All posts filed under: Featured

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 …

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 …

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.

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 …