Friday, May 31, 2013

Blame These Four Men For Beatnik Horrror (1960)

Friday, May 24, 2013

"No Church in the Wild: Queer Anarchy and Gaga Feminism."

The PSU Dept. of English Presents: The 2013 Kellogg Awards Ceremony. Featuring one of the world's leading gender and queer theorists, Jack Halberstam. whose talk is entitled, "No Church in the Wild: Queer Anarchy and Gaga Feminism."

In a new book on "The Wild" I turn to anarchist thought to elaborate a queer politics for this particular moment of crisis and renewal. As many thinkers have proposed recently, a turn to anarchy makes sense at this time precisely because people's faith in the state and in a politics of inclusion and assimilation is wearing thin, particularly in leftist circles; and, anti-hegemonic, anti-state and anti-assimilationist positions have been rendered thinkable by Occupy movements and other global expressions of radical dissent. My recent book, Gaga Feminism, in that it both calls for and describes an end to "the normal," or that form of state power that manages people by disciplining them in relation to a fantasised norm, could be called anarchist. And my book on failure, in that it breaks with the all or nothing logics of success driven by capitalism, could be characterized as anarchist critique. In this new project, I seek to make explicit the stakes of a queer investment in anarchy that both reaches back to punk movements from the 1970's for inspiration but also seeks other traditions of anarchy globally. 

Jack Halberstam is Professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California. Halberstam works in the areas of popular, visual and queer culture with an emphasis on subcultures. Halberstam's first book, Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (1995), was a study of popular gothic cultures of the 19th and 20th centuries and it stretched from Frankenstein to contemporary horror film. The 1998 book, Female Masculinity (1998), made a ground breaking argument about non-male masculinity and tracked the impact of female masculinity upon hegemonic genders. In the book, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (2005), Halberstam described and theorized queer reconfigurations of time and space in relation to subcultural scenes and the emergence of transgender visibility. This book devotes several chapters to the topic of visual representation of gender ambiguity.  Halberstam is currently working on several projects including a book titled THE WILD on queer anarchy.

In The Queer Art of Failure (2011), Halberstam wrote about "about finding alternatives to conventional understandings of success in a heteronormative, capitalist society; to academic disciplines that confirm what is already known according to approved methods of knowing; and to cultural criticism that claims to break new ground but cleaves to conventional archives."

Halberstam's latest book is Gaga Feminism (2012), is "a provocative manifesto of creative mayhem, a roadmap to sex and gender for the twenty-first century, that holds Lady Gaga as an exemplar of a new kind of feminism that privileges gender and sexual fluidity."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Alter Bahnhof Video Walk; 2012; Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller

Here is an attempt to document our 2nd piece made for dOCUMENTA (13). Viewers are given an ipod and headphones and asked to follow the prerecorded video through the old train station in Kassel. The overlapping realities lead to a strange, perceptive confusion in the viewers brain. Hard to document and harder to explain. We only present the recorded audio here, but when doing the walk the real sounds mix with the recorded adding another level of confusion as to what is real and what is fiction. Wear headphones to get the full effect of the original binaural recording.

This is a 6 minute clip of a 26 minute piece. Credits for the entire piece follow.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

HABITUS: Objects, Behaviours, Rooms by Justin Ascott

Habitus' explores - through a creative dialectic - the way human consciousness is shaped by the compartmentalised structures of the places we inhabit -- primarily the home and workplace - and the habituated behaviours we perform within these various nodes. The mechanical actions we carry out each day -- lead to feelings of disillusionment and disengagement with social reality. The only objects and 'tools' that have the transformative power to expand consciousness are those commonly used by shamans in ritualised contexts - to induce altered states of perception for the purposes of healing, transcendence and revelation.

Habitus refers to lifestyle, the values, the dispositions and expectation of particular social groups that are acquired through the activities and experiences of everyday life. Perhaps in more basic terms, the habitus could be understood as a structure of the mind characterized by a set of acquired schemata, sensibilities, dispositions and taste. The particular contents of the habitus are the result of the objectification of social structure at the level of individual subjectivity. The habitus can be seen as counterpoint to the notions of rationality that are prevalent within other disciplines of social science research. It is perhaps best understood in relation to the notion of the 'habitus' and 'field', which describes the relationship between individual agents and the contextual environment.

Pierre Bourdieu elaborates on the notion of Habitus by explaining its dependency on history and human memory. For instance, a certain behaviour or belief becomes part of a society's structure when the original purpose of that behaviour or belief can no longer be recalled and becomes socialized into individuals of that culture.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Recent Images

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Sonic City

On Monday at 1.15 pm in HUMlab at Umeå University Shannon Mattern, Associate Professor at New School, New York will give a seminar on “Hearing Urban Infrastructures: A Sonic Archaeology of the Media-City”. The abstract is:
Abstract: For over a century, scholars and designers have acknowledged the existence of a spatial form commonly known as the “media city,” which encompasses both the modern city as represented through photographs, film, and digital technologies; and the city as shaped by those same technologies. In this seminar I argue for the need to acknowledge the longue durée of the “media city,” and to move beyond ocularcentric models of urban history. Drawing on the growing body of research on infrastructure that’s emerging from across the design fields, and on work in “media archaeology” within my own field of media studies, I’ll argue that we need to “excavate” the deep history of urban mediation, and I’ll take as an example an aspect of the media city that wouldn’t seem to lend itself easily to excavation. I’m referring to the “sonic city” – the city of public address and radio waves and everyday conversation. How does one dig into a form of mediation that seemingly has no physical form? What can we learn about how our cities have functioned as material sounding boards, resonance chambers, and infrastructures for various forms of sonic communication?
I have heard Shannon speak before, have been following her work and have met her as well. This will be a killer presentation for anyone interested in urban space, audio studies, transmediality,  digital media and media archeology. If you are in Umeå or within 500 kms of it I suggest attending in person. For others there will be a live stream open upon the hour;

Shannon Mattern is an Associate Professor at New School, New York. Her research interest include relationships between the forms and materialities of media and the spaces -- architectural, urban, and conceptual -- they create and inhabit. Additional areas of interest include, generally, media and design history and theory; and, more specifically, media form and materiality; media reception (especially reading) and the spaces in which we store, access and consume media; textual theory; and media and spatial poetics. Shannon keeps a lively blog here:

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Punk Enough For Ya?

I am featured in a special in The Guardian online on what Punk really means for those who were there. The sterile and still Metropolitan Museum of Art retrospective on Punk seems stupid when one considers what Punk was really about; basically freedom, self-expression, non-conformity and anti-boredom. In the UK and the USA these tenants of Punk lasted about 6 months once it had moved beyond the squats, crowded venues and warehouses where things were considered 'dangerous' into the streets and TV screens of the nations.

By the mid-1980s I was a huge fan of Talking Heads, The Cure, The Smiths, The Clash, as well as local Australian bands like The  Saints, The Stems, The Hoodoo Gurus, The Screaming Tribesmen, The Wreckery, The Birthday Party, and even Midnight Oil (which was more hardcore at the start).

Living in Queensland, Australia was another reason to be punk. The atmosphere in the state by 1990 was one of cultural siege if you were interested in any form of expression that breached the walls built by 25 years of single party government that was Conservative in the fascist sense of the word. For more on how it was living in Brisbane and being punk in the late 1980s and early 90s the chapter Rock Against Work in Andrew Stafford's Pig City: From The Saints to Savage Garden (2004) contains many references to venues, bands and even gigs I remember. 

Punk hit Brisbane like no other city in Australia. The tentacles that grew out of New York and London from the musical explosion of 1976 affected the receptive waiting enclaves in each major city around the globe in varying ways. As the music and images of the Ramones, Patti Smith, early Pere Ubu, Television and the Sex Pistols were heard and seen, bands formed, systems started and the word spread. Brisbane was different, for two main reasons: we had Bjelke-Petersen and The Saints. Bjelke-Petersen represented the kind of crypto-fascist, bird-brained conservatism that every punk lead singer in the world could only dream of railing against. His use of a blatantly corrupt police force, and its heavy-handed response to punk, gave the scene a political edge largely absent in the other states. And The Saints were the musical revolutionaries in the city's evil heart - Tales from Pig City

By the early 1990s I was Punk! I had fled Queensland (or Queersland and my friend Monty and his band would have had it). In 1992 I moved to Sydney and spent many nights seeing this band:

Nunbait were a punk band.

Nunbait first formed in Sydney in 1989. The band’s first release was 500-copy run of a self-pressed single, “Track Trauma” (1990). After winning a battle of the bands at Sydney’s Lansdowne Hotel, Nunbait secured a contract with Australian underground label Waterfront Records, which resulted in a mini-album, “The Hub” (named after a Newtown porn theatre), in 1990. Nunbait opened for Butthole Surfers (Burland Hall Newtown, 1991), Mudhoney (Phoenician Club Sydney, 1990), Einstürzende Neubauten and The Beasts of Bourbon (Phoenician Club Sydney 1991), Nirvana (Selinas, Sydney, February 1992), Helmet (1991), Fugazi (1991) as well as performing tours/shows with Superchunk and Australian underground acts including Tumbleweed, Cosmic Psychos, and the Celibate Rifles.

Punk is about freedom and autonomy. Not fashion. 

Rebels: A Journey Underground #4- A Riot of my Own

With the worlds "I am an anarchist" Londoner Johnny Rotten began a full-blown counterculture of protest and self-expression; a cry against crushing youth unemployment and a voice for the disenfranchised. This film examines a new kind of music, a new social critique and a new form of free speech. Featured are the bands, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and the Damned who turned the rebellious tension of rock and roll back on itself -- and blew it up.

Finally my punk days were ruled by one band. The Butthole Surfers.

USSA - Rocky - Cherub - Two Parter - Julio Iglesias - Graveyard - Johnny Smoke - Psychedelic Jam - Gary Floyd - Sweat Loaf - Pittsburgh to Lebanon - Weird instrumental - Fast Song - Total freakout/Gibby plays with fire

There is nothing that comes close to them.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Online Letter Archive

The online letter archive seems to be a popular project for humanities researchers. Such archives offer the correspondences of either a well known individual, or of people who experienced a historical event and wrote letters about it. The online archive is a model for the digital organization of of a collection and a brief survey of a few current online letter archives reveals some interesting tendencies, features and limitations to the present format.

The Darwin Correspondence Project (DCP) "exists to publish the definitive edition of letters to and from Charles Darwin". The site promises; "you can read and search the full texts of more than 7,000 of Charles Darwin’s letters, and find information on 8,000 more. Available here are complete transcripts of all known letters Darwin wrote and received up to the year 1868. More are being added all the time."With such a vast amount of material an efficient search system is essential. The basic search system on DCP is keyword motivated. As such it is an efficient but limited system. For example, in the general search window, by searching for the keyword "Galapagos" it returns 170 entries. More fine-grained search is available, with a) People, b) Places, c) Keyword (with four fields available; 1. All Content, 2. Only Summary, 3. Only Transcript, 4. Only Footnote) and finally d) Time Range. Entering "Galapagos" in the Places field only returns 59 entries; which seems odd. There is no graphical interface available (that I could find anyway) on the site for place correlation, such as a map that imposes time over place, to see some progression in the movements of Darwin, and thus connecting the letters together in another searchable field (i.e. place). There are a number of glossaries in the website for DCP, the most interesting of which is perhaps the Physical Descriptions. Here the original artefacts are coded according to genre and materiality (eg. original, handwritten, condition status etc). The coding of genre and materiality is an efficient way to present something of the objects it is representing, but it would be good to have seen at least some scans. There is however the Darwin Behind the Scenes virtual exhibition, which is linked from the site on the News section, where you can see high resolution images of some of the objects. Searching for Galapagos on the Behind the Scenes website brings 0 returns, but the images are stunning.

The Olive Schreiner Letters Online (OSLO) project "is funded by the ESRC. It will transcribe, analyse and publish the complete extant Olive Schreiner letters presently in archival locations world-wide". There are currently 4800 letters from Schreiner known to be in existence. The letters presently in the archive are organized alphabetically around the surname of the recipient. There is a general search function. Searching in it from the Index page for "Churchill" returns 10 entries, from letters not addressed to anyone by the name of Churchill, but that do contain the name within them. There seems to be an element of virtual portraiture to the OSLO, with the How to Use section stating; "Essential Schreiner' features Schreiner's 'Must Read' letters, letters concerned with transitions and turning points, and those which show the lighter side of her letter-writing practices, as well as an outline chronology of events and happenings in her life." A personality behind an archive always helps with relating to the materials within it. Interestingly, the OSLO contains "two indexes. The first is a list of all the letters in which she mentions or discusses her writing, including both particular publications and also her comments on writing as an activity, her work. The second is a sub-set of this, and it lists those letters which discuss publishers and editors and her dealings - not always very happy - with them." How these are cross-referenced is unclear. These is also an index of letters by topic, and this is an invaluable addition to the system. It is in the Letters by Topic section that we get a good overview of the possible uses for the OSLO. In the Letters by Topic we can see how rich an archive we have here, with a very broad range of possible applications.

We have chosen to include Letters from the American Civil War (LACW) as it is a good example of attention to the artefacts represented in the archive. The archive is actually a portal to a number of other archives. The letters are reproduced both visually and textually; with images of the letters and their envelopes (including addresses and stamps) alongside clear copies of the letters. These is no notation in the archive.The LACW archive is an archive at its most basic in terms of infrastructure, but the use of images of the represented artefacts adds a historical and material dimension that is lacking in many online letter archives.

The final archive in this collection is a recently created one from Sweden. Hjalmar Bergman Korrespondenser (HBK or Hjalmar Bergman Letters) contains hundreds of letters written between 1900 and 1930 by the Swedish writer. What is interesting about the archive is how the material is organized: i. from the date, ii. from the town it was sent from, iii. from the address, iv. from the people who are named in the letter, v. from works that are named in the letter, vi. from the genre of works named in the letter, vii. from where the letter is kept today and viii. from visual reproductions of the letter in the archive. In this way the HBK archive covers many of the possible search combinations in the organizing of the material. Tagging is of utmost importance to the organizing of materials in digital archives. Footnotes are included in each reproduction of text of letters. There is no general search function in the archive website that we could find. We think this is very interesting; instead of relying on a general search, the material is tagged to such a degree that users are directed towards specific themes in the archive.

To summarize, we thought it was interesting that none of the archives offered downloadable content. The result is materials cannot be extracted from the archives and worked with 'off site'. In this sense the archives as they appear online function more as interfaces than spaces to work in. However, as they are online and accessible, they do allow controlled access to materials and the opportunity to work from outside institutions for anyone interested in the subjects they cover. We would have liked to have seen more Creative Commons or Open Access statements attached to these archives. A design that allows linking and uploading to research that reference the archives, and feedback from users would have also been useful. The organization of digital artefacts is an important element in the management of events and the archives discussed here provide inspiration for the possibilities for storage, access (include searchability) and distribution for any materials stored online. In our discussions in the workshops next week the concept of 'The Archive' will feature, and we hope this short post inspires some consideration of the role of the archive in event management and the dissemination of research.

(This was originally posted on the SMKE Website).

Sunday, May 05, 2013

'Run with the Heart of the Blind' by Gabriel Bohm Calles (2013) A Critical Reading

On a large screen projected onto a wall, a body assumes postures surrounded by sharp lines and hard edges, sheer right angles create the effect of broad cross-hatching or boxes. To the right and left large wall screen projections drags the viewer down abandoned corridors, by doorways that open to empty classrooms, past deserted desks and ancient specimen cases. The school is closed, but the cleaner remains. The sound of footsteps fills the space, footsteps and the grind of trolley wheels. The relentless head-height corridor and classroom scans unwind to the left and right. Straight ahead is the Butoh stillness of a body trapped by the architecture that surrounds it. The sound of footsteps sets a hypnotic rhythm, which after a time begins to be mirrored in the breathing of the viewer.

Gabriel Bohm CallesRun With The Heart of the Blind at Umeå School of Art is a room size, triptych video installation that explores and questions important concepts of movement and space, the body and architecture, along with the themes of discipline and control.


The School is an architecturally constructed space that performs a defining role in the lives of millions of people. In Run With The Heart Of The Blind school corridors, the long rectangular prisms that do not bend (literally and metaphorically) are blistered by dozens of glass panes that allow visual access to other rooms. These rooms are empty classrooms, closed in by low ceilings, small doors and beige flooring. In these spaces Bohm Calles performs exaggerated maneuvers in slow motion, often with cleaning utensils; mops, dusters, brooms. In each sequence the body of Bohm Calles occupies a foreground position in the inflexible extended rectangle of the corridor, time flows away into the distant background of the space. We the visitor/viewer share the same space visually with the body, as we are at equal head height with Bohm Calles, we see the intimate contrast between the soft form of the body and the building-sized box in which it and we are packed.


The tasks performed by people in architectural spaces are most often regulated by the space itself. The classroom is the perfect example of the regulated space in form and purpose, and one that we have all experienced. The classroom is utilitarian in form and function, divided by desks, chairs, and tables for working, with the relatively large teacher’s desk as a monumental point. In Run With The Heart Of The Blind the human body defies the structures of the space. This defiance is accomplished by the sense of time generated by the movement of the body, and the visual field in the side images down the corridors.

Bohm Calles' movement is a slow paced progress, not unlike what one would imagine is the final walk of the condemned prisoner. Bohm Calles caresses a mop head for minutes with a vacant stare into the middle distance, rubs his head along the frame of a window in a sensual act of body dusting, he follows the reflections in the glass of windows with a mop handle (or is his reflection following him?), then sits in the posture of a child, as he straddles a javelin-like broom, with a cocked head, seeming to listen to the thin line in the eternal corridor, waiting for some signal from far away. Finally the desk is violated, as Bohm Calles lies half-fetal upon it, a soft non-geometrical form dressed in black and collapsed upon the shiny cold surface.


The floor, the wall, and the utensil are mixed with the body in Run With The Heart Of The Blind. From the actions of Bohm Calles we can ask, What can this be other than a mop? But I think the answer to the question is more complicated than the choreography offered by the artist. The mop remains a mop even with the re-purposing by Bohm Calles. The mop does take on a broader visual range of possibilities in the manipulations of the performance. But it is not altered in itself. What is more dramatic in the performance are the visual and spatial juxtapositions between the body, the utensils and the architecture.

The results of the interaction between the audio of the heavy footsteps and trolley wheels in a loop, the two moving images of the corridor on opposite walls and the third screen of the body of Bohn Calles in contortions (often with utensils), gives an enclosed claustrophobic feeling for the viewer, accompanied by the sensation of being drawn apart in ones own body. The footstep is the point the body touches the world, the continuous monotonous rhythm of the heady thud-thud-thud of the fall is symbolic of the transfer point between the body and the world. With Run With The Heart Of The Blind the tools we are given have failed. There is no work going on, only a slow agonizing struggle with the space around the body.


Michel Foucault wrote famously of the school, “Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?” (Discipline and Punish 1977 Alan Sheridan trans. p. 228). The controlled space of the school encases the body in a finite range of possibilities for movement, posture and visual appearance. Within this constricted space Bohm Calles extracts a limited range of movement, postures and actions, which do not make sense when framed by the structures of the school and its utensils. In achieving the range of postures and actions the structures of the space are not disturbed permanently. Elements of the space are remixed for as long as Bohm Calles occupies the space, and then the vacant classrooms and empty corridors return to silence and immobility. These structures await the next group of students they will train.

Amidst the tensions of movement within the space and how it forms behavior, are the actions of Bohn Calles as signs, or indicators of the history of formalized space designed to provide training. A specimen case of glass, filled with preserved birds, stands at the end of a corridor. The glacial-cleaner slides past the case and continues to struggle with the asphyxiating lines of corridor and ceiling around him. The stock-still birds in the glass case watch through the dusty glass. They are stacked and packed. They are arranged and disciplined in their display. The birds are totally visible, totally controlled, totally perfect and totally dead. The apparatus of the classroom is a machine that produces similar perfect specimens.

Run With The Heart Of The Blind is the anti-panopticon. But its tragedy is how small the actions are, how little space there is to move within the boxes we build to educate our children in. Between the rows of desks and sharp lines of the corridors, there are small possibilities to find new ways to stand. The heavy footsteps and trolley dragging through the center of my brain after two hours of sitting with Run With The Heart Of The Blind convince me I am in a machine of infernal intention; but on the other side of the room I see a friend, who seems to be fashioning a statue from his own body and the tools he was loaned to work with. From between the straight lines around us emerges a single shaking curve, trailing away into an uncertain distance. It is very difficult to see, but possible.


James Barrett 
Umeå March 21 2013