Weeknotes 2

1. Parallel Histories of Art and Banking / Diplomacy of Antiquities

A great article in the Believer that begins roughly with the injection of temporality into both arenas in the early 14th century.
This new kind of painting is concerned with contingency—it is based on an idea of sequence not eternal but human. The little Duccio suggests something about its own future from its present point of view.
Ending with Damien Hirst's famous diamond-ised skull, For The Love of God:
 ...what the work represents, specifically, is not our artistic, or not only our artistic, but our financial life. As Blake Gopnik pointed out in the Washington Post at the time the skull was unveiled, it’s the purchase of the work that is the work. Sale at outlandish price, just as was true at Lehman Brothers, is what defines and confers the value.
One particularly striking analogy is in the comparison between Picasso and the cubists breaking time into fragments to present it as one piece (i.e. the front and side of a woman's face simultaneously) and the way that companies began to be valued on predictions of future growth based on present earnings. I'd take issue with the theory that art only became expensive once people possessed liquid cash in the 19th century. Liquid cash was in great abundance since the 16th century, it was one of the reasons for the rise of stock markets and the middle class and is directly attributed to the tulip crash of 1637. Although perhaps not much of this cash was spent on 'art'  and accounted for the eventual explosion of the art market:
Suddenly people began to see paintings as representations not only of age-old values but of future values. And once they began to look at them that way, it mattered less how much time they’d withstood the test of. What people became interested in was not what the pieces were worth a hundred years ago but what they might be worth tomorrow.
There's even some parallels with this article on the relationship between diplomacy and antiques. Obviously we all know about the Elgin Marbles but I didn't realise there was such a booming trade in illegally imported Afghan collectibles from the Kabul museums.

2. Genetics of Politics

This article in Nature and this one in the Economist both approach the same studies on the influence of genetics on political ideology. As this is kind of pointing toward my next area of study I was somewhat giddy to read them but the early assumptions of both articles are withdrawn quite rapidly. Rather than directly attributing political make-up (in the sense of the human social construction of politics) to genetics, the articles link political leanings to personality traits and these traits to genetics. Which we already knew.
many political psychologists agree that political ideology can be narrowed down to one basic personality trait: openness to change. Liberals tend to be more accepting of social change than conservatives. Some studies suggest that liberals tolerate more ambiguity and uncertainty, whereas conservatives are more decisive, conscientious and attracted to order.
So the articles go on to speculate how an individual's genetics makeup might inform their decision making and thus their worldview, and thus the way they vote. The interest here lies in speculating on more extreme ways that this could play out when it comes to the 2016 elections - genetic testing at polling stations or chemical devices for eliciting response from opposing individuals (the olfactory response is cited in both articles.)