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Photo: Morgan Bible, 13th century, via Wikimedia.
In this meme, @artmemescentral captions the art thus: “When I’m drunk and try to take off a turtleneck.”

There’s something entertaining happening on Instagram lately. A goofy look at the art of the Middle Ages.

At Hyperallergic, Alicia Eler writes, “Medieval imagery wasn’t meant to be funny when it was made hundreds of years ago, but all over Instagram it has been remixed, captioned, and somehow reads as peak hilarious — depending on your sense of humor.

“One evening while wasting time on the addictive social media platform, I came across a meme of a medieval battle scene; on the right, a horse was giving the sword-wielding dude some serious side-eye,” she writes.

A perfect caption made her laugh “maniacally, posting it to my Instagram story and sending it to all my close friends. How could this seemingly arcane medieval imagery, previously confined to an art museum or, perhaps, a European crypt, feel so meme-able? …

“ ‘It’s funny for the same reason that Black American Vernacular English is so sticky — because it references a level of servitude that we don’t want to admit,’ said artist Kenya (Robinson), whose work often explores privilege, consumerism, and perceptions of gender, race, and ability. She noted that the text is written in Black American Vernacular English, also known as the language of social media. …

“That’s the text. But what about the image and the side-eye horse? It actually portrays the ‘Captivity of Jeholachin King of Israel, which isn’t particularly funny. Babylonians destroy the Temple of Jerusalem, then lead the Jews into captivity. (As a Jewish person, this makes the meme feel very unfunny, and more like a story my grandma, or bubbe as we say, might have told over a holiday dinner.) … 

“But the fact that the image suddenly appears hilarious in this remixed context struck me. …

“ ‘There’s something about the surprise of the medieval,’ said Sonja Drimmer, a scholar of medieval European art, and associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. ‘One of the conceptions about the European Middle Ages has to do with blind piety, prudishness, but when people see imagery that defies that, the disjunction leads to laughter.’ …

“ ‘I think there is something about Western medieval art that seems like a safe target … some of the memes — like the side-eye horse, if it were sub-Saharan Africa — you could imagine meme-ifying it, and then imagine it becoming deeply problematic very quickly,’ said Erik Inglis, professor of Medieval art history at Oberlin College. ‘I think with the very white faces of Western medieval art, it seems innocent. We are pretty willing to condescend to the Middle Ages, [which is] not fraught as it is to condescend to other ages.’

“Most of the medieval art history memes come from broader art meme accounts, such as @artmemescentral or @classical_art_memes_official, though there are some discontinued accounts that focus only on medieval imagery. …

“ ‘Medieval imagery is so phone-friendly,’ explained Cem A., an artist and curator who runs the popular art meme page @freeze_magazine (no association with Frieze magazine), and curatorial assistant at Documenta 15.

” ‘For me, its style is more simplified, representational, and cartoonish than our classical understanding of painting. Figures in these images usually have exaggerated (and therefore easier to grasp) relationships onto which you can build a meme. Its aesthetics works better on the compact screens of smartphones.’

“At the same time, medieval imagery isn’t all just easy fodder for funny memes. It can ‘be racist and quite terrible, and ground zero for white supremacy, said Drimmer. 

“The mob that stormed the United States Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, carried … symbols associated with the Crusades. The far Right’s use of medieval iconography gained steam after the September 11 attacks, with white supremacists picturing themselves as ‘modern Christian warriors fighting to preserve the idea of America as a white, Christian nation,’ according to a report in Teen Vogue

“This is an even more troubling connection for academics and those who study the era, but also speaks to the layers upon layers of racialized remix culture that make up the ever-pervasive American visual pop culture that keeps on spreading. There’s also an impulse to turn almost anything into a meme these days.

“ ‘The funny thing about retroactively searching through history to identify memes is that you start to see memes where they might never have existed before,’ noted Daniel Shinbaum, a Berlin-based cultural critic and memes researcher. ‘Almost anything can start to look like a meme.’ ”

More at Hyperallergic, here. No firewall.

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Photo: Lin & Jirsa Photography.
An example of India wedding choreography as shown at Maharini Weddings.

This is a fun story about the way entertainment has taken over weddings. Although our own family’s weddings have included Swedish customs (e.g. when the bride makes a trip to the ladies room, all the woman go kiss the groom) and Egyptian customs (e.g. a belly dancer with lighted candles in her hair), some families in the southern part of India are really going beyond the beyond. Mujib Mashal and Suhasini Raj reported the story for the New York Times.

“Weddings in India’s south, particularly in the coastal state of Kerala, have transformed into a festival of color — and dance, lots of dance.

“Unlike those in the north, weddings in the south used to be subdued affairs centered on a feast that, at best, would occasionally include a live band. Now, the ceremonies draw on the latest entertainment from across the country, including the breathtakingly fast rhythms of Tamil and Telugu dance music, and the colorful costumes and drumbeats of Punjab.

“Dr. Sheha Pfizer’s wedding had something extra. …The ceremonies in Kerala have become so colorful that they are the talk of the town and viral discussions online. There is the favorite Punjabi dhol drumming, but also troupes that perform Egyptian, Mexican and Sufi dances — all with lavish outfits. People hire water drummers, pole dancers and acrobats.

“About 60 percent to 70 percent of the weddings in Kerala now include choreographed dances, said Mayjohn P.J., a former wedding singer who started a wedding management agency, Melodia, a decade ago.

“Mr. P.J. has no doubt about what has fueled the transformation: social media. Couples find inspiration for their weddings on Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest, before posting their own ceremonies onto the same platforms.

“Wedding planners, part of an industry that brings in tens of billions of dollars every year in India, offer video and photo packages that are tailored to get clicks. The packages, usually costing $2,000 to $5,000, include an ‘Instagram teaser’ and the ‘wedding highlight,’ essentially your own five- to seven-minute blockbuster film.

“The most ambitious ones incorporate the narrative tricks of Indian soap operas for emotional effect, and deploy the latest technology — steady cams, drones and lots of musical special effects — to create the climax of a techno concert. …

The lingering pandemic has also brought changes to weddings in India’s south, where the peak season runs from December to February.

“Health regulations limit capacity to 200 people (as opposed to as many as five times that in pre-Covid times). So families have turned them into multiday affairs of smaller ceremonies — inviting a different set of guests for each so that everyone feels part of the celebration.

“Perhaps the busiest man during the wedding season is the choreographer Manas Prem.

“He has been commissioned to choreograph 500 wedding routines in the coming months. Most of them are small, and Covid has forced much of the training online.

“His frequent challenge is older relatives who get cold feet when they see the audience. ‘They get shy and they don’t want to do it,’ Mr. Prem said. ‘Then I have to fill the gaps.’

“Both Dr. Pfizer, 25, and her husband are Muslims. Their wedding was a display of Kerala’s largely seamless diversity. Her childhood friends performing for her wedding were a mix of Hindus and Christians. …

“Dance runs in Dr. Pfizer’s family. Her mother was a dancer. One of her grandmothers performed with a folk ensemble in the 1960s and 1970s.

“The bride started training as a dancer even before kindergarten — a large stretch of it under the tutelage of Mr. Prem. Pictures of competitions when she was younger adorn the walls of his small dance studio. …

“As the guests took their seats in the hall for the evening ceremony, the dance troupe changed costumes repeatedly — a Sufi entrance with the groom, a Punjabi bhangra number that included a cameo by the bride, a mash-up of the latest hits where the dancers displayed their hip-hop moves. Another group, all women, performed a traditional Keralan Muslim dance, oppana, a hip-hop dance in jeans and T-shirts, and a flamenco-inspired routine.

“In between, the tall wedding singer, wearing a turtleneck and chic glasses with transparent rims, entertained the crowd. He announced the bride’s first entrance.

“The heads turned to the back, where Dr. Pfizer, surrounded by the female troupe of dancers, beamed with excitement in a dazzling ocean-green dress paired with stunning jewelry. Mobile phones came out for pictures. Music blared as the dancers shimmied and snapped their fingers, parting the aisle for the bride.

“But before the bride had climbed the stage to take her seat, someone realized that the main camera that films the ‘wedding highlight’ for YouTube and Instagram wasn’t set up yet.

“The bride and the dancers had to go back to their starting point at the entrance and do it all over again.”

More at the Times, here. Lots of great pictures.

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Photo: Hakim Bishara for Hyperallergic.
An abandoned painting in Brooklyn, New York.

When I first started getting serious about the internet in the mid 1990s, the browser I used was Netscape Navigator. Remember that? One thing I really loved about it was the way it put quirky website suggestions at the top of its home page. That was how I learned about the Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) in Dedham, Mass. For a long time I checked MOBA regularly to see what “new” paintings had been rescued from trash cans or abandoned on the side of a road.

I had almost forgotten about MOBA when I read a Hyperallergic story about a similar initiative, an Instagram account called Abandoned Paintings. These paintings are not necessarily “bad,” just no longer wanted. Hakim Bishara of the Soloway Gallery has a report.

“Last summer,” he writes, “while COVID-​19 was still ravaging through New York, I began noticing an unusual amount of discarded paintings on the sidewalks of my neighborhood in Brooklyn. It became an almost daily occurrence as more people moved out to the suburbs or to other states. Instinctively, I started amassing a photo archive of these paintings for a potential project. But as often is the case with new project ideas, I soon found out that someone else has already done it.

“When I stumbled upon artist Jason Osborne’s Instagram account Abandoned Paintings, which has been archiving images of discarded paintings for the last decade, I immediately became a fan. Updated daily with submissions from around the world, it pays a final tribute to these disowned artworks before they fade into the trash heap of history.

“Osborne, an artist with a self-professed fondness for fringe and forgotten art, first started Abandoned Paintings as a blog about unseen paintings in storage facilities of American museums. Soon after, he began documenting discarded paintings that he spotted on sidewalks and trash bins across New York City. …

“In 2011, he [launched] an Instagram account that quickly gained popularity. In time, he started receiving contributions from like-minded fans from across the globe, including France, the United Kingdom, and Chile.

‘As a painting junkie, I like to think of all the other lives that paintings have other than the 10% that we see on the walls of museums and galleries,’ Osborne told Hyperallergic in an interview. …

“According to Osborne, abandoned paintings appear on the streets in cycles, mostly when art students leave their studios at the end of their studies or when people move out of apartments at the end of the month. The mass exodus from NYC during 2020 seemed to interrupt that pattern, adding more abandoned paintings to the streets. …

“With new submissions and inquiries flowing into his DMs daily, Osborne has a handful of anecdotes to share about the different lives that one painting can have. For instance, there have been several cases in which artists reached out to him saying that they identified a painting they had previously sold or gifted to others. One unlucky painting was abandoned twice.

“What’s also interesting is the way that people tend to leave paintings out on the street. Unlike other discarded objects, paintings are often leaned presentably against a wall or a fence, waiting to be noticed and taken. …

“If it were up to Osborne, he would ‘fill entire museums and galleries with discarded paintings.’ But until then, he says, documenting these forlorn artworks has contributed to his understanding of painting in myriad ways.

“ ‘It solved many problems I had in my own work,’ he said.”

More at Hyperallergic, here.

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Photo: Tayler Gutierrez.
Earrings beaded onto smoked hide by the Cherokee artist Tayler Gutierrez.

You’re probably tired of all the whistling in the dark about good things that have come from lockdown when you know the past year has been mostly bad. But I wouldn’t want you to miss this cheerful story about indigenous beadworkers finding a market on Instagram during the pandemic.

Anna V. Smith reports on the phenomenon at the New York Times. “Last year, after the museum that Tayler Gutierrez worked at in Salt Lake City closed temporarily because of the coronavirus, she turned to her beadwork.

“A citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Ms. Gutierrez, 24, had been practicing beadwork for years after learning from a mentor, the Diné poet Tacey Atsitty, and she already had a modest following on her Instagram page, where she posted her custom hat brims, earrings and leather pouches.

“But when the museum reopened in May, Ms. Gutierrez decided to take a much bigger leap: She put in her resignation notice and committed full-time to her craft. In July, she dropped her first collection of beadwork on Instagram; it included a set of earrings layered with two-tiers of dentalium shells and Swarovski crystals, and another pair with blooming flowers stitched with beads onto moose hide.

“With relatively few followers, she wasn’t expecting many people to buy. Instead, everything sold in five minutes.

“Ms. Gutierrez was shocked but thrilled — especially after the months of labor and love she had put into the work. (It takes around eight hours to make one pair of floral beaded earrings.) …

“Ms. Gutierrez just started her business ‘Kamama Beadwork last year, but she is one of many Indigenous beadwork artists on Instagram who have seen a spike in followers and sales that far outpaces their available stock.

“Partially, that’s because with craft fairs, powwows and art markets shuttered, many vendors and buyers are relying more heavily on the internet, [including] e-commerce websites like From the People, which launched in May as an online market space for Indigenous artists.

“Sales have been spurred by a national dialogue around racial injustice that has led to increased efforts to support Black and Indigenous artists and businesses. …

“As the Ojibwe fashion writer Christian Allaire has documented, the beading world is full of Indigenous artists blending traditional methods and contemporary forms: for example, Jamie Okuma and her beaded Louboutin stilettos; Skye Paul and her tattoo-inspired beaded patches or cow print beaded fringe earrings; and Tania Larsson’s fine jewelry made from musk ox horn and other natural materials of the Canadian Arctic.

“On Instagram, these artisans and others have amassed huge followings; when they drop collections or individual pieces, they sell out in minutes. Followers set alarms, pre-log into PayPal and have to buy as soon as the goods are available if they want a chance to snag anything at all. Recently, the same is true for Indigenous artists with half the amount of followers, including Ms. Gutierrez.

“Jaymie Campbell of White Otter Design Co. is one beadwork artist who has perfected the art of the Instagram drop. … As a full-time beader, Ms. Campbell made an Instagram account in 2016, a year after starting her business. At the time, there were seemingly fewer accounts by fellow artists, Ms. Campbell said. But that’s changed somewhat suddenly, as the isolation of the pandemic has connected more people in the digital sphere.

Virtual beading circles — online versions of community gatherings where beaders share techniques — have popped up, and many artists have experienced a surge in followers.

“ ‘The growth has been unprecedented, in my experience,’ Ms. Campbell said from her home in New Denver, British Columbia (population 473). On Indigenous People’s Day alone she gained over 2,000 followers from people promoting her work on social media.

“But in beadwork economics, more demand doesn’t necessarily mean more supply — and that is an important aspect of the work itself. As the Indigenous studies scholar and bead artist Malinda J. Gray, who is Anishinaabe Ojibwe Caribou Clan, from the Lac Seul Band, has written: ‘Beadwork encompasses a temporality that transcends the capitalist view of exchange.’

“Beadwork knowledge, materials and motifs are passed down through generations, Ms. Gray said, and those layers of time, meaning and memories give a piece of work ‘its own essence. And that’s something that cannot be mass produced.’ ”

And now for a word from our “sponsor”: Suzanne also sells jewelry on Instagram @lunaandstella, where you can find gorgeous antique heart lockets for Valentine’s Day. Or go to the website, here.

More at the New York Times, here.

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Today I’m following up on my post about using moss in building design. KerryCan Googled around and found several recipes for getting moss to grow using buttermilk.

Then John sent me a cool article noting that photos of moss graffiti are becoming a bit of a meme on Instagram.

Tech Insider‘s Madison Malone Kircher writes, “People around the world are growing their own moss graffiti as innovative way to create living, breathing artwork. To do this, blend moss, yogurt, beer, and sugar into a liquid that will be used as ‘paint.’ From there, just apply the concoction to a wall in the design of your choosing and wait for the moss to grow in. For more detailed instructions, head here.

“If you’re looking for moss inspiration, Instagram is a great place to start. Just look up the hashtag #MossGraffiti for a look at some incredibly detailed, green artworks from around the world.” Kircher’s favorites are here.

WikiHow also has a recipe.

Photo: WikiHow

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You know this blog is connected to my daughter’s birthstone-jewelry company Luna & Stella, right?

Well, today I am passing along a Luna & Stella promotion in case you would like to follow Suzanne’s company on Instagram and get a chance at a $50 gift card. As a Luna & Stella Instagram follower, you’ll also get $10 off your first order with Suzanne (use the code INSTA10).

If you are not already on Instagram, you can sign up here, https://instagram.com/.

I liked this day-in-the-life small business story that Suzanne put on Facebook today:

“A customer in Qatar who had special ordered our 14K gold Constellation Stacking Birthstone Rings for his wife to celebrate the arrival of baby due in November, emailed us on the way to the hospital last night: ‘The baby is coming now! Can we change the birthstone?’

“No problem, we said, we are always happy to make adjustments for babies who don’t arrive on schedule.

“In celebration of ‪#‎octoberbabies‬ everywhere, we are doing an ‪#‎IGgiveway‬. You can win a $50 credit to our store.

“To enter:
“1. Follow us on Instagram
“2. Tag a friend
“3. For an extra entry, tell us who is your moon & stars, and what piece you’d buy to represent them!

“That’s it! Giveaway will end on Tuesday 11/4 /15 at 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.”

Photo shows the angel wing charm. See all the jewelry at Luna & Stella, here.

For angels only. Birthstone jewelry by Lunaandstella

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I’ve been following David Guttenfelder on twitter and Instagram for about a year, initially because of a stunning photo of North Korea that appeared in the NY Times. Guttenfelder has made a specialty of North Korea, although he now works for National Geographic and travels extensively. He has recently been promoting a group of instagrammers who spend time in North Korea.

Writing for Time magazine’s Lightbox column, Olivier Laurant quotes Guttenfelder: “ ‘My motive has always been to open a window on North Korea,’ says David Guttenfelder. ‘There are so few images coming out of there, and yet there’s so much interest.’

“A former chief photographer at Associated Press, Guttenfelder helped open the agency’s first bureau in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in January 2012. Now, after he resigned from AP to continue his career as a freelance photographer and one of National Geographic’s Photography Fellows, he’s not turning his back on the reclusive country. In September 2014, he quietly launched the Everyday DPRK Instagram account, which features pictures by North Korean residents and photographers. …

“Six photographers, including Guttenfelder, are currently posting on the Everyday DPRK account — @drewkelly, @sunbimari, @andrea_uri, @simonkoryo, @soominee. …

“Kelly first visited Pyongyang in June 2012, and he usually spends three to four months a year in the country. ‘I had come right out of graduate school and learned of an opportunity to teach at a university here in the capital,’ he says. ‘I wanted to do something different, not sit around in the U.S. hoping the”right” job would come along.’

“When he’s not teaching English, Kelly is using Instagram to offer an ‘expat point-of-view’ on North Korea and to show that ‘there are real people living, working and striving for a better life with the cards dealt to them,’ he says.” More here, at Lightbox.

Guttenfelder comments at Instagram, “We are a small group of photographers who have, with different routes, unique access to North Korea. @andrea_uri started a tour company for example. @drewkelly is a teacher at a nkorean university. @dguttenfelder is a photojournalist. @sunbimari is a translator and working on major cultural exchange programs. @simonkoryo is a British nations with more trips inside nkorea than any other foreigner that I know of, more than 150. @soominee works on a farm in Rason.”

Photo: @drewkelly
North Korean kindergarten students stand outside a school at a collective farm near Wonsan, North Korea.

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