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Introduction / Issue 28: Contending with Crisis

Artwork by contributor Anna Haglin The theme of the twenty-eighth issue of InVisible Culture makes explicit something that has resonated throughout the past four issues of our journal. From engagements with vulnerability and states of contagion (Issue 24: Corpus), and the intersections between surveillance, (national) security and the visual (Issue 25: Security and Visibility), to an issue inspired by the refugee crisis (Issue 26: Border Crossings) and another devoted to the proliferation of speculative imaginaries in the present moment (Issue 27: Speculative Visions), these issues suggest that “across diverse and geopolitical locations, the present moment imposes itself on consciousness as a moment in extended crisis.”1 Defined by the global uncertainty of a world afflicted by varied and ambiguously interrelated states of emergency, the concept of “crisis” here refers to a multitude of circumstances, events, and situations: military conflict, debt crises, issues of political representation, the mass migration and displacement of refugees, increasing ecological disruptions. These ruptures in the social demand constant attention from individuals and communities, constituting a need for committed artistic and scholarly engagements …

Contributors / Issue 28: Contending with Crisis

alma aamiry-khasawnih is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her scholarship focuses on access to the street in post-colonial and settler-colonial nation states as a site to understanding and articulating access to citizenship. Her current project examines ephemeral visual culture production as sites that orient, disorient, and reorient feminist debates on gender, class, and religion. She also examines how white-washing walls, cleansing, and beautification projects are all part of authoritarian visual culture and politics of respectability that aim at policing bodies in public spaces. Razan AlSalah is a filmmaker and media artist working between Canada, the US and Lebanon. Her work explores our contemporary (dis)connection to place, which particularly comes to question in digital spaces, and more so now in virtual reality.  Her short film your father was born 100 years old, and so was the Nakba, won Best Narrative Short at Cinema Days Palestine, has been acquired by the Palestine Films Collection and has been selected in film festivals including HotDocs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Ann …

Crisis of Invasion: Militaristic Language and the Legitimization of Identity and Place

By Emma Lansdowne On May 9, 2016, the alt-right news site Bugout News published an article entitled “It’s OFFICIAL: We’re Being Invaded By Illegal Immigrants And What Obama Has Reaped, We Will Sow,” in which the author declares that millions of Americans are “sick and tired of being forced to witness and accept a massive invasion of third-world poor into their country.”1This message of crisis, writes J. Dougherty under the web name Usafeaturesmedia, is a direct reflection of and signals agreement with the anti-immigration message put forth during the presidential campaign by current U.S. President, Donald J. Trump. 2 Trump’s hard-line campaign proposals on border control became a rallying cry for right-wing Americans who remain suspicious of asylum-seekers and view illegal immigration as one of the greatest threats not simply to national security, but to nationhood itself. Conservative journalist Pat Buchanan neatly summarized this position on the public affairs program The McLaughlin Group in early January 2016 when he warned that “if the invasion of Europe and the United States are not stopped, these — the …

Visibility in Crisis: Configuring Transparency and Opacity in We Are Here’s Political Activism

by Christian Sancto Fig. 1. We Are Here, Homeless on the street in the cold and rain after the eviction of camp Osdorp, Autumn 2012. Courtesy of the artists’ collective. We Are Here is the vehicle by which a group of Amsterdam-based refugees attempts to make visible the conditions of crisis that envelope its members’ lives. The group is comprised of refugees whose applications for asylum in the Netherlands are, for various reasons, no longer in process. Although they remain living in the Netherlands, they have no means of income, since they are not permitted to work. At the same time the government does not provide them with housing, forcing the group to move from squatted building to squatted building, or simply to live on the streets. The refugees formed We Are Here in September 2012 to provide them with a means for having their existence in the Netherlands recognized through collective action. The group’s website recounts that it emerged from an impetus to “make themselves visible” by “start[ing] a demonstration.”1 As interest in the group …

Four Times ‘Egyptian Identity:’ Mural collaboration as dissent in times of crisis

by alma aamiry-khasawnih Figure 1: Multiple artists, Egyptian Identity, June-July 2013, paint, spray, metal, found objects, and wood, 82 ff x 13 ft (25 m x 4 m). Qasr El-Nil Street, Cairo, Egypt. (Photograph: Abdelrhman Zin Eldin) A mural 25 meters long and four meters high stands at the end of Qasr El-Nil Street in downtown Cairo, only three blocks away from the famous Midan El-Tahrir (Tahrir Square) and Mohamed Mahmoud Street where Egyptian protestors lived and died demanding the fall of the regime starting on January 25, 2011. The sunset sky of white and blue with hints of red and orange forms the background for a portrait of a young fallaha (rural) girl with flowers in her braided hair, looking into the distance contemplating her past, present, and future. Beside her is a poem: “When I first opened my eyes, and before my mother knew me, they applied kohl (eyeliner) to my eyes reaching my temples so I can look like your statues.”1 She is surrounded by metal sculptures, hybrid figures, human and non-human, with …

“La Bola de Cristal”: Puerto Rican Meme Production in Times of Austerity and Crisis

by Caroline Gil-Rodríguez Sky is a sea of darkness, when there is no sun Sky is a sea of darkness, When there is no sun to light the way When there is no sun to light the way There is no day There is no day There’s only darkness Eternal Sea of Darkness. — Sun Ra Puerto Rico, a US Territory with a population of 3.474 million people, that is neither a sovereign nation nor state of the union. The island is currently in the midst of an ongoing financial crisis with an accrued debt of over $73 billion and $49 billion in pension obligations, the largest economic insolvency in the history of the United States. The fiscal crisis has seen an abundance of meme trends that unveil the frustrations of the citizenry after decades of corruption, react to the recent imposition of a Fiscal Control Board, and draw on the island’s thorny history as a colony of the U.S. Who else, but a godless Richard Dawkins to coin the term “meme”? The evolutionary biologist and …

Black and White and Back: Reversed Negatives in Rula Halawani’s series “Negative Incursions”

by Sherena Razek Figure 1 Rula Halawani, Untitled XII, Negative Incursion series, 2002, archival print, 90 x 124 cm, edition of 5. Photograph courtesy of the artist and Ayyam Gallery. Write down! I am an Arab I have a name without a title Patient in a country Where people are enraged My roots Were entrenched before the birth of time And before the opening of the eras Before the pines, and the olive trees And before the grass grew – Mahmoud Darwish, “Identity Card”1 Acclaimed Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish expresses the inherent frustration of the Palestinian condition of invisible visibility in his 1964 poem “Identity Card.”2 Addressing an existence that is often negated, confined, and erased under Israeli colonial occupation, Darwish’s poetry speaks to a population that since 1948 has been constantly watched, but never seen. Half a century later, Darwish’s poetry maintains its relevance as the occupation continues to suppress and expand its hold on Palestinian territory. In 2002 during the Second Intifada, or Second Palestinian Uprising, Israeli Defence Forces launched “Operation Defensive Shield,” the …

Your father was born 100 years old, and so was the Nakba ابوكي خلق عمره ١٠٠ سنة، زي النكبة

Artwork by Razan AlSalah, 2017. Oum Ameen, a Palestinian grandmother, returns to her hometown Haifa through Google Maps Streetview, today, the only way she can see Palestine. Although Streetview came out of necessity – Palestinian refugees like my grandma and myself are denied entry to their homeland – I quickly understood that Streetview inherently poses the question of our (dis)connection to place. The film uses glitch poetics and Streetview’s aesthetics of erasure to tell a personal story as well as a universal disposition of loss, injustice and distance.

Emergency Blankets

Artwork by Anna Haglin, 2016. Fig. 1. I require assistance, 2016, hot-stamped foil on emergency blanket, 84” x 52” I want to protect us. My work explores the complexity of this instinct as a contemporary woman and visual artist. I put my personal gestures of care on display to exemplify empathy and examine moments when my emphatic response is futile. I question the anthropocentric systems that have led to environmental and humanitarian instability by symbolically mismatching material and function. In doing so, I provoke situational paradox, asking: how well anything or anyone can protect us from ourselves? The utilitarian objects I construct are hopeful tools for survival and recovery.  My emergency blanket series is an example of such tools. They are printed with both traditional wool blanket patterns and symbols from the international maritime signal code, thus addressing crises of communication, identity, and natural disaster.  Though flashy and graphic, at the end of the day, they are blankets—caretaking objects meant to help those in need. The relief they provide is only temporary.

Notes on the Crisis of Historical Consciousness and Formal Knowledge

Artwork by Cameron McEwan, 2018 “With the fading away of the dream of knowledge as a means to power, the constant struggle between the analysis and its objects – their irreducible tension – remains. Precisely this tension is ‘productive:’ the historical ‘project’ is always the ‘project of a crisis.’” “The critical act will consist of a recomposition of the fragments once they are historicised in their ‘remontage.’” Manfredo Tafuri, The Sphere and the Labyrinth, 1980.1 The following collage studies and the accompanying short text approach the notion of crisis through a reading of what the architectural historian Manfredo Tafuri has called the “project of a crisis.” For Tafuri, crisis was etymologically linked with the political category of decision (de-cision, to de-cide, to de-fine), which shares the prefix de- from the Latin for “off” meaning “to cut off” or to separate and isolate. These ideas are given political and methodological significance in Tafuri’s work as he constructed a project from the fragments of the historical avant-garde and theorized the relationship between architectural and political ideology, between …