Sep 21, 2008
Sep 16, 2012
Mar 27, 2009
Aug 28, 2009
Sep 18, 2009
Apr 25, 2014

Lookout America!

“Lookout America! brings together John Ford, Marilyn Monroe, and all manner of Cold War generals and operatives in what amounts to Dr Strangelove: The Documentary.  Prodigiously researched, beautifully illustrated and written, and insightfully theorized, this book feels frighteningy current and necessary.” (Nicholas Mirzoeff, New York University)

Available here.

 0 Comments

Paper Call: Design, Sound, and Vision

The 8th William A. Kern Conference on Visual Communication

Rochester Institute of Technology

April 26-28, 2018

Design, Sound and Vision in Midcentury Media

Call for Papers

The 2018 Kern conference will be focused on the topic of “midcentury media.” The traditional focus of the Kern conference is visual communication, and this year’s aims to reveal how the visual intersects with broader dimensions of media, such as design, literature, and music. Further, we want to do some ‘looking backward’ to historicize visual culture by focusing on the midcentury period, roughly between the 1940s and the 1960s. We are looking for papers on topics of how media technologies were introduced, visualized and promoted; how design, photography, print, and other visual technologies created glamourous imagery, often of midcentury media objects themselves; how the midcentury literary and popular imagination elicited and relied upon visual displays and representations; and how Cold War anxieties, ideal lifestyles, and optimism for the future impacted midcentury media. We aspire to promote efforts to think about design and modernism within a larger frame of visual culture. We are particularly interested in under researched areas, case studies, and figures.

We encourage submissions that:
• Re-imagine and reassess midcentury media
• Explore the continuing significance of midcentury aesthetic production and material     culture, including graphic design, vinyl records, radio, television, film, popular media, and ephemera
• Interrogate identity – race, class, gender – and ideology
• Integrate approaches to communication, design, history, media studies, and visual culture

Preliminary list of invited speakers:
Greg Barnhisel, Department of English, Duquesne University
Michael Brown, Department of History, Rochester Institute of Technology
John Covach, Institute for Popular Music, University of Rochester
Keir Keightley, Faculty of Media & Information Studies, Western University, Canada
Kristin L. Matthews, Department of English, Brigham Young University
Monica Penick, School of Architecture, University of Texas at Austin
Tom Perchard, Department of Music, Goldsmiths, University of London
R. Roger Remington, College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, Rochester Institute of Technology
Penny M. Von Eschen, Department of History, Cornell University


Following in the tradition of Kern conferences, we plan a rich program of interdisciplinary scholarship and conversation.

Conference Chairs: Jonathan E. Schroeder, William A. Kern Professor of Communications, Rochester Institute of Technology and Janet Borgerson, City, University of London

Submission deadline: January 15, 2018.  Additional information is here.
Send extended abstracts (500 – 2500 words) via email to Jonathan Schroeder: jesgla@rit.edu

 0 Comments

Paper Call: Image, History, and Memory

CALL FOR PAPERS

International conference on IMAGE, HISTORY AND MEMORY

Warsaw, 6–8 December 2017

The goal of this conference is to promote an interdisciplinary discussion of the relationships between image, history and memory. We welcome paper proposals from the fields of art history, history, sociology, cultural studies, political science and others. The papers should address images in their various roles: as witnesses to history, as means of materializing memories, as active creators of history or as producers of the contents of memory. Suggestive images can provoke historical events, just as they can influence memory. The latter role particularly affects those who did not directly witness historical events but became heirs to instances of post-memory. Thus, when members of subsequent Soviet generations ‘recalled’ the October Revolution, writes Susan Buck- Morss, what they really remembered were images from Sergei Eisenstein’s films. Thus, the arrangement of the three concepts of interest to the conference—image, history and memory—is circular rather than linear. We want to focus on the complexity of the triangular dynamics between historical narratives, their visualization and memories. These relationships are important to any effort to understand and describe interactions between history and biography, and the individual and collective processes and mechanisms of remembrance.

The conference discussion will focus on these issues from a regional perspective that will highlight questions about ways in which historical images fit into the dynamics of remembrance in Central and Eastern Europe, but they will make references to other historical, political and cultural regions of Europe and of the world.

Scholars of various disciplines are invited to submit paper proposals addressing, but not limited to, the following themes: A. Remembrance, history, image: Theories and cognitive perspectives; B. Image and historiosophy: Artists’ reflections on history and memory; C. Images of history vs. remembrance;  D. Monuments as images of memory; E. Image in popular culture and the new media: Medium of memory, fabric of history; F. Film: Medium of memory, fabric of history.

To apply to present a paper at the conference, please send (a) your abstract (300 words) along with your presentation title and if possible the panel topic, as well as (b) a short bio to: <genealogies@enrs.eu>.
More information is available here and here.   Deadline for submissions: 15 July 2017.  (NB: Late submissions are possible; contact me at <robert.hariman@comcast.net> if interested.  Full disclosure: I’m a keynoter for the conference.)

The list of the chosen participants will be announced by the end of September 2017. There is no fee for taking part in the conference.

Organisers: European Network Remembrance and Solidarity (ENRS); Institute of Arts History, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań; History Department, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań; Institute of Art and Visual History, Chair of Art History of Eastern and East Central Europe, Humboldt University of Berlin; Social Memory Laboratory, Institute of Sociology, University of Warsaw.

Partners: Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw; The Committee on Art Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

 0 Comments

One Voice: Portraits from the Tibetan Diaspora

Photographer David Zimmerman’s One Voice offers beautiful testimony to the dignity of the individual person amid catastrophic displacement, abandonment, and loss.

This book of portraits of displaced Tibetans also includes two short essays (full disclosure: I wrote one of them) and several poems.  You can see some of the portraits at David’s website; the book is available from Kehrer Verlag in Germany and at Amazon.   Although part of an activist project, these images are contemplative: they offer a mindfulness that is another way to resist those forces that, given enough time, would make all of us refugees.

 0 Comments

Conference Paper Call: Helsinki Photomedia 2018

Helsinki Photomedia 2018

Reconsidering the “Post-truth Condition”: Epistemologies of the photographic image

March 26 -28, 2018

Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland

Contemporary photography takes place in a world where the relation between facts and values is a social and political issue which has repercussions in art and education as well. The public discussions on information warfare, fake news, and manipulated media contents have shaken the epistemology of news media and generally revitalized the questions of trustfulness of media representations. Problematic statements about the ‘post-truth condition’ symptomatically reflect this situation and pose new challenges to our understanding of the epistemology of the photographic image.

Helsinki Photomedia 2018 invites critical examinations, artistic reflections, and presentations of educational projects of photography after the ‘post-truth condition’, especially work which addresses the variety of ends that photographic truth, authenticity, indexicality, manipulation, and suspicion have to stand for. Photomedia 2018 will take up the multifaceted question concerning the photographic epistemology by focusing on topics including (but not limited to):

  • Evidence and testimony
  • Photography and knowledge
  • Technical aspects of photographic data
  • Visual information and counter-information
  • Strategies of authentication
  • Photography and education

Deadline for 500 word abstracts: October 31, 2017.  Guidelines for submissions are here.

Keynote speakers 2018:

Professor Robert Hariman (Northwestern University)

Professor John Lucaites (Indiana University)

Professor Barbie Zelizer (University of Pennsylvania)

Artist Keynote TBC by August

Helsinki Photomedia is a biennial photography research conference organized by four Finnish universities since 2012. The conference offers various platforms where artistic, philosophical, social, cultural, economical, and technological approaches to photography meet. We welcome submissions from all areas of photography research. Since 2016 photography education has been one of the areas and we welcome submissions for the educational panel for presenting educational projects and related research. The conference language is English.

 0 Comments

Helping Others: A New York Moment

ThIs image is my pick for photograph of the week.  Trigger warning for the sophisticated: I’m going to get sentimental.

The car plowing through the pedestrians in Times Square wasn’t a terrorist attack, but it could have been.  Same levels of surprise and senselessness.  Same aftermath of shock, injuries, death, disruption, and fear.  Unfortunately, we know the basic story too well.

But that’s not the only story.  This photograph reminds us of another: one that always is there but also is too easily forgotten.  The story of how ordinary people step up and lean in to help those around them.  To help those strangers around them–people they don’t know, whom they won’t see again, who can’t be expected to return the favor.

There are two helpers in the foreground of this photograph, each of them reaching out to the injured woman between them.  One places a hand to offer gentle reassurance while looking up as if to watch for another threat or additional help.  His balanced stance is protective and yet careful: he isn’t going to move her unnecessarily or otherwise go beyond his skill level.  He can only do so much, but he is there for her.

What makes the photograph, however, is the man on the right.  He mirrors the general sense of concern posed by the man on the left, but now responsiveness acquires incredible sensitivity and nuance.  He ever so carefully pinches the hem of her skirt to pull it back down over her undergarment.  His fingers, arm, and body are finely tensed in an act of precision, as if removing a mote of dust from a precious artwork.  He acts to protect her modesty, and so respectfully that he will not frighten her or add in any way to her sense of violation and helplessness.  She has been hit by a car and thrown to the pavement, but she will not be manhandled.

That lightness of touch is heightened by the contrast with his massive arms.  Nor does it end there: he is a picture of carefully styled masculinity.  Although he won’t be Forever 21, he is looking damn good.   Personal discipline and public display are fused in his self-fashioning, but it turns out that fashion is only one part of who he is, and of what it means to live among strangers in New York City.  His delicate gesture is an affirmation of the dignity of the individual person, no matter who she is or how she has been harmed.

And of course it is a New York moment all the way down the street: from people in costumes to that dude with the greenish jacket and backpack who could be a Ninja Turtle.  (Is he in costume or not?  You tell me.)  The scene could appear in the New York Times’ Metropolitan Diary, except for the fact that people were being injured and killed.

And, as happens in New York or in Naperville, Illinois or in many, many other places, ordinary people respond to disasters in a New York minute.  The police, fire, and other first responders are still crucial, as are the dedicated emergency room staffs and all the rest that locks into place to provide emergency care.  But let’s not forget these moments of simple caring that are there to be seen briefly.  They are acts and signs of the social trust and commitment to a common life that is essential for living together.

There is no art of the deal here.  No market exchange or competitive advantage or utility maximization, and nothing is monetized.   Instead, people are acting like fellow citizens.  And so they are, whatever their status otherwise.  Citizens of New York, and citizens of photography, visible yet unnoticed most of the time, yet ready to help one another without bidding.  Examples for us all.

Photograph by Jewel Samad/Getty.

 1 Comment

When War Becomes a Part of Life

This photo could be from a comedy skit, if the war in Syria were not so deadly.  The image is an odd one in any case, so let’s consider why.

It’s definitely a war photograph–without a war you are not likely to find an unexploded missile on your property–but it is not a conventional war photograph.  Instead of action, only stasis.  Instead of destructiveness, an inert object.  Instead of displacement, a strange addition to the landscape.  Instead of strategy and tactics in real time, a banal chore that might not get done for awhile.  It doesn’t even seem to be a good photograph: Instead of the decisive moment, only an indeterminate aftermath while time moves at a crawl.  We might ask what that guy is thinking, but it’s not clear the missile is even his problem, and the answer doesn’t seem to matter much for us.

Which may be why it has some resonance as a joke.  “Well , here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into,” or something like that.  Were it to blow up, we might think of Wilie E. Coyote having ordered it from Acme.  Or, “I survived the Syrian war for six years, and all I got was this lousy missile.”  Of course, I don’t want to make light of the terrible suffering that has been the norm in Syria for all that time.  The photo isn’t doing that either, but it is getting close to something uncanny, and that is why a comic undertone seems just out of hearing.

The image troubles because of how such terrible destructiveness has become so banal.  Without it’s nosecone, the missile looks like a non-military object, but one having no exact purpose and perhaps still a bit sinister for that–as if something seen by Kafka’s K.   It also looks like it could have been made in the 14th century, and so channels a distortion in historical time.  Which war are we in, or has it been one continuous war?  And instead of another marvel of modern technology, this failed weapon suggests war’s ancient brutality.

Except, perhaps, that it is an interlude.  He is safe for the moment.  The trees in the background have not been harmed.  The photograph is showing us war from the inside, but in a way that opens to other possible worlds.  Which is why the colors are so important and so ambivalent.

What strikes me perhaps most of all is how missile, man, and landscape share nearly identical shades of green and brown.  Only his jeans provide a single, mute sense of a wider range.  It’s as if land, people, and weaponry had been artfully coordinated–“that rug really tied the room together” (another bad joke, I know.)  Of course, it’s not quite an accident: culture reflects geography, local materials and camouflage are to be expected in a civil war, etc.  And war is not fashion and suffering is not funny.  But the image is both familiar and odd enough to seem uncanny, if you think about it, and that’s where the photograph makes a statement.

Is that strange object a bizarre addition to the rural landscape, or part of it?   Is war really the exception, or are we already too accustomed to it to avoid it?  Are war and peace already so interwoven that we can’t imagine much beyond the same two alternating colors?

During a week of poison gas attacks on civilians and of cruise missiles arcing through the sky to destroy enemy materiel, there were many photographs documenting both war’s terrible destructiveness and the continued allure of projecting power.   By contrast, a photograph that lacks action, trauma, and much else in the conventional iconography of war may have hit closest to the truth.  War is woven into modern culture, which then is sure to perpetuate barbarism.

Or perhaps not.  That odd duck of a failed missile is in the foreground, not the background, because war is not assumed (yet) to be normal.  By getting past propaganda and terror, we can see war for what it is: ridiculous.  Everything we make can be artfully coordinated because we make it–and so we can unmake it.  A photograph of an inert, discarded weapon might be refusing the inevitability of violence.

So, instead of action, questions.  As war is part of everyday life–there and here, wherever you are–it still is not easy to see or to understand.  Like the man in the picture, we may need to ponder the strange objects it has placed before us, photographs not least among them.  With help, and perhaps a joke or two, we might even do something to reduce war’s presence before it kills us.

Photograph by by Mohamad Abazeed/AFP.  (There is another shot at Getty Images by the same photographer taken from a different angle that shows buildings, other people, etc.–and other colors.  The image, not the place or event, is the most important source of the artistic statement.)

Cross-posted at Reading the Pictures.

 2 Comments