In the latest iteration of the misleadingly named "sharing economy," venture-capital-backed startups are buying entire buildings in hip New York neighborhoods and turning them into communal apartments for, in the words of one such company, "today's creative class." Writing for The Atlantic, James Hamblin calls this—without a hint of irony—the "communal living industry." Whereas communal living has historically been a means of living cheaply, the houses that Hamblin writes about are full of cosmopolitan entrepreneurs and the occasion artist who all pay as much as $1500 a month for a sense of "community." Hold your nose and read an excerpt from the article below:
Pure House is on the small side of the communal living industry, which is seeing commercial success in the United States at the moment. There are plans to spread across Brooklyn, but for now it consists of three closely situated apartments with five or six people living in each. This puts Pure House behind industry leaders like WeLive, which operates entire buildings in lower Manhattan and “D.C.” (actually in a renovated office building in a sterile commercial park in Arlington, Virginia). Along with WeWork, the co-working space part of the company, WeLive is part of a $16 billion valuation.
Another communal-living company, Common, raised $7.35 million in mostly venture-capital funding last summer, and is taking over real estate in historically black Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights. Another, Stage 3 Properties, which promises a “holistic housing solution,” encourages tenants to socialize and bond in “play spaces” throughout New York, “an ever-expanding network of amenities spread throughout multiple Ollie properties.”
This microcommunity is not free, though. A room at Pure House costs between $1,500 and $1,800 per month. WeLive is even more expensive, with the smallest room costing more than the Dupont Circle studio I rented when I lived in D.C. On the basis of square footage of the private space, WeLive and Pure House cost more than most rental spaces in New York, too. Several tenants could split a comparably minimal loft for around $1,000 per person. So people are paying a lot to live in major cities like New York, and then, once there, paying even more to create a smaller community.
Image via The Atlantic.
In the New Republic, Hannah Rosefield writes about a new book on a universal and curiously malleable condition: exhaustion. Exhaustion: A History by Anna Katharina Schaffner traces the different physical symptoms and cultural significations associated with exhaustion from antiquity to the present day. In Rosefield's words, exhaustion has been "a floating symptom" throughout the ages, identified with everything from religious impiety to excessive masturbation. Today, in our internet-addled age where people boast of being hyper-busy, exhausted has turned into a badge of honor. Read an excerpt from Rosefield's piece below, or the full text here:
Sometime in the eighteenth century, doctors and philosophers stopped blaming exhaustion on the weakness of the individual and started blaming it on changes in society. Ever since, exhaustion has been associated with the demands of modern life. Those who fret about exhaustion epidemics are usually cultural conservatives, calling for a return to older, slower, sometimes more godly ways to cure the disease they so readily diagnose. But Schaffner points out that many critics, even as they call for a cure, frame exhaustion as a mark of distinction. This idea dates back at least to Aristotle. “Why is it that all men who have become outstanding in philosophy, statesmanship, poetry or the arts are melancholic?” he wonders in Problemata.
The American neurologist George M. Beard, neurasthenia’s foremost theorist, associated the disease with the middle and upper classes, in 1881 describing the neurasthenic type as having “fine, soft hair, delicate skin, nicely chiseled features, small bones… It is the organization of the civilized, refined and educated, rather than of the barbarous and low-born and untrained”. Small wonder that neurasthenia became such a topic of fascination, promising superiority to those who could detect it in themselves. Doctors, meanwhile, could flatter their patients as they treated them.
Today, exhaustion still hints at status, but of a different sort. To say that you’re exhausted is to telegraph that you’re important, in demand, and successful. It’s akin to the humblebrag of ruefully describing yourself as “so busy”—naturally, since exhaustion follows from busyness. In Schaffner’s telling, the associations of exhaustion with prestige have crystallized in the form of burnout. First used in the 1970s to describe exhaustion suffered by workers in the social sector, “burnout” was characterized by increased cynicism and apathy, and a decreased sense of personal accomplishment. Since then, its application has widened to include all worn down, overburdened workers, especially in Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, where burnout is a subject of regular media debate. Burnout, caused by workplace conditions rather than by a worker’s mental and physical composition, is depression’s more palatable, more prestigious cousin. As the German journalist Sebastian Beck puts it: “Only losers become depressive. Burnout is a diagnosis for winners, or, more specifically: for former winners.”
Image via the New Republic.
In an illuminating piece for the Boston Review, Ben Armstrong crunches the numbers to determine whether tech startups really are the solution to urban decay that city governments around the world seem to think they are. Does giving tax breaks and other incentives to tech startups really lead to significant urban job growth? Armstrong's answer: not really. Here's an excerpt:
Slate identifies thirty-one cities around the world that have received the moniker “Next Silicon Valley” from news outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, NPR, and the BBC. New York City has claimed the title Silicon Alley; Kansas City considers itself Silicon Prairie; and Dublin, Ireland calls its tech scene Silicon Docks. In many of these places, city governments have subscribed to a kind of Silicon Valley mimicry. They have launched incubators, supported investor incentives, and sponsored innovation challenges like hackathons with big prizes—all with the hope that high-growth startups will follow.
The Silicon Valley Consensus is that innovative cities grow faster than non-innovative ones—but that’s not always the case.
Michael Piore, an MIT economist, calls governments’ enthusiasm for supporting high-tech entrepreneurship the “Silicon Valley Consensus.” The Washington Consensus of the 1980s claimed that free trade and deregulation were the most promising growth policies for developing countries. The Silicon Valley Consensus suggests that innovative cities grow faster, that startups are the only real hope for job creation, and that high-tech growth helps rich and poor alike.
But, like the Washington Consensus, the Silicon Valley Consensus offers a false promise.
Image via Boston Review.
IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FOR #AGI ROUNDTABLE ATTENDEESFor all those planning to attend the #AGI Accelerate General Intellect Plenary session at e-flux New York on Friday afternoon: due to unforeseen circumstances, we are cancelling this event. We will be hosting the conversation in an internal format in the near future, and further announcements will provide information for those interested as soon as it becomes available. We apologize for any inconvenience, and thank everyone for their continued interest in the #AGI residency.
The New Centre for Research & Practice is thrilled to announce its New York Summer Residency, entitled "#AGI Accelerate General Intellect." The residency takes place July 18–22, 2016 at various venues around New York City. On July 20, we will host a panel during the Future of Mind Symposium as part of a collaboration with the New School’s Center for Transformative Media and Humanity+.
Please join us for a week of seminars, workshops, and panel discussions at Pratt Institute, The New School for Social Research, and e-flux, as our resident artists, thinkers, and writers speculate about the future implications of collective thought and cognition on philosophical, political, and technological developments. Many of the week's events will be live-blogged here at e-flux conversations, starting Monday, July 18.
What does it mean to accelerate the general intellect in the age of artificial intelligence? #AGI begins from the investigation of distributed networks from which thought assembles and into which it disperses. Unlike in the past, general intelligence, algorithms, and networks are together becoming as irreducible to the efforts of “universal” intellectuals as cultural and political movements have become to “universal” leaders. Will the future enable a more radical, integrated, but also more complex mode of cultural and political engagement? One predicated upon what Marx describes as, “the conditions of the process of social life itself… under the control of the general intellect” (1).
July 18 at Pratt Institute /// Moderated by Tony Yanick 09:00 – 09:30, Coffee09:30 – 10:00, Introductory Remarks 10:00 – 12:00, Pete Wolfendale12:00 – 13:00, Discussion 13:00 – 14:00, Lunch14:00 – 14:30, Ahmed El Hady14:30 – 15:00, Discussion 15:00 – 16:00, Katarina Kolozova /// Video Conference from Macedonia16:00 – 16:30, Discussion
July 19 at Pratt Institute /// Moderated by Mohammad Salemy09:00 – 09:30, Coffee09:30 – 10:00, Introductory Remarks 10:00 – 11:00, Matteo Pasquinelli /// Video Conference from Berlin11:00 – 11:30, Discussion 11:30 – 11:45, Break11:45 – 12:30, Amy Ireland12:30 – 13:00, Discussion13:00 – 14:00, Lunch 14:00 – 15:00, Joshua Johnson & Keith Tilford15:00 – 15:15, Break15:15 – 17:00, Nick Land17:00 – 18:00, Discussion July 20th: Future of Mind at The New School (2)15:30 – 16:45, The New Centre Panel Discussion with Reza Negarestani Patricia Reed, & Peter Wolfendale
July 21 at The New School /// Moderated by Jason Adams09:00 – 09:30, Coffee09:30 – 10:00, Introductory Remarks 10:00 – 11:00, Patricia Reed11:00 – 11:30, Discussion11:30 – 11:45, Break11:45 – 14:30, Lunch 14:00 – 14:30, Eden Medina /// Video Link from Indiana14:30 – 15:00, Discussion 15:00 – 15:15, Break15:15 – 17:00, Reza Negarestani17:00 – 18:00, Discussion
CANCELLED /////// July 22 at e-flux 18:00 – 21:30pm Audio-acoustic intervention by Jason BroganPlenary session with Amy Ireland / Nick Land /Reza Negarestani / Patricia Reed / Pete Wolfendale /// Moderated by Jason Adams, Mohammad Salemy & Tony Yanick ////////
The Residency is free for The New Centre Friends and Members (to become a member, please visit: http://thenewcentre.org/membership/member/). General admission is by donation. Space for each location has specific limits, to secure seats please register for #AGI: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1W-ocorcQ41Tv-isTZRuu6hKTEa-019FsurepjpdwADs/viewform
(1) Karl Marx, Grundrisse (London: Penguin Books, 1973), 706.(2) Please visit the website for the Future of Mind conference (https://futureofmind.wordpress.com/) for information on registeration to attend this event separately.
For Jacobin, Bjarke Skærlund Risager speaks with economist David Harvey about that oft-misunderstood and even-more-oft-used term "neoliberalism" that has been peppering political debates as of late. Harvey literally wrote the book on neoliberalism in 2007, titled "A Brief History of Neoliberalism." Read the interview in partial below, or in full via Jacobin.
Bjarke Skærlund Risager: Neoliberalism is a widely used term today. However, it is often unclear what people refer to when they use it. In its most systematic usage it might refer to a theory, a set of ideas, a political strategy, or a historical period. Could you begin by explaining how you understand neoliberalism?
David Harvey: I’ve always treated neoliberalism as a political project carried out by the corporate capitalist class as they felt intensely threatened both politically and economically towards the end of the 1960s into the 1970s. They desperately wanted to launch a political project that would curb the power of labor.
In many respects the project was a counterrevolutionary project. It would nip in the bud what, at that time, were revolutionary movements in much of the developing world — Mozambique, Angola, China etc. — but also a rising tide of communist influences in countries like Italy and France and, to a lesser degree, the threat of a revival of that in Spain.
Even in the United States, trade unions had produced a Democratic Congress that was quite radical in its intent. In the early 1970s they, along with other social movements, forced a slew of reforms and reformist initiatives which were anti-corporate: the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, consumer protections, and a whole set of things around empowering labor even more than it had been empowered before.
So in that situation there was, in effect, a global threat to the power of the corporate capitalist class and therefore the question was, “What to do?”. The ruling class wasn’t omniscient but they recognized that there were a number of fronts on which they had to struggle: the ideological front, the political front, and above all they had to struggle to curb the power of labor by whatever means possible. Out of this there emerged a political project which I would call neoliberalism.
BSR: Can you talk a bit about the ideological and political fronts and the attacks on labor?
DH: The ideological front amounted to following the advice of a guy named Lewis Powell. He wrote a memo saying that things had gone too far, that capital needed a collective project. The memo helped mobilize the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.
Ideas were also important to the ideological front. The judgement at that time was that universities were impossible to organize because the student movement was too strong and the faculty too liberal-minded, so they set up all of these think tanks like the Manhattan Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Ohlin Foundation. These think tanks brought in the ideas of Freidrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and supply-side economics.
The idea was to have these think tanks do serious research and some of them did — for instance, the National Bureau of Economic Research was a privately funded institution that did extremely good and thorough research. This research would then be published independently and it would influence the press and bit by bit it would surround and infiltrate the universities.
This process took a long time. I think now we’ve reached a point where you don’t need something like the Heritage Foundation anymore. Universities have pretty much been taken over by the neoliberal projects surrounding them.
With respect to labor, the challenge was to make domestic labor competitive with global labor. One way was to open up immigration. In the 1960s, for example, Germans were importing Turkish labor, the French Maghrebian labor, the British colonial labor. But this created a great deal of dissatisfaction and unrest.
Instead they chose the other way — to take capital to where the low-wage labor forces were. But for globalization to work you had to reduce tariffs and empower finance capital, because finance capital is the most mobile form of capital. So finance capital and things like floating currencies became critical to curbing labor.
At the same time, ideological projects to privatize and deregulate created unemployment. So, unemployment at home and offshoring taking the jobs abroad, and a third component: technological change, deindustrialization through automation and robotization. That was the strategy to squash labor.
It was an ideological assault but also an economic assault. To me this is what neoliberalism was about: it was that political project, and I think the bourgeoisie or the corporate capitalist class put it into motion bit by bit.
I don’t think they started out by reading Hayek or anything, I think they just intuitively said, “We gotta crush labor, how do we do it?” And they found that there was a legitimizing theory out there, which would support that.
BSR: Since the publication of A Brief History of Neoliberalism in 2005 a lot of ink has been spilled on the concept. There seem to be two main camps: scholars who are most interested in the intellectual history of neoliberalism and people whose concern lies with “actually existing neoliberalism.” Where do you fit?
DH: There’s a tendency in the social sciences, which I tend to resist, to seek a single-bullet theory of something. So there’s a wing of people who say that, well, neoliberalism is an ideology and so they write an idealist history of it.
A version of this is Foucault’s governmentality argument that sees neoliberalizing tendencies already present in the eighteenth century. But if you just treat neoliberalism as an idea or a set of limited practices of governmentality, you will find plenty of precursors.
What’s missing here is the way in which the capitalist class orchestrated its efforts during the 1970s and early 1980s. I think it would be fair to say that at that time — in the English-speaking world anyway — the corporate capitalist class became pretty unified.
They agreed on a lot of things, like the need for a political force to really represent them. So you get the capture of the Republican Party, and an attempt to undermine, to some degree, the Democratic Party.
From the 1970s the Supreme Court made a bunch of decisions that allowed the corporate capitalist class to buy elections more easily than it could in the past.
For example, you see reforms of campaign finance that treated contributions to campaigns as a form of free speech. There’s a long tradition in the United States of corporate capitalists buying elections but now it was legalized rather than being under the table as corruption.
Overall I think this period was defined by a broad movement across many fronts, ideological and political. And the only way you can explain that broad movement is by recognizing the relatively high degree of solidarity in the corporate capitalist class. Capital reorganized its power in a desperate attempt to recover its economic wealth and its influence, which had been seriously eroded from the end of the 1960s into the 1970s.
BSR: There have been numerous crises since 2007. How does the history and concept of neoliberalism help us understand them?
DH: There were very few crises between 1945 and 1973; there were some serious moments but no major crises. The turn to neoliberal politics occurred in the midst of a crisis in the 1970s, and the whole system has been a series of crises ever since. And of course crises produce the conditions of future crises.
In 1982–85 there was a debt crisis in Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador, and basically all the developing countries including Poland. In 1987–88 there was a big crisis in US savings and loan institutions. There was a wide crisis in Sweden in 1990, and all the banks had to be nationalized.
Then of course we have Indonesia and Southeast Asia in 1997–98, then the crisis moves to Russia, then to Brazil, and it hits Argentina in 2001–2.
And there were problems in the United States in 2001 which they got through by taking money out of the stock market and pouring it into the housing market. In 2007–8 the US housing market imploded, so you got a crisis here.
You can look at a map of the world and watch the crisis tendencies move around. Thinking about neoliberalism is helpful to understanding these tendencies.
One of big moves of neoliberalization was throwing out all the Keynesians from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in 1982 — a total clean-out of all the economic advisers who held Keynesian views.
They were replaced by neoclassical supply-side theorists and the first thing they did was decide that from then on the IMF should follow a policy of structural adjustment whenever there’s a crisis anywhere.
In 1982, sure enough, there was a debt crisis in Mexico. The IMF said, “We’ll save you.” Actually, what they were doing was saving the New York investment banks and implementing a politics of austerity.
The population of Mexico suffered something like a 25 percent loss of its standard of living in the four years after 1982 as a result of the structural adjustment politics of the IMF.
Since then Mexico has had about four structural adjustments. Many other countries have had more than one. This became standard practice.
What are they doing to Greece now? It’s almost a copy of what they did to Mexico back in 1982, only more savvy. This is also what happened in the United States in 2007–8. They bailed out the banks and made the people pay through a politics of austerity.
*Image of Reagan and Thatcher laughing via Twitter
For Witte de With Review, Ana Teixeira Pinto writes about two Berlin exhibitions, "Nervous Systems" at Haus der Kulturen der Welt and the 9th Berlin Biennale at Kunst Werke et al. She is not happy with the "post-internet flattening effect" at BB9, but seems to appreciate the politics of "Nervous Systems." Read Pinto in partial below, or in full via WDW Review.
The digital turn seems to correlate with a crisis in representation: though equipped with a growing variety of optical media, we are increasingly unable to grasp the algorithmic totality, which surrounds us. Data’s primary mode of existence, as Alex Galloway argues, is not a visual one, and the twin forces of globalization and digitalization tend to widen the gap between individual experience and the economic structures that determine it. What happens to art when phenomenological experience—the raw material aesthetics is made of—becomes secondary to information flows?
In Berlin this spring, two, almost co-occurring, exhibitions set forth to tackle the cultural logic of the digital age. The first, “Nervous Systems” at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), curated by Anselm Franke, Stephanie Hankey, and Marek Tuszynski, explores the models and modes of algorithmic governance, to describe a world of biometric analyses and pattern recognition, which fully captures and profiles its users to place financial wagers on their near and far futures. The second, the 9th Berlin Biennale, titled “The Present in Drag,” curated by the editors of online magazine DIS, represents the jaded subjectivity this cultural logic engenders.
“Nervous Systems” could be construed as an exercise in what Frederic Jameson called “cognitive mapping”: a cartography of the structural coordinates which underpin the diffuse world of post-Fordist economies. The exhibition functions like a diagram, the model for which can be found in the works of artist Stephen Willats. Along its schematic organization of information, “Nervous Systems” hosted an ancillary conference program organized by Diana McCarthy (in the interest of full disclosure: I took part as a speaker). The problem of political agency is here reconceptualized as a problem of representation: the vectors of our digital infrastructure do not lend themselves to pictorial capture, in order to render the world intelligible we need a different set of intellectual tools. “The Present in Drag,” on the other hand, has no use for Marxist hermeneutics.
“Why should fascists have all the fun?” asks a Not in the Berlin Biennale (a communication and marketing campaign created for the 9th Berlin Biennale) poster by Roe Ethridge, Chris Kraus, and Babak Radboy. The rub is that every time one flirts with fascist aesthetics—as this biennial brand of market-besotted nihilism abundantly does—one activates a weaponized sensibility for which terror is aesthetically pleasing. As Susan Sontag argues, art that seems worth defending as a minority or adversary taste, can become indefensible once the context changes, once the fantasy of the fascist super body is no longer just a sexual quirk but an increasingly strong, political force.
“You wonder in no particular order: Are we at war? Will Trump be the next US president? Do I like Shakira?” asks the biennial press release. It is a rhetorical question, meant to perform disengagement, but whereas the biennial’s title, “The Present in Drag,” would seem to point to a queer or camp magnification of that which is often misrecognized as natural—though it reduces all questions to questions of style, camp can constitute an effective strategy to denaturalize normative politics; representations of gender for instance, once magnified, tend to feel coercive and aberrant rather than ‘normal’—the biennial does not pursue that route. Instead, it reconceptualizes the role of contemporary art in order to render aesthetic experience as a direct extension of corporate spectacle, while arguing that the only valid form of engagement with the digital economy is via the reification of its hegemonic modalities.
Once you enter the exhibition venues, the vectors of incorporation permeate everything, textures, colors, surfaces, language. The Post-Internet style, which the biennial stages as a total artwork, carries the promise of complete malleability: all materials are made to behave like water—a convention of plasticity that sublimates the process of precarization through which labor is rendered ever more flexible. As the works bleed onto one another, they feel generic and deindividuated, which could be construed as a tardy attack on authorship were it not for the fact that, once labor is outsourced and content downloaded, the only open avenue to claim artistic ownership hinges on the privatization of collectively generated resources. The figure of the artist is, here, not so much negated as it is reconceptualized as a digitally literate gentry who is not invested in the circulation of images but in their fixation—as private property, or copyrighted content. To identify art and retail while preserving the institutional frame is an economic rather than aesthetic operation: in the case of an artwork it is paradoxically the appeal to a worth beyond monetary value that actually functions as a guarantee of that value. To manufacture this higher value is what the institution does—which is why Kunst-Werke (KW) board member Julia Stoschek inaugurated her collection in a pop-up museum, displaying many of the artists included in the biennial the day before the press preview.
Other than insider dealings, there are additional problems with the curatorial proposal, like the notion that art ought to represent a reality Post-Internet art fundamentally misrecognizes, rather than imagine it otherwise. Symbolically speaking, this position piggybacks on the legacy of modernism as an oppositional figure, as a negation of the negation. Liberated from modernist critique, modernity is free to fulfill its capitalist destiny. But this double negative gestures toward a positive: a global visual idiom that conflates the vectors of Silicon-Valley-commodity-space with the spatial strategy of the United States empire. Riding on the coattails,of its cultural policy, a plethora of parochial forms—like the contradictory mix of state paranoia and personal narcissism, which constitutes the Californian Ideology—get to pose as universalisms. The moniker “NATO art,” which curators Maria Lind and Rike Frank have employed to refer to Post-Internet is an apt one. 8 It is no coincidence that the biennial is almost entirely white or that most Post-Internet artists come from the United Kingdom or North America—fittingly, the American embassy in Berlin hosted a high-security cocktail party to celebrate precisely this—countries which did not contribute significantly to modernism (though the United States contributed massively to its institutionalization by lionizing abstraction) and for whom modernist forms were always unreadable, or, to paraphrase T. J. Clark , readable only as fantasy figures, under the rubric of formalism.
Displacing the fetishism for high art with a fetishization of high definition, Post-Internet art also appeals to the uneducated investor or venture capitalist because it is devoid of the complex codes and idioms that constitute the formal lexicon of most contemporary art. The corporate aesthetics it apes is familiar, under-complex, and sentimental, and we have all been trained to recognize affirmation as a significant conceptual gesture ever since Pop popularized the notion that celebration can be said to constitute a form of criticism.
*Image of BB9 via artinfo
Artforum reports that the city of Venice has acquired the historic Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation, which was founded in 1899 by duchess Felicita Bevilacqua to support young artists. The foundation has since provided residencies, work- and exhibition spaces to emerging local artists. The news that the city of Venice will restructure the foundation has been met with uproar from the Venetian art scene, culminating in an online petition (available below or on change.org here).
Artforum writes (in full here):
Following the announcement that the city of Venice will acquire the Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation and act as the institution’s executive manager, beginning September 1, the city’s artistic community responded with protests, culminating in a petition published on change.org.
The Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation was founded in 1899 when the duchess Felicita Bevilacqua bequeathed funds and real estate to support “young artists, who often lack access to major exhibitions.” The foundation currently provides local artists with workspaces and residences, presenting, as the petition states, a “coherent system of places, geographically spread throughout the city,” including twelve artist workshops, two guest houses for international artists, as well as two exhibition spaces, an historical archive, a library, and an archive documenting the work of over two thousand artists from the Triveneto region.
The government’s interference was met with an outcry, with a spokesperson for the foundation telling Artforum.com’s Lauren Cavalli, “The issue is political control and business-style centralization.” The petition, comprised of five demands to guarantee the foundation’s autonomy, is addressed to the Mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, the commissioners, and city councilors. Those who have signed include Elisabetta di Maggio, Maria Morganti, Tobia Ravà, and Caterina Erica Shanta, as well as Italian TV-host and writer Alessandro di Pietro.
Dear Mr. Mayor, Honorable Commissioners and City Councilors,
Bevilacqua La Masa not only provides local artists with spaces and residencies. It does much more. It connects them to the international circuits of the art world.
In fact, Bevilacqua La Masa is a coherent system of places, geographically spread in the city: twelve workshops for young artists, two guesthouses for international artists; two exhibition venues, one of which with an excellent library, an historical archive and an archive documenting the work of over 2,000 artists from the region. Such a cultural ensemble has brought to Venice world-class artists and exhibitions, supported by high-profile sponsors, earning worldwide acclaim and renown, maintaining ongoing relationships with universities and academies of fine arts, building networks with other entities in the metropolitan area.
For young artists, Bevilacqua La Masa represents one of the best studio programs in Italy. For Venice, it is one of the most important cultural workshops, a key element in the project – now increasingly threatened by mass tourism – to make Venice a cultural capital, open to the world and the present.
Bevilacqua La Masa practices must by all means be preserved.
Therefore, we demand:
1) the City Government to strengthen and protect the world-class system of cultural institutions in Venice.
2) the three members of the Board of Governors of Bevilacqua La Masa to be appointed by the Mayor on the designation of the provosts or directors of the three public educational institutions in Venice, which work in the field of Contemporary Art, Art Critique, Curatorship and Management: i.e. the Academy of Fine Arts and Ca' Foscari and IUAV universities.
3) for Bevilacqua La Masa, the appointment of a president or art director of proven competence in contemporary art and in the management of educational and exhibition venues, including fund raising. The candidate can be chosen after a public call and the appointment of a selection committee capable of evaluating the candidate CVs.
4) that all of the centers of the institutions are preserved (Piazza San Marco, Palazzetto Tito, Giudecca, San Stae).
5) that a clear budget is guaranteed, in such a way as to allow Bevilacqua La Masa to continue all its diversified, but interconnected activities: exhibitions, residencies, education, awards, conferences, relations with enterprises and local entities, from prisons to hospitals, museums and cultural centers at home and abroad.
It is in all our interests not to undermine this human capital and a brand of excellence with over a hundred years of history. The end of Bevilacqua La Masa’s as we know it would be a serious blow to the Venice that still works and produces.Venice, July 25th 2016
It's become a common refrain of late to say that we live in "dark times." The world seems to grow inexorably more dangerous and unstable with each passing day. This impression is based in part on the constant stream of news stories about mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and the killing of innocent civilians by police. But as Derek Thompson writes in The Atlantic, the built-in dynamics of news reporting can often give us a misleading impression of the state of the world. While the news may always be bad, in certain respects "the world" is decidedly less dangerous than its ever been. Here's an excerpt from Thompson's article:
A new paper by the economists William N. Goetzmann, Dasol Kim, and Robert J. Schiller blames this pessimism on the minds of news audiences. They point out that the press is more likely to report steep market plunges than moderate gains and losses. Media coverage of negative events—and frequent predictions that they will recur—leads many observers to think that crashes are often right around the corner, when in fact, they are almost always far away. These investors’ fear isn’t rational. It is warped by what researchers call the "availability bias," which gives more weight to information that is top-of-mind, which often begins with cable-news reports that are top-of-the-hour.
The implications of this man-bites-dog bias extend to Americans’ feelings of safety as well. Since September 11, 2001, fewer than 100 people have died in jihadist attacks in the United States, according to the New America Foundation, a think tank. That's about the same number of deaths from motor-vehicle accidents every day. But terrorism feels menacing and personal in a way that even a six-car-pileup does not, and so it receives disproportionate coverage. In December 2015, Americans named terrorism the country's most important problem.
This effect is more complicated when the press begins to report on dramatic events that it previously ignored. For example, media coverage of gun violence has increased in the last few years, particularly when it comes to police shootings of black men. This has created an impression that race relations and gun violence have never been worse. Donald Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention harped on the escalating violence against police officers and ordinary Americans. The broader truth is that, under Reagan, police fatalities per year were about 60 percent higher than they are today, and homicide rates have been falling for two decades. White Americans are uniquely despondent about race; 32 percent of white Americans think Obama has made race relations worse, while just 5 percent of black Americans think so. One plausible explanation for this gap is that, because of social media and redoubled attention from mainstream news outlets, white Americans are finally seeing the institutional racism that black Americans have known their whole life.
Image via The Atlantic.
Writing for the New York Times Magazine, novelist and photographer Teju Cole examines a number of iconic images from the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, including the above image of protester Ieshia Evans being detained by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana earlier this month. Cole teases out the genealogy and formal properties of these images, suggesting that the most powerful ones "honor the black body." Here's an excerpt from Cole's piece:
The relationship between superhero movies and the photographs from Black Lives Matter is not a matter of photographers trying to make protesters look like superheroes. It is that when such photographs emerge from the countless thousands taken at rallies and similar events, they are immediately recognized by a crowd already sensitized to their formal qualities. The most successful of these images have relatively simple compositions, featuring a single protagonist alone or contending with a number of adversaries. The images, which play into our collective desire for defiance, look like things we’ve seen before. They are conceptually neat, perhaps even Manichaean.
Black Lives Matter photographs also have a deeper genealogy. In their basic trope of the individual confronting terrible power, one of their most striking antecedents is “Tank Man,” from June 5, 1989, near Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. These images (there are at least four variants, in addition to video footage), of an unknown solitary protester standing in the way of advancing tanks, encapsulate the plight but also the greatness of an individual taking extreme personal risk. But unlike the photos of Evans and others from Black Lives Matter, there’s an air of gloom around Tank Man. Given what we know happened in Tiananmen Square, we presume he was doomed in some way. A closer emotional comparison to the pictures from Black Lives Matter might be found in certain images of the civil rights movement, like Fred Ward’s photograph of the activist Gloria Richardson pushing her way past a National Guardsman’s bayonet in Cambridge, Md., in 1963. But even there, the mood is of dignity intruded upon rather than of outright victory.
Images trigger our memory of the history of images. Ieshia Evans, standing full-length, in profile, calm, carrying something, her robes billowing from an unseen gust, reiterates almost perfectly the form of a nymph that the early-20th-century scholar Aby Warburg described in his “Mnemosyne Atlas.” Warburg, undertaking a historical study of repeated forms, showed that figures matching this description were present in works by Ghirlandaio, Botticelli and Raphael, as well as in Roman bas-reliefs. The immediate legibility of images like those of Evans cannot be separated from the way their dynamism, evocative of ancient painting and sculpture, honors the black body.
Image: Protester Ieshia Evans being detained in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on July 9. Via NY Times.
Kyle Chayka writes about minimalism (of the anti-consumerist, rather than artistic variety) for the New York Times, noting that "minimalist philosophy" has gotten annoying as of late. Case in point: the techno-ascetic who deigns to only buy a laptop, tablet and smartphone and no other gadget. Ugh. Read Chayka in partial below, in full via the New York Times.
It has become an ostentatious ritual of consumerist self-sacrifice; people who have it all now seem to prefer having nothing at all. And, as with watching birds or going Paleo, talking about the material purge is just as important as actually doing it. So there are blog posts — in which you can see minimalism’s can-do optimism curdle into something tyrannical.
A recent account, called “How Minimalism Brought Me Freedom and Joy,” is emblematic of the budding genre, from its author (a wealthy serial entrepreneur, James Altucher) to its thesis (own fewer things, mostly gadgets) to its one-sentence paragraphs. Altucher explains that he gave up his permanent home, life goals and negative emotions. He threw away his college diploma, which had been gathering dust in storage. (“I don’t hold onto all the things society tells me to hold onto.”) He now carries nothing but a bag of clothes and a backpack containing a computer, an iPad and a smartphone. “I have zero other possessions,” he writes, and thanks to this, he has found peace as a wandering techno-ascetic — Silicon Valley’s version of Zen monkhood.
Despite its connotations of absence, “minimalism” has been popping up everywhere lately, like a bright algae bloom in the murk of postrecession America. From tiny houses to microapartments to monochromatic clothing to interior-decorating trends — picture white walls interrupted only by succulents — less now goes further than ever. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the minimalism glut, as the word can be applied to just about anything. The nearly four million images tagged #minimalism on Instagram include white sneakers, clouds, the works of Mondrian, neon signs, crumbling brick walls and grassy fields. So long as it’s stylishly austere, it seems, it’s minimalist.
Part pop philosophy and part aesthetic, minimalism presents a cure-all for a certain sense of capitalist overindulgence. Maybe we have a hangover from pre-recession excess — McMansions, S.U.V.s, neon cocktails, fusion cuisine — and minimalism is the salutary tonic. Or perhaps it’s a method of coping with recession-induced austerity, a collective spiritual and cultural cleanse because we’ve been forced to consume less anyway. But as an outgrowth of a peculiarly American (that is to say, paradoxical and self-defeating) brand of Puritanical asceticism, this new minimalist lifestyle always seems to end in enabling new modes of consumption, a veritable excess of less. It’s not really minimal at all.
For the New York Review of Books, Hilton Als writes about two new book on Agnes Martin, the biography "Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art" by Nancy Princenthal and a catalog edited by Frances Morris and Tiffany Bell for her traveling monographic exhibition. While Martin is the stuff of art world legend for leaving New York mid-career, Als delves deeper into her upbringing to make sense of the painter's biography. Read Als in partial below, or in full via NYRB.
London. Late summer, 2015. The city’s habitual pearly gray daylight adds, it seems, an extra layer or patina of ardor and melancholy to the Canadian-born Agnes Martin’s extraordinary mid-to-late-career paintings—images made, for the most part, on square canvases measuring seventy-two inches, and filled with stripes of varying widths and hues that remain, twelve years after Martin’s death in 2004, at age ninety-two, some of the more significant creations about spirituality, beauty, and painting itself that modernism has ever known.
There’s a literary cast to Martin’s biography—the accidental and willed isolation of it—that reminds one of Christian carrying his burdens to the Wicket Gate, seeking enlightenment in John Bunyan’s religious allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, a text that exercised a considerable influence on Martin as a child. Born in Macklin, Saskatchewan, in 1912, she was the third of four children; her parents, Malcolm and Margaret Martin, farmed the vast, sometimes hard land. “It was so flat, you know, you could see the curves of the earth,” Martin recalled in Mary Lance’s intimate documentary, With My Back to the World (2002). “And when a train came into vision at nine o’clock in the morning, it was still leaving at noon…it took that long to get across the prairie.”
By the time she was three, Martin’s father had died, according to one of several accounts, from injuries suffered during the Second Boer War, which had ended in 1902. After his death, the apparently hard and embittered Margaret moved her family a few hours east to Lumsden, where the remaining Martins settled, for a time, with Robert Kinnon, Margaret’s widowed father. The Scotch Presbyterian farmer was the young Martin’s first experience of love. “I felt ‘first’ with my grandfather,” Martin said to her last dealer, Arne Glimcher, a memory he includes in his cumbersome but visually interesting book.1 Martin continued: “I’ve never felt first with anybody else…. He was a man who tried to be virtuous, really tried…. He influenced me tremendously.”
Kinnon read, with Martin, the Bible, The Pilgrim’s Progress, and other religious texts. Kinnon’s arm’s-length ministrations (he was not physically affectionate) did not so much act as an antidote to Margaret’s coldness as become the kind of distance his granddaughter could bear—and eventually emulate. But in Margaret’s presence Martin felt a sense of constant defeat and, because of her mother, was forced to take self-reliance to a punishing, perverse degree. When Martin was six she suffered from tonsillitis. The most Margaret could manage by way of comfort was to give her daughter money for the streetcar; she’d have to deal with it on her own. She did, and, after the operation was performed, returned home, again by streetcar, alone.
In 1919 the Martins joined Robert Kinnon in Vancouver, where Margaret supported the family by buying, renovating, and reselling houses. As close as Martin was to one brother, she avoided after-school walks home with her siblings; already she tended to avoid any form of social life that distracted her from examining the state of her own mind and that which it fixed on at the time: looking at pictures, drawing, and swimming. As an adolescent Martin developed into a strong swimmer and qualified for the Canadian Olympic swimming team. “The rigors and routines of competitive swimming and, perhaps most strikingly, its combination of ambition and solitude, are all habits Martin would sustain,” writes Nancy Princenthal in her strange book—a biography whose subject is so resistant to being known that Princenthal’s work feels more like a sketch than a completed portrait. Added to that is Princenthal’s Martin-like scrupulosity. (The design of the book doesn’t help, either, especially the index; the print is so tiny there you need a magnifying glass to read it.) She does not enliven the narrative with the distracting what-ifs and maybes that can and often do give biographies a little oomph.
Instead, she leans too heavily on the “telling” bits of information—the real-life metaphors—that she assumes make Martin more lifelike, especially when it comes to her fabled iconoclasm. To wit: “More than in any other organized athletic pursuit, swimmers, even when part of a team, are profoundly alone when they practice and compete.” Had Martin not been a woman, would her “profoundly alone” persona have generated so much interest? And so much useless and ultimately romantic speculation about what it might mean? Elizabeth Hardwick articulated the status quo’s reaction to certain independent women when she wrote of how negatively they were perceived, wandering about “in their dreadful freedom like old oxen left behind, totally unprovided for.”
Martin was having none of that. “We have been very strenuously conditioned against solitude,” she observes in her wonderful collection of writing. “To be alone is considered to be a grievous and dangerous condition…. I suggest that people who like to be alone, who walk alone will perhaps be serious workers in the art field.”2 Being an art worker was, she felt, a privilege, and one’s apprenticeship took as long as it took; art was not a race. “To live truly and effectively the idea of achievement must be given up,” she wrote in 1981 in an open letter to the Whitney Museum of American Art. Put unsentimental piety first, turn your back on the world, and get on with it.
*Image: Agnes Martin, portrait by Charles R. Rushton via slowmuse