How To View Critics Telling You How to View Art in a Museum

Thinking about museums

The blind fingerless art critic by Flickr user Shareheads CC-BY 2.0 The blind fingerless art critic
by Flickr user Shareheads
CC-BY 2.0

I have a confession to make: art critics baffle me. Especially when they venture to make grand pronouncements about the right way to go about experiencing art in museums. So when I saw the title of Philip Kennicott’s piece in the Washington Post, titled “How to view art: Be dead serious about it, but don’t expect too much” I will confess that I died a little bit inside. “Sigh. Another ‘you people are doing it all wrong’ piece.” Just what the world needs, another art critic holding forth on the sad state of museums and museumgoing. But, though there is plenty of sneering, there’s also a lot worthy of discussion. And debate. Kennicott’s post didn’t stand alone too long before Jillian Steinhauer posted a reply at Hyperallergic, and Jen Olencziak a rebuttal at Huffington Post. So, let’s take a…

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Interview: Simon Rich on Guilt, Humor Writing, and Being the Worst Person Ever

Longreads

Jessica Gross | Longreads | Oct. 2014 | 17 minutes (4,290 words)

By the time Simon Rich graduated from Harvard, where he served as president of the Harvard Lampoon, he had a two-book deal from Random House. Less than a decade later, the humorist has written four short story collections and two comic novels. He also spent four years writing for Saturday Night Live (he was the youngest writer SNL ever hired) and about two years at Pixar, and is now at work on a film and a television series.

Rich’s level of productivity, impressive as it is, takes a backseat to the quality of his humor writing. His stories are crystalline, eccentric, and universally hilarious. Many of the stories in his new collection, Spoiled Brats are built on an unusual premise, or told from a surprising angle. In “Animals,” a hamster narrates his wretched existence as a…

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Unpleasant Is Necessary

JamesRadcliffe.com

This post is about part of the creative process that I seldom, if ever, see discussed.  Probably because it’s unpleasant.  Probably because it doesn’t make for good copy.  Probably, because it is not shiny.

This post is about the dirty little secret that underpins all creative endeavour.

Would you like to know what it is?

Let me tell you a story…

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Think Before You Pink

Chop Wood, Carry Water

Breast_Cancer_Awareness_(263497131) Photo from wikipedia.

It is a feeling of hopelessness that brings us to this place. Desperate to save those who suffer. Determined to prevent those we hope never will. We are clawing and grasping to find any morsel of earth to hold onto when we feel like we’re spiraling out of control.

It is hopelessness. I know that now.

I used to think it was ignorance. Or lack of caring. I used to get angry. Every October when the grocery aisles started to display a sea of pink. “Pinkwashing” we call it now. Pink ribbons. Pink products. Pink everywhere. A tradition so old it has a name. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it used to make me so angry to watch the way we commercialize it.

Then my father has a brush with the C word. The word we don’t even want to spell because it feels too forewarning and…

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On Grief and Reason

Pierce Penniless

Several months ago, a friend and former lover, J, killed himself. Some weeks after that, a friend died very unexpectedly in his sleep. Since then, I have been trying to understand suicide, death and grief. I have kept a file on my computer where I’ve put down thoughts, questions, observations, measurements. I have tried several times to corral those fragments into something more coherent and complete, to try to reason through grief. These efforts have usually ended up deleted, or literally printed out and shredded.

Nonetheless the urge to write about it remained, and specifically to write about making sense of suicide, which strikes me as not a kind of death in the order of other deaths, and especially of the grief that follows. Necessarily, what I write below is also marked by that second death, too, less explicitly but no less deeply. I am unconvinced of the value or…

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The F-Bomb Princess Video Isn’t Offensive, It’s Exploitative

Dr. Rebecca Hains

Yesterday, for-profit T-shirt company FCKH8.com released a video called “F-Bombs for Feminism: Potty-Mouthed Princesses Use Bad Word for Good Cause.” The video features five angry girls, ages 6 to 13, who express outrage at society’s sexist treatment of girls and women while decked out in princess attire.

F-Bombs for FeminismThe video opens with the girls sweetly cooing, “Pretty!” while posing in their gowns and tiaras. But three seconds later, they switch gears and shout: “What the fuck? I’m not some pretty fuckin’ helpless princess in distress. I’m pretty fuckin’ powerful and ready for success. So what is more offensive? A little girl saying ‘fuck,’ or the fucking unequal and sexist way society treats girls and women?”

As the video progresses, the girls review the ongoing issues of inequality, systematic discrimination, and sexual violence faced by women in the U.S. They pepper these facts with more f-bombs, of course.

This combination of pretty pink princesses and relentless use of the…

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The Hierarchy of Desire

girl in the hat

image courtesy angelica maria zorrilla via Flickr image courtesy angelica maria zorrilla via Flickr

With both aching arms outstretched and loaded with plates (tightrope catwalk, hot plate crucifixion), she walks slowly across the dining room to table 19 and places the plates down in front of the bodies that ordered them.

Escargot Bourguignon. Pasta puttanesca. Squab, burrata and truffled fig, fingerling. ” She rolls the syllables around in her mouth like bits of velvet. If you saw her, you’d see eyes glistening wetly as if she were intoning a love poem she’d written herself, but no one looks up from their plates.

At table 8, she introduces herself (I am your hole-filler, your anonymous food-bringer, faceless feeder), takes their order, and scoots back to the kitchen where her boss, Mulholland, is waiting by the door. His lips are pursed, but he’s not asking for a kiss. “Full hands in, full hands out,” he reminds…

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