filtered for nov 19 2019
moma, coffee houses, massive brand collabs, taylor lyrics.
1. bigger ≠ better
Via the very-much-worth-the-money The Browser, this in-depth review of the newly redesigned and reopened MoMA from The New York Review of Books, which argues that the museum’s architecture refelcts its goals (and success in achieving those goals) as an institution. And not for the better.
MoMA’s endorsement of unending growth is central to the advancement of corporate values that lie at the heart of the existential crisis facing not just it and countless other cultural institutions, but the planet itself. For more than two decades, MoMA has been in a perpetual state of aggrandizement to anticipate the imagined needs of the twenty-first century and future generations yet unborn.
I have to wonder how much of this is just nostalgia, and fist-shaking at all the new kids trampling on modern / contemporary art’s lawn. I am looking forward to experiencing their new curatorial approach; Jason Kottke was lucky enough to get a journalist’s preview, and has a great overview of the changes:
The art is…placed into much more of an historical context than before…the visitor gets more of a sense of what was going on in the world when these pieces were created and what societal happenings the artist may have been reacting to in creating their work.
But back to The New York Review of Books. I also loved this bit about how Roberta Smith’s “corrective campaign” about the Taniguchi design that was opened to the public in 2004.
The initial critical response to the Taniguchi design was for the most part positive, and indeed sometimes effusive, none more so than the preposterous assertion of The New York Times’s architecture critic, Nicolai Ouroussoff, that “it is one of the most exquisite works of architecture to rise in this city in at least a generation.” Perhaps to atone for this misjudgment, one of the Times’s senior art critics, Roberta Smith, embarked on a quiet but persistent corrective campaign and inserted acerbic asides about MoMA’s dreadful new architecture into her reviews of exhibitions there, which prompted a slow shift in opinion.
Roberta Smith should have won the Pulitzer.
2. intellectual input and output
Steven Johnson’s written a ton about this, but I loved the unpublished excerpt from Tim Wu’s book The Attention Merchants in Marker about the history of the coffee house and how it birthed modern media and society. (I’m writing this on an iPad in a bar on a Tuesday night, which is basically the same thing.)
The coffee house differed in being open to all classes, and from the outset, providing a place for both discussion and for solitary reading, learning, and thinking. In this way, the coffee house was arguably the first platform (outside the more restrictive universities and monasteries), for broad learning by the masses, and for intellectual input and output.
Taken out of context, this appears to be an overly broad use of the term “platform,” at least by the definition that we’re using in the year of our lord two thousand and nineteen, but Wu knows what he’s doing. What struck me about this graf (and the whole piece) is this notion of a “place for both discussion and for solitary reading, learning, and thinking….for intellectual input and output.”
3. use the force
The closest I am to being a professional marketer is that I am frequently (and delightedly!) in meetings with them, so I am nowhere near qualified to comment on things like this, BUT I have a slight obsession with brand collaborations. With fashion collabs the power dynamics are usually clear — design talent trades on their skill and name for distribution; the retail partner is looking for relevance and differentiated product.
But this United x Star Wars collaboration is…weird. Who is helping whom here? Does Disney really need that much more oomph? And does this feel anything but awkward for United?
Also, I get that everyone loves Star Wars, but the headline of their campaign is “Fly the Friendly Galaxy.” I haven’t done the math, but I’m pretty sure that if you tallied up all the battle scenes, the majority of x-wing resistance / rebellion craft were destroyed (along with their crew) at the hands of dark-side guided lasers or torpedoes or space cannons or whatever. And the last thing I want is my pilots closing their eyes and trusting the Force…especially if we’re flying Boeing planes. (Capital F for Force, because I’m still a fan.)
4. more like february
Have to admit that Vulture is right about John Mayer being right about Taylor Swift’s Lover. The line “we can leave the Christmas lights up ’til January” is just weird.
Taylor Swift, I’m begging you: Please make more daring decisions about what you do in your apartment. It can be anything you want. Prop up a spooky skeleton and just leave him there all the time. Let your friends eat pizza for breakfast. It’s okay. In fact, I’d “lover” it if you did. ;)
But the whole record is still fucking great. Don’t try to convince me otherwise.