By Deb A.
Happy Fathers' Day to our American readers! The New York Public Library has some book recommendations to honour the occasion.
Beyoncé and Jay-Z have caused a stir with their latest video, which was filmed at the Louvre. (If you're looking for a guide to the art featured in the video, Vulture has you covered.)
"Stay as invisible as possible," was Clemens Kalischer's advice for new photographers. The photojournalist died June 9 at the age of 97.
Get ready for a memorable address: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie will receive the PEN Pinter Prize on October 9.
A "raw sense of connectivity": The Walrus profiles Billy-Ray Belcourt, the Cree poet and Rhodes scholar who recently won the Griffin Poetry Prize.
By Deb A.
My Dear Sir,
It has been so long since letters gave way to e-mails that now e-mails themselves have been replaced by messages that are easier to type with one's thumbs. And yet, there's something undeniable about the power of the handwritten word—in particular when it comes in an envelope.
For anyone rolling their eyes at this anachronistic, romanticised view of letter-writing: Try imagining an audience listening rapt as a renowned performer reads a piece of correspondence aloud. Is that performer reading a WhatsApp chat or a letter?
Chances are you're thinking of epistles, not emojis. So were the founders of Letters Live, who began an event series in London in 2013 that has, after over a dozen events in the United Kingdom, recently made its way over the the United States as well.
Letters Live bills itself as "a celebration of the enduring power of literary correspondence." The events are a surprise; the audience is aware of what to expect in the most general sense—in essence, a cast of famous people reading memorable letters from other, mostly famous, people—but the personalities and subject matter involved are a mystery until someone takes the stage, and every show is different. Perhaps Ian McKellen will read Kurt Vonnegut's letter to five teenage fans. Maybe Benedict Cumberbatch will recite Albert Camus's missive to the teacher who inspired him. The process is so secretive that the performers themselves are told only moments before they step into the spotlight what they'll be reading.
Shows are generally sold out, and part of the proceeds are used to support literacy-focused charities such as First Story, The Reading Agency, and 826LA. The next event is the series' New York debut this week.
By Deb A.
She calls herself "the spinach in the teeth of the art world." Alice Procter, a.k.a. The Exhibitionist, draws attention to the colonial, whitewashed stories behind some of London's best-known artworks and the galleries in which they're found.
On Uncomfortable Art Tours through the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain, and the Queen’s House (National Maritime Museum), Ms. Procter offers her guests a viewpoint that is not likely to be part of a museum audio guide anytime soon. Her art history lessons, which began as part of Antiuniversity Now, pull no punches, covering everything from how colonialism helped build the collection to how the way in which the artworks are displayed lends credence to a very specific imperialist understanding of the world. Her own website features reproductions of classic portraits with labels like "thief" (Queen Victoria), "white supremacist" (Horatio Nelson) and "invader" (James Cook) scrawled across them in red graffiti, and she passes out buttons that read "display it like you stole it" at her tours.
The museums and galleries she examines have been quick to distance themselves from Ms. Procter's activity, but she notes that her ultimate goal is to encourage institutions to openly engage with the colonialist narratives behind their art collections and their own histories.
"Museums are institutions of memory," she wrote in The Guardian. "They must stop pretending there’s only one version of events, and be willing to own up to their role in shaping the way we see the past."
Uncomfortable? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely.
By Deb A.
February is the shortest month, but it's no less packed with interesting tidbits from the worlds of art and literature.
A must-read: After the controversy surrounding the temporary removal of a pre-Raphaelite painting at the Manchester Art Gallery, Ellen Mara De Wachter at Frieze investigates the issues that arise when cultural institutions incorporate activism into their programmes.
Masterpiece found: Ben Ewonwu's long-missing portrait of Nigerian princess Adetutu Ademiluyi has been located in a North London flat. (The Telegraph)
An Olympic champion: Whether you follow every triple Salchow or not, you will want to take a look at this extraordinary pavilion. It's covered with Vantablack spray, not the pigment that can only be used by Anish Kapoor. (Dezeen)
Not recent, but related (and amusing): Stuart Semple has protested Mr. Kapoor's exclusive rights to Vantablack with the pinkest pink, the glitteriest glitter, and the blackest black that's actually available to artists. You can purchase any of these as long as you're not Anish Kapoor.
Reading the unreadable: The woman who deciphers centuries-old handwritten documents. "You see [Jane Austen's edits to Pride and Prejudice], and you think—that's so much better than it was before." (Atlas Obscura)
By Deb A.
Chris Ofili is arguably best known for creating art with elephant dung. Andres Serrano's Piss Christ was made with the artist's urine. Tracy Emin's My Bed hosted a range of bodily fluids, including one that has recently made headlines again in the art world: menses.
The first major movement in the West of using or depicting menstrual blood in art started in the 1970s, along with second wave feminism. And so it is no surprise that recent efforts to address the period taboo coincide with a reaction to the rise of high-profile misogyny.
In 2015 Rupi Kaur's photo showing the artist with a bloodstain at her crotch was removed (and subsequently reinstated following public backlash) from Instagram, leading Ms. Kaur to object to a world that "will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak."
Six months later, American artist and activist Sarah Levy used her period blood to create a portrait of a presidential candidate who reacted to tough questions at a debate by claiming the female moderator had "blood coming out of her wherever". He is now president, and the painting was purchased this year by the Museum of Military History in Dresden, Germany. It's hard to say which fact is stranger.
The latest controversial attempt to normalise a regular function of the bodies of half of the earth's human population can be found in an equally surprising place: the Stockholm subway. Its new exhibit by Liv Strömquist is a series of black-and white felt pen drawings that feature the occasional blotch of bright red between women's legs. Some have hailed it as a coup for womankind, while others have recoiled in disgust, angry at their newly uncomfortable commute.
For those who prefer to decide when they will be confronted with the reality of women's reproductive cycles--a luxury most women do not have--there's Period Piece in London, which "seeks to provoke critical dialogue about shifts in contraceptive technologies and constructions of the 'natural' around women's bodies." With music composed from ovulation cycles and poetry based on reactions to the Catholic church's rejection of birth control in 1968, the exhibit finds new, less confrontational ways of talking about periods. It is a pop-up event by the Science Gallery London, which opens officially in 2018.
For a brief overview of period art, this piece by Kristen Cochrane is a good place to start.
My country is
There are 7000 human languages in the world. Over half are endangered; one dies every two weeks. What happens to cultures as languages disappear?
The Southbank Centre's Endangered Poetry Project was created to preserve the unique poetic traditions of languages on the brink of extinction.
By reflecting a way of understanding the world, poetry gives us a glimpse into a culture: the ideas people have, what they care about, and how they interpret their surroundings. Documenting poems not only offers us insight into how others live, but also provides us with a novel way of seeing the world around us.
"I'm Iranian and I grew up in Germany--when I came to the U.S., it was very strange to me to learn that the colour blue stands for sadness," Dr. Mandana Seyfeddinipur, the head of the Endangered Languages Archive at SOAS University of London, explained to the BBC. "To me, blue is hope--the sea and the sky."
The intricacies of poetic language are windows into worldviews that can inform our own perspectives, or keep our cultural memories alive. According to Dr. Seyfeddinipur, reading poetry from other cultures "makes you more agile in thinking, because you have to be flexible," incorporating foreign concepts that may not appear in your own culture into your way of thinking.
Members of the public are invited to submit well known poems in an endangered language to the Centre to preserve them for future generations. The call is open until the end of this year.
By Deb A.
If you're in need of some inspiration to begin your week, look no further:
Art is good for us: On Wednesday the British Parliament will announce the results of its two-year inquiry into arts, health and wellbeing. In anticipation of the report, Nicci Gerrard offers an eloquent account of the role of arts in helping people with dementia. (The Guardian)
Beware the selfie: A single snapshot was to blame for the domino effect that knocked over a row of plinths holding $200,000 worth of art. Too perfectly awkward to be true? (The New York Times)
Sketching the unknown: How artists and researchers teamed up to find and introduce new species to the rest of the world. (The Atlantic)
Illustrator, cartoonist, trailblazer: Canadian artist Jillian Tamaki's new book of graphic short stories marks her emergence as a "consummate storyteller". (The Walrus)
Visual activist: Photographer Zanele Muholi highlights racism, homophobia, and hate with Somnyama Ngopnyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, a series of self-portraits she took every day for a year. The Guardian dedicates two spaces to her work, and rightly so: a striking photo gallery and a compelling article.
When is a Modigliani not a Modigliani? Twenty-one artworks have been confiscated from a major exhibition in Genoa after several were confirmed as fakes. (The Telegraph)
The Commuter Pig Keeper? You still have time to vote for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. (The Bookseller)
Agave alumna: Agave Magazine contributor Karla K. Morton's twelfth book, Wooden Lions, is now available.
By Deb A.
After Senator Kamala Harris was accused of being hysterical for the (professional) way she questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the world-renowned Strand Book Store posted a list of "strong feminist voices you need to listen to" under the title We Are Not Hysterical.
If you'd like feminist books like those delivered to your door every month you might want to keep an eye on the Card Carrying Books and Gifts Indiegogo page.
Enormous portraits of inspiring black women now grace the streets of London thanks to artist Neequaye Dreph Dsane and his You Are Enough series.
New York City will also look a little more interesting as of June 26th, when works by female artists will take the place of ad space on Lower East Side billboards thanks to SaveArtSpace.
Meanwhile, Emma Watson is up to her usual tricks: hiding feminist books around a major city. After leaving copies of Maya Angelou's Mom & Me & Mom around London and New York, she's now stashing The Handmaid's Tale in Parisian nooks and crannies.
Joanna Moorhead of The Guardian rightly asks: Why isn't Anna Atkins famous?
Shikha Sharma spotlights feminist Indian authors we should get to know for Youth Ki Awaaz.
Grace Meets Matisse: Coming to a NYC billboard soon. (via Elise R. Peterson)
By Deb A.
In case you missed these highlights over your summer holidays (and the subsequent recovery period):
And finally, a big congratulations to our very own Contributing Editor: Literature, Linda Romano, for welcoming her first child to the world this summer! We wish you and your family all the very best.
By Deb A.
The many facets of the legacy David Bowie leaves behind as a musician, a writer, an actor, an intergalactic explorer, an icon, can all be subsumed under one broad thought: David Bowie was, in every aspect of his being, an artist. Beyond creating his own art, he was also an obsessive collector who surrounded himself with works that inspired and moved him.
This November, nearly 400 pieces from his private collection will go up for auction.
The incredible scope of David Bowie's diverse tastes as well as his insatiable appetite for art have resulted in an auction of three parts that will take place over two days: parts one and two for modern and contemporary art, featuring everything from Jean-Michel Basquiat and Damian Hirst to contemporary African art to outsider art; and part three for post-modernist design, focused primarily on Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis Group.
Highlights of the collection are on display at Sotheby's in London until August 9; the selected works will also tour Los Angeles, New York and Hong Kong before the entire collection is exhibited November 1-10 in London.
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