Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fantastic Adventures

Bal's essay, "Reading the Gaze, The Construction of Gender in Rembrandt" offers an interesting analysis of images, gender, and art. I came upon some pulp journals from the 1940s with images of women that are provocative and performative. Most of the essays are silly and border upon the realm of being unbearable (for example, prose ridden with lines like "She was not Marsha Hunter, but a Goddess; the Goddess of Love. All-loving. All loving. Then Sarndoff squeezed the trigger and the last shot blasted the silence." The images, however, are powerhouse, mythological, and fantastical. Women, in the 1940s, occupied new roles that were empowering, and many of us are familiar with images like Rosie the Riveter with the phrase, "We Can Do It." The images of women on the covers of pulp journals may reflect both anxieties but also a sense of power: women holstering guns while straddling winged creatures, zapping laser guns, seductively smiling in the midst of conflict. These images may be worth investigating, in light of the cultural history of gender in the 1940s.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cabinet Magazine: Interdisciplinary Visual Image Culture

The range of events hosted by Cabinet Magazine, at 300 Nevins Street, in Brooklyn seem to embody many of the concepts and ideas that our class hammered out in terms of an interdisciplinary lens on image culture. On Friday, April 23, from 6-8 pm they're hosting an exhibition highlighting aesthetics and medicine (exactly what Professor Jochum led us to encounter, at CU's neuroscience lab):



Here's an excerpt: "Inspired by the interdisciplinary, progressive nature of Cabinet, Wilson and Stroebe have brought together ten projects created by collaborative pairs of artists and health professionals. Created specifically for this exhibition, each collaborative piece is an investigation into materiality, drawing on the unique combination of each pair’s professional and creative practices. The result is a collection of work that transcends boundaries in order to engage the public in a discussion about how art and health affects us all. This conversation, about the process of collaboration and the blurring of boundaries between health and aesthetics are as integral to the show as the projects presented in the exhibition space."

Another somewhat humorous series that Cabinet hosts is titled "Bunk Bed Conversation," where two speakers situate themselves on a top and bottom bunks, and dive into quite often playful but deadly serious intellectual dialogue. Last month, I attended "The Poetics of Sleep" Bunk Bed Conversation between Professor Dolven of Princeton and Professor Wayne Koestenbaum of CUNY Graduate Center. The dialogue, undertaken in pajamas, included powerpoint presentations with poems ranging from Emily Dickinson to Spencer, and art was also filtered in (such as Goya's "The Sleep of Reason.").

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Images and Circuits of Desire

Earlier this week I went to the opening address of a graduate conference at Columbia, "Divining the Message, Mediating the Divine," and I heard Bernard Stiegler present on "Transitional Objects and Systematic Infidelity." Here's the abstract:

"Building upon previous research that has established that theos (Aristotle's intellect qua spirit) constitutes the object of all desire, this presentation will interrogate the status of the object in general as it relates to the construction of desire, focusing particularly on the present moment where, at one and the same time, the object has become structurally obsolete, swept away in the logic of an intrinsically-destructive consumerism, and new objects appear to be creating what we can call an "internet of things." This analysis, based on a reading of "Playing and Reality" by Donald Winnicott, will be an analysis of the economic, moral, symbolic, and spiritual crisis to which the obsolescence of objects leads, inasmuch as it is the organization of a systematic infidelity, which itself causes a systematic stupidity."

Stiegler spoke of image culture, circuits of desire, and relations of outside/inside. This conjured reflection of photographs as "objects of desire," and I revisited Susan Sontag's essay, "The Image World": "Photographs are a way of imprisoning reality, understood as recalcitrant, inaccessible; of making it stand still. Or they enlarge a reality that is felt to be shrunk, hollowed out, perishable, remote. One can't possess reality, one can possess (and be possessed by) images...As we make images and consume them, we need still more images; and still more...The possession of a camera can inspire something akin to lust. And like all credible forms of lust, it cannot be satisfied."

Then, onward to a personal leap, I thought of instances when photographing images is not allowed, such as in museums or even churches that hold sacred art. Not even the no-flash-negotiation is considered. Last month, I saw the Ghent Altarpiece, or Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (1432), in Belgium, by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck. Cameras were prohibited, which conjures an unusual feeling of trying to "take it in" even further, without reliance on consuming the image via photography. The image can easily be found online, of course, and in the giftshop they sell postcards, etc, but not being allowed to take a photo leads to a hyper-awareness of the inevitable path of forgetting. And it also conjures a lust for remembering, and probably possession, in an impossible way.

Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Online Collections

The Smithsonian Archives of American Art has a whopping 6,000 collections, and now nearly 80 collections are fully scanned in their entirety: letters, sketches, diary entries, photographs, etc. The collection includes the ephemera of Jackson Pollack, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, the Downtown Gallery (NY, NY), and Joseph Cornell, amongst many others. The site is beautifully accessible, without any registration or login steps; it's open, flowing, and immediately captivating: http://www.aaa.si.edu/collectionsonline/.

In class, I presented some work of Joseph Cornell in terms of his belief in "white magic" as an anecdote to surrealism, as it related to the work of Flusser. At City Lights bookstore, this spring, in San Francisco I found a book on "Joseph Cornell's Dreams," which illuminates shards of dream material that perhaps influenced his practice, and of course they seem surreal: "December 26-27, 1959: lone image of cyclist in the sky lingering from dream of 2 days before xmas rode in from left + sense view as of high wire act...Dorothea boy with flowered leg." Cornell's reflections are poetic, with attention to cadence and language alongside visual and imaginative prowess. I don't think he thought of himself as a poet, though, and his box art rarely included text. The archives reveal that he was a prolific writer, though, privately. I imagine writing was intertwined with his artistic practice.

The Smithsonian Archive scanned 4 boxes worth of his journals, also, dating from 1941-1973: http://www.aaa.si.edu/collectionsonline/cornjose/series3.htm. Many of his writings focused on his dreams, alongside his practice. His handwriting is esoterically indecipherable, but the collection includes insights on "the beauty of the commonplace...deep desire to reach young people through art work...distance between boxes and life...wanderlusting...summer constellations...and the and the ad infinitum of dreaming." I also enjoy references to friends of his I admire such as Mina Loy and Susan Sontag.