“I’m Just Passing Through” A Cinematic Gesture Wendy and Lucy and Neorealism, Resistance without Resolution

What characterizes gesture is that in it nothing is being produced or acted, but rather something is being endured and supported. The gesture, in other words, opens the sphere of ethos as the more proper sphere of that which is human. But in what way is an action endured and supported?

—Giorgio Agamben, “Notes on Gesture”

Wendy and Lucy (2008) is a film full of paradox and refusal. Director Kelly Reichardt engages and often refutes multiple categories, methodologies and narrative histories at once. This creative engagement is not performed simply for cinematic competition or shrewd formal complication. Instead Reichardt’s film delivers 80 stripped down minutes focused on process, revealing tender craftsmanship and disarming cinema. This film produces what Giorgio Agamben decribes as a gesture. Gesture is a suggestion toward a way of acting or being. A gesture points the way but does not provide a resolute definition. Though this film literally has production and acting, what is purported above cinematic product is an opening into human experience that is focused on process. Wendy and Lucy offers an example of a cinematic gesture away from resolution and back toward process and ambiguity. This gesture becomes evident in the neorealistic methodology of the filmmaking, the improvised and non-professional acting and irresolute narrative, and even the co-constituted, relationship between Wendy and Lucy.  This film challenges expectations of friendship and resolution, and in doing so produces ferocious liminality that cherishes relating over resolution and process over product.

Radiant Traces: A Photographic Consideration of Sadhus

Photography is a referent medium. While a photograph is a physical object with its own ontology, the image depicted references a moment that has already ended. The mobility of a photograph relies on the divide between presence and absence, the material and the ephemeral. This photographic essay considers the tensions and parallels of such divides in photographing and photographs of sadhus, holy men who wander throughout East Asia. Sadhus relinquish worldly possessions in the name of spiritual pursuits, surviving on whatever the divine provides. The following images illustrate both their radiant spiritual presence, and the trace of a material boundedness.

“It’s In Your Nature”: Love, Retail, and Taxidermy at Cabela’s Worlds Foremost Outfitter

What happens when a department store, natural history museum and amusement center exist under one roof? We see different combinations of these features in the world already. Natural history museums surely have gift stores in them, built strategically, requiring one to pass through it at the end of their visit. But this gift shop is small and separated from the museum proper. Department stores will include aspects of children’s entertainment such as gumball machines, monitors showing cartoons and kid friendly displays, but the store merchandise is still segregated into separate audiences (men, women and children) and not woven together to promote family interactivity. If each of these features is housed under one enormous roof without walls to partition their relationships, what comes to light?

Cabela’s World’s Foremost Outfitter begins to answer this question. Cabela’s is a colossal hunting supply store with the most popular online and write in presence of any hunting retailer. [1] The massive storefronts include museum quality taxidermy displays complete with fully painted dioramas and sculpted mountainous footing. This display of North American fauna surrounds the entirety of the store and culminates in one central display: “Conservation Mountain”. Cabela’s also features an indoor café, arcade games, a kid’s toy and candy section and a souvenir penny presser among their typical retail items such as hunting rifles, camouflage gear, sub zero tents and skinning knives. Without dividing walls the politics of these spaces speak openly to one another. What are they saying? Using the strategic abilities of storefront displays and natural history dioramas, Cabela’s naturalizes man’s purpose to conquer, and normalizes capitalist consumption as both educational and environmentally responsible and makes the legacy entirely family friendly.  

Tumblr is for Girls: Disidentification, Failure and Passive Masochism in the Artwork of Girls on Tumblr

  In this essay I will examine the artwork produced by girls, about girlhood as found on the online on micro blogging platform Tumblr. I will then analyze the work deploying Jose Esteban Munoz’s theory of disidentification. Disidentification is a strategy where someone of a marginal identity appropriates materials and behaviors that are normalized by the dominant narrative and in doing so subverts that normalcy. I will also apply J Halberstam’s notions of failing and passive masochism. Halberstam suggests that chosen complicity can be a form of resistance and subversion. In the case of girls this looks like weaponizing stereotypes of girlishness such as emotional visibility, the color pink, softness, bodies and the bedroom.

Goldfield Hotel Redemption Embodied Perception and Occularcentrism in Ghost Hunting Reality TV Shows

Science manipulates things and gives up dwelling in them…science confronts the actual world only from greater and greater distances. It is and always has been, that admirably active, ingenious, and bold way of thinking, that one-sided thought that treats every being as an “object in general,” that is, at once as if all being were nothing to us…

-       Maurice Merleau-Ponty,Eye and Mind

                  “My name is Zak Bagans, I never believed in ghosts until I came face to face with one. So I set out on a quest to capture what I once saw, on video”. This is the first line introducing every episode of the Travel Channel HD hit show “Ghost Adventures”. It begins with a claim to an experience and a pursuit to prove that experience through visual documentation. In the United States now there are 39 paranormal reality television shows on major networks. Each show is driven by the scientific method; paranormal investigators try to make evidence reliable and repeatable as well as debunk evidence. The genre stakes its credibility in visual evidence that is harvested with the scientific method. But are visual representation and scientific method the most veritable way to engage with ghosts? This effort for empiricism is extreme and reactionary to the history of supernatural encounters, which is based in storytelling, myth, folklore and tall tales. Regardless of whether one believes in ghosts, when we consider American ghost hunting, there seems to be a cleft between what we want ghosts to be, and how we want to meet and record them.

I Can Feel My Skin, I Am Everywhere

“…Attempts to escape the body result in a reaffirmation of the body, just as an escape from consciousness implies a reassertion of consciousness. (Butler, 53) The body never disappears in cyberspace; it is continually reaffirmed, reimagined, reified- written and rewritten, over and over again.” (Rodriguez, 142) 

              In her essay, “Welcome to the Global Stage” Confessions of a Latina Cyber Slut, Juana Maria Rodriguez explores the practice of cyber sex, fantasy and anonymous intimacy in queer Latina chat rooms on the Internet. Rodriguez shares some details of her own explicit encounters online and as a result the identity building that happens In Real Life (IRL) thereafter. As to the process of nonphysical encounters shaping our physical lived experiences I would like to suggest Spike Jonze’s film Her as an excellent visual example. Though a very vanilla version of the encounters Rodriguez was experiencing online- Jonze’s characters Theo and Samantha (a human and an operating system who engage in a romantic relationship) develop through surreal relationship in a very real way. Both Jonze and Rodriguez ask the audience through non-physical relationships and non-corporeal sexual encounters to consider and complicate one’s own understanding of body and non-body, real and unreal. Each piece accomplishes this through an unreal setting, linguistic disclosure, and challenging the boundary between internal/ external, private/public.