Months into the pandemic, barreling toward the presidential election, it’s difficult to know what we should be viewing or even trusting. The following Instagram accounts offer what I consider credible information in a world full of upheaval and unrest. What to read? What to question? What to believe? Here are some thoughts.
Art and design are often synonymous — many art museums have design departments — but when it comes to the ethics, challenges and achievements of design, the British critic and author Alice Rawsthorn is virtually unparalleled. Every week, Ms. Rawsthorn devotes her feed to a personage or problem. Recent ones include the Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx and the American midcentury duo Charles and Ray Eames. Her ongoing “Design in a Pandemic” series is particularly timely. One post showcased light, portable beds made from recycled materials designed during the lockdown in India by Vikram Dhawan and his brother, who run a cardboard factory in Rajasthan, India. Another highlighted police helmets in the Indian city of Chennai, designed by the artist Gowtham, which look like a microscopic image of the coronavirus. Countering catastrophe with human ingenuity and occasional humor, Ms. Rawsthorn helps you make sense of the environment around you.
Museums around the world have come under fire as protests challenging discrimination and oppression have erupted. Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand has been ahead of the curve in trying to address the history of slavery and colonialism in Brazil and the way this manifests itself in survey art collections. The museum has one of the most innovative ways of displaying art that was designed by the architect Lino Bo Bardi. Paintings rest on “easels” suspended in glass on concrete bases, and this Instagram account shows installations in the galleries in which European old masters sit alongside Indigenous artists. A recent post highlighted a richly patterned 18th-century altarpiece of the Virgin of Copacabana, created in what is today Bolivia and combining Christian and Andean beliefs. Another showed the brightly colored geometric abstraction of the modern painter Rubem Valentim, which fuses European abstraction with Afro-Brazilian motifs. (If you can’t read the Portuguese captions, just hit the “translate” button at the bottom of each post.)
What to read? And how to read? Hopscotch Reading Room, located in a complex of art galleries and studios in Berlin, was started by Siddhartha Lokanandi, who worked for the publisher Verso in New York. The bookshop takes its name from the Argentine author Julio Cortázar’s experimental novel “Hopscotch” (1966), which had a “table of instructions” telling readers that they could skip around and read the novel in a nonlinear fashion. Hopscotch Reading Room similarly tries to disrupt “linear” thinking, describing itself as “a bookshop focusing on Non-Western & Diasporic perspectives.” Some recent offerings include “Evidentiary Bodies — Nudewalk” (2018), the handmade score created by Barbara Hammer and Norman Scott Johnson for the closing event at Ms. Hammer’s exhibition at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York. Another Hopscotch post featured in the book “What is Islamic Art? Between Religion and Perception” (2019), by Wendy M.K. Shaw, which explores the relationship of the arts to the Quran, Hadith, Sufism, ancient philosophy and poetry — but also, ambitiously, uses Islamic art as a model for decolonizing global art history.
Liz at Large / Liz Montague
Comedians have long been telling us that the best way to change a person’s mind (or politics) is through laughter. Liz Montague’s simple, wry cartoons do this with a gentle humor that shows our human foibles and frustrations, but from the perspective of a Black woman living through a period of unrest and upheaval. One cartoon shows a man and a woman standing in a field with the woman, holding a pair of binoculars, saying, “Looks like progress, but it’s too soon to tell.” Another depicts two women preparing for a protest (one of them is creating a “Black Lives Matter” poster) and a ringing smartphone. “Just ignore it,” one of them says, “my white friends keep checking in on me because they think racism is new.” Funny and wince-worthy.
Visibility, recognition and inclusion are some of the goals of both politicians and protesters at the moment. These can also be achieved through art, as Project 562 shows. Initiated by the photographer Matika Wilbur, a member of the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes of the State of Washington, the project aims to photograph Native Americans from 562 federally recognized tribal nations. The results are majestic, often moving and beautiful portraits, like one of Wilson Mungnak Hoogendorn and Oilver Tusagvik, Inupiaq brothers in their early 20s from Nome, Alaska, who were the first to summit Mount Denali in the 2019 climbing season. Another exceptional post features Sage Chanell, an Absentee Shawnee, Ponca, Lakota Sioux, and Otoe performer who won Miss International Two Spirit competitions a few years ago. Sage Chanell, a transgender woman, recounts on Instagram a grandfather saying it was OK if she didn’t remember the tribal songs meant for boys. “Well, maybe they’re not meant for you to remember,” Grandpa said.