Hostile design–whereby public spaces are modified to deter certain activities such as rough sleeping and skateboarding–is a “stealthy way of policing public space. These designs legitimise the point of view that homeless people are the enemy. Instead they need support, often with addiction or mental health.”
“Irritated cross talk and loud quarrels, whether between couples or random filmgoers, was such a mainstay of the Lincoln Plaza experience that last fall, my wife and I made a point of going there to see The Meyerowitz Stories, with Dustin Hoffman playing an ill-tempered sculptor and bad father, because we knew it would be like seeing the film in Sensurround.” And, found Bruce Handy, it was – even at a weekday matinee.
“It is a painting that shows pubescent, naked nymphs tempting a handsome young man to his doom, but is it an erotic Victorian fantasy too far, and one which, in the current climate, is unsuitable and offensive to modern audiences? Manchester Art Gallery has asked the question after removing John William Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs” – and visitors are leaving their answers on Post-It notes on the wall.
Serious attention to these areas alone would negate the need for a $25 admission charge, which incidentally is more than three times America’s minimum hourly wage. Given that the trustees didn’t put the brakes on the spending spree long ago, isn’t a penitential boost in their annual giving appropriate?
“I’m not saying News Corp. or Conde Nast, publisher of Vogue and GQ, would have been worth as much as Google if they hadn’t bought into the iPad hype. But they did lose precious time and money following Apple down the iPad rabbit hole when they could have focused on Facebook, internet video, smartphone apps, mobile websites, their own subscription products or other promising areas. Newspaper and magazine publishers no longer treat the iPad as a priority, if they devote resources to it at all.”
When the name was announced back in November, Transport Minister Constance tweeted as though his hands were tied and there was nothing he could do. He said that while Ferry McFerryfacce wasn’t “everyone’s cup of tea,” the “people voted for it.” It turns out that was a lie.
“In some cities, libraries are partnering with established news sources, teaming up in Dallas to train high schoolers in news gathering or hosting a satellite studio in Boston for the public radio station WGBH. In San Antonio, the main library offers space to an independent video news site … In smaller communities starved for local coverage, some libraries are playing a hands-on role, even if it is an expansion of traditional duties.”
He insisted it wasn’t a “Choose your own adventure” TV miniseries/app. Instead, “it’s both a dazzlingly experimental work and a totally conventional murder mystery. It’s frank and secretive, flooding viewers with information without giving them the tools to make sense of it. The story has multiple different paths to follow but they all end up in the same place. Less a show than a television experience, it’s brilliant and exasperating.”
Play readings are, frankly, disappointing. “They’re like walking by a food truck and hearing your stomach rumble, but just when you get your wallet out the truck drives off. … It’s just people sitting there in chairs, sometimes walking up to an ugly music stand to read, and sometimes (woo-hoo!) sporadically engaging another actor at another stand. This is not inherently dramatically interesting.”
Jeffrey Bloomer: “Friends offered stories of backdoor culinary tours in Istanbul down rickety staircases and through secret restaurants. I heard about guides whom you pay just to skip the line at overrun international museums but then charm you half to death anyway. And then there were many stories of guides like mine in Vermont, stewards of decidedly unexotic locations who know enough local chicanery to make every government building and local landmark feel like the seed of the next great American novel.”
“While music is universal, its meanings are not,” adds Anne Rasmussen, an ethnomusicologist at the College of William and Mary. And those meanings are created both by the people making and hearing the music, and by the entire cultural package that surrounds it. A Bach cantata that was composed to celebrate God, for example, means something very different when played in a 21st-century concert hall or in a New York deli. The meaning of music, in other words, “is not something you can perceive while listening through a pair of headphones,” says Rasmussen.
“Too often products made for people with different physical, cognitive and sensory abilities have been ugly, feebly designed and stigmatizing. They’ve been developed not by designers but by engineers. And engineers haven’t always taken their cues from people who have disabilities, the ones who know best what they need and want.
“A movie is unchanged by an audience’s presence and will continue to run in an empty auditorium. But the theatre requires a human presence in the auditorium, because it is only fully alive when it meets its audience. It is only in that moment that it bursts fully into life. … Without our presence, our engagement and our creativity the theatre dies, however talented the actors and however hard they work on stage.”
“Although few have reached the flabbergasting success of “Fifty Shades” author E.L. James, a former fan fiction writer whose net worth now totals more than $58 million, I found that the median income for romance authors has tripled in the e-book era. And more and more are earning a six-figure income. This uptick occurred as other types of writing became less profitable. During the same period, a survey of 1,095 Authors Guild members found that their median income from writing fell by at least 30 percent.”
Freelance writer, BBC Radio 3 presenter, and mother of a toddler Clemency Burton-Hill: “It turned out that, when I converted my listening habits into a conscious daily ritual, I began to feel less anxious almost immediately. I curated myself monthly classical playlists with a specific piece for each day. Getting on the Tube and pressing play, instead of automatically being sucked into a social media scroll hole, seemed to be spiritually stabilising. I began to look disproportionately forward to it. And it occurred to me that, if I could benefit in such a meaningful way from this small but powerful act of soul maintenance, so might others.”
“What’s great about the art selfie craze is that it efficiently harnesses other, less blatant, but still very zeitgeisty tributaries to the culture: irony in the face of high art; camera-conscious vanity; the obsession with statistical measurement (each match is given a percentage rating); online flirtation (if Google says you look like a Titian, you’re texting your love interest with the news, I guarantee it — and it’s safer than sexting); digital excavation (the Internet’s startling ability to unearth hidden treasures); and, of course, the naughty thrill — truly, a hallmark of our time — of signing over some crucial piece of your identity to a corporate behemoth, purely on trust, and for the most frivolous of reasons.”
We can easily get addicted to harsh reviews. “The appeal of negativity to the reader, that mysterious quality which makes the pan and the broadside irresistible, should alone warn the cautious critic of indulging in bouts of vitriol too freely, or too frequently. Harsh criticism has an intoxicating effect on writer and reader alike: both ought to be wary of its influence. Like any drug, censure has its benefits, its attractions and its resounding pleasures. But it is also dangerous.”
And it’s not a new initiative, either (but the original was scotched by parents, who didn’t like abstract art). “Wakefield’s Hepworth Gallery has revived a pioneering scheme from the 1940s to introduce children to the best in contemporary art. It has commissioned several contemporary artists to produce prints of their work especially for local schools.”
First there were the parody videos of violinist Daniel Hope. Then there was his annoyance, and then there were the takedown letters from his lawyers. And now one of the parody video creators, “a Berlin-based concert programmer, dramaturge and journalist named Arno Lücker, was then told that a series he has long presented at the prestigious Berlin Konzerthaus, where Mr. Hope frequently plays and programs a series of his own, would not be renewed.”
Perhaps for all visits to cultural institutions by those of us who want to see those institutions thrive and carry on into the future, it’s time to reconsider—not just the math, but the underlying reasons why we believe museums matter, for all of us, regardless of our ability to pay for admission.
“Eleven years ago, when Baltimore’s two largest art museums” – the Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art – “joined a nationwide trend by announcing that they would drop admission fees, the news was applauded in newspapers from New York to Detroit to Jackson, Miss. … [But] after initial surges in attendance, museums in Baltimore and nationwide that went free soon resumed losing visitors at alarming rates. A decade later, museum officials are still scrambling to devise ways to reverse the slide.”
Legal questions about ownership of virtual public spaces were thrown into sharp relief in October when Snapchat partnered with Koons to allow users to project his balloon sculptures in specific sites around the world using augmented reality (AR). In protest against an “augmented reality corporate invasion”, the artist Sebastian Errazuriz “graffiti-bombed” one of the works and placed it in the same geotagged location in Central Park as the Snapchat version.
Nathan Lucky Wood, on watching a play about homelessness performed for homeless youth: “A young man raises his hand. He wants to ask a question. Why have they come here to perform a play which is so depressing? Being homeless is already hard. He was excited to see a play because he thought he could forget about that. But now he had been reminded of it, and he felt awful. He wanted to know, what had been the point? The facilitator didn’t have an answer. Nor, having worked across theatre and homeless services for years now, do I.”