Category Archives: Arts & Culture

Leonard Cohen’s Art of Losing

By Oksana Maksymchuk

In a 1959 letter to Canadian publisher Jack McClellan, a 25-year old Leonard Cohen characterized his audience as “inner-directed adolescents, lovers in all degrees of anguish, disappointed Platonists, pornography-peepers, hair-handed monks and Popists, French-Canadian intellectuals, unpublished writers, curious musicians etc., all that holy following of my Art.” After he turned to songwriting and the circle of his admirers grew ever wider, the description remained surprisingly accurate. What bonds the groups on Cohen’s list is the sense of striving, an underlying — and mostly inarticulate — need. The 1960s, when Cohen emerged, was, after all, a moment for movements, and Cohen’s witty catalog suggested that even the misfits — scattered in their idiosyncratic pursuits — would have a movement of their own. Continue reading

Music Disownership in the Streaming Economy

By Thomas Klepacz

On January 9th, Spotify found itself in the public eye of an atypical arena. The Swedish music streaming company — whose public persona typically consists of lime-green odes to U2, Rascal Flatts, and gingerbread emulations of prominent rappers — engaged in greater Twitter-political-discourse by proposing a tongue-in-cheek offer to Barack Obama. As Daniel Ek, the founder and CEO of the company tweeted, “Hey @BarackObama, I heard you were interested in a role at Spotify. Have you seen this one?” Continue reading

The Selfie and the Monument: Shahak Shapira’s YOLOCAUST

By Jason Francisco

In mid-January, Israeli satirist Shahak Shapira’s project “YOLOCAUST” shivered across social media. Shapira mined Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, and Grindr to collect selfies taken at Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which he presents along with their original hashtags and “likes.” When the viewer mouses over the pictures, a black-and-white image appears in which the Memorial itself gives way to a historical photograph from the Holocaust, such that the selfie-takers appear as figures in the landscape of genocide to which the Memorial refers. The title refers to YOLO, an acronym popularized by the rapper Drake and common among millennials and centennials, meaning “You Only Live Once” — words Shapira imbues with sarcasm with regard to the selfie-takers at the Memorial, but which are perverse with regard to the victims of the Holocaust. Shapira informs his audience that people can have their picture removed from his site by sending an email to “undouche.me@yolocaust.de.” Continue reading

Elegy as Ecstasy: Rereading Motherwell

By Dean Rader

“a word is elegy to what it signifies”Robert Hass

The first poem of mine to be accepted for publication in a national magazine was about Robert Motherwell. It bears the dizzyingly innovative but not misleading title Motherwell. It was (and is) an homage to his spectacular series of Elegies to the Spanish Republic, completed between 1957 and 1990. That Motherwell is the subject of a poem is not surprising since the main aesthetic concept for the Elegies finds its roots in poetry. Motherwell’s artistic guide was the French Symbolist poet Stephan Mallarmé, who urged artists “to paint, not the thing, but the effect it provides.” That advice is highly symbolic and highly evocative in that it foregrounds the poetic over the literal. Continue reading

Alec Baldwin, James Baldwin, and Apocalyptic Exceptionalism

By Matt Seybold

Ratings for Saturday Night Live steadily declined for four consecutive seasons, starting in 2011, as Lorne Michaels struggled uncharacteristically to cultivate a new crop of stars. In the fall of 2015, the overhauled cast began to rally around Kate McKinnon, particularly her portrayal of Hillary Clinton. SNL’s current season is on pace to be its highest-rated since, perhaps not coincidentally, the election of Barack Obama. Among the most viral videos the revitalized show has generated is “Hillary Actually,” which aired during the final episode of 2016. Parodying a famous scene from the romantic comedy Love Actually, the sketch features McKinnon, as Clinton, using cue cards to coyly communicate with members of the Electoral College. McKinnon ventriloquizes efforts to persuade electors to abandon President-Elect Trump and, as one of the cards reads, “just vote for literally anyone else.” One could interpret the scene as mocking increasingly desperate and delusional public figures who couldn’t seem to come to terms with the reality of Trump’s impending presidency. But it isn’t satire exactly. The cue cards, though witty, actually make a cogent and compelling argument for faithless electors, complete with bullet points like “2. He’s already provoked the Chinese,” “6. He knew Russia was involved in hacking the election,” “11. His Vice President believes in conversion therapy,” “12. More than a dozen women have accused him of sexual assault,” and “15. He doesn’t know how the government works.” Continue reading