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The Mise-en-scène of a Decade: Visualizing the 70s
Of the countless movements of switching, inserting, pressing and the like, the “snapping” of the photographer has had the greatest consequences. A touch of the finger now sufficed to fix an event for an unlimited period of time. The camera gave the moment a posthumous shock, as it were.
—Walter Benjamin, 1939
Though we are tempted to imagine time as inherently promiscuous—freely related to moments both past and still to come—it is clear that certain moments are uniquely entangled with each other, linked by a kind of historically necessary energy of filiation or disavowal. In a structure loosely analogous to that of the unconscious of an individual subject, a time enters into what can only be called an obsessive compulsive orbit with another period or era: it falls in love, though the parameters here are not those of transparency or fullness, but constitutive dependency and misrecognition. It may be that our own present exists in precisely such a relationship to the 1970s.
Within contemporary media culture, the visuality of the 1970s is more variegated and accessible than ever before, opening up an era once reduced to bellbottoms and disco-balls to far more differentiated understandings that are able to draw on a fully-globalized reserve of forms and styles. In addition to being expanded, the political, technological, and social coordinates of the present also draw us toward images of spaces and technologies that have radically transformed or sit on the precipice of disappearance. Material residues of industrial, suburban, and consumer environments threatened by advancing development or simply abandoned as ruins are identified and exhaustively cataloged by internet communities. Films from the period are experienced as affectively-charged artifacts of urban and technological life-worlds long since vanished. Moreover, new techniques of nostalgia dot the landscapes of popular media, from popular retro photo filters and throwback graphics, to the meticulous production design of period films and television. In the film remake of Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy (2012), for example, we are not merely presented with a narrative set in the 1970s, but one that is somehow obsessively about the decade itself (as a visual whole). Such films express a kind of restless analytical desire for what we would like to call the “mise-en-scène” of the 1970s, a kind of politico-aesthetic totality that nevertheless always remains just outside the frame. We are interested in the cultural origins of this desire for, and perpetual invocation of, the decade and its “spirit.” What obscure needs or desires are being met here?
For all its seeming heterogeneity, it should also be said that our contemporary fascination with the 1970s remains organized around a set of tropes that unconsciously reproduce the seeming naturalness and necessity of today’s governing political ideals. Neoliberalism in many ways survives precisely on the basis of a highly codified set of images—what we might call “stock footage”—that colour our sense for the decade and its possibilities. It does this by consistently returning to notions of the period as hangover, narcissism, decadence, decline, and crisis—a fearful montage of strikes, shortages, states of emergency, addictions, and panic. When foregrounded, this works to produce an idea of the 1970s as gross error, an untenable, structurally necessitated mess generated by the complacency, indulgence, and stubbornness of the welfare state. Instead of being a crossroads of possibility, a conjuncture plied by myriad speculative futures, the 1970s becomes a simple crisis or problem. It is within the givenness of crisis that neoliberal austerity comes to appear as necessary, a severe, but fundamentally sound treatment designed for a body that would die without it. It is our sense, however, that the visuality of the 1970s also contains myriad repressed political possibilities and potential. One question we are posing then, is how to deploy images from the 1970s in ways that intervene in, rather than merely reproduce or buttress our moment’s imperceptible common sense. Can our preoccupation with images from and of this time be used in some way to reconfigure or re-energize the present?
This special issue invites contributions invested in exploring the intersections between the 1970s and its many visual afterlives and echoes. Our desire to re-think the recent past occurs in a present-day context in which it is increasingly difficult, yet necessary, to imagine alternative futures. But instead of abandoning the past (and its afterlives) as mere fantasia or the prerogative of reminiscence, perhaps a productive route forward could be found by describing the past in more precise ways and in reflecting on the desires it continues to provoke in us, expanding its inventory of images, with an eye to what such an expansion can teach us about the limits of the present itself. Here we are guided by the relationship to the past explored by both Benjamin and Adorno, figures who mine historical forms not in the mode of a merely psychological nostalgia or as a way of avoiding the present, but as the dynamic site of collectively repressed dreams and possibilities. We are therefore interested in contributions that engage the decade as residue and reproduction, as a material form that extends to us from the period, as a symbolic act rooted in the present which seeks to give life to a time now vanished or changed, or artistic attempts to name, critique, or perform the decade in some way. In the spirit of developing fresh visual constellations we are looking for a mise-en-scène that allows us to see the 1970s more clearly in its hold on, and relation to, the present.
Possible topic areas include but are not limited to:
- Afterimages of the Vietnam War, but also any other of the decades many anti-imperialist flashpoints (Nicaragua, China, Ireland, Grenada, etc.)
- Moments between modernism and post-modernism in architecture and other arts, as well as residual and non-North American modernisms.
- Visual cultures of computing and communication
- Media archaeologies focused on the 1970s
- Post-industrial landscapes and urban decay
- Visual culture (or afterlives) of 1970s communisms (Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, China, Cuba, etc.)
- Digital and visual effects technologies in popular and experimental media
- Iconographies of 1970s unionism, GLBT activism, second-wave feminism, environmentalism, and anti-nuclear movements
- Reflections on the historical ontology of 1970s visual culture. What are the many “auras” at work in these artifacts? How do they resonate with us affectively today?
- Amateur media production in print culture, television, film/video
- Visual histories of East v. West and Global North/South.
- Representations of inflation and inflationary panic, but also any of the other various “states of emergency” linked to the period (Oil Crisis, Three Day Work-Week, etc.)
- Landscapes and iconographies of racial integration and segregation
- Transnational histories charting visual flows and cross-cultural encounters or fusions.
- Legacies and after-images of 1960s counterculture (Whole Earth Catalog, etc.)
- Theoretical (but visually inflected) reflections on periodizing the 1970s.
- Sexual cultures of the 1970s, from pornography to the singles scene
- Aesthetics of 1970s state politics (iconographies of Nixon, Carter, Heath, Wilson, Trudeau)
- Utopian images of the 1970s
- Sitcoms, movies-of-the-week, mini-series, and other televisual forms.
- Nightclubs, malls, arcades, and other cultural spaces and environments.
- Present-day representations of the 1970s in popular culture (The Iron Lady, Inherent Vice, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)
- Vernacular and mass cultural architectural spaces—malls, shopping plazas, suburbs, retrofitted industrial shopping/entertainment zones
- Present-day media culture of the 1970s (Pintrest, photo filters, Tumblr photography accounts, graphic design)
- 1970s imaginings of the future, but also present texts which fantasize alternate versions of the 1970s themselves.
Location and Dislocation: Mapping Geographies of Global Data
Information infrastructures are often described as immediate and immaterial – imaginations encoded in familiar metaphors like “wirelessness” and “the cloud.” The advent of cloud computing, which makes it possible to process and store data at great distance from its source, would seem to epitomize these ideals. But as critical media scholars have demonstrated, distributed computing does not do away with, but only shifts sociotechnical arrangements: data centers and fiber-optic cables; capital, corporations, and environmental impacts. As some places emerge as “hubs” for computational resources, data’s physical footprint is felt in local labor practices, land usage, energy politics, and the presence of so-called “server farms.” Thus while cloud computing has been said to make IT infrastructure invisible, for some it is brought ever more sharply into focus as natural, social, and political landscapes are rearranged.
In this special issue of Imaginations: Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies we invite papers and visual representations that engage this relationship between digital data and physical space. In doing so we aim to make such networks freshly visible: their felt presence, analytical purchase, and physical form. By investigating computation as it is emplaced and embodied, we hope to explore and illuminate connections between globalized geographies of new media distribution and localized impacts of IT on the ground.
Lieux et dislocations des lieux: Cartographier la géographie de l’infomatique mondialisée
Les infrastructures du monde de l’information sont souvent décrites comme immédiates et immatérielles et sont souvent représentées par les images du nuage informatique ou de la connection sans-fil. L’avènement de l’infonuagique semble incarner ces idéaux, qui fait en sorte qu’il est devenu possible de traiter et entreposer des données à distance. Mais comme l’ont démontré les recherches dans le domaine des médias, la désincarnation de l’informatique ne fait que déplacer les configurations socio-techniques comme les centres de données et les câbles à fibres optiques, ainsi que les capitaux, les corporations, et les impacts environnementaux. Certains endroits apparaissent comme des centrales (des hubs) pour les nouvelles ressources informatiques. Par conséquent l’empreinte physique des données se fait ressentir à travers les politiques locales, en terme de consommation d’eau et d’énergie par exemple, ainsi que par la présence de ces constructions immenses et étalées qu’on a surnommées aux États-Unis des server farms. L’infonuagique rend ainsi les infrastructures de communications encore plus visibles. On peut également avancer qu’elle met davantage en relief les impacts politiques, sociaux et environnementaux de l’informatique aujourd’hui.
Ce numéro spécial de Imaginations: Revue d’études interculturelles de l’image a pour objectif de rendre l’invisibilité de ces réseaux visibles dans tous les sens du terme, autant dans l’exposition des imaginaires culturels déficients auxquels ils se rattachent, que dans la critique des discours théoriques qui effacent leurs réalités matérielles en mettant une emphase hyperbolique sur leurs qualités virtuelles. Nous souhaitons recevoir des propositions de contributions savantes et/ou de représentations visuelles qui portent un regard critique sur cette relation entre les données numériques et leurs infrastructures et espaces physiques à notre époque. En étudiant comment l’informatique s’incarne et se concrétise aujourd’hui, nous visons à explorer et à éclairer les connexions entre les géographies mondialisées et la distribution socioculturelle des nouveaux médias.
Marshall McLuhan and The Arts
The artist tends now to move from the ivory tower to the control tower of society.
—Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media (1964)
This special issue exploring “Marshall McLuhan and the arts” encourages new approaches to the study of McLuhan’s influential theses on perception, design, and the built environment as well as the artist’s changing role in postindustrial society. Submissions will excavate previously unknown, or lesser-known, narratives and linkages, and/or engage contemporary resonances and possibilities for intersection with current critical theories and debates.
Recent years have been witness to McLuhan’s re-emergence as a major interdisciplinary thinker whose writings bridge the study of communication, culture, and technology. The computational, materialist and sensorial foci of his thought offer suggestive alternatives to approaches and assumptions embedded in the linguistic turn. Our volume calls for papers that explore his work on design, perception, and visualization as well as how his insights continue to inform or otherwise connect up with current art and design production as well as theories about their place and meaning in contemporary culture.
McLuhan rose to prominence as a public intellectual in the mid-1960s; his scholarship was always responsive to contemporary developments and unfolded as a series of shifting collaborations. As a result, his work registers the impact of that decade of disruptive change on such topics of continuing relevance as networks, embodiment, and sensory knowing (among others). Yet it is not only in reading the work of his contemporaries—Jaqueline Tyrwhitt, Buckminster Fuller, and even Jane Jacobs, to name but a few—that one hears echoes of McLuhan. Equally interesting are the ways in which current art and design theory invokes this history, sometimes directly, yet more often without fully acknowledging McLuhan’s legacy. Amidst the contemporary climate of crisis, we encourage new and inclusive perspectives on McLuhan’s modelling of the dynamics of art and social change.
Marshall McLuhan et les arts
L’artiste tend aujourd’hui à se déplacer de la tour d’ivoire à la tour de contrôle de la société
— Marshall McLuhan, Pour comprendre les médias (1964)
Ce numéro spécial « Marshall McLuhan et les arts » propose d’explorer de nouvelles perspectives dans l’étude des thèses majeures de McLuhan sur la perception, le design et l’environnement urbain, ainsi que sur le rôle de l’artiste dans la société postindustrielle. Les contributeurs sont invités à analyser des textes déjà connus ou peu étudiés, à les comparer et à souligner leurs résonnances avec les théories critiques contemporaines.
Depuis quelques années, nous assistons à une reviviscence des recherches sur McLuhan autour de la portée interdisciplinaire de ses écrits qui permet d’établir des liens entre les études sur la communication, les études culturelles et la technologie, pour ne citer que trois domaines. En outre, l’intérêt de McLuhan pour les médias, et plus généralement pour les mondes matériel et sensoriel, offre des alternatives stimulantes aux approches critiques ancrées dans le linguistic turn. Ce numéro d’Imaginations sollicite des articles qui approfondissent les recherches de McLuhan sur le design, la perception, et la visualisation. Nous proposons d’étudier comment ses idées continuent d’être d’actualité et de trouver des échos dans les productions artistiques et dans le design contemporain, ainsi que dans les théories sémiotiques ou dans le domaine de la rhétorique.
Marshall McLuhan a connu une grande notoriété comme intellectuel public au milieu des années 1960. Ses recherches se sont sans cesse alignés sur les avancées contemporaines et ont donné lieu à une série de collaborations novatrices. Ainsi, son travail évoque les années 1960 comme une décennie de grands changements dans la cybernétique, dans les médias, dans les connaissances sur la neurologie des sens, etc. Néanmoins, l’influence de McLuhan n’est pas seulement perceptible dans les travaux de ses contemporains –Jaqueline Tyrwhitt, Buckminster Fuller, ou Jane Jacobs, pour ne nommer que ceux-ci. Elle l’est également dans les théories sur l’art et le design aujourd’hui qui évoquent son parcours parfois ouvertement, parfois hélas sans reconnaître entièrement son héritage. C’est pourquoi, dans le climat contemporain de crises diverses, nous invitons les chercheurs à considérer des approches nouvelles et inclusives sur la manière dont McLuhan inspire et sert de modèle à des dynamiques de transformation dans les arts et la société.
Critical Relationality: Indigenous and Queer Belonging Beyond Settler Sex & Nature
FALL 2017 Special Issue Of Imaginations: Journal Of Cross-Cultural Image Studies/ Revue D’études Interculturelles De L’image
This special issue seeks submissions that document, provoke, or imagine relations between humans, and between humans and nonhumans that go beyond and trouble normative categories of “nature,” “sex,” and “love.” These manifest, for example, in hierarchical, anthropocentric, hetero- and homonormative, monogamous, marriage-centric and other settler-colonial forms of kin, kind, and relating. Ideas of what is natural are always paramount in settler invocations of what are considered the right ways to relate. Our focus on indigenous (“traditional” and/or “resurgent”), queer, and other consciously critical forms of relating takes inspiration from innovative work within the potentially articulated fields of indigenous studies; feminist, queer, and trans theory; disability and crip studies; critical race studies; science studies; and performance studies. We are looking for submissions in which scholars, artists, and other thinkers interrogate normative, especially state-sanctioned forms of relating.
Possible topics to be addressed in the issue include, but are not limited to: 1) critical analyses and accompanying visualizations; 2) video; and 3) photographic representations of:
- Material culture responses that interrogate dominant racial and/or sexual representations of particular bodies’ vis a vis relational norms.
- Performance art responses that parody and/or imagine alternatives to state policies mandating compulsory forms of sexuality, marriage, family, and related forms of land tenure.
- Analyses of scientific and/or technological knowledges that represent or categorize human or nonhuman bodies in hetero- or homonormative ways;
- Visual representations and accompanying analyses of ecosexual or ecoerotic performance art, music, dance, or theater.
- Treatments of ways in which “alternative” relationship models reinforce and/or subvert logics of privatization underlying dominant forms of relationality.
- Imaginative theorizations and visualizations of friendship, community, and solidarity.
- Explorations of embodied/corporeal dimensions of relationality beyond the entrenched naturalization of coupled family forms.
Scholars, artists, and performers are encouraged to submit proposals for both visual and written work. We request submissions from: a) visual and performance artists who contextualize their work with academic-type analyses, and b) academics who use visual representations, including photography, other visual art, and video as part of their analyses. Artists and academics may want to co-author submissions. Potential authors should develop both a strong visual and analytical dimension (can be text or audio) for their submissions, although they do not have to be present in equal measure.
While it is not prescriptive, Canada’s Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) concept of research-creation, may help conceptualize appropriate submissions: “An approach to research that combines creative and academic research practices, and supports the development of knowledge and innovation through artistic expression, scholarly investigation, and experimentation. The creation process is situated within the research activity and produces critically informed work in a variety of media (art forms).” (http://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/funding-financement/programs-programmes/definitions-eng.aspx).