Experimental Voices

Friday Digs

HIVE presents Friday Digs – a collection of links to articles, long form pieces and other media at the end of every week. We find some of the best writing on art, culture and beyond, just in time for your weekend. We hope you enjoy this feature. Please mail suggestions and links to readings to

02/11/14 | Matthew Barney at BAM | Jed Perl | New Republic

A review of Matthew Barney’s River of Fundament now showing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Its not easy to make up one’s mind about Matthew Barney’s River of Fundament. The hooey and the high point are hopelessly intertwined. One thing is sure. The deeper Barney moves into the black magic of movie making, the brighter his perfervid imaginings become. 

02/12/14 | Hanif Kureishi’s Shifting Registers | Ben Jeffery | The Times Literary Supplement

A review of Kureishi’s The Last Word that takes us through the protagonists in his previous works, The Buddha of Suburbia (1990), The Black Album (1995) and Intimacy (1998). The Buddha of Suburbia feels powered by observations amassed over years and not easily replenished, and as the backgrounds have faded in Kureishi’s work, so has that electric sense of emancipation. 

02/12/14 | A Retirement Account for Artists – The Artist Pension Trust | Daniel Grant | Gallerist NY

A breakdown of the working of the Artist Pension trust, 10 years after its inception. The New York-based Artist Pension Trust, which was set up with the help of a group of 20-plus investors in 2004, combines the benefits of an individual retirement account and a private equity fund. Participating artists donate 20 of their works over a planned 20-year period (two per year during the first five years, one per year for the ensuing five years and one piece every other year for the remaining 10 years) to the trust. There are regional directors and selection committees, consisting of independent curators, artists and collectors but not dealers (“they bring a conflict of interest,” Moti Shniberg, a former high-tech entrepreneur and the chief executive officer of Mutual Art, the parent company of the Artist Pension Trust, said).

And an additional piece from Jalal Toufic in E-Flux’s Journal # 48, on the Artist’s Pension Trust that provides background and perspective.

02/03/14 | The Case for Socialized Law | Noam Scheiber | The New Republic 

The essay advocates in addition to spending limits on defendants, a case for equality within the law. But does policing spending within the law assure a measure of equality, if we do not attend to the underlying dynamics of power? How far can socialized law go in creating an equal system? ‘The only way to bring about the ideal of equal protection under the law is to boost spending on lawyers for the poor and middle class, and to prevent the affluent from spending freely. We must, in effect, socialize the legal profession.’

01/31/14 | The Arts Electric | Tom Uglow | Aeon Magazine

The essay suggests about halfway through that firstly, art creates a virtual reality, whatever its medium, and secondly, that art and culture are, ‘in a sense mental exercises‘, reverting to the use-value dialectic of art, culture and the sciences, and perhaps suggesting that digitally created, distributed and embedded art will have to, at some point, provide a use-value basis for its existence. While the writer uses a big data as a linchpin which enables, everything from a unique experience to the specificity of the delivery system, the underlying ethical problems of big data, are not questioned here. However, the essay is an intriguing look into one of the larger debates around art and its evolving systems of distribution, content and purpose.  ‘I’d like to suggest what might happen when digital becomes the form as well. When an exhibition unfolds around you, wherever you are, or a performance uses the huge quantities of data we generate to choreograph dancers; when dramatists allow their plays to seep off the stage into online social platforms, or poets perform inside video games.’

01/23/14 | Should Science Save Modern Art? | Luba Ostashevsky | Nautilus

A good companion piece to the one above, arguing for the consideration of necessity in the conservation and preservation of modern art. ‘Art can achieve a level of permanence beyond the aspirations of any mere mortal, which is, in part, why it is so attractive to us. We use timelessness, too, to determine which art is great art, and which was a passing fashion. And as with so much else, our fascination with confluence of art and time has echoes in technology’.

02/03/14 | Where’s the Rage? | Kamila Shamsie in conversation with Pankaj Mishra | Guernica

A fascinating conversation with both writers calling for self-criticism and awareness while speaking to and for the marginalized in societies. The conversation brings up many contradictions and interesting questions, but perhaps should ask whether at the core is a growing discrepancy between cultures in understanding and working with the values of Enlightenment, what Enlightenment means for novelists and writers working in disparate conditions, and whether it is a fixed set of virtues and ideals applicable to all writers irregardless of cultural specificity.  ‘That’s one of the many reasons why we, especially those of us in depoliticized and pacified societies, need to cast a colder eye at our self-perceptions, now and in the past, as sentinels and embodiment of Enlightenment virtues of reason, dissent, and skepticism. And it is this capacity for relentless self-criticism that should be—everywhere—the true measure of intellectual freedom and cosmopolitanism, not the entrenched cultural power and self-congratulatory moral rhetoric of some people in countries long accustomed to telling other societies what to do and how to behave.’

01/24/14|Sharing and Caring| Tom Slee| Jacobin|

An examination of the sharing economy and the consequent shift of services like airbnb, and zipcar from their origins with community based values to corporate values and the consequent impact on already precarious labor. ‘Sharing economy companies talk a lot about reputation, but their actions show that their trust in decentralized, community-driven reputation is waning. Leading sharing economy companies are moving rapidly away from peer-to-peer reputation to centralized systems such as validation and background checks.’

01/21/14|Grantland Undergoes LGBT-Sensitivity Training | Marc Tracy| The New Republic

I had read the original Grantland piece when it first came out a week ago, and as a golfer I was duly taken by the pace and the first half of the piece where the writer Caleb Hannan examines the origins of the Oracle putter which quickly coalesces into an outing of the transgender woman, Dr. V, who invented the putter. What is kept till the very end is the fact that Dr. V, commits suicide – whether this is because of her outing through Hannan’s investigations or due to other causes is not taken up here. The New Republic piece however makes a neat précis of the apology train now chugging its way towards contrite redemption for the writer, the publisher and for ESPN.

01/22/14|The Allure of the Map|Casey N. Cep| The New Yorker

Cartography and Literature ‘Literature, like a map, gains its power from selection, from miniaturization. And the writer, like the cartographer, must make careful decisions about every aspect of the map: from letters to words, sentences, and paragraphs, from chapters to sections and volumes. Literary cartography fascinates and guides the way that actual cartography does; that’s why we keep and carry stories in the same places we carry and keep maps: on our walls, in our pockets, and on our phones.’

01/21/14|Cory Booker Never Spoke for Newark Like Amiri Baraka Did|Jelani Cobb| The New Republic

An obituary charting simultaneously Baraka’s life and the life and politics of Newark, and a fascinating look into the movements and the history of Newark at the height of the civil rights movements. ‘To an extent forgotten by observers, Newark was a laboratory for the Black Power experiments that culminated in the modern era of black politics. In 1967, Baraka’s embryonic political activism became intertwined with the single event that cleaved the history, and for many even the name of the city into two distinct divisions. In the wake of the 1967 riots, the old Newark gave way to something the ascendent black power advocates called the New Ark’

01/18/14|Can Detroit’s Art Museum Be Saved?|Jed Perl|The New Republic

The essay examines the state of Detroit’s museum and makes a case for the place of the museum as an encyclopedic cultural archive of history intimately tied to the culture and spirit of the city, and further expounding that measure to the national as a whole. ‘What has been forgotten is that the health of our cultural life is one measure – and by no means an insignificant measure – of the health of our life as a nation.’

01/07/14| Lost in the Gallery – Industrial Complex | Holland Cotter | The New York Times

Cotter starts by making a key distinction between the Art industry and the art world in New York, proceeding to acknowledge the inequalities between the two. ‘But when rents get too high, or the economy fails, or art buying falls out of fashion, and the art industry decides to liquidate its overvalued assets and leave? Artists, the first and last stakeholders, will have themselves to fall back on. They’ll learn to organize and agitate for what they need, to let City Hall know, in no uncertain terms, that they’re here.’

01/18/14|No, Jane Austen Was Not a Game Theorist | William Deresiewicz | The New Republic

A scathing review of Michael Suk-Young Chwe’s Jane Austen, Game Theorist. Although the review starts with a look at Chwe’s book it progresses to examine the distinctions between science and art, although there are convincing arguments to be made for consilience. ‘There’s a reason that art and science are distinct. They don’t just work in different ways; they work on different things. Science addresses external reality, which lies outside our minds and makes itself available for objective observation. The arts address our experience of the world; they tell us what reality feels like.’


Please mail suggestions and links to readings we may have missed to

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This entry was posted on January 20, 2014 by in Friday Digs.
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