A few of the many terrific projects made in this class:
March 31, 2011 in porter 23B
Right. Porter. You’ve all been there, now make a map of what you’d like to show people: where will your walking tour take people to.
This map is a view from Open Street Maps ( http://www.openstreetmap.org/ ). They have terrific, open source / user generated maps of the whole world. If you’re more comfortable, use google maps to generate a view of porter that shows all the important spots for your future tour, and draw them in on the computer or by hand. Spend time walking and thinking, not geeking out with mapping software. Have fun!
Bring some form of your map to class next week. If it is digital, email it to me ahead of time. If it is a print out, bring the hard copy. We’ll be determining groups based on these maps; if it is obvious to everyone that you didn’t do the assignment, no one will want you in their group. That will be awkward and sad.
March 31, 2011 in porter 23B
Porter College 23B: Personal and Collective Narratives as Walking Tour
Video walking-tours utilize the mobile capacities of hand-held media players to offer viewers site-specific narratives that help navigate, and better understand, the space of the tour. This course, and the walking tour that it will produce, focus on personal, architectural, social, and ecological histories of Porter College. Students survey those histories and the use of video walking tours in contemporary art practices as background for writing and filming a collectively executed walking tour through Porter College and its immediate environs.
The class will select a route along which the walking tour will travel. Students will self-select working groups based on the routes that students wishes to research and write about. These working groups are responsible for: a) determining a route for that tour to take b) recording video footage that maps the route and c) recording audio narratives that cover the the route, based on the writings and research of working group members. By the end of the course those recordings will have become the audio narration of a completed video walking tours authored collectively by the course.
The syllabus that follows attempts to lay out a likely progression of research and group activity. It should not be taken to preclude or discourage experimentation nor the inclusion of happy accidents. Rather, it has been designed as an easy path to completion of a successful group project; the path of least resistance, I believe.
TEXTS: Access to course readings available in person.
ATTENDANCE: More than one absence will result in substantial grade depreciation. Excused absences require proper documentation.
EVALUATIONS: Select and draw a proposed route through Porter and its immediate environs in UC Santa Cruz’s West Campus (10%), 2 page paper about one course reading of student’s choice Due no later than May 26 via email (25%), Carefully edited written version of the narrative to be recorded (25%), Completion of tasks contributing to the finished walking tour (30%), Attendance (10%). UCSC standards of academic integrity will be expected and strictly enforced.
Day 1 (3/31/2011): Introduction to the idea of walking as art practice. View documentation of recent projects by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller and, here at UCSC, by Karl Baumann. View maps of Porter College and suggest possible routes.
Read: Rebecca Solnit “The Shape of a Walk” from Wanderlust: A History of Walking (pps. 267-276). Photocopied and handed out at first meeting.
Assignment: Using supplied map of Porter College and its immediate environs, determine the route that you think your walking tour might take. This route should avoid travel through any locked or private spaces (dorm hallways, secured areas). Bring digital copy of your proposed route to second class meeting.
Day 2 (4/7/2011):Selecting the routes/ selecting the working groups. After comparing proposed routes in the classroom setting, and identifying key features, we will break up into working groups based on similarities among proposed routes. In groups students will introduce themselves in terms of their academic and extracurricular interests: a) what’s your major? b) can you think of ways that this course is related to your primary academic studies? c) what do you enjoy outside of school? d) how might you imagine incorporating those interests in a walking tour of west campus? Time allowing, working groups will be sent out to walk through Porter to select the final route. Wear appropriate clothes and shoes: be prepared for weather and for walking outside on uneven terrain.
Read: Selections from The Unnatural History of UCSC (Jeff Arnett, ed.). Eres and handouts in class.
Day 3 (4/14/2011): Laying the groundwork: writing a place. Discuss readings. View documentation of more project precedents. Group reading of Julio Cortazar’s defamiliarization technique, “How to Climb a Staircase,” and discuss how it might be applicable to thinking about and writing about our routes and the places along them. Then working groups travel to their general areas; each student picks a point on the route to write from. It is okay if more than one student chooses the same general area, but this is a time set aside for you to think by yourself. Students are to perform 15 minute free-writes individually and then re-group with working group to share writings and discuss. Try to address each student’s writing on multiple registers: does it tell a story? Evoke poetic images? Relate historical information or scientific knowledge? Reconvene for whole class discussion: problems? concerns? Dress appropriately.
No readings this week.
Assignment: Write rough draft of narrative. Typed, double-spaced. Practice reading it aloud. Suggested length: 150-300 words.
Day 4 (4/21/2011): Combining separate narratives. Brief discussion of the writing process and it’s difficulties. Break into working groups. Each student reads his/her narration aloud to group, pausing, when applicable, to note where geographic associations with particular passages of the narration. Note these associations on supplied map printout. After all students have read their rough drafts, attempt to organize the separate narratives into one text with multiple voices. Take note of redundancies and of the sites along your route that the combined narration lingers. Each group walks entire route as students take turns reading their rough drafts aloud to the group. Students are to take notes regarding what should be in the video shot, problems and opportunities of different locations, and how the separate narratives might best be combined or interwoven. Re-convene in classroom for discussion and decision making. Dress appropriately.
Read: Selections from The House of Books has no Windows by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. E-res.
Assignment: Revised narrative. Include shot-list (short description of what the camera will capture at different moments in narrative). See hand-out. Also, identify one or more cameras per group to shoot video with. Extra Credit: volunteer to bring a video camera (or point and shoot with video capability) for next week’s class and build a DiY steady-cam. See HYPERLINK “http://littlegreatideas.com/stabilizer/diy/”http://littlegreatideas.com/stabilizer/diy/ for examples and instructions.
Day 5 (4/28/2011): Shooting the Video.Students who have volunteered to bring cameras: DON’T FORGET THEM AT HOME! Working groups compile shot-lists for from their notes and revised narratives. With the assistance of UCSC alum Miki Yamada-Foster, we will traverse the routes while shooting video and reading the revised narratives aloud: don’t worry about the sound quality or about screw-ups, we just need to use the narratives as a “script” to ensure that the video and audio will be close to the same length. Time allowing, proceed to College 8 Computer Lab to export footage and begin editing. Dress appropriately.
Read: “Beyond Locative Media” by Marc Tuters and Kazys Varnelis. HYPERLINK “http://www.networkedpublics.org/locative_media/beyond_locative_media”http://www.networkedpublics.org/locative_media/beyond_locative_media and “5th Avenue Peninsula Tour” by the Center for Land Use Interpretation (24 page booklet available on E-res or for $5 from Center for Land Use Interpretation).
Day 6 (5/5/2011): Editing Video: Meet in College 8 Computer Lab. Either on College 8 Apples or on personal machines, use iMovie to edit footage and export as Quick Time H.264. Footage should be edited with an eye to intelligibility and assuring that the final length closely matches the needs of the “script” / finished narratives. Any extra time can be dedicated to recording audio. Weather permitting, consider recording the audio on-site. Collect ambient noises. Allow for happy accidents and creative mishaps.
No reading this week. Instead, listen to “Pulling Back the Curtain,” NPR’s On The Media. http://www.onthemedia.org/transcripts/2007/05/25/06
Assignment: with working group, finish recording rough cut of audio.
Day 7 (5/12/2011): Audio Editing: Meet in College 8 Computer Lab. Bring completed rough takes of audio. Edit audio using GarageBand or Audacity. UCSC alum Nick Fontain and I will provide introductory instruction and assistance for digital audio editing.
Day 8 (5/19/2011): Continued Editing: Meet in College 8 Computer Lab. Rough draft of completed audio and video due by end of day. After exporting completed walking tour, load it onto iPods and go try it out. Problems? Need revisions?
Assignment: Short essay response to one or more class readings. Refer to hand-out for prompts and details. Due no later than 5/26 via email.
Day 9 (5/26/2011): Revisions. This class meeting is in anticipation of some groups not having finished on time. If your group is finished with its walking tour, try showing it to friends and consider any last minute revisions. Export final versions and seek podcast license for it. Post to course web-site.
Day 10 (6/2/2011): Sharing: Bring iPods/ other mobile video players with final version of walking tour on them. Share your group’s final walking tour with other groups. Go on two or more such tours, and re-group for critique, discussion a pot-luck/ picnic.
Assignment: final versions of any and all audio must be submitted to Kyle by 6/3/2011 at 12 pm for inclusion in the finished walking tour.
Thanks for a delightful and rewarding class!
I presented my recent experiments with digital printmaking as a fundraiser for the newly opened SubRosa Infoshop and Freespace in January and February. Following is my artist’s statement and documentation of the prints in situ, plus selections of the images themselves.
The following text is a digital print. Having been rendered first in my head, it came out through my hands, spilling onto a keyboard in analog time; there it went into a computer, where it acquired the distinctly digital character that you, know doubt, sensed from it before you could so much as smell or touch the paper. Today you hold it in your hands as an analog object, in our quotidian analog world. Tomorrow it may resurface on a blog or in a digital photograph.
This particular digital print is part of a series of digital prints that I have made to display at Sub Rosa Info Shop in Santa Cruz, California. The other digital prints are, notably, “artworks,” which is to say, they are printed on fancy paper, and hang on walls. Those prints surfaced, initially, in our analog world too; they too were digitized (altering their character, structuring their meanings), and now reappear, changed, back on the walls of our quotidian analog world.
The prints on the wall are not different from the prints in your hands. One does not explain while the other preforms, and neither is imagined to speak with authority nor originality. These prints (all of them, this one too) are imagined to function as questions, not as answers.
The text that you hold in your hands is not knowledge: you are the knowledge and you know what to do with it. Rather, what you are holding is information. Information may be presented as the ones and zeros of circuitry. Or it may take an analog form such as the prints on the walls. Here is information that I hope to present as stories. Or maybe it is one story. It’s hard to tell.
The Story of the Indesirables
During April and May of 1968, in and around Paris, France, students and workers began to mobilize with a clear goal: to “demand the impossible.” What came of this mobilization (the riots, the barricades, moments of autonomy, moments of betrayal) and their aftermath, is widely enough known, and has been told as too many too romantic tales all too often; for each of those innumerable stories there are two or more, supposedly independent, political theories of what happened and why. I will refrain from recapitulating here.
Less often told (at least, somewhat less often) is the story of one particular thread of thought that ran through the event of spring of 1968. That thread is related to questions of appropriation and recuperation of visual cultures that emerge out of specific, and charged, political encounter. Though this thread might be said to find its origins in the writings and practices of Guy Debord and the Situationist International, and has certainly spun itself into a veritable rope of critical (and sometimes highly uncritical) thought within anarcho-punk and DiY communities, there is at least one moment of those struggles, of Paris ’68, that is of particular usefulness to us as a story.
In the days of the Paris riots, the government of France did what governments always do in times of crisis: they sought out a scapegoat. The government thought that they had found the perfect scapegoat in the person of one Daniel Cohn-Bendit, and immediately set to work putting the blame for the mounting unrest squarely on his lonely shoulders. Cohn-Bendit was, in fact, active in organizing students at local universities, and was known as an eloquent and impassioned speaker. He was so impassioned that the French Communist Party (which shared a great deal of power in the government) rather feared him: the secretary of the Party referred to Cohn-Bendit as “a German Jew” in an attempt to discredit him. From the state’s perspective, he was an attractive scapegoat largely because he was an easy target. With the help of the press, the government labeled Cohn-Bendit “an undesirable.” On May 22nd, Cohn-Bendit was expelled from France.
The next day, the atelier populaire numéro un (“popular workshop number one”) of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts had printed a poster supporting Cohn-Bendit (two seperate ones, actually, due to disputes about what the text should say). These posters were glued to walls all around Paris’s latin quarter, and made a particularly important presence during that day’s demonstrations.
It is worth noting that both the image and the language of the Cohn-Bendit poster were appropriated from the press. The image is drawn from a photograph of Cohn-Bendit taken by reporter Gilles Caron (if you look carefully you can see that the image is being taken from behind the shoulder of a riot-cop). And the text, now quite famous, was a reversal of the government’s own accusation against Cohn-Bendit: “Nous Sommes Tous Indesirables” (“We are all Undesirables”).
This strategy, of appropriating the symbols and idioms of the dominant culture to achieve radical ends, is what the Situationists called “détournement.” The atelier populaires printed dozens of other posters during the events of May and early June. For better or for worse, certain of these images have come to function as the stand-ins the social unrest itself. Despite the intentions of the printers that these images be made solely for the purposes of political demonstrations, these images escaped the context of May ’68, and were reconstituted as “artworks.” Posters that had not been glued to walls immediately became valuable as decorations, and then, as Art.
This is the story, then, of one piece of paper, appropriated from an art academe, made into a signifier of a particular social relationship (rejecting the state’s attempt to scapegoat Cohn-Bendit) and then re-commodified as Art. In 1969 a book appeared that collected a lot of the posters with writings from the screenmakers of the atelier populaire (now reconstituted as “artists”). Nearly all subsequent books on the subject cite that text as authoritative.
This strategy, of the dominant culture appropriating the symbols and idioms of radicals, is what the Situationists called “recuperation.”
In 1997, when I was 17, I guess, I stumbled across a website with little digital reproductions of the posters from the atelier populaire. The image quality on the internet in the late 1990s left a lot to be desired, and certainly nothing of the history of the image—nor its particular role in a social struggle—came through to me. Needless to say, I thought they were really fucking cool.
Really “punk rock,” quite frankly.
I made little digital prints of all of them, and glued those to little art projects and ‘zines and such that I made at that time. And one of them, the one that said, “Nous sommes tous indesirables” I re-copied onto a transparency and made into a cyanotype print. This little print on canvas I sewed to the arm of the jacket that I wore at that time. I continued to wear that jacket for many years: when you look at the print of it on the wall here, those years of wear and tear are all the more visible for it’s gigantic reproduction.
The Story of the Intricate Ritual
In that same year of 1968, in the United States, there were also a lot of things going on. Remembered in the televised historical consciousness common to most Americans, 1968 was the year of the Tet offensive, Soviet tanks rolling into Prague, and the black power salute from the Olympic podium in Mexico City. It was also the year that both Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated.
In late August of that year the Democratic National Party held their presidential nominating convention in Chicago. Given the general context of popular opposition to the war in Viet Nam (which was increasingly identified with President Johnson’s Democratic Party), the rise of the new left and hippie movements in the US, and the global uprisings of 1968, it was something of a given that shit was going to happen at that convention.
Still, Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies did an excellent job of convincing the world that shit was going to happen, largely through careful manipulation of press coverage. Hoffman claimed, for example, that hundreds of thousands of protestors plan on attending the “Festival of Life” concert/ demonstrations during the convention. The Yippies produced a slew of media stunts for the event, the most famous of which being the nomination of Pigusus (a domestic pig) for president.
The response of Chicago’s Mayor Daly was adamant that the convention would not be disrupted by a bunch of pot-smoking radicals. So he brought in 23,000 riot cops and national guards. Only about 10,000 people actually showed up to the Yippie event, which meant that the cops massively out numbered them. Once the events got going the cops became extremely violent. Tear gas and mace were used so indiscriminately that candidate Hubert Humphrey had difficulty breathing inside his hotel room. Finally, during the actual nominating speeches, the protestors managed to advance to near the convention center. There, under the glaring lights of TV crews, the Chicago cops beat dozens, if not hundreds of people senseless. Protestors chanted, “the whole world is watching.” And it was true.
Four months later, in December 1968, the cover of Life Magazine featured a photograph from that night to accompany a story about the release of the Walker Report. The Congress’s “Walker Commission” found that he Chicago police had indeed used excessive force. The report characterizes the events as “the police rioted.”
Recently, some ten million images from the Life Magazine archive were digitized and are now hosted by Google Images. Interestingly, the cover from December 6th, 1968 is not to be found, anywhere.
The other image that appears in this print is a postcard of a Barbara Kruger piece. The formal connections are obvious enough. Though the red, black and white color scheme that has come to be synonymous with Kruger is generally read as her appropriation of the aesthetics of Russian Constructivists, Agit Prop artists and Bauhaus designers, it might as easily be read as a reference to the decades of Life Magazine covers that pervade American visual culture.
Kruger speaks frequently about appropriation and recuperation in the context of her artworks, and is known for having made détournement accessible to the masses (pro-feminist high-art “masses” at least). The text on the Kruger postcard reads, “you create intricate rituals that allow you to touch the skin of other men.”
Without putting to fine a point on it, is that not exactly what the cops did in Chicago in ’68? Faced with a ecstatic and utopian protest movement that aimed to not merely disrupt a honored tradition of American political life, but, ultimately, to spark a cultural revolution that would undermine American society generally, the police created an intricate ritual.
Faced with a hippies that attempted to undermine traditional gender norms and create a culture of “free love,” the police created an intricate ritual that allowed them to touch the skin of other men. Faced with a political riot, the police created an intricate ritual that allowed them to participate in the riot in the only way they knew how. With their nightsticks.
The Story of “No State, Oh-Eight”
In the case of a piece entitled “No State, Oh-Eight,” a number of these themes coalesce into one image. In the digital print we see a high-resolution reproduction of a spray-painted stencil on a concrete wall. The image in the stencil appears to depict Barack Obama wearing a bandana over the lower half of his face. The image is accompanied by the text, “No Nation! No State! Oh-Bama! Oh-Eight!”
Interpretations of this image may be numerous, and I would certainly refrain from speaking with any authority as to the, uh, “intentions” of the artist. I will confine my remarks to the exploring the context of how this image functions, and avoid questions of what it means.
It must first be pointed out that the stencil partakes in an absurdist humor by juxtaposing (and presenting as unified) a demand to destroy the state with an endorsement of a political candidate. This juxtaposition is absurd not simply in the sense of “irrational” (endorsing a candidate, is, afterall, an endorsement of the State as a concept) but also in the sense of “ludicrous” (in that it plays with the pun on “state” and “eight”).
Finally, it engages in the absurd tactic of being a stencil (a form of graffitti, which is illegal) that preports to advocate for a political candidate that was heavily invested in maintaining his “legitamacy” by downplaying direct connections to groups that engage in “illegal” activities.
Barak Obama’s successful presidential campaign was an anomaly in a great number of ways besides the ethnicity of the candidate. Foremost amongst these was the campaign’s ability to mobilize unprecedented numbers of grassroots organizations and individual “activists” from the left-margins of the political spectrum. The Obama camp, and, following the end of a lengthy primary contest, the Democratic Party, proved uniquely skillful in generating excitement and popular support for their candidate, despite his continued reluctance to commit to specific policies.
This skill can be described, at base, as manipulation of the image of Barack Obama. Of course, controlling, containing, and reshaping the image of candidates has been an explicit interest of political campaigns for as long as modern politics has existed. The difference in this campaign, and the key to its success, was their dexterity at appropriating the symbols and idioms of the radical left to micro-manage the meaning of “Obama” within subcultural milieus.
The tendency of the Obama campaign to appropriate symbolism from the left must be placed in a larger context of viral marketing and the strategies by advertising agencies to seek out the image of particular subcultures as a way to more effectively sell products within the dominant culture. These strategies are operative in the ways that everything from sneakers and soda-pop to bicycles and consumer electronics are sold. Social networking sites such as My Space? and Face Book? compound these tendencies by providing marketing campaigns information that links the commodity preferences of individuals to their cultural/political identities.
The Obama campaign utilized precisely these advertising techniques in determining how the candidate would be pitched to different “communities” (that is to say, different subcultures identified by commodity preferences). Thus, when I would sign on to My Space? I would see a digital image that mimicked the look of a stencil, whereas my cousin (a centrist democrat), would see the kind of traditional campaign photograph that might adorn the cover of the Times.
The faux-stencil image of Obama appeared in a variety of contexts (on t-shirts, bumper-stickers, on spoke-cards on bicycles, and as posters), but, notably, it never seemed to appear as an acutal stencil. This is the visual context in which the stencil of Obama with a bandana on appeared.
The Obama campaign also made extensive use of the slogan “yes, we can!” This slogan was appropriated, of course, from the struggles of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers against dangerous and inequitable working conditions for migrants, where this slogan more commonly appears in Spanish, as “Sí se puede.”
Though a large number of unions endorsed Obama (despite the dearth of worker-friendly policy commitments), the appropriation of this slogan appears especially egregious given the failure of the Obama camp to respond coherently to a racist system that has set the stage for generations of exploitation and abuse of undocumented (often Latino) laborers. Note, for example, the recent appointment of Arizona Gov. Napolitano (who oversaw the largest increase in “border patrol” spending in the history of the country) to head the department of homeland security.
There are, in this country, radical communities that oppose not only the image of the United States (as supposedly emboddied in the president), but also the concrete, material conditions that the United States perpetuates (both within and without its borders). Indeed, there are communities that would claim that the state, as a political category, is incompatible with the needs and desires of humans and ecosystems.
What was particularly startling to those communities was not that the Obama campaign attempted to appropriate the the symbols of the left for a centrist campaign, but the success that they had in using those symbols to appeal to individuals and organizations that have historically opposed the neo-liberal agenda of the Democratic Party. Anarchists—those marginal circles of dissidents—rapidly witnessed their friends and allies joining into the frenzy of interest in electing Obama.
It is those anarchists who have made the image of the bandana covered face (either as a protection against surveillance or as a symbol of identification with other anarchists) synonymous with radical agitation in the years since the 1999 Seattle WTO protests; it is those anarchists that are being clearly referenced by the image of a bandana covering Obama’s face in the stencil.
We might thereby read this stencil as a comment on the recuperation of not only the image of the radical left by the politically centrist Obama camp, but also a critique of the degree to which the radical left, in this instance, itself participated in its own recuperation for centrist goals.
Thus, rather than necessarily entering into a debate as to whom should be president, the “No State/ Oh-Eight” stencil might be viewed as an investigation into the ongoing cycle of appropriation and reappropriation between the political margins and the political “center.”
The margins have become quite accustomed to seeing their symbols and idioms employed by mainstream political parties; what is new is the sense the sense that mainstream parties can, in fact, win over the hearts and minds of the margins simply by appropriating their imagery.
It remains to be seen, of course, what the duration of the left’s love affair with Barack Obama will be, and what, if anything, will come of promised changes that, on the face of it, appear no more than skin deep.
Anonymous?. (1968). Atelier Populaire présenté par lui-même, 87 affiches de Mai-Juin 1968. Paris: Usines, Universités, Union. This collection was also offered in English as “Posters from the revolution, Paris, May, 1968; texts and posters” in 1969 by several publishers.