The hardest thing I was ever tasked with reading in a history course was Edward Said’s Orientalism. I dropped the course because it was totally over my head. That says a lot.
My major was twentieth-century European history, and my focus was on Germany, but specifically the rise of the Third Reich. I was interested in finding out why and how millions of people could justify a genocide. I was very, very focused on Germany and Russia; I didn’t want to study the United States at all, but my major required me to take courses in non-European and non-American history, so toward the end of my education, I took courses — grudgingly, at the time — on African and Southeast Asian colonial history. Eventually I also started taking courses on contemporary art history, where I was introduced to South American artists like Lygia Clark and Gabriel Orozco, and, of course, my art theoretical deity, the Cuban-born American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres. That’s really all the background I have on South American culture. Keep reading »