The Walker Curates the News: 03.02.15

An ancient Assyrian statue at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad. Photo NPR.

An ancient Assyrian statue at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad. Photo: NPR

The art world has reacted with outrage at the destruction of ancient Assyrian sculptures by ISIS. “This mindless attack on great art, on history, and on human understanding constitutes a tragic assault not only on the Mosul Museum, but on our universal commitment to use art to unite people and promote human understanding,” said the Met’s Thomas Campbell in an email. “Such wanton brutality must stop, before all vestiges of the ancient world are obliterated.” Brian Boucher reports that all is not lost: some of the works smashed before the cameras were plaster replicas (the iron bars inside some works were a dead giveaway).

  • Meanwhile, in an act of defiance, Iraq’s national museum has officially reopened, twelve years after it was closed following the US-led invasion. Said Iraq’s antiquities minister, “The events in Mosul led us to speed up our work and we wanted to open it today as a response to what the gangs of [ISIS] did.”
  • Dubbed the “cinematic caliphate,” ISIS’s propaganda teams are becoming increasingly sophisticated, aesthetically and technologically, writes the Los Angeles Times’ Jeffrey Fleishman: “The videos have been referred to as ‘jihadi snuff films.’ In one Internet chat room, a writer compared the grisly scenes to the horror movies Saw and Hostel. The clips embody the fears and fascinations of our times, cutting across cultures with synchronized slaughter that arouses feelings of powerlessness and rage while exposing the difficulties the U.S. and other countries face in countering such arresting images.”
  • As our capabilities to see and be seen expand with new technologies, we become hyperaware of our privacy and the way we regulate our self-image. ArtFCity looks at the New Museum’s third Triennial, Surround Audience, a show that explores the metaphors for subjecthood that come with this shift.
  • By the time the Havana Biennial opens May 22, Tania Bruguera “may still be held on the island facing trumped-up criminal charges.” It could “prove a PR disaster,” writes Christian Viveros-Fauné, for a biennial that touts “community engagement” as a key theme.
  • Artistic freedom took a hit worldwide last year, according to statistics compiled by FreeMuse. It reports a 19 percent rise in confirmed violations against free artistic expression—from censorship and artist travel bans to outright violence, including three murders, against artists.
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