#CTB14: Conference Abstracts

A ‘Cabaret of Curiosities’: The Landscape Aesthetics of “Mondo Utah” and the Mormon Panorama
Amanda Beardsley

More than just the aestheticization of natural phenomena, the panorama has functioned as both optical surrogate for nature, simulator, and generator of affect—an apparatus for teaching people how to survey and perceive the world while also situating them in it. Such characteristics of panoramic vision have carried over into current museological practices in an effort to unveil and reconcile socio-cultural landscapes, while also encouraging tourism. This was seen specifically in the 2013 Utah biennial, “Mondo Utah,” whose title referenced the controversial genre of Mondo cinema. The biennial attempted to decipher a visual language of contemporary art specific to the region. Pavilions surveyed objects ranging from the marginal (golden life-masks and mummiforms of the Summum group), to the aggregate (work from the collective holdings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

This paper looks at the Utah biennial in relation to Mormon frontier artist C.C.A. Christensen’s Mormon Panorama (1878), a series of twenty-three large paintings sewn together into a 175-foot scroll depicting the history of the religion. The artist used the device for missionary work in the late nineteenth century as he traveled America, encouraging prospective members to join his community in Utah. Christensen’s panorama encompasses a genealogy of landscape aesthetics and spectacles packaged in consumable form to encourage geographic and ideological mobility. Acting as commentary on Utah’s landscape and as the lens that shapes it, both “Mondo Utah” and Mormon Panorama become significant when considering the technology and optics that not only fashion a particular perspective of a given place, but, in addition, have the authority to translate what might—or might not—already be there.

Boycotting the Censured Biennial: 1969 and the Contrabienal
Silvia Benedetti

During the second half of the Twentieth century a significant part of contemporary art was dependent on the role of some major exhibitions, such as Documenta and biennials. At the same time many Latin American counties were under radical regimes. The intention of this paper is to explore two events related to the X Sao Paulo Bienal in 1969 in Brazil: the boycott one month prior to the biennial, and the publication of the catalogue Contrabienal in 1971. Both events, organized by groups of artists, rejected the government-sponsored exhibition because its relation with the military dictatorial regime. They were against the censure, repression, persecution, torture, and murders by the Brazilian regime, and also against the self-censure of some cultural institutions, such as the Sao Paulo Bienal.

Town Planning in the West: Metapontum, Megara Hyblaea, and Akragas
Sara Champlin

During the 8th and 7th centuries BC, the Greeks were emerging from the Dark Ages, a span of four hundred years following the destruction and subsequent abandonment of palatial Bronze Age settlements.  The ability to read and write, along with stone cutting techniques which enabled intricate art and building projects had been forgotten, and traditional systems of law and social organization had been overturned.  Stimulated by the memory of an illustrious past, some of the small, rural communities banded together to achieve a higher standard of living.  New political establishments known as poleis began to flourish; they became popular throughout the Mediterranean, with some of the most vibrant and innovative examples taking shape in the newly acquired territories of Sicily and Southern Italy.

My paper examines the historical circumstances which led to the rise of Greek poleis.  I argue that systems for organizing space developed gradually, and that not all colonial efforts looked to a single prototype.  I focus primarily on the archaeological remains of three colonies: Metapontum, Megara Hyblaea, and Akragas.  The spatial and temporal distribution of these sites is particularly useful in demonstrating how their urban plans were affected by social and political ideologies.  Above all, I seek to demonstrate that town plans were created as physical backdrops to the day to day running of state affairs; their purpose was to promote state constitutions based on the common values of citizens.

Material Ism: Labor and Modernity at The Henry Ford Abstract
Eitan Freedenberg

In 1928, at the height of Fordism, that economic system’s namesake opened a 250 acre museum of Americana and gifted it his name: The Henry Ford. The auto baron had long argued that “textbook history” undervalued authentic American experiences; cultural memory inhered, he insisted, in the textures of built environments. Recasting historiography as the production of space, Ford accessioned more than forty historic structures and placed them in fictive and thematic proximities: Edison’s laboratory and Ford’s boyhood home became neighbors in a habitable counterhistory. But the museum’s celebration of the vernacular conceals its ideological aim: to effect a secular faith in technological progress, with Fordism as its apogee and Ford himself as its avatar.

In this paper, I consider whether a concept of “Fordist collection” is a contradiction in terms. How might we reconcile Ford’s accumulation of handcrafted artifacts with Fordist tenets of disposability and mechanized assembly? Do the museum’s synthetic geographies—comprising sites extracted from, yet indexed to, remote times and places—resemble or demystify modes of capitalist territorialization?
I argue that collection, as both practice and product, replicates the spatiotemporal and political logics of Fordism: rupture disguised as continuity, compression of distance, and effacement of labor. Drawing the museum and the neighboring River Rouge factory into dialogue with each another, I uncover parallelisms between industrial space and museum space, assembly line and exhibit, corporate bureaucracy and curatorship. The Model T may be Fordism’s most iconic commodity, but the museum is its genealogy, its topography, and now its cadaver.

Mapping National Identity: Gutai’s International Sky Festival
Stephanie M. Hohlios

In 1960 the Gutai Art Association staged International Sky Festival atop the Takashimaya Department Store in Osaka, Japan where designs by Gutai and international artists were transferred onto banners and attached to helium balloons tethered to the roof. The trembling balloons and banners aptly echoed the energetic mood of public protests in 1960 that voiced frustration at the planned renewal of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty (ANPO), and at being dragged into the U.S. side of the Cold War framework. In the wake of Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi’s (1896-1987) forcing the Japanese parliament to ratify the treaty despite these protests, International Sky Festival lays bare the threads that tie Japan to the global political community, inviting reactions of child-like awe as much as critique.

This paper analyzes International Sky Festival as a visual blueprint for the intersection of social, political, and economic issues central to the re-shaping of the Japanese public sphere circa 1960. As a map—one that confuses the boundaries of nationality (rather than delineating them) by displaying the work of international artists in a single event, and decenters modernism via the event’s placement away from the European and American cities that often dominated modernist production–-International Sky Festival calls for the transcendence of political borders to form a global community. I use Benedict Anderson’s theory of the modern “imagined community” to explain how trembling balloons and banners encompass the agitation of national interests to herald the mingling and collision of disparate voices in domestic and international arenas.

Walls Do Talk: Toward an Ethics of Foreclosure Photography
Kelly Long

Between 2007 and 2008, a set of cascading crises more than a decade in the making caused housing to become the unlikely pivot of the international financial system, beginning in the United States. As the major financial institutions responsible for an excess of subprime loans collapsed, a global recession began, adding debt and unemployment to an already toxic mélange of social and financial ruin.

Following the precedent set by the FSA-commissioned images of the Great Depression and continued by Documerica’s photographs of the 1973 oil crisis, art photographers and photojournalists alike have flocked to America’s foreclosed homes as the tragic loci of its most recent recession, producing mages that alternately facilitate the home’s reclamation by its exiled owner and project the trauma of foreclosure into a perpetual present.

Among the many homes immortalized through this emergent genre of “foreclosure photography,” Todd Hido’s ambient, empty-shell spaces and Anthony Suau’s violent images of destruction wrought by foreclosure’s victims stand out, striking in their formal polarity and affective correspondence. In each, the benevolent sentience of Bachelard’s paradigmatic hermit’s hut is reconceived as threatening. For Hido, it is experienced by the photographic viewer whose intrusion constitutes her as the home’s indelible other while, for Suau, the home’s sudden hostility has already provoked its inevitable confrontation. Walls are smashed through with sledgehammers; profanities are dug into sheetrock; abandoned belongings are strewn around rooms so glutted with debris that entire floors disappear, surrendering to the shifting topography of clothing and knickknacks.

As a genre, foreclosure photography centers on the house as a site of trauma, but it does not always allow trauma to become essential. In a few rare cases, the images actually reproduce the trauma of foreclosure. In this essay, I hope to explore foreclosure photography as a genre that is both necessary—for the contestation of a brutal and unjust pecuniary process—and sorely in need of an ethical code.

CROSS-AXIS OF GODARD AND FROMANGER: FILM-TRACT NO.1968, LE ROUGE
HYE-YOUNG MIN

In the 1968 movement in Paris, Jean-Luc Godard made a 16mm, 3-minute long film, Film-tract No.1968, Le Rouge, in collaboration with French artist Gérard Fromanger. Starting with the shot identifying its title written in red paint on the Le Monde for 31 July 1968, the film shows the process of making Fromanger’s poster image, which is thick red paint flows over a tri-color French flag. Film-tract No.1968 is one of the series of Cinétracts, directed by various filmmakers and artists to espouse a leftist political viewpoint in the May‘68. Despite considerable interests in research on Cinétracts, Film-tract No.1968 has not been studied thoroughly in terms not only of its actual function within French cultural politics, but also of its artistic aspects. As a cross-axis of Godard’s Cinétracts and Fromanger’s poster design, Film-tract No.1968 has multiple layers of meanings, reflecting the aftermath of the May ‘68. Touching upon the political circumstances around the film and each artist’s role and participation in the 1968 movement, this paper examines various aspects of the film, including the iconoclastic moving image of the French flag, the date of production, and its difference with other Cinétracts.

Expanded Boundary: Art of Allan deSouza and Yong Soon Min
Kyungso Min

As an immigrant of the “1.5 generation,” Yong soon Min (b.1953) has focused on the ways cultural and geopolitical structures of race and national identity produce visual modes. Interestingly, a marriage with Allan deSouza (b.1958), who also possesses diverse cultural backgrounds as an Indian diaspora, has largely influenced Min to explore newer artistic experiments. Since the early 1990s, deSouza and Min have worked together and their cooperative projects primarily concentrate on art’s interactive possibility by inviting spectator to participate in their narratives. Of significance, the concept of a border became obscure and even fluid within their practices, by transforming the “belonging to nowhere” idea into a powerful multisensory experience.

The present paper will examine the way that the experiences and memories of crossing national border lines are embodied in deSouza and Min’s art through scrutiny of their individual and collaborative projects: deSouza’s a series of photographs, Threshold (1996-8); Min’s DMZ installations (1994-7); and a multimedia installation, Projectory (2008) by “My DADA” (an artist group organized by two with Abdelali Dahrouch). It will attempt to analyze how these artists’ approaches toward the same question can be differentiated from each other to appreciate their strategy and strength in joint production. By building an organic relationship between the works within the development of the idea of boundary, the aim is to open productive discussion on the desirable ways that artists from different cultural and political backgrounds constitute a common ground for the discourse on the diaspora, displacement and replacement.

Georg Scholz: a Revival of the Germanic Caricatural Tradition in the Context of Weimar’s West Germany
Stephanie Peterson

After returning to his hometown in Karlsruhe Germany in 1922 and 1923 Neue Sachlichkeit painter Georg Scholz made a series of paintings, lithographs, and illustrations that exploited archetypal Germanic aesthetics and themes to satirical ends, mimicking the style of Pieter Bruegel.  Scholz’s debt to the Netherlandish master would not go unnoticed by contemporary critics.  In September of 1924 Gustav Hartlaub praised Scholz’s construction of antithetical relationships between light and dark, warmth and cold, proclaiming that the artist had surpassed Bruegel’s idyll in his level of cynicism

The little attention that has been given to Scholz’s return to Karlsruhe has not sufficiently addressed his adoption of a characteristically Germanic caricatural style and the political situation in nearby Rhineland in the early 1920s.  This paper will draw connections among Scholz’s location in Karlsruhe, the precarious political context of nearby occupied Rhineland and his references to the Germanic Old Masters in the early 1920s.  The work of Jan van Eyck, Mathias Grünewald, Hans Multscher, Hieronymus Bosch, and Pieter Bruegel underwent a resurgence in popularity among Post-Expressionist German painters.  Scholz employed many of the themes and techniques practiced by the aforementioned masters, particularly the latter artist, whose style suited the satirization of Baden’s provincial middle class.  In so doing, Scholz expressed the threatened state of German identity, particularly on and around the western border.  By constructing antithetical combinations suggestive of Biedermeier and Bruegel, Scholz used an indigenous Germanic aesthetic language to critique contemporary political upheavals.

Pictographic Unity in the 1964 Olympics
Phuong-lan Rebekah Tonthat

The 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games attempted to signal a new Japanese national image to the Western world. Marking the first time the Olympics were hosted by an Asian country, Japan sought to convey a new identity emphasizing its revitalization and success after the devastation of World War II. While art historians such as Kida Takuya have focused on the use of traditional materials and nationalist imagery such as the rising sun at the Tokyo Olympics, the Japanese development of the first complete system of pictograms for the Games has been largely ignored. Pictograms, as abstracted semi-representational graphics, were intended to function as a means of visual communication which could be universally understood by the Games’ large international audience. At the same time, the modernist aesthetic of pictograms and their transnational aspirations affirmed the image of Japan as a culturally progressive nation. In my paper I argue that the introduction of modern graphic design system of pictograms was meant to reach an international audience and can be read in the context of Japan’s effort to assert itself on the international stage and demonstrate the nation’s revitalization.

Under Dor Guez’s Bed: Scenes from the “Christian Palestinian Archive”
Rotem Rozental

On July 13, 1948, Israeli forces stormed homes of Arabic families in the city Al-Lydd, later to be re-named Lod. Violence toward Arab communities was demonstrated throughout Israel, who declared independence two months earlier. Local communities were forced to evict.[1] Months later, they returned to find Israel confiscated their property and belongings. Currently, local practitioners return to those silenced moments of catastrophe, of Nakba and examine the systems that enabled these events. I wish to recognize this interest in strategies of exclusion from the civic space as what shapes a particular approach toward archival machinery and photographic technologies. The impulse for Dor Guez’s ongoing Christian Palestinian Archive project can be traced to the aftermath of these events, and the devastation of social, geographical and personal identities. Guez, who defines himself as an Israeli Jewish, Arab and Christian, inaugurated the archive after a chance encounter with photos of his grandparents’ wedding, stacked in a nylon bag in a suitcase under their bed. His grandmother dates the photos, taken in Lod, to “a year after 1948.”[2] This encounter culminated Guez’s scholarly and artistic preoccupations with archival formations. He began contacting international Christian-Palestinian communities, inviting individuals to share photographs. This research suggests a reading of Guez’s archival practices and strategies, as well as the constant movement of photographs in and from the archive. This archive does not re-construct a lost national identity: it narrates and maintains the image of the individual disaster, and identifies the oppressing systems that aim to disregard these bodies, but fail to prevent their inevitable emergence.


[1]Mitra Abbaspour. “Photographs, Like a Sort of Embodied, Physical Subconscious: Mitra Abbaspour in conversation with Dor Guez.” In 40 Days, published in conjunction with the exhibition Dor Guez-40 Days, shown at the Mosaic Rooms, London, April12-May 31, 2013. London: A. M. Qattan Foundation, 2013.

[2] Mitra Abbaspour. Ibid. 20.

Framing Mobility in Mona Hatoum’s work on Maps, (1996-2012)
Florencia San Martín

In 1996, London-based artist of Palestinian origins, Mona Hatoum, made Present Tense, her first work on a map. The installation recreates the map of the Oslo Accord (1993), in which isolated divisions of land represent Palestinian territory. By using ‘mobility’ as visual and symbolic strategy of her work, Hatoum calls attention to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict in relationship to territory, power, and the building of a nation-state. After Present Tense, Hatoum has made other works on maps, challenging the postcolonial shift of cartography in relationship to the globalization project, which rests in the utopia of a world with no borders, and, therefore, in an utopic ‘inclusive’ map. (Gerando Mosquera, Jaleh Mansoor, Giorgio Agambem).

While the globalization project conflicts with peripheral identity politics of non-developed countries, some Western scholars have read Hatoum’s work as ‘universal’, leaving apart the particularities of a specific region. My paper analyzes the paradoxes and conflicts of the so-called global art when reading Hatoum’s work, focusing on three works which are representations of maps: Present Tense (1996), Map (1999), and Projection (2006). In turn, the paper indicates ‘mobility’ as a pivotal trope that has served as a vehicle to read Hatoum’s works on maps using different modes of interpretation, indicating the illusion of the so called globalization’s success by the ‘ghostly’ aspect of her pieces.

Rediscovered, Reconstituted, Reproduced: Rewriting History and Knowledge of Cambodian Arts during the French Protectorate 1863-1942
Lyno Vuth

Through selected case studies, this paper traces some key aspects of the history of Cambodian arts as narrated and materialized by France in the West, and as locally produced in the country during the French Protectorate in Cambodia from 1863-1942. The paper examines three historical phenomena: first, the foundational narratives that imaginatively constructed the early twelfth-century stone temple Angkor Wat through the travel account of French naturalist Henri Mouhot published in 1863; second, the subsequent efforts by France to solidify those narratives through architectural representation at colonial expositions in France, with particular attention to the Exposition Coloniale Internationale de Paris in 1931; and third, the Cambodian art education and production through the French administration of the School of Cambodian Arts in Phnom Penh during the first half of twentieth century. By investigating these three interrelated activities, I will argue that France made consistent efforts in deploying positional hierarchy and power as the owner of history and knowledge of Cambodian art, through legitimizing itself as the “discoverer” of Angkor, and thereafter as innovator to restore the “lost” civilization, and yet also as savior to protect Cambodian “pure” arts through reproduction of Khmer art objects.

Imagined Power: Brigand-Photography and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Italy
Nicole Wagner

The period following Italy’s post-unification in 1860 marked the beginning of a violent situation, known as the ‘Brigand War.’  In an effort to create a unified nation, the Northern Army labeled all lower-class Southerners as ‘anti-Italy’ and enemies to unification. An important part of this unification was portraying Italy as a cultural and civilized space. Centralized Italian leaders needed to delegate an imagined common problem for the people of Italy to unite against and to blame for the undesirable aspects existing in Italy’s geographical boundaries. The brigand’s genealogy, ranging from social bandit to criminal, allowed them to become the antithesis to the Italian National ideal. This paper discusses how photography effectually portrayed the brigand as the opposition to the civilized North and played an integral part implementing a discourse of power between Northern and Southern Italy.  It demonstrates how the brigand photograph acted as a tool of knowledge and desire in closed communities and questions the existence of a civil contract of photography for those involved in the brigand photographic event.

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