The final two installments of David Cunningham’s series of pieces on the theme of Photography and the Language of Things are now up on the Still Searching blog hosted by the Winterthur Fotomuseum in Switzerland: Part Five and Part Six.
Here’s the opening to the final piece …
I ended my last post with the suggestion that underlying the recent turn to the ‘object’ or ‘thing’ one might glimpse a certain ‘posthumanist’ anxiety – an anxiety occasioned by the degree to which capitalist modernity is a world “ruled by abstractions”, in the words of Marx; abstractions that have come to assume an objective reality which is ‘quasi-independent’ of the things, objects and individuals that constitute them, but which is not ‘material’ in any usual empirical sense. Such abstract social forms – money, the commodity, the value form – do not merely ‘conceal’ the ‘real’ social relations and objective networks constitutive of capitalism, but, on the contrary, actually are the ‘real’ relations that structure capitalist modernity as an increasingly global mode of social life encompassing human and non-human ‘things’ alike. The actual organisation of social and material relations is driven by a real abstraction that, far from being a question of mere faulty thinking or false consciousness, “moves within the object itself”. […]
In the second of our collaborations with the excellent “One Image” blog hosted by the Photographers Gallery in London, Sally Willow and Isabelle Coy-Dibley, who are both studying for PhDs in the Institute, have contributed short pieces on works currently on exhibition in the gallery.
Sally Willow writes on an image by Nancy Hellebrand, which features in the exhibition Double Take: Drawing and Photography: “The line has been traced: starting top-left, looping down into a heavy curve that rises, doubling-up lightly on the right to begin a swift and certain downward stroke with slight faltering hesitation at its stem. It is underlined for clarity at the base.” You can read the rest of Sally’s piece here.
Isabelle Coy-Dibley writes about Jolana Havelkova’s Fist Time Skating: “Like a fingerprint trapped in ice, the unique contours of a body inscribed in a transitory moment, imprinting what will be lost once the ice thaws, fleetingly capturing a temporal and spatial pattern drawn by an absent body refusing to be forgotten. The motif of fragmentation, shattering the coherency of a unified body, became the visual rhetoric of modernist art, rupturing the sense of totality within the individual subject. Havelkova’s First Time Skating extends and surpasses this rupture through the disembodiment of the body in its entirety.” Read the rest of Isabelle’s piece here.
The second, third and fourth installments of David Cunningham’s series of pieces on the theme of Photography and the Language of Things are now up on the Still Searching blog hosted by our friends at the Winterthur Fotomuseum in Switzerland: Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.
Here’s the intro to the second:
In my previous post I tried to sketch out some of those questions provoked by a contemporary desire, in the words of Hito Steyerl, to side with and affirm the object. While this affirmation has coincided with a more general turn towards the object or thing in recent theoretical writing – and, consequently, away (or so it is said) from earlier concerns with language, text, discourse and sign – it has also been attached, in Steyerl and others, to a more specific call to rethink the character of ‘the image’, and of ‘our’ relationship to it, as one framed not by an “identification” with the image “as representation”, but precisely “with the image as thing”.
I want to focus in future posts upon some of the wider philosophical and political issues that are, I think, at stake in this, for photographic theory at least – including those quasi-animistic claims often made today for the capacity of the thing or object to speak of its own accord (sometimes combined with rather over-excited accounts of machine vision and photography’s automation), as well as, in my final post, the kinds of political oppositions, between, for example, a politics of representation and one of participation, that are frequently said to follow from this. In this current post, however, it seems useful, before doing so, to trace something like a ‘pre-history’ of the contemporary valorisation of the image as thing (as opposed to the image as representation) in order to try to draw out more clearly in my subsequent posts what might be distinctive about the particular ways in which this is conceived of today. [Continue …]
Parts Five and Six will be appearing before the end of June.
The IMCC’s David Cunningham will be contributing a series of pieces over the next six weeks on the theme of Photography and the Language of Things to the renowned Still Searching blog hosted by our friends at the Winterthur Fotomuseum in Switzerland. The first one has just gone up…
In her short 2010 text “A Thing Like You and Me”, Hito Steyerl traces what she describes as a shift from an “emancipatory practice” that would be tied to the “desire to become a subject” (of, say, politics or history) to the emergence, today, of a “different possibility”: “How about siding with the object for a change? Why not affirm it? Why not be a thing?” This desire to side with the object is one that has been much echoed across large parts of the humanities and social sciences over the last decade. Indeed, from the influential work of Bruno Latour and Bill Brown’s ‘thing theory’, to various species of ‘new materialism’, object-oriented ontology and posthumanism – as well as in its reception by recent art practice – such a turn to the object is rapidly approaching the status of a new doxa for contemporary theoretical work tout court. In this blog I want to explore – in an inevitably rather sketchy way – some questions that are for me provoked by this desire to side with the object, and, in particular perhaps, with what it might mean for an account of the photographic image as a site of continuing debates concerning representation, abstraction and realism. …
Read the rest of the post here.
And more to follow…
In the first of two collaborations with the excellent blog hosted by the Photographers Gallery in London, Jennabeth Talliaferro, a student on our MA Creative Writing: Writing the City, has contributed a short piece on Erik Kessels’ installation at the Gallery, Unfinished Father.
“Like legacy, photography is an overlapping of the past and present. In Erik Kessels’ work, Unfinished Father, the artist achieves simultaneous representation of these seemingly separate ideas. His father’s dilapidated and gutted Fiat Toppolino is juxtaposed with photographs of car parts orderly displayed. The viewer sees an old car whose former life and purpose are a mere memory.”
You can read the rest of Jennabeth’s piece here.
An excellent interview with James H. Bollen, author of Wallpaper: The Shanghai Collection, by our very own Anne Witchard at the Los Angeles Review of Books. As Anne writes in her introduction: “The title of James H. Bollen’s new book — Wallpaper: The Shanghai Collection — makes an ironic gesture towards the materialism and consumerism that drives the ongoing destruction of Shanghai’s domestic heritage. This collection of wallpapers is available only as torn remnants clinging to half-demolished walls. The conceptual framework of this project could not be more apt. The images are grouped according to quotations from the essays of William Morris, genius both of wallpaper design and of a bygone socialist optimism. The peeling layers of bulldozed homes reveal the declining fortunes of successive generations of Shanghai’s shikumen tenants.”
Read the full interview here.
We’re pleased to announce that a new article by Sara Dominici, Post-Doctoral Fellow in the IMCC, has just appeared in the journal Photography and Culture. Entitled ‘Tourist Photographers and the Promotion of Travel: The Polytechnic Touring Association 1888-1939’, the article traces the ways in which the PTA’s passage from viewing tourists as citizens to educate, to customers to please, paralleled the move from using photography-based images to mixed media. While such a development was certainly a response to unprecedented market demands, Dominici argues that it should also be considered in relation to the widening of photographic perceptions engendered by the democratization of the medium, to which the PTA responded, first as educator, then as service provider. In doing so, the article raises several questions about the shifting relationship between “high,” or established, and “low,” or emerging, forms of culture, as mass photography and the mass marketing of tourism developed.
You can find Sara’s article here.
For those of a heavy theory bent, the special issue of Theory, Culture and Society on Transdisciplinary Problematics has finally appeared, including David Cunningham’s ‘Logics of Generalization: Derrida, Grammatology and Transdisciplinarity‘, as well as further articles by Eric Alliez, Etienne Balibar, Lisa Baraitser, Felix Guattari, Peter Osborne, Nina Power, Stella Sandford, Michel Serres, and others. Available from the TC&S website here.
Catch it before it goes: John Beck’s review of McKenzie Wark’s Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene is currently up as a freebie on the Radical Philosophy website here.
Buy the whole issue and get Lucy Bond’s review of Morgan Wortham’s Thought in Pain thrown in for good measure: http://www.radicalphilosophy.com/issues/193
A magnificent and heart-felt guest blog by our own Michael Nath at interestingliterature.com on writers and their lungs, from Lawrence Sterne to Proust.
As an extra distraction from the job of writing his life, Sterne gave his own worst organ to Tristram Shandy. Before we object to such a dubious gift, let’s marvel at the wrapping, that image of fluency contending with nature – not to mention the ‘Flanders’ effect (over the sea/close as the garden). Pickling disease with mirth, Tristram reports an episode of haemoptysis at the sight of a cardinal pissing with two hands. For the weak of lungs, every laugh is a dice throw. As an undergraduate, Sterne himself was already coughing blood; making it to 55 without Streptomycin must have required unusual vitality.
A quick plug for the first issue of Mnemoscape Magazine, “The Anarchival Impulse”, and for their brand new website: www.mnemoscape.org
Mnemoscape Magazine is a biannual online magazine dedicated to furthering research into contemporary visual culture and art practices that operate at the interstices of political and historical scrutiny, with a special focus on issues of memory, methodology and the archival impulse.
0.The Anarchival Impulse / editorial by Mnemoscape
2.Anarchaeology Series. A Project by Az.Namusn.Art / article by Alessandra Ferrini
3.Watered down modernity. Iconoclastic fluids in Alexander Apóstol’s archival mediations / Alexander Apóstol in conversation with Lisa Blackmore
4.Against Historiographical Positivism: Some Skeptical Reflections about the Archival Fetishism / article by Giulia Bassi
5. Art Criticism 2.0 / article by Paolo Chiasera
7.Between the Archive and the Unarchivable / article by Wolfgang Ernst
8.Simon Starling’s Show ‘Analogue Analogies’ at Staatsgalerie Stuttgart / exhibition review by Yvonne Bialek
9.(An)Archival Experiment through the ICA / article by Lucy Bayley, Ben Cranfield and Anne Massey
10.The Pathological Rhythm of the Archive / article by Eirini Grigoriadou
11.Multiple Signatures of Subtraction / article by Robert Luzar
12.Showcase: Emilio Vavarella, The Sicilian Family
13.Returning to the Tabularium / curatorial essay by Alana Kushnir (with showcase by Lawrence Lek, Memory Palace)
14.Retrograde Stairwell / short story by Chris Mason
Alex Warwick’s review of David McNally’s Monsters of the Market: Zombies, Vampires and Global Capitalism is currently up as a freebie on the Radical Philosophy site. Read or download here: http://www.radicalphilosophy.com/web/do-the-monster-mash
“It is no longer necessary to begin, as it might have been ten years ago, by pointing out that we live in Gothic times, and going on to detail the Gothic’s many and various manifestations in contemporary culture. Even the bluntest of critical responses have moved beyond ‘mankind’s deepest fears’ – though often not much beyond them – to recognition of more than an idea of unchanging human nature. Part of the problem lies in the sprawling category that Gothic has become, perhaps always was, in its blurry designation of architectural form, novelistic subject matter, visual effect, subcultural style, musical genre and metaphorical trope. Because of the jumbling together of different phenomena, Gothic is everywhere and nowhere. Indeed, this is partly the point of David McNally’s book: that, as he says, ‘the essential features of capitalism, as Marx regularly reminded us, are not immediately visible … we are left to observe things and persons … while the elusive power that grows and multiplies through their deployment remains unseen, uncomprehended.’ [Read On…]”
For those of an art rock bent, David Cunningham’s ‘obituary’ of Lou Reed is now up as a freebie on the Radical Philosophy website here: http://www.radicalphilosophy.com/obituary/rock-as-minimal-modernism
A new issue of the journal New Formations is out co-edited by the IMCC’s Sas Mays. Entitled ‘Materialities of Text: From the Codex to the Net’, the collection came out of an online conference hosted by the Institute’s ‘Archiving Cultures’ affiliate. Further information on the issue is available here. You can also download a copy of Sas’s introduction to the issue, co-authored with Nick Thoburn, for free at: http://www.lwbooks.co.uk/journals/newformations/pdfs/nf78 intro.pdf
A new article by David Cunningham and Alex Warwick has just appeared in the most excellent journal CITY, vol. 13, no. 4: ‘Unnoticed Apocalypse: The Science Fiction Politics of Urban Crisis’. The essay ranges over a number of contemporary texts from The Coming Insurrection to Rem Koolhaas’ Junkspace to the film District 9.
The nice people at Taylor & Francis Press are offering the first 50 people to make use of it free access to an eprint version from the following link: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/AqbgvrWCkCSXg8XZEwgd/full
The past two decades have witnessed a large increase in academic interest in all visual phenomena, including those strictly visual – from painting and film to experimental video and multimedia installations – as well as all the forms of applied arts: graphic and industrial design, fashion and advertising. In many countries, this interest in visual practice is accompanied by the interest in visual theories, primarily in the new discipline of visual studies that keep acquiring academic legitimacy at universities worldwide.
Visual studies have emerged as a result of parallel expansion that occurred respectively in the fields of art history and film studies, whose radical members have converged particular theories of still and moving images, towards an integral science of images. After W.J.T. Mitchell and Gottfried Boehm have sanctioned the pictorial turn as the basic interest of hyper-mediatized society, it became clear that various visual phenomena demand a much wider theoretical platform, one which would take into consideration the definitive erasure of borders between high and low art, between elite and popular culture, as well as between creators and consumers of visual messages.
For the first time in history, the users of images became the producers of images, within an unrestrained circular process, wherein images yield new insights, while insights demand their instantaneous pictorial foundation. The development and expansion of telecommunication technologies have transformed the traditionally understood technical images into a new communication code that is accessible to everyone. However, does this accessibility simultaneously presume that the new communication code is intelligible to everyone using it? Do we really know what are the images telling us, what do they want from us or what is it that we want from them? Do we know in which manner the most recent researches in technosciences prove, by the way of visualization, their radical tenets on biocybernetic complex systems, and how is the notion of image inscribed into the performative bodies of art and fashion today?
The International Scientific Conference Visual Studies as Academic Discipline aims to gather a wide circle of university oriented theorists, so that they can jointly consider the ways in which they deliberate and teach about images, primarily about their overlapping meanings, that arise through the intermedia networking of various visual practices, as well as through the transdisciplinary analyses of contemporary theories. This symposium wishes to examine the theoretical legitimacy of a wide field of visual representations: art, film, photography, design, fashion and performance. It also wishes to consider the disciplinary status of actual visual studies as an (established) scientific paradigm.
We invite all the concerned colleagues to submit their presentations on one of the proposed subjects:
1. The theoretical and disciplinary status of visual studies – two decades after the pictorial turn
2. Visual studies as a “radical” version of art history or a critical detour?
3. The epistemological aspects of visual studies in university curricula
4. The potentials of the applied science of images: interactions between art, film, design, fashion and performance
5. “Non-disciplinarity” as an approach to the multimedia image of the world
6. Fashion studies today: from the theory of fashion to the design of body
Presentations are limited to 20 minutes. In order to participate at the Conference, please send abstract of your paper (150 words) together with short CV to email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org until 21st of July 2013. The scientific board will notify you of the status of your proposal until 25th of July 2013.
W.J.T. Mitchell, University of Chicago, USA
Michele Cometa, University of Palermo, Italy
Marquard Smith, University of Westminster, London, GB
Members of the workgroup Visual Culture in Europe:
Nina Lager Vestberg, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
Øyvind Vågnes, The Bergen Center for Visual Culture, Norway
Joaquín Barriendos, Columbia University, New York, USA
Ana Maria Guasch, University of Barcelona, Spain
Safet Ahmeti, Center for Visual Studies, Skopje, Macedonia
Max Liljefors, Lund University, Sweden
Almira Ousmanova, European Humanities University, Vilnius, Lithuania
Scientific and organisational board:
Žarko Paić, PhD, Associate Professor, Faculty of Textile Technology, University of Zagreb
Krešimir Purgar, PhD, Center for Visual Studies, Zagreb
Sandra Bischof, PhD, Dean of Faculty of Textile Technology, University of Zagreb
Katarina Nina Simončič, PhD, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Textile Technology, University of Zagreb
Nikola Petković, PhD, Professor, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Rijeka
Leonida Kovač, PhD, Assistant Professor, Academy of Fine Arts, University of Zagreb
Suzana Marjanić, PhD, Senior Research Associate, Institute of Ethnology and Folklore, Zagreb
Goran Sergej Pristaš, Associate Professor, Academy of Dramatic Art, University of Zagreb
Silva Kalčić, Lecturer, Faculty of Textile Technology, University of Zagreb
Petra Krpan, MSc, Faculty of Textile Technology, University of Zagreb
Laura Potrović, MSc, Academy of Dramatic Art, University of Zagreb
Nikola Devčić, Director of the Association “White Wave”, Zagreb
Center for Visual Studies, Zagreb; Tvrđa – Magazine for theory, culture and visual arts; Croatian Writers’ Society; Faculty of Textile Technology, University of Zagreb; Association “White Wave”, Zagreb
The Conference will take place at the Faculty of Textile Technology in Zagreb, from 7th to 9th November 2013. Details will be regularly updated on the web site www.visual-studies.com.
The Conference is organized within the activities of the workgroup Visual Culture in Europe, and is the fourth such event, following previous ones held in London (2010), Barcelona (2011) and Trondheim (2012).
The Conference Visual Studies as Academic Discipline is endorsed by The International Association for Visual Culture.
Our Visiting Professor Allan Stoekl’s review of Adrian Parr’s book The Wrath of Capital: Neoliberalism and Climate Change Politics is currently up as a freebie on the Radical Philosophy site. Check it out here: http://www.radicalphilosophy.com/web/a-differing-shade-of-green
David Cunningham’s reviews of Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi’s latest book, The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance, is currently up as a freebie on the Radical Philosophy website here.
Jon Goodbun’s review of Eden Medina’s fascinating Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende’s Chile is currently up as a freebie on the Radical Philosophy website here.
The Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture
University of Westminster Department of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies
32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW. United Kingdom.