Author: IVC Author

After Douglas Crimp: Questionnaire

by Daly Arnett, Kendall Deboer, Bridget Fleming, and Peter Murphy Featured image: Courtesy of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Rochester. As a special insert for Issue 33 of Invisible Culture, we are pleased to present responses from Douglas Crimp’s friends, colleagues, and students to a questionnaire written by the journal editors. Contributors were invited to answer as many or as few of the questions as they wished. The questions, which are posted below, were designed to give our contributors the opportunity to reflect on Douglas in a myriad of ways. From the directness of recounting a story to the abstraction of an image, the responses generate new visions of Douglas while also revealing the private nature of his relationships with the authors. The editors of Invisible Culture would like to thank all of the participants for their responses. Choose from the linked names below to be taken to that author’s response. If the author answered specific questions, the questions are included in the text. If the author wrote something …

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Tiffany E. Barber

HOMAGE, a score for Douglas* Stand tall, feet together, feet apartSmile slightlyWalk in a circle around yourselfContinuing walking, marking a square perimeter around the circle you just madeStop whenever you feel like stopping Stand tall, feet together, feet apartSmooth your shirt, tuck it into your pantsPause Stand tall, feet together, feet apartLet your hands and arms dangle at your sidesBend your kneesHinge forward slightly at the waistSlowly hug your arms around the air in front youPause Stand tall, feet together, feet apartSmile slightly Sit in the nearby mid-century armchairPauseSlowly cross your legsSlowly bring your left hand to your foreheadRest your elbow on the arm of the chairRest your head in your handPauseFold your hands together, rest them on your bellyPauseSmile slightlyStand tall *repeat the score, increasing speed with every repetition, stop when you feel like stopping Dr. Tiffany E. Barber is a scholar, curator, and critic of contemporary visual art, new media, and performance who shared with Douglas a love for dance. Click here to return to the other questionnaire responses.

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Marc Siegel

Answer Louise Lawler’s question in October: “What would Douglas Crimp say?” Or, to follow the title of Lawler’s exhibition: Why Pictures Now? We could call it, “Why No Pictures Now.” Louise Lawler’s contribution to the section commemorating Douglas Crimp in October 171 (Winter 2020) is heartwrenchingly brilliant. “What would Douglas Crimp say?” Confronted with the emptiness of his absence, that’s the question many of Douglas’s friends ask themselves almost every day. Doing so is one way of activating memories and keeping Douglas’s perspectives and inquisitive attentiveness alive within us. In this or that enjoyable or difficult situation, confronted with this or that theoretical, political, or amorous conundrum, in the midst of this or that culinary or aesthetic experience, what would Douglas Crimp say? Lawler’s question, of course, is posed in a specific context. It appears as title and sole text of her remembrance of her friend in the art journal for which Crimp served in various editorial functions over approximately thirteen years. As editor and author between 1977-1990, Crimp helped shape the journal’s development as …

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Amanda Jane Graham

Imagine an alternative space to museums. Describe what this space might look like. A city (for us, probably New York City) A stage A dinner party Share an anecdote or memory you have of Douglas. Or, if you had the opportunity to share anything with Douglas now, what would it be? In October 2009 I took the train from Rochester to New York City to see DANCE at The Joyce Theater. Originally performed in 1979, DANCE is a collaboration between three artists: choreography by Lucinda Childs, music by Philip Glass, and film décor by Sol LeWitt. DANCE is a haunting piece filled with transcendent repetition, live and through projection. Eventually it would inspire a chapter of my dissertation. I had seen DANCE July 2009 at The Fisher Center at Bard College. My first watch was purely for pleasure. It was my thirtieth birthday and I wanted an excuse to see a performance in the Gehry-designed building a stone’s throw from my undergraduate dormitory. However, seeing DANCE once didn’t feel sufficient, especially since I had enrolled …

Reading Douglas

by Xiao (Amanda) Ju I think of reading as one way to be in dialogue with Douglas, and, for me, he is such an important interlocutor. Reading Douglas has always been a bit difficult for me—part of it has to do with the fact that there is a whole set of English words that I have never said out loud­––his writings include a whole lot of them! More affecting, however, is that Douglas was the teacher who held us accountable for “not knowing things.” He would get very frustrated with our lack of knowledge: what we excused as generational or cultural gaps, he took, I think, as all-too-precocious rigidities in cultural and historical interests. So when I stumble to read, a feeling of embarrassment always pricks me. There is what feels like a lack of ethics in these gaps of knowledge. I had read the chapter “Hotel Des Artistes” before, but of course had never read it out loud. This recording, embarrassing as it is, captures something personal about my relationship with the English language, …

Manhattan-Hanover Transfer

by Lutz Hieber and Gisela Theising We got to know Douglas Crimp, maven of New York AIDS activist art, in the summer of 1990. He seemed to us to be the living embodiment of an intellectual. Jean Paul Sartre describes intellectuals as being concerned with relating the way they act and see themselves in concrete terms to society at large, as distinct from academics, whose efforts are confined to expanding a specific store of knowledge.1 The intellectual Crimp was aware of the contradiction between the general nature of his knowledge and the specificity of the political and social context to which he applied it—a contradiction which he never forgot. Our contact with Douglas Crimp motivated us to reflect on the contradictions in our own German culture specifically, and lives. We came to realize that we needed to confront our cultural unconscious. The sociologist Pierre Bourdieu coined the term l’inconscient culturel (cultural unconscious) to denote the key aspect of human habitus that is formed when the individual develops modes of perception, cognition, and behavior. The habitus …

After Douglas Crimp Questionnaire Response: Catherine Zuromskis

How to do Intimacy Douglas was a great teacher.  He was my favorite teacher.  He was also my mentor, dissertation advisor, role model, dear friend, sometime parent, and generally, among the best people I have ever had the pleasure to know.  If he were here now, I would tell him that, though I suspect he already knew.  I professed my love to him more than once, and usually in an awkward, flustered, effusive rush.  In the almost two decades that I knew him, I never quite got over my crush on Douglas.  I was so in awe of him, so honored to be able to work with him, and so eager to impress him that it was often hard for me to keep my cool around him.  My first job after grad school was at UC Berkeley, and we invited Douglas to give a talk.  I got to introduce him.  I remember that the podium was too low and the light was too dim so I had to hold my notes up to read them.  …

“All the Gay People Will Disappear”

by Benjamin Haber and Daniel J Sander The original context of the above tweet, which preceded Twitter’s introduction of threads, was part of a longer ironic statement in support of the legalization of gay marriage in the state of New York.1 Baldwin suggested that if one really opposed such a move, especially on religious grounds, then they should perform an incantation, and “all the gay people will disappear.” In late 2020 and early 2021, Baldwin’s tweet began recirculating out of context, divorced from the original discussion around gay marriage. Instead, queers, in replies and quote tweets, affirmed the at times self-deprecating idea that “gay people,” primarily signifying cis white homosexuals, had overstayed their welcome, becoming cringeworthy, and really ought to disappear. In highlighting the playful stretching of Baldwin’s tweet back and forward in time, we look to foreground a shift in queer representation as marked for death to one bored to death. For Douglas Crimp, the disappearance of gay representation during the advent of the HIV/AIDS pandemic was paradoxically achieved through new forms of overdetermined …

Contributors / Issue 33: After Douglas Crimp

Articles Dr. Matthew Bowman lectures in fine art at the University of Suffolk and regularly writes art criticism for Art Monthly. His research focuses on twentieth century and contemporary art, criticism, and philosophy in the USA and Europe. He has authored numerous essays, many of which focus on the history of art criticism. In 2018 he published “Indiscernibly Bad: The Problem of Bad Art/Good Painting” in Oxford Art Journal and in 2019 “The Intertwining—Damisch, Bois, and October’s Rethinking of Painting.” A new essay, “Art Criticism in the Contracted Field” will be included in the next issue of the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. Currently, he is finishing editing an essay collection to be published as The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing: Art Criticism and the Art Market for Bloomsbury and October and the Expanded Field of Art and Criticism for Routledge. www.essex.academia.edu/MatthewBowman  Theo Gordon received his PhD from The Courtauld Institute of Art in 2018, with a thesis on psychoanalysis and art of the American AIDS crisis. He has published in …

The book cover for James J. Hodge's Sensations of History

Sensations of History: Animation and New Media Art

Reviewed by Stefan Higgins, University of Victoria James J. Hodge. Sensations of History: Animation and New Media Art. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019. 220 Pages. The task of “pulling back the curtains” on computational technology has been one stated major objective of media studies for the last 30-odd years, whether it has attended to revealing the invisible “below” of computational infrastructure, drawn media archaeological notice to the material constraints of hardware, or assessed the systematic and protocological construction of software. Nevertheless, the fact remains that much of the processual operation of computation—e.g., electronic circuitry, network communication, executable code—remains opaque, at best, to human sensation and experience. One cannot be said to perceive, per se, the operations of an integrated circuit like a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). Developing a language for describing the experience of computation is therefore difficult, and scholars and the public alike have frequently made recourse to the kinds of simplified binaries—digital or analogue, online or off, embodied or virtual—that confuse more than they explain. More troublingly, this language has fed into …

Slavery and the Post-Black Imagination

Reviewed by Luke Jarzyna, University of Rochester Bertram D. Ashe and Ilka Saal, eds. Slavery and the Post-Black Imagination. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2020. 248 Pages. Slavery and the Post-Black Imagination (hereafter SPBI) brings together an exciting mix of texts, scholars, and critical apertures to identify the post-black valences in representations of slavery across different mediums. Editors Bertram D. Ashe and Ilka Saal, along with other scholars, understand post-blackness as indicative of a set of aesthetic criteria as well as a post-civil rights movement generational feeling. Distinct from “post-racial,” a concept ill-favored by the editors that suggests society has moved past race, Saal and Ashe understand post-blackness in visual artists Thelma Golden and Glenn Ligon’s coinage of the term as a “shorthand for resisting narrow definitions of African American identity and for expressing a profound interest in ‘redefining complex notions of blackness’” (6). SPBI engages well the spirit of evolution and multiplicity at the heart of post-blackness as the contributing authors explore texts that abscond from historical or accepted mythologies, depart into the grotesque, …

What Does It Mean to Be Post-Soviet?: Decolonial Art from the Ruins of the Soviet Empire

Reviewed by Anthony Ballas, University of Colorado at Denver Madina Tlostanova. What Does it Mean to be Post-Soviet?: Decolonial Art from the Ruins of the Soviet Empire. Durham: Duke University Press, 2018. 145 pp. Although the days of socialist realism have long passed, the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union and the Perestroika and Glasnost reforms still ripples through the contemporary Russian Federation, in ways that can be traced with particular precision through the region’s aesthetic production. This is the argument posed by Madina Tlostanova in What Does it Mean to be Post-Soviet? The book updates Andrei Sinyavasky’s question “What is socialist realism?” from the perspective of post-Soviet Russia, focusing less on socialist realism itself (though it does come up within its pages) than on the postcolonial condition that the contemporary Russian Federation states find themselves in, socially and aesthetically, in the aftermath of Soviet modernism and neoliberal globalization.1 Tlostanova begins by examining what makes the Russian “imperial difference,” as she dubs it, a unique condition among the colonialisms of Russia’s imperial rivals …

Murmurations: A Conversation Between Sarah Friedland and Tess Takahashi on CROWDS

by Sarah Friedland and Tess Takahashi Featured Image: Still from Sarah Friedland, CROWDS, Channel 1. Curator’s note by Almudena Escobar López: Sarah Friedland and Tess Takahashi have been in dialogue since they met at the “moving.media@brown” conference in 2016, where they realized that both share an ongoing interest in patterns of movement and their connection with larger cultural formations. As Sarah Friedland and I were working on the development of the exhibition Assembled Choreographies at the Hartnett Gallery (March 29 through April 26, 2021), and thinking about its translation to an online environment, we decided to include a consolidated version of her conversations with Takahashi. The exhibition centered on the visual language of movement, the typology of the crowd, and the process of how bodies learn from each other. It included a virtual installation of CROWDS (2019) and a screening of Drills (2020) and Home Exercises (2017). CROWDS’ digital interface was designed by Friedland in collaboration with media artist and designer Jonas Eltes, translating the 3-channel installation for an online audience. The CROWDS website opened …

Cultivating (In)attention, Listening to Noise

by Emily Bock Featured image: Chantal Regnault, Legendary Voguer Willi Ninja wearing a Thierry Mugler body piece, 1989. Photo courtesy of the photographer. For twenty-five centuries, Western knowledge has tried to look upon the world. It has failed to understand that the world is not for the beholding. It is for hearing. It is not legible, but audible. — Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music You’ve been invited to a ball. A friend texted you the flier earlier in the day with the address and descriptions of the categories and promises they will be there “on time” (a promise you know they won’t keep). When you arrive, a little before Legends, Statements, and Stars, you meander around the room looking for your friends’ house table to put down the few things you’ve brought along with you to survive the long evening (wallet, keys, phone, lipstick) and talk to folks about things neither of you will remember tomorrow. You won’t remember, not because the conversation is lacking in wit and energy; the opposite really. …

The House That Ghosts Built (And Mediums Performed)

By Paula Vilaplana de Miguel Featured image: Seances, a popular entertainment in the late 19th century, under a red light. *The following work acknowledges that the phenomenon of haunting is neither uniquely Western nor exclusively related to the Spiritualist movement. Spiritualism, as many have noted, builds on previous histories of witchcraft, mesmerism, hoodoo, divination, and other cultural precedents. Haunting is a multifaceted phenomenon that has developed differently throughout the United States territory, too. Due to the hyper-abundant and multiple forms of haunting this work centers on a very determined timeframe and location: the birth and expansion of Spiritualism in the United States’ East Coast between 1848 and 1924, and the psychic mediums that popularized it Part 1: Trance TechnologiesFurniture and Prosthetics in the Victorian Haunted House Evenings at home in Spiritualist Séance1 The room is grim. The last light of day shyly brightens the furniture of the parlor: bookcases, chintz curtains, a large sofa, and a record player. The sitters gather around a wooden table and hold hands. The séance usually starts with the Lord’s …

Choreography of the Body’s Collapse: The Anti-Capitalist Politics of Rest

By heidi andrea restrepo rhodes Featured image: “Lady reading in berth with curtains down,” Geo. R. Lawrence Co., c. 1905, courtesy of the Library of Congress. The Brooklyn-based project, Rest for Resistance centers rest as crucial to healing work (it is so much work to heal!), bridging the vital importance of psychological and social support; and of individual and collective wellness for marginalized communities, including “Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Pacific Islander, Asian, Middle Eastern, and multiracial persons” and “LGBTQIA+ …trans & queer people of color, as well as other stigmatized groups such as sex workers, immigrants, persons with physical and/or mental disabilities, and those living at the intersections of all of the above.”1 Published by QTPOC Mental Health, a community justice initiative, the Rest for Resistance Zine features writing and photography that foreground rest as a deeply political activity. In Juhee Kwon’s piece, “We Are Not Machines”, Kwon reminds us that “we’re more complicated than a simple input (x) à output (y) kind of linear function”—questioning the correlations between overworking one’s self and how “success” is …

Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire

Reviewed by Dylan Lackey, Global Center for Advanced Studies Jack Halberstam. Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire. Durham: Duke University Press, 2020. 219 pages. On the other side of interpellation, where the hail does not reach, where the call is unheeded, where the subject falls apart or is unturned or never takes any real form, there is wildness. In Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire, his most recent kaleidoscopic movement across and against discipline(s), Jack Halberstam reminds us again that the hail, the “call to order,” surrounds us, begging our fidelity.1 And yet, there is an outside to the hail that is uncertainty, chaos, unknowability—an untamed and untameable outdoors that can be accessed only through bewilderment or a refusal to turn (back) into the false comforts of human-ness and domesticity. This is not to say, however, that the wild is a place of truer ease. As Halberstam explains, “wildness has its own regulatory regimes, its own hierarchies and modes of domination” (131); those not always already forced into an approximation with the wild via the …

Introduction / Issue 31: Black Studies Now and the Countercurrents of Hazel Carby

Jump to Table of Contents by Joel Burges, Alisa V. Prince, and Jeffrey Allen Tucker Featured image: Ellen Gallagher, Bird in Hand, 2006. © Ellen Gallagher. Image © Tate. She was dismayed when she realized that what she wanted to imagine, what she was struggling to bring into being, now seemed beyond her reach. Was it improbable or impossible? What could she dream in a present of imminent environmental catastrophe? How could she sculpt the contours of a future when the future, any future, had been foreclosed?—Hazel V. Carby, “Black Futurities: Shape-Shifting beyond the Limits of the Human”1 In winter 2019, when Hazel V. Carby came to the University of Rochester (UR) as the Distinguished Visiting Humanist, no one knew global pandemic and large-scale anti-racist protests awaited us one year later in the spring, summer, and now fall of 2020.2 We did not anticipate the rise of an anti-immigrant visa crisis in higher education as we began to write this introductory essay, or the revelation of the death of Daniel Prude as we were finalizing …

Contributors / Issue 31: Black Studies Now and the Countercurrents of Hazel Carby

Will Bridges is Associate Professor of Japanese at the University of Rochester. His scholarship has been recognized by the Fulbright Program, the Japan Foundation, the Association for Asian Studies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His first monograph, Playing in the Shadows: Fictions of Race and Blackness in Postwar Japanese Literature, was published in 2020 by the University of Michigan Press. He is currently working on two manuscripts. The first is The Futurist Turn: Anticipatory Aesthetics and Reimagining Possible Futures in Intertemporal Japans. The second is The Black Pacific: A Poetic History. He is also an author of creative nonfiction. Joel Burges is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester, where he is also faculty in Film and Media Studies and Digital Media Studies. He is the author of Out of Sync & Out of Work: History and the Obsolescence of Labor in Contemporary Culture (Rutgers UP, 2018) and co-editor, with Amy J. Elias, of Time: A Vocabulary of the Present …

On Needing Black Studies

By Kathryn A. Mariner Featured Image: Protest at RPD, Rochester NY, May 2020, Copyright Erica Jae. As I was preparing comments for this roundtable toward the end of 2018, I felt a bit like an interloper because I realized I had never—at least in my formal undergraduate and graduate training—taken a proper Black Studies class. Perhaps as a result, I approach Black Studies a bit sideways. Indeed, being relentlessly “thrown against a white background” can certainly make one feel one’s color, and can install a sort of feeling of permanent interloper status, a sense of not really fitting anywhere, disciplinarily or otherwise.1 I have more like what Katherine McKittrick has referred to as a “clandestine degree in Black Studies,” which has involved a lot of self-study (both by myself and of myself).2 As an undergraduate, I was an Anthropology major, with a minor in Spanish and Portuguese, and the bulk of my coursework was actually comprised of Latin American Studies classes. And while I took various courses on “race” in both undergrad and graduate school, …

Black Studies and the “Ideology of Relevance”

By Cilas Kemedjio Featured Image: Pool of Freedom, Washington DC, August 2020, Copyright Erica Jae. The late Professor Francis Abiola Irele (1936-2017) delivered an inaugural lecture at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria on November 22, 1982, which traditionally gave the lecturer an opportunity to intervene in a scholarly conversation; in other words, it had been a purely academic exercise. However, Irele confessed that the specific circumstances of a newly independent country such as Nigeria had impacted this academic ritual, thereby requiring the intellectual to assert the relevance of his or her discipline in the larger undertaking of national development: A sense of social fact is therefore as necessary for us as for the politician and the administrator, perhaps in fact even more so, for in this environment, such hopes are invested in us as men of knowledge that our exercise of the academic calling must need to be informed by a lively sense for the future of our society, and it entails a concern for the practical effects of our efforts upon the real world …

Being and Becoming: The Grammar of Black Theory

By Matthew Omelsky Featured Image: Protester at the Rochester Public Safety Building, June 2020. Photo by Martin Hawk, part of Pressure Gradient. There’s a place in her 2009 essay, “Becoming Modern Racialized Subjects,” when Hazel Carby’s focus feels very much of our moment. Reading a series of early passages in The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Carby notes how, in the encounter with his European captors on the West African coast, a young Equiano is transformed into a kind of nothingness. In the moment of his racialization, she suggests, Equiano is rendered “cargo,” he’s “dehumanized.” “Terror and anguish follow Equiano’s realization of the fragility, vulnerability and possible annihilation of the self, and movement, speech and consciousness cease, registering his symbolic death.”1 The entirety of Equiano’s narrative is a kind of writing back to this moment of dehumanization, so that he might become something other than the abject, annihilated being he became in that inaugural encounter. He exudes, Carby goes on to say, a “constant urge to move beyond” the “body politics of …

Extirpation is Not an Option: An Esperantic Vision of a Future for Black Studies from the Other Side of the Pacific

by Will Bridges Featured Image: Protestors on the steps of Rochester City Hall, September 7, 2020. Photo by Quajay Donnell. The promise is of “world-wide welcome” for the homeless and those yearning to breathe free. But Trump has no words of welcome for black folks from shithole countries, and he wonders why we can’t court more émigrés from countries like Norway. And, as if to prove he’s lost both rhyme and reason, he removes us from the Paris Agreement, even as the Institute for Environmental and Human Security of the United Nations warns that the world might see some one billion environmental migrants by 2050, with the peoples of Africa deemed “particularly susceptible” to climate displacement.1 But Elon Musk thinks we’ll be on Mars by then—by 2024, to be exact. For it is imperative that we, in this Musky vision of the future, become a “multiplanetary” species. But who, exactly, is the “we” here, and would this “we” be naïve to assume that “multiethnic” lies somewhere dormant and tacit but vowed within the multiplanetary? Musk …

Beyond Objecthood: The Exhibition as a Critical Form Since 1968

Reviewed by Malaika Sutter, University of Bern James Voorhies, Beyond Objecthood: The Exhibition as a Critical Form Since 1968. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2017. 288 pages. In James Voorhies’ first monograph, Beyond Objecthood: The Exhibition as a Critical Form Since 1968, the curator and art historian of modern and contemporary art examines the critical potential of the exhibition from the second half of the twentieth century to the beginning of the twenty-first century. Voorhies focuses on artworks and exhibitions that capture a spectator’s attention and involve them without explicitly inviting them to participate, their critique manifesting itself through an extensive apprehension and implication of the spectator. Carsten Höller’s exhibition Experience (2011-12, New Museum), which includes his work Untitled (Slide), a stainless steel slide that carries the spectator through two levels of the museum, marks the starting point of Voorhies’ study. Through its potential to confuse, surprise, and engage the spectator via multiple senses as well as through its unique temporal and spatial aspects, the slide, according to Voorhies, figures as a fruitful approach in engaging …

Fray: Art and Textile Politics

Reviewed By Jayme Collins Julia Bryan-Wilson. Fray: Art and Textile Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017. 326 pages. We are all experts on textiles, Julia Bryan-Wilson compels us to remember in her groundbreaking Fray: Art and Textile Politics (2017). We trace the properties of textiles daily as we select fabrics, as we watch the material of a favorite item fray over time, as we select new clothing, as we adopt a parent’s or close friend’s castaways. Threading through our lives, these daily scenes of textile endearment constitute for Bryan-Wilson the componentry of what she calls “textile politics,” indicating both a way of understanding materials as implicated in political agendas and a “procedure of making politics material” (7). If these personal scenes of tactility form the basis for a politics, they also, for Bryan-Wilson, form the impetus for a nuanced and expansive reading methodology that virtuosically traces how the personal intersects with global economies, with histories of female- and slave-labor, with the art market, with queer community, with national politics, with political regimes and revolutions, …

Contributors / Issue 30 : Poetics of Play

Iasmin Omar Ata is a Middle Eastern & Muslim award-winning comics artist, game designer, and illustrator who creates art about coping with illness, understanding identity, dismantling oppressive structures, and Arab-Islamic futurism. Their recent graphic novel, Mis(h)adra, has resonated with readers and reviewers alike with its vivid and searingly honest account of epileptic lived experience. Iasmin has been reviewed by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, The Electronic Intifada, Library Journal, NPR, and such; they’ve taught & spoken at the New York Public Library and Harvard University. They thrive on dedication, dreams, and hard work — and believe wholeheartedly in the healing power of art. Grant Bollmer is the author of three books, Inhuman Networks: Social Media and the Archaeology of Connection (2016, Bloomsbury), Theorizing Digital Cultures (2018, SAGE), and Materialist Media Theory: An Introduction (2019, Bloomsbury). He is an Assistant Professor of Media Studies at North Carolina State University, where he teaches in the Department of Communication and the Ph.D. program in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media (CRDM), and is an Honorary Associate of the Department of Media …

The Kinesthetic Index: Video Games and the Body of Motion Capture

Written by Grant Bollmer In this essay, I present a history of the graphic adventure genre of video and computer games and its attempts at achieving a kind of cinematic realism through the registration of the body. In reviewing the history of this genre, I contextualize some early attempts to use motion capture and rotoscoping to incorporate human bodies into games, arguing that representation in games and other forms of digital media should be conceived not as deferring to the visual, but as reliant on the kinesthetic. While the visual presence of a human body may no longer be a coherent source of any link between a representation and physical reality, motion brings together digital images with the reality inscribed into media. This involves numerous questions about realism, indexicality, and affect, which I aim to intertwine and unfold below. In making this argument, I demonstrate three things. First, digital images are condensations of specific—if multiple—bodies that persist as representations that have some link with the physical world.1 Second, realism in games has long relied on …

“I’m controlling and composing”: The role of metacognition in The Incredible Machine

By Marc Ouellette1 Up, up and away: Introduction The mouse sets the bowling ball in motion, which falls and squeezes the bellows, which sends out a puff of air, which sends the balloon into the gears that are connect by a belt to another mouse’s exercise wheel. The balloon pops. Having learned how this routine functions, I then move my mouse to connect the rest of the on-screen mice so that the pulleys of all of the caged mice spin with their wheels to finish the puzzle in time allowing me to move to the next level. Eventually, I will be able to make my own versions of Rube Goldberg machines turned into puzzles based on what I have seen and learned in playing through the eighty challenges provided for Mort the mouse, Bob the fish, and me. Although it is more than twenty-five years old, by teaching about games, learning through games, and learning itself,  The Incredible Machine (Dynamix, 1992) continues to defy several key deterministic viewpoints about video games. Said another way, The …

All The Places You’ll Go (Women As Place)

By Angela Washko  All The Places You’ll Go (Women As Place) is an interactive hypertext point-and-click narrative adventure game. Since 2011, Angela Washko has collected over 200 postcards from around the world and from 23 states throughout the US, with one thing in common: they depict women as a stand-in for the geographic location they seek to represent. All The Places You’ll Go puts players into the position of experiencing different locations (from Atlantic City, New Jersey to Tijuana, Mexico to Helsinki, Finland) through their postcard representations of women, experiencing the perspective of the assumed male traveler and his Western gaze. Link: https://angela-washko.itch.io/women-as-place 

Being

By Iasmin Omar Ata “We are the wound in the Arab world … everyone watches what happens to us.” –Nader Said1 Being is an abstract adventure game that explores, from a future lens, the past and present of the Palestinian lived experience.2 In the story of Being, the Palestinian diaspora has extended to outer space as the Earth crumbles. You play as a Palestinian cadet, sent back down to Earth by the colony, on a mission to recover artifacts, memories, and messages from a region near an old border. Your ship crashes into a ruined complex of houses; you step out of your ship into an eerie, red-light room. There are three doors around you and a table in the middle of the room, on which appear to be a cassette player as well as a cassette tape—but parts of the ribbon seem to be cut out. Curious as to what it would say, you begin looking around to see if the tape pieces are nearby. The first zone of the game focuses on memories …