The July/August 2010 issue of The Brooklyn Rail contains part II of the conversation between Robert Hullot-Kentor and Fabio Akcelrud Durão on the common good and the state of self-reflection within the U.S. (For those who missed it, part I was described briefly in this post.) Part II covers an equally weighty set of topics, including cost of higher education within the U.S. and the burden it imposes on graduates during bad economic times; the blindness of interest-based politics to the common good; the ways in which corporate activity shapes every aspect of our experience as individuals; and the question of what place politically committed art can or should have within our society.
In addition, The Rail’s current issue contains a new feature co-edited by Hullot-Kentor and publisher Phong Bui, titled “2010 Summer Reading List.” The semiannual series will ask various artists, writers, and intellectuals to suggest lists of five essential books. The selection criteria were up to the individual contributors, resulting in a very open-ended and diverse set of submissions. As the editors’ introduction states: “some contributed lists of five that must be read; some are ‘my’ books most of all; some are what one would perhaps never think to find without a few good clues.”
The Summer 2010 list incorporates recommendations from several contemporary philosophers, including an entry from VCS department chair Tom Huhn. Huhn’s list consists of five major landmarks of Western culture, including works by Rousseau and Freud, as well as Henry Francis Cary’s classic translation of Dante’s Inferno (which can be found online here with Gustave Dore’s iconic images, a few of which are also available in better quality at this site). The titles included deal with some of the most fundamental elements of the Western worldview, and are well worth a read, or a thorough re-read. (They’re also essential for the type of broader cultural analysis that sets the VCS department’s curriculum apart from other studio-based art programs.)
The participants in the 2010 Summer Reading List are too numerous to list here, but many of their contributions will interest artists and art students. Notable contributors include artists Alex Katz, David Salle, Rackstraw Downes, Paul Chan, Joanna Pousette-Dart, and Richard Serra; writers David Levi Strauss, Dore Ashton, Carol Becker, and Charlotte Mandell; and a wide selection of people from other fields, including musicologists, philosophers, literary critics, anthropologists, filmmakers, and historians.