between belief, biomedicine, and alternative modes of care? In a new essay “The World is Unknown”, published by Triple Canopy, artist Carolyn Lazard reflects on how she cares for her body, medically speaking. Growing up with New Age parents, she was raised in a home that was deeply distrustful of biomedicine. However, ongoing struggles with various illnesses led her to find a balance.
– Carolyn Lazard
Weekly Reading from 20.06.2019
World Refugee Day. In honour of World Refugee Day (20 June), the Metropolitan Museum of Art is covering up one of its major works for the week, Marc Chagall’s The Lovers (1913–1914). The gesture attempts to show what the world stands to lose if countries turn away refugees, as Chagall, a Russian Jew, fled from the Nazi invasion to France and then New York. Shining a light on those fleeing, Al Jazeera has compiled a list of documentaries that tell the tales of migrants and refugees around the world.
– Artnet News | Al Jazeera
Guns. Facebook, and by extension Instagram, forbids retailers from running ads that promote the sale or use of firearms, making it tricky for companies that sell guns or related products. From a loophole, a new kind of influencer has emerged: she is outdoorsy, smiley, and armed. Dozens of women are making a full or part-time living by posting lifestyle pictures with sponsored firearms. The NRA’s CFO, Wilson H. Phillips, Jr, was caught embezzling before starting his current position. Phillips not only succeeded in stealing money without repercussions, but also has been paid over $10 million by the NRA since 2005.
– Vox | The New Yorker
AI and climate change. Can machine learning be used to fight climate change? A new report, compiled by David Rolnick, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, and advised by a number of industry titans, outlines how it can be utilised to improve energy predictions, discover new materials, optimise supply chains and buildings, and more. However, training a single AI model has serious environmental costs: not only is the process expensive, it emits as much carbon as five cars in their lifetimes.
– Technology Review | Technology Review
Currency. In 2015, under the Obama administration, the US Treasury Department announced that it would add a woman of historical importance to a bill. Winning the bid, Harriet Tubman was selected to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill in 2020; however, Steven Mnuchin recently stated the debut would be delayed to 2026. After rumours and leaks, Facebook finally announced that it is working on a cryptocurrency called “Libra”. Unlike bitcoin, there will be no mining of Libra; instead, one just buys it. Libra’s value will be guaranteed by a reserve of assets, initially provided by Facebook’s partners (Mastercard, Visa, Uber, Lyft, Spotify, eBay, PayPal, Union Square Ventures, and Andreessen Horowitz, to name a few).
– The New Yorker | Vox
Should US Congress resolve to study reparations? This week lawmakers heard impassioned testimony for and against the idea of providing compensation for America’s history of slavery and racial discrimination. In a long read published in 2014, American author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates argues for reparations by examining how the legacy of slavery has continued to harm black Americans. He concludes that the US has avoided undertaking such a study because it forces the country to acknowledge the role white supremacy played in not only its founding but also its rise to becoming global superpower in the twentieth century.
– Ta-Nehisi Coates
Weekly Reading from 06.06.2019
Visits. Trump triggered a healthcare panic in the UK when he told reporters that the NHS was on the table for a trade deal, while visiting lame duck PM Theresa May. Although his comments have left the public outraged, they raise important questions about what will happen to the NHS in a post-Brexit world. After the UK leaves the EU, the country will likely lose access to resources in the health sector, including NHS medical professionals (as many are EU nationals), medical equipment, and pharmaceuticals. On his next stop, Trump infuriated the Irish public when hecompared the border with Northern Ireland to the US–Mexico border, suggesting that they build a wall.
– The New Yorker | The Guardian
Food. Not only animals are endangered: climate change is threatening many crop varieties around the world. 96 per cent of the US’s corn varieties have been lost, as have 90 per cent of China’s wheat varieties and 80 per cent of Mexico’s maize and corn varieties. In the next 30 years, humans will have to learn not only how to survive in hotter temperatures, but also how the feed people with less genetic varieties. In Guatemala, crops are failing, leading many families to try to cross the border in order to save themselves, and especially their children, from starvation and deaths related to malnutrition. Paradoxically, US carbon emissions are partly responsible for the deprivation that drives emigration.
– Vox | The New York Times
Comedy. The artist collective Slavs and Tatars curated the 33rd edition of the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts, which opens Friday 7 June. With the help of stand-up comedians, the curators have focused on works and performances that “harness the subversive power of satire” as a form of protest. However, Slavs and Tatars recognise that satire is not always progressive but also can presuppose a norm. For our French audience, the podcast “Affaires sensibles” examines what happens when the latter occurs in an episode entitled “Dieudonné, de l’humour à la haine” (“From Humour to Hatred”). Controversial French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala has become increasingly anti-Semitic; however, his fans claim his stand-up act must not be censored because it represents free speech.
– Artnet News | France Inter | The Independent
Censorship. On Sunday, photographer Spencer Tunick, known for his mass nude installations, directed a photo shoot with over a hundred participants of all genders, challenging Facebook’s censorship policies. Women wore male nipple pasties, and all covered their genitals with enlarged prints of male nipples. The action is part of the NCAC’s #WeTheNipple campaign, which has gathered signatures from over 250 artists, museums, and arts organisations. Yesterday, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed that they agreed to meet with NCAC, stating “It’s important for us to hear from directly from different communities who use Facebook and Instagram.” Last spring, Facebook updated their policy to allow paintings and sculptures featuring nude figures on the platform.
– Artsy | Artnet News
In light of Pride month, the New York Time’s “Overlooked” section is featuring obituaries about remarkable LGBTQ+ people whose deaths went unreported. Yesterday’s obituary remembered Alan Turing, who produced seminal insights into what became modern computing and artificial intelligence. As one of the most influential code breakers of World War II, Turing contributed greatly to the Allied victory. Around 1952, police discovered his sexuality while investigating a burglary at his home. Because homosexuality was illegal in the UK at that time, the court ordered Turing to be chemically castrated. He died two years later at age 41.
– Alan Cowell
Weekly Reading from 23.05.2019
European Elections. Today voters in the UK and the Netherlands will vote to elect MEPs to European Parliament. Voting in other EU nations will take place over the next three days. In preparation, German artist Wolfgang Tillmans and collaborators ran a campaign to encourage people to vote, as polls suggested that Eurosceptic, right-wing, and nationalist parties could make major gains. Tillmans has been involved in pro-European part-time activism since the 2016 Brexit referendum. Some regions in the UK have much to gain from electing pro-European MEPs, such as England’s South West, which has relied on the EU’s “structural funds” since 2014. However, the region paradoxically voted for Brexit in 2016, and this election’s MEP candidates are an eclectic mix of celebrities and conservatives.
– BBC | Artnet News | The Atlantic
China. Many believed that, by allowing to China to bend the rules in trade in order to grow out of poverty and into prosperity, the country would become more politically open. However, instead of“reforming and opening, [China] has been reforming and closing”. In light of this and recent tensions, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman writes, “it took a human wrecking ball like Trump to get China’s attention”. Chinese electronics giant Huawei is being destroyed by depravation: chip designer ARM has reportedly severed ties with the company. According to an internal memo, this move was because of the use of “US origin technology”, which makes it subject to a sweeping ban put in place by the Trump administration.
– The New York Times | Wired
Anti-Semitism in Germany. Anti-Semitism is a very real threat for Jews living all over the world, and a new article shows how it takes on many forms in Germany. Since World War II, Jewish people have encouraged their children and family not to reveal their identity out of fear that they will be singled out or bullied. On the left, many Germans treat anti-Semitism and the Holocaust as a thing of the past, making no mention of it or Jewish history. Far-right groups use it to fuel existing tensions and xenophobic beliefs, claiming that anti-Semitism has been imported from the Middle East. Additionally, the majority of legislators in the Bundestag voted in favour of labelling the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as an entity that uses anti-Semitic tactics. People are protesting: where is the line between anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of Israel?
– The New York Times | Al Jazeera
Queer art. Several of this year’s blockbuster exhibitions around the world have celebrated queer artists, such as David Wojnarowicz at the Whitney, Robert Mapplethorpe at the Guggenheim, Derek Jarman at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, and Keith Haring at Tate Liverpool. However, Elephant’s Hannah Williams poses the question, “Are these genuine celebrations of queer and marginalised artists, or is there something more sinister at play?” On one hand, with the global turn towards conservatism, work by these artists “feels absolutely of the present moment”. On the other, Williams wonders if these exhibitions serve to make queer artists more “palatable to the art market”. Perhaps an example of such, the Artnet News buyer’s guide to the Whitney Biennialhighlights Elle Pérez for their queer photography.
– Elephant | Artnet News
Who was the so-called “welfare queen”? In the 1970s, Reagan latched on to a story about a “woman in Chicago”, who received more than $150,000 in welfare, using multiple identities. Many people assumed that this story was fictional—that Reagan had vilified the poor, and notably black women, leading the public to believe that welfare was being abused on a mass level. However, a new book by Josh Levin, The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth, details the life of Linda Taylor. Although Levin began his research presuming Taylor ‘s innocence, he discovered that she was, in fact, an uncommon criminal who committed crimes far worse than welfare fraud. Yet, in order to use Taylor as the political myth that she became, the police overlooked evidence linking her to kidnappings and murders.
– Josh Levin
Weekly Reading from 16.05.2019
Healthcare. Although human life expectancy has increased dramatically, and we are able to appear more youthful, aesthetically speaking, nothing—not even diet and exercise—can prevent adecline in mobility. Technology is being developed to assist the elderly; however, many are refusing to use it, not wanting to feel old. Instead, many engineers and entrepreneurs are creating technology and services for older people in need of care, which are then masked as products for millennials. In other health news, CBD seems to be everywhere, but what does it treat, and does it really work? The New York Times traces CBD’s current uses back to its history, examining the dangers of THC by comparison, how marijuana has changed over time, and the true intentions behind its criminalisation.
– The New Yorker | The New York Times
Primates. It is surprising how much can be learned about humans by studying our closest relatives. A group of monkeys living on Cayo Santiago, an island off the coast of Puerto Rico,survived Hurricane Maria. Because scientists have been studying the population for almost a century, they understand more about these monkeys than any other storm-surviving animals. Thus, their post-storm lives prove to be extremely insightful in terms of understanding how trauma affects people. In Tanzania, scientists have observed chimpanzees using tools to bury and then dig up their food, a method which was previously thought to be uniquely human.
– The New York Times | Newsweek
Abortion. On Tuesday night, Alabama voted to outlaw abortion with no exception for rape and/or incest victims. These lawmakers, who claim to value “life”, have cut services for poor children, medical care for pregnant women, and affordable contraception for women who are trying to plan their pregnancies. Their goal is to overturn Roe v Wade, and given today’s radical, activist, rightwing supreme court, the anti-abortion campaigners may succeed. Interestingly, states like Alabama, with strict abortion laws, have the highest maternal mortality rates. Pregnant women remain in danger still: the state of Georgia passed a new law stating that women can be criminally punished if something happens to their foetus, such as a miscarriage. In short, the unexpected loss of a wanted child could result in the grieving mother going to jail.
– The Guardian | Harper’s Bazaar
Feminism. In the academic world, certain figures rise like celebrities, getting invited to the biggest conferences, publishing popular mass-market books, and reaching name recognition—but what happens when their politics shift? Nina Power, known for being a feminist and Marxist, is being called out for moving towards or, at the very least, sympathising with the alt-right. An open letter by the Anti-Reaction Research Group (ARRG) calls Power out for befriending (and making videos with) neo-reactionary and fascist figures, claiming that men are the real victims of capitalism, referencing neo-Nazi groups, and more. Following the publication of this letter, Linda Stupart, an artist and academic who studied with Power, expanded their claims, also highlighting Power’s transphobia, in an op-ed published by the White Pube.
– ARRG | The White Pube
In 2011, the surrogacy industry began booming globally. New-born babies swap hands across the globe—in California, Ukraine, Russia, Israel, Guatemala, Iran, Mexico, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Laos, and Kenya, notably. In an excerpt from her forthcoming book Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family, Sophie Lewis argues against the bourgeois (and heterosexual) model for surrogacy, connecting it to twentieth-century eugenics. She concludes by calling for what she terms “full surrogacy”, a utopian notion in which babies are cared for not by single sets of parents but by communities at large.
– Sophie Lewis
Weekly Reading from 09.05.19
Photography. The public imagination has always regarded athletes as somewhat as mythical, and this tendency has undoubtedly grown since the introduction of photography. Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, 1843 to the Present, which accompanied the 2016 exhibition of the same name, chronicles the rich history of sports photography, including photographers—from Eadweard Muybridge to George Silk to Rineke Dijkstra. In the N.B.A. world, the role of the photographer has changed significantly such that most official photos are taken to bolster the Instagrams of players, teams, and photographers themselves. The protection of private moments between players is, unsurprisingly, increasingly impossible. An exhibition at the Arab World Institute in Paris (on view through 21 July) turns to soccer photography and memorabilia to reveal the relationship with soccer and power, as well as the game’s ability to mask or diminish unsavoury politics.
– Artsy | The New York Times | The New York Times
Caster Semenya. Last week, the highest court for international sports, the Court of Arbitration of Sport, ruled that such athletes could be banned unless they took medication to reduce their testosterone levels. South African Olympic champion, Caster Semenya, who is hyperandrogenic, meaning that she has a much higher level of T, challenged the court (and lost) after refusing to take medication. Many are speaking out against this discriminatory ruling, as elite sports are, by their very nature, an uneven playing field. The ruling will disproportionately affect women from the Global South, who have long suffered from racist sex testing in sports. Finally, what does this ruling mean for transgender athletes?
– The Guardian | Quartz
Bodybuilding. How have artists engaged with the notion of bodybuilding? Artist and writer Hannah Black collages text, intense rock music, architectural imagery, and bodybuilders in a video work called Bodybuilding. “Having a good size body seems to be dream”, she narrates, critiquing the body building industry as almost grotesque. Years prior, writer and cult figure Kathy Acker, an active bodybuilder herself, offered a more positive view on the sport in Against Ordinary Language: The Language of the Body. By rejecting the characterisation of bodybuilding as unintelligent, she found instead new artistic possibilities through the process of writing immediately after pushing her body to its limits.
– Hannah Black | Kathy Acker
Stadiums. Wild mushroom arancini, inbuilt seat warmers, microbreweries, and galleries: the amenities of football stadiums are becoming increasingly luxurious. In light of the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium, the FT’s Henry Mance questions the future of the sports industry, particularly its VIP sector. While Googling the match’s highlights after the fact, Mance wonders, who actually pays attention to the game? Due to be unveiled 9 September, Basel-based curator Klaus Littmann is planting 299 trees in the Wörthersee football stadium in Klagenfurt, Austria. The public art installation, soon-to-be Austria’s largest, is entitled For Forest: the Unending attraction of Natureand was inspired by a dystopian drawing by Max Peintner. Only viewable from the stands, the installation presents an eerie future in which trees only exist as spectacle in a world devastated by climate change.
– The Financial Times | The Art Newspaper
What is the relationship between bodybuilding and transcendence? Some argue that bodybuilding epitomises modern physical culture, materialism, liberalism, and life-enhancing biopolitics. German art historian Jörg Scheller begs to differ, understanding bodybuilding as a pursuit of or a means towards what he terms tra(i)nscendence. Through its associations with order and photogeneity—amplified by its relationship with photography—bodybuilding fulfils modernity’s quest for an earthly paradise, here and now.
– Jörg Scheller