“Civilizations,” like “Ways of Seeing,” is an attempt to update Clark’s series. But it’s also an unprecedented undertaking in the annals of television. Unlike “Civilisation,” which was focused on Western art from the so-called Dark Ages until the 20th century, the scope of “Civilizations” is global and reaches right back to cave painting.
“Stories have been circulating for nearly 400 years about the apparently strange compulsion that led otherwise sensible merchants, nobles and artisan weavers to spend all they had and more on tulips, only to land in bankruptcy and ruin” – and pulling the entire country’s economy down with them – “when the bottom fell out of the market in February 1637.” Historian Anne Goldgar argues that this narrative is a moralistic Victorian invention and that primary documents from the late 1630s tell a somewhat different story.
One of the reasons the 17-movement work is so rarely performed, despite Zappa’s celebrity, is the fiendishly tricky rhythm in some spots. (You know how triplets are three-notes-in-two? One spot has 23-notes-in-18.) And then there are the movement titles, which range from “Outrage at Valdez” (about the Exxon oil-tanker spill) and “Food Gathering in Post-Industrial America 1992” to “Dog Breath Variations” and “The Girl in the Magnesium Dress.”
Matt Zoller Seitz: “Shonda Rhimes’s Scandal, which ends its seven-season run Thursday night, is a rare revolutionary TV drama that never became full of itself. It dealt in controversy on the regular, tackling everything from racial politics and sexual power dynamics in a workplace to PTSD, executive privilege, and the efficacy of torture, even letting its heroine have a rare TV abortion that was entirely elective and presented as no huge deal. … Scandal was also a little miracle of genre fusion, somehow managing to be several seemingly incompatible shows at the same time.”
“‘Justin,’ yelled the ballet master Patrice Hemsworth. ‘Move your arms. Good, good, good. Boys, you look beautiful. Go girls. Use your shoulders.’ She watched silently for another few beats and then, as the recorded music stopped, yelled out: ‘The feet were good but, the arms have to work with it. And you’re rushing like crazy.'” A reporter visits Ballet Tech, a city academy for middle- and high-schoolers founded by choreographer Eliot Feld.
“A 2017 European Parliament report floated the idea of granting special legal status, or ‘electronic personalities,’ to smart robots, specifically those which (or should that be who?) can learn, adapt, and act for themselves. This legal personhood would be similar to that already assigned to corporations around the world, and would make robots, rather than people, liable for their self-determined actions, including for any harm they might cause.”
Billionaire Steve Cohen is donating Chris Ofili’s The Holy Virgin Mary to New York’s Museum of Modern Art. “The canvas stirred controversy at the Brooklyn Museum during the 1999 ‘Sensation’ exhibition of works by the Young British Artists from the collection of advertising mogul Charles Saatchi. Giuliani criticized Ofili’s painting as an affront to Catholics. The work remained on display for the show’s duration, amid a First Amendment legal battle, and Giuliani ultimately abandoned his efforts to evict the museum and cut its city financing.”
Ousted editor James Marcus says that his dispute with publisher Rick MacArthur was over Katie Roiphe’s “The Other Whisper Network: How Twitter feminism is bad for women,” the magazine’s March cover story. The essay attracted attention – including a brief boycott of Harper’s by writers – following reports that Roiphe planned to use it to out the creator of the crowdsourced list of “Shitty Media Men” who had engaged in predatory behavior toward female colleagues.
“The new initiative – [called the National Alliance for Audition Support and] created by the Sphinx Organization, the New World Symphony and the League of American Orchestras – will train musicians for auditions, pair them with mentors, showcase their work in concerts and give them stipends to travel to auditions. It is the latest effort to diversify American classical music, which has lagged behind other fields.”
“Long before dealer Clyde Beswick established CB1 Gallery in Los Angeles, he spent 13 months in prison for embezzlement. Now, more than 20 years later, a group of artists is accusing the gallerist of breaking the law again. In an open letter published on Tuesday, nine artists claim that the dealer, along with partner Jason Chang, stiffed them repeatedly and engaged in a pattern of ‘systematic and unfailing’ abuse.”
“The book, which was believed to have been written by [Alex] Malarkey with his father, Kevin, was pulled from print in 2015 after Malarkey, still a minor, recanted his story. Today, at 20-years-old, Malarkey alleges that his father was the sole author of the book, and he is suing Tyndale [House Publishers] for defamation, deceptive trade practices, and five other charges.”
“A play based on Adolf Hitler’s youth is sparking controversy for an unusual opening-night deal: Audience members willing to wear a swastika (provided by the theater) during the performance get in free. Those who prefer to pay full price are asked to wear the Star of David. … Producers of the play at the theater in Konstanz, a picturesque city in the south of Germany, say the action is part of an attempt to reinvigorate the national conversation about the dangers of fascism.”
The Future of Orchestras – Part Five: Kurt Weill, El Paso, and the National Mood
“Wherever I found decency and humanity in the world, it reminded me of America.” Kurt Weill wrote those words after returning from a visit to Germany in 1947. I read them aloud at least a dozen times during the Kurt Weill festival in El Paso last week. Every time I invited my listeners to consider whether or not they still apply. … read more
AJBlog: Unanswered Question Published 2018-04-18
La Salle Sales Shortfall: Two of Five 19th-Century Offerings Fail to Sell
Today’s auction at Christie’s of the first five of 46 deaccessions from the La Salle University Art Museum got off to an inauspicious start … read more
AJBlog: CultureGrrl Published 2018-04-18
Propwatch: the plastic bags in Macbeth
Rufus Norris’s bereft, survivalist production of Macbeth was the show that launched a thousand thinkpieces about his regime at the National Theatre. The reviews were overwhelmingly hostile, and this apparently misfired Shakespeare followed on … read more
AJBlog: Performance Monkey Published 2018-04-18
Artificial intelligence is a very powerful technology, and there is an arms race going on. Fast forward 20 years into the future and one of the players could have won the race. China is more likely to win than Russia is, although Russia has a lot going on. So, we could end up in a world that China may not formally control, but they effectively do because they rule the cyberworld.
Theatres across the UK face unexpected costs in excess of £180 million under “devastating” EU proposals to ban the vast majority of stage lighting by 2020. Costs in London alone are expected to reach £35 million as venues are forced to replace most of their lighting equipment, with experts warning that venues could go dark as a result.
“Lamar’s historic win figures in the grander, affected consecration of blackness within élite spaces—exemplified, I think, by the “thousand flowers of expectation” blooming in Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of Barack Obama. It was Obama, with his caucuses of rappers in the White House, who accelerated the conclusion that hip-hop had earned a prestige as a great American art. In its long and perplexing lurch toward acclaim, did hip-hop sacrifice its edge? Lamar is a fascinating and brilliant non-answer.”
The music Pulitzer was an obscure bauble coveted only by the people who cared about it, of which there were not many. Forget the big reporting and magazine awards; even the poetry Pulitzer mattered more than music. Grammys are the awards that count most in music, and given that Kendrick is already loaded with golden gramophones — though the Album of the Year continues, unconscionably, to elude him — the Pulitzer is just a feather in his Dodgers fitted cap.
“The midcentury ideal — of literature as an aesthetically and philosophically complex activity, and of criticism as its engaged and admiring decoding — is gone. In its place stands the idea that our capacity to shape our protean selves is the capacity most worth exercising, the thing to be defended at all costs, and the good that a literary inclination best serves. Democratizing the canon did not have to mean abdicating authority over it, but this was how it played out.”
“To understand what went wrong — how the Silicon Valley dream of building a networked utopia turned into a globalized strip-mall casino overrun by pop-up ads and cyberbullies and Vladimir Putin — we spoke to more than a dozen architects of our digital present. If the tech industry likes to assume the trappings of a religion, complete with a quasi-messianic story of progress, the Church of Tech is now giving rise to a new sect of apostates, feverishly confessing their own sins. And the internet’s original sin, as these programmers and investors and CEOs make clear, was its business model.”
Since MoviePass slashed its monthly subscription costs last August from $50 to $9.95, its user base has exploded from roughly 20,000 to more than 2 million. In the process, it’s become the fastest-growing paid-entertainment subscription service in history, signing people at a greater clip than Netflix or Spotify. All that disruption in the movie theater business has created enemies and fueled skeptics, but whether MoviePass survives or dies, it has undeniably shaken up an industry that hasn’t changed much since the silent era.
“In their daily lives, people interact with all kinds of popular storytelling visual forms, most of which are maybe not what we have historically called fine art. Our purpose as a museum is to highlight and explore and celebrate the best of these forms, and to really unpack the way in which they work. We’re really interested in this through-line of narrative, the fact that so many artists in so many cultures, times, and places have been compelled to tell stories in different mediums. Why do we have this drive and how does it work?”
Andrew Sean Greer: “I think every novelist has a list of novels they never wrote – and never plan to write. Some are impossible dreams. Some are good ideas over a bad bottle of wine. And some are, let’s admit it, just bad ideas. Really bad ideas. So for what it’s worth, a little advice …”
In London, the Elgin Marbles were hidden in Aldwych tube station – although, alarmingly, it was later revealed it wouldn’t have withstood a direct hit. In Paris, the Louvre was emptied out in 1939, with 3,600 paintings packed off to safe houses. The Mona Lisa – now considered too fragile to be moved – was shuttled round the country five times, moving from chateau to abbey to chateau, to keep her one step ahead of the Nazis.
“In the West, our idea of monastic ritual involves prayer and quiet reflection. But there are monasteries in Assam, in the far reaches of northeastern India, where prayer has always been, and continues to be, expressed through dance. The monks in these communities, or sattras, perform with and for each other, and for the deity. Sattriya, as this dance form is known, became one of the eight official classical dance forms of India only in 2000 – since then, its visibility has grown beyond the monastery walls.”
Matatu are the privately owned buses that have transported at least 60 percent of Nairobi’s population since the early ’60s. The word matatu comes from the Kikuyu word for “three,” referring to the three ten-cent coins used to pay for a ride to the city when matatus first started operating.
Emily Nussbaum: “It would feel good to critique the new version [of the show] with a tolerant smile – to say simply that you shouldn’t judge any sitcom too harshly, early on. … I can’t write that review, though, and it’s because of zingers like the one above, dog whistles that won’t let you stay inside Roseanne.”