ISIS Destroys Historic Sites in Iraq and Syria (Hyperallergic)

by Hrag Vartanian on July 9, 2014 original article appears here.

From the unverified video of a member of ISIS desecrating the alleged tombs of the prophet Jonah (GIF Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

The militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been destroying the artistic and religious heritage of Iraq and Syria as they continue to impose their fundamentalist Sunni doctrine on the lands they’ve occupied. Recent reports, which have been hard to independently confirm, have reported that ISIS most recently destroyed the alleged tomb of the Biblical prophet Jonah (Younis). A short video (posted below) of a black-clad figure hurling a sledgehammer at the tombs, which according to Iraqi authorities includes the prophet’s tomb, is the latest visual evidence of the group’s iconoclastic cultural policy. Jonah is the Biblical figure that was swallowed by a whale, and his tale is recorded both in the Old Testament and the Quran.

The latest bout of destruction by ISIS has raised concerns that the group threatens all religious minorities, including non-fundamentalist Sunni Muslims, and imperils all the monuments and sites affiliated with those groups. Archeological sites are also under threat, and in June the Guardian reported that ISIS “was also known to have reaped windfalls from smuggling all manner of raw materials pillaged from the crumbling state, as well as priceless antiquities from archaeological digs.”

Last month, European Union observers reported that 11 churches were torched by ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul, while the Sunni fundamentalists also raped civilians. Among the many architectural monuments destroyed included the grave of 12th–13th-century historiographer Abu al-Hassan al-Jazari, known as ibn al-Athir, and several churches that had been “burnt to the ground.”

An image posted on social media by ISIS showing what appears to be a Sufi shrine being bulldozed. (Al-Arabiya News/Twitter)

A Shiite Islamic site being destroyed by explosives (image via Al Arabiya)

ISIS’s animosity towards local Christians is not new, and the group has been targeting Christians heavily since they took over parts of eastern Syria. According to Al Jazeera, earlier this year the group demanded “every Christian man pay a tax of up to 17g of gold, a levy that was common in Muslim states centuries ago,” while the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reported that ISIS has imposed a $250 minimum tax on Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul. There are also numerous videos posted online of the fundamentalist group’s desecration of Christian churches.

The AINA has been regularly reporting about the destruction of historic and religious monuments by ISIS. Earlier this year they reported that the group destroyed Assyrian statues and artifacts believed to be 3,000 years old, while more recently they confirmed that ISIS had destroyed a statue of Arab poet Abu Tammam in Mosul last month.

ISIS is not limiting its destruction to non-Muslim sites and four shrines to Sunni Arab or Sufi figures, and six Shiite mosques have also been destroyed in the ISIS-controlled regions of Iraq’s Nineveh province, where Mosul is the capital. Al-Arabiya News is reporting that the “Sunni and Sufi shrines were demolished by bulldozers, while the Shiite mosques and shrines were all destroyed by explosives.”

Photos showing what appears to be ISIS militants destroying ancient Assyrian statues. (via



Destruction of a Shiite religious site by ISIS (Twitter via Al-Arabiya)


St. Etchmiadzin Armenian church in Mosul following attacks by ISIS. (via Asbarez)

‘Keith Haring’s Ghost’ Will Not Face Jail Time, Conviction (WJCT News)

A utility box painting by ‘Keith Haring’s Ghost’ in Jacksonville’s San Marco neighborhood in 2013. The art, now known to have been painted by Chip Southworth, has since been removed. Credit Melissa Ross / WJCT

Kevin “Chip” Southworth, who was charged with a misdemeanor count of criminal mischief, entered a no-contest plea and the judge withheld adjudication, meaning no criminal conviction will appear on his record.

Attorney Reid Hart said the judge ordered Southworth to pay the city of Jacksonville $778 to cover damage to city property plus $300 in court costs and to perform 50 hours of community service. Southworth had already exceeded the community service requirements through volunteer work for the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville and Players by the Sea Theatre.

Kevin “Chip” Southworth Credit Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office

Southworth was originally charged with a felony, but Hart said the State Attorney’s Office lowered the charged after determining the amount of damage caused to the utility boxes was less than $1,000.

The artist, well-known in his own right locally, began the mystery street art campaign in late 2013.

According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office his graffiti appeared on 11 traffic control boxes owned by the City of Jacksonville.

Southworth told WJCT’s Melissa Ross in January that he felt inspired to start painting after the Jacksonville City Council failed to enact an updated Human Rights Ordinance barring discrimination based on sexual orientation.

He adapted Haring’s artwork, he said, because of its meaning. The late Keith Haring’s work often spoke to social justice and individual freedom.

You can follow Karen Feagins on Twitter @karenfeagins.

Every Painter Paints Himself (

I just came across this website through a friend of mine where many great works of art are explained. Please check out this website

Every Painter Paints Himself reveals the secrets behind true art in ways that, until now, only artists could. With short entries, encouraging you to spend more time studying images than reading our text, we demonstrate the basic themes around which poetic painters and sculptors create their works.* Once you become familiar with these little-­‐known ideas, most never before publicly revealed, you will gain the confidence to interpret art on your own and, through that essential process, experience the thrill of true aesthetic satisfaction. Understanding art, an activity once reserved for experts, becomes a revelatory experience.” – from EPPH website


Basic Principles of Every Painter Paints Himself

1. Art takes time. You cannot enter an exhibition unprepared, stare at a landscape and be moved, at least in the manner that artists intend. To appreciate art, you must become familiar like the artists themselves with the themes that unite art and without which craft cannot become art. It used to take years of study. Today the methods revealed here speed the process, allowing you to see almost immediately what once was hidden. Still, the truth remains: the longer you study an image, the more you will see.

2. Art is intended for artists. T.S. Eliot or another great poet once said that great poetry is not written for lovers of poetry ensconced in an armchair, nor professors of Literature at prestigious universities, nor even for literary critics or eager students. Great poetry is only written for other great poets. So it is with great art too. Nevertheless, with the now-ready availability of images, it is easier for anyone with an independent mind to understand art like a great artist does than it ever was. This site makes it easier still.

3. Art is not photography. Ever since artists re-introduced illusionism around 1500, experts have viewed art like illustration, as though “through a window”. Patrons and ordinary viewers did too. Today, even though the methodologies of scholarship regularly change, the perception through which experts view art never does. They think of art in photographic terms even if, as in many masterpieces, numerous non-realistic features defeat their illusion. Their paradigm does not allow them to think otherwise. True art, though, always depicts the inner world of the artist by its very nature. It is the unseen difference between art and craft. Once you grasp that, all changes.

4. Art is veiled. Illusionistic art is what it says: an illusion. It may look real (meaning a view of the outer world) but it never is. A battle scene, for example, is never a battle. All those weapons are paintbrushes, palette knives or, perhaps, the hammers of a sculptor and all those soldiers represent the artist and his assistants in the studio as they “battle” in the artist’s mind to create the painting. Just as we think in metaphors and then translate the same ideas into words, as linguists tell us, so art depicting thought is metaphorical too.1 Don’t take the images literally; they are visual metaphors.

5. Sight is deceptive. For people in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, reality was an illusion because the only true reality was divine. They were partly right, as scientists now know. Sight is inaccurate because, contrary to common sense, you only see what you already know. For instance, art historians, convinced that portraits portray a real sitter, never recognized that many of them resemble the artist’s own self‐portrait. [See Portraiture] They never saw these obvious resemblances because, convinced that art is “photographic”, they never imagined them. Thus, contrary to what we think about sight, we paint our own reality. Art helps us to understand that.

6. Art is esoteric. A large proportion of artists, regardless of culture, followed one of the many forms of the Inner Tradition. These include Neoplatonism, Hermeticism, Spiritual Alchemy, Theosophy and the Kaballah. In all these traditions, self-knowledge is the only true knowledge which is why every painter paints himself. Most artists, though, probably followed mystical strains of Christianity, some of which were banned by the Church, others accepted within it. All claim that reality is an illusion and that the goal of life is to “purify” the mind. The most important idea from our point-of-view is that the Bible should be read allegorically as a guide for the individual soul and that, since Man was created in the image of God, each of us can become Christ.

See the theme of The Inner Tradition for further explanation.

7. Art contains knowledge. It is little understood by conventional art historians that much of what an artist needs to know about philosophy, religion and art is contained in art itself. A Renaissance artist’s lack of formal education was thus no hindrance to his or her understanding. Indeed the knowledge and wisdom of a Renaissance craftsman was far more highly admired than scholars have even imagined.2 Fortunately, with help from this site, you too can learn to read art like an artist. Once you do, art becomes your own gateway to self-knowledge which is the only form of wisdom that has lasting value. All other knowledge is a product of your own time, perceived according to the prevailing paradigm. That will change but the knowledge conveyed in art will remain, as it does in great literature too.

8. Art makes sense. Art historians often note “errors”, “ambiguities” and “inconsistencies” in the apparent scene that do not make sense. These, they then argue, are typical of a great masterpiece because art does not need to make sense. If that were true, there would be no wisdom in the image and it would not be art. The truth is that many of the “illogical” features in a work of art are problems of the viewer’s own perception. Once the underlying scene is recognized, they make sense after all.

1. For how we think in metaphors, see Lakoff and Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (University of Chicago Press) 1980, esp. pp. 3-6

2. Pamela H. Smith, The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution (University of Chicago Press) 2004

Keeping an Eye on Online Test-Takers (New York Times)

But when those students take the final exam in calculus or genetics, how will their professors know that the test-takers on their distant laptops are doing their own work, and not asking Mr. Google for help?

The issue of online cheating concerns many educators, particularly as more students take MOOCs for college credit, and not just for personal enrichment. Already, five classes from Coursera, a major MOOC provider, offer the possibility of credit, and many more are expected.

One option is for students to travel to regional testing centers at exam time. But reaching such centers is next to impossible for many students, whether working adults who can’t take time off to travel, or others in far-flung places who can’t afford the trip.

But now eavesdropping technologies worthy of the C.I.A. can remotely track every mouse click and keystroke of test-taking students. Squads of eagle-eyed humans at computers can monitor faraway students via webcams, screen sharing and high-speed Internet connections, checking out their photo IDs, signatures and even their typing styles to be sure the test-taker is the student who registered for the class.

The developing technology for remote proctoring may end up being as good — or even better — than the live proctoring at bricks-and-mortar universities, said Douglas H. Fisher, a computer science and computer engineering professor at Vanderbilt University who was co-chairman of a recent workshop that included MOOC-related topics. “Having a camera watch you, and software keep track of your mouse clicks, that does smack of Big Brother,” he said. “But it doesn’t seem any worse than an instructor at the front constantly looking at you, and it may even be more efficient.”

Employees at ProctorU, a company that offers remote proctoring, watch test-takers by using screen sharing and webcam feeds at offices in Alabama and California. ProctorU recently signed an agreement to proctor new credit-bearing MOOCs from Coursera, including one in genetics and evolution offered at Duke and one in single-variable calculus at the University of Pennsylvania.

MOOC students who want to obtain credit will be charged a remote-proctoring fee of $60 to $90, depending on the class, said Dr. Andrew Ng, co-founder of Coursera, based in Mountain View, Calif.

Other remote proctoring services offer different solutions. At Software Secure in Newton, Mass., test-takers are recorded by camera and then, later, three proctors independently watch a faster-speed video of each student.

Compared with services where proctors are monitoring students in real time, this combination of recording first and viewing later “gives greater latitude for the institution to adjust the timing of exams to whenever they want,” said Allison Sands, Software Secure’s director of marketing. The cost is now $15 per exam.

Employees at ProctorU say they are well-versed in the sometimes ingenious tactics used to dodge testing rules. “We’ve seen it all,” said Matt Jaeh, vice president for operations. “After you’ve sat there a while watching people, the patterns of behavior for normal people versus the people trying to sneak in a cellphone to look up information are very clear.”

Each proctor can monitor up to six students at a time, watching three side-by-side camera feeds on each of two screens. If a student’s eyes start to wander, the proctor gives a warning via videoconferencing software, just as a classroom monitor might tell students to keep their eyes on their own papers. For an overwhelming majority of people, that warning suffices, said Jarrod Morgan, a co-founder.

With the system in place, “cheating usually isn’t a problem,” he said. But if it does occur, ProctorU follows the rules of the institution giving the exam. “Some schools ask us to cut off the exam on the spot if there’s a suspicious incident,” he said; others ask that the exam be continued and the incident reported.

Beyond the issue of proctoring, MOOCs are also addressing the problem of making sure that credit-seeking test-takers are the same students who enrolled in the course. In that effort, Coursera is offering a separate service, called Signature Track and costing $30 to $99, that confirms students’ identity by matching webcam photographs as well as pictures of acceptable photo IDs.

Students also type a short phrase, which is analyzed by a software program. It takes note of the typing rhythm and other characteristics, like how long the keys are pressed down. Then, when a student submits homework or takes a test, the algorithm compares a bit of new typing with the original sample. (And if you’ve broken your arm, there’s always your photo ID.)

Online classes are hardly new, but earlier courses typically didn’t have to handle exam proctoring on the scale required for vast MOOCs. The University of Florida in Gainesville, for example, has long offered many programs for students studying far from the campus, with some monitoring done by ProctorU, said W. Andrew McCollough, associate provost for teaching and technology.

Now the school has set up its first MOOC, on human nutrition (enrollment 47,000), and is working on four others, all through Coursera. The question of proctoring is being debated, he said, as faculty members worry about academic integrity amid the growth of open, online classes. “They don’t want any fooling around,” he said. “But as we get more experience and evidence, the faculty are getting familiar with ways technology can replicate a classroom experience.”

19 Art Documentaries You Shouldn’t Miss (Art Biz Blog)

By Alyson Stanfield on January 27, 2012 – original article here

The PBS series art: 21. A pioneering series on artists making art today. Don’t miss a single episode.

How to Draw a Bunny  – The mysterious art, life, death of Ray Johnson. I haven’t seen it in a long while, but it made an impact and is still at the top of my list.

The Woodmans – I watched this in 2011 and had to move it toward the top of the list. The artistic family of ceramist Betty Woodman, the tragic death of her talented daughter, photographer Francesca Woodman, and how their art triumphs. (The rest here are in no particular order.)

My Architect – The life of Louis Kahn, through his son’s eyes.

Glaring omission from the original list (thanks for catching it, John) – #20: Rivers & Tides – Follows “landscape sculptor” Andy Goldsworth as he creates ephemeral works of art using objects found in nature. Terrible website, by the way – not at all reflective of the film

Painters Painting – An amazing 2-part film featuring key figures in American art from 1940 to 1970.

Helvetica -Yep, a whole film about the typeface. Very fun to hear all of these designers talking about typefaces and visual communication.

Herb & Dorothy – Who hasn’t seen this lovely film about two unlike art collectors?

Valentino: The Last Emperor – I adored this movie about fashion designer Valentino. It’s gorgeous to look at.

Exit Through the Gift Shop – Banksy’s film about street art. Is it a documentary or not? It certainly makes us question how art is made.

Waste Land – More than a film about art, this is about an artist (Vik Muniz) affecting social change through art. The stories are heartwarming, the people are beautiful

Others Worth Watching

Rothko’s Rooms – About Mark Rothko’s Seagram paintings at the Tate Modern and the demand he put on exhibiting his work. Often available for viewing on OvationTV

Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision

Any film about Christo and Jeanne-Claude – All of them show the amazing, unconventional (and laden with red tape!) process that these artists go through to make their vision a reality.

The Rape of Europa – The story of American GI’s whose duty it was to return art stolen by the Nazis.

The Art of the Steal – Definitely a one-sided view of relocation of the Barnes Collection from Merion, PA to Philadelphia.

Sketches of Frank Gehry – The Sydney Pollack documentary about the famed architect.

Matthew Barney: No Restraint – An inside peek at Barney’s work, with his partner and collaborator Björk, aboard a whaling ship. A little too bloody for my taste, if I recall.

Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow – About the personal universe created by German artist Anselm Kiefer on the grounds of his estate in the South of France. Haunting soundtrack!

80 Photos of Old New York (1970-1989) (Superchief)

Originally posted in the NYTIMES TRAVEL November 8, 2011 –  find the Superchief article here

New York used to be a different town than it is today. People use terms like “Old New York,” and “The Bad Old Days” to talk about the 70s and 80s. In fact, the crime wave that is associated with New York City lasted well through the late 1990s.

For example, in 1977 there were 1,919 murders in New York. By 1991 that number reached an all-time high of 2,571. The murder rate didn’t dip below 1,000 until 1998. To put it in perspective, from 2000-2010, it has been hanging around 800.

I recently stumbled across a treasure trove of photos from this lost era. Some are watermarked, but many are from message boards and peoples flickrs, so it’s hard to give photo credits. Here are a few of the authors I was able to figure out:

Matt Weber – – –

If any of these images are yours and you did not receive credit for them, please message me and I would be happy to give you a photo credit and a link