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Required Reading

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Colossal shared this image of “Project Orion” and explains how it came to be. “For the past five years, Chattanooga-based astrophotographer Matt Harbison has poured more than 500 hours into capturing the minute details of the Orion constellation, an immense undertaking that’s culminated in a stunning 2.5 gigapixel image. In its entirety, ‘Project Orion’ is composed of 2,508 individual shots meticulously stitched together into a fiery, star-studded mosaic.” More images and info over at Colossal. (image © Matt Harbison, via Colossal)
  • Anuradha Vikram writes a must-read article about the age-old question of an “ethical” art career:

The truth is, there’s no way to stay true to your values and never have to compromise an opportunity as a result. But you don’t need to fear that passing up an opportunity that doesn’t feel good will damage your career. Institutions have diversified, but whether that commitment goes deeper than the surface depends on whether stakeholders, including artists, hold them to it. Says Abichandani, “Just because the color of the artist has changed doesn’t mean that the system is no longer flawed. I’ve been in conversation with Black women curators and women of color who have faced a backlash for doing what the institution brought us in to do. It’s hard in those circumstances, like LaTanya Autry said in a talk, ‘There are often circumstances where even if you want to make a stand as a curator, the institution is prepared to use artists to make a case against you.’”

At a time when interacting safely with other humans can no longer be taken for granted, the appetite for digital spokespeople is accelerating. Brands are expected to spend as much as $15 billion annually on influencer marketing by 2022, up from $8 billion last year, according to Business Insider Intelligence. A growing slice of that money belongs to virtual influencers, and traditional marketing is experiencing serious disruption.

“Virtual influencers, while fake, have real business potential,” says Christopher Travers, the founder of virtualhumans.org, a website that documents the industry. “They are cheaper to work with than humans in the long term, are 100% controllable, can appear in many places at once, and, most importantly, they never age or die.”

In his book The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History, David Lowenthal describes heritage as that which “starts with what individuals inherit and bequeath.” This highlights its close relationship between “heritage” and the English word “inheritance,” and, in turn, invokes the investment of western capitalist culture in the passage of property from a presumptively male property holder to his (legitimate) lineal descendants. Similarly, the romance language terms for “heritage” — “patrimonio” in Spanish — directly invoke the property of the father. And another term that commonly appears both in the contexts of wills and of heritage is “legacy.” In other words: our model of “heritage” — whether familial, national, or world — is about descent-based ownership of a particular slice of the past.

The Western concept of heritage is thus inherently one of possession. In order for one person to own something, they must have rights to it that others do not have. When that heritage is materialized in public space, it also conveys a sense of ownership rights over that public space. Indeed, the materialization of white heritage has been one of the primary mechanisms of upholding white supremacy since the founding era of the United States. This was a well-established practice by the time that segregationists erected dozens of Confederate statues in the 1920s — which is when Charlottesville’s statue of Robert E. Lee was placed on a pedestal to assert white authority in a primarily Black neighborhood.

  • Jeffrey Gibson: Nothing is Eternal is now streaming online at wattis.org. The hybrid exhibition features a single work — a newly commissioned video with musical composition — which you can watch online until December. According to the exhibition:

Conceived during this pandemic era, the immersive video work depicts the American flag in unsettling stillness) as a marker of territory, and projected onto bodies. while set to a heartrending soundtrack, At once melancholic and beautiful- Gibson renders the iconic image of the flag as both elastic and unyielding. The slow transformation through time, color, and form reflects both a distillation of our social collapse and the reinvention of self and community. referencing the movement and change that is so desired for this nation.

First, if we were to address the substance: The actual fight here is only partly about speech. Yes, it’s true: being de-platformed by these three big players can effectively knee-cap a player from the public sphere. That’s true especially when the platforms act in concert, which they tend to do—because they are not profiles in courage, but prefer the protective effect of herding.

After being kicked-off these platforms, the influence and the grift potential of Milo Yiannopoulos and Alex Jones has plummeted, even though they are, of course, perfectly able to post elsewhere on the internet. The issue here is as much about platform dominance as it is about Section 230: nobody would really want an Internet where any platform moderation meant loss of liability, but this also it wouldn’t be this big a deal if Facebook, YouTube and Twitter weren’t so dominant.

Second, we are fighting over attention as much as speech. We lived in a world in which mass attention was mediated through the mass media, was necessarily public and not largely uniform. Everyone saw the same thing on the same media. Now we live in a world mediated by a few giant understaffed companies, individualized based on data collected on the individual user and not visible to the public, except as these platforms deign to let us know. Who is being shown what? How much? Why? We have little idea.

One BBC journalist said their manager had been told that growing media and political opposition to trans rights in the UK meant public LGBT pride events were now more likely to count as controversial events, meaning they would not be able to attend even in a personal capacity.

Managers also held up Black Lives Matter marches as an example of protests that would be banned for news staff, even in their spare time.

A “massive” new reef measuring 500 metres has been discovered in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, making it taller than some of the world’s highest skyscrapers.

Scientists found the detached reef, which is the first to be discovered in more than 120 years, in waters off North Queensland while on an expedition aboard research vessel Falkor, ocean research organization Schmidt Ocean Institute announced Monday.

The Victorian backlash against Halloween just happened to coincide with much of the British imperial expansion. That included the colonization of Australia and New Zealand. So the Brits who filed in to these new colonies in the South Pacific didn’t bring the Halloween tradition with them. One also wonders if they didn’t import a certain Halloween skepticism that might explain their continued resistance to the holiday, long after much of the rest of the Western world has adopted it.

Victorianism spread more than Halloween skepticism, of course. Social scientists who study Africa, the Middle East and South Asia often argue that these regions are today some of the worst societies in the world for women and for gays because 19th-century British colonial overlords ingrained their legal systems and social codes with those very Victorian ideas. And those have persisted.

Required Reading is published every Saturday, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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