All posts filed under: Reviews

A Theory of /Cloud/

Reviewed by Brian Curtin, Raffles Design Institute Bangkok Damisch, Hubert. A Theory of /Cloud/: Toward a History of Painting. Translated by Janet Lloyd. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002. 313 pages. ISBN: 0804734402 The “destruction”of linear perspective by modern art did in fact everything but — given the extent to whichlinear perspective preoccupied twentieth-century thought on European art and its histories. Amidst a plethora of texts including Erwin Panofsky’s Perspective as Symbolic Form, there is John White’s The Birth and Rebirth of Pictorial Space and James Elkins’s more recent and comprehensive account of the historical shift from geometry to metaphor in The Poetics of Perspective. Though concerned with how linear perspective can be linked to its “opposite,” the affective indeterminacy of the image of clouds, Hubert Damisch’s book is more than an adjunct to these writings. Damischis also concerned with establishing the necessity of semiotics to challenge his recognition of limits in how art and art history are written. /Cloud/ appears between forward slashes in order to render a signifier rather than representation and cloud appears …

Derrida

Reviewed by Mark Denaci, SUNY Geneseo Amy Ziering Kofman and Kirby Dick, Derrida (documentary, 2002) Amy Ziering Kofman and Kirby Dick, the makers of Derrida, seem to have willfully set themselves up for failure. How, after all, could anyone not end up disappointed by a film whose title’s singularity suggests that it will get to the “essence” of one of contemporary philosophy’s most resolutely anti-essentialist thinkers? To their credit, however, the filmmakers turn the documentary into a paradoxically entertaining meditation on the very (im)possibility of making a film with a title like Derrida. Ostensibly, the documentary offers itself up as a sort of “day-in-the-life” portrait of the controversial French philosopher: we get to see the proverbial “father of deconstruction” buttering his morning muffin, getting a haircut, looking for his keys, talking to earnest American graduate students, visiting his own archive at UC Irvine, visiting Nelson Mandela’s former prison cell, etc., all of this interspersed with a number of brief interview segments. Those who might be expecting a PBS-style documentary outlining Derrida’s career and putting it …

Writing Machines

Hayles, N. Katherine. Writing Machines. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002. 144 pages. ISBN: 0262582155 In Writing Machines N. Katherine Hayles offers both a discussion of her budding theory of Media-Specific Analysis (MSA) and a practice devised to outline its applicability. More precisely, Hayles’s book as realized in Anne Burdick’s design — and the publisher’s execution of it — emphasizes the importance of a text’s materiality. Hayles argues that a text’s instantiation in a particular medium shapes it in ways that cannot be divorced from the meaning of its “words (and other semiotic components)” (25) and calls for the need to develop a theory that takes into consideration medium as a crucial aspect of the content of a work. The implementation of Burdick’s design consistently draws attention to the book as a physical artifact. The cover, with its tactile ridges running lengthwise down front, back, and spine, forms a contrast to the sleek pages of the interior — both invite the reader to stroke the book, reveling in its materiality. The page layout, changing fonts, and bubbled …

Sure Seaters

Reviewed by Daniel I. Humphrey, University of Rochester Barbara Wilinsky. Sure Seaters: The Emergence of Art House Cinema. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001. 288 pages. ISBN: 0816635633 In a remarkable turn-around from the discipline’s formative years, recent American film scholarship has largely ignored the art cinema movement of the post-war era. Academic engagement with the texts of Bergman, Bresson, Fellini, and Buñuel has seemingly been left to scholars in other disciplines, such as Modern Language departments or Religious Studies programs. And much of this critical work, sadly, is either underdeveloped (such as Thomas Elaseser’s compelling by frustratingly brief Sight and Sound essay) or simply ignored (Marilyn Johns Blackwell’s valuable work on Ingmar Bergman, for example, is almost completely overlooked). Recently, however, a number of emerging film studies scholars, many still in graduate school, have sought to renew discourse on this neglected subject. Barbara Wilinsky’s short but fecund new volume, Sure Seaters: The Emergence of Art House Cinema (2001) marks an encouraging, praiseworthy start. Sure Seaters focuses on the sites of exhibition rather than the films …

Animal Spaces, Beastly Places

Reviewed by Lisa Uddin, University of Rochester Philo, Chris and Chris Wilbert, eds. Animal Spaces, Beastly Places: New Geographies of Human-Animal Relations. London: Routledge, 2000. 310 pages. ISBN: 041519847X In his important 1980 essay “Why Look at Animals?” critic John Berger lamented the marginalization of animals in modernity. Animals, he argued, have been rendered invisible within modern capitalist society. We can no longer see, neither conceptually nor perceptually, the authentic animality of animals, for it has slipped out of our view. A reductive human relation to the animal world has transformed them into commodities, degraded them as members of the bourgeois family unit, contained them in national parks, game reserves and – most tragically – zoos. How to get these invisible animals into view? How to put animals into the center of modern social life? Though not a direct response to these questions, Chris Philo and Chris Wilbert’s edited volume Animal Spaces, Beastly Places addresses the legitimate, though somewhat nostalgic, problem of the marginal animal with theoretical sophistication and a lively set of case studies. Animals …