This article interrogates the audiovisual politics of Wang Bing's documentary practice by focusing on his film West of the Tracks (2003). The existing literature has unanimously celebrated West of the Tracks as the most significant example of the New Chinese Documentary Movement but it has failed to examine in depth its singular cinematic language. This article does so by understanding that the film develops a process of audiovisual oxidation that gives rise to questions concerning the capacities of the documentary image. Wang is concerned in West of the Tracks with documenting decay, but also with the capacities of the moving image to oxidise itself in order to disclose a second life or possibility for the relation between social realities and documentary images. The author argues that the singularity of Wang's inventive practice lies in a politics of rust, a politics generating fields of possibility that call into question hasty equations between what we observe and what we know.
In the decade since Okwui Enwezor asserted the relevance of art biennials staged at sites of social and political trauma, it has grown abundantly clear that art is increasingly imagined to do something in these extreme and unlikely contexts. However, what art is being imagined to do in such circumstances remains under-explored. This article considers the alchemies of art and biennial practices by revisiting the exhibition developed in New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It situates that biennial, ‘Prospect New Orleans’, within the outpouring of imagery that emanated from the storm, images that both reveal and maintain the institutionalised racism and policies of economic neglect that ensured the storm was so very devastating. The article considers the roles the biennial project and its artworks played within visual systems that produce large swathes of the population as disposable in the face of every storm.
Between 24 September and 26 October 2013, Bea de Sousa – curator of the Agency gallery, London (renowned, since the 1990s, for supporting and promoting a speculative art of difference) – staged an exhibition at the Korean Cultural Centre, London, which manifested as a research exercise into the work of the late Korean artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951?1982). The show, subtitled ‘A Portrait in Fragments’ was a response to the Korean Cultural Centre's ‘Curatorial Open Call’ and based on limited access to the artist's archive at the University of Berkeley California. The curator used the opportunity to expand knowledge and awareness of the artist, introducing Cha to new audiences. She also commissioned contemporary artists Ruth Barker, Bada Song, Jefford Horrigan and Su Jin Lee to devise, produce, display and perform new works in response to Cha's oeuvre. A co-incidental screening of works by Cha at London's ICA, hosted by Juliette Desorgues, was contextualised with a public discussion between Bea de Sousa, the author, and the audience. At the same time the author began to teach a new, BAFA seminar, ‘Technologies of Romance’, at Central St Martins College, London. This article is a response to these combined experiences.
Friendship as method, as developed by Lisa Tillman and others, can be understood as both the approach used within community-based art and a methodology adequate to convey these practices. This article examines one particular example of community-based art, Spiral Garden in Toronto, Ontario, to develop and elaborate friendship as a relation of distance in proximity. Building upon Levinas’ notion of unconditional hospitality, the author argues that art practices can preserve a necessary space between friends in order to resist subsuming the friend into the self. If friendship as methodology is a type of narrative ethnography, as Tillman-Healy asserts, what style of writing might adequately evoke research objects to which we are deeply attached?
This interview with Cameroonian filmmaker Jean-Marie Teno explores the interchange between historical-cultural conditions and cinematic practice. Central to this discussion is the lingering effect of the colonial past and its ongoing impact on the postcolonial African situation. Teno's work examines how the trauma of colonialism is exacerbated not only by modernity and Western cultural global flows, but also by the complicity of Africanist icons and traditional practices. The deeply humanistic stance that animates Teno's film practice also bears witness to counter-historical readings of the continent's malaise and misfortunes. Of particular interest are constituents of Teno's approach and style, his critical take on Nollywood, globalisation's disfigurement of African identities, and his views on technology's potential for Africa's future.
The creative rediscovery of exploration through sound opens up new spaces for reflection on the processes of deep transformation occurring in territories and landscapes today. Western culture has produced abandoned ruins and deterritorialised places and it is necessary to come to terms with these places ‘out of place’, listening to them with the sense of anticipation that migrants have. The projects of sound artists such as Peter Cusack, Enrico Ascoli, Fabio Lattuca and Pietro Bonanno aim at the exploration of abandoned places through sound. They open up rare aesthetic spaces, creating a different sense of place that has more to do with experience: sonic explorations of place as a social and political construction. All of these works demonstrate how much field recordings take us deep into the layers of image and language in order to ‘transmit[s] a powerful sense of spatiality, atmosphere and timing’ as Peter Cusack puts it.
This article focuses on María Ruido's video work Real Time (2003), a work that points to the perceived centrality of subjectivity for post- Fordism. Analysis of Real Time is twofold: the body ‘marked’ by capitalism and, concomitantly, the ascendency of the documentary form in contemporary art. The author situates Real Time within the renewed interest in social reproduction and migrant labour in light of the debates around the ‘feminisation’ of global capitalism.The article charts the importance that the video camera (and its critique) had for the women's movement and feminist artists of the 1970s. It seeks to unpack how and why – and indeed if – such a scarred and marginalised form as the documentary can become critically viable for discussions around what is knowingly termed ‘women's work’. The article uses Real Time to work anachronistically in its exploration of the ‘marked’ working body in contemporary capitalism and the representational methods we might use to ‘see’ and ‘know’ experiences of labour.
A sweeping psychological narrative of a young woman's descent into delusion, extreme sexual behaviour and self-destruction, the film Leap Year (Michael Rowe, 2010) chronicles twenty-nine days in the life of Laura, a journalist who moved from her rural background in the Mexican province of Oaxaca to Mexico City. As the film is so steeped in the subtleties of local racism, the article reads the film in relation to the discussion of gender and racial politics in contemporary Mexico, especially in the light of multiculturalist state reforms. The article also addresses the discussion of female-racialised aesthetics by tracing back the politics of representation of the female indigenous body in Mexican art, and the way this body has acted as an allegory of the motherland in line with the nineteenth- and twentieth-century nationalist ideology. The author argues that in Leap Year the female indigenous body is still a field of political and semantic tension, yet, due to the film's script and aesthetics, its protagonist's body does not act merely as a figure that embodies a corpus of ideology: its polysemic activation is evident due to its performativeness.
The journal is published in print and online by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.