Filed under: Media Studies
In doing a masters in media studies I would like to refine my research abilities as well as develop my ideas as they relate to my artistic and professional practices. By the end of the program I hope that I will have been able to learn to think in ways and develop more effective practices that will aid me as a design educator at Parsons and perhaps other academic forums. I also would like my studies here to help influence my artistic development in various projects I have already started and perhaps help me to connect them to wider audiences.
In pursuit of these goals I hope to take a variety of media theory oriented courses which speak to these concerns. I am excited to take the Media studies teaching lab in the spring with Peter. I think a thesis track will be best suited for what I would like to pursue as design and media educator. Since I have an art school background, it seems that I would be able to benefit more from this track then the other, although I am looking forward to updating my skillset and being exposed to current practices in time based media.
As for classes I would like to take, Mashup Culture with Josephine Dorado, Projects in Experimental Media with Vinay Chowdhry, Projects in Motion Design with Diane Mitchell, Web Technologies for Media Projects with Woody Sullender, seem like very relevant and interesting production classes while I’d perhaps like to develop a sense of what is going on in the contemporary world as far as where advertising, media and design come together so Media Industry Perspectives: Digital Media with Kenneth Krushel, Information Technologies with Steven Hammersly and Media, Corporate Responsibility, & the Law with Lynn Oberlander. Seminar classes that I believe would help me Art after Deleuze: From Architecture to New Media with Sam Ishii-Gonzales, Art as Social Practice with Chris Mann, Digital Media Theory with Aras Ozgun, Electronic Media & Live Performance with Brian McCormick, Interactive Media Studies with Douglas Rushkoff, Media and Critical Theory and Media and American Modernity with Jaeho Kang, Media, Culture and Power in International Communication with Lauhona Ganguly, Social Media: Content, Communication and Culture with Robert Berkman, Urban Media Lab: Strangers with Jessica Blaustein.
My choice of classes is influenced by teachers that are both artists and theorists as well as educators with class content being that of how we communicate through art and personal connections in our personal spheres and in our increasingly global world. I am particularly interested in working more with Jaeho Kang, and developing more understanding of how Frankfurt school principals can work in our contemporary media age. I also am very interested in working with Douglas Rushkoff, Sam Ishii-Gonzales.
I plan on taking one to two courses a semester. I am usually teaching 3 courses at Parsons and run my own production company. I may consider adding more courses if my load drops to two or less (as it may, since things vary semester to semester.) Generally though I don’t think I’ll be able to do justice to my academic work and my students taking more then one class per semster, also with the way the faculty tuition credits work the taking one class per semester will minimize the taxable amount and take less out of my paycheck per pay period. Which, the economy being what it is these days and the amount of effort it takes to find and maintain working relationships.
I plan to try and get involved with grad student activities as much as possible like Rough Cuts and the Critical Themes conference. Last fall I went to several of the critical themes meetings and helped read and vote on abstracts for the final conference presenters. It was a good experience and probably the best way I’ve met people so far other then reaching out to people after class and trying to start conversations about class topics. I wasn’t able to participate in the CT planning this semester as I had a course conflict. As for other grad courses through the university there are a few which seem interesting in the Parsons MFA program, especially the summer boot camp program, but I know that the MFA program is structured a lot differently and not sure if it would be feasible to try to crossover with any of the courses. Besides these there are a few in NSSR’s sociology program and poli-sci programs which have been previously cross referenced with media studies (such as the Media Events class with Daniel Dayan) but I am not sure if these courses will be offered again in their previous forms. As for ways to navigate the course which are not currently available, I think maybe if we had more social mixers with more students which are further along in the program it could help newer students get a better feel for what is going to be expected and what courses are offered. This would be helpful, that and the presence of a grad student lounge, but I doubt that will happen any time soon with space at such a precious premium within The New School. I am really excited to be part of this program and look forward to seeing how this path unfolds as I take this journey.
Filed under: Media Studies
China in the time period of 1900-1949 underwent many changes politically
and socially. Chinese traditions that were established over hundreds of
years were being called into question. This in addition to outside influences
due to Shanghai’s status as a treaty port and the forced occupation of
the Japanese. In this time period a style emerged that is distinctly modern
and distinctly Chinese. This time period was also one of much change in the
social dynamics between men and women. Women were able to be educated, and
work in factory jobs the same as men. Sexual relations and sexual dynamics
changed significantly as it was no longer considered a capitol crime for a
widow or an unmarried woman to engage in willing sexual relations. Through
the study of the representation of women in Shanghai during this time period
in still and moving images I believe there is much we can learn. The
roles of worker, temptress, mother and revolutionary. The way women were
used as a means of relating to outsiders to and through their skills in entertainment.
The amalgamation of cultures coupled with nationalism and globalization
creates a very interesting time period for critical study. The
dividing of the culture into levels of “social” morality and that of personal
morality. This as well as all the factors of nationalism and national
identity. The construction of the Modern Chinese identity and class structure
were not only formed in relationship to the Chinese themselves in the
forms of traditionalists V. progressives, or nationalists V. communists but
also in relationship to China V. foreign powers. The foreign powers being
European, Japanese and American, each with their own set of complexities
with their relationship. This new world that has emerged from all of these
factors is not so different from our contemporary situation. The contemporary
scholarship on this time period is outlined below. Much of it has to
deal with these relationships and the use of media to adjust relationships
with the hopes to adjust them to help increase patriotism or commercialism
within the culture. I would like to see more development of these inquiries into how global media influences transverse socio-political boundries.
Kong, B., Lee, A., Schamus, J., Wang, H., Zhang, A., Leung, T. C. W., et
al. (2008). Se, jie Lust, caution. Focus Features spotlight series. Universal
City, Calif: Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
Lust Caution is a period drama by Ang Lee which starts in the late 30’s in
Hong Kong and ends in WWII Shanghai. Lee went through painstaking efforts
to ensure historical accuracy on his set and with his actors. The film set
was reconstructed from personal accounts, pictures of the time period and
written histories. The film weaves in and out using flashbacks and first person
narrative of the young woman Mai Tai Tai as she, a half white half Chinese
girl from Shanghai joins a patriotic drama troupe and ends up becoming
involved in an assassination plot of the Chinese high level Japanese
official named Mr. Yee. The first attempt fails and the head of the acting
troupe is recruited by the resistance. Mai Tai Tai is recruited some years
later after she has moved back to Shanghai which is still occupied by the
Japanese during WWII at this point. She must face many choices about what
it means to be a woman and how to carry herself as part of the Shanghai
gentry, which is very different from her own. The dynamics that develop as
she develops an affair with Mr. Yee, and he relationship between her female
counterparts hold much interesting commentary as to what it means to be a
woman in the changing landscape of Shanghai during this period.
Chang, I.-m., & Bi, F. (1996). Shanghai triad Yao a yao yao dao waipo qiao.
Culver City, Calif: Columbia TriStar Home Video.
In Zhang Yimou’s film Shanghai Triad, Gong Li plays Xiao Jingbao the mistress
of the head of the most powerful Shanghai triad during the ‘30s. The
film is told mostly from the perspective of a young country boy who is a
distant cousin of the family and whom is assigned to be Xiao’s helper. He
is introduced to the decadent world of ‘30s Shanghai’s organized crime.
Xiao is the head singer at the boss’ night club, where she is queen of her
domain. Much of the film is spent setting up Xiao’s as she struggles for
power being a kept woman. One way she exercises this power is to cheat on
her master while he leaves her to go out on business. Not long after the
gang is attacked and they all must move to a small island outside of the
city. Here there is a young woman and her daughter whom care for the party.
When Xiao see’s the master reaching out to the young woman and her daughter
she makes an effort to display her superiority as well as to curry favor
with the young girl. Several more times she does this sometimes with tragic
consequences (showing her a woman’s power can only go so far). In the end
she herself meets a tragic end and the young girl is being taken back to
Shanghai to be raised to replace her, and her young servant can only watch
from being strung up upside down.
Danzker, J.-A. B., Lum, K., & Zheng, S. T. (2004). Shanghai modern, 1919-
1945. Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz.
A great collection of artistic works from artists working during the 1920-
40s Shanghai many of which have never been seen by a large audience before.
The book itself is very detailed in the history of each artistic movement
as they are linked not only within China to the GMD, or the Communists
but also to the Japanese resistance and new woman movements. The book has
many historical insights as well as to the artistic influences from Europe
and America and how they clashed with traditional Chinese mores. At the
end there are source documents from the time period written by the artists
themselves declaring their intentions and how they saw themselves in context.
The work focuses mostly on “fine art” not fashion or cartooning. The
work also sheds much insight on how the university, and art schooling in
China were changing in response to western influences.
Gong, L., Zhang, Y., Ni, Z., & Su, T. (2005). Raise the red lantern Da hong
deng long gao gao gua. Studio City, CA: Razor Digital Entertainment.
Zhong Yimou and Gong Li’s epic Raise The Red Lantern displays 50 year old
marries Chen Zuoqian 19 year old Songlian after her father passes away.
Songlain is Chen’s fourth wife, each whom live on his estate with their own
households. The film examines the dynamics between the women as they via for
Chen’s affection. Songlain tries her best to exercise any agency she has in
the situation. There becomes a clear distinction between the reforms that
she was part of before she was married, and which continue to go on outside
the compound’s walls, and her reality as it exists within. In the end she
loses everything despite her many efforts and the cycle starts over again
with an even younger girl.
Lee, L. O.-f. (2001). Shanghai modern: The flowering of a new urban culture
in China, 1930 – 1945. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.]: Harvard Univ. Press.
Harvard Professor Ou-fan Lee explores what modernity means to China through
exploring literature, architecture, cinema, and music. Laying the groundwork
of the history of modernity Lee analyzes cultural trends through
changes in media representation. For the first time in Chinese history the
woman’s body is being used to sell products. This shift, as well as that
in the concept of what it means to be a woman in general (nuxing and funu)
new archetypes forming within the context and ideas of modernity. Issues
of body and femininity in a modern global context are addressed but could
be expounded upon. Lee does a good job of tieing these ideas and ideas of
modernity to one another and classical Chinese thought in an expositional
fashion. The information about Shanghai’s film industry and literary traditions
is very detailed and useful.
Pan, L. (2008). Shanghai style: Art and design between the wars. San Francisco:
Long River Press.
A dynamic historical overview with much original scholarship delving into
how Shanghai as a treaty port gave rise to a style uniquely Chinese. Going
into the history from 1920-1940s China Pan deftly explains how Chinese
thought was influenced by western thought and vice versa. She also goes
through many examples of the period talking about them in context, both
historically, artistically and culturally. She includes examples from the
growing commercial culture, both domestic and imported as well as the indigenous
artistic community. One of the best resources on the subject as to
how a distinctly Chinese style with such appeal and influences.
Hung, C.-t. (1994). War and popular culture: Resistance in modern China,
1937-1945. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Examining the period during what the Chinese call the War against Japanese
Aggression, Hung goes through how mass media, in the form of newspapers
and caricatures and cartooning, as well as traditional theatrical cultural
forms were reinvented during the occupation. The text focuses on the GMD
government of Chang Kai-Shek as he led the fight against the Japanese. The
book is focused more on urban Beijing but has some good information about
Shanghai and other big cities as well. It also goes extensively into how
both communists and nationalists used drama and other art forms to mobilize
villagers in the resistance.
Pan, L., Hsüeh, L.-y., & Qian, Z. (1993). Shanghai: A century of change in
photographs, 1843-1949. Hong Kong: Hai Feng Pub.
Documentary photographs, mostly portraiture, documenting changes through
the city and the people that inhabited Shanghai during this time period.
The photos show a variety of changes in appearances, fashion and the way
people allowed themselves to be represented.
Cochran, S. (1999). Inventing Nanjing Road: Commercial culture in Shanghai,
1900-1945. Cornell East Asia series, 103. Ithaca, NY: East Asia Program,
A collection of 7 essays on the origins of the commercial culture in china.
3 of the essays deal specifically with representation and commercial culture
during this formative period in Shanghai’s history. Discussion of how economic
structures lead to certain advertising campaigns and representations
as well as how physical places of commerce came into being. Specific attention
given to the hows in regards to economic development and commercial
advertising practices coming to fruition during this time period.
Laing, E. J. (2004). Selling happiness: Calendar posters and visual culture
in early twentieth-century Shanghai. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press
A history of how images of fantasy and desire closely akin to western pinup
girls was created and propagated during the time period. The images distinctly
Chinese developed out of many attempts to try to infuse Chinese motifs
with western motifs and activities. Some examples being sporty young
girls wearing fashionable Shanghai dresses and playing tennis.
Liu, H., Huang, S., Gong, L., Er, D., Da, S., Lü, Y., et al. (2003). Hua
hun A soul haunted by painting. Celebration of Chinese cinema. [New York,
N.Y.]: China Century Entertainment.
Shuqin Huang’s Hua hun A soul haunted by painting is the story of the young
Yu-liang played by Gong Li as she navigates several epochs of Chinese history
as a woman and as an artist. Yu-liang is a young prostitute who finds
her mistress “the red girl” murdered one day. That same night her virginity
is auctioned off and she is forced to start her life as a prostitute in
the whore house. She is able to catch the eye of a young official through
her voice and her ability to entertain. He falls and love, and takes her as
a second wife. The young couple in love, wants to try to live as a modern
couple, but are bound by tradition. Yu-liang while waiting for her husband
and he is away on business takes up painting and becomes an internationally
acclaimed artist. She finds that she can’t conceive due to an herb given to
her while she was still at the brothel. In shame that she can’t provide a
male heir for her husband, she begs him to leave and go be with his first
wife, and she goes to Paris. In Paris she is exposed to new ideas and wins
acclaim for her work. She comes home to China to meet her husband who now
has a 5 year old son, and to a teaching position at Shanghai’s premiere art
School. She tries to teach the way she has learned, using nude models, but
there is public outrage. There is also much controversy as she is woman and
a professor. She brings shame upon her family, burns her art work and flees
again to Paris where she grows to be an acclaimed old artist.
Alison Sau-Chu Yeung. (2003). Fornication in the late qing legal reforms:
Moral teachings and legal principles. Modern China, 29(3), 297-328.
This article goes through the crucial reforms that were enacted during
the late Qing period. The debates which went on regarding the two different
kinds of law-one based on legal principles (fali), the other on moral
teachings (lijiao). The debates focused around if widows and unmarried women
who willingly engaged in sexual acts should be punished as severely as
those that committed adultery. The debates were did not take into account
how this would effects women’s rights as much as how it showed Chinese society’s
relationship to other foreign society which it came into contact
with. The influence of western practices, business.
Edwards, L. (2000). Policing the modern woman in republican china. Modern
China, 26(2), 115-147.
With women taking on new social roles in society and those roles quickly
changing and developing the issue of how to maintain this image and the
women who made up image and how they needed to be regulated. The discussions
of what makes a “modern woman” what does she believe, what does she
wear and what does she represent were issues of heated debate. The article
goes through how women were systematically used as and created into icons
of the new revolution. It also details the history of gender roles in China.
The expectations of being a chaste widow or a foul temptress that will
corrupt everything. The article goes into how western influence through
media fashion and culture had a significant effect in complicating the image
of the modern woman. Women were to be forward looking, and traditional,
chaste but not ruled by outdated standards. Media from advertisements and
newspapers both foreign and domestic helped fuel these ideas.
Honig, E. (1983). The contract labor system and women workers: Pre-liberation
cotton mills of shanghai. Modern China, 9(4, Symposium: The Making of
the Chinese Working Class), 421-454.
In the changing times that were facing china during the first half of the
20th century one of them was how women played into the urban workforce.
Many worked in factories as what would be equivalent to indentured servants.
Women in all professions but especially factory workers were often
taken from their homes many times against their will and forced into labor.
These women made up a significant portion of the population and are relevant
to the overall picture of the treatment of women of the time period.
Filed under: Media Studies
Eric Klinenberg’s article Convergence: News Production in a Digital Age- 1 - is a survey of how trends have shifted in both the creation of the news and who studies it and how it is created and for who. Much of his argument is based on the colsolidation of media outlets into major conglomerations and the changing role of the people who work in these areas. I believe that while this analysis is valid, it misses or dismisses the complete restructuring of how the public recieves and now makes news. With the Internet being so prevasive in technocratic societies we no longer rely solely on a few to record or broadcast the stories of the many. Within the new media, the way it effects our senses and our connections we are then able to find our tribes and create our own discussions upon them and the “news” which occur.
In his own words, Here, I draw upon field work to show how changes in the journalistic field, particularly the rise of new technologies and the corporate integration of news companies, have led to a double fragmentation: first, for newsmakers, whose daily work has been interrupted and rearranged by additional responsibilities and new pressures of time and space; second, for news audiences, whom marketers have segmented into narrow units andwho are encouraged to forge symbolic or imagined communities on the basis of market concerns. (Klinenberg, 2005) – 2 -
He also makes the point that much of this content is then taken and repourposed through various media which the news conglomerete owns wholesale. Thus a print journalist will have to make a video component that will be broadcast on network television as well as seen on the internet with an interactive option. A lot of Klinenberg’s focus is on corporate media and “professional” journalists. Much of the article has a tone of lament of the demise of traditional journalistic norms. Much of it seems like nostalgia for times when reporters had budget and time to develop stories. He also seems very concerned over the fact that traditional print journalists are being asked to update their skills. As much as I understand that there are certian journalistic modes of operating that veterens of the field have the market cornered on, I think to allow them to be the gate keepers of the “news” while not engaging in the digital world is a misguided notion. What this article doesn’t address much is how journalisim has been changed through cultural expand that of the changing times. When it was published (1966) the news was still controlled by independant media outlets. Conglomerations had yet to come about and consolidate these outlets, but there was another factor at paly of the monopoly of the technical aspects of producing and distributing these
stories. At the time Thompson was writing there was a cultural fragmentation going on that was being fragmented for the first time in history. These fragmented cultures were beginning to demand the telling of their own stories, and those of other subcultures that they found interesting. These people were now a developing with enough disposable income it became viable to start marketing to. The actual production of these various types of newspapers and the knowldege of the media production means still remains a specialized proccess. Newspaper layout is a specialized feild that requires knowledge of a layout program, press mechanics and finishing. Not to mention distribution and building of the brand to make the news viable to a public (example: people reading the village voice rather then the AM to get thier cultural news). Even with the advent of “desktop publishing” and the ability to print something at home for distribution, there is still an issue of quality of design and production. Amature vs. professional dichotomies come into play. Even if a person is able to moblalize an army of distributers and mimic a style (like the Yes Men did recently with the fake New York Post paper) it still does not address issues of relevance. The News is being handed out and reported from the top down rather then latterally. The advent interactive media and internet discussions that are able to report on the spot, with hundreds of camera phones flashing and recording, is then able to be tagged and aggrigated by interested parties. These interested parties are then able to search and organize events that they are interested in how they are organized in relevant manners. The nature of the internet is one of searching out and finding information or of following information based on personal choices. Even in social networking contexts in which news is shared, it is still the individual’s choice to become part of these contexts. Klienman talks about the various conglomerates being pressured by advertisers and private interests to report certain news more then others and to be reductive in doing so. He comments on the phenomenon many reporters get caught disemnating information that may not be correct as they found their “facts” on the internet. These I blieve are just byproducts of the media age. The danger comes in we are in an overlap of ages, there are still seniors who would rather tune in to see the 6PM news and will take a story at face value. Savy media viewers of any age will however question the source, the purpose and look at the channel and the medium through which the conent is being displayed. I believe as more people participate and become content creators that the awareness and ability to discern these issues of bias and relevance are increasingly at the forefront of the collective newsmakers minds for whatever mass or subriences and is further changed by media progressions. Just as when Hunter S. Thompson the founder of “Gonzo” journalisim blended narrative with his experiences with the hells angels biker gang. Even though it was orginally an journalistic assignment, he built it into a book based on his own experiences culture strata they may belong to. The article seems to me like a fetisizaton of a way of communicating that has passed. Much like the collotypes and tintypes of the 1800s which were replaced by silver gelatin process, many people thought it was the death of imagry. Several more advances later, we then had the age of kodachrome and point and shoot camereas. Today, in our society, just about everybody has means to produce some sort of visual record at their finger tips. Instead of trusting the top down mentality, the trusted newspapers and the CNN anchors we are now the ones which must mediate our own intake and what we chose to believe or not believe about an event that has happened.
1. Klinenberg, E. (2005). Convergence: News production in a digital age. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 597(, Cultural Production in a Digital Age), 48-64.
Filed under: Media Studies
In “The City in a Globalizing world” by David Harvey, he examines the phenomenon of increasing urbanization in recent history. He then analyzes the phenomenon from an Marxist framework. He breaks down and expounds upon the new changes of the new global and sociological changes as follows: (a) financial deregulation, (b) The cost and time of moving commodities, people and particularly information ratcheted downwards, (c) production and organizational forms changed, (d) The world proletariat has almost doubled in the last 30 years, (e) the territorialization of the world has changed, (f) While individual state lost some of their power, geopolitical democratization creative new opportunities.
Harvey, David (1996) The City in a Globalizing World, reprinted in Lemert, C. C. (1999). Social theory: The multicultural and classic readings. Boulder, Colo: Westview Press. p. 622-626
“Sex, Lies & Advertising” by Gloria Steinem is qualitative survey of the creation and marketing to women based on her experiences with Ms. magazine. Ms. Magazine is a femenist magazine which presents womens issues at the forefront of the women’s movement, and like other commercial magazines still has to depend on advertisers to stay aflot. Steinem brings up issues of how editorial content has to be constructed or in order to appease advertisers and the role that they play in the magazine industry. She also discusses issues of routine discrimination based on stereotypes, even in the face of market research.
Steinem, G. (1990). Sex, lies, and advertising. United States: s.n.
“Four Puzzels From Cyberspace” is an excerpt from a longer text called Code v. 2.0 by intellectual property lawyer Lawerence Lessig. In this text Lessig tells a story of cyber space. More then just the connecting for gathering of information, but the actual spaces and communities that are formed within this space. A story of a conflict of virtual neighbors in this space is recounted and examined. Through this examination issues of conflicts, control, regulation and soveriegnty on the internet are explored. Ideas for improving our understanding of our cyber space experiences in relationship to our real space experiences are given.
Lessig, L. (1999). Code and other laws of cyberspace. New York: Basic Books.
Filed under: Media Studies
Understanding Media Studies Fall 2009
From a young age, I have been exposed to many cultures and perspectives. As a child I spent a few years in Saudi Arabia. While growing up in the Middle East, I was able to travel with my family extensively and became interested in how different cultures seemed to represent themselves, and how we as an ex-patriot community were able to interact with the world from which we came. Throughout my years at Tufts and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, I found myself further exploring these ideas through my art, with the added layer of interaction with the Evangelical and Pentecostal Christian traditions. I myself was not raised in either tradition, but became part of the community at an adult age. Susan Friend Harding’s book, The Book of Jerry Fallwell (2000), opened up a new avenue of sociological perspective on what I was already experiencing; Christian Smith’s book of interviews on quantitative data with qualitative assessments also had quite an impact. I was reading these texts while also taking classes with photographer Jim Dow and professor Sarah King at SMFA Tufts, focusing on a deconstructionist approach to art history and cultural studies. Derrida and Foucault’s writings on language and power structures became very important to me in my understanding of the manner of how what we know becomes known. Dow and King co-taught a class on colonialism where primary sources were deconstructed and re-viewed within a post-colonial framework. From here I was introduced to Edward Said, who further helped me to develop my understanding of how we create knowledge, in what community, and towards what end. It was through these studies of Said that I became more aware of my own intellectual and cultural prejudices that colored my work.
My artwork at the time dealt with the gaps between Christian televangelism, ideology, practice, and the perception of those concepts by people from outside the community. Ideas such as media is the message among others which I gleaned from from The Essential McLuhan (2007) , and Postman’s chapter, “Shuffle Off to Bethlehem” from Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985),” contained fascinating perspectives, and were very influential. In my class “The Death of Painting” with Ron Rizzi, which was a practice and theory class, we started contemplating the question of why
do we paint in a digital age? It was here that I was introduced to Benjamin, Adorno, and Zizek. The added dimension of class consciousness and cultural production spheres added depth and new avenues of interest to those that I had already been pursuing. Issues of separation between “authentic” and “mediated” experiences increasingly manifested in my installation work. Attempting to create spaces for experiencing the in-between spaces in life, and acknowledging our own structures and creating spaces to dialogue in within the common ground. My photographic body of work, “Traditions Project,” was a visual investigation of communities of faith which profess the Nicene creed. T he crux of the project was that these communities of faith all hold the same profession of faith as central to their ideology, yet through exploring their spaces that cultivate these comunities and the artifacts left behind, one can tell that there is a wide variety of interpretation occurring. The converted garage from an old ranch house in Las Vegas which acts as a halfway house and still has oil stains on the floor, juxtaposed with the liberal congregation on Boston’s affluent Newbury street with Louis Comfort Tiffany chandeliers are markers of the people who communicate to their God there. The finished series was displayed as part of Boston’s “First Night, New Years” celebration in 2004, and seen by an estimated 2,200 people the first night. The exhibition stayed up in the lobby of the historical Park Street Church and was also viewable from the historic Granary burial ground through the glass window separating the two.
I found in the process of building this work that during the critiques, many people would react from their own predetermined viewpoints, prejudices, and experiences rather than engage the work in the context presented. The most notable (and disturbing) to me at the time was one person who kept repeating, “this makes me think of raped little boys” while looking at a picture of a window and a pew. Some of the people offering critiques seemed to be conscious of the framework within which they were working, some completely oblivious. The attitude that everything goes in a critique– that anything can be displayed, shown, and talked about was being tested as many were saying, “oh, you can talk about everything, just not that!” I was able to make sense of these reactions through the theoretical inquiry that I had been pursing. Habermas’ writings upon the social spheres, public and private, that we are conditioned to have our roles and to fulfill them– as well as Adorno’s conjecture that we are all part of the culture industry and conditioned to take our places– were being enacted by the same people who proclaimed to be free from such boundaries.
During this time, I was also studying Modern Chinese History, the time period often marked from the end period of the Qing dynasty to the establishment of the PRC, and Chinese Film. I found that in my classes the same types of issues arose again; specifically many people in the discussions were more involved in their own summary and interpretations, rather than starting a dialogue with the information presented. Sometimes this was not the fault of the person involved: it may have been a mistranslation from the text, or the film we were watching, which created another interesting avenue of inquiry as far as what happens to those who are dependant on a third party for the accurate translation of a text (in the broad sense). One such example involved the film, Sacrificed Youth (Qingchun Ji), directed by Zhang Nuanxin (1987.) In one class, taught by an American who did not speak fluent Chinese, we took the subtitles at face value and the entire lecture was based upon the end of the movie in which the heroine returned to the village where she had been sent during the cultural revolution time period, to find it destroyed. In another class, taught by a Chinese professor from Shanghai, she told us that the subtitles were incorrect– the destroyed village was actually the neighboring village of the heroine’s love interest, changing the entire meaning of the ending sequence of the movie and arguably the entire film.
This misinformation, was then turned into an entire lecture which became disinformation. I think that during our changing times, it is important that we learn from cultural exchanges of the past. Most places in the world have some form of access to the internet now, but not all of them have it widely, accesible, unfiltered and without restrictions. The entire world does not enjoy freedom of speech, nor what many in “developed” nations like to call rights of expression. That being so, does that mean that we in these “developed” have a right or obligation to make them like us? Or, does it mean that we need to reflect on how their customs came into being and how they influence us as we influence them and become bi-lateral agents of change in dialogue. I’m fascinated by Mitchell’s compilation of essays in High Technology in Low Income Communities, as well as Kale Lassn’s ongoing global crusade against big media dominance and a quest for a way to have a viable global non-commercial dialogue.
I personally want to study the period of Chinese– specifically Shanghai’s– cultural development from 1919-1949, rather the May 4th movement (五四运动) through the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. During these years, Shanghai experienced many reactions and protests by scholars reacting to imperialistic forces and growing nationalist tendencies. This then became the “New Culture Movement” (1915-1921) in which European and Amerian literature stimulated Chinese intellectual and cultural thought. These three turbulent decades also saw the occupation of China by Japan, and increased foreign interest and involvement until the civil war and eventual establishment of the PRC. I hope that in studying how media played a role in this time period, that we may be able to glean some insights as to how to navigate our current complicated media framework.
As an educator here at the New School I am very happy that it has given me the opportunity to study these theories in our great and diverse student body. Our faculty here are also from very many diverse backgrounds, both culturally and academically. I am looking froward to continuing in the New School’s tradition of progressive and inclusive education.
1. Harding, Susan F. The book of Jerry Falwell : fundamentalist language and politics 2000
2. Derrida,Jacques, Caputo, John D. Deconstruction in a nutshell : a conversation with Jacques Derrida 1997
3. Bentham, Jeremy, Barou, Jean-Pierre, Foucault, Michel, Perrot, Michelle, Le Panoptique 1977
4. Said, Edward W. Orientalism 1978
5. McLuhan, M., McLuhan, E., & Zingrone, F. (1997). Essential McLuhan. London: Routledge
6. Postman, Neil. Amusing ourselves to death : public discourse in the age of show business 1985
7. “The Work of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction” Benjamin, Walter: reprint Durham, Meenakshi G., Kellner, Douglas. Media and cultural studies : keyworks 2001
8. “Culture Industry as Mass Decption” Adorno, Theodore: reprint Ibid. 7
9. Zizek, Slavoj. On belief 2001
10. Habermas, Jurgen. The structural transformation of the public sphere : an inquiry into a category of bourgeois society 1989