All posts filed under: Current Issue

Introduction / Issue 26: Border Crossings / Special Double Issue 25 & 26

In 1998, students in the University of Rochester’s Visual and Cultural Studies graduate program founded InVisible Culture as an open-access, online journal, featuring peer-reviewed scholarly articles, artworks and other creative projects, book and exhibition reviews, and other short writings. This spring, InVisible Culture proudly publishes its 25th issue. To celebrate this milestone, we present a double issue of the journal – Security and Visibility and Border Crossings – along with a number of special contributions from University of Rochester faculty. This special insert includes short essays by Visual and Cultural Studies Graduate Program Director Rachel Haidu, Chair of the Department of Art and Art History Joan Saab, and Director of the Film and Media Studies Program Jason Middleton, as well as an interview with renowned art historian Douglas Crimp about his memoir Before Pictures. Additionally, members of InVisible Culture’s Editorial Board collaborated with the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY, to curate a film series that expands Issue 25’s theme into a cinematic register. The series, titled (InVisibility) was screened at the Dryden Theatre in the …

Contributors / Issue 26: Border Crossings

Issue 26: Border Crossings (Special double issue, Spring 2017) Matthew Irwin is a PhD student in American studies at the University of New Mexico. He studies visual culture, critical indigenous studies, and environmental and social justice. His dissertation tracks and responds to discourses on citizenship and belonging along Detroit’s Woodward Avenue that, in Jodi Byrd’s words, “make Indian”—and therefore mark for erasure and dispossession—residents who stand to disrupt the city’s redevelopment regime. Christine Vial Kayser is a French art historian, museum curator, and lecturer at Institut Catholique de Paris and IESA International. In 2016 she was Visiting Assistant Professor at Nalanda University. She is associate researcher with CREOPS, a research center on Asian art history, and Langarts, a comparative and multidisciplinary lab. She is interested in the role of art in relation to the social as reflecting spiritual, vital queries, and in the role of the body, of senses, of memories in the permitting the aesthetic experience. After completing a dissertation on the work of Anish Kapoor and its reception in the West, she is now …

Suturing the Borderlands: Postcommodity and Indigenous Presence on the U.S.-Mexico Border

By Matthew Irwin. For three days in early October 2015, the art collective Postcommodity launched a temporary art installation that reached fifty feet above the desert and two miles across the U.S.-Mexico border. I watched that weekend as they anchored twenty-six helium-filled balloons to the desert floor and let them ascend to create a visual and conceptual link between Douglas, Arizona and Agua Prieta, Sonora.(fig.1). Each yellow, ten-foot diameter balloon had been inscribed with four sets of concentric circles—red, blue, black, and gray, with a black center—to form two pair of “scare eyes” (fig. 2). Postcommodity repurposed a ten-inch consumer bird repellent product known as a “scare-eye” balloon, which is meant to repel birds from fruit trees, gardens, awnings, fences, and everywhere else they are unwanted.1 In fact, Postcommodity’s Kade Twist discovered the product while trying to break-up a “bird party” on his backyard fig tree in Phoenix.2 After the birds figured out that the balloons are harmless within a couple of days, Twist shared the experience with then-Postcommodity member Steve Yazzie, and Yazzie joked that …

Smooth Cruising: Bicycling across (In)Visible Boundaries

By Daryl Meador. In January 2015 I visited the border city of Brownsville, Texas, driving eight hours south of my hometown of Dallas with a friend to visit his father. During this brief winter visit I was unexpectedly introduced to the Doble Rueda (Double Wheel) bicycling collective operating within Matamoros, Tamaulipas, the Mexican city that shares the border with Brownsville. I joined a social bicycle ride within Matamoros, the first of many, full of unexpected turns and encounters which profoundly shifted my own perception of the place. This introduction spurred a year-long collaboration between members of Doble Rueda and myself, a collective research endeavor that methodologically took the form of many exploratory bicycle rides, lots of hanging out, a few formal interviews, and various modes of filmmaking. This essay compiles varied lines of inquiry that emerged from these collaborative experiences on the bicycle in Matamoros. The text journeys through personal prose, ethnographic observations, socio-political history, and spatial border theory, unraveling in sometimes unexpected ways that mirror the experience of bicycling as an inherently aleatory form …

The Nomad’s Baggage: Imagining the Nation in a Global World

Written by Ahyoung Yoo. The Nomad’s Baggage of History in Navigating the Empire An architectural fabric sculpture, made of silk, hangs from the ceiling (Fig. 1). It looks like a bottomless tent at first sight. Despite the blowy material it is made of , the sculpture is eerily serene as it hangs still. Upon closer inspection, the fabric sculpture reveals meticulous attention to details and patterns one could find in traditional Asian temples. The fabric is called eunchosa in Korean. This type of thin silk is from China, mostly used in making airy and lightweight summer clothes. The tactile quality of thin silk may be least associated with the building materials of architecture, to say the least. The way Home hangs aloof adds to the regal, majestic, and even ghostly calmness the work exudes. A material once so prized, associated with the highly covetable noble life style, the fabric evokes to the first historical trade route connecting the East and West: the Silk Road. What was once the material that symbolized the trade routes connecting …

1998/2017

By Rachel Haidu 1998. A year that I can hardly remember with any specificity. The 1990s were Clinton years, mostly: not great times, by a long shot, though of course these days it’s tempting to look at any time as more innocent than our own. And then, to catch oneself: “But those were the years of the embassy bombings, of Matthew Shepard and Monica Lewinsky”—of terrorism and state terrorism, homophobic and racial violence, the birth, or coming-out party, of a radicalized right wing that was plenty evident even then. This is the two-step dance of looking backwards, in 2017. Back then, it was always different—different enough—but still a mess: a time of loss, of ebbing hope. 1998 was the year that Cesar Chavez came to power in Venezuela. Those of us who had been consumed by the spectacle of state socialism’s dismantling almost a decade earlier began to look for signs of what Jacques Derrida had promised as the “new International,” or what Negri and Hardt would call, a couple of years later, building off …

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 …

Shilpa Gupta: Art Beyond Borders

By Christine Vial Kayser The Indian artist Shilpa Gupta (b. 1976) was born and educated in Mumbai, where she also lives and works. Having entered into global art market very early in her artistic career, she uses a global vocabulary is related to formal and conceptual vocabulary of Western Conceptual, Minimalist, and Relational art.1 Yet her use of local hand-made paper, fake Indian administrative forms, hand-woven fabrics, and local medicine, as well as the narratives embedded in her works, ground her practice in a South Asian context. Her aim is somewhat to foreground the preconceptions which we tend to project on our environment rather than engaging liberally with it. Many of her works confront essentialist and nationalist notions of identity in the context of the violence that predates intercommunity and family life in the Sub-continent. Her work is particularly concerned with the estrangement between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, which cultivated by nationalist governments. She works against essentialist notions of identity as defined by social and political forces: gendered and religious narratives, and the nation-state’s logic of …

Indexical Violence, Transmodal Horror

By Jason Middleton. Childbirth, aging, dying, and animal slaughter: these events that entail the passage or transformation of matter from one state into another have conventionally troubled documentary representation, evoking longstanding cultural taboos against their visualization. But what can we learn, and how are we changed, by seeing images that “cannot be unseen” (to use the popular idiom)? Documentary media that engage these events produce an experience of spectatorship that does not end when the film or video ends. Rather, through their production of affective intensities between bodies on and off the screen, they engender continuous processes of individual and collective realignment and becoming. A critical examination of the distinct and forceful modalities of feeling produced in and by these media motivates my book project, “Documentary’s Body: Instructional Aesthetics and Transmodal Affects.” It examines film and media objects whose intimate pedagogies of bodily transformation operate through their transmodal properties. By “transmodal,” I mean that what I term “instructional aesthetics” emerge from the transversal relations among a range of nonfiction media forms: feature-length documentary, activist video, …

Virgins, Saints, and Frida: My Year of Pilgrimages

By A. Joan Saab. I went on my first pilgrimage shortly before my fiftieth birthday, ostensibly for a book I am writing on visual culture for a series on sensory history. I had just finished a chapter on hoaxes and decided, for reasons still not clear to me, to add a chapter to the project on the persistence of what I am calling “miraculous vision.” So, as a first step, I hopped in my car and drove to Beaupre, a small town just north of Quebec City, to visit the shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupre—the second most visited pilgrimage site in North America—to look at the collection of ex votos on display in the chapel and its adjacent museum. From the Latin ex voto suscepto, meaning “from the vow made,” ex votos are small vernacular offerings placed in a church or shrine as acts of thanks for miracles received.  Ex votos can take the form of painted accounts or they can be small objects that in some way encapsulate the miraculous event being recorded …

Past Present Tense

Artwork by Christa Joo Hyun D’Angelo, 2017. Where are you really from? Woher kommst du wirklich? I have always said Negerkuss. I am not a racist. Ich habe schon immer Negerkuss gesagt. Ich bin kein Rassist. Statements such as these comprise a large part of the collective experience shared by a number of people of color living in contemporary Germany, both in the former East and West. This complex and unfolding history formed the impetus for my video work Past, Present, Tense which observes genealogies and everyday realities of racism in Germany, from the fall of the Berlin Wall until the present day. The video work traces the political transition from the German Democratic Republic into current day Germany, a time during which many “contract workers” from Eastern Block countries (most notably from North Vietnam) who remained in the newly unified country became the target of rampant xenophobic pogroms, in particular Rostock-Lichtenhagn and Hoyerswerda.1 While much of the country was in celebration of  the unification and the fall of the Berlin Wall, homes for asylum seekers …

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 …

sub-stack protocols: digital borders and coloniality

by Nolan Dennis Introduction. This paper serves as a sketch for an experimental political cartography of stack-world. A world inscribed by planetary-scale computational infrastructure in which telecommunication network infrastructure is overlaid directly on a neo-colonial meta-infrastructure of an equal scale. This paper explores the notion of borders and borderization through the implications of what Benjamin Bratton describes as the the dramatic re-inscription and reinforcement “of state sovereignty and supervision over information flows” within a globalized computational infrastructure.1 This idea of state supervision is parsed through an expanded notion of borders, in which zones of control are articulated as a form of representation and informationalization of bodies. This paper looks at the ways in which these data-bodies form a techno-political apparatus of governance which is contiguous and continuous with colonial and racist techniques of control across time and place. Reading this techno-social apparatus through Bratton’s description of the dynamic between the archaic and the emergent, this paper explores correspondence of these protocols to what Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe describes in post-colonial Africa as “[how] social-actors continued to …

Borderline

The photographs in Borderline establish a pastoral landscape that is typical of the North American frontier. These pictures stand in contrast to our collective imagination surrounding the term “border,” which conjures up imagery of more heavily militarized zones of separation such as Israel’s Green Line, the Indo-Pakistani Line of Control, or the De-militarized Zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea.

Introduction / Issue 25: Security and Visibility / Special Double Issue 25 & 26

In 1998, students in the University of Rochester’s Visual and Cultural Studies graduate program founded InVisible Culture as an open-access, online journal, featuring peer-reviewed scholarly articles, artworks and other creative projects, book and exhibition reviews, and other short writings. This spring, InVisible Culture proudly publishes its 25th issue. To celebrate this milestone, we present a double issue of the journal – Security and Visibility and Border Crossings – along with a number of special contributions from University of Rochester faculty. This special insert includes short essays by Visual and Cultural Studies Graduate Program Director Rachel Haidu, Chair of the Department of Art and Art History Joan Saab, and Director of the Film and Media Studies Program Jason Middleton, as well as an interview with renowned art historian Douglas Crimp about his memoir Before Pictures. Additionally, members of InVisible Culture’s Editorial Board collaborated with the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY, to curate a film series that expands Issue 25’s theme into a cinematic register. The series, titled (InVisibility) was screened at the Dryden Theatre in the …

Contributors / Issue 25: Security and Visibility

Issue 25: Security and Visibility (Special double issue, Spring 2017) Barbara Sutton is an Associate Professor in the department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York. She is also affiliated with the departments of Sociology and of Latin American, Caribbean, and U.S. Latino Studies. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology in the United States and a law degree in Argentina, her country of origin. She co-edited Security Disarmed: Critical Perspectives on Gender, Race, and Militarization (with Sandra Morgen and Julie Novkov; Rutgers University Press, 2008) and is the author of Bodies in Crisis: Culture, Violence, and Women’s Resistance in Neoliberal Argentina (Rutgers University Press, 2010), winner of the 2011 Gloria E. Anzaldúa book prize by the National Women’s Studies Association. Kate Paarlberg-Kvam is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Latin American History at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. She holds a PhD in Latin American, Caribbean, and U.S. Latino Studies from the State University of New York at Albany, and conducts research on security discourse, gender, and …

Before Pictures: An interview with Douglas Crimp

Douglas Crimp is an art critic and the Fanny Knapp Professor of Art History at the University of Rochester. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics, “Our Kind of Movie”: The Films of Andy Warhol, On the Museum’s Ruins, and AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism. Crimp was the curator of the landmark Pictures exhibition at Artists Space in 1977. He is widely known for his work with the “Pictures Generation” and his influence is extensively recognized in a varied range of disciplines such as art history and criticism, LGBTQ studies, political activism, and dance studies. Part autobiography and part cultural history, Crimp’s latest book Before Pictures, offers a moving and intimate account of his experience as a young queer man and aspiring art critic in the late ’60s and ’70s in New York. Douglas Crimp remains a formative figure in the Visual and Cultural Studies Graduate Program at the University of Rochester, at which InVisible Culture is based. The following interview with the Managing Editor of InVisible …

Intimacy and Annihilation: Approaching the Enforcement of U.S. Colonial Rule in the Southern Philippines through a Private Photograph Collection

By Silvan Niedermeier A blurred grey-tone photograph. Probably taken from a boat. We see lightly rippled water, a landline with several mountain peaks, and billowed clouds in the sky. Whiteness emanates from a point behind the clouds in the upper midst of the picture indicating the position of the sun vis-à-vis the photographer and viewer. At first glance, one might guess that the photographer took this picture to capture the sublime scenery in front of him or her. Yet, why did she or he keep this photograph despite its apparent visual deficits? Maybe, the photographer wanted to remember the situation in which she or he took the picture or keep it as a memorabilia of the very view depicted. Or else, the taker of the image attached a certain aesthetic value to the picture as such. Our guessing continues until we view the backside of the slightly curled photograph. Suddenly, while reading the handwritten words, the image on the front side makes more sense; that is, its connotations begin to unfold, start to pierce and …

Visual Unreliability and the Questioning of Security Measures in Homeland

By Greta Olson Having just begun its sixth season, Showtime’s spy thriller Homeland was greeted by television critics as a new type of critical post-‘9/11’ text when it premiered to great fanfare in 2011. The series has documented the United States’ sense of its continuous vulnerability to terrorist threats as well as the country’s ongoing obsession with security in the post-attack era. In this sense Homeland bears similarities with earlier ‘9/11’ texts such as the series 24 and the film World Trade Center. Nonetheless, the series appeared to provide critique of some post-‘9/11’ anti-terrorist policies and incursions on civil rights. The novelty or, as I will argue, the post-ness of Homeland as compared to dominant ‘9/11’ texts like 24 or the film Zero Dark Thirty was demonstrated by the series’ comparatively critical depictions of torture as a form of gathering intelligence. Rather than effective, torture was shown to be inferior to more humane and psychologically refined forms of learning about security risks. For instance, in “The Weekend” (SE 01 E07), CIA Division Chief Saul Berenson …

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 …

False Positives

Artwork by Esther Hovers. False Positives, 2015.   The project False Positives is about intelligent surveillance systems. These are cameras that are able to detect deviant behavior within public space. False Positives is set around the question of normal behavior. It aims to raise this question by basing the project on eight different ‘anomalies’. These so-called anomalies are signs in body language and movement that could indicate criminal intent. It is through these anomalies the algorithms are built and cameras are able to detect deviant behavior. The eight different anomalies were pointed out to me by several intelligent surveillance experts with whom I collaborated for this project. The work consists out of several approaches; photographs and pattern drawings. Altogether these form an analysis of different settings in and around the business district of the European capital: Brussels. The eight anomalies can be found within the images. The viewer is challenged to act as an intelligent surveillance system does and question the behavior of the different people within the photographs. Each photograph is a build-up of several moments; …

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 …