Among the thousands of wax cylinders in the University of California (UC) Berkeley’s Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology are songs and spoken-word recordings in 78 indigenous languages of California. Some of these languages, recorded between 1900 and 1938, no longer have living speakers. The history on the cylinders is difficult to hear. The objects have deteriorated over the decades, mold eating away at their forms, cracks breaking through the sound.
The prize-winning images, chosen by readers of Scientific American, play with our perceptions of shape, motion, and length. Neuroscientist Susana Martinez-Conde talks with the three winners about how their illusions work.
Paul Goldberger: “If, until now, we – architects, critics, building dwellers – have had to guess what makes certain places attractive or comfortable or exciting or awe-inspiring, we now have some scientific basis for our reactions: what [Sarah Williams] Goldhagen calls a new paradigm, which ‘holds that much of what and how people think is a function of our living in the kinds of bodies we do.'”
Last month, the country’s first major show of queer art was shut down in Pôrto Alegre after conservative groups began protesting, claiming that the art endorsed blasphemy and pedophilia. A couple weeks later, the same groups loudly objected to dancer Wagner Schwartz’s La Bête – in which he lies on the floor naked and invites audience members to manipulate his body – after a woman brought her five-year-old daughter to participate and video of the incident went viral.
Rhiannon Giddens, who was a founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, is writing a musical based on a series of events in 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina, and centering it around the music of the time. She says, “for me, the heart of American music is in this moment of white and black sort of coming together. Maybe that’s simplistic, but to me it is a symbol of the best of what we do culturally.”
“By the second half of the 20th century, it had assumed a dominant position in the world market in higher education. Compared with peer institutions in other countries, it came to accumulate greater wealth, produce more scholarship, win more Nobel prizes, and attract a larger proportion of talented students and faculty. US universities dominate global rankings. How did this remarkable transformation come about?”
Richard Brody, responding to the great director’s dyspeptic guest column in The Hollywood Reporter, argues that the Internet has made criticism more democratic and often better-informed, that the aggregated critical scores on Roitten Tomatoes really do help identify good new films, the best of which rival anything from Scorsese’s heyday, and that Scorsese’s unhappiness arises from a major generational shift.
“One study revealed that people think they are better at comprehending information when they read it on a digital screen. This resulted in those readers reading the text much faster than those reading the text in paper format. Yet despite spending less time reading the text, the digital readers predicted they would perform better on a quiz about the text than the people who read the text on paper. Yet when the digital and paper groups were tested, the paper groups outperformed the digital groups on memory recall and comprehension of the text. They also were closer to their test result predictions than the digital group was.”
“The nature of nonprofit exploitation is revealed in the language we use uncritically. I’ve ranked eight common nonprofit phrases from least to most exploitative.”
“Sitting down, in a museum, can be an almost radical act: a refusal to flow along with the distracted crowd, idly passing by art as if it was just one more stream of visual enticement in a visually saturated world. A good sit is all about committing to the depth, not the breadth, of the art itself, seeing more by deciding to see less.” Philip Kennicott picks the finest spots in greater Washington to do just that.
The October Revolution in Jazz & Contemporary Music was something like a State of the Union for free improvisation and avant-garde composition, and also a statement of potential. An intergenerational sweep of experimentalists — including younger acts as well as many of free jazz’s first-generation heroes, now in their 70s, 80s and 90s — appeared on a well-appointed stage in a city not known for high-budget jazz presentations. It was a rare institutional moment for the improvising avant-garde and maybe proof that in a moment when jazzis surging, the United States can respect its fringes on a level that only Europe historically has.
“The disembodied hand has a sinister cinematic reputation. … But on social media, the hand has been cast in a new role, as a symbol of artisanal craftsmanship and entrepreneurial zeal. … This time it’s a helping hand, channeling its energies toward cooking party foods and executing creative household hacks.”
Manohla Dargis observes how Weinstein’s treatment of relatively powerless young women has been considered normal behavior in the film industry for most of its history – and considers whether the current backlash is a turning point.
Two Boston-area couples who have been collecting 17th-century Dutch and Flemish art for decades are donating a total of 113 works – including canvases by Rembrandt, van Dyck, and Rubens – along with funding and library materials for a new Center for the Study of Netherlandish Art.
The board of the American Jewish Historical Society, based in Manhattan, canceled a public reading of Rubble Rubble by playwright Dan Fishback, a critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. The play is about disagreements within a family over Israel and Palestine, but, says Fishback, “The people who made this decision had no access to my script. This was about my beliefs.” Criticism of the cancellation came swiftly, and one artist removed work of hers from display at the Society.
“After a five-year fundraising campaign, the Kansas City Symphony announced Wednesday that it had accomplished its goal of raising $55 million for its endowment fund, which will now total more than $100 million.”
Sara Michelle Murawski was personally recruited by incoming artistic director Ángel Corella, only to be told – four months into her first season and right before she went onstage as the Sugar Plum Fairy – that her contract would not be renewed because she was too tall for any of the company’s men to partner. (She’s 5’10½”.) She writes here about getting through the shock and disappointment, how her height has and hasn’t been an issue throughout her studies and career, and how she came to headline a new company that’s getting started this year in Charleston.
“A Colorado couple has dropped a federal lawsuit that sought to stop the Manhattan district attorney’s office from returning to the Republic of Lebanon an ancient marble bull’s head that prosecutors said had been looted during that country’s civil war. … The 2,300-year-old sculpture had been on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art until July when the museum turned it over to authorities.”
While the three-venue complex at London’s Southbank Centre saw its best attendance (93%) in 14 years, with a boost in box-office income, its report says that the NT has relied too much on revenue – by nature uncertain – from the likes of War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time to offset government funding cuts.
“‘Books are the best weapons,’ President Emmanuel Macron of France said at the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair, addressing the unifying power of literature and language. ‘Without culture, there is no Europe.’ … Can Dundar, the former editor in chief of the Turkish opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet who faces imprisonment in Turkey, will add to the political theme in a talk about writing in exile; the German author Thomas Wagner and the activist Gerald Hensel will discuss the identity of the new right.”
“It was so surreal. They read back to me why I was selected — and I don’t even have the words to describe what it felt like to hear,” he said. “I thought, ‘Wow, I guess that’s what I’m doing,’ but you get in the thicket of doing it, and with no warning, you get this bird’s-eye view of the past 15 years.”
The structure, which will connect to the museum’s Sanaa-designed building, will double the museum’s footprint on the Bowery, providing an additional 50,000 square feet for galleries, improved public circulation, and flexible space for the institution’s more experimental programs like its business incubator and the urban-policy think tank that it runs.
Mr. Friedman’s death from complications of H.I.V./AIDS has rattled the theater world, both because he was seen as among the brightest lights of his generation and because it shocked those who had come to see H.I.V. infection as a chronic but manageable condition, at least for those with health care.
“Today, in public attitudes toward everything from science to politics, expertise is under enormous stress. … That pressure makes the MacArthur awards extra important,” writes Christopher Knight, because “the danger is that manipulative demagoguery flourishes in an environment polluted by the anxiety driving the assault on expertise … [so] I’ll take a ringing endorsement of expertise anywhere I can find it.”
Alongside playwright Baker (The Flick, Circle Mirror Transformation), theater artist Mac (A 24-Decade History of Popular Music), opera director Sharon (of the L.A. experimental company The Industry), critic and novelist Nguyen (The Sympathizer), and photographer Bey, winners in the arts include painter Njideka Akunyili Crosby, author Jesmyn Ward (Salvage the Bones), composer Tyshawn Sorey, singer-songwriter Rhiannon Giddens, landscape architect Kate Orff, and geographer-artist Trevor Paglen. (For a complete list of 2017 MacArthur Fellows, click here.)
“Early on Wednesday, a number of Russian media outlets” – led by Komsomolskaya Pravda, the modern-day descendant of the Soviet youth paper – “disseminated reports of the singer’s alleged death, without sourcing this information to anyone.” Hvorostovsky was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2015.
“The orchestra was established in London in 1976 but the British vote to leave meant it had to come up with a plan for a future outside the UK. … The orchestra said on Wednesday it had accepted an offer from the Italian culture ministry to be based in Ferrara and Rome.” As EUYO chief executive Marshall Marcus says, “You can’t ask for EU funding and then not be in the EU.”