Author: IVC Author

Building Zion

Reviewed by Dai Newman Thomas Carter. Building Zion: The Material World of Mormon Settlement. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015. 408pp. The standard narrative of the settling of the Great Basin by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asserts that the Mormons moved west to craft a radically different society. Polygamy, theocracy, and communal economics dominate an understanding in which Mormons only acquiesced to American norms after intense outside pressure. The railroad came in 1869, followed by a federal crackdown on polygamy, which swept through the territory until the practice was officially abandoned in 1890. In Building Zion: The Material World of Mormon Settlement, architectural historian Thomas Carter hopes to add nuance this story, showing that Mormons actually experienced Americanization rather slowly and were never really as far from the mainstream as the stories about them suggest. Mormons were building their “Zion,” but the material world of Zion’s cities looked similar to the rest of America. Carter openly admits he is not the first scholar to claim Mormon difference was never as stark …

Radio Benjamin

Radio Benjamin

Reviewed By Anna-Verena Nosthoff Walter Benjamin. Radio Benjamin. Edited by Lecia Rosenthal. Translated by Jonathan Lutes with Lisa Harries Schumann and Diana K. Reese. London and New York: Verso Books, 2014, 424 pp. In view of the overwhelming popularity of Benjamin’s theoretical writings on the artwork, technology, and cultural-political change, it is curious that so little is known about his radio works. In fact, Benjamin produced around eighty radio talks, dialogues, and children’s stories for Berlin and Frankfurt radio stations in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Fortunately, Radio Benjamin finally compiles Benjamin’s most important pieces in this medium. The relative absence of Benjamin’s radio works from scholarly literature on his work is understandable. This phenomenon is, first, a result of the relative inaccessibility of the written transcripts. Second, only parts of a single audio file have been preserved, resulting in a lack of essential information on the works’ auditory qualities. Third, Benjamin’s own comments on the works reveal his skepticism about their importance.1 One of the major achievements of Lecia Rosenthal’s carefully edited volume is that, …

The Threads that Bind Us

In the home of an unknown Belgian collector, Ghada Amer’s work, La Belle Au Bois Dormant (1995) dances alone. The instillation consists of a white dress, a red dress, a chair, a mannequin and a music box. The red dress is entirely deflated, while the white dress appears starched and up right. The white dress hangs on a headless mannequin that has been rigged to spin in slow circles, constantly rotating the dress. The viewer gets the sense that the dress was made for the mannequin, not for an actual woman. While the red dress is entirely flat and has no sheen, the white dress appears to be glowing. The white dress is made from a heavy-weighted silk and the threads that embroider the dress interrupt the material’s radiance. Although the embroidery on the dress holds the complete text of the children’s fairy tail, The Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault, the exposed threads make the letters almost entirely illegible.1 What makes this work so mesmerizing is how Amer transforms these five ordinary objects into a …

Launching InVisible Culture Issue 21: Pursuit

InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal of Visual Culture (IVC), published through the University of Rochester’s graduate program in Visual and Cultural Studies, is pleased to announce the launch of Issue 21: “Pursuit.” For this issue, we invited scholars and artists to explore ways pursuit manifests at both the individual and collective levels. What we received revealed the dual nature and contradictory inner-logic of pursuit: its focused trajectory coupled with its tendency to turn back on itself, operating in ways circuitous, surprising, vexing, and destructive. Authors Janet Wolff, Joel Gn Hong Zhan, Christopher Schubert and Timothy Welsh, Carolyn L. Kane, Diego Costa, artists Adam Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz and Anton Hand, Erin Johnson, Paul Qaysi, Clint Enns, Walter Forsberg contributed articles and works of art that address at least two distinct but interrelated forms of pursuit which we are perpetually undertaking: technological pursuit and spatial pursuit. Issue 21: Pursuit (Fall 2014) IVC is a student run interdisciplinary journal published online twice a year in an open access format. Through peer-reviewed articles, creative works, and reviews of books, films, and exhibitions, our …

CFP InVisible Culture, Issue 24: Vulnerability

“Vulnerability” – Issue 24 (Download PDF) For its twenty-fourth issue, InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture invites scholarly articles and creative works that explore the concept of vulnerability. Almost two weeks after Thomas Eric Duncan’s plane landed in Dallas from Liberia in late September, the Centers for Disease Control announced the first case of Ebola in the United States. News feeds immediately jumped at the report, the Dow Jones plunged 266 points and petitions to ban flights from Ebola-stricken countries have since been circulating across social media platforms. From ISIS to the crisis in Ukraine to employment security, the media’s pronouncement of threats posed by vulnerabilities (and certain invisibilities) are ubiquitous. It is worth considering, however, what the stakes are in maintaining such rhetoric, and whether it is possible to imagine alternatives. As urgency slips into a normative state of being, for Issue 24, we would like contributors to explore the various meanings of vulnerability. Are there critical practices which uniquely encourage or discourage vulnerability? Can we imagine vulnerability as a position of …

Contributors / Issue 21: Pursuit

Issue 21: Pursuit (Fall 2014) Diego Costa is a PhD candidate at the University of Southern California in the Media Arts and Practice department. He is a queer theorist, experimental filmmaker, a film critic for Slant Magazine, and a contributor for the Brasil Post. Costa is also the co-founder of The Queer Psychoanalysis Society. Amanda du Preez is Associate Professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Pretoria, where she teaches Visual Culture Studies. She has co-edited South African visual culture (2005); edited Taking a hard look: gender and visual culture (2009) and authored Gendered bodies and new technologies: rethinking embodiment in a cyber-era (2009). Clint Enns is a video artist and filmmaker living in Toronto, Ontario, whose work primarily deals with moving images created with broken and/or outdated technologies. His work has shown both nationally and internationally at festivals, alternative spaces, and mircocinemas. He has a Master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Manitoba, and has recently received a Master’s degree in cinema and media from York University. His writings and …

Provincial Matters

Janet Wolff This essay returns me to Rochester, thirteen years after I left. It also returns me to a mild obsession I developed in my last year in Rochester with the artist Kathleen McEnery Cunningham, and with the fascinating social and cultural world of Rochester in the 1920s. I curated an exhibition of McEnery’s work at the Hartnett Gallery at the University of Rochester in 2003, and advised on another in New York a couple of years later. The essay will also be a chapter of a book I am completing, entitled Austerity Baby, which is part memoir, part family history, part cultural history. Two other chapters were published in 2013: one in the collection Writing Otherwise (edited by Jackie Stacey and Janet Wolff, published by Manchester University Press), and another here in the online literary journal, The Manchester Review. * * * The American artist Kathleen McEnery Cunningham presided at the center of a lively cultural scene in Rochester, New York, in the 1920s and 30s. In 1914, she had married Francis Cunningham, then …

Playing through the Terminal: Mixed Realism and Air Travel

Christopher Schaberg and Timothy Welsh Picture an everyday traveler’s experience at the airport: the traveler checks in and receives a boarding pass, consults a monitor for the flight’s status, queues through security, waits, boards, and finally reposes in the aircraft seat, perhaps thumbing over an iPhone’s screen as the engines purr to life. In this situation, interactions between the individual traveler and the larger airport network are abound: humans, machines big and small, information technologies, a vast grid of energy, politics, geography. The reality of air travel exists on many levels at once, crisscrossing lines of human phenomenology, computer data flows, and physical logistics. Walking into an airport in a videogame happens somewhat differently, yet with curious similarities. After entering a disc into the terminal, the player logs on, checks game settings, and waits through load screens. The console meanwhile processes a queue of commands and inputs, pixels rapidly changing color to depict free-motion through virtual space as the player sits back, thumbing a controller as the CPU fan purrs in the background. A simulated …

Cute Technics in the Love Machine

Joel Gn Introduction Dating simulations (dating sims) are a category of video games where players “date” or establish a romantic relationship with a digitally synthesized avatar in a fictional world. In this representation of the lovers’ discourse, players are presented with a series of options when interacting with characters in the game. Taking the form of specific conversational lines or gestures, these options lead to pre-determined effects that contribute to the overall disposition of the character to the player. By following the correct combination of options as programmed into the game’s system, the objective of the game in the dating sim is to achieve a blissful conclusion with the in-game character.1 However, with their apparent trivialization of what is conventionally understood as romantic love, dating sims have inevitably emerged as the subject of much controversy concerning the asocial behavior of typically young and wired adults who allegedly prefer to date a computer algorithm made visible on a gaming console, as opposed to a “flesh and blood” human being. In Japan, where dating sims are particularly …

Compression Aesthetics: Glitch From the Avant-Garde to Kanye West

Carolyn L. Kane In a world that esteems technological efficiency, immediacy, and control, the advent of technical noise, glitch, and failure—no matter how colorful or disturbingly beautiful—are avoided at great costs. When distorted and unintelligible artifacts emerge within the official domains of “immersive” consumer experience, they are quickly banished from sight. This aggressive disavowal is particularly strange given that “glitch art” and “compression aesthetics”—loosely defined as the aesthetic use of visual artifacts, accidents, or technical errors—has become increasingly prevalent in media, art, design, and commercial landscapes.1 Why and how have glitch aesthetics achieved this ambivalent status? There is something about a glitch or patch of noise that disrupts convention and expectation. A glitch or technical error can be used to pose questions and open up critical spaces in new and unforeseen ways. Herein lies the appeal of glitch to numerous artists past and present, and my primary concern in this article. And yet, because glitches have also been quickly appropriated back into dominant fashions and styles, moving from political or social critique to commodity, glitch aesthetics bear …

The Category Is Pathological: The Object Must Be Found, The Object Must Be Lacking

Diego Costa “Sometimes, however, one’s imagination acts not only against one’s own body, but against someone else’s. And just as a body passes on its sickness to its neighbor, as is seen in the plague, the pox, and the soreness of the eyes, which are transmitted from one body to the other—likewise the imagination, when vehemently stirred, launches darts that can injure an external object. The ancients maintained that certain women of Scythia, when animated and enraged against anyone, would kill him with a mere glance. Tortoises and ostriches hatch their eggs just by looking at them, a sign that their sight has some ejaculative virtue.” Michel de Montaigne, “Of The Power of The Imagination” “Those who are able to satisfy their desire aren’t worried about living a long time.” Lucien Israël, La Jouissance de L’Hystérique “For it is not enough to decide the question on the basis of its effect: Death. We need to know which death, the one that life brings or the one that brings life.” Jacques Lacan, “The Subversion of the …

Utopia or Bust

Utopia or Bust: A Guide to the Present Crisis

Reviewed By Lyle Jeremy Rubin Benjamin Kunkel. Utopia or Bust: A Guide to the Present Crisis. London: Verso, 2014. 160 pp. Benjamin Kunkel appeared in the news not too long ago. During the carnage in Gaza, the novelist-turned-“Marxist public intellectual” lay down on Second Avenue, adjacent to the Israeli consulate in Manhattan. Kunkel was one of two-dozen protesters, all of whom were awarded an afternoon in jail for their pluck. The scene could serve as the first act in a sequel to the writer’s debut novel, Indecision (2005), whose twentysomething protagonist, Dwight Wilmerding, gropes about life aimlessly before meeting a Belgian beauty on an eye-opening jaunt to the Ecuadorian Amazon. At her urging, and amid the wreckage of Latin American neoliberal “reform,” the antihero finally arrives at a decision, rejecting a life of apathetic self-indulgence and swearing an oath to democratic socialism. It’s at this juncture that the tale ends, and it’s hard not to see Kunkel’s public dissent in light of his protagonist’s imagined trajectory. Now, with the publication of Kunkel’s collection of political essays, …

Hold It Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art

Reviewed By Amanda DuPreez Jennifer Doyle. Hold It Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013. 243 pages. How can we respond to artworks that make us downright uncomfortable? What kind of thinking allows viewers to make sense of art that comes in the form of emotionally challenging physical encounters? How might one engage with an artist who only wants to hold you, as Adrian Howells does in Held (2006), a performance piece where he spoons the audience one by one? Posing these questions in her recent book, Hold It Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art, cultural scholar Jennifer Doyle searches for the politics embedded in artworks that relay their message through emotion not as a means of “narcissistic escape, but of social engagement” (xi). For Doyle, emotional and difficult works do not operate under modernist pretenses or require specific expertises in order to unlock their meaning. On the contrary, such works mostly come in accessible and mundane guises. Therein lies their potency. Despite its accessibility, however, difficult art …

What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation

Nicola Mann Tom Finkelpearl, What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation. Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2013. 388 pages. “Placing quotation marks around the everyday to both appreciate and critique it” is how critic Jon Davis describes the practice of interdisciplinary artist, Harrell Fletcher. Introduced halfway through What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation, Davis’ quote serves as an anchor not only to Fletcher’s practice, but also to Tom Finkelpearl’s ambitious volume, and, more broadly, to the interdisciplinary field known as social practice art (152). The author’s commitment to social art practice is born out in his recent appointment as Cultural Affairs Commissioner for New York City after serving as the Executive Director of the Queens Museum, where he championed the everyday lives of local residents through community-focused outreach. Composed of 15 conversations conducted over the last 10 years with artists, curators, participants, art historians, and urban planners, the architecture of the book echoes the logic of the subject matter—it “quotes” the “quotes.” Like the schools, marketplaces and parades it …

A Box of Photographs

David Staton Roger Grenier. A Box of Photographs. Translated by Alice Kaplan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. 109 pp. In this slender volume, writer Roger Grenier shares a life well lived, rich in memories, friendship, and historical touchstones. The 95-year-old Man of Letters offers A Box of Photographs as recollection and examination of histories personal, global, and cultural, and photography serves as the North Star in the telling of his story. Largely chronological, Grenier traces how photographs and cameras intersected with formative instances of his life. Using an economy of words in his vignettes—the shortest a slim paragraph, the longest several pages—he recounts the cameras he’s owned with the heartfelt fondness of someone reminiscing about an old love or a favorite haunt. For Grenier, this relationship began early. His parents were opticians and as a sideline to their business, they added a photo printing service. At age ten, he received his first camera, the 2 x 4½ Baby Box, a small handheld manufactured by Zeiss. In his later adventures, images and reflections are captured by an Agfa …

Bullet Hell

Artwork By Adam Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz and Anton Hand (RUST LTD.) Bullet Hell (2012) is a side-scrolling 2D game in which the user controls the movement of a bullet. As with games like Canabalt and Robot Unicorn Attack, the object of the game is to prolong gameplay by avoiding collisions with the surrounding environment, and as gameplay progresses the game stage moves faster and faster until the user inevitably “fails” or “dies”. The game is driven by a core loop that revolves around a central decision point: should the user intervene and move the bullet? If the bullet is not moved, it will strike its target and then the game will rewind to the beginning and automatically begin again. This means that the game will loop indefinitely in the absence of user interaction, allowing users and spectators alike to approach the work as they would an animation or video installation. Thus, Bullet Hell explores the artistic potential of a popular game genre by removing its familiar feedback mechanisms—such as score, lives, music, and interface—and foregrounding its eternal recurrence …

Come In and Cassette Tape Leader, Ocean Horizon, and Ruled Paper Line

Erin Johnson Artist’s Statement: Over the past few years, I have worked with Morse Code operators in Marin County, California, whose sea-side station was shut down in 1999 when commercial telegraphy was officially taken off the air. In 2009, the operators re-opened the doors to the closed station and started sending out messages, but this time there were few or no listeners to receive them. When asked why they continued, even when no ships were calling in, one operator observed, “Even if there were no ships out there, we’d be keeping the faith.” My relationship with the Marin County Morse Code operators began when I started researching the notion of “faith” in connection with Morse Code and communication technology. I arrived at the 1859 publication of the Spiritual Telegraph, a weekly journal, whose title points to the entanglement of the telegraph’s history with that of Spiritualism. The Spiritualist Church was founded in 1848 by Leah, Margaret and Kate Fox when they claimed that the ability to speak with the dead, through mediums, was justified by …

Misprints

Paul Qaysi “Misprints” investigates the effect of destruction, trauma, and memory through deliberately accidental printing. Photojournalism ‘represents’ casualties of war; they refer to an actual event. Misprints suppress the literal, and ‘present’ destruction and the meaning of loss of life which is reconstructed in afterthoughts, how we think about it over time. In my first series of “Misprints,” I researched, and organized stories about civilian and American causalities of the Iraq War, that’s documented in hundreds of photographs, news outlets, and Iraqi/American blogs. The photographs I use are mostly in the public domain since they are works of the United States Government that are excluded from copyright law, while a few others, are under fair usage copyright for the progress of useful arts. The collected photographs are assembled on “Study Sheets” organized by names, location, and dates of the incidents and classified by generic types—civilian, soldiers, IED road explosion, house/building explosion, and so on. I cull these widely distributed photographs and print them on the wrong side of inkjet transparency film which is then presented …

Prepare to Qualify

Clint Enns Artist’s Statement: Prepare to Qualify is a short video that was made on a circuit-bent Atari using Namco’s classic 1982 video game Pole Position as source material. For those unfamiliar, circuit-bending is the creative re-wiring (and short-circuiting) of low voltage electronic devices such as children’s toys and small digital synthesizers. Circuit bending is often used by artists to create new musical instruments and/or to generate new images and sounds. This video is an attempt to explore the use of video games as source material–machinima–both thematically and materially. The playful re-contextualization of images from Pole Position and its opening line allow the video itself to comment on the ever-growing artistic potentials of this fresh found footage source. Re-contextualizing these images–or in this case, re-wiring the game console–ultimately allows us to conquer these games and their images. Dir. Clint Enns, “Prepare to Qualify,” USA, 3 mins., Video, 2008.

Video Preservation (NTSC)

Walter Forsberg Artist’s Statement: I began to think very seriously about the historical longevity of video test patterns while managing the New Museum of Contemporary Art’s XFR STN – an open-door, artist-centered media conservation laboratory that ran for 3 months in the summer of 2013. There, I provided countless explanations to the public, who passed daily through the fifth floor gallery’s video digitization workstations, as to how the color bars were merely a representational electromagnetic language about voltages. I wondered how an image so iconic as the SMPTE split-field bars would live on beyond the technological obsolescence of standard definition analog video. Translating these voltage values into filmic form seemed immediately logical, especially once Kodak discontinued its color reversal film stocks in late 2012. This occurred to me as one strategy to preserve standard definition video beyond the lifespan of its own magnetic media format. A light leak on my Bolex’s daylight spool makes for the pretty “dropout” flash in the magenta region, and rendering the 80% gray bar as a filmed 18 gray card is supposed …

CFP InVisible Culture, Issue 23: Blueprints

“Blueprints” – Issue 23 (Download PDF) For its twenty-third issue, InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture invites scholarly articles and creative works that consider the multiple valences of the topic: blueprints. In his theoretical manifesto, Toward An Architecture, Le Corbusier wrote, “The plan is the generator. Without plan there can be neither grandeur of aim and expression, nor rhythm, nor mass, nor coherence. . . . The plan is what determines everything; it is the decisive moment.” The plan or blueprint is the primary tool of the architect’s and the drafter’s trades—a technical document that bridges creative impulse and constructive labor, intent and execution, virtuality and materiality. Taking shape as a conversation among concept, form, and representation, a blueprint insistently nudges its spectator’s gaze outside its frame. It is understood as a necessary stage on the way to something larger, something grander, something more, and is usually seen not as a self-contained object, but as prescription directed toward a particular outcome. Yet a blueprint may also be the terminus of the unrealized and …

Thinking About the Forest and the Trees

William Kentridge thinks a lot about thinking: its errant trails, its spasmodic lurches, its spectacular leaps. Drawing, he has often stressed, can function as a form of thinking but equally– and especially when chased by the artist’s eager eraser – it enacts a wilful un-thinking in which every notion can potentially be undone, and every idea arrives partnered with a nay-saying dialectical double. These revisionary “second thoughts” often assume human, usually Kentridgian form, striding onstage during the artist’s public lectures to chide, correct and contradict. Fingers are wagged, eyebrows raised, eyes rolled in exasperation. “The horn of the rhinoceros is in the wrong place,” one superego character chimes. “I don’t want to hear it,” the other retorts. “But if you would just take the time to look at these textbooks, you could see how it could be done better…” the first nags. “Just fuck off! Just fuck off!” the second repeats exasperatedly. At “Second-Hand Reading,” Kentridge’s recent keynote lecture at the University of Rochester, the themes of second thoughts and second selves (the latter, Stanley …

“The Craft of Modernity” Reviewed: Amelia Pelaez at PAMM

Marañones (Cashews), 1939-40. Courtesy of the Amelia Peláez Foundation The Perez Art Museum of Miami (PAMM) opened to the public in December with two inaugural shows. One is Ai Wei Wei’s expansive “According to What?” which features pieces slightly the worse for wear after a blockbuster 2012-13 North American tour (the 3,000 piled ceramic river crabs that make up He Xie are a short a few legs since I saw them in Toronto in August). The other is “The Craft of Modernity,” a solo show of paintings and ceramics by twentieth century Cuban artist Amelia Peláez. It features both important, beautiful art, and curation gone horribly wrong. But before I get to that, let me say that almost everything else about PAMM is so right. Its Herzog and de Meuron-designed building is both innovative and inviting, a set of textured wood and concrete planes perched on the edge of Biscayne Bay. The new museum is eager to introduce American visitors to the art of Latin America and the Caribbean. Its fledgling permanent collection includes a few stray (though lovely) works by …

Contributors / Issue 20: Ecologies

W.C. Bamberger is the author, editor, and translator of more than a dozen books. In 2007 he edited Guy Davenport and James Laughlin: Selected Letters. His translations include Two Draft Essays from 1918 by Gershom Scholem. His fourth novel, A Light Like Ida Lupino, will be published in early 2014. He lives in Michigan. Andrew Bieler is a writer, researcher, arts-based educator, and PhD Candidate in Communication and Culture at York University. His research interrogates the nuances of collaboration between artists and scientists in the context of expeditionary field studies, and describes the potential of these collaborations in learning for a sustainable future. As an educator, he curates engaging conversations between artists and other social groups and experiments with tactile ways of knowing place. He recently designed a project called The Farm, which brought together youth participants, community groups, and artists to collectively explore the future of farming in Markham, Ontario, as part of a site-specific exhibition called Land|Slide: Possible Futures. Becky Bivens is a PhD student in art history at the University of Illinois, Chicago and a lecturer at Columbia College, Chicago. Her research …

The Selfie in the Age of Digital Recursion

Adam Levin “Selfie noun, informal (also selfy; plural selfies): a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”1 “All media work us over completely.”2 On November 18, 2013, the Oxford English Dictionary pronounced “Selfie” the word of the year. Since then, selfies have assumed a place of privilege in the dialogue concerning how digital media affects behavior. For many, taking selfies is simply a harmless past time. As with Polaroid, it is considered little more than a method for capturing a moment in one’s life and sharing it with others. Conversely, selfies are also seen as symbols of the deteriorating moral fabric of civilization; harbingers of a future digital media dystopia in which disassociated individuals callously pose before human atrocities to snap and share the pic. The latter point of view is represented by the cover of the 4 December 2013 issue of the New York Post, which shows a young woman in sunglasses posing in front of the Brooklyn Bridge …

Putting Penises under the Microscope

Roberta Buiani and Gary Genosko  Abstract In 2011, Australian-based artist Maria Fernanda Cardoso exhibited her multi-part work It is not Size that Matters, it is Shape at ARC One gallery in Melbourne. It was the first of a series of installations focusing on the reproductive organs of the Harvestman, a spider native of Southern Australia. Working in the tradition of natural history, Cardoso hoped to add new specimens to her collection, turning it into a “Museum of Reproductive Morphology.” However, It is not Size that Matters, it is Shape exceeds the function of the natural history museum. Both the research methods that led to the exhibition and the choice of display of the organs reflect a novel ecological approach: the work is presented as a collaborative operation involving taxonomists, microscopists, graphic designers, and 3D printer professionals; the focus of the display is on the reproductive (or intromittent) organs of a single species using different formats, materials and scale. Upon facing the artifacts that compose Cardoso’s installation, one realizes that the hierarchies and taxonomies that traditionally …

Message in a Bottle: Contesting the Legibility/Illegibility of Ruins and Revival in Post-Katrina New Orleans

Beatrice Choi An ‘X’ marks the spot. [Fig. 1] In the wake of the storm, military personnel spray-painted each vacated house with this grim tally to account for the evacuation of New Orleans. Most inhabitants of the houses in more prosperous neighborhoods have opted to paint over this reminder, a few still bearing the ‘X’ as if to memorialize the survivors’ experiences. A number of the houses in less affluent neighborhoods also still bear the mark, not out of a sense of shared survival or solidarity, but out of dissent or neglect. Crossed out as they are on the cultural, political and economic spectrum, the residents in less wealthy neighborhoods are tarnished by Katrina’s passage, in a material sense with the destruction of the built environment and its infrastructural support, and in a political sense depicted by the ensuing media distortion. How do the markings on these houses function as a network of signs? Embodying more than visible legacies of catastrophe, these crossed-out networks of urban wreckage signal larger ecological complexities in post-disaster New Orleans and the liminal contingencies of its residents. In my explorations of …

The Lightest Distinction

Hans Vermy “The theatre,” says Baudelaire, “is a crystal chandelier.” If one were called upon to offer in comparison a symbol other than this artificial crystal-like object, brilliant, intricate, and circular, which refracts the light which plays around its center and holds us prisoners of its aureole, we might say of the cinema that it is the little flashlight of the usher, moving like an uncertain comet across the night of our waking dream, the diffuse space without shape or frontiers that surrounds the screen. —André Bazin, What is Cinema?1 How we see is crucial to our understanding of theater. In the theater—from the Greek theatron or “seeing place”—light’s granting of sight to the spectator is often a given tautology; it goes without saying that light allows us to see. As the above epigraph illustrates, however, the conditions of illumination allow us to distinguish between both modes of performance that cross from the real to the aesthetic as well as to distinguish between the arts themselves, as light and its reflective materials generate classifications between …

EcoArtTech Interview: “Basecamp.exe”

EcoArtTech What does the term ‘ecologies’ mean to you and how is represented in Basecamp.exe? We see our creative work as a part of a performative response to cultural and theoretical conversations. Basecamp.exe, like much of our research, is highly influenced by but also building off of Félix Guattari’s Three Ecologies, in which “ecology” is described as an intertwining of the social, the psychic, and the environmental. To affect one is to affect all three. In one of our favorite parts of Three Ecologies, Guattari transfers the discourse of species extinction to the human imagination, moving from the environmental to the psychic: “It is not only species that are becoming extinct,” he writes, “but also the words, phrases, and gestures.” Put in another way: the agricultural and ecological monocultures being created by our industrial systems are simultaneous with the creation of what Vandana Shiva has called “monocultures of the mind.” Perhaps, every time we lose another species from our planet’s biodiversity we also lose another way of thinking, imagining, being, and relating. Guattari also obliquely …