Required Reading

This might be the greatest article of the year (funniest, at least). It’s written by Daniel Hill for the Riverfront Times in St. Louis, and it begins:

Noted local criminal Mark McCloskey played host to a barbecue/political rally on Sunday afternoon, drawing tens of admirers to the sweltering parking lot of a closed outlet mall in St. Louis County to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the time he pulled a gun on a crowd of people who otherwise would never have noticed or cared he existed.

Neuroscience News reports that a study at Ohio State University suggests conservatives are “less able to distinguish political truths from falsehoods, and the glut of right-wing media organizations producing politically incorrect content is likely to blame.” They write:

Researchers found that liberals and conservatives in the United States both tended to believe claims that promoted their political views, but that this more often led conservatives to accept falsehoods while rejecting truths.

One of the main drivers of the findings appeared to be the American media and information environment.

“Both liberals and conservatives tend to make errors that are influenced by what is good for their side,” said Kelly Garrett, co-author of the study and professor of communication at The Ohio State University.

“But the deck is stacked against conservatives because there is so much more misinformation that supports conservative positions. As a result, conservatives are more often led astray.”

Kyle Chayka reflects on the rise of the “online novel” for the New Republic:

This problem — call it the falsity of the screen — has also posed a problem in fiction. Over the last decade, novelists have struggled with the feeling that the internet is the opposite of narrative. The narrator of Jenny Offill’s Weather (2020) disdains social networks: “I don’t use any of them because they make me feel too squirrelly. Or not exactly squirrelly, more like a rat who can’t stop pushing a lever.” Adam, the protagonist of Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station (2011), uses online chat, but it dulls even the most shocking experiences: His friend recounts the random tragedy of watching a woman drown while swimming in a river, telling the story through an instant-message conversation replete with interrupted messages and connection problems. The digital medium makes the horror seem less acute and underlines Adam’s alienation from his own surroundings. The lovers in Sally Rooney’s novels pour out their feelings over email, but sense there is something missing. The narrator of Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts (2021) is obsessed with social media and dating sites, constantly checking her profile and messages, and yet the main action of the book — her boyfriend’s faking of his own death and the narrator’s darkly whimsical sojourn in Berlin in the aftermath — lies in physical events.

L0ri Waxman (a smart critic you should follow) reviews the LatinXAmerican exhibition at the DePaul Art Museum for the Chicago Tribune:

… the exhibition, which is part of DPAM’s multi-year Latinx Initiative, is concerned with examining and ultimately righting structural wrongs, the kind perpetrated by major American museums, whose collections, according to a 2018 survey, contain just 2.8% of work by artists of Latinx heritage, despite the fact that Latinx people make up 18.5% of the U.S. population. LatinXAmerican is basically a collections show, drawn from the holdings of DPAM, but one that takes a critical look at what isn’t there as much as what is, temporarily plugging those holes with works made by some of the most exciting artists of today, many of them Chicagoans.

Mark Lamster reviews the new Nancy and Rich Kinder Building of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which was designed by Steven Holl, for the Dallas Morning News:

Holl’s Nelson-Atkins addition was notable for its deferential modesty. The Kinder Building is in no way modest. It is an audacious, luminous statement, one that competes for attention (and wins, deservedly and unreservedly) with the museum’s two other signature buildings: Mies van der Rohe’s restrained Caroline Wiess Law Building (1974) and Rafael Moneo’s unremarkable and hulking Beck Building (2000).

What makes the Kinder so dramatic, at least from the outside, is its skin of white glass tubes. It is wrapped in 1,170 of them, varying in height, each one a semicircle attached to the concrete core of the building. In the hot sun, they are a bright, opaque white. As dusk approaches, they start to become translucent. By nightfall, the building is a giant phosphorescent lantern. Few buildings change in nature so radically, or so beautifully.

New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl admits he doesn’t really like the work of Paul Cézanne:

So what’s my problem? Partly it’s an impatience with Cézanne’s demands for strenuous looking. I tire of being made to feel smart rather than pleased. (Here I quite favor the optical nourishments of van Gogh, Gauguin, and Seurat.) But my discontent is inseparable from Cézanne’s significance as a revolutionary. How good an idea was modernism, all in all? It disintegrated, circa 1960, amid a plurality of new modes while remaining, yes, an art of the museum. It came to emblematize up-to-date sophisticated taste, spawning varieties of abstraction that circle back to Cézanne’s innovative interrelations of figure and ground. It also fuelled a yen in some to change the world for the more intelligent, if not always for the better. The world took only specialized notice. Modernism’s initially enfevered optimism could not survive the slaughterhouse of the First World War and the political apocalypse of the Russian Revolution, which ate away at myths of progress that had seemed to valorize aesthetic change. Dedicated newness in art devolved from a propelling cause into a rote effect. Lost, to my mind, is the strangeness — which I strive to reimagine — that had to have affected Cézanne’s first viewers, as he began to upend traditions that had been more or less continuous since the Renaissance. 

This is a depressing story about how Christian Zionists are trying to skew the history of the WWII Holocaust for their own political purposes. Writing in Jewish Currents, Corey Sherman explains:

Over the course of many months, the members of both the expert panel and a state-appointed Holocaust education task force of area experts fought to minimize PJTN’s influence on the standards—but the final draft still bears evidence of the group’s political project, and its efforts to overtly falsify history to build support for Zionism. The latest standards contain scaled-down versions of the inaccuracies that the experts have protested. Gone are the lessons that explicitly suggest that the Nazis only targeted religious Jews—but the current draft still defines Jewishness in terms of religious observance, requiring students to study “the basic beliefs of Judaism” as part of learning about the “planned and systematic state sponsored murder” of Jews by Nazis between 1933 and 1945. (The task force continues to object to this framing: “The Holocaust was not a religious war,” they wrote to FLDOE on June 15th.) Gone, too, is a mandate inserted in March to study the Zionist movement—but the standards continue to conflate Jewishness with Zionism and draw ahistorical connections between anti-Zionism and the Holocaust. For example, in the same standard on the Nazi genocide, students are required to “identify examples of antisemitism related to Israel,” even though Israel didn’t exist until 1948. “Nothing has been finalized yet,” task force and expert panel member Barbara Goldstein, executive director of the Holocaust Education Resource Council, told Jewish Currents. “But I still have some concerns, mainly, that antisemitism related to Israel has nothing to do with teaching about the Nazi genocide of Jews.” 

Andrew Leland reflects on the “performance” of blindness:

Blindness may be, in some ways, the easiest disability for a nondisabled actor to inhabit: There’s no twisting of the limbs or facial contortions of the kind that won Daniel Day-Lewis an Oscar for “My Left Foot” (1989, best actor), and no need to learn sign language, as Sally Hawkins did — poorly, according to one deaf critic — for “The Shape of Water” (2017, best-actress nomination). But while it’s fair to point out that most blind people don’t technically watch television, you don’t need to actually see the visual intricacies of a performance to understand the sort of cultural work it’s doing in representing you. Negative and reductive portrayals of blindness have persisted onscreen throughout film and TV history, from Thomas Edison’s “The Fake Beggar” (1898) to Al Pacino’s virile blind depressive in “Scent of a Woman” (1992, best actor).

Yet the N.F.B., founded in 1940, organized protests of films or TV shows only a handful of times before “In the Dark,” most recently in 2008 with the release of Fernando Meirelles’s adaptation of José Saramago’s novel “Blindness.” It argued that the film (and the novel) — about an epidemic of sudden blindness that leads to a societal breakdown, which is, in its broad strokes, not unlike a zombie movie — portrayed blind people as “monsters.”

Yet another example of how right-wing organizations astroturf outrage at symbolic figures on the left (it’s a good thread):

Earlier this month, @IlhanMN was the target of an outrage campaign and critical statements from within the Democratic party.@avaniyadav_ and I looked at the data. In short, Omar “controversies” are largely orchestrated by far-right media. Democrats make them worse.


— Emerson T. Brooking (@etbrooking) July 1, 2021

Funny (in case you don’t know the song):

Floating in the summer sky
$2425 of fines go by.

— Jolly (@jolly1766) July 1, 2021

Brian Karam points out how prescient MAD magazine was in the 1970s:

Interviewing a Trump supporter who called himself a “Super Patriot.” I knew I heard that term before . . .
Then I remembered. @MADmagazine from the early 1970s!
Today’s GOP = Cartoon fascists.

— Brian J. Karem (@BrianKarem) June 29, 2021

Perfectly art:

She said it’s art…

— TK (@TK_Freedom_) June 28, 2021

This is quite cool:

Fossil of 37 million years old Whale Skeleton (more than 65ft long) found in Wadi Al Hitan, Egyptian desert.
Dozens of rare fossilized whale skeletons have emerged from the sands of the Egyptian Saharan desert. A museum has now opened on the site to help preserve the fossils.

— Archaeo – Histories (@archeohistories) June 30, 2021

Required Reading is published every Saturday, 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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