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Postmodernism and the anti-rationalist avant-garde
Rebecca Binns

Following Crass’ disbandment in 1984, Vaucher’s artwork took a back seat, partly due to her caring for her dying mother. As the 1990s dawned, her work took a distinct shift towards more introspective themes as her solo output flourished. This included series of paintings and pastel drawings concentrated on partial abstractions of the human form. A lifelong preoccupation with animal rights is reflected in her work from this period, as are concerns with human abuses of power. She turned again R. D. Laing’s ideas on the repression inherent in the functioning of the traditional family unit, and much of her work formed a critique of the way that societal institutions curtail the freedom of children. While Vaucher’s approach was indebted to certain early twentieth-century avant-garde art movements, as with punk, the radicalism and emancipatory ethos she embodied was also rooted in the early expression of postmodernism as a route to freedom from dominant ideologies. This stands in contrast to the debased manifestation of postmodernism – as an oppressive cultural embodiment of the emerging economic order – that dominated by the 1990s. The alternative approach she maintained stands in marked contrast to the sensationalism that dominated the art world at the time, notably with the Young British Artists (YBA) movement. Their output is critiqued in relation to 1970s communal artists COUM, in relation to Vaucher’s work with Crass, and with her less overtly didactic approach in the 1990s, which still managed to invest her work with meaning.

in Gee Vaucher
Rebecca Binns

This chapter explores how Crass’ distinct vision of anarchism, pacifism and feminism fused with punk, became increasingly focused on the authoritarianism, divisive politics and neo-liberal economics of the Thatcher government as the 1980s progressed. The rhetoric of Vaucher, Crass and anarcho-punk more widely became increasingly acrimonious in the context of the Falklands War with Thatcher on course for a second election win. A comparison is drawn with her contemporary Peter Kennard through their shared moral purpose, use of their work as a political weapon and appropriation of mass media imagery to reveal hidden truths. Both artists are in turn shown to be indebted to the Dadaist John Heartfield working half a century earlier. However, a distinction is drawn through Vaucher’s disavowal of both capitalist and Marxist conceptions of freedom, while these other artists’ critique was grounded in Marxism. Vaucher’s aesthetic, its DiY ethos and political ideals, exerted an influence on hardcore (in the States) and post-punk (in the UK). Specific parallels are drawn with the astute visual material created by Winston Smith for US punk band, Dead Kennedys, and the striking album art created by Mike Coles for the UK post-punk band, Killing Joke. This chapter also highlights Vaucher’s importance in providing a ‘feminist’ critique of power. Her belief in radical autonomy, rather than State-approved equality, as a response to female subordination is shown to have a strong correlation with contemporaneous anarcho-feminist ideas.

in Gee Vaucher
Rebecca Binns

This chapter explores the radical autonomy and alternate social structures of the world Vaucher inhabited in the 1970s, when she lived and worked at Dial House, a communal living experiment in her native Essex. The development of the peace movement, with direct action strands evolving in conflict with CND, and in response to the Vietnam War, provide context for her growing pacifism. The influence of the Situationist International (1957–72) transmitted via the underground press and anarchist-pacifist ideas are explored alongside those of Freud, Mikhail Bakunin, Emma Goldman and R. D. Laing, who she cites as a particular influence. The work of anarchist author Murray Bookchin also provides insight into the cultural zeitgeist of the times, one that Vaucher and Rimbaud would use to reshape punk in the late 1970s. During this period, Vaucher was involved in various art collectives, such as the Stanford Rivers Quartet and EXIT. These are situated in relation to contemporaries such as Fluxus (with whom she collaborated during the International Carnival of Experimental Sound in 1972), and COUM Transmissions (1969–76). She often collaborated with Rimbaud in these collectives, and the chapter traces their role in the development of the counterculture, particularly the free festivals movement. In the wake of the Windsor Free Festival, the first Stonehenge Festival was planned and envisioned at Dial House. Her series Homage to Catatonia (1974–76) documents the tragic story of the co-founder of Stonehenge, Wally Hope, and marks a key moment in the development of her visual aesthetic.

in Gee Vaucher
Rebecca Binns

This chapter challenges the prevalent narrative of punk as a rejection of 1960s ‘hippie’ culture, arguing that punk inadvertently continued the radicalism of the counterculture by exposing the gap between the promise and the reality of idealistic liberalism. It shows how a network of independent co-operatives, record labels and print shops established by countercultural participants facilitated the cultural output of punk, looking at how run-down inner-city areas allowed such radical communities and alternate living and work practices to thrive. This autonomous context also proved essential for developing the nascent design language of several key punk designers. Jamie Reid’s work for Sex Pistols and Linder Sterling’s work for Buzzcocks and Magazine are prominent examples. Vaucher, Reid and Sterling all used self-produced journals, International Anthem, Suburban Press and The Secret Public, respectively, to develop their radical ideas. All three built on the legacy of the avant-garde, utilising methods such as détournement, as well as rhetorical humorous devices such as satire and irony that characterised the underground press. Sterling’s use of pin-ups to create a ‘feminist’ critique is compared to Vaucher’s, and a precedent is traced in the work of Dadaist Hannah Hőch. While indebted to feminism, punk women often disavowed the progressive politics that underpinned it. As such, the feminist critique provided by Vaucher was strongly resonant of punk. The chapter shows how she combined the lowbrow aesthetic of punk fanzine design with her skill as an illustrator to produce a highbrow interpretation of a rough ‘n’ ready aesthetic.

in Gee Vaucher
Open Access (free)
From “mathematical jewel” to cultural connector
Pedro M. P. Raposo

The planispheric astrolabe is one of the most exquisite and alluring scientific instruments ever produced. At once an analog astronomical computer and an observing instrument that is finely decorated, the astrolabe enjoyed its heyday in the premodern Mediterranean, in areas under the influence of Islamic cultures. Knowledge of the instrument eventually reached Europe through the Maghreb and the Iberian Peninsula, giving rise to its widespread use, which peaked during the sixteenth century. Long regarded as a key witness to the mathematical science of plotting courses on land as on sea, in recent years the astrolabe has been increasingly approached as an artifact that bridges cultures and testifies to the movements of people, knowledge, and goods across early modern Europe. The chapter presents a brief historiography of the astrolabe in order to reflect on its public exhibition over recent decades. This reflection is based on the daily curatorial practices of a major collection at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. Such displays of the astrolabe help to makes early modern patterns of migrations conceivable – and visible today.

in Migrants shaping Europe, past and present
Open Access (free)
A short history of immigration deterrence at the French–British border
Vincent Joos
and
Eric Leleu

On October 25, 2016, French anti-riot police evicted thousands of migrants who had settled in an abandoned landfill adjacent to the port of Calais. Hundreds of makeshift houses and tents of the so-called “Calais jungle” were bulldozed or burned while the police forced migrants to board buses that would take them to asylum centers scattered across the French countryside. In the meantime, British authorities started the construction of the “Great Wall,” a one-kilometer long and four-meter high anti-intrusion barrier alongside the highway that leads to the port of Calais. Domicides and infrastructures intended to segregate migrants from French citizens are not new to the region. This chapter argues that present racialized patterns of mobility and the infrastructure enabling the segregation of people upon citizenship regimes in the Calais region were established long ago, when the French state managed the first wave of non-European migration in the region during World War I. The chapter first explores how thousands of Chinese indentured workers who toiled for the French and British army in northern France between 1917 and 1920 were deterred from settling in this region. Police brutality, racial segregation, and criminalization of solidarity are some of the practices established to deter nonwhite people from settling in the Calais region. From this historical perspective, the chapter then explores the institutionalized racism that structures current anti-immigration policies (in France and in the UK) and the proliferation of deterrence infrastructure in the Calais region.

in Migrants shaping Europe, past and present
Open Access (free)
Fictions for locking in and opening up, 2018–1346
Helen Solterer

Calais has become a theater of struggle for Kurds and East Africans crossing Europe in search of freer lives. Since c. 2000, writers and artists have been witness to migrants in transit across the Channel. They represent people under siege: thousands blockaded, both intra muros, and in the surrounding zone where English sovereign territory has been re-established in France. This chapter composes a cultural history of this deadlock. It defines Calais as an enclave: land enclosed within another larger, dominant territory; a political situation that exerts pressure on all those inhabiting the area. Extra-territoriality is the premodern principle introduced to construct this account of Calais-enclave, and through which the chapter investigates three dialectics that condition daily life: inside/outside; stasis/movement; have-plenty/have-not. Fiction is the chosen tool for interpreting Calais-enclave. Froissart and his 1346 chronicle accounts for its mise-en-place, when the port town was besieged during the Hundred Year Wars between English and French sovereigns. Deschamps, the poet, represents a second perspective on the enclave: the laborers whose fields are burned. The chapter juxtaposes these earliest fictions with contemporary ones: Froissart with Emmanuel Carrère, whose Letter to a Calaisian woman narrates the predicament of today’s inhabitants; Deschamps with Patrick Chamoiseau whose Brother migrants makes poetic declarations on behalf of those migrating towards Europe, including those in the Calais Jungle. By examining these works together, the chapter argues for the vital function of fiction in undoing the nationalistic frameworks visited upon Calais-enclave.

in Migrants shaping Europe, past and present
Open Access (free)
Raquel Salvatella de Prada

Cornered is a video installation about contemporary migrants making attempts, most often failed, to cross the border from Morocco to the Spanish cities of Melilla and Ceuta, the only European enclaves on Africa’s mainland. The chapter describes the intent and focus of the installation. It further explains the process of creating the artwork; from background research on migration across Spain’s southern border, to technical details of the wooden sculpture, the experimental film, and the video mapping.

in Migrants shaping Europe, past and present
Still more questions than answers
James S. Amelang

Among the many dramatic events that have recently attracted world attention has been the attempted migration across or around the Mediterranean of millions of refugees from the Middle East and Africa. Relatively few of these migrants – and even fewer Europeans – know of a singular precedent for this mass mobility: one that moved in the opposite direction, and which involved the forcible transfer from Spain to North Africa of tens of thousands of suspected Muslims. The expulsion in 1609–14 of the so-called Moriscos – that is, individuals of Islamic ancestry who had been baptized as Catholics – was a highly controversial measure, whose explicit goal was to purge from the Spanish empire the remaining descendants of the North Africans who had conquered the Iberian peninsula in the early eighth century and then resided there as Muslims to the 1520s. The cultural memory of the expulsion of the early modern Moriscos is the subject of this chapter. Their story and the reasons why, after a long period of coexistence, they were expelled, offers lessons from the past, as well as some thoughts for the present.

in Migrants shaping Europe, past and present
Open Access (free)
Ellen Raimond
,
Marianne Wardle
,
Elvira Vilches
,
Alán José
,
Pedro Lasch
,
Raquel Salvatella de Prada
,
Shreya Hurli
, and
Helen Solterer

This image-rich piece presents the small experimental installation, “In Transit: Arts and Migration Around Europe,” from the Nasher Museum of Art, 2018: the collective work of faculty and students at Duke University. Traversing many time-periods, from the early thirteenth century to the current-day, the objects propose different ways that migration may be represented and expressed across various cultures around Europe. Through multiple perspectives, “In Transit” broadens our understanding of the history of migration by juxtaposing present-day artworks with those of early modern cultures. It extends the maps and its usual routes, from the ideological East–West axis, to that of the global South northwards. The “In Transit” works, made with paper, textiles, metal, and digital pixels, present artworks that are an integral part of people’s everyday actions: a painting of Abraham Cresques’s 137–80 Catalan Atlas next to Pedro Lasch’s video installation, Sing Along or Karaoke Anthem (2015); Jacques Callot’s etchings of the Bohemians (c. 1650) juxtaposed with Annette Messager’s woolen weaving of Two Replicants Together (2016). Together they materialize the lives of those who leave their homes – whatever their reasons – to flee persecution, to overcome economic hardship, to pursue a better life for themselves and their families. As a whole, the installation shows how artists respond to the movement of people over centuries, capturing the dilemmas of displaced individuals that are often their own. It creates new profiles of migrants.

in Migrants shaping Europe, past and present