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Saturday, May 16, 2020
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Suggestions for your senses,
every Saturday at 9 a.m.
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Good morning.

This week, we think deeply about the earth (and trees!) with Emergence Magazine, weave our way through the Basketclub Instagram account, pay a virtual visit to Vitsœ’s in-house chef Will Leigh, speak with curator Helen Molesworth about the Getty Museum’s new Recording Artists podcast, and ease our minds by burning breu.

On our At a Distance podcast, we talk with MoMA architecture and design curator Paola Antonelli, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Randy Komisar, management consultant Christian Madsbjerg, and architecture critic Sarah Williams Goldhagen.

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See
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Worldly Impressions
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Courtesy Emergence Magazine/Forrest Gander and Katie Holten
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At a time when the constant stream of updates on the Covid-19 crisis feels all-consuming, we’re finding solace in media outlets that offer a wider lens on our relationship to nature and our place within it. Currently topping our list of reads: the excellent online quarterly Emergence Magazine, which covers a wide range of topics focused around ecology, culture, and spirituality. A project of the Kalliopeia Foundation, a nonprofit based in Northern California, and creatively overseen by filmmaker Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, Emergence offers a mix of op-eds, essays, photo essays, and multimedia stories that bring the vibe and holistic kind of thinking embodied by Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog into the present day. 

Each issue examines a broad theme, such as “Wildness,” “Technology,” “Language,” “Food,” and, most recently, “Trees.” Featured in the latest issue are an interview with Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Richard Powers, an essay by biologist David G. Haskell on the aromas of trees, poetry by Brenda Hillman, and even a VR film about a 400-year-old Japanese white pine bonsai that survived the Hiroshima bombing. During the pandemic, Emergence has also started producing a series of online-only stories about emerging themes, including an op-ed by New Zealand journalist David Farrier on the significance of animal paths and a photo essay by Aletheia Casey featuring pictures of the recent Australian wildfires. Emergence produces the kind of contextual, long-view content we sorely need more of right now. It offers a deep, immersive dive into nature that, short of taking a hike, is keeping us present and fascinated with the beauty and interconnectivity of the world outside.

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Touch
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Basking in Baskets
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Courtesy Basketclub/Christopher Specce
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After a string of announcements from the organizers of Milan’s Salone del Mobile that the largest annual event for the design industry would be definitely happening in April, then that it was postponed two months to June, and then that it was finally, officially, canceled for 2020, many furniture and interior designers suddenly found their busiest, highest-stress season of launches and deadlines turned upside down. Toronto-based product designer Jamie Wolfond, who made a name early in his career for his pleasing, utilitarian designs as the founder of Good Thing, chooses to see this strange period of prolonged isolation and pause as a chance for “some inward focus time, just working on some kind of iterative process and following it,” he says. “That’s something we always try to do, but it’s always cut short by a deadline.” Over a Google Hangout one recent afternoon, as he fiddled with a tangle of colorful packing straps, Wolfond got to telling us about his latest point of obsession: basket weaving (yes, you heard us right). 

In a creative quarantine twist, he teamed up with Adrianus Kundert, a Rotterdam-based designer whom he befriended on Instagram, and gathered a group of friends to launch @_basketclub_. The rules of Basketclub are simple: design one basket per week, in response to a simple brief in the form of a randomly chosen emoji. Loosely addressing the first five themes (🍊, 🐈, 🥖, 🏀, 🦜), the basket-weaving creations to date are hardly of the underwater variety, mind you, with an impressive range of styles, complexity, patterns, and materials, each made by contemporary talents, including Bertjan Pot, Studio Gorm, Shijeki Fujishiro, SCMP, and others, who’ve gotten us excited about the possibilities of this overlooked, age-old craft. Seems we’re not the only ones: Now five weeks in, the group has attracted a sizable following of online fans who, too, would like to be part of the club. While initially kept to a select few in order to stay accountable and motivated enough to complete the weekly exercise, Wolfond says, the gang is opening up the prompt for crowdsourced submissions in its sixth and final week with the following theme: ✉️. So go on now, and get weaving.

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Taste
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Kitchen Quintessential
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Photo: Dirk Lindner
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As the in-house chef for Vitsœ—the midcentury furniture manufacturer that’s been producing Dieter Rams designs since 1959—Will Leigh is a fixture who keeps everyone at the British company happily fed, preparing daily breakfast, tea, and lunch for staff from a kitchen outfitted, naturally, in its famous 606 modular shelving. Though much of the Vitsœ team has been working remotely these past several weeks, Leigh, along with a dozen or so essential workers, continues to report to work at the headquarters and production facility in Royal Leamington Spa. Here, Leigh tells us what it’s been like to transition from years of cooking at restaurants to working for a design company, and what’s on his menu this spring and summer.

“I cook for everybody every day. I make breakfast at half-seven, we have a tea break at ten, and then we have lunch at a quarter to one. Just by the process of having me in the building, it means that everyone can all sit down together and take a quick break together. There’s no designated executive table, no workshop team table, or dispatch team table; everybody sits down and has lunch together. We have team-building everyday. It’s built into the building, into the ethos of the company, and normally—when it’s not Covid-19—we sit down at communal tables. Now, we seat four at a table that’s made for sixteen. 

I’ve worked in restaurants all my life. I’ve never worked at an office, I’ve never worked in a factory, I’ve never worked anywhere else before this, so I’m quite used to having a daily family meal cooked by a chef. But it’s a nice perk to have, and thanks to the generosity of my bosses, it’s all here and laid on by them—nobody’s buying anything from me.

A lot of people who can are working from home, and we were fairly well set up for remote working. All of our planners are still working, our factories are open; we’re still making and dispatching. Right now, we have about seventeen people here on site, which, in a building the size of two football pitches, is alright—we can cope with social distancing. I’ve actually stopped the breakfasts, and tea break is again a very distant affair. 

I think we’re going to be stuck with Covid-19 for quite a while, so we just need to figure out how to make this normal. That said, spring has officially sprung here. We’ve had wild garlic, we’ve had three kinds of leeks, I’ve had nettle tops, we’ve got the first of the English asparagus. Unfortunately, because of the nature of this all, we’re all missing out on fresh fish, because it’s almost impossible for fishermen to socially distance on a fishing boat, so I really am missing the spring cods and hake, things like that. But the fruit and veg side has been fantastic. The peas in my backyard garden have started to grow and are sprouting, my beans are starting to climb—this is the time when it’s really easy to fall in love with cooking, and especially vegetarian and vegan cooking. If you can just eat fresh peas, fresh asparagus, and purple sprouting broccoli, wild garlic and olive oil, I’d say you’re doing pretty well.”

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Hear
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Audio Arts
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Courtesy J. Paul Getty Trust/Alexander Liberman
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Helen Molesworth, the longtime art curator behind major shows such as “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933–1957” and “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry,” has leapt headfirst into audio as the host of “Radical Women,” the first season of the Getty Museum’s Recording Artists podcast. Here, we chat with her about the trailblazing female artists featured in the series.

You’ve organized countless museum exhibitions over the years, but this podcast is your first. How has it been to work in the audio space?

I’ve really enjoyed it. One of the things I really liked about museum work was trying to figure out how to tell these big, messy art historical stories in three dimensions, and the podcast space is another interesting place to tell a messy story. It’s kind of built for it, in a way, because you can have so many different voices that can get layered and complicate, contradict, cohere, and not cohere in different ways. If the museum space is public, the podcast space is really intimate: There’s something about someone telling you a story directly in your ear. It’s not something you do with other people, for the most part. There were inherent challenges in trying to figure out how to tell stories about the visual, without any visuals present—and I liked all of those challenges. 

Each of the six episodes of “Radical Women” combines raw archival footage that the Getty had just digitized, layered with new takes from artists and experts today. Could you tell us more about this collection of tapes, and the process of putting it all together?

The Getty approached me because they had the archives of Cindy Nemser and Barbara Rose, who are two very different personalities and intellects, but both of them had reel-to-reel tape recorders in New York in the sixties and seventies. The Getty asked if I wanted to do a project about Nemser and Rose, and that wasn’t where the interest lay for me as much—I’m more oriented around artists than I am critics, and so we decided to do one artist per episode. I didn’t want it to be didactic, with me as the only interlocutor, so trying to make it conversation-based seemed like the way to really pull that off, and have it not just be interesting because it’s archival, but because it can do some work in the present.

To what degree do you feel these tapes are a window into creative life for American women in the sixties and seventies?

It’s complicated by the fact that each of the artists are all at very different stages of their own working lives. By the 1970s, Alice Neel is in her seventies, Lee Krasner is in her late fifties, early sixties, and Eva Hesse is still quite young. When feminism emerges, it doesn’t emerge the same for all women at the same time. And I should note that the Yoko Ono interview is an outlier—that one comes from 1990. I don’t think she could have been interviewed [in the same way and time] in this case, because she was too “hot,” so to speak, too connected to Lennon, and the art world could never have seen her as a full protagonist in the 1970s—it still had its blinkers on about who was considered an artist, and what constituted “real art.” 

But I do think that all of the audio does lay bare, on some sliding scale from implicit to explicit, the extraordinary pressures that women who wanted to make art and be considered serious artists were under—and how little room there was, in fact, for them to move, how they were still laboring under very conventional ideals of the wife, of motherhood. No one wants to deal with this, but it was a kind of second-class citizenship, that their work didn’t count as much as the work of other people, who were men. I think all of the audio gets it out in some way or another.

Anything you were especially surprised to uncover, and that has stayed with you?

In terms of surprises, there were just so many. I realized I had done all this work over the years on Eva Hesse, and I’d never heard her voice. It’s something that never occurred to me. But then, hearing the timbre of her voice really shook me. There’s something about the sultriness of it. She spoke so low and had such a strong New York accent. It took me days to go back and listen again, just because I wasn’t expecting it. And she’s someone whose work I know very well, and I knew lots of quotes I’d read from that interview, as cleaned up by [Cindy] Nemser. 

I’m still not even really sure what it was that shook me so much, because of course I could say all the same things about Krasner, who has a deeply affecting voice—I mean, it’s like Barbara Stanwyck, it’s just incredible—but it didn’t throw me for the psychological loop that Hesse threw me for. That made me realize that our version of history is always so tidied up and neat, and that we’ve all left out the voice—the timbre, the embodiment of what someone sounds like, the uniqueness of that charge, in someone as beloved as Hesse.

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Smell
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Amazon Prime
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Courtesy Costa Brazil
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Breu resin, a shiny, white sap extracted from the almécega tree found in the Amazon rain forests, as well as from various regions throughout Brazil and South America, has been harvested and treasured for thousands of years by local indigenous cultures, used in healing rituals and sacred ceremonies. The aromatic Breuzinho is used to enhance focus and attain peace of mind, and is scientifically shown to have various medicinal properties as an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, antioxidant, and analgesic, to name a few uses. And this is to say nothing of its incredible woodsy scent, redolent of earthy soil and crushed leaves. These days, you can find breu incense from the Brooklyn-based company Incausa, in stick form, coated in resin and sprinkled with chips of palo santo; as well as in its more natural, raw form, as a hunk of solid oleoresin from Costa Brazil, fashion designer Francisco Costa’s beauty brand, which pairs it with a ceramic tray. To enjoy the aroma, simply light the resin stone, and let it gently burn and smolder. And remember: Breathe.

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Until next week...

Today’s email was written by Aileen Kwun.

Editor: Spencer Bailey
Creative Director: Andrew Zuckerman
Producer: Mike Lala
Copy Editor: Mimi Hannon

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