- Over the course of the “Little Ice Age” that befell Europe some centuries back, the River Thames froze twenty-three times—such an unlikely occurrence that people had no choice but to party on the ice. These “frost fairs” often lasted for days; people set up tents and printers commemorated the occasion by selling letterpressed sheets of souvenir paper. “The men who dragged their presses onto the ice and produced these keepsakes were a competitive lot, each trying to offer the most enticing product … Promiscuity and sexual license were constitutive elements of the frost fair … Some of the tents set up on the ice were brothels.”
- Five booksellers and publishers have gone missing in Hong Kong, and their disappearance may be linked to a contentious manuscript about China’s president. “The book’s title was being debated by the publisher before the abductions … The two choices were: The Lovers of Xi Jinping or Xi Jinping and His Six Women … It is unclear whether the book alleges Xi had an extramarital affair. As part of his crackdown on corruption since he took office in 2012, Xi has led an anti-corruption campaign that made adultery grounds for banishment from the Communist Party.”
- Cognitive behavioral therapy long ago overtook psychoanalysis as the dominant form of therapy—and it had results to back up this dominance. In more recent studies, though, the talking cure has proven increasingly effective. Is it time to bring Freud back into the fold? “In contrast to the meandering conversations of psychoanalysis, a typical CBT exercise might involve filling out a flowchart to identify the self-critical ‘automatic thoughts’ that occur whenever you face a setback … Yet rumblings of dissent from the vanquished psychoanalytic old guard have never quite gone away. At their core is a fundamental disagreement about human nature—about why we suffer, and how, if ever, we can hope to find peace of mind … CBT doesn’t exactly claim that happiness is easy, but it does imply that it’s relatively simple: your distress is caused by your irrational beliefs, and it’s within your power to seize hold of those beliefs and change them. Psychoanalysts contend that things are much more complicated. For one thing, psychological pain needs first not to be eliminated, but understood. From this perspective, depression is less like a tumor and more like a stabbing pain in your abdomen: it’s telling you something, and you need to find out what.”
- Many of us enjoy a good walk. I myself embarked on a walk this very morning, and plan to walk more throughout the day. But I’ll probably never walk as much, or as far, as Werner Herzog, whose book Of Walking in Ice tells of his journey on foot from Munich to Paris in 1974. “‘Walking on foot brings you down to the very stark, naked core of existence,’ Herzog told a Film Comment interviewer in 1979, a year after Of Walking in Ice was first published in Germany. ‘We travel too much in airplanes and cars. It’s an existential quality that we are losing. It’s almost like a credo of religion that we should walk.’ Over the course of many years, and in countless different interviews, Herzog has spoken of his filmmaking—and of walking—in vaguely spiritual, even divine terms (‘It’s like a grace, like a gift of God that has fallen into my lap’).”
- In which Ben Lerner pays a visit to the new Whitney’s conservation department: “For many modern and contemporary artists, ephemerality is part of the point. Dieter Roth, to take just one example, didn’t cover his canvases with yogurt for the sake of durability; they were built to biodegrade. Picasso and Braque told friends that they would rather let their canvases deteriorate than have them varnished … In the absence of explicit and complete instructions—that is, most of the time—conservation is fundamentally an interpretive act … The work of a conservator can re-sacralize the original art object … Conservation can help produce—not just protect—the aura of the original.”
The Whitney Biennial has generated any number of reviews—the more comprehensive ones will tell you about the distinguished curators, the three “biennials within a biennial,” the ambient sound installations.
So far, I have not read anything about the Apple.
On a chilly evening earlier this week, I attended a preview with a friend. It was, as others have recounted, crowded. “I thought you were the artist,” said a woman as I studied one of the pieces, a voluptuous ceramic by Alma Allen. “Because of the way you’re dressed, I mean.”
“Thank you,” I said. Alma Allen is a man.
By the door, a young woman was handing out canvas bags. “Just the ladies,” she said as we exited.
I waited until I was home to open my gift bag. Inside was a black box. “BCBGMAXAZRIA + WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART,” said one side of the box. Another side said “Celebrating 25 Years of Style.” A third said, “25th Anniversary Chrome Apple.” And the fourth featured text:
This chrome apple epitomizes the eternal relationship between fashion and art. We present this gift to you in celebration of BCBGMAXAZRIA’s 25th anniversary and the 2014 Whitney Biennial Sponsored by BCBGMAXAZRIA.