Required Reading

Randall Roberts of the LA Times interviews the director of the new The Velvet Underground documentary, Todd Haynes:

Q: There are so many ways to watch this documentary. How did you come upon the idea to use tiling, multiple frames and parallel movement to tell the story?

A: The way into telling this story was, by definition, going to be different from other rock documentaries. The decision to only interview people who were there was my own, but there were other things that we inherited. There are no traditional kinds of visual materials that exist of this band — concert footage, interview footage, promotional material, etc. — like there would be of so many other bands that are this influential. 

What you do have is this band appearing in the work of Andy Warhol. He was so deeply embedded in and bound up in the avant-garde filmmaking that was going on in New York, and he had an inherent curiosity about breaking down the boundaries between mediums.

He was just one example of what was happening among a lot of different artists — but no one was as central and influential in creating a scene as Andy. So it was handed to me as, “This is an extraordinary visual culture — and it’s relevant to this story. Let’s visualize this time and place, and let’s let it visualize the music.”

Ray Mark Rinaldi reviews the newly reopened Denver Art Museum:

DAM wants its 800,000 annual guests to be themselves — and see themselves — in the museum. It has spent $150 million rearranging the art but also bolstering interactive spaces, such as the “thread” studio integrated into its textile galleries, where visitors can practice their own sewing and knitting, and the design lab, where they can marvel at the museum’s modern sofas and lamps, then dream up their own home accessories.

Throughout every gallery, the emphasis is on the now with contemporary artists getting equal, or even top, billing alongside institutional classics. Visitors to the Asian galleries, for example, are greeted first by a recent and irreverent “Mao jacket” piece by the Chinese sculptor Sui Jianguo before they move on to DAM’s ancient treasures from Cambodia, Japan and India.

A nice essay by Anne Boyer on Hannah Wilke over at Art in America, which I guess is completely subsumed by Artnews nowadays. It’s a nice reflection on the artist herself:

As all who write about Wilke never seem to fail to remark, Wilke was attractive, which caused a stir among her circle of feminist artists and critics. Pretty like a TV actress or a perfume model, that is, in a way that corresponded to the racialized, gender normative standards of her time and place, Wilke spoke about her appearance openly, both when discussing her work and in it. As her work shifted toward self-representation in photography — especially in the “S.O.S. (Starification Object Series)” series (1974–82) — it was met with mistrust, as many of her feminist peers were trying to sort out the problems of representation, objectification, and sexual competition. This self-representative work, featuring her own image often nude or partly so, in familiar and often sexualized poses, though at the same time, covered with folds made of chewing gum, put additional pressure on the issue at the prime moment when that pressure was already keenly felt. Or, as artist and critic Leslie Dick succinctly summed up the controversy in a 2004 review, “feminist critics put her down as a narcissistic flirt.”

William Poundstone writes about the man who canceled Los Angeles’s first movie museum:

The estimated cost of $6.5 million was modest, even in 1960s dollars. In comparison, the original LACMA ran about $11.5 million. Fresh off the success of Disneyland, Walt Disney assured the museum’s board that the project would be “an obligation for the millions of tourists who come to Hollywood.”

The museum was to occupy a high-profile site next to the Hollywood Bowl. The County donated the land—except for 6655 Alta Loma Terrace. That was a small, privately owned parcel holding the English Tudor home of Steven Anthony, a 33-year-old Barney’s Beanery bartender, his wife Elona, and their three young children. The Anthonys owned only a half-interest in the property, but they refused to sell. (The holder of the other half-interest had sold.) The Anthony family was served eviction notices, and on Feb. 8, 1964, Sheriff Dept. deputies attempted to remove them. Anthony, “cradling a shotgun in one hand and a baby in another,” refused to leave.

Manan Ahme, Rohit Chopra, and Audrey Truschke write that North America has a Hindu Nationalist problem:

In North America, Hindutva advocates claim the exclusive right to speak for all Indians about South Asian history, Hinduism, and the rights of Indian religious minorities. Crucially, they also seek to control what should and should not be taught in North American schools, colleges, and universities about these topics as well as who should teach them. Hindu nationalists attempt to silence those they deem to imperil their majoritarian political and cultural ambitions. In recent years, North American scholars have been primary targets of US-based Hindu Right groups with calls to cancel classes, conferences, books, and teaching contracts.

Academics who research South Asia may seem like an unlikely target for political opposition. We’re a significant minority within the United States academy, which is dominated by the study of Western traditions and world areas. Many of us spend our days reading languages considered obscure by most Americans (like Persian, Sanskrit, and Urdu), and our battles in the academy usually focus on the urgent need to integrate the study of non-Western cultures, religions, and societies much more significantly into North American education. Yet, even as we attempt to broaden curriculums, we face increasing adversity as the Hindu Right seeks to undermine scholarly expertise in approaching Indian pasts. 

If this catches on it could be big … Amherst College cancels legacy admissions. Choire Sicha has the story for the Intelligencer:

“It is time to end this historic practice of giving a preference on the basis of heredity,” said the school’s president, Biddy Martin, in a statement. In office since 2011, she will depart the role next year and return to teaching. Dr. Martin is also on the board of the Harvard Corporation, meaning her thinking and policies are influential.

Amherst can show the results of its theories around admissions. Unlike at many colleges, women do not outnumber men at Amherst, and, also unlike many private schools, it has nearly as many enrolled Hispanic and Latino students as it does Asian students.

Just before the pandemic, Johns Hopkins University announced it would end the consideration as well. Others have not yet followed. Legacies are a factor in admissions for lots of private schools, though rarely for public schools.

David Graeber, who died suddenly last year, co-wrote a book with archaeologist David Wengrow that is making waves. Titled The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, the book is reviewed by William Deresiewicz in The Atlantic. He writes:

Is “civilization” worth it, the authors want to know, if civilization—ancient Egypt, the Aztecs, imperial Rome, the modern regime of bureaucratic capitalism enforced by state violence—means the loss of what they see as our three basic freedoms: the freedom to disobey, the freedom to go somewhere else, and the freedom to create new social arrangements? Or does civilization rather mean “mutual aid, social co-operation, civic activism, hospitality [and] simply caring for others”?

These are questions that Graeber, a committed anarchist—an exponent not of anarchy but of anarchism, the idea that people can get along perfectly well without governments—asked throughout his career. The Dawn of Everything is framed by an account of what the authors call the “indigenous critique.” In a remarkable chapter, they describe the encounter between early French arrivals in North America, primarily Jesuit missionaries, and a series of Native intellectuals—individuals who had inherited a long tradition of political conflict and debate and who had thought deeply and spoke incisively on such matters as “generosity, sociability, material wealth, crime, punishment and liberty.”

The Indigenous critique, as articulated by these figures in conversation with their French interlocutors, amounted to a wholesale condemnation of French—and, by extension, European—society: its incessant competition, its paucity of kindness and mutual care, its religious dogmatism and irrationalism, and most of all, its horrific inequality and lack of freedom. The authors persuasively argue that Indigenous ideas, carried back and publicized in Europe, went on to inspire the Enlightenment (the ideals of freedom, equality, and democracy, they note, had theretofore been all but absent from the Western philosophical tradition). They go further, making the case that the conventional account of human history as a saga of material progress was developed in reaction to the Indigenous critique in order to salvage the honor of the West. We’re richer, went the logic, so we’re better. The authors ask us to rethink what better might actually mean.

Adam Johnson deconstructs the latest alarmist series of stories about organized crime rings at Walgreens, which the San Francisco Chronicle and other mainstream sources amplified while ignoring a bigger story (wage theft):

Regardless of what one thinks Walgreens’ business logic is for the closings, one cannot deny the story—either by design or incident—has become a full blown reactionary meme with a specific political context. As Steven Keehner documented at FAIR in July, a single viral video of shoplifting at Walgreens solicited over 300 articles nationwide, not including write-ups in South Africa, Mexico, UK, and South Korea. If you’re wondering this is, dollar for dollar, 474,183% more coverage than the one (1) mainstream media article about Walgreens admitting it stole $4.5 million from its employees over several years. The five Walgreens closings announced last week garnered coverage in The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo News (which ran three stories), USA Today, and Bloomberg. There were reports about the closings on Local TV news stations in Rockford, Ill., Miami, Albany, Chicago, Dayton, Ohio and Jacksonville, Fla. Sinclair Broadcast Group, a right-wing media conglomerate that owns TV networks, ran an article about it that was put on the front page of hundreds of “local” new sites. Walgreens closings have been heavily featured on Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Fox and Friends.   

The University of Southern California is apologizing for their actions during World War II that derailed the education of many Japanese American students. The lede paragraphs are damning:

In the throes of World War II, weeks after a 1942 presidential executive order forced the removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast, then-UC Berkeley President Robert G. Sproul sprung into action.

He sent an impassioned letter to university presidents across the country, asking them to accept his displaced students, most of them U.S. citizens and “excellent” scholars. Other major West Coast universities joined, including the University of Washington and Occidental College, to assist an estimated 2,500 Japanese American students. 

There was one glaring exception: USC.

Then-USC President Rufus B. von KleinSmid — now disgraced for his legacy of eugenics support, antisemitism and racism — and other campus officials refused to release transcripts of Japanese American students so they could study elsewhere. When some students tried to reenroll after the war, USC would not honor their previous coursework and said they would have to start over, according to their surviving family members.

A Colombian court has ruled that Pablo Escobar’s cocaine hippos are legally people. Dharna Noor of Gizmodo has the story:

Last July, Colombian attorney Luis Domingo Gómez Maldonado filed a lawsuit on the hippos’ behalf to save them from being euthanized. Instead, the case recommends sterilization. Colombian officials announced a plan to use a chemical contraceptive developed by the U.S. Agriculture Department to sterilize “the main group” of the hippos, and the region’s environmental agency Cornare began to implement the plan on Friday, darting 24 hippos. The suit, though, argues for the use of a different contraceptive drug, which it says is safer. And it also notes that the proposal to deal with the hippos could still leave the door open for some of them to be killed.

Months later, the U.S. animal advocacy organization Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a legal application to depose two Ohio-based wildlife experts who study nonsurgical sterilization to provide testimony on behalf of the plaintiffs—who, to be clear, are the hippos.

Very interesting:

Well this is a fascinating list of amendments that were proposed but never ratified. pic.twitter.com/OLwFzHMfTR

— radical pragmatist (@radicalpragmat1) October 19, 2021

Truth:

pic.twitter.com/hwrHrsHRrn

— I Love Facts (@Drew360) October 20, 2021

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, 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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