Required Reading


‣ Writer Elisa Wouk Almino, former Hyperallergic senior editor, interviews photographer Catherine Opie for the Los Angeles Times’s Image magazine about her “big-bottom girl chair,” artistic odes to queer love, and the meaning of home:

I suppose it’s a common impulse to want to get to know the artists you admire, to feel like you’ve gotten closer to knowing them after meeting them. I look at Opie’s work, I talk with her for an hour, I note the gaps and try to connect the dots. With her in her studio, I feel rewarded, as she gives the impression of not holding back. She is open about her relationships and aspirations. When I ask her about her chair, she seems to be talking about herself. “This was the first chair that I ever felt truly could be a chair that was close to me as a personality,” she says. I ask her why.

“It’s got the delicate bits that could be broken,” she says as she rubs her fingers on one of the two narrow nubs framing the chair. “This could very easily in a move get knocked off, and it would be so sad because then it would have its little delicate expression knocked off.” She then sweeps her hands on the flat, wide arms. “Look at how much space is underneath that, and how it floats and looks like half a potato chip.” She laughs loudly at this comparison, then pauses and softens. “I love the shape and the organic depths of it. This chair is of a body, and it fits a body. There’s a bodily relationship to it that makes it all feel very … I don’t know, complete. Yeah. There’s a completeness to it.”

‣ Late photographer Corky Lee spent five decades documenting NYC’s Chinatown, and a new book presents his work alongside essays by family members, scholars, artists, and activists. E. Tammy Kim has the story for the New Yorker:

“So many people who have spent time in Asian American spaces, especially in New York City, have a story like mine. Lee, who died in 2021, at the age of seventy-three, made a habit of coming to see what was happening in the community. He was omnipresent downtown, like Lou Reed. Many obituaries noted his constancy and devotion, and glossed over his spiky personality. He was there, with his camera and grumpy sense of humor, at every labor strike, every Lunar New Year parade, every court hearing and election that mattered to A.B.C.s (American-born Chinese) like himself and to the larger, shifting mass of Asian Pacific America. He did this mostly unpaid. (For years, he had a day job at a printing company in Brooklyn.) In the documentary “Photographic Justice,” he offers practical advice to students of the craft: “Don’t get hooked on photography unless you’re willing to make tremendous sacrifices in your personal life.”

‣ If you have any chess players in your life, you’ll recognize the intricate social norms in Jen Wieczner’s Intelligencer story on Hans Niemman, who was accused of cheating in a highly publicized scandal last year. In this deep dive into the all-consuming world of chess, she writes:

As I spoke with many titled chess players, they often told me it was hard to separate their feelings about Niemann from their suspicions. He’d annoyed them with his hubris and relentless derision, particularly when they felt he hadn’t yet earned the right. He’d broken their code in numerous ways, and many preferred to just be rid of him. “He has this irreverent, bad-boy tone, saying ‘They ain’t shit,’ and it’s a tone that I think pissed off a lot of the top players. They’re like, ‘Yeah, I think this fucker’s cheating,’” says a grandmaster. “A lot of them didn’t really approach the situation objectively.”

Still, the controversies in which Niemann continues to find himself are largely of his own making. He didn’t have to cheat or confess to it publicly; he didn’t have to smash up a luxury hotel. Says another grandmaster’s manager, who is convinced Niemann is a fraud, “He is a decent but average player, but he is not a genius. This game is about genius, and genius is not something that can be forced or bought or even worked hard for. Hans is sadly like many, many other players who have dedicated their lives to a game that does not particularly love them. It can make you spend each night in your room screaming at a god who does not hear you.”

‣ Social media creators and biohacking bros are obsessed with the idea of “dopamine detoxes” that they claim will trick your body into creating more of it. Please do not try this at home. Celia Ford explains why, and the real science behind dopamine, for Vox:

That said, not one neuroscientist I spoke to (nor, for what it’s worth, any neuroscientist I interacted with during my time in academia) felt good about the portrayal of dopamine in the media. When asked about wellness advice doled out by Huberman and other optimization-minded influencers, Narayanan said they are “doing science and the general public a disservice by oversimplifying a complex topic.” 

The problem with trends like dopamine fasting — which instructs people to take intentional breaks from stimulating, potentially addictive things that might trigger dopamine release, in an effort to reset the mind — is that it puts too much stress on dopamine. One chemical doesn’t have the power to single-handedly overhaul your mental health.

‣ Historian Kim Phillips-Fein mines the impact of budget cuts on the City University of New York, which has a rich legacy of protest despite often being overshadowed by Columbia. She explains in the New York Review of Books:

Under Mayor Eric Adams, the city university’s traditions of meritocratic uplift and radical dissent have both come under threat. In late January Adams delivered his annual State of the City speech at Hostos Community College, a CUNY campus at the intersection of Grand Concourse and 149th Street in the South Bronx. Hostos, founded in 1968, is by any metric a remarkable institution. It is attended by 5,400 students—59 percent Latinx, 28 percent Black, and many the first in their families to attend college.

Inside the main building is a children’s center for the families of Hostos students, faculty, and staff. Down the block is a public park named for the activist Evelina López Antonetty, a Puerto Rican political leader who in 1965 founded United Bronx Parents, which organized the parents of schoolchildren around such issues as bilingual education and the quality of school cafeteria food. Across the street is a massive post office that was a steady source of jobs and upward mobility for Black New Yorkers. Works Progress Administration murals by Ben Shahn can still be glimpsed inside.

‣ And for the Nation, Harry Zehner fleshes out another revelation from the pro-Palestine student protests — namely, how entrenched the military-industrial complex is in American universities:

As faculty from California State Long Beach recently elucidated in detail, Boeing—one of the IDF’s longtime partners—has taken over the university. Driven by the twin pressures of austerity and militarization, professors wrote, “the College of Engineering and College of Business has quite literally transformed into Boeing’s labor-supply mill.”

As a result, Boeing employs more CSULB graduates than any other company. And that’s just Boeing—the College of Engineering’s advisory council “currently has three members from Boeing, two members from Raytheon, and two members from Northrop Grumman.”

You can find similar anecdotes at schools across the country. As Indigo Olivier wrote in a 2022 exposé on Lockheed Martin’s campus recruiting, “A student might work on Lockheed-sponsored research as part of their course load, then intern over the summer at Lockheed, be officially recruited by Lockheed upon graduation and start working there immediately, with defense clearances already in place—sometimes continuing the same work.”

‣ The post-colonial gaze of European film funds, explained by Lebanese director Ely Dagher:

@afikra_

The approach of European film funds is post-colonial. Lebanese filmmaker Ely Dagher explains how European film grants and awards force their visions and preconceptions of the region onto Arab filmmakers — going as far as to tell him what kinds of scenes and scrip changes they’d rather see in his film. Don’t miss the full episode on YouTube or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

♬ original sound – afikra | عفكرة

‣ YouTuber Mina Le has a new video on the death of negative reviews of film and literature. It’s a useful run-down of the troubling phenomenon, to which the field of art criticism is far from immune:

‣ Speaking of which, what better example of an honest, critical review than this guncle’s careful close reading of his adorable baby niece’s outfits?

‣ You know her and you love her. Sixty years after she confessed her love for Paul McCartney, the Beatles singer finally called Adrienne from Brooklyn back. Her family chimes in: 

‣ This tidy little mouse is entitled to financial compensation:

YouTube video

‣ South Asian TikTokers weighed in after a clothing brand fawned over an, ahem, “European” clothing trend. Nothing screams “Scandinavia” like a salwar kameez, right?

‣ A guide to finding a finance boyfriend courtesy @iam_kjmiller, and the best part is that he’ll always be at work:

‣ And as summer draws near, let’s show some love (or, even better, some raises!) for the underpaid art teachers whose energy and creativity keep the world spinning:

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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