Posts Tagged ‘research’
“My Future Is Here” is a site-specific project that brings to light the most pressing issues immigrant youth face when making a new life in the global city. Produced with collaborating students from Flushing International High School in Queens, New York, this multimedia project utilizes immigrant narratives and social intervention to encourage public participation and exchange. Collaborating students will act as experts and consultants on critical immigration issues from the youth perspective, informing the project’s content and conceptual framework.
A primary component of this project will be a multimedia installation designed to integrate with the physical infrastructure of Flushing International High School. Video, audio, and text created with the students will be strategically installed in specific exterior and interior locations throughout the building, creating experiential media spaces for guests to move through. The main themes of the installation will center on issues of identity, representation, interpersonal ethics, and claiming one’s civic and political presence as an immigrant and social actor.
Ongoing workshops with students will inform the second element of the project, which will be an ad hoc public service organization operating under the name Hospitality Services. This element will address various issues that arise in the process of immigration and encourage hospitality toward the stranger. Through socially engaged art practices and interventions, we seek to aid the newcomer in navigating the foreign social, cultural, and geographic landscapes of the city. Projects will include creating information cards for the public that encourage convivial encounters with a foreigner, as well as a specially designed, youth-authored “Immigrant’s Guide to New York City” that will contain information on important and useful places, tips on utilizing public services, hand drawn neighborhood maps, as well as advice on how to foster a healthy quality of living. Through these services, we envision and manifest new forms of belonging and sociality in an increasingly globalized world.
The culmination of the project will be an installation-event held at the school in June 2012 when the work will be installed and the invited public, which will include FIHS families and friends, city council members, activists, artists, and immigrant youth leadership groups, will have the opportunity to speak with the students about the issues they are most deeply invested in. Youth-facilitated conversations will create a platform for productive exchange that deepens public understanding and awareness of immigrant youth issues, and furthers the discussion on what we can do to foster more inclusive societies, as well as social and political change for the immigrant.
This project is founded upon the perspective that the languages and practices of immigration rights are critically indicative of a society’s notion of itself, and that public discourses and interactions through facilitated situations of encounter and mediated spaces of affective experience can foster productive collective investigations, imaginaries, and intersubjective exchange concerning the treatment of the (perceived) foreigner in our midst. By placing oneself within the public sphere whether through physical face-to-face interaction with another, or through the mediated spaces of an installation, the immigrant youth asserts her own subjectivity into the public imaginary, shifting the terms of engagement to make space for new voices to be heard.
Some images of our work tonight. We utilized two elegantly powerful projectors & Isadora to help map our videos onto the natural surfaces of Mitchell’s Cove, an inlet off the ocean in Santa Cruz. All photos by Soraya Murray.
Our projection surfaces:
“Architectures of Memory” is scheduled to go up on Friday, October 21st. Recent projector tests looked promising.
“Architectures of Memory” (working title) will be a site-specific, multichannel video and audio installation situated within the ocean inlet at West Cliff Drive and Sunset Avenue in Santa Cruz, California. Through personal recollections and the dynamic cohesion of video projection design, this public artwork will explore the many complexities and poetics of the construction of memory and its erosion within the human brain. This particular outdoor site offers a wealth of exciting opportunities for this work, with its combination of man-made structures and the natural erosion of the cliffs and surrounding area that has occurred over time. These very elements join to create a natural theater of sorts, a space beckoning for activation, exploration, and experience. At night, the site takes on a heightened sense of mystery and magic, with the sounds of the ocean amplified through the darkness, and the outlines of the ocean tide and outlying cliffs just visible to the eye. Our installation would be a series of poetic moving images, text, and audio that literally and metaphorically light up the space with stories of memory, loss, and recovery. Content will be created from interviews with individuals about personal memory, its emotional correlations, and sensory characteristics. The ultimate goal of this piece is to create a public artwork that is dynamic and sensory, and that provides the viewer with a space for individual contemplation and collective experience.”
Isaac Julien’s latest work Ten Thousand Waves (2010) is a 9-screen installation that was made in response to the 2004 Morecambe Bay tragedy in which 23 Chinese cockle-pickers drowned in an incoming tide off the coasts of Northwest England. All the victims were undocumented immigrants, working a high-risk job for little money in order to pay off debts incurred to migration traffickers or to send money back to families in their homeland. Julien, moved by this incident, began his research for the work, first enlisting the poet Wang Ping to compose Small Boats, a poem that is recited in the installation. Julien travelled to China from 2006-2009, working in the Guangxi province and Shanghai to research and produce Ten Thousand Waves. The press release for the installation states that the work “combines fact, fiction and film essay genres against a background of Chinese history, legend and landscape to create a meditation on global human migrations.” The piece also features an array of Chinese performers (most notably film actress Maggie Cheung), artists, and calligraphers.
I have chosen to look at this work as an articulation of what scholar and art historian Marsha Meskimmon has termed the cosmopolitan imagination, and as such, I am interested in how it operates within the realm of affect and the symbolic, providing a sensory and experiential interface between the audience and the represented other. I wonder what potential such an interface has for invoking the viewer’s imagination toward an empathic, ethical, and felt response? Furthermore, in thinking about the power of the imagination and the affective within this artwork, and within artistic practices in general, I also ask: What is art’s agency? What is its potential to make the world? I have found that Meskimmon’s book Contemporary Art and the Cosmopolitan Imagination provides a number of discursive insights from which to begin, and that lend themselves well to the productive interrogation of art and its potential to make new subjects and relations in an ever-increasingly globalized world. Julien’s body of work, along with the artworks examined in Meskimmon’s book, address this globalized world and the issues that rise in its wake, such as human migrations due to economic labor, human trafficking, or refugeeism, new encounters between the ‘native’ self and other, ethical or moral responsibility toward this other, and who we mark as citizen, guest, or alien.
The reality of migration in a globalized world has already created the need for significant shifts in practices concerning human rights, citizenship, and ethical directives at the local and global levels, just as it has also altered our shared material and imaginary worlds. This is what sociologist Saskia Sassen describes as the “bridging effects of globalization” which “produce both material conditions and novel types of imaginaries that make emigration an option where not too long ago it was not” (132). Sassen also describes patterns of international migration that are based in ethnic networks and that “operate within the broader transnational spaces constituted by neocolonial processes and/or economic internationalization” (146). I highlight these points as they provide further context for Julien’s Ten Thousand Waves, and in understanding China’s position as a rising economic force in the globalized market that is still bound by traces of colonial history, particularly to England. Further, beyond the specific example of China, Sassen’s insights provide a much-needed expansion of how we understand the many registers of globalization across social, economic, technological and cultural landscapes. I would argue that Julien’s installation, as it operates in the realm of the aesthetic, also creates a novel type of imaginary – the cosmopolitan imaginary – that creates a space for encounter with difference – of the other and also of place.
Meskimmon describes cosmopolitan imagination as an emergent concept that “generates conversations in a field of flesh, fully sensory, embodied processes of interrogation, critique, and dialogue that can enable us to think of our homes and ourselves as open to change and alterity” (8). She also locates the cosmopolitan imagination in the space of the relational and dialogic: “Understanding ourselves as wholly embedded within the world, we can imagine people and things beyond our immediate experience and develop our ability to respond to different spaces, meanings, others” (8). She argues that art is one of the most significant sites for this imagination to come forth and manifest in the material world. I would also argue because it operates at the level of affect through the symbolic and the poetic it has the potential to call forth the pragmatic; it can serve to engender new relationships, subjectivities, and agencies in the world. To make this argument, it is important to understand affect as the foundation for “the production and transformation of the corporeal self through others … of intellectual rigor and exigent thought” (8); it is through affect as a felt and sensory knowing that we make ourselves with/in relation to others, as well as demystify the strangeness of the other.
Meskimmon further states that art can enable us to “encounter difference, imagine change that is yet to come, and make possible the new” (8). In this way, art as an articulation of the cosmopolitan imagination creates a transitional space, platform and an interface for the exploration or emergence of subjectivities and new kinds of ethical relationships. I greatly appreciate Meskimmon’s argument for the power of the imagination and of affect to be registers of experience that can effect change at the level of the subject, something she argues is “at the core of ethical and political agency in the most profound sense” (8). If art is to find its own agency, one that is not reliant on explicit activism or political actions, but rather upon its own devices of affect and imagination, then how and where can we locate it and ourselves through it? I am a believer in both art that operates purely at the level of the material and the symbolic, as well as art that is explicitly a social practice, i.e. – applied directly to a social situation and context – and do not believe them to be mutually exclusive nor binary opposites. I would argue that we should not limit ourselves to investigating one genre or form over another, but seek to find the many, hybrid, and varied ways in which this emergent form of artistic practice makes its way into the world of relations and the material. In the investigation of art and the cosmopolitan imagination, if the means by which we measure art’s agency is partially attributed to the making of relations in the world, then we should also consider the ways in which the subject’s ‘response-ability’ and ethical responsibility to the other is invoked. I wonder: How does aesthetic response make ethical response? Meskimmon states, “Connecting the universal with the concrete in and through imagination as a socially-transformative force, aesthetics becomes a primary site for the materialization of a cosmopolitan ethics” (43).
The making of an artwork such as Ten Thousand Waves was possible only through the artist’s own moral and ethical response to the Morecambe Bay tragedy and the deaths of 23 foreigners in the waters of England. As someone who had been working with ideas relating to migration, diaspora, and difference for virtually the entirety of his career, Julien was in many ways already deeply invested in the narratives of the victims. The tragedy brought to light the great challenges and dangers immigrants face in their journeys to lands of perceived greater opportunity as well as the pressing ethical dilemmas within the UK regarding the treatment of and (lack of) basic protections for the foreigner and the alien. It is difficult to accurately assess the efficacy of this work in terms of making ethical response without having the in-person, sensory experience of it. Even so, the power of its visual poetics, the placement of the screens in creating a dynamic and immersive media space within the gallery, and the editing of image and sound that vacillates between narratives of journeying through ancient myth and contemporary urban cityscapes all work to create a kind of experiential space through which the audience moves. An excerpt from Wang Ping’s poem Small Boats, which is used in the Ten Thousand Waves installation reads as follows:
Tossed on the Communist road
We chose Capitalism through great perils
All we want is a life like others
TVs, cars, a house bigger than our neighbors’
Now the tide is rising to our necks
Ice forming in our throats
No moon shining on our path
No exit from the wrath of the North Wales Sea
The tensions between Asia and the West, Communism and Capitalism, traditional and modern play out here, laying out a multilayered leitmotif for the installation. Julien himself is very much the cosmopolitan artist, able to claim a hybrid identity between his Caribbean ancestry, British upbringing, sexual identity, and whose scholarly and artistic practices are informed by postcolonial theory as well as an intercultural dialog. In an interview Julien describes his research process in China as being transformative, a kind of process that created an intersubjective conversation between himself, his Chinese collaborators, and the place and time of China in both contemporary and historical terms.
My researcher at that point, the artist Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen, found these illustrated prints related to fables of the protector goddess Mazu, who, like the Morecambe Bay workers, originates from Fujian province. We read many fables but it was the “Tale of Yishan Island,” in which Mazu saves a group of fishermen at sea, that in a way allegorized the tragic events in northern England and related them to the story in China.
Again, it is through placing dual elements into tension and dialog: fable and real life tragedy, the historical and the contemporary, the local and the global, that Julien crafts a work that resonates simultaneously within different registers of time and place, connecting the events of one location to another, and bridging experience across borders of nation and culture into a shared realm of affect, experience, and imagination. It is in this shared space that conversation across difference or an ethical response-ability engendered within the viewer can be made possible.
I use Julien’s work here as an example of how art in practice and in final form can articulate the very essence of the cosmopolitan imagination that Meskimmon began to elucidate. Juien’s work operates at the level of the symbolic and affective, and I would argue that other artists working in very different ways also contribute to this conversation. Further investigation into their work and their practices could help to flesh out and complicate the scholarly project of contemporary art and the cosmopolitan imagination. A few who come to mind are Brazilian born Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, see – Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Green (2010), The Land (1998), and Untitled (Free) (1992), whose work explores concepts of home, hospitality, and generosity; Allora and Caldazilla’s Chalk (2002) or Under Discussion (2005) which are works that investigate the limitations and boundaries of civic space and ideology across different national contexts, or Cuban born artist Tania Bruguera’s treatise on “Useful Art,” and her current participatory project with immigrant communities in Queens, New York, Immigrant Movement International.
I mention these works as a kind of note to self as possible routes to investigate within this project. I believe it is in many forms of cultural production that we will find new platforms and interfaces for art as it can serve the aesthetic, social, and practical needs of a globalized world and the nomadic experience. Meskimmon’s book provides an important foundation in this investigation, which needs to be further expanded and investigated across artistic practices and platforms of cultural, social, and economic exchange at the (pluri)local and global scales.
Meskimmon, Marsha. Contemporary Art and the Cosmopolitan Imagination. New York, NY: Routledge, 2010.
Sassen, Saskia. A Sociology of Globalization. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007.
Special thanks to Soraya Murray for editorial supervision and insight.
[This is a recent research paper & is a foundational exploration in issues, theories, & history of art as social practice.]
In his 1998 essay, Relational Aesthetics Nicolas Bourriaud wrote about the theoretical concerns of a new form of contemporary art that addresses issues of the relational, that is, art that directly takes into its praxis particular socio-cultural concerns, and that situates itself out of the privatized spaces of the gallery and into the public sphere. Such a movement toward art as social practice shifts the understanding of art as object into one of encounter. In introducing the term relational aesthetics, Bourriaud wrote:
The possibility of a relational art (an art taking as its theoretical horizon the realm of human interactions and its social context, rather than the assertion of an independent and private symbolic space), points to a radical upheaval of the aesthetic, cultural, and political goals introduced by modern art. To sketch a sociology of this, this evolution stems essentially from the birth of a world-wide urban culture and from the extension of this city model to more or less all cultural phenomenon (14).
Bourriaud frames his treatise on this new possibility of art within a political and historical context, broadly tracing the origins of the modern political era to the Enlightenment period and then into the rise of modernity and the twentieth century avant-garde, specifically pointing to Dada, Surrealism, and the Situationists. Already within this brief passage, Bourriaud alludes to key factors, which not only organize and contextualize the world in which we in the capitalist West experience, but also the practices, production, and consumption of contemporary art – namely, economies, geographies, and socio-cultural divisions, specifically within an urban context. To trace this historical trajectory, we understand modern and contemporary artistic practices within a geopolitical context of conquest and power relations, wherein which the Enlightenment project of the 18th century and the anti-authoritarian avant-garde movements of the 20th century ultimately fell short of their emancipatory aims. Bourriaud writes, “Instead of culminating in a hoped-for emancipation, the advances of technologies and ‘Reason’ made it that much easier to exploit the South of planet earth, blindly replace human labor by machines, and set up more and more sophisticated subjugation techniques […]” (12). Read the rest of this entry →
Some photos for the first prototype of Han Circuit, a two-channel video installation.
The background image was a landscape image of Yeonpyeong Island just after the recent North Korean bombing. Periodically, text ran across this image, which was taken from interviews with a North Korean defector and an elderly woman who had been separated from her son during the Korean War.
The main screen was divided into five smaller sections or panels, each a visual representation of Han and haan*: archival images of Koreans during the war, a dancer performing a traditional Buddhist dance called Seung-mu, and images of fire and water.
A live camera-feed inserted the viewer-participant’s image, also picking up the landscape image behind him, into the center frame of the main projection screen. Movements made by the viewer-participant also changed light intensities in the camera’s lens, which then effected the transparency and mixing of the images within the panels of the main screen.
He could also listen to traditional Korean folk music via headphones, which helped to facilitate a more intimate experience.
The feed from the camera was also on a delay that fed into the two side panels of the screen, so that when the viewer-participant left the installation, his image would slowly reappear and linger for a while.
* Han Circuit
Two-channel video | MiniDV | Color & Sound
Work in process
Han Circuit is a two-channel video installation that explores themes of the Korean psyche in socio-cultural and spiritual terms, as well as within the context of Korea’s modern history since the turn of the twentieth century until the present moment. There are two primary cultural forces which drive the content and form of this piece; the first being what is known as psychological han, a particular sentiment, or psycho-emotional state that is best understood as a cumulative process of suffering, longing, or resentment caused by extraneous forms of oppression. It connotes enduring hardships caused by forces outside of one’s own control, and can be especially understood within the context of Korea’s modern history, a narrative that includes colonization, civil war, and national division.
The second force at play is philosophical han. Though it shares similarity in spelling, philosophical han is distinctively different in that it is a philosophy indigenous to Korea that is concerned with the understanding and fostering of a harmonious relationship between man and the Universe. It is also an organizing factor in many forms of traditional music and dance. It is a philosophy that has existed since the very beginnings of civilization on the peninsula, and offers ways of understanding how to harmonize disparate or dissonant elements within the world. Kim Sang-Yil, a noted han scholar once stated that psychological han epitomizes the Korean psyche since national division, and philosophical han offers ways to understand how unification could be made possible.
This installation embodies the cyclical nature of psychological han while also adhering to elemental principles found within philosophical han. Cybernetic theory has offered a plentitude of possibilities in thinking about the conceptual and physical design of this piece. By understanding psychological han as a continuous pattern of generation, feedback, and regeneration, this installation has been designed as a closed circuit reactive piece, in which the viewer is also implicated into the circuit. Through this design I offer the viewer an intimate venue of experience for the understanding of the particularities and complexities of the Korean psyche.
A recent paper I wrote concerning 3 Korean video artists & representations of modern Korean history & collective memory. It’s a long one, so if you want to read it in its entirety click on the link below.
Other relevant links:
Here it is:
Expressions of the Emergent: Korean Video Art, History & Memory
Video & the Project of Emergent History
Some say the nameless deaths buried in
the Sangpae-dong Public Cemetery
are ‘whores,’ while others say they’re
Those who resent the violence of U.S. soldiers
call them ‘Sisters of the Korean people.’
But what shall I call them?
Those no one has remembered nor named?
No, why do I even want to call them?
- Seung Wook Koh, “Driveling Mouth” (2008)
Single channel video installation with color and sound (emphasis added)
The lines of text presented here are from Korean artist Seung Wook Koh’s single channel video about the lives and memories of sex workers in Dongducheon, a military camp town that lies approximately in between Seoul, the Republic of Korea and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). This particular city, whose infrastructures were first designed and implemented by Japanese Colonists, only to be ravaged during the Korean War and later rebuilt by the U.S. Military, has become a symbol of Korea’s traumatic and contentious modern history, replete with historical narratives of colonization, rapid modernization, and postwar industrialization. Hidden somewhere deep within the gaps of these major historical narratives are the personal stories, memories, and histories of the people of Dongducheon, the civilians who have become the dispossessed of the U.S.-South Korean military order. Their lives have arguably been the most affected by the tumultuous shifts and displacements of war and colonialism yet have been rendered virtually silent and invisible from public discourses. Koh’s work serves as a documentation of these gaps just as it poses these critical questions: Who have been the people of Dongducheon and why should we remember them, or call them forth – those who have been forgotten, unnamed, and made invisible? What does this act of remembrance provide for our understanding of the present moment and our future trajectories?
I argue that the answers lie within the understanding that the authorship of history is a claim of orders of knowledge and power, and additionally, that the act of constructing history is a social and political one, giving legitimacy to certain experiences, meanings, and subjectivities while delegitimizing others. In this process of construction, what is accepted as official history, usually crafted by a dominant regime, becomes codified as “historical truth,” creating the conditions that perpetuate hegemonic determinations of reality and orders of knowledge that serve the interests of some at the expense of others. In the context of Western civilization we have seen the results of this in the histories that have been used to legitimate colonialism, racism, sexism, and other corruptions of the Euro-American Empire. Yet, in any so-called pluralistic and democratic society – where polyphonous voice is to be valued as critical in sustaining the principles of democracy and the individual’s right to self-determination, there is a crucial need to give voice to the subjectivities that have been muted and the histories that have been suppressed. To do this means to critically look backward into time to search out the stories that disrupt, complicate, and threaten accepted notions of historical truth, shifting and enlightening our present realities and unlocking future possibilities. As one possible answer to Koh’s question, “why do I even want to call them?” I will refer to Gilles Deleuze who stated, “History amounts only the set of preconditions, however recent, that one leaves behind in order to ‘become,’ that is, to create something new…Men’s only hope lies in a revolutionary becoming: the only way of casting off their shame or responding to what is intolerable” (1990, 171).
Therein lies the task of a certain kind of storytelling – for the purposes of this essay, a certain kind of videomaking – that concerns itself with issues surrounding the representation of personal and collective memory, and the histories rendered silent by official narratives. What stories must be told so that we may understand our set of preconditions? How do we remember the events of the past in order to create the spaces for a “revolutionary becoming”? Additionally, because I will be investigating the ways in which time-based media approach these issues, how does the audiovisual medium of video form these narratives that often lie in the realm of the Foucauldian unthought, awaiting a language in which to think them? Within the context of poststructuralist discourse on history and how the medium of film has created new spaces for critique and revision, Robert A. Rosenstone argues that postmodern theorists have yet to bring forth a kind of writing that “brings the ways we know or think of the past into line with the poststructuralist critique of current historical practice” (1998, 199). An alternative method is needed, one that can fulfill the postmodernist claims against official history. Where Rosenstone looked to film to support these claims, I look to single channel experimental video, and its integration with the practice of what I will term emergent history, for its unformed, uncodified, and indeterminate qualities, as well as its numerous potentialities in challenging the assumptions made by prescribed “historical truths.” Read the rest of this entry →