The Routledge Handbook of Health & Media, eds. Lester Friedman & Therese Jones (2023) Psychiatry and neurology evolved into independent branches of study in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries alongside rapidly changing photographic technologies. Early in its history, photography was adopted by medicine for its perceived precision and speed of production. Photographs were conceptualized as reproductions of reality rather than merely representations, leading doctors to attribute photographs with veracity and uphold them as evidence. They proved useful not only to visualize illness but also theories of the mind and brain when these entities could not be seen directly. In other words, photography provided a means to visualize the invisible and, in doing so, influenced discourses on the mind and its presumed physical location, the brain.
The Outmoded Instant: From Instagram to Polaroid
Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts & Cultural Criticism 45:5 (University of California Press, 2018) In its imitation of outmoded media, Instagram imbricates two historical moments—Polaroid in the 1970s and Instagram in the 2010s. Instagram is self-consciously modeled on the aesthetics and social uses of ‘one-step’ Polaroid prints, converging not only image exposure and production but also manipulation, distribution, and consumption using a single device. Remnants of Polaroid, both materially and connotatively, reside within Instagram, but they are taken out of historical context and presented as aesthetic styles. This historical “sample is meant to function as a genetic link […] to serve as a tangible connection back to some originary moment.” Nostalgia lingers for Polaroid in the wake of its demise by digital photography’s economic dominance, so Instagram reimagines Polaroid as possessing artistic craftsmanship by “incorporat[ing] many of the unwanted qualities typically found in amateur work […] ‘careless’ cropping, ‘improper’ exposures, and films ‘wrong’ for given lighting conditions can be intelligently exploited to serve potent pictorial ends.” Without reconciling the particulars of analog and digital media, Instagram connotes a generalized past-ness, carrying the memory of Polaroid within it.
Arcadia & Anxiety: Travel Trailers & Fallout Shelters in Midcentury America
Dialectic V: The Figure of Vernacular in Architectural Imagination (University of Utah, 2017) *peer reviewed Man has no mean; his mirrors distort; His greenest arcades have ghosts too; His utopias tempt to eternal youth Or self-slaughter. —W. H. Auden, This paper presents a historical and material comparison between the travel trailer and private fallout shelter in midcentury America to consider the hold that these structures continue to exert upon our collective imagination. Sharing similarities in design and ideology, these spaces were intended as temporary shelters and employed highly designed means to change a single room into a multifunctional residence retaining the familiar comforts of a midcentury, middle-class home. Hybrid structures combining singlefamily-home architecture joined with automobile design, on the one hand, and military bunkers, on the other, they could be built with a do-it-yourself ethos or purchased as prefabricated units. Travel trailers and fallout shelters were intimately tied to war, industry, and domesticity, and were made possible by materials and techniques created for the military and the development of an industrial middle class possessing discretionary income, property, and leisure time. Looking to Leo Marx’s concept of the middle landscape in The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal and Beatriz Colomina’s work on postwar modern architecture in Domesticity at War, in conjunction with midcentury popular culture, mass media, advertisements, and government publications, I consider how the travel trailer and fallout shelter weave together “[a]rchitectural culture, military culture, and mass culture” to symbolize the shift of the battlefields of World War II from Europe and Japan to the privately owned homes of the American suburbs with the onset of the Cold War. Stocked with canned goods and camping equipment for survival, whether in a national park on holiday or at home in case of nuclear attack, these structures are materially and affectively connected, representing two faces of the same postwar anxiety: the Arcadian dreams and apocalyptic visions of the middle class in midcentury America.
Desert Pictures & Polaroid Memories
Dilettante, Vol. 2: Networks of Belonging (Summer Forum for Inquiry + Exchange, 2016) Working through a chain of association comprising contiguous ideas and distant places, I mentally circle from remembering my seven days in Joshua Tree to looking ahead to five days in Tucson. These American deserts are far from deserted, forming a “network of belonging” separated geographically but connected, for me, personally.
Theorizing Visual Studies: Writing Through the Discipline (Routledge, 2012), eds. James Elkins, Kristi McGuire, Maureen Burns, Alicia Chester & Joel Kuennen “Surface” evokes superficiality, artifice, deceit, and appearance at the same time as conjuring its opposites or complements, implying what is supposed to lie underneath: depth, history, meaning, essence, authenticity, interiority, the soul, the unconscious, truth.
Concrete Metaphors: Soviet Modernist Architecture
Review of Richard Pare at the Graham Foundation, Oct 11, 2012–Feb 16, 2013 (ArtSlant, Oct 16, 2012) While the third floor of the Prairie-style Madlener House slowly filled for the opening talk of his solo exhibition at the Graham Foundation, Richard Pare screened a video he shot of a Russian industrial bakery in continuous operation since the early 1930s. For almost twenty years now, Pare has extensively documented modernist Soviet architecture built between 1922 and 1932, subsequent to the Russian Revolution of 1917 that overthrew Tsarist autocracy and made way for the establishment of the Soviet Union. While Pare’s video of the bakery’s operations is not included in the exhibition, it provided a rare peek at one of these buildings still in use and a glimpse into the utopian spirit of this period of Soviet modernist architecture: a true marriage of form and function striving for maximum efficiency and manifesting the social goals and technological ideals of a young and still forward-looking state.
The Sahmat Collective: Politics & Performance in India
Review of The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India Since 1989 at the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, Feb 14–Jun 9, 2013 (ArtSlant, Mar 22, 2013) Mounted on a red wall, a large black-and-white photograph of a funeral procession carrying a coffin draped in a hammer and sickle flag greets visitors to The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989. This striking first visual and the room that follows set the premise and tone of the exhibition with plentiful wall text, reading materials, and documentation to supplement and contextualize the work to come. The exhibition introduces an American audience to an Indian art collective born in the wake of the murder of Safdar Hashmi (1954–1989), a political activist, playwright, actor, director, poet, and Communist who co-founded the street theater group Jana Natya Manch in 1973. Both Hashmi and Jana Natya Manch were dedicated to secularism and egalitarianism in the face of immense class, caste, cultural, political, and religious divisions in India. Hashmi was attacked while performing a street play in Ghaziabad near Delhi and subsequently died of his injuries. In the nationwide outrage against political violence that followed, Sahmat was founded to memorialize Hashmi’s life and carry on his work, being an acronym for the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust and meaning "in agreement" in Hindi.
Domestica Dentata: A Tyranny of Details
Review of Daniel Bauer at Alderman Exhibitions, Chicago, Apr 27–Jul 20, 2013 (ArtSlant, May 3, 2013) Daniel Bauer’s photographs are hard to write about. His images are not easily encapsulated by description. I can more easily relate the experience of viewing them, which is slow and contemplative, or, in Michael Fried’s terminology, absorptive. These are self-contained worlds wholly manifest in every moment, in every detail, yet they also take time––the duration of exposure and the duration of viewing. I could say Bauer employs a modernist sensibility, in the sense that he explores and exploits photography’s most essential bases as a medium: light and temporality. He is a master craftsman in controlling both, paying meticulous attention throughout his process to detail rendered in the deepest shadows, from film exposure to digitization to printing. His prints are mounted to Dibond––the gold standard for mounting––and exhibited naked, with neither glass nor lamination for protection. Materiality and process are integral to the images themselves. Bauer wants you to see the details, not to obfuscate them with a mediating surface, however vulnerable this choice renders the prints.
An Overdue Retrospective
Review of Faith Wilding at Threewalls, Chicago, Jan 1–Feb 22, 2014 (Jan 14, 2014) At first look, Fearful Symmetries exhibits surprising choices for Faith Wilding’s first retrospective. Best known as a performance and installation artist and writer involved with feminist art collectives, Wilding has firmly secured her place in the canon of the feminist art movement. Having studied with Judy Chicago in the Feminist Art Program – first at California State University, Fresno, and then at CalArts – she subsequently participated in Womanhouse (1971–1972), in which she performed her provocative and significant work Waiting (1972). Since that time Wilding’s work has spanned performance, writing, installation, mixed media, and BioArt; she has collaborated with the Critical Art Ensemble and the cyberfeminist art collective subRosa; and she has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, Creative Capital grant, and NEA artist awards. Wilding’s threewallsSOLO exhibition is well timed to coincide with her reception of a 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art on February 15.
The Poetics of Collaboration & Collision: An Interview with EcoArtTech
An Interview with Leila Nadir & Cary Adams (formerly Peppermint) (ArtSlant, Mar 16, 2014) I met up with Leila Nadir and Cary Peppermint at Equal Grounds, a cafe in Rochester’s South Wedge neighborhood, on an unusually sunny winter day. While I opted for coffee, Nadir and Peppermint are serious tea drinkers and brought their own special blend. Longtime partners in life and art, together they form EcoArtTech, a new media collaborative dedicated to exploring the environmental imagination through blurring the boundaries of natural, built, and technological spaces. Drawing on diverse training and backgrounds––Nadir completed a PhD in English at Columbia University and Peppermint has long been known as a new media and net artist––their work encompasses net art, mobile apps, digital video, architectural interventions, online performances, public happenings, and published writing. [...] We discussed collaboration, relational aesthetics, avantgarde strategies, digital readymades, nature, modernity, politics, play, and living in Rochester.