Last Week: Have performing arts centers led us to a dead end?… The new World Trade Center in New York demonstrates much of what is wrong with building today’s cities… The humanities only exist on the exploitation of its workers… Here’s the structure that makes the Grammys racist… A pocket history of fake news.
- In case you missed it, ArtsJournal published Joe Horowitz’s essay on the 50th anniversary of the opening of Lincoln Center and five responses. Not a criticism of Lincoln Center itself, but pondering the effect building performing arts centers has had on American culture. Did the idea institutionalize American art forms and constrict them from growing and adapting? We also traveled to El Paso, Texas for a discussion of artistic leadership in a city that lives on the border.
- Architecture critic Martin Filler has a fascinating piece in The New York Review of Books in which he examines the building of the new World Trade Center and the struggles to get something built, and concludes that what should have been a marquee project that showed the world how resilient and creative America could be instead exposed the infighting and special interest greed that “encapsulates everything that is wrong with urban development in a period when, as in so many other aspects of our public life, the good of the many is sacrificed to the gain of the few.”
- Kevin Birmingham writes that for all the good work that the humanities struggle to do, as a field the humanities (and also the arts, we might add) only function on the exploitation of those who work in it. “The privilege of tenure used to confer academic freedom through job security. By now, decades of adjunctification have made the professoriate fearful, insular, and conformist.” It is an underpaid and cruel system in which adjuncts are exploited both monetarily and with insecurity in their employment. How did the scandal ever get to this point?
- Last week at the Grammys Adele, winning Album of the Year, got up and forcefully declared that Beyonce should have been the obvious winner. Many agreed. This provoked numerous discussions about racism in the Grammy selections, and the statistical record is pretty stark. Nonetheless, the head of the Grammys declared that the Grammys don’t have a race issue because voting is broadly inclusive. In rebuttal, the ever-insightful Ann Powers breaks down the issue: “Here’s the hard part when it comes to popular music. Pop is fun — it helps people relax and temporarily abandon their inhibitions, to express hidden parts of themselves and to open themselves up to others, including others fundamentally different from themselves. The music industry relies on the fantasy that pop is welcoming to all — to anyone who’s willing to buy a record (now a download or a streaming service subscription) or a concert ticket. Yet this is, in fact, a dream that’s often contradicted by reality.”
- Fake news is a real problem, even if the term has been so co-opted, it’s started to lose its meaning. Don Lemon, on CNN last week, got irritated with a guest who was trying to spin stories the Trump administration didn’t like as “fake news” and came up with an excellent definition: that it’s stories that are created deliberately to mislead people. But we’ve always had versions of fake news. Here’s some history from the New York Review of Books: “The production of fake, semi-false, and true but compromising snippets of news reached a peak in eighteenth-century London, when newspapers began to circulate among a broad public. In 1788, London had ten dailies, eight tri-weeklies, and nine weekly newspapers, and their stories usually consisted of only a paragraph. “Paragraph men” picked up gossip in coffee houses, scribbled a few sentences on a scrap of paper, and turned in the text to printer-publishers, who often set it in the next available space of a column of type on a composing stone.”