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Introduction / Issue 27: Speculative Visions

Artwork by contributor Julie Tixier. For Issue 27, the editorial board of InVisible Culture is honored to present a special introduction by Dr. Jeffrey Tucker. “Speculative Visions” is a title rich with denotative and connotative meanings covering the scope of this issue of (In)Visible Culture and of Cultural Studies more generally.  It is a formulation that parallels “speculative fiction,” an umbrella term for writing that addresses any of a number of topics–augmentations of the human body, journeys through space and time, the wonder and warnings attached to technological developments, utopias and dystopias, alien encounters, and more; it also covers a range of genres–e.g. science fiction, fantasy, and horror–belonging to what the late Tzvetan Todorov called The Fantastic.1 It is in this latter sense particularly that such coverage is warranted; look closely at the content, production, or reception of “genre” literature or film and you will see boundaries a-blurring.  Horror film director John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) is based on the novella “Who Goes There?” (1938) by legendary science fiction editor and writer John W. Campbell, Jr.  …

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, …

Affecting Activist Art: Inside KillJoy’s Kastle, A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House

By Genevieve Flavelle Photo credit: Allyson Mitchell, Lesbian Rule, 2013. Courtesy of the Artist. On a warm fall evening in 2015 a lesbian feminist entity known as KillJoy opened her fang bearing mouth in the center of Los Angeles’s Plummer Park. Inviting audiences into her inner sanctum, the maligned matriarch elicited delight, horror, fear, sentimentality, laughter, and reverence for lesbian feminist herstories1 Viewers grouped together in line with friends, or perhaps friendly strangers, awaiting their turn to experience the novelty of a Lesbian Feminist Haunted House. Reaching the front of the line, visitors’ introduction to KillJoy’s Kastle was brusque as Valerie Solanas was back from the dead and working the door!2 Brandishing her infamous S.C.U.M. Manifesto, a ghoulish Solanas instructed groups that what they were about to experience would not be “part of the ordinary.” As a group was being informed about nudity and instructed not to take flash photography, I joined in time to be advised that the “KillJoy’s Kastle is best viewed by the light of your pussy—if you have one.” I quickly explained, as I …

“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, …

The Art of Definism

Artwork by Darrell Black, 2017 My name is Darrell Black, an American visual artist living in Frankfurt, Germany. I work in a variety of formats that include Paintings on canvas,wood and wall hanging sculpture I use in my creative process a mixture of acrylic paint, found objects and non-toxic hot glue on canvas and wood, that help to create a sense of realism and presence in the artworks. This form of  Artwork illusion and interpretation is called ”Definism” Which, in my opinion portrays various differences in human nature,from life’s everyday dramas to humankind’s quest to under-standing self. The main focus of  the artworks, is transporting viewers from the doldrums of their daily reality, to a visual world where images coexist in a alternate reality that  everyone in contact with the artwork can interact through touch while simultaneously interpreting and understanding with one’s own power of imagination.  

Extraordinary Conceptions

Artwork by Julie Tixier, 2016 Julie Tixier is a French photographer artist whose practice explores the way human nature is changing under the influence of emerging techno-sciences. She reflects on how these contemporary advances increasingly question the borders of humanity by altering and redefining our human species and its future evolution. Through her photographs, the artist reinvents the scientific language to tackle the experimental conditions of contemporary scientific research. She interlaces scientific methodology and unbridled imagination, blurring the boundaries between photographic representation and microscopic imagery, the organic and the synthetic, the human and the non-human. Somewhere between reality and fiction, the artist draws attention to complex issues in a satirical and playful language. Her websites can be found at: http://julietixier.com/ and https://www.instagram.com/jl.txr/ Extraordinary Conceptions (2016) ‘Extraordinary Conceptions’ looks at the current genetic modifications on embryos and imagines the future cross-breed new species of laboratories. The relations and boundaries between species are becoming increasingly blurred with the advances of biotechnologies. The current research enables the transfer of genetic material from one species to an other, from animal to …

Extended Flight: The Emergence of Drone Sovereignty

Artwork by Adam Fish, Bradley Garrett, and Oliver Case, 2016   Introduction  Landeyjarsandur, Iceland is a long expanse of black beach stretching down the southern coast of Iceland 1.5 hours southeast of Reykjavik. We took the journey to this place with two Icelandic internet engineers to make a film about how North Atlantic islands are linked by communication networks consisting of fibre-optical cables and cable stations. Landeyjarsandur’s features are largely organic – even the remains of long-abandoned fishing boats and washed up cultural objects seem to have long folded themselves into the environmental matrix. One feature remains distinct however: a small well-fortified building that houses the submarine communications cable landing point between Denmark and Greenland. Part of our methodology was to deploy drones with high-quality videos cameras to follow the cables from the air. However, in taking to the air, we experienced a methodological disjunction, a moment when our expectations and desires as pilots were outstripped by an event. This article, and the accompanying film, is about a situation where our previous experience of autonomy …

Pro-found Objects: The Magick of the Mundane

Artwork by Michael E. Stephen, 2015-2016 Everything is an object and we’re all a mysterious collection of them. a Topp’s trading card signed by that favorite sports athlete shoved into the spokes of a bicycle, a bag of Andy Capp’s Hot Fries from the ice rink; your special penny; a teddy bear missing a nose due to over excessive kisses; cults; all religions; cold glasses of milk; a moment of regret; blanket forts; a quartz crystal; the rare black witch moth (ascalapha odorata); a stranger’s Polaroid; the only gold plated VHS in the world; a chewed drafting pencil with embedded histories; cinephilism; first kisses; bruises and scars. Our attraction to objects is often mysterious.  It is here in this mysterious zone of attraction, where I seek to reveal the omen in the ordinary. From an auctioned set of wisdom teeth to a piece of lunar meteorite, my works, composed from appropriated, altered and cast materials, evoke the complex visual experience culled from subcultures of the 1970s-1990s. Cloaked in a psychotronic aesthetic of filmic culture, these …