Science journal mistakenly uses flyer for Macau brothel to illustrate report on China
By Clifford Coonan in Beijing
A respected research institute wanted Chinese classical texts to adorn its journal, something beautiful and elegant, to illustrate a special report on China. Instead, it got a racy flyer extolling the lusty details of stripping housewives in a brothel.
From time immemorial, the “city as utopia” has been a recurring theme in religion, politics, and literature. From the “city on the hill” of classical Christian belief, to Balzac’s Paris, to the socialist city of the Paris Commune, there have been many versions of the utopian city.
Given this long history, how does the city as utopia manifest itself today? According to co-editors Mike Davis and Daniel Bertrand Monk, in their new book Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism: Evil Paradises, today’s “new luxury cities” are nothing less than a utopian frenzy that “enflame desires” for infinite consumption, total social exclusion, and physical security, and architectural monumentality. The book provides a guided tour of the globe’s urban luxury palaces: the gated communities where elite groups live in a privatized heaven amid the public squalor that lies just beyond their gates.
The art world success of Zhang Huan makes a compelling story, the postmodern Horatio Alger myth at the heart of contemporary Chinese art. Today, at the age of forty-three, Zhang is a multimillionaire. In New York, he is represented by PaceWildenstein, which held a survey of his latest work in Chelsea last spring. At his factory studio in Shanghai, a hundred assistants living in dormitories churn out labor-intensive carvings of propaganda scenes, photorealistic “ash paintings,” and fifty-foot-tall giants constructed of calfskins stitched with wire. After a decade and a half of privations, Zhang has become a giant himself, one of the artistic titans of the new Chinese economy. But his tale should come with a warning label. Zhang has struck it rich through cunning and compromise and contamination. He embodies all that it means to be a contemporary artist “made in China.”
“If anything can be pursued in an armchair, philosophy can,” the esteemed Oxford philosopher Timothy Williamson told the Aristotelian Society, of London, a few years ago. That may sound like an innocuous truism: No one pictures Bertrand Russell doing his philosophical cogitation anywhere but in a club chair, or perhaps in bed, postcoitally (given his adventurousness in that arena). But, in fact, Williamson’s remarks are fighting words these days, thanks to the rise of a cohort of philosophers who believe that the armchair arguments of philosophers need to be probed and tested through surveys of ordinary people and laboratory experiments using human subjects. If philosophers want to demonstrate that their arguments comport with how the mind really works, say the proponents of experimental philosophy, they need to get off their duffs.