Author: IVC Author

Contributors / Issue 27: Speculative Visions

Darrell Urban Black was born in Brooklyn, New York, but he grew up in Far Rockaway, New York. In high school, he excelled in science with an affinity for outer space. In June 1969, as America fulfilled J. F. Kennedy’s dream to put the American Stars and Stripes into the dusty surface of the moon his fascination with spaceships grew. As a child, he made spaceship models eventually placing his artistic visions on paper resulting in some 500 drawings. Phantasmal spaceships eventually carried him to unique wonderland of strange forms and colors. In 1982, he joined the National Guard.  During this time, his previous drawings were lost – but not his passion.  In 1988, he joined the army and served another four years. He earned his Bachelor Degree in Science of Criminal Justice Administration at the University of Phoenix. In April 2001, he was nominated by the German government as a “candidate of the year’s prize for promising young artists” for his artwork titled “The Invasion” in the exhibition “The Zeppelin in Art, Design, and …

Horrific Flesh, Holy Theater

by Jenn Cole, PhD. Do away with the actor and you do away with the means by which a debased stage-realism is produced and flourishes. No longer would there be a living figure to confuse us into connecting actuality and art; no longer a living figure in which the weakness and tremors of the flesh were perceptible. – Edward Gordon Craig, from “The Actor and the Über- Marionette” When I was ten, I found a religious pamphlet in my stepmother’s purse, which I obsessively read and re-read. It featured a story about an eighth-century Basilian monk who, saying mass, was overcome with doubt about the transformation of the communion elements of bread and wine into the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.  As this monk began to doubt, the bread and wine turned to real flesh and real blood before his eyes. The pamphlet spent the rest of its brief pages describing the scientific testing that had been done to prove that the fleshy membrane and coagulated blood, conserved in an ornate monstrance, were, in …

The Branded Future: Brand-Placement Implications for Present Viewers and Future Narratives

by Barbara D. Ferguson In Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film Minority Report, set in the year 2053, the protagonist John Anderton is wrongly accused of murder and forced to flee his own law-enforcement colleagues. In a subway station where commuter crowds should offer anonymity, the advertisements lining every wall become dangers Anderton hadn’t considered. Floor-to-ceiling billboards for Lexus, American Express and Guinness scroll and flash with animated life, and, because retinal-scan identification has been integrated into marketing, the merest glance at an advertisement triggers a personalized appeal. As he enters the station, a woman’s voice assures him on behalf of Lexus, “The road you’re on, John Anderton, is the one less travelled.”1 “John Anderton,” hails a genial voice a few hurried steps further, “you could use a Guinness right about now!” The faster Anderton moves through the corridor, the more his name resounds from all directions in a cacophony of goods and services offered.2 The film’s plot progresses amid a sea of branding, with Lexus receiving the most prominent screen-time and -space, but with Aquafina, Nokia, Bulgari, …

“Your Bad Theory Helped a Killer Go Free”: Recession Anxiety, Surveillance Labor, and the Hauntology of the Digital in Sinister”

Written by John Roberts I. Introduction In a dimly lit home office, a writer gets to work: taking notes while screening home movies and hoping (needing desperately, in fact) to make sense of the footage somehow, to scrutinize the screen until it yields a meaningful, self-evident explanation of its visual contents. The writer is Ellison Oswalt, protagonist of Sinister (Derrickson, 2012), but this description, with slight modifications, could just as easily fit the (post-)cinematic spectator of Paranormal Activity (Peli, 2007), who examines that film’s home movies with the same level of investigatory intensity, and with similar outcomes: both will be fascinated and frightened by the images they see, and also be made palpably anxious by the evidentiary truths those images do and do not disclose. Shifting frames again, the description could apply as well to the spectator of Sinister (academic or otherwise), engaging in processes of narrative hypothesis-testing and thematic construction: a forensic construction of narrative that pieces together coherent meaning from a flow of audiovisual data in time. This essay explores how Sinister, in …

A Tour of the Tactical Subjunctive: Virtually Visiting the Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History

by Daniel Grinberg In the Tipton Three Exhibition Space, a projection screen displays “Hung Lazy Boy.”1 Created by artists Carling McManus and Jen Susman, this animated GIF features the eponymous chair dangling in chains in a living room. On repeat, the chair swings near a home entertainment system and threatens—but never manages—to yield to the imperatives of gravity. Because this cryptic sequence is showing at the Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art of History (hereafter referred to as the Museum), its precarious status may prompt associations like the hooded man of Abu Ghraib; practices of bondage, hanging, and lynching; or the recliners in which some Guantanamo detainees consume media or receive force-feedings. It also suggests that Americans cannot shut out their government’s abuses in the fortresses of their comfortable homes. In the same exhibition space, a 59-minute digital video, “Performing the Terror Playlist” is playing.2 This work by Adam Harms is a found collage of karaoke singers who perform the songs that interrogators blared nonstop for twenty-four hours to physically and psychologically torture detainees.3 The sound …

Ghosts are Real: Digital Spectatorship within Analog Space in Crimson Peak

Written By Patrick Brame The prologue of Guillermo Del Toro’s 2015 film Crimson Peak begins with a white screen fading in on the disheveled, distraught, and bloodied protagonist, Edith, proclaiming, “Ghosts are real… This much I know.” Del Toro presents to the audience Edith’s first interaction with a ghost with a flashback of Edith’s mother’s funeral. On a stormy night, as young Edith weeps in her bed, the audible tick tock of a clock abruptly stops, with the shot lingering down a dimly lit hallway. A translucent, gaseous woman in a black dress slowly approaches and crawls into bed with her daughter. Edith’s mother returns to warn her, “When the time comes, beware of Crimson Peak,” then disappears from the room. As the camera exits Edith’s bedroom, retreating backwards down the hallway, Edith’s voice-over claims, “It would be years before I again heard such a voice. Or understood its desperate warning. A warning from out of time. And one I came to understand only when it was too late.” The end of the prologue fades …

The Utopian Failure of Constant’s New Babylon

by Darren Jorgensen and Laetitia Wilson For a period of almost twenty years, artist and architect Constant Nieuwenhuys, known simply by the name ‘Constant’, held tight to a revolutionary vision of a new world and a whole new way of life. From 1956 to 1974, he drew and painted, made collages and lithographs, designed experimental maps and built maquettes of this vision in a speculative city called New Babylon.  It is an exemplary vision of both the aspirations and the failings of the utopianism of the so-called ‘long 1960s’, an extended decade of cultural and political turmoil in Western countries.1 Fredric Jameson’s well known essay on this period, “Periodizing the 60s,”  argues that the failure of historical actors of this period, such as the counter-culture and civil rights movements, to bring about substantial change to the structure of Western democracies was built into the historical situation itself.2 This essay turns to New Babylon, the subject of recent exhibitions in Madrid and the Hague, to argue that this argument can also be made of this project, …

Fukushima and the Arts

Review by Robert Yeates, Nagoya University of Commerce and Business Geilhorn, Barbara and Kristina Iwata-Weickgenannt, eds. Fukushima and the Arts: Negotiating Nuclear Disaster. London: Routledge, 2017. xvi + 229 pp. In their representation of events that are at once momentous and irreconcilable, artistic responses to trauma often navigate a difficult path. Cathy Caruth, in her seminal Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, History (1996), writes that the traumatic event, as passed on through narrative, “does not simply represent the violence of a collision but also conveys the impact of its very incomprehensibility” (6). Reading responses to trauma through art is accordingly a tricky process, not least when there is a disparity in consensus between official reports and the lived experiences of survivors. Such is the case with “3.11” and its aftermath. The triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown, which occurred in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture on March 11, 2011, continues to have a palpable impact on contemporary Japan. The invisible and insidious influence of nuclear fallout, radiation, and reported discrimination against evacuees from Fukushima has disrupted …

Technoliberalism and the End of Participatory Culture in the United States

Reviewed by Christian Rossipal, NYU Tisch School of the Arts Adam Fish. Technoliberalism and the End of Participatory Culture in the United States. Palgrave Macmillan. 2017. 225 pages. Following the March release of the Trump administration’s “skinny budget,” and its proposed elimination of virtually all federal funding for public broadcasting—as well as for arts and humanities initiatives1 —Adam Fish’s Technoliberalism and the End of Participatory Culture in the United States comes as a timely volume, examining television as a democratic tool in the struggle for and of participatory public spheres in the media. Informed by the author’s own ethnographic research, the framework is a political-economical historiography, ranging from late 20th century corporate liberalism-regulated television to the unregulated Internet of contemporary neoliberalism. In this contested and overdetermined field, Fish situates the notion of technoliberalism as a designation of certain discourses on technology—most often coupled with deregulation—which seeks to invalidate the need for participatory politics. Fish outlines how these discourses are mobilized to “mitigate the contradictions of liberalism” itself.2 By connecting American television history to recent Internet conglomeration and …

A Bridge Somewhere: Infrastructure and Materiality

By Peter Christensen We’ve been hearing a lot about infrastructure these days. In architecture schools across the globe the term has been the subject of numerous studios in architecture and urban design: Ecological Infrastructure at Yale, New Infrastructure at SCI-Arc, or Soft Infrastructure at the AA. Books with the word in its title, such as Keller Easterling’s Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space or the MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism’s Scaling Infrastructure bear the promise of helping us better understand the unwieldy and by and large vague mechanics of infrastructure.1 Airports, bridges, broadband, canals, coastal management, critical infrastructure, dams, electricity, hazardous waste sites, hospitals, irrigation, levees, lighthouses, parks, pipelines, ports, mass transit, public housing, schools, railways, roads, sewage systems, telecommunications, and water supply. This is the vast ground being covered. The often frustrating but necessary need to market work in academia and academic publishing has put scholars under a duress to simplify research interests in anything remotely related to these entities by placing them into the au courant envelope of “infrastructure studies.” Intellectually, however, we …

Doing Time

Artwork by Kristian Vistrup Madsen, 2017. Since the summer of 2015 I have been corresponding with a prisoner in California named Michael. Michael was 27 when we started exchanging letters and is serving a twelve-year sentence for armed car-jacking due to end in 2022. I was 24 and in the middle of a two-year masters programme at an art school in London. What unfolded through our correspondence was a multi-layerered oscillation between similarity and difference, proximity and distance. As the letters crossed the border between inside and outside, the United States and Europe, freedom and un-freedom, they became themselves an ongoing negotiation of difference, a difference at once insurmountable and irrelevant. A few months into our correspondence I started writing this letter: Since you haven’t been in touch for a while, I have sought to know you by other ways; know your space, where you live. It occurred to me that I didn’t even know where it was, the prison where you are staying—it hadn’t even crossed my mind to check. Until now, although of …

Fashion of Fear for Kids

By Barbara Sutton and Kate Paarlberg-Kvam Bullet-resistant apparel for civilians has emerged as a symptom of fear in the contemporary world– one in which a preoccupation with “security” pervades public policy, media images, and even intimate aspects of the self. Common security discourses range from concerns about national security and the threat of terrorism to freedom from robbery and street crime. In this context, garments known as “bulletproof” 1 function within a spectrum of tactics aimed to produce security in everyday life, including gated communities, surveillance cameras, and armored vehicles. Among these, bulletproof fashion operates the closest to the body, blending a feeling of increased security with concerns around bodily appearance. Bulletproof garments have crossed over from the domain of military, police, and security forces and have begun to find a place in everyday civilian life. They are examples of privatized security tactics functioning in line with the neoliberal imperative to find solutions in the economic marketplace, and to construct the “self as enterprise.” 2 This militarized security approach cannot be separated from the politics of fear …

The New Town

Andrew Hammerand, Untitled, from the series The New Town, 2013 The New Town is a series of photographs made throughout 2013 that examine an idealized planned community in the American Midwest. The images were made by accessing a publicly-available, networked CCTV camera that was installed by the developer on a cell phone tower atop a church in the center of town. The goal was to monitor and publicize the construction of the community. The camera is an example of the many non-secure internet-ready devices that actively and indiscriminately stream information to the internet. In addition to the visual stream of information from the camera, any person could get online access to the device’s entire control panel. This allowed me to remotely operate the camera, and pan, tilt, zoom, focus, and adjust the exposure. With these tools, I could take control of the camera as if it were my own and subvert its intended purpose in order to make photographs. Maintaining such dynamic control and close observation of The New Town and its residents yielded a …

(In)Visibility: Film Series at the Dryden Theatre

This fall, InVisible Culture proudly publishes its 25th issue, Security and Visibility, which considers the relationship between surveillance and the visual arts. In honor of this milestone, members of InVisible Culture‘s Editorial Board are working in collaboration with Jurij Meden, Curator of Film Exhibitions at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY and Tara Najd Ahmadi, University of Rochester Fellow at the George Eastman Museum, to present a film series that expands Issue 25’s theme into a cinematic register. The act of looking inherently structures the relation between the spectator and the viewed subject in dynamic terms. Traditionally, the viewer is understood to occupy a position of control over the subject of his or her gaze. This series, titled (In)Visibility, highlights the complexities of this association: what happens when the observer becomes vulnerable, and how can the observed find power in being watched? Set in a variety of locations, from the fashion world of 1970s New York City to an angel-occupied 1980s West Berlin to a contemporary militarized zone in Afghanistan, these films reveal the precarious nature of viewing, and remind …

My East Is Your West

Review by Sophie Knezic, University of Melbourne. Shilpa Gupta and Rashid Rana, My East Is Your West. 56th Venice Biennale. May 5 – October 31, 2015. A satellite exhibition of the 56th Venice Biennale, My East is Your West was presented at the Palazzo Benzon, whose interior architecture of adjoining rooms, narrow corridors and cordoned-off, dimly-lit spaces suggested a mise en abyme of thresholds and crossings. Commissioned by the Gujral Foundation, conceived by its Director Feroze Gujral, and curated by Martina Mazzotta and Natasha Ginwala, the exhibition juxtaposed Pakistani artist Rashid Rana and Indian artist Shilpa Gupta’s respective explorations of geographical divides and subcontinental tensions. As nations locked in postcolonial conflict for much of the second half of the 20th century, neither India nor Pakistan has had the privilege of a permanent national pavilion at Venice, making this a particularly pointed curatorial pairing. Choosing to deploy a method of appropriation, Rana covered two walls with pixelated digital prints of two canonical works from Western art history: Caravaggio’s Judith Slaying Holofernes (1598-99) and Jacques Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii (1784), …

Framing the Audience: Art and the Politics of Culture in the United States, 1929-1945

Reviewed by Elizabeth Eikmann, Saint Louis University Isadora Helfgott. Framing the Audience: Art and the Politics of Culture in the United States, 1929-1945. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015. 326 pages. 21 color plates. The culture wars of the years surrounding the 1930s are known for the many and well-fought domestic battles over high art, popular culture, and consumerism. During this era, the barriers between high and popular art upheld by centuries of tradition came crumbling down as leftist American artists worked to redefine the relationship between art and the greater society. Mass circulation of visual media gave 1930s Americans unprecedented access to art and, as scholars such as Michael Denning have argued, it would be during this decade that art gained a new power to create, challenge, and reinforce ideas about national politics, economy, and identity. While numerous scholars have focused their work on the art produced during this time, Isadora Helfgott’s Framing the Audience: Art and the Politics of Culture in the United States, 1929-1945 flips the focus onto the figures behind and beyond the …

A Stranger in the Gallery: Conceptions of the Body Through Art and Theory

Written by Sarah W. Abu Bakr Objects of Horror and Desire The Western gallery has historically been the pedestal for notions of the classical body, perfected in the Renaissance through the hands of White masters such as Da Vinci and Michelangelo. To this day, in this postmodern moment, the Western and Western-influenced gallery’s welcoming of the grotesque body, and the body of the stranger, remains problematic, and historically charged. The gallery in this paper is a conceptual space. While it may manifest in actual gallery spaces—white walled rooms inside white cube museums—what truly matters here is the act of exhibiting, in other words, who has historically been object to be viewed, and who is the viewer? Historically, when an image of the Other is placed in a Western gallery, it is there to mark its difference and strangeness.1 A clear example of this is the display of South African Sarah Baartman’s living and later deceased body (commonly referred to as the Hottentot Venus) as an object to be viewed by White spectators. Baartman’s body was …

Fieldnotes from the Hy Meisel Slide Collection

Written by Ali Feser An inquiry into the senses, in this light, directs us beyond the faculties of a subject to the transfers, exchanges, and attachments that hinge the body to its environment. Objects are endowed with histories of sensory experience, stratified with a plurality of perceptual possibilities.1 Outbreaks of nostalgia often follow revolution.2 Hy Meisel lived his entire life in Rochester from 1895 to 1980, and he worked as a machinist for Eastman-Kodak, which has been based there since the 1880s. Though Kodak now employs only a couple thousand workers, it was the city’s largest employer for most of the twentieth century. From census records I know that Hy didn’t finish high school but could read and write. While growing up, his family moved frequently to different homes in the same predominantly German neighborhood. His father was a sometimes preacher; they often took in boarders. I found Hy’s draft card and the passenger list from his cruise to Guatemala. I learned that Hy never married, that he never had kids. Much of this is …

Migraciones (en el) arte contemporaneo / Migrations (in) Contemporary Art

Exhibition review by Caroline “Olivia” Wolf, Rice University “Migraciones (en el) arte contemporaneo / Migrations (in) Contemporary Art.” Centro de Arte Contemporáneo. Museo de la Universidad Nacional Tres de Febrero (MUNTREF), Centro de Arte Contemporaneo, Hotel de Inmigrantes. October 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015. Currently online as a virtual exhibition. A recent exhibit organized in the heart of Buenos Aires, Migraciones (en el) arte contemporaneo boldly tangles with discourses of immigration via contemporary art. The show, curated by Diana Wechsler with the support of MUNTREF Rector Aníbal Jozami, brought together an oeuvre of twenty-two artists from over a dozen countries. These works engage intimately with issues of identity, itinerancy, alienation, and belonging in mediums ranging from found objects and photography to video and sound installations. Emerging amidst the Syrian refugee crisis, the exhibit can be seen as one of a series of curatorial efforts tackling the topic of border crossings throughout Latin America in 2015. While the physical manifestation of the show closed on December 31, 2015, it remains viewable online today as part of a thoroughly documented virtual exhibition.[1] …

InVisible Culture Blog

We are happy to announce that InVisible Culture will feature an interactive blog. This new feature will present up-to-date, non-peer reviewed content, including exhibition, film, and book reviews that will reflect the current issue as well offer a forum for considering the state of visual culture. Our editorial board will contribute content, but we also invite short form, 1500-word submissions from our readers all of which will complement our peer-reviewed articles and essays. Interested in contributing? Please use our contact form.

A Symphony in Plaid

Firmly ensconced in the middle of the 1960s, the fifth season of Mad Men has begun to reflect some of the “youthquake” that shaped much of our popular perception of this period.  Don and Harry tried to recruit the Rolling Stones for a Heinz campaign, and Don’s birthday party which started the season visualized the culture clash through the wardrobe of the revelers.   Pete and Trudy, whose masterful Charleston had once cleared the dance floor in season 3 (3:3 “My Old Kentucky Home”) at Rodger’s country club party, are no longer the center of the party.  They have been replaced by Megan’s distinctly inter-racial group of friends in their slim slacks, mod prints, boas, and mini-skirts. 1 Pete’s loud madras plaid sport coat speaks to the peacock male trend among young men, but in a distinctly conservative way (new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce employee Michael Ginsberg embraces the look more fully with his pattern on pattern looks this season).  Trudy’s bright flower mini-dress hints at psychedelia, but its flower print and modest cut make it down …