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Mixed messages

American correspondences in visual and verbal practices

Edited by: Catherine Gander and Sarah Garland

Mixed Messages presents and interrogates ten distinct moments from the arts of nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century America where visual and verbal forms blend and clash. Charting correspondences concerned with the expression and meaning of human experience, this volume moves beyond standard interdisciplinary theoretical approaches to consider the written and visual artwork in embodied, cognitive, and contextual terms. Offering a genuinely interdisciplinary contribution to the intersecting fields of art history, avant-garde studies, word-image relations, and literary studies, Mixed Messages takes in architecture, notebooks, poetry, painting, conceptual art, contemporary art, comic books, photographs and installations, ending with a speculative conclusion on the role of the body in the experience of digital mixed media. Each of the ten case studies explores the juxtaposition of visual and verbal forms in a manner that moves away from treating verbal and visual symbols as operating in binary or oppositional systems, and towards a consideration of mixed media, multi-media and intermedia work as brought together in acts of creation, exhibition, reading, viewing, and immersion. The collection advances research into embodiment theory, affect, pragmatist aesthetics, as well as into the continuing legacy of romanticism and of dada, conceptual art and surrealism in an American context.

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Gothic Economics

Violence and Miscegenation in Jean Toomer‘s ‘Blood- Burning Moon’

Allan Borst

Jean Toomer‘s Cane (1923) has long been considered a signature text of both avant-garde Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance. While Gothic tropes and imagery lurk throughout Toomer‘s collection of poetry and prose, Anglo-American Gothic conventions come to the foreground in the story ‘Blood-Burning Moon’. The story‘s interracial love triangle provides a locus of conflict between the post-Reconstruction American South and the haunting economic logic of slavery. Though the three characters each aspire to new racial, sexual and economic identities, they are terrorized by a society where employer-employee relations cannot escape the violence of the master-slave dialectic. Toomer does not relinquish his aesthetic experimentation and political radicalism to the Anglo-American Gothic, but instead engages the Gothic form in order to critique the violent racism of American capitalism. In this way, Toomer positions the Gothic centrally within African-American literary and cultural history.

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Marion Schmid

Chantal Akerman was one of Europe's most acclaimed and prolific contemporary directors, who came to prominence with Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, and 1080 Bruxelles. Her family history is intimately bound up with the horrors of the Holocaust. Akerman was born in Brussels on 6 June 1950, the first child of Jewish Polish immigrants who settled in Belgium in the late 1930s. Filmmaking, for her, was an imaginative and creative engagement with the silence that weighed heavily on her childhood. Behind the multiple guises of Akerman, this book seeks to present a cinema that crystallises questions that are at the heart of our post-war, post-Holocaust, post-feminist sensibility. It identifies the characteristics of her avant-garde work of the 1970s, the period most closely influenced by American structuralist film and performance art. The book surveys her work in the following decade in the context of post-modernism, the new aesthetic of kitsch and the emergence of a new hedonism in Western critical discourses. It is dedicated to her documentary work of the 1990s and 2000s, which sheds light on the central ethical and aesthetic concerns behind her work. The book discusses her attempts to penetrate into the mainstream, her renewed engagement with the themes of love and desire, and her further exploration of the permeable boundaries between autobiography and fiction. What emerges forcefully in Akerman's cinema, is a persistent engagement with the forms and conditions of human existence.

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Watching the red dawn

The American avant-garde and the Soviet Union

Barnaby Haran

Watching the red dawn charts the responses of the American avant-garde to the cultural works of its Soviet counterpart in period from the formation of the USSR in 1922 to recognition of this new communist nation by USA in 1933. In this period American artists, writers, and designers looked at the emerging Soviet Union with fascination, as they observed this epochal experiment in communism develop out of the chaos of the Russian Revolution and Civil War. They organised exhibitions of Soviet art and culture, reported on visits to Russia in books and articles, and produced works that were inspired by post-revolutionary culture. One of the most important innovations of Soviet culture was to collapse boundaries between disciplines, as part of a general aim to bring art into everyday life. Correspondingly, this book takes an interdisciplinary approach by looking at American avant-garde responses to Soviet culture across several media, including architecture, theatre, film, photography, and literature. As such, Watching the red dawn considers the putative area of ‘American Constructivism’ by examining the interconnected ways in which Constructivist works were influential upon American practices.

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Regarding the real

Cinema, documentary, and the visual arts

Des O’Rawe

Regarding the real: cinema, documentary, and the visual arts develops an approach to the study of documentary film focussing on its aesthetic and cultural relations to the modern visual arts, especially: animation, assemblage, photography, painting, and architecture. In particular, it examines how documentary practices have often incorporated methods and expressive techniques derived from these art forms. Combining close analysis with cultural history, the book re-assesses the influence of the modern visual arts in subverting the structures of realism typically associated with documentary film, and considers the work of figures whose preferred film language is associative, and fragmentary, and for whom the documentary remains an open form, an unstable expressive phenomenon that at its best interrogates its own narratives, and intentions. In the course of its discussion, the book charts a path that leads from Len Lye to Hiroshi Teshigahara, and includes along the way figures such as Joseph Cornell, Johan van der Keuken, William Klein, Jean-Luc Godard, Jonas Mekas, Raymond Depardon.

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Introduction

The red Atlantic

Barnaby Haran

Introduction: the red Atlantic This book concerns the cultural responses of the American avant-garde to the Soviet Union during the period from the foundation of the USSR to its recognition by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s government in 1933. The Americans in this study who watched the ‘Red Dawn’ were variously artists, architects, designers, writers, curators, collectors, critics, and journalists, all of whom were fascinated by the epic transformations of revolutionary Russia and enthused by the possibilities for new forms of art that would match this epochal

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The third avant garde

Black Audio Film Collective and Latin America

Paul Elliott

During the 1980s, a number of British filmmaking collectives sought to combine avant-garde practices with the emerging field of postcolonial analysis. 1 Drawing influence from Latin America, Asia and Africa, the work of groups such as Ceddo, Sankofa and Retake in the 1970s represented a break from the more avant garde wing of British art cinema that was, by and large, dominated by structuralism, materialism and an onus on form. Their work was consciously political and deeply rooted within the communities the film-makers sprang from. The

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Leah Modigliani

, which had been established earlier 23 2  24 Engendering an avant-garde through the creation of and subsequent writing about Wall’s conceptual artwork Landscape Manual. Positively influenced by precedents set by American conceptual artists Ed Ruscha, Robert Smithson, and Dan Graham, and negatively inspired by British Columbia’s long history of Expressionist landscape painting, young artists favoured commercial and industrial scenes that amplified the alienation of the subject within Capitalism. On the other side of the wall, hung facing the interior of the gallery

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Kino in America

Soviet montage and the American cinematic avant-garde

Barnaby Haran

3 Kino in America: Soviet montage and the American cinematic avant-garde Alongside the radical Constructivism of the New Playwrights Theatre, the American avant-garde’s most sympathetic engagement with Soviet revolutionary culture was in cinema. If the innovations of Vsevolod Meyerhold’s Constructivist theatre stimulated the NPT, then the development of cinematic montage by his protégé Sergei Eisenstein, alongside Lev Kuleshov, Dziga Vertov, Vsevolod Pudovkin, and Alexander Dovzhenko, had an analogous impact upon American avant-garde cinema. The Soviet film

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Leah Modigliani

engaged – past. The houses in Ruins can also be viewed as commodities, as serial boxes laid across the hill in a grid, like Donald Judd and Sol Lewitt’s numerous minimalist sculptures of similar forms from the same time period. Ruins was 115 116 Engendering an avant-garde 7  N.E. Thing Co., Ruins, 1968 (reassembled 1990), Cibachrome transparency, lightbox, 40.6 × 50.8 × 12.7 cm. Photo: Robert Bos. completed after Dan Graham’s project Homes for America (Figure 8) appeared in Arts Magazine and is indebted to its precedent.10 Both Jeff Wall and Ian Wallace were