The art internet impressed me this week. Highlights: SNL continues to make parodies of parodies, we are living in the midst of a morality war, Roxane Gay is always political, identity does not equate taste, writing for a living is tricky, A Star is Born (again!), hotels are obsessed with art, we have 25 new geniuses, Southern women have a uniform, and being adopted can be complicated.
This is from SNL last week and if you have not seen this yet then maybe there is no Wifi where you are…? Idk.
Anyway, SNL cold opened its 44th season with a Kavanaugh hearing skit. As with many SNL sketches recently, it is a parody of a parody. Matt Damon played Kavanaugh, which is interesting considering his early history with the #metoo movement. For me, Damon’s portrayal of Kavanaugh in regards to his past plus Kate McKinnon’s Lindsey Graham is why this opening works so well.
2. New York Times: The Morality Wars
The next three articles directly relate to each other. I am posting them in the order that I read the articles, something I don’t often do (or remember). I did this because I read them all in a row, during the same sitting.
I sent this article to one of my friends, who probably knows most of my rants by heart at this point, and she responded, “This is good. I feel like you make a lot of these points on the regular. The part about Cosby reminds me of the article you’ve shared before about Woody Allen / what to do with the art of evil people.”
Critic Wesley Morris argues that currently, “The goal [of criticism] is to protect and condemn work, not for its quality, per se, but for its values.” He recalls a conversation he had with a friend over dinner about Insecure, “a sitcom co-created by and starring Issa Rae about two best friends — Issa and Molly — in Los Angeles.” Morris, who isn’t a fan of the show, describes having a hard time believing Issa, Issa Rae’s character, “as more than a sketch of self-consciousness,” to which his friend retorted, “She worked hard to get this show made, and it’s her story. So you can’t just say you don’t believe it.”
Once an artist is deemed morally worthy, any criticism of them or their work can become “problematic” in its own right. Morris continues with an analysis of criticism, or lack thereof, of Beyoncé. “She doesn’t talk about it,” he writes of Beyoncé’s work, “She speaks to and through. Her recent Vogue cover story wasn’t a profile. It was the Gospel according to her transcriber, a testament. So her mystery is compounded and her excellence undiminished, undisturbed, unchallenged.” Beyoncé, to the eyes of most, has ascended to the role of an icon, no thanks to a little help from the Virgin Mary.
This is probably my favorite article from this week, and if you read one thing on this list, this should be it.
3. Literary Hub: Roxane Gay: What Does a Political Story Look Like in 2018?
Some of the best stories I have ever read were from different editions of The Best American Short Stories. The 2018 edition was edited by Roxane Gay.
Gay never shies away from being political, and acting as the editor also functions as a critic in selecting the 20 included in the anthology from 120 short story finalists. As with most artists, writer “are divided on whether or not it is their responsibility to address the contretemps in their work. Some writers stubbornly cling to the idea that writing should not be sullied by politics. They labor under the impression that they can write fiction that isn’t political, or influenced in some way by politics, which is, whether they realize it or not, a political stance in and of itself. Other writers believe it is an inherent part of their craft to engage with the political. And then there are those writers, such as myself, who believe that the very act of writing from their subject position is political, regardless of what they write.”
I was at a Kavanaugh protest last week and, while making small talk, a woman asked me if I worked in politics. I said no, that I worked in arts and culture. We looked at each other and began to laugh, knowing that the arts are every bit as political. When discussing the stories she ultimately chose, Gay writes, “They are stories that engage with the world and reflect the diversity of the world. They are stories that offer fascinating insights into the human condition and the terrible ways people can treat one another and how beautifully people can love.”
4. Vanity Fair: What Do We Want from Critics in the Morality Wars?
Wesley Morris’s piece in the New York Times is garnering a lot of responses and has engendered a rich conversation. K. Austin Collins believes that the apprehension Morris is expressing is that “of a black critic feeling morally strong-armed into supporting a black thing.” But “identity isn’t taste. And the history of exclusion isn’t taste, either. These things matter, of course, and not in a secondary way: These considerations set the terms for what “taste” is even allowed to look like, the metrics of what even gets to be made, screened, and divvied up for consideration in the first place.”
The conversation on the Morality Wars is one I will be following for a while.
5. Popula: The Movie Assassin
Maybe I liked the art internet so much this week because it wasn’t as much about art as it was on how we critique and consume it.
I don’t fully know why I find this piece so intriguing. Perhaps it is because I have always been interested in the process, and this piece is a synthesis of multiple processes. The process of writing a review. The process of having a career. The process of continuing to find your voice as a writer. And the process of learning that “if you write thousands of sentences that have absolutely nothing to do with what you think or feel those sentences are still what you will become.”
6. 4Columns: A Star is Born
There has been A LOT of hype over the past few weeks over the newest iteration of the Hollywood classic A Star is Born. The new film features Lada Gaga and Bradley Cooper in the lead roles of Ally and Jackson Maine respectively—it is also Cooper’s directorial debut. “A Star Is Born’s plot is fairly simple. It is a melodrama about the invincible love between a once-great talent sinking deeper into addiction and his rapidly ascending protégée, stands as one of moviedom’s most enduring meta–fairy tales.”
Most of the reviews I have seen are less about the films, although it is analyzed, and more about how it fares against it predecessors and fits into Gaga’s and Cooper’s careers. This review deviates from a lot of reviews in that it contextualizes the movie within the paradigm but spends the majority of the time discussing the film.
I have not seen the A Star is Born, but I’m not really a fan of Gaga so will probably wait to watch it until it is somewhere online.
7. Slate: Decoder Ring: Hotel Art
Like a lot of artists, I have a love-hate relationship with hotel art. Most of my animosity does not come from the work but in how it is sometimes compared, wrongly, to work that is found in more traditional art spaces.
“Hotel art is a subset of commercial art, which exist all around us, in all of the places that need and want art but that are not museums or galleries…places for art but not about art. Economically and aesthetically this kind of work is often distinct from the work of artists who show at galleries and art fairs.” But, increasingly, “you might be surprised by the overlap, particularly in high-end hotel, which increasingly competes with each other to have the most ambitious art programs.”
It is always interesting to see who the MacArthur Foundation will choose as its “Genius” Fellows. If you have any familiarity with the given fields the foundation chooses from, it is fairly easy to make educated guesses for who they are going to choose, at least over a 10 year period. I have my eye on a few people that have not been chosen yet, but I suspect will be in the near(ish) future. As for this year’s recipients, I am most excited for Okwui Okpokwasili.
9. The Believer: Southern Discomfort
I grew up in a midwestern college town. And while the uniform of the women on campus wasn’t that of “the Authorized Southern Female Uniform” which consists of “plenty of A-line and shift dresses, form-fitting everything, lots of pink, prints, florals, a respectable amount of linen, jangly charm bracelets and bangles, a tailored button-down white shirt best worn with a well-tailored pair of jeans, Lilly Pulitzer dresses, off-the-shoulder blouses, white peasant blouses, off-the-shoulder white peasant blouses, certain kinds of black slacks, block heels, nude heels, kitten heels (generally just a lot of heels), skinny white pants cropped at the calf, a few pieces in seersucker, and, as soon as possible after college graduation, a noticeable wedding ring. The ASFU for girls at Ole Miss (a premiere ASFU university) includes roughly a thousand oversize T-shirts (each one commemorating a sorority-sponsored party or event) worn over shorts. The T-shirt’s bagginess imparts modesty but also a teasing ambiguity, inviting the uninitiated to wonder, Is she wearing just a T-shirt?” there was definitely a uniform. It was, and still is, easy to walk around that campus and tell the girls comfortable in it from the those wearing it merely to fit in and “formalize [their] femininity.”
I never fit the uniform of my hometown.
A friend went home to North Carolina for an event this weekend and frantically texted me that her parents wanted her to go shopping for a dress and she “REALLY REALLY” didn’t want to wear one. She spent the money her parents gave her and ended up wearing pants and a blazer.
10. BuzzFeed: People Want To Hear That I’m Happy I Was Adopted. It’s Not That Simple.
Nicole Chung has been all over the literary internet this week for her recently released memoir All You Can Ever Know. Chung, who is Korean, was adopted by white parents. In this excerpt Ching explains that in 2003 a couple looking to adopt asked her “if there had ever been any issues when I was growing up,” and in clarifying the question “had [she] ever minded it?” For Chung, “the truth was that being Korean and being adopted were things I had loved and hated in equal measure.”
HONORABLE MENTION: Banksy Painting Self-Destructs After Fetching $1.4 Million at Sotheby’s
This is so funny!
“The British street artist Banksy pulled off one of his most spectacular pranks on Friday night, when one of his trademark paintings appeared to self-destruct at Sotheby’s in London after selling for $1.4 million at auction.
The work, “Girl With Balloon,” a 2006 spray paint on canvas, was the last lot of Sotheby’s “Frieze Week” evening contemporary art sale. After competition between two telephone bidders, it was hammered down by the auctioneer Oliver Barker for 1 million pounds, more than three times the estimate and a new auction high for a work solely by the artist, according to Sotheby’s.”
*All images taken from reference articles*
Have a suggestion for next week? Email [email protected] with the subject line “The Internet is Exploding.”