This week, artists who marry, the Torah on privilege, Alamo artifacts under scrutiny, universities as right-wing institutions, and more.
by Hrag Vartanian20 hours ago
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- Thessaly La Force, writing for T Magazine, discusses artists who marry:
Artists partnered with other artists — coupled, married or otherwise entangled — is as old as art itself. Did two artists, in their attraction to one another, create something that they might otherwise have not? There is a particular kind of glory and fame to be earned from such unions, from couples such as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley, wherein the daughter of a feminist mother ran off with her political philosopher father’s talented student, the two of them telling ghost stories with Lord Byron during a wet and rainy summer in Switzerland. (The story Mary wrote became “Frankenstein.”)The sisters Virginia and Vanessa Stephen — along with their respective and various partnerships — helped to sustain the mythology that artists and writers, as Dorothy Parker would famously put it, “lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles.” … We reserve a particular kind of fascination for the idea that two artistic souls have found one another — and that, together, they created their own work but also some kind of a haven from the rest of the world.
We are told unequivocally that it is God’s essence to show no favor and take no bribe, but then we are told whom God decidedly does prefer.
God privileges the orphan, the widow and the stranger — the marginalized, the oppressed, the poor and those seen as the “other.”
There is no pretense here about God’s partiality. God gives special favor to precisely those whom society tends to demean, hate and dehumanize. And we — who were strangers in the land of Egypt — must do the same.
- Does Phil Collins (yes, the musician) have one of the largest collection of Alamo artifacts? (That’s just weird and creepy, no?) Anew a book is raising questions as to whether or not they’re fakes:
In their upcoming book “Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth,” authors Chris Tomlinson, Jason Stanford and Bryan Burrough chronicle the strange and storied tale of Collins’ collection and its central role in revitalizing the Alamo.
An excerpt from the book published in Texas Monthly’s forthcoming June edition lays out some of the contested artifacts, which include a knife supposedly owned by Jim Bowie that was authenticated by a psychic. Other items include horseshoes, belt buckles and buttons dug up from under a shop near the mission. A “sword belt” purported to have belonged to Colonel William Barret Travis is also listed among Collins’ haul. The collection undoubtedly holds many authentic items, but some have a much murkier history.
And here’s an excerpt in the Texas Monthly.
- In the Atlantic, an interesting look at how teachers and mentors can uniquely manipulate their power particularly in literary circles:
The manipulation of language is the common thread sewn through each of these books. Springora includes a quote by the novelist Chloé Delaume at the beginning of her memoir’s final section: “Language has always been an exclusive domain. Who owns language owns power.” In one scene in His Favorites, Jo reports her teacher to the headmaster, who dismisses her. She thinks in hindsight that she should have responded by blasting his patriarchal fossilization into powder, but remembers that she was only 15 at the time. “I could no more have formed those words, those thoughts, than flown to the moon.” Springora describes in one chapter feeling as if she’s no match for Matzneff because she doesn’t yet have the words she needs to challenge him:
I wasn’t familiar with the terms ‘narcissistic pervert’ and ‘sexual predator.’ I didn’t know there was such a thing as a person for whom the Other does not exist. I still believed that violence was only ever physical. And G. manipulated language like others manipulate swords … It was impossible to do battle with him on equal terms.
Similarly, in My Dark Vanessa, the influence of the teacher who abused Vanessa is so profound even in adulthood that it’s obvious to the reader when she’s parroting his words in her narrative instead of forming her own assessments. “There was something about me that made it worth the risk,” she thinks. “I had an allure that drew him in.” She rejects the word abuse to describe what happened to her, because “in someone else’s mouth the word turns ugly and absolute. It swallows up everything that happened.” The simple integrity of a word cuts through the fog of her self-delusion too painfully. But she also twists language to deceive herself. To be groomed, she thinks, suddenly pedantic about definitions, “is to be loved and handled like a precious, delicate thing.”
- In case you missed it, check out Karen Attiah’s opinion piece in the Washington Post on why US museums should return African art:
So far, the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have not commented on whether their institutions will return the artifacts that were plundered from the Kingdom of Benin, though the Smithsonian has said it is convening a working group to discuss its policy on looted art. The National Museum of African Art in D.C. has 42 objects from Benin; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has at least 160 objects that can be traced back to Benin City.
Institutions such as the Smithsonian and the Met claim to want to start dialogue about culture and history. After the murder of George Floyd last year in Minneapolis, both released statements about combating systemic racism. The Met invested in antiracism training for its staff and said that it was committed to “new approaches” in “how we build, study, and oversee our collection and program.” So then why the silence and institutional foot-dragging on questions of returning looted art back to the countries that request and want them back?
- Writing for Teen Vogue, Asheesh Kapur Siddique explains how universities are actually right-wing institutions and how the “cancel culture” hysteria obstructs the real power dynamic:
The corporate capitalist regime that controls American university boards today has manufactured the current crisis of higher education by inflating tuition to compensate for state funding cuts while passing on the debt to students; hiring contingent rather than tenure-line staff to pay teachers less while withholding the security of academic freedom; and appointing administrators who are ultimately accountable to the regime.
At Harvard, the “corporation” that exercises significant sway over administrative appointments and policy includes six MBAs and only four Ph.Ds. Harvard’s “Board of Overseers,” which is charged with safeguarding “Harvard’s overarching academic mission and long-term institutional interests,” includes, among artists and doctors, senior leaders from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, McKinsey & Company, Google, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. It’s likely that boards with a substantial number of corporate managers regard “long-term institutional interests” as including vehement opposition to unionization by graduate workers and a sluggish response to students and alumni calling for divestment of Harvard’s assets from fossil fuels. (Teen Vogue has reached out to Harvard for comment.)
Far from an anomaly, Harvard’s corporate involvement is symptomatic of capitalism’s destructive takeover of American higher education.
- There’s a curious little battle being waged over the invention of the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos origin story. It’s long been told that Richard Montañez was the originator, but a recent story by Sam Dean at the LA Times found that narrative doesn’t appear to be true. Now Gustavo Arellano, also at the LA Times, has given us some useful context:
It’s easy to dismiss the critics as Flamin’ Hot Truthers who can’t see the Cheetos bag for the chip. But I understand why people are rallying behind Montañez. The truth hurts, for one. And their frustration over Sam’s article isn’t so much about Montañez rather than a microcosm of two big issues that continue to plague Mexicans in the United States: historical erasure and the continued yearning for heroes that white America can also embrace.
- Sargon George Donabed and Daniel Joseph Tower write about how Indigenous groups in West Asia often challenge Western ideas around Indigeneity and as a result governments end up supporting systemic violence against those communities:
But Assyrians face obstacles in their claims of Indigeneity that are vastly unlike those of Indigenous communities in Western countries. Assyrians’ attempts to seek Indigenous rights — accommodated under the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) — are rejected due to regional tensions and rivalries. The United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) provides a platform for elevating Indigenous voices to the international arena and for highlighting their culture, history, and claims to land. In 2014, the Assyrian Aid Society (AAS) represented Assyrians at the 13th session of the UNPFII. The organization outlined the Indigenous heritage of the Assyrian peoples, the necessity for recognition from their host state, and the overall goal of autonomous governance to help preserve Assyrians’ culture and history within the Iraqi political system.
After the IS attacks on Mosul, media focus on the Arab and Kurdish character of the region erased the Assyrians.
But the Iraqi response to Assyrian claims to Indigenous status — and indeed to all ethno-religious minorities of Iraq who have made such claims — was outright denial. What’s more, at the 2014 UNPFII session, [Assyrians were yet to experience the force of IS attacks on Mosul.] Even afterward, when the Yezidi delegation joined forces with the AAS in 2015, the Iraqi position remained unchanged. As has been seen in the past few months with the Kurdish vote for independence, the Iraqi government fears that claims for independence will threaten the nation’s stability. Hence, there are officially no Indigenous peoples of Iraq. Formal political channels have made Assyrians’ position ambiguous at best.
- Things are getting interesting in Chicago as Mayor Lori Lightfoot is only giving interviews to POC reporters to offset what she says is a press corp that doesn’t resemble the city:
The mayor circulated a letter to Chicago reporters Wednesday saying that her choice was a status-quo breaker and ripping into the “overwhelming whiteness and maleness” of the City Hall press corps, though her observation that there are no women of color journalists on the beat was disputed by WBEZ.
But there was a consensus among many that overall, the political reporters who cover Lightfoot’s administration indeed do not reflect the diversity of the city, and it was that response that the mayor echoed Thursday.
- The Navajo Nation just surpassed the Cherokee as the largest Native American community by not only landmass but enrollment now too:
The Navajo Nation is on track to get the largest share of the enrollment-based funding. About half of its members live on the vast 27,000-square-mile (70,000-square-kilometer) reservation that extends into New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.
The tribe opened the hardship assistance program in November, up against an initial deadline to spend federal virus assistance by the end of the year. It required that applicants be enrolled as Navajo citizens. The response was huge, with the tribe paying out more than $322 million to more than 293,000 applicants, the tribal controller’s office said. Adults received up to $1,350 and children up to $450.
- Angela Davis publishes a statement in solidarity with Palestine, Gaza, and Sheikh Jarrah:
If you haven’t seen ityet, I recommend Abby Martin’s extensive documentary about Gaza from 2019. Martin is a controversial figure but I think overall she has proven to be a reliable reporter who challenges newsroom orthodoxies. This documentary is heartbreaking:
Ever wonder what happens to your brain during a migraine?
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.
Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv. More by Hrag Vartanian