“Vladimir Putin’s Chernobyl”
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal
News to most but a shock to none, reports this past week of a fatal explosion at a nuclear site in Sarov, Russia, have reminded us once again of the tenuous thread by which we dangle in the post–Cold War era. Dishonesty in nuclear development is not a new story. The United States has had its own instances, of course, in the Marshall Islands and elsewhere. Readers of the forthcoming September issue will revisit, in an essay by Nicola Shulman, the absurd idiosyncrasies of Chernobyl itself. But, somehow, nearly thirty years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the only real surprise is how little progress the West has made in establishing a healthy and forthright relationship with Russia.
“San Francisco School Board Votes to Hide, but Not Destroy, Disputed Murals”
Carol Pogash, The New York Times
“If the murals depicted the Holocaust,” Mark Sanchez argued, “they wouldn’t be in a public school.” Only, they don’t—one of the finer points that Sanchez and a majority of his peers on the San Francisco Board of Education seemed to overlook in their 4–3 vote to cover the artwork this past week. Titled The Life of Washington, the series of thirteen New Deal–era frescoes in the halls of George Washington High School depict the history of this country and largely center on the school’s namesake. Apoplectic Bay Area denizens like Sanchez have called for their outright destruction, on account of the allegedly racist scenes depicted: in particular, Washington with his slaves at Mt. Vernon, Washington walking past a dead Native American, and a Native American with a scalp hanging from his waist. The controversial removal of Confederate statues comes to mind—that is, until you dig a little deeper. As it turns out, the artist who painted the murals, Victor Arnautoff, was a Russian immigrant and avowed Communist, and he intended the frescoes as criticism of the violence and discrimination he saw in America’s past. Which, like the border crisis, and anything else that many on the left find objectionable, is now to be equated with the Holocaust. And any rendering thereof expunged from the public record. It should be noted that the board did make a concession in deciding to cover, and not destroy, the murals—perhaps in the hope that someone with a little more gumption might come after them and, maybe, clean up their mess.
“Thirty Years Ago, Ai Weiwei Was an Extra . . .”
Taylor Dafoe, Artnet
Love him or hate him, you have to give Ai Weiwei credit: while contemporary American art megastars tend to wind up as opulent kitsch-mongers like Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst, Weiwei remains committed to his notion of art as a means for political reform in China and elsewhere, and to seeking new media by which to achieve that end. In the light of the pro-democratic, anti-statist protests that have embroiled Hong Kong for the last few months, he recently announced that he’ll be dipping his toes into a new arena when he designs and directs a production of Puccini’s Turandot in Rome. Re-dipping, rather—as it turns out, Weiwei worked as an extra in a production of the same opera at the Metropolitan some thirty years ago. “I would never have accepted if it had not been Turandot,” he explained. “I have never forgotten [that experience] at the Met with my brother. I did it to maintain my studies, the work was culturally very far from my interests.” The opera, set in China, should provide occasion for plenty of commentary by Weiwei, his supporters, and his critics alike.