All posts filed under: Special Contributions

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 …

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 …

Provincial Matters

Janet Wolff This essay returns me to Rochester, thirteen years after I left. It also returns me to a mild obsession I developed in my last year in Rochester with the artist Kathleen McEnery Cunningham, and with the fascinating social and cultural world of Rochester in the 1920s. I curated an exhibition of McEnery’s work at the Hartnett Gallery at the University of Rochester in 2003, and advised on another in New York a couple of years later. The essay will also be a chapter of a book I am completing, entitled Austerity Baby, which is part memoir, part family history, part cultural history. Two other chapters were published in 2013: one in the collection Writing Otherwise (edited by Jackie Stacey and Janet Wolff, published by Manchester University Press), and another here in the online literary journal, The Manchester Review. * * * The American artist Kathleen McEnery Cunningham presided at the center of a lively cultural scene in Rochester, New York, in the 1920s and 30s. In 1914, she had married Francis Cunningham, then …

Molyneux Redux

Issue 19: Blind Spots (Fall 2013) Georgina Kleege In 1693, William Molyneux wrote his famous letter to John Locke where he proposed the following thought experiment. What if a man who was born blind but had learned to recognize through touch certain geometrical forms such as a sphere and a cube, were to have his sight restored by an operation, would he then be able to recognize these forms through sight alone? This hypothetical question has led to no small measure of trouble for blind people, especially once actual medical procedures replaced the imaginary one Molyneux proposed. Sight restoring operations for totally congenitally blind people are relatively rare, but speculation about them is extensive. There have only been about twenty such cases in the past thousand years, but these twenty cases are so debated and scrutinized it seems like there must be many more, even though they typically follow a predictable pattern. The patients are initially excited and overwhelmed by the visible world. Researchers give them tests and tasks, sometimes including Molyneux’s sphere versus cube test. …