09 FEB 18 Culture Digest

Weekend Reading: Diamond Mountains, Curatorial Activism and Token Gestures

What to read this weekend: the symbolism of Korean landscape painting, the risks in curation’s activist mantle and politics as performance

in Culture Digest | 09 FEB 18

Jeong Seon, Mount Kumgang Viewed From Danbal Ridge (detail), 1711. Courtesy: National Museum of Korea, Metropolitan Museum of Art

  • A new exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art traces the influence of North Korea's legendary Mount Kumgang, ‘the Diamond Mountain’, on Korean landscape art from the 18th century to the present day. The mountains have always ‘constituted a thick tangle of natural beauty, historical legend and political symbolism’, writes Jason Farago.
  • After Manchester Art Gallery faced a backlash for removing John William Waterhouse’s painting Hylas and the Nymphs (1896) (the action was part of a Sonia Boyce project, designed to challenge the gallery’s ‘outdated and damaging stories’), Ellen Mara De Wachter looks at the risks entailed when curation takes up an activist mantle.
  • And from the frieze archive, Negar Azimi on the art of the token gesture: 'what is the good of engaged art – whether it takes the form of governmental critique or institutional critique or otherwise – when it is subsumed back into the system?’
  • 'That's the strange thing about fidelity; that ultimately it undoes what it seeks to represent.’ A brilliant bit of writing from Gareth Damian Martin on the influence of Caspar David Friedrich, video game remakes and the question of fidelity.
  • 'If I were going to assign the Infinite Essay to any living writer it would be to Zadie Smith, whose work, as it accumulates, is beginning to feel more and more like one long piece of writing that demonstrates how everything in the world is connected to everything else.’ Lauren Oyler on Smith’s new essay collection Feel Free.
  • And revisit this essay from 2013 by Whitney Phillips on the threads that run between online trolling humour and more mainstream culture: 'the primary difference between trolling and sensationalist linkbait’, she argues, 'is that the latter is supported by advertising revenue.’