Friday, January 30, 2009

UND Faculty Show

The 2009 University of North Dakota faculty show brings together a diversity of works from the artists respective fields spanning from various sculptural works to photography and metalsmithing to printmaking. Here new media works hang next to the traditional ones that is also suggestive of the overall direction of the Art and Design programs of UND.

The individual works reflect over-arching themes present in the much contemporary art. In their book Themes of Contemporary Art: Visual Art Since 1980,[1] Jean Robertson and Craig McDaniel, suggest six central themes that run throughout contemporary art including time, place, identity, the body, language, and spirituality. Joel Jonientz time-based works 11.20.63, reflect the mundane moments in time and place for J.F.K in the bathtub and Oswald eating breakfast before the convergence of the two men in the assassination plot two days later. Suzanne Gonsalez’s work suggest themes of identity, the body, an existential reality of loss. Gonsalez work also suggest the larger trend of using ones own narratives to create autobiographic works. Both Jennifer Nelson and Wes Smith, in their respective mediums reflect upon the latent symbols of home. Similarly, Wes Smith’s work also is suggestive of the place. Rick Tonder’s landscapes neatly fall into themes of place and time. Lucy Ganje’s work may well fit under ideas of place and time as well. However her work might fit under what some would call history painting. Her work reflects a post-modern directive of revisionist history challenging the prevailing assumptions long suppressed by another story. Echo Eggebrecht’s painting sketch would suggest by its content and title an affinity with a plurality of religious symbols and ideas. Similarly Patrick Luber’s work would also fit under that same spiritual theme but by using mixing popular culture and specifically Christian concepts and/or narratives. Luber’s Christ Exits the Tomb draws upon two historical stereotypical portrayals of Jesus either as a superhero or an effeminate peacemaker.

We may also look beyond content theme into method to suggest a connection to the larger trajectory of the art world. The influence of the new media is evident even from a casual glance. Works by Jonientz, Gonsalez, Ganje, Scott Telle, and Tonder all reflect the influence of the digital world. While Jonientz’s work stands as being a distinctly digital work (and two of three that has sound), the others work in more traditional fields that have moved solidly into digital means. All three photographers, Tonder, Gonsalez and Telle’s work are digital prints, of which two are composites of images. All five likely reflect work done in one or more of the Adobe programs and work flows, another sign of contemporary art.
One factor that may go unnoticed the number of women represented in the show. Of the seventeen displaying artists, seven are women (roughly 41%). This would seem to reflect a larger historical trend for diversity that would include both race and sexual orientation that has emerged over the past 30 years. This burgeoning spectrum of diversity has greatly impacted the art world, as well as the space of Hughes Fine Art Center.

With my interest in concepts of place and its dialectic of formation, the works by Nelson and Smith were intriguing. Both have referenced the idea of home. The home can be the stage for our earliest memories, the award for achieving the American dream, a threshold between the public and private worlds, as well as symbolize a metaphorical or virtual space that would suggest a variety of psychological responses depending upon ones experiences. For many the home may represent a sense of belonging, while for others it may signal abuse. Nelson’s No Place Like Home places a house between two spread legs in with feet in red glittered shoes drawing upon the cultural collective memory of Dorothy’s red slippers in The Wizard of Oz. Here the viewer seems to be confronted with either a sexualized desire of or for a house in a literal sense or the making of home in an erotic sense.
Nelson’s other work, Take Me Home once again draws upon imagery of the home. Here, two houses, one floats above and angled over the other are reminiscent of something one might see in a home brochure or advertisement. Their meaning is clarified when the viewer understands whose house it was. This was the beloved home of the Waltons.

Is Nelson commenting upon our cultures desire for both house and home? Could it be a comment upon the home improvement industry as prostituting the house as a home? Certainly it is about the hope for the American Dream…its lure…its glittering temptations. These ideas become even more poignant under the weight of current economic depression that began with the ubiquity of home foreclosures.

[1] Jean Robertson & Craig McDaniel, Themes of Contemporary Art: Visual Art After 1980, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thoughts On Hauerwas' The Peaceable Kingdom

I’ve been rereading Stanley Hauerwas’ The Peaceable Kingdom and continue to find things I could write on for the entire semester from just the first chapter. I’ve been interested in reading Hauerwas for some time. I have an existing conceptually rough outline of his perspective, but it has already been confirmed by the first chapter.

Hauerwas starts off by saying, “All ethical reflection occurs relative to a particular time and place.” Ethics, he claims, is determined by the particularities and peculiarities of a community and history. It is contextual. But Hauerwas says that this runs counter to much of ethical reflection in Modernity that sought a universal and objective ethic with unchangeable principles. I think this is a hard pill for many to swallow at least initially. Though my hunch is that is their inability to find such a universal that drives them onward. Because things are so ambiguous at times, I can see why many want to create a universal set of principles on which society must reside. Hauerwas notes the irony that our dogmatism hides our profound doubt. I was just chatting about this with a friend the other day about how our family and social upbringing impacted our view of God and the theological system we find ourselves most comfortable with. She had remarked that sought out her Catholic aunt who was a nun when her family and home life was falling apart because she wanted a solid theological framework around her to give her life stability. I have seen this in others as well. As her life became more stable over the years, her theology grew from the fundamentalist answers she held on to so tightly at the beginning of her faith journey to and embracing of the question and mystery of God now.

Hauerwas is also keen on deflating the modern individual and how the lone person tries to conceive, in isolated freedom, a personal ethic without impingement upon his or her neighbors. Ethics, for Hauerwas, is not a matter of ones own shaping rather something that shapes us. He states, “We do not create moral values, principles, virtues; rather they constitute a life for us to appropriate.” While I agree with the thrust of this thought, I would want to make one small change to suggest that we are appropriated into the tradition. To say that we appropriate this life still suggests the priority of the individual rather than the story.

Hauerwas presents a similar story to that of Robert Bellah in Habits of the Heart. Where there is no shared standard value system, individuals all exist on equal ground where tolerance becomes the virtue of plurality. As a private matter, one cannot impose upon another’s chosen values. In such a world, conflicts are resolved by “honesty and communication” of ones “needs and desires” as matters of “technical problem solving, not moral decision.” Morality then is based on the highly subjective nature of personal preferences. Values are arbitrarily chosen. As a result, successful self-reliance and self-fulfillment become the standards for choosing those preferences and yet, that self-fulfillment is done in radical isolation without means of affecting that same fulfillment for others. The only, and very ironic, fragile unity that such a strident diversity is able to bring about is in the language of individual rights.

One of the other key directions that Hauerwas introduces is the idea of practices. These practices shape both the individual and communities to embody the storied ethic. This was one of the ideas I was wrestling with a few weeks ago in my posting. I was struggling to articulate the insufficiency of an abstract or objective privatized religion. Such a state of affairs has a tendency for a detached critique rather than a love embodied into the world. Practices, like baptism and the Eucharist, ground or embody our ethics in the lives of the community, rather in the abstraction of the radical individual. Thus our participation in the life of the community is formative shaping us in those right commitments to be acted in the world. Since we are all sinful we need to be trained and well practiced to desire rightly. Something that cannot be done on our own because since we are sinful, we cannot rightly conceive of what is good. What we begin to see is an incarnational ethic. We do not simply conceive of a set of principles from our theology, rather our theology is our ethic. They are not separate matters.

The last thing I wanted to touch on is his non-violence methodology. This is something new that I will be looking at. I have thought about the violence in terms of our actions, but not really considered the violence done by our methodology. Like a computers operating system that determines the actions outcomes one can take, our methodology would seem to suggest the same thing. It is not just the resultant actions that are violent but also the methods behind them. Hauerwas suggests, “For the attempts to secure peace though founding morality on rationality itself, or some other inherent human characteristic, ironically underwrites coercion. If others refuse to accept my account of rationality, it seems within my bounds to force them to be true to their true selves.” He further states that “peace is not something to be achieved by our power.” Central to that direction is a peaceful acceptance of diversity within the Body, rather than forcing everyone to an objective morality. This is a challenging statement for the ecclesia of God.

Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom, ( ), 1.
Ibid., 3.
Robert N. Bellah et al., Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 16.
Ibid., 7.
Ibid., 16.
Hauerwas, 12.

Friday, January 23, 2009

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Over the past few months, these corn syrup commercials have been popping up with an increasing regularity. I have been becoming more and more concerned about the nature of our food, its processing and its sources. I began to notice the ubiquity of corn syrup a few years ago...especially in sodas. In seminary I drank 2-3 cans of soda a day (now 1-2 a week). One of the humorous things about these commercials is the "inability" of the accuser to answer what is wrong with corn syrup. Quite is an artificial sweetener that our body does not comprehend how to break down. As you watch the commercials, which are funded by the corn refiners association which have considerable stakes in keeping American chugging sodas and eating all things corn syruppy, pay attention to their near suggestion that it IS natural and how in moderation it is ok. First, I've never seen liquid corn. Second, when it is in virtually everything in this country, can anyone honestly have it in moderation? The corn growers association is trying to push their products upon Mexico as well...they still, along with Canada, sweeten their Coke with real sugar!

If you have not seen the documentary King must! It is a great project of two recent college grads set on raising one acre of corn in Iowa and trace its route into the food system. They come upon some remarkable findings. If you have Netflix it is available for online viewing. Check out the trailer below.

What is the Christian response to such things? How should we feed our bodies? To what lengths should we go to fight what seems like quite obviously unhealthy products and their wealthy lobbyists (Corn Producers and Corn Processors)?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Catholicity and New Topographics VI

(Parking Lots, 21, - Ed Ruscha)

A quick glance at Ed Ruscha’s work and his lineage with the New Topographics is obvious. Ruscha transcends clear definition as an artist working between painting and photography, often considered a force within the conceptual movement. And yet Ruscha considered himself a hobbyist photographer. Ruscha has claimed the two most prominent photographic influences upon him were Walker Evans and Robert Frank’s The Americans.[1] Influenced by Evan’s “dead pan documentary vernacular subjects and Frank for his grainy improvisational style”[2] Ruscha set out searching for his own voice which soundly emerged in the 1960’s. Ruscha obsessed with signage and building design, an ever present attraction to the same subjects all filtered through a wry sense of humor.

Ruscha’s work can be filtered in a number of ways but becomes most connected to the New Topographics when interpreted through studies of the readymade and topography.

In 1963 Ruscha visited a Marcel Duchamp retrospective at the Pasadena Art Museum reinvigorating his interest in the common object or readymade. That same year, Ruscha published the first of many small photographic books, inspired by Frank’s The American’s. His forty-eight page Twentysix Gasoline Stations offers a reconsideration of Duchamp’s concept of the readymade reinterpreted through his interest in architecture. Twentysix Gasoline Stations were cheaply printed in a mass production, non-narrative style which mirrored the subjects utilitarian architecture.

Ruscha carried this serial interest in specific topics and non-descript books into an investigation of the California landscape with the releases of Some Los Angeles Apartments (1965), Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966) (#10), and Thitryfour Parking Lots in Los Angeles (1967) (#11-14). The second in this series images random, utilitarian architecture of the 50’s and early 60’s through what could have easily been seen as images for realtors or surveyors.[3] For the third in the series, Ruscha mounted the camera to a car and drove the length of the sunset strip, recording every building at noon to reduce shadow heightening the banality of the image. The book was then released as an accordion-like fold out with the images all connected. For the fourth release he addressed another formal concern more directly in terms of style. Ruscha hired the commercial photographer Art Alanis to capture the vast expanses of asphalt parking lots surrounding malls, stadiums and drive-in theatres. He had already experimented using others to shoot the gas-stations in 1963. But this is an advance in that step at the depersonalization or style-less style, something that would influence many of the New Topographics. William Jenkins goes into great detail about Ruscha’s influence upon this group saying,
“The pictures were stripped of any artistic frills and reduced to an essentially topographic state, conveying substantial amounts of visual information but eschewing entirely the aspects of beauty, emotion, and opinion. Regardless of the subject matter the appearance of neutrality was strictly maintained…There is an obvious visual link between Ruscha’s work and the pictures shown here. Both function with a minimum of inflection in the sense that the photographers’ influence on the look of the subject is minimal…The exhibitors also share subject matter with Ruscha, picturing, almost without exception, man made structures within larger contexts such as landscapes.[4]

Ruscha’s influence upon the group can hardly be underestimated. Many of the snippets discussed above: neutrality, style-less style, seriality, the readymade all become prominent aspects in the work of the New Topographics and their descendants.

[1] Sylvia Wolf, Ed Ruscha and Photography, (Gottingen, Germany: Steidl, 2004), 20-21.
[2] Wolf, 21.
[3] Wolf, 129
[4] Jenkins, 5.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Prayers For Inauguration Day

For those of you who follow this blog know my thoughts on the uneasy relationship between the church and nation. But today, and I suppose everyday, the church is a servant of prayer on behalf of the world.

God our Father,
you guide everything in wisdom and love.
Accept the prayers we offer for our nation;
by the wisdom of our leaders and integrity of our citizens,
may harmony and justice be secured
and may there be lasting prosperity and peace.
For those who serve in public office
Almighty and eternal God,
you know the longings of human hearts
and you protect their rights.
In your goodness,
watch over those in authority,
so that people everywhere may enjoy
freedom, security, and peace.

you guide and govern everything with order and love.
Look upon the assembly of our national leaders
and fill them with the spirit of your wisdom.
May they always act in accordance with your will
and their decisions be for the peace and well-being of all.

God our Father,
all earthly powers must serve you.
Help your servant, our President Obama
to fulfill his responsibilities worthily and well.
By honouring and striving to please you at all times,
may he secure peace and freedom
for the people entrusted to him.

(Prayers from The Catholic Prayer Book)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Church Service Humor

Humor is a strange thing. The unexpected in particular context becomes the source for much humor. Church is no exception. Church services are full of their do’s and don’ts, liturgical rites…and wrongs, that when something out of the ordinary happens within that sacred space and time it can be hard to stifle the laughter…itself mostly inappropriate for the context.

I can think of several events that stand out in my memory as irony or humorous in an ecclesial context.

Once, when I was younger, probably around 7th grade or so, in my home church of Alton Reformed, a man a few rows in front of me attempted to cross is legs. As he struggled to lift one leg over the other, his boot hit the wooden hymnal rack ripping it, along with the two hymnals and bible, from the pew directly in front of him sending both crashing to the floor in the middle of a sermon. What made this even funnier was his attempt to stifle his laughter in a series of curled over convulsions which reverberated through his family and the rest of the pew.

Another more recent experience took place at Good Shepherd in Sioux Falls. This was our Episcopal home for nearly 3 years before we left Sioux Falls for Grand Forks. There were 2 boys who often would show their support for their favorite NFL football teams by wearing their jerseys. Apparently one of the boys was a fan of Mushin Muhammad from back in his Bears days. Also, in the Episcopal tradition, one goes forward to kneel to receive the Eucharist. What struck me as funny was to see Muhammad kneeling for communion every few weeks.

In the film, Keeping the Faith, Edward Norton’s character calls out to a parishioner that is fleeing his early attempts at preaching saying, “Its customary to leave after communion.” This came to mind as this past week at Sharon Lutheran Church here in Grand Forks. During the pre-Eucharistic prayer the woman directly in front of us reached into her coat pocket, pulled out her keys with the automatic start. A short series of beeps and her cold car would be warming for her arrival once we got through the messy details of the Eucharist and prayer…and the Vikings weren’t even playing until later.

A good friend, who is normally very sure worded offered up two humous mis-speaks that still make me laugh. The first on a service trip in college to Coney Island, William offered prayer for the group and in the midst thanked God for “bringing us to the island…(long pause)…of Coney.” At which the prayer was concluded by all with laughter. A year later, I visited my alma mater one weekend as he was doing pulpit supply at Alton’s Presbyterian Church when he thanked God, this time for the wonderful “lentil” season they were having.

I’ve seen bats swooping during baptisms, women get hit in the face with a beach ball by an overhand serve, and a pulpit supply compare David’s moodswings to Kirstie Alley’s ever changing waistline (actually the last two were in the same service…a horrible, horrible church experience).

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cosmogenesis: My Windows To the World

I was chatting with someone the other day about how our culture give preference to time over space and began thinking of how we tell our personal story, whether of faith or otherwise, and how our preference for time may impact how we share those stories. I did a quick Google search to see if there were any sites that might give guidance to writing a testimony. One site, had an interesting outline with some questions to consider.

Section One - My Life Before I Became A Christian
Some people have a sudden conversion experience. For others, it can happen over a period of time without a clear pinpointed date.Whichever way your conversion occurred, try and recall here what your life was like before. What attitudes did you display? What were your behaviour and feelings about life?

Section Two - How I Came To Realise I Needed Jesus
Include here what made you turn to Jesus. Did you have a need that
Jesus met? Were you at the end of your tether and couldn't go on? Was the
process a long or a short one? Make it clear in your story that becoming a
Christian was entering into a relationship with Christ, not just subscribing to
some set of principles or way of living

Section Three - How I Became A Christian
Explain exactly what brought you to the point where you gave your life
over to Jesus. What specific step did you take to become a Christian? Was it a
sudden transformation or was it a long process?

Section Four - What Being A Christian Means
NowWhat difference has becoming a Christian made to your life?
What are the highlights? Has there been a price to pay in relationships? Based
on your experience to date, explain why you would encourage others to become a
Christian too.

As I read through the list of questions and tips, it became quite apparent, at least with this site, that time is given preference over place. Place while inseparable from time, is forced into being a backdrop for time and event. While many have detailed Christianity's long and convoluted history with the material world, what would happen if we were to consider the significance of place in our own stories and that of the church and Christian history?

Many commentators on place suggest that place precedes space, at least that our awareness of the particularities of place shape our interactions in the larger world (space). Because of our embodiment, we are oriented in the proximal place which guides us into the larger place. If place emerges via the convergence of time and event, held and made valuable by memory and ritual, we are creating places through out our life. Edward Casey calls this “cosmogenesis” or world creating.

Some of the most sacred spaces/times have come sitting at the desk in my office as I wrote a paper or journal entry. My office, surrounded by my books and art, my music and often a cup of coffee nearby are often transformed into a place of beautiful inspiration by the Spirit. My desk, seen above, looks out onto a now white parking lot through some sort of tree that still holds on to its now brown seeds. Perhaps rathering than focussing on "times when...", I should tell my story through "places where...".

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In Defense of Death...

(thanks to David O'Hara for posting this article on Facebook)

In this New York Times article, David Brooks reflects on Richard John Neuhaus' recent death and his perspective of death. This is one of many recent articles recalling and giving honor to one of the premier voices in American Catholicism.

In the article, Brooks tells the story of Neuhaus' own brush with death earlier in his life that dramatically impacted the remainder of his life. Neuhaus, in reflecting on administering the Eucharist said, "“After some time, I could shuffle the few blocks to the church and say Mass. At the altar, I cried a lot and hoped the people didn’t notice. To think that I’m really here after all, I thought, at the altar, at the axis mundi, the center of life. And of death.”

What a beautiful statement and thought. Standing at the altar, offering the elements to the community of faith that while localized in this spot extends universally to all places and from this present time to all times of past and future. How often do we recognize the weight of this? How often do we consider the simultaneous condensing and expansion of time and place in the Eucharist? Do we see it at the axis mundi...the place where heaven and earth meet...a sacred place, time, merging into sacred event? In the Eucharist do we see the necessary minglings, as Neuhaus did, of life and death?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Weather Report: 01.12.09

Today I walked out of my study into the living room as clouds of exhaust were billowing up from the laundry room creating brilliant pastel oranges.

Both images were taken at about 4:30 pm from our living room that overlooks the parking lot to the west. While the winter likely has a good month and a half or more left up here in Grand Forks, I think I can tell that the days are getting longer (perhaps I am just an optimist). There is hope in small measures that suggest our greater hope.

Today it is bitterly cold as wind from the north has swept in bringing a storm that shut down the lower part of the state for a while. I am thankful that it missed us and allowed Karina's brother and sister-in-law to get off on time this morning for their return trip to Springside SK.

Despite the cold, snow, wind, ice, frozen extremities, weary automobiles, blown-in sidewalks and stairs, there is an austere beauty here that I've not experienced elsewhere on the prairies in Iowa or South Dakota. For all the frustration and annoyances of living in the north during the winter (and we really are not that far north), there is an unmistakable beauty for the winter hearty willing to see.

Kathleen Norris writes in her weather report for February 10 in Dakota says, "at the breath of God's mouth the waters flow. Spring seems far off, impossible, but it is coming." Today, as I trudged across campus, cheeks bitten by the cold, each expired breath rose in clouds of praise to our Creator for the beauty of the north.

Catholicity and the New Topographics V

(U.S. 285, New Mexico, 1955 - Robert Frank)

Most commentators general pick up on two primary photographic influences when speaking of the New Topographics: Robert Frank and Edward Ruscha. Much has been said about Ruscha’s influence upon the group, though quite obvious, it has also historically been guided by Jenkins’ who goes to great lengths in the catalogue to argue for the groups’ connection to the work of Ruscha. Less, however, is said about the groups lineage to Frank. Though, Lewis Baltz, one member of the New Topographics group, has said in an essay that the group took “Robert Frank as their mentor and the snapshot as their vernacular model.”[1]

Certainly Ruscha’s prominence in Jenkins’ writing is appropriate. And yet, their work deserves basic comparisons to the work of Swiss-born Robert Frank. Frank’s social landscape project entitled The Americans first published in the United States in 1959, one year after its release in France, introduced a new form of straight photography in the snapshot relying upon the convenience of the lithe 35mm. Frank introduced a new generation of photographers to a haphazard picture taking that cared more about documenting the present and less about the technical aspects of the medium. This careless methodology or inattention to traditional composition and focus was certainly picked up upon by later generations.

However, Frank’s largest contributions to the New Topographics stem from his documentary style which introduces a sense of irony and neutrality while photographing common life. Here Frank struck a balance between cool objectivity in observance of the mundane. Frank photographed his way across America between 1956-1957 sticking close to larger cities.[2] It is no coincidence that his traveling partner during those days was Jack Kerouac,[3] who published his rambling journey On the Road the same year as Frank’s The Americans was released Stateside. Both express a similar vision of restlessness and alienation[4] in what has been suggested as the kairos moment, pregnant with the enduring American myth.[5] Derrick Price suggests that this project “fractured” the old documentary project of recording the weighty event by Frank’s turn toward the prosaic.[6] By photographing the common place, Frank is shifting the defining balance of identity from the grand moments in history to mundane reality of life. By concentrating on automobiles, roadsides, and the commercial signs certainly influenced photographers to make similar pilgrimages across the land attempting to photograph the always shifting American identity. This investiture of the common life and subject through a reliance upon amateurish techniques and objectivity deeply influences both Ruscha and the New Topographics.

[1] I was unable to relocate the source of this quote.
[2] Robert Frank, “Statement” in Photography In Print: Writings From 1816 to the Present, Ed. Vicki Goldberg, (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1981), 400.
[3] Kerouac also wrote the introduction to The American’s.
[4] H.W. Janson, History of Art, Vol. 2, 5th Edition, (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995), 880-881.
[5] Derrick Price, Surveyors and Surveyed: Photography Out and About in Photography: A Critical Introduction, 3rd Edition, Ed. by Liz Wells (New York: Routledge, 2004), 100.
[6] Price, 100.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

2008 Film List

Two years ago, about the time I started to take a more serious interest in film, I started cataloging the new films that Karina and see. I had been doing the same for books and thought it would be interesting to do the same for films. Ok...and I was semi-curious at how many films we actually watched in a given year. Over the past 2 years we have also been slowly working our way through AFI's original 100 greatest films list. It has been a fun project but we have gotten bogged down in that process at times too.

In 2007 we watched 104 new films and in 2008 we watched 110 new films. A few favorites that stand out in my memory are Modern Times with Charlie Chaplin from 1936, Everything Is Illuminated with Elijah Wood from 2005, Ostrov or The Island (a Russian film) about penance that is simply wonderful. Other favorites, Lars and the Real Girl (2007), Into the Wild (2007), King Corn (2007), Wall-E (2008), Iron Man (2008) and Babel (2006).

Our complete viewing list...
1.1.08 Babel 2006
1.1.08 The Seventh Seal 1954
1.4.08 The Natural 1984
1.5.08 Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End 2007
1.05.08 I Married a Witch 1942
1.06.08 Girl In the Café 2005
1.07.08 Doctor Zhivago 1965
1.07.08 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 1969
1.08.08 Pink Panther 1963
1.12.08 The Prestige 2006
1.13.08 The Life & Passion of Jesus Christ 1905
1.14.08 From the Manger to the Cross 1913
1.15.08 Koyaanisqatsi 1982
1.16.08 Dan In Real Life 2007
1.18.08 Good Luck Chuck 2007
1.21.08 Barbarella 1969
1.21.08 War Games 1983
1.22.08 Angels With Dirty Faces 1938
1.22.08 Roaring Twenties 1939
1.26.08 Iron Giant 1999
1.29.08 Reign Over Me 2007
2.4.08 War of the Worlds 1953
2.10.08 Nightmare Before Christmas 1993
2.11.08 Memento 2000
2.13.08 License to Wed 2007
2.15.08 Bourne Ultimatum 2007
2.18.08 Transporter II 2005
2.19.08 The Life of Brian 1978
2.22.08 The Wild Bunch 1969
2.24.08 P.S. I Love You 2007
2.25.08 Evan Almighty 2007
3.01.08 The Man Who Knew Too Much 1956
3.03.08 2 Days in Paris 2007
3.04.08 The Birds 1963
3.08.08 Wild Hogs 2007
3.09.08 Spirited Away 2002
3.09.08 The Jazz Singer 1928
3.10.08 Idiocracy 2006
3.14.08 We Are Marshall 2006
3.15.08 Everything is Illuminated 2005
3.17.08 Absent Minded Professor 1961
3.19.08 The Island 2006
3.20.08 Green Pastures 1936
3.22.08 The Perfect Man 2005
3.25.08 Little Children 2006
3.28.08 I Am Legend 2007
3.29.08 Unforgiven 1992
4.1.08 Goodfellas 1990
4.9.08 Gridiron Gang 2006
4.10.08 Modern Times 1936
4.10.08 Freedom Writers 2007
4.12.08 Night of the Hunter 1955
4.20.08 A Good Year 2006
4.21.08 Battleship Potemkin 1925
4.26.08 Juno 2007
4.27.08 27 Dresses 2007
4.30.08 Duck Soup 1933
5.02.08 Double Indemnity 1944
5.03.08 Iron Man 2008
5.04.08 Lars and the Real Girl 2007
5.06.08 Pan's Labrynth 2006
5.06.08 City Lights 1931
5.10.08 High Fidelity 2006
5.14.08 Friends With Money 2006
5.17.08 National Treasure II 2007
5.18.08 August Rush 2007
5.19.08 Cocktail 1988
5.21.08 Frankenstein 1931
5.27.08 Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull 2008
5.31.08 Jesus Camp 2005
6.02.08 Just Like Heaven 2005
6.03.08 Tootsie 1982
6.07.08 You Don’t Mess With the Zohan 2008
6.08.08 All About Eve 1950
6.10.08 Into the Wild 2007
6.15.08 The Game Plan 2007
6.19.08 The Godfather 1972
6.21.08 The Godfather II 1974
6.21.08 3:10 To Yuma 2007
6.22.08 The Goldrush 1925
7.19.08 Batman: The Dark Night 2008
7.20.08 The Departed 2006
8.04.08 Amadeus 1984
8.10.08 Cabaret 1972
8.11.08 In the Heat of the Night 1967
9.01.08 Bonnie & Clyde 1968
9.06.08 Shrek TheThird 2007
9.14.08 A Flea Market Documentary 2001
10.04.08 The Virgin Suicides 2000
10.04.08 King Corn 2007
10.10.08 The Bucket List 2008
10.11.08 High Noon 1952
10.12.08 The Third Man 1949
10.14.08 Baby Mama 2008
10.16.08 Grapes of Wrath 1940
10.18.08 The French Connection 1971
10.25.08 Fools Gold 2008
11.04.08 Be Kind, Rewind 2007
11.06.08 Get Smart 2008
11.10.08 Stagecoach 1939
11.18.08 Hancock 2008
11.22.08 Wall-E 2008
11.27.08 Quantum of Solace 2008
11.29.08 Black Snake Moan 2006
12.5.08 The Love Guru 2008
12.10.08 Leatherheads 2008
12.18.08 Forgetting Sarah Marshall 2008
12.26.08 Charlie Wilsons War 2008
12.29.08 Grand Theft Auto 1977
12.30.08 Burn After Reading 2008

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Landscape Archaeology and Photography at the Pyla-Koustopetria Archaeological Project

Over the past month or so, I have been in discussion with Bill Caraher, Assistant Professor of History here at University of North Dakota about joining their summer project in Cyprus as an artist in residence. Three days ago, Bill posted the project proposal on his blog. I was hoping to post a response shortly after but time has gotten away from me these past two days.

Below is an overview of the project invitation to PKAP. This project unites several of my areas of interest in place, narrative and photography. My perspective upon this project extends beyond the simple, though necessary, recording of the geographical context or location, into the primary arenas of the reciprocal relationships that human stories have within the environment. One of the more intriguing factors for this project is that we are not neutral observers. As we work to uncover and understand an ancient culture we are adding to these storied places by our presence and efforts. Perhaps we can consider this a re-claiming of place. By investigating the historical relevance of these enviroments, we will begin to understand significance of the landscape to the ancients and this place will emerge in importance in our own stories.

Anyway...have a read of the project proposal.

"This winter, I've been working to recruit a talented photographer to my project in Cyprus. As part of that processes, it seemed like a good idea to attempt to articulate exactly why a photographer with an interest in sacred landscapes and place would be a good fit for our project. After all, we would not be asking him to take photographs of pottery or trenches or any of the other things that traditionally play a role in archaeological

Photography and Landscape on a Mediterranean Archaeological Project

The Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project (PKAP) has investigated the 2 sq. km coastal zone of Pyla Village in Cyprus since 2003. The project is a transdisciplinary, landscape-oriented investigation that has drawn upon an international team of archaeologists, historians, geologists, illustrators, and other specialists to produce a vivid, diachronic, archaeological history of a significant coastal site. In conjunction with this work, we have maintained a strong interest in engaging the wider public through the innovative use of the new media (interactive websites, blogs, podcasts, et c.) and through an "artist-in-residence" program. In 2005 and 2007 Josiah Patrow, an award winning filmmaker, served as artist-in-residence and produced two well-received documentaries. In 2009, we have invited Ryan Stander, a photographer and M.F.A. student at the University of North Dakota, to join the PKAP team. As artist-in-residence, he will have complete artistic freedom to engage the landscape of Cyprus, archaeological fieldwork, and the personalities and individuals of the PKAP team. Ryan's interest in sacred landscapes, the creation of place, and the interplay of human and natural environments coincides well with the project's archaeological interest in landscape approaches to understanding the human past. By subjecting both project and place to the photographer's gaze, we hope to introduce an exciting new context both to our work as archaeologists as well as the landscape in which we work.

Landscape archaeology, in the broadest sense, is the study of the relationship between the natural and man-made environment over time. Generally speaking, a landscape approach to archaeology looks beyond the relatively narrow confines of a single site in order to apprehend the myriad environmental, cultural, and political relationships that shaped a particular group or community's relationship access to resources. Most landscape archaeological projects, therefore, have emphasized methods that go beyond excavation to include methods for documenting more spatial extensive areas.

The most recent wave of landscape archaeologists have come increasingly to recognize the role of the archaeologist in the construction of archaeological landscapes. This work has placed the researcher within the landscape and emphasized the archaeological method itself as an artifact of the intersecting influences that recursively define and produce a distinctly modern sense place. In this context archaeological fieldwork emerges as one of any number of processes that create meaningful landscapes, rather than a method for creating a singular, unified landscape that contains an exclusive command of relationship between the past and place. This repositioning of archaeology has opened the door to productive dialogues with other fields that are similarly concerned with the issues of material culture, landscape, and place. This dialogue has encouraged the discipline to think critically about the methods that they use to create landscapes and realize that documenting archaeologists' engagement with the landscape forms a crucial part of contextualizing (and legitimizing) archaeological knowledge.

Since its inception, photography has played a key role in archaeological research. Tendencies to view the camera's eye uncritically as an objective representation of material reality have gradually given way to more sophisticated understandings of the camera's role in producing the kind of illusive objectivity that formed a compelling foundation for archaeological knowledge. While photographs of artifacts, architecture, and even topography will continue to appear as evidence for archaeological arguments, there has been less attention to work of photographers in creating the same kind of dynamic, discursive landscapes that archaeological knowledge imagines. By incorporating an experienced landscape photographer into a landscape archaeological project, we seek to problematize in an explicit way the role of photography in the creation of archaeological knowledge.

To do this, we have charged a landscape photographer with producing a vivid and independent counterpoint to the landscapes produced through more traditional archaeological techniques and analysis. By maintaining our fieldwork at the center of the photographer's gaze, we seek not only to produce an alternate image of the physical environment, but also to create a perspective on the archaeological landscape in the process of being created. The tension between the photographer's perspective, the natural and man-made environment, and the ongoing fieldwork will serve to contextualize archaeological knowledge as well as the subjective power of the photographer's gaze.

Photography in Context:
The Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project takes place against four different backdrops. Each environment reveals a different engagement archaeological knowledge and the social dynamics that make such knowledge possible. While Stander will be free to interpret the project however he sees fit, we thought it might prove the viability of the project by establishing a mis-en-scene for the day-to-day activities.

1) The Project in the Field. Most afternoons and many mornings teams from the project will be active at three sites in the field. During the 2009 fieldseason we will conduct small scale excavations on the prominent coastal heights of Pyla-Kokkinokremos and Pyla-Vigla as well as on the coastal plain at Pyla-Koutsopetria. These three areas are intervisible and stretch over 1.5 km along the coast. The field teams consist typically of groups of 4-6 student excavators and a trench supervisor. The directors of the project, William Caraher, David Pettegrew, and Scott Moore, and generally on hand as well.

2) The Project at the Museum. Most mornings are occupied with work at the Larnaka District Archaeological Museum. The work here consists of washing pottery excavated the previous day and processing finds from the previous seasons of fieldwork. Generally work at the museum comes under the supervision of the registrar of finds and our ceramicist, Scott Moore. The team at the museum is typically rather smaller than the team in the field usually consisting of 5 or 6 students and various specialists who are assisting with the analysis of finds.

3) The Project at Base Camp. The evenings are spent at "base camp" which is a series of rooms at the Petrou Brothers' Holiday Apartments in downtown Larnaka. The work at base camp consists of preparing the evening meal, data entry, planning meetings, and informal conversations regarding the functioning of the project. Since the quarters are quite close, work at the base camp appears chaotic.

4) The Project in the City. Unlike many archaeological projects we live and work in the bustling small city of Larnaka. Like so many Mediterranean cities, the history of the city is deeply inscribed in urban fabric. Byzantine churches, Frankish monasteries, mosques, and modern concrete buildings crowd and jostle each other attention in the densely built up urban center.

The goal of this project is to produce a public exhibition of the photographs in the fall of 2009 and present a selection of these work online as an online gallery with commentary and discussion. The expectation is that the images that Stander provides will complement and challenge the image of the landscape produced through archaeological fieldwork and problematize the notion of a stable photographic and archaeological reality. Along with the work of Joe Patrow during the 2005 and 2007 fieldseasons, Stander's work will continue the project's commitment to a reflexive position toward archaeological research and form a vital component to the project's final archive."

Friday, January 2, 2009

Catholicity and the New Topographics IV

(Robert Adams)

Continuing on with my previous discussions of the New Topographics connection to the F64 group of Ansel Adams and others...

It is not as though the New Topographics rejected the F/64’s objectivity or realism, rather brought it through its logical progression under the weights of mass media, consumption and conceptual art. By utilizing similar methods, the New Topographics turn the intention of the F/64’s utopian vision into ironic statements about anthropology and their interaction with the environment. Thus in comparison to the work of Adams, their work follows postmodern turn of deconstruction and demythologizing.

A facile illustration elucidates this difference by comparing a few iconic works between Ansel Adams and the New Topographer Robert Adams (both sets of images I have chosen to compare are unfortunately hard to find). At a casual glance the compositional and subject similarities emerge between the formers From Glacier Point, Yosemite Valley in 1927 and the latter Adams work called Near Willard, Utah from 1978. But their similarities fade quickly upon the realization of the once alive, now “replanted” pole with its brass identification tag in the upper left hand corner ironizes the human fingerprint upon and within what appears at first a pristine landscape. A similar comparison may be made between Ansel’s Sierra Junipers, Upper Merced Basin, Yosemite Valley from the same era and that of Robert’s Garden of the Gods, El Paso County, Colorado. Once again there is a similarity in composition and subject but with the latter Adams inclusion of a chain link fence hidden at the shadowy foot of the mountain. Ansel’s image is open and inviting, whereas Robert Adams’ halts and contains the viewers entrance by the fence.