By Deb A.
What did you do last Thursday? In 2005 UNESCO designated the third Thursday of November World Philosophy Day. This year, the Institute of Art and Ideas celebrated with a list of 70 philosophy books everyone should read. With its own caveat that it is "by no means exhaustive" and that some key titles and thinkers are missing, it is nonetheless a decent overview that refuses to linger around old white males for too long; categories include ancient Indian philosophy, Japanese philosophy, Islamic philosophy, feminism, and African philosophy alongside the usual line-up of Greeks, Romans, Enlightenment thinkers and phenomenologists. The full list is here, but we've got some of the highlights for you below.
Ancient Indian philosophy: The Upanishads (8th to 1st century BCE) are a collection of over 200 religious and philosophical texts. Each Upanishad stands alone but taken together, they offer both a univocal account of the importance of religious knowledge and conflicting messages about reality and the individual self.
Japanese philosophy: The ideas of Nishida Kitarō were crucial to the development of Japanese philosophy in the twentieth century. An Inquiry Into the Good (1911) marks the start of his thinking around the concept of "pure experience," a concept he expresses through Zen Buddhism.
Islamic philosophy: Averroes, or Ibn Rushd, argued from an Islamic legal perspective in The Decisive Treatise (1178) that philosophy is not in conflict with Islam; he claimed that not only was it allowed, it was actually mandated in the Qur'an.
Feminism: You've heard of Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex (1949) and Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own (1929), but what about Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), where she takes on a report presented to the French government that suggested that women were not suited for formal education? Wollstonecraft argued that women are indeed rational—they appear otherwise specifically because they have been denied a proper education.
African philosophy: Kenyan philosopher Henry Odera Oruka began his Sage Philosophy Project in the 1970s to document the thinking of wise men and women in communities across Africa. Sage Philosophy: Indigenous Thinkers and Modern Debate on African Philosophy (1990) countered the Eurocentric bias against viewing traditional African sages as philosophers.
Postcolonialism: While her professor and lover Martin Heidegger did not make the IAI's list (perhaps due to readability issues, or his involvement with Nazism), Hannah Arendt did, with The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951). Her analysis of Nazism and Stalinism is often lauded as one of the best nonfiction books of the twentieth century; it experienced a new surge in popularity after the 2016 U.S. elections.
By Deb A.
What makes a book difficult, and is that a bad thing? (The Guardian)
The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation has announced its shortlist for next year's prize.
Behind the scenes with the impressive list of celebrities reading children to sleep on CBeebies Bedtime Stories. (BBC)
Jawohl! The Deutsche Welle has put together a list of 100 must-reads translated from German into English.
Artist Tania Willard's recent work turns the wind into a poet. (CBC)
The science is in on how to become a successful artist. (artnet; full study, published in Science, available here)
The 2018 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children's Books are here!
By Deb A.
Hallowe'en is looming, so we turn this week to something a little more gory. This month not one but two blood-based art projects have hit the headlines, both with a political message.
Marc Quinn will draw blood from 5000 people for his next piece in order to highlight the global refugee crisis and, crucially, raise money for refugees worldwide. Billed as "a monument to our common humanity" that emphasises "how there is more that unites us than divides us," Odyssey will feature two cubes, each containing one metric ton of frozen blood--one cube will hold blood drawn from refugees, while the other will hold blood drawn from non-refugees around the world, including celebrities such as Anna Wintour and Jude Law. The cubes will be unlabelled, pushing viewers to recognise the basic humanity that is shared by us all. If you would like to stand in solidarity with refugees, or even if you just fancy the idea of your blood mingling with Paul McCartney's DNA, you can buy the chance to donate your blood to the artwork. Odyssey will debut outside the New York Public Library in Autumn 2019, then go on a global tour.
Earlier this month Khaled Jarrar stood on Wall Street selling vials of his own blood from a cooler with the aim of drawing attention to the role of America's military industry in war and violence. In his performance piece Blood for Sale, Jarrar sold his first eight bottles of blood for $19.48 to mark the price of Smith and Wesson stock and the 1948 Palestine War. The rest were valued according to the stock prices of 15 major American defence contractors: from $75 (Science Applications International Corporation) to $347 (Lockheed Martin). Interested passers-by who preferred to simply make a donation or buy the accompanying certificate without incurring the inconvenience of having to carry blood around for the rest of their day were rebuffed: As taxpayers to the American government, they already had blood on their hands, Jarrar reasoned. Proceeds of the sales of the 50 10-ml samples will be donated to hospitals in Yemen and Gaza.
By Deb A.
The dog in Rembrandt's masterpiece is slowly fading away as a white haze creeps over the 12 x 14-foot painting. It is time for The Night Watch to be restored.
Rembrandt reinvented the portrait with his The Night Watch in 1642. Commissioned to paint a group portrait of a civic guard, he moved beyond the tradition of depicting the subjects in a static pose and opted to instead tell a story by painting the men going into action.
The Night Watch is the jewel in the Rijksmuseum's crown and will remain on view to the public as it is analysed and restored in front of a live audience: It will stay in the Night Watch Hall throughout (albeit behind a glass chamber), and a live feed will be broadcast online for the world to watch. The museum's director, Taco Dibbits, explained that The Night Watch "is one of the most famous paintings in the world. It belongs to us all, and that is why we have decided to conduct the restoration within the museum itself--and everyone, wherever they are, will be able to follow the process online."
The restoration is due to begin in July 2019, after the museum has marked the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt's death with an exhibition of its collection of over 400 of the artist's works. The restoration is expected to take several years. Don't forget to tune in!
By Deb A.
Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity. As we teeter on the edge of disaster, actions should be speaking louder than words. But the sad truth is that the overwhelming evidence for climate change has not moved us beyond discussion and, shockingly, debate; even the most dire numbers apparently are not enough to make us feel the urgency. Fortunately, some talented artists are using their craft to inspire us to take action.
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner is a poet from the Marshall Islands who is sounding the alarm about the devastating effects that global warming is already having on her native land. She has addressed the UN and is the cofounder of Jo-Jikum, an environmental NGO.
"Climate change at work": For his Climate Signals installation (September 1–November 6), artist Justin Brice Guariglia—who has flown on earth science missions with NASA—has erected 10 solar-powered highway signs around New York City. Their flashing messages are geared toward provoking conversation and encouraging action on climate change.
Artist Mary Mattingly has a long history of creating sculptural ecosystems that highlight environmental issues. In 2009 she created the barge-mounted Waterpod to highlight rising sea levels. Artists lived, worked, and held events on the self-contained eco-habitat. Her most recent piece, Swale, is a floating food forest.
Olafur Eliasson, conceptual artist and creator of Little Sun, worked with geologist Minik Rosing to create Ice Watch in 2015. The project harvested 80 tonnes of ice from Greenland and deposited them to melt in Paris during the United Nations Climate Conference there.
Eve Mosher worked with experts and the local communities of five cities in the United Kingdom and the United States for HighWaterLine, a public art initiative that drew a blue chalk line around sites that are likely to flood due to climate change.
Dear Climate is an art project led by artists Marina Zurkow and Oliver Kellhammer and writer Una Chaudhuri. Along with exhibitions and events, Dear Climate offers audio meditations to "retool your inner climate" and posters to print out and mount wherever you see fit.
Collections and resources
In 2015, Carol Anne Duffy curated 20 original poems on climate change for The Guardian. Actors including Jeremy Irons, Ruth Wilson, and Michael Sheen read the poems aloud for maximum impact.
For its T Agitprop series, The New York Times collected works from a dozen contemporary artists on the theme of climate change.
The Poetry Foundation has pulled together a collection of environmental poetry from the past seven decades, "from early practitioners ... to ecopoets."
Artists and Climate Change (and its own list of resources) is a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of art and ecology.
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