Author: IVC Author

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 …