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The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 10/3

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Art AND: Jessica Gatlin

I enjoyed the internet this week. Highlights: Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw on Deana Lawson, Simone Biles, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the history of restaurants, Chuck Palahniuk, Mr. X, Kelly Price was never missing, The United States of America vs. Alfredo Martinez, Ellen Pompeo, and R. Kelly. 

 

 

1. Hyperallergic: The Many Problems with Deana Lawson’s Photographs

I saw this everywhere last week and shared it with many friends and colleagues. In a review of Deana Lawson’s Hugo Boss Prize exhibition at the Guggenheim, Centropy, Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw asserts that Lawson “has adopted a specific kind of power that historically operated exclusively within dominant White male artistic culture,” and that the artist appropriates Black cultures to which she doesn’t belong. Shaw argues that “in a world where Black female bodies are continually exploited in real life, in popular and visual culture, and in fine art, I am not sure there is true willing consent in Lawson’s prurient nudes.”

Shaw crafts a convincing argument, one that I had not seen in public about Lawson’s work, but one that I’ve heard people (Black femmes) privately express. However, this is not the only contention that Shaw puts forth. Embedded in her critique of Lawson, Shaw presents a meta-analysis of the state of art history and criticism in which she asks, “Why haven’t the discussions of Lawson’s work published in Hyperallergic, in the New York Times, and elsewhere been more critical of these hugely problematic aspects of her work?”

In response to this inquiry, Shaw points to both the contemporary art market and “the speed with which Black images by African-born and African American artists [are] entering the market, moving into collections as financial investments that doubled as symbols of wokeness, but [are] not publicly visible long enough to be engaged critically by art historians” in addition to scholars “encountering significant pushback from the artist and the forces that support her practice.” This meta-critique of both the art market and art history, as Shaw articulates in this article, points to larger conditions within not only the art world but visual culture at large. 

 

2. The Cut: Simone Biles Chose Herself

Everything about this profile is absolutely stunning: the writing by Camonghne Felix, photographs by Ashley Peña, and its subject, Simone Biles. 

No stranger to headlines, Biles most recently made the news after withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics on the fifth day of competition. As Biles shares her perspective, “she recounts the absurdity of some of the assumptions the public made about her performance, Twitter threads accusing her of giving up because she just didn’t feel like competing.” 

She didn’t just give up, however: Biles had the “twisties,” which she uses the following analogy to describe: “Say up until you’re 30 years old, you have your complete eyesight… One morning, you wake up, you can’t see shit, but people tell you to go on and do your daily job as if you still have your eyesight. You’d be lost, wouldn’t you? That’s the only thing I can relate it to. I have been doing gymnastics for 18 years. I woke up — lost it. How am I supposed to go on with my day?” Repeating the same thing some expressed at the time of the Olympics, Biles simply states how “It’s basically life or death. It’s a miracle I landed on my feet. If that was any other person, they would have gone out on a stretcher.”

This profile does not dwell on Tokyo, and instead looks forward and backward, using the Olympics as only a touchstone. It is expected that Biles’ body can perform feats that no other body has yet to perform, but “for an athlete of Biles’s ability, the mind remains the most important organ. It tells the body what to do, and the body remembers. Anything that shakes that clear-mindedness is a life-risking liability.” Biles’ mind wasn’t clear at the Olympics. “If you looked at everything I’ve gone through for the past seven years, I should have never made another Olympic team . . . I should have quit way before Tokyo, when Larry Nassar was in the media for two years. It was too much. But I was not going to let him take something I’ve worked for since I was 6 years old. I wasn’t going to let him take that joy away from me. So I pushed past that for as long as my mind and my body would let me.”

She has chosen so many things for so long, “and so Simone Biles gets to decide what it means to be Simone Biles now.” And she chose herself. 

 

3. CNN: Justice Sonia Sotomayor: ‘There is going to be a lot of disappointment in the law, a huge amount’

The older I get, the more I pay attention to the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court has a big docket this term, which opens tomorrow. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a scathing dissent of the Court’s decision to allow the Texas abortion ban to take effect, and many more opinions are expected from her this term. At an American Bar Association event on Wednesday, Sotomayor stated, “there is going to be a lot of disappointment in the law, a huge amount . . . Look at me, look at my dissents.” Sotomayor brought up the Texas ban, saying, “You know, I can’t change Texas’ law . . . but you can and everyone else who may or may not like it can go out there and be lobbying forces in changing laws that you don’t like.”

In her analysis, Ariane de Vogue quotes Columbia Law School’s Alexis Hoag who posits that “[Sotomayor] is crafting arguments for future advocates, she is creating these road maps for how to restore rights to disempowered people.” This term is one to pay close attention to. 

 

4. n+1: Salt, Fat, Acid, Defeat

I haven’t enjoyed going to a restaurant since before the pandemic. Sure, I’ve been to some since I’ve been vaccinated, but I haven’t enjoyed a restaurant. I often think about when I will enjoy going to restaurants again. 

The history of restaurants is something I’ve never investigated—but their future is something I contemplate. Restaurants trace their origins back “to mid-eighteenth-century Paris, but it wasn’t until the early 19th century that the modern restaurant, born of an alliance between capital, power, and the press, was set on its course,” writes Aaron Timms. After “restaurants emerged as distinct institutions, every generation has imagined that it eats better than its predecessors.” Labor issues have always been bound up in restaurant culture, and “As the pre-Covid restaurant became, like many other social institutions, a tool for economic dominion, resistance was gathering. The food-security and food-justice movements gained strength, amid a broader resurgence of the left, pointing the way to another path for the restaurant once the pandemic passes.” 

However, “restoring its place at the center of local public life, engaged with questions of common welfare and material redistribution—will not be easy, requiring courage, imagination, solidarity, and generosity at all levels of the hospitality industry, from chefs and owners to journalists and diners. But for many restaurants, recovering a lost political vocation—along with the exigencies of resistance, discovery, and human contact that are critical to the act of feeding people—might be the only hope for life after the virus.” 

 

5. The Believer: An Interview with Chuck Palahniuk

I was much more engaged in this conversation between Chuck Palahniuk, most famous for writing Fight Club, and Kathryn Borel than I thought I would be. The conversations meander between serapes, the ways in which people are and are not being served, the importance of little ideas, and the “three remaining frontiers: Cults, The Internet, Any exhaustive experience with rules.”  

 

6. Atavist: Searching for Mr. X

I love reading about relationships, memory, and the spaces between people. Ostensibly, this story is about Mr. X, a man who lived at the Mississippi State Hospital in Whitfield for eight years with no memory of who he was, Laura Todd Carns, her grandmother, and her grandmother’s Aunt Ligon Smith Forbes, who also lived and worked at the hospital for a time, and the space between all of them. As Carns traces the intersections of Mr. X and her family throughout the 1930s, she also traces the history of a memory and the people who did, or didn’t, care to keep it. “We’re not the only ones who carry our memories. The people around us, who share in our experiences, have their own version of events saved away. And when we tell a story to a loved one, we’re giving them a piece of our lives. We scatter memories like seeds, letting them take root in the people who care enough to listen.”

 

7. TMZ: SINGER KELLY PRICE BREAKS SILENCE ON ‘MISSING’ STATUS …I Flatlined, But I’m Alive!!!

Last Friday, as I was writing this column, news spread across Black Twitter that singer Kelly Price had been reported missing by her family. I had just written about Gabby Petito’s case, and missing Black, Indigenous, and non-white women were at the forefront of my mind. I still had some blurbs to finish, a Twitter investigation was well underway, and apart from a few headlines and confusion about how Price could be missing for a month and we were JUST learning about it, I couldn’t find much information. I decided to check back on the story before I went to bed. In those few hours I saw more headlines that Price was not missing. Twitter didn’t seem to know what was happening, and I decided to wait until there was more information about what was going on. 

According to Price and her attorney, she was never lost—she was at home self-isolating and recovering from COVID after being released from the hospital, and was under the care of home health aides. Further, Price described her relationship with her sister as “strained,” explaining that they hadn’t been in the same room for a year, and that “that’s not new for us.” 

 

8. Truly*Adventurous: The Faker

I can’t tell if I love or hate this story. 

Alfredo Martinez, a starving artist and gallery assistant, began forging art for money, and to pull one over on the art world, he was caught selling to an FBI agent. After initially pleading not-guilty, “Alfredo gave up and switched his plea to guilty. The judge sentenced him to two years in custody, which he would serve at a Sunset Park prison, just yards from his childhood home.” The sentence, however, was part of a longer plan, an art piece, and the artist turned prison into “the best residency [he] could have dreamed of,” according to curator James Fuentes. During Martinez’s sentence, and after a hunger strike that lasted more than a month, Fuentes staged The United States of America vs. Alfredo Martinez, a 36-work show in Chelsea. “The art world ate it up,” and “Alfredo Martinez had finally made it.”

 

9. Entertainment Weekly: Ellen Pompeo says she and Denzel Washington ‘went at it’ when he directed Grey’s Anatomy

I like Grey’s Anatomy . . . at least the first few seasons. Is it the best show? No. But there are A LOT of seasons (the 18th season premiered on Thursday), the episodes are 40+ minutes long, and I like having a TV show playing in the background. This is to say that I have watched the first ten seasons multiple times, and have intermittently watched since Sandra Oh’s Cristina Yang departed. Never, in my many hours of watching the show, have I felt a fondness for Ellen Pompeo or her portrayal of Meredith Grey.

This week, on her new podcast, Pompeo shared a story about when Denzel Washington directed an episode of the 12th season in 2015. In a conversation with Patrick Dempsey, who played Derek Shepherd on Grey’s and was Meredith’s longtime love interest and eventual husband, Pompeo recounts how Washington “went nuts on me” when shooting a scene. After improvising dialogue for the scene in which she directed another actor to look at her, “Denzel went ham on my ass.” She recalls how Washington “was like, ‘I’m the director. Don’t you tell him what to do.’ And I was like, ‘Listen, motherf‑‑‑er, this is my show. This is my set. Who are you telling?’ Like, ‘You barely know where the bathroom is.’ And I have the utmost respect for him as an actor, as a director, as everything, but like, yo, we went at it one day.” She later told Washington’s wife about it. 

The wildest part about the story, as all of Twitter has pointed out, is how she told to story as if it made her look good. This also isn’t the first time Pompeo has done something like this, as told by a Tweet by Saeed Jones and its MANY comments and receipts

 

10. The Cut: What I Learned About R. Kelly’s Biggest Fans

CW: Rape

After more than 20 years of public accusations against him, R. Kelly was convicted of “charges including sexual exploitation of a child, bribery, racketeering and sex trafficking involving five victims.” He faces a sentence of 10 years to life in prison. Despite a large public consensus on Kelly’s guilt over the past few years, some fans still support him. Curious about these superfans, writer Shamira Ibrahim “had to go see for myself.” 

At the trial, Ibrahim “found myself making small talk about everything from Niagara Falls and local graffiti art to the weather; one woman hoped to see snow before she left New York. It was almost disarming. Then I heard a woman next to me say she wished she could take the stand for the defense, and the scene snapped back into focus.” It cannot be understated that “The average rape apologist is not just the random bot account screaming in your tweets; it’s the person next door.” 

 

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