Everywhere, all the time, it seems like we’re being sold on the idea that getting rid of things will solve our problems—from the life-changing magic of Marie Kondo to the streamlining of all those DVDs into digital subscriptions—and it’s all being sold under the label of minimalism. In his new book, The Longing for Less, Kyle Chayka criticizes this trend as a kind of upscale austerity designed to get you to buy and consume things. Maybe fewer things, but things nonetheless. Have we lost the true meaning of minimalism? Chayka takes readers through a history of art, design, and philosophy that goes much further back than the 1960s work of Agnes Martin, Donald Judd, and John Cage, to show that maybe the most meaningful part of “minimalism” is the search for meaning. Chayka has written for The New York Times Magazine, n+1, and The Paris Review, and he joins us in the studio to offer up a brand of minimalism that won’t bankrupt you, emotionally or financially.
Go beyond the episode:
- Kyle Chayka’s The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism
- Watch a short documentary about the painter Agnes Martin from the Tate
- View Donald Judd’s massive installations in Marfa or New York, and be sure to stop by Walter De Maria’s The Earth Room while you’re at it
- Poke around Philip Johnson’s Glass House
- Listen to Julius Eastman’s hypnotic composition “Stay on It” (and read more about him here)
- Two Japanese touchstones of minimalism: Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book and Junichirō Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows
Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.
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