All posts filed under: Articles

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 …

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, …

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 …

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 is 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 …

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 …

Hans Richter’s Rhythmus Films in G: the Collective Cinematographic

Written by Erin McClenathan Filmmaker Hans Richter was one of the founding contributors to G: Materials for Elemental Form-Creation (G: Material zur elementaren Gestaltung) and the only to stay his tenure as editor through the journal’s entire six-issue run from July 1923 to April 1926.1 The G-group did not intend for their Berlin-based publication to uphold the tenets of a particular style or movement but to model a process through which the reader might recognize—and ideally gain the ability to shape—a unified aesthetics of the everyday. The collaborators’ mission, according to the statement embedded in the masthead of G’s first issue, was “[t]o clarify the general situation of art and life. We choose materials with that in mind. Articles and works that seek clarity—and not merely expression. Everything can be of use to creative work and the creative worker.”2 The diversity of topics that the multinational and multilingual panel of contributors submitted to G during its relatively short lifespan attests to the collectivist genesis of the project, from articles by Mies van der Rohe on “Industrial Building” …

A Stranger in the Gallery: Conceptions of the Body Through Art and Theory

Written by Sarah W. Abu Bakr Objects of Horror and Desire The Western gallery has historically been the pedestal for notions of the classical body, perfected in the Renaissance through the hands of White masters such as Da Vinci and Michelangelo. To this day, in this postmodern moment, the Western and Western-influenced gallery’s welcoming of the grotesque body, and the body of the stranger, remains problematic, and historically charged. The gallery in this paper is a conceptual space. While it may manifest in actual gallery spaces—white walled rooms inside white cube museums—what truly matters here is the act of exhibiting, in other words, who has historically been object to be viewed, and who is the viewer? Historically, when an image of the Other is placed in a Western gallery, it is there to mark its difference and strangeness.1 A clear example of this is the display of South African Sarah Baartman’s living and later deceased body (commonly referred to as the Hottentot Venus) as an object to be viewed by White spectators. Baartman’s body was …

“Bold German graphic design”: Arts et métiers graphiques and New Typography

Written by Kristof Van Gansen In this paper, I consider the way the French graphic arts magazine Arts et métiers graphiques (Graphic Arts and Crafts, 1927-1939) responded to New Typography, a form of typography that had its origins in the Central European avant-gardes and that strove for maximal clarity, submitting the form of printed matter to its function, and how this response is typical of the magazine’s cautious stance towards international avant-garde art—a position characteristic of France in the interwar period. A central work of New Typography is Die neue Typographie (1928),1 written by the German typographer Jan Tschichold, who is generally seen as one of the most important designers of the first half of the twentieth century. While other artists such as László Moholy-Nagy had already published on this new conception of design, Tschichold distilled and elaborated their ideas in what he wanted to be a theoretical and practical handbook for printers and designers that was in tune with the modern age of the machine and the engineer. In France, New Typography never really took off, …

Amending Rachel Whiteread’s Water Tower: Infrastructure as Art, Art as Infrastructure

By James Middlebrook Some commissions are obtained by indirect or unusual means. Several years ago, luck and other factors resulted in the author of this paper obtaining a design commission that was not sought after. Of particular note, in this case the commissioning client did not foresee that the commission would add on to a famous contemporary art installation piece. This scenario involved an artwork that intelligently works in a surreptitious manner – so much so, that client and viewers alike may not have recognized the work’s extents. Not only is it unclear just where the artwork ends, but the client initially did not acknowledge that working on the project’s context meant working on the artwork itself. The additions to this particular project were diminutive in physical scale, consisting mostly of four ladders, a number of steel railings, and an expanse of metal grating. It started as a simple work order from the Building Services Department at the Museum of Modern Art, but in retrospect, the conceptual depth of this project far exceeds that of …

Examining Amsterdam RealTime: Blueprints, the Cartographic Imaginary and the Locative Uncanny

Written By Ned Prutzer In Human Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Actions, Lucy Suchman argues that all plans or blueprints are contingent upon different modes, styles, and visions that precede the plan itself. Plans are rendered “abstractions over action” rather than final, complete, or faithful articulations of action.1 There are myriad contexts, actors, institutions, and agencies producing effects that are unanticipated by the blueprint. The ways in which plans often fall short is thus a worthwhile site of analysis. I want to focus on this notion of blueprints’ failure in precision to identify broader modes of representation underpinning locative art projects while critiquing their faith in precision and objectivity. For Amsterdam RealTime, an early locative art project from 2002, locative artist Esther Polak traced subjects’ movements with geospatial technologies as they walked, biked, or drove through Amsterdam. An animation of each subject’s traces results. When aggregated onto a screen, these traces draw out the Amsterdam city grid as the subjects have enacted it. Amsterdam RealTime was displayed as the final installment of the Maps of …