If, for the past couple of weeks, you’ve been following either the art world’s murmurings or the Most Popular Petition category on change.org, you would be well aware of the Guggenheim’s recent Animal Rights-related quagmire, a tiff with PETA advocates which resulted, on Sept. 25, in the removal of three pieces from its fall blockbuster exhibition. Whether or not you’ve been keeping close tabs on both, you likely missed the fact that the show in question, Art and China After 1989: Theater of the World, opened to the public this past Friday, Oct. 6. What reviews it has received have been, for the most part, somewhere between tepid and enthusiastically restrained (or else just petty), colored by and large by the Guggenheim’s milquetoast reaction and concession to those accusing it of complicity in animal rights violations. The 70 artist, 140 work-strong exhibition, which was supposed to be a milestone for U.S. reception and awareness of contemporary art from Chinese artists (Holland Cotter, in his review for the New York Times, calls it a show capable of reminding us that the country of 1.4 billion has given the world more than Ai Weiwei), has, it seems, been too profoundly marred by the museum’s willingness to nix some art at a cry of “Wolf!” This cry began in the form of a change.org petition — written by Stephanie Lewis, directed at the Guggenheim’s curators, administrators and corporate sponsors and subsequently backed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — which garnered nearly 800,000 signatures.
If nothing else, the never-ending tenseness of the mainstream news cycle since Trump’s inauguration has shown that Americans of most political dispositions are welcoming of breaks in the barrage for levity, rarely though they’ve come. The “covfefe” foible, more so than anything else, was proof of this: if America’s right and left didn’t exactly find humor in Trump’s goof for the same reasons, they were at least, however briefly, laughing about it together. It’s been a similar story for the most recent marquee protest of the president, a 30-foot-tall inflatable chicken — coiffed and gesticulating just like the commander in chief — which was inflated behind the White House on August 9. Already and with bemusement from both sides, it’s been given a name, a hashtag, a Halloween costume, dozens of news articles and (of course) hundreds of memes. But its sheer ridiculousness has, in large part, clouded what might be the most important thing it’s been given: a political stance.
Be it often or seldom, we are reminded just how ridiculous our society and morals are. We get sad for no reason, we get grumpy, we’re ungrateful when we have everything given to us and treat each other like garbage. Jonny Sun’s illustrated novel, Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too, is all about the weird ways of “humabns,” the concepts they’ve created and the way that they deal with feelings, fears and each other.
Earlier this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the popular statue of a young girl staring down Wall Street’s famous ‘Charging Bull’ will remain in place through February of the following year. This was especially news to me, who thought that statue was never actually leaving. I love the statue of the young girl. I don’t think I could give you one way in which I would change its conception; I love that the statue exists, I love what it represents to me, and I especially love that a large part of its existence is left with enough ambiguity that each person may interpret what it means for themselves. Yes, factually the statue was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors, a firm that meant for the statue to represent “the present, but also the future.” As Stephen Tisdalle, chief marketing officer of State Street elaborates, “She’s not angry at the bull — she’s confident, she knows what she’s capable of, and she’s wanting the bull to take note.”Frankly, however, it doesn’t matter why the firm commissioned the statue and what they meant for it to represent.
Should I write about the nine transgender women of color (and counting) who have been killed so far in 2017? Or should I direct to you to Akhilesh Issur’s recent guest column, which poignantly illuminates Cornell’s ongoing mishandling of our international students’ urgent plight, not to mention the hypocrisy and apathy demonstrated by the institution at every turn? Should I write about James Harris Jackson’s premeditated, racially motivated murder of Timothy Caughman — the first, according to Jackson, of many? Should I remind you about the Cornell student who in January found himself on the receiving end of a text by another Cornell student calling him a nigger, only for the incident’s brief flare to be quickly extinguished? I’m not sure what I should write about, to be honest, nor am I sure if I have the energy or desire to do so today.
No one other than James Baldwin could have ever hoped to deliver a proper eulogy to James Baldwin, but I find it incredibly ironic that my namesake ended up accepting the mantle. Amiri Baraka was an embattled and deeply flawed artist, and in reading his work, I have often found myself rapidly vacillating between vehement disapproval and mesmerized admiration. What he had to say about the man I aspire to be like, though, elicited neither of these responses. “Jimmy Baldwin created [contemporary American speech] so we could speak to each other at unimaginable intensities of feeling, so we could make sense to each other at higher and higher tempos,” wrote Baraka. For most anyone else, words like these would serve as poetic and profound excerpts from a worthy homage.
The double bass is a perennial fixture of many jazz combos. And yet, how rare to hear it on its own terms. Rarer still in duet with a like partner. The Cornell Concert Series kicked off its spring season by proving that a duo of basses could be more than meets the ear. As twin ramparts of their generation, Christian McBride and Edgar Meyer are as masterful as they come. Where one cut his teeth on the jagged edges of jazz, the other was baptized in classical waters.
I am by no means a space history buff. That said, I believe I know some very basic stuff: Alan Shepard was the first American into space, John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men on the moon. Importantly, I know that none of those men died on their respective missions. Very basic stuff. So the fact that Hidden Figures had me on the edge of my seat wondering if John Glenn would survive re-entry into the atmosphere is a real testament to the film.
Since Trump was elected, I am bothered every day by a certain set of questions and anxieties. Whenever I go on a news site or look at a paper, our current president apparently fits the bill of tyranny wearing a fresh set of big boy underpants. He has begun an enormous upheaval of all values we carried closely to our hearts. Truth, facts, common decency—these diamond American ideals have gone out the window. Meanwhile, the media stands by professionally wide-mouthed.