The New Yorker – Jan.11, 2016

SISTERS IN LAW, by Katherine Zoepf

凯瑟琳把焦距对往沙特这一妇女权益的荒漠之地,讲述了几位正在为女性权益奔走的律师,以及她在这个国家所看见和听到的种种,并由此引发的思考。她的描述中穿插了很多在我们(“进步的”)外人看来会很有意思的现象:沙特对 Gender Mixing 限制很严,男性在公开场合不会提及自己女性亲属的名字,餐厅里有专门的 “family section”,供女性食客就餐,但是这种限制只发生在沙特人与沙特人之间。如果其中一方是外国人,那么就完全没有问题:“A Saudi woman may ride in an Uber car driven by a man from Pakistan, and a Saudi man may have his breakfast served by a housemaid from the Philippines.”

在强奸案件中,女性受害一方(的家人)选择缄默是再常见不过的事。“Parents, fearing ruined marriage prospects, chose silence, which meant that men who had raped girls as young as eight went unpunished, and might act again.” 有一个事件是一个女学生被她的哥哥侵犯,校长打电话给母亲,“And the mother said, ‘Yes, well, better that he do it to her than that he do it to a stranger.'”

2004年始,沙特开始允许向女生开设法律专业课程。“West wondered if a fresh contingent of female attorneys would champion women’s rights. But, of the dozens of females lawyers and law graduates I spoke with on a visit to Saudi Arabia in early November, only two would admit to any interest in expanding rights for Saudi women.” 在很多具体的法律实践上对女性权利的解放进展也十分缓慢,“a Saudi woman’s testimony in court is, with few exceptions, valued at half that of a man.” 还有一种称之为 guardianship 的体系,要求成年妇女在出国或者就医前得到“监护人”的许可,“In fact, the male relative with responsibility over a Saudi woman may be her own adolescent son.”

诚然,我们确实能看到越来越多学法律的女学生,但是学法律并不意味着将来从事相关的工作:“Many of them seemed to be studying law in the same spirit of intellectual curiosity that might lead an American college student to major in classics.”

在谈及问题根源和解决方案时,与凯瑟琳交流的这几位律师都提到,“individual Saudis and local traditions, not Saudi laws, were the sources of her struggles.” 因此,要想进步,教育,观念传播,意识觉醒才是根本。

THE MOGUL OF THE MIDDLE, by Tad Friend

Adam Fogelson,四十八岁,是好莱坞新晋制片公司 STX 娱乐的主席,这是一篇关于他的小传,从制片人的角度对电影业进行了番解码。这位不折不扣的“成功人士”,曾经平步青云时被 Universal 炒掉,文中充满了他对这个行业辛辣而犀利的见解。题图底下的文字就说,“If you ask, ‘Can we make something great once or twice a year that violates a rational business model?’ the answer is no!” 又说,“seventy-five per cent of a movie’s success is due to its marketing and marketability.” 又说,“When I mentioned a number of superb films that failed at the box office, and asked whether better marketing could have saved them, [I] wouldn’t have made them in the first place.”

STX 走的是和六大制片公司不同的模式,不同于只着眼于“大片”,STX 更青睐于中等规模成本的制作(2000万到8000万美元这个区间),他的策略是,“pick the right films, spend less to make them, spend just as much to market them, and win back audiences who’d forsworn the moviegoing habit.” 但是这类生意并不好做,传统的说法就是,“you get killed in the middle”,在这个行业里,有时就是花的更多更容易赚得来钱。现在,“STX’s original model was under stress.” “To get projects under way, Fogelson had to keep squeezing the definition of a movie star.”

文章中间浅谈了一下好莱坞的发展史(插一句,有人说 “Despite its current volatility, this is the most stable business in the history of United States”),从一年每一个制片厂发两百多部电影(而从不担心没有人去电影院看)的上世纪二三十年代,到如今所有制片公司才发行一共不到两百部电影(却每一部电影都要小心翼翼地去做市场营销),作者说,“Movie theatres are no longer where we go for stories about who we are. That’s become television’s job. We go to the movies now for the same reasons that Romans went to the Colosseum: to laugh, to scream, and to cheer. 有一位制片头头告诉作者,“Movies may not have gotten better over the years, but they’ve gotten more satisfying.” 他举了《克莱默夫妇》和《哈利波特》或《指环王》系列的例子,前者的确是部好电影,但是难以在全球都有受众,后两者虽然相对来说不那么“优秀”,但却“满意度”更高。

说到好莱坞再拿手不过的“系列电影”及其背后的 “franchise” 概念,一位导演说,“every single first meeting I have on a movie, in the past two years, is not about the movie itself but about the franchise it would be starting.” 弗格森自己也说,“Sequels have become a duty – a form of storytelling that, thanks to great television, audiences have grown accustomed to.”

THE CUSTODIANS, by Ben Lerner

艺术版块里这一期关注的是惠特尼美术馆作品(文物)保存部门(conservation department)的负责人 Carol Mancusi-Ungaro 在这个领域的经历及其看法。Carol 师从前耶鲁大学美术馆的 chief conservator, Andrew Petryn,而 Andrew 本人在上世纪八十年代也是很具争议的,现任馆长对他前任在位那段时期的描述就是 “a time of aggressive over-cleaning”。他们所做的事情,概括来说就是对“受损”画作的修复,但是这种修复行为并未得到所有人的认同。早在1848年,“反修复运动”的发起人 John Rushkin 就指出,“buildings and objects must be left to decline, even die — that the ‘great glory of a building … is in its Age.'” 同时期另一位发过建筑理论家则反对这种说法,他认为修复工作 “reestablish [the building] in a finished state, which may in fact never have actually existed at any given time.”

问题并没有那么简单。造成画作“受损”失去原样的原因其实是多方面的。首先是颜料本身,二战后的美国画家早已不像中世纪的画师那样深谙颜料的奥秘,用的多是 “cheap, mass-produced materials that weren’t intended to endure — at least, not across centuries.” 很多时候,画家自己也不介意(甚至乐于接受)自己的画作随时间而腐蚀,毕加索和布拉克就是其中的例子,“they would rather let their canvases deteriorate than have them varnished, which they felt would ruin the subtle texturing of the surfaces.” 还有的时候,你甚至很难说清这是否是画家自己的主观意愿:Rothko 的一位助手曾透露他在创作时,每天一早都要准备最“新鲜”的颜料,并在搅拌的过程里加入整个鸡蛋,但研究发现,正是这加进去的鸡蛋,使得他在1967年完成,1971年展出的一幅画作问世不久便开始变色和结出奇怪的晶体。到现在也没人能解释这究竟是画家有意而为,还是无心插柳,阴错阳差。

还是 Rothko,文章提到,很多评论家将其晚期作品描述成 “monochromatic dead ends, evidence of his despair.” 但 Carol 却并不认同,“[She] felt that the subtle contrasts between the plum-colored borders, which are painted with pigments dissolved in rabbit-skin glue, and the black expanses represented a more complex range of aesthetic and emotional concerns. ‘These paintings aren’t about darkness. They are about light — about reflectance.'” 作者也说,conservation 并不简简单单是清理和“去污”,更多时候它实际上是对作品的解读。

文章还通过在惠特尼展出的 Kline 的雕塑(3D打印机制作出来的)以及 Many Oldenburg 的 “Ice Bag Scale C” (顾名思义,以冰袋为原材料)等进一步讨论了艺术作品的原创性,可复制性和复制过程(从博物馆展出的角度)。这两件作品都指向了同一个命题:“what is the status of the ‘orginal’ when the artists hand wasn’t directly involved in the fabrication of the work?” 惠特尼的 Dana Miller 说,“Plenty of works in our collection involve a split between a file and an output … we have no ‘correct’ physical work to match new iterations against.” 作者进一步指出,“What is the medium? … I increasingly felt that Kline’s medium, rather than digital files or 3-D prints, is museum conservation itself … At a time when so many artists outsource fabrication … [and] In an era when many critics speak of the rise of curation as art, … conservation is deeply curatorial, as conservators choose which aspects of a work are presented and how.”

通篇的抽象和理论大道理之后,这篇文章的结尾非常精彩,读来很像看到《The Best of Youth》或《一一》末尾处时候的感觉。故直接摘抄最后三段:

“Recently, I’ve been walking around listening to Nina Simone’s version of “Who Knows Where the Time Goes.” The recording sounds particularly beautiful, because my headphones are staticky, a false patina that interacts well with the lyrics and the grain of Simone’s voice. (“I do not count the time / for who knows where the time goes?”) Everywhere I look, I see development that’s hard to differentiate from destruction: the proliferation of Chase Bank branches; the speakeasy storefronts bearing the commodified image of the Brooklyn that preceded the Brooklyn they’re replacing, as if gentrification were restoration. I have little right to lament, Ruskin-like, the passing of “the old New York”—I’m part of the gentrification it’s fashionable for gentrifiers to lament, and one New York is always passing into another anyway. Meanwhile, ISIS continues to make its horrifying video art; I watched that video of men in Mosul destroying statues with sledgehammers while my Q train idled on the Manhattan Bridge. Oxford and Harvard archeologists are distributing thousands of 3-D cameras in Middle Eastern conflict zones, hoping to capture images that will allow them to replicate crucial artifacts once they are destroyed. In Kline’s work, I discover (or at least I project) vulnerability as well as technophilia: rather than producing works that can be shattered or lost, he is sending blueprints into the future.

I wander through the Met, which will soon take over the Whitney’s old location on the Upper East Side. I walk among the ancient sculptures that we leave fragmented and paintless even though we could try to restore the vivid polychromy they originally possessed. We refuse to undertake such restoration, however, because it would devastate the image of antiquity we’ve inherited from the Renaissance. I find that inconsistency somehow touching; I don’t want these statues to look like the loudly painted figures of the miniature-golf courses of my youth, even if they did.

In my favorite nineteenth- and twentieth-century European-painting galleries, I see van Goghs (many of his paintings ruined, say some conservators, by wax lining) and Braques (many destroyed, supposedly, by varnish), and I wonder what to make of the fact that several of the defining aesthetic experiences of my life took place in front of canvases that were merely a “false description of the thing destroyed.” At the moment, I find it enlivening rather than depressing. Spending time among the replicators has helped me become aware of what it’s easy to acknowledge intellectually but more difficult to feel: that a piece of art is mortal; that it is the work of many hands, only some of which are coeval with the artist; that time is the medium of media; that one person’s damage is another’s patina; that the present’s notion of its past and future are changeable fictions; that a museum is at sea.”

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