Summer Media

film in the window

I kept wanting to offer some thoughtful reviews of stuff I consumed this summer. Now the summer’s over. So I’ll just make it very brief, and non-exhaustive:

  • Babel-17, Samuel Delany (novel) a cosmic clockwork that follows rhythms some of us don’t know yet.
  • The Massive (comic) : Finished this outstanding series on global climatological collapse.
  • Trees (comic) : New and promising series. More global apocalypse, good simultaneity.
  • Beasts of Burden (comic) : All dogs and a cat or two, defending against supernatural attack on the neighborhood. Gorgeous drawing.
  • 8House (comic) : Just started. Moebius meets Anders Nilsen artwork. A noblewoman made of roots.
  • Rick and Morty (tv) : Animated bro-show in a sea of putrid bro-gramming. Too bro but great sci-fi storylines.
  • Never Alone (video game) : Beautiful sidescrolling myth-action, a girl heroine, a fox companion, great video interludes from real people.
  • Botanicula (video game) : You’re a team of spores and nuts, restoring the ecosystem against some dark sucking thing. Absolutely all sounds made by human mouths.
  • The Crane, Reiner Zimnik (kids book) : A crane operator guy never comes down from his crane, he loves it so much. Outlasts cities, wars, floods. Not sure how it ends yet.
  • Boa/Cold, Earth vs the Bug (album) : These two together, OMG. Dirgey beats. Like Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog and Dead Man merged.
  • Fourtet, Morning/Evening (album) : Perfect two-song record. Start on either side, the act of switching is still part of the listening.
  • Witness,” Brian Eno and Karl Hyde (song) : Been hanging on to this one for a year. Aspiration and mourning, ecstasy for the subtle.
  • Ten Love Songs, Susanne Sundfor (album) : This has been my pop. Stevie Nicks > M83 > Rufus Wainwright. Her voice.
  • Radio Zero (podcast) : One podcast elbowed in next to my FMU regulars. R+R are so good at talking about everything, balancing personal and political, stepping on lines and finishing them.
  • Knifepoint Horror (podcast) : Yikes how did I get onto this? Four shows in so far. Non-serial thank heavens. Same speaker every time. Same writer? No sound FX. Just a guy telling a ghost story. Chilling.

On the Sources of Order


(a response to James K.A. Smith’s thoughts on the films of Wes Anderson)

First of all, as an artist for whom aesthetics and theology literature has been an essential part of my work and faith, I am wholeheartedly in favor a turn away from imagination as a self-originating emanation or creatio ex nihilo. Somehow even the most canonical (and even tired) advocates of theological imagination within Christianity – Lewis, Tolkien, et al – have lost among many to the overwhelming attractiveness of a more romantic understanding of imagination as self-expression. With the rise of “creativity” as an almost compulsory aspect of 21st century citizenship, Smith’s call for understanding imagination as an orienting process is all the more urgent. Continue reading

Documenta 13 : a very belated report

The Orangerie at Karlsrue Park

More than a year ago, I returned from a trip to Europe with some thoughts to share on the art I saw there. As my thoughts eventually grew so long that I thought nobody would read them, I let them languish. Here they are, in a sprawl appropriate to the subject.

August 8, 2012

Yesterday I left Kassel, Germany, where I spent four long days with the largest art exhibition I have ever attended. The documenta exhibition, known to some of you, takes place every five years, and has done so since 1955, when artist Arnold Bode first decided to use the bombed out shell of Kassel’s old Fridericianum building to present an exhibition of artwork that had been banned under the National Socialists’ rule in Germany. Continue reading

Beauty, Autonomy, and Pastoral Escape


Upstream Color, appearing in multiple online streaming queues earlier this Summer, really caught me off guard. I found the film riveting, sensory, disorienting and reorienting in ways that suggested beauty. I recommended it to many.

I watched it again, and now I’m not so sure.  The film’s smart, arresting style – single camera, framed close-in on the actors, edited in short takes with little synchronous diegetic sound – probably allows the director to play to the strengths of his small digital cameras. The resulting breathlessness is familiar from television advertising, especially where budgets are tight, and the desire for authenticity great. The style also conjures embodied memories, reminds me of past experiences of beauty and the sublime. Can the senses be trusted here though? The question nags the protagonists, and also this viewer. Continue reading

List of Doctoral Programs for Art and Media


I keep encountering more people who are looking for a list of places where they can do doctoral study that also involves the making of art.

This list:

  • comes with no endorsements
  • neglects PhD in Design programs (for now)
  • sometimes includes theory/history programs where practice-based work is tolerated
  • does not reflect any burning desire on my own part to pursue such a degree
  • is not ordered in any meaningful way
  • focusses for now on the U.S. and UK
  • will definitely expand, and welcomes comments/additions!

Continue reading

Returning to the stream that cannot quench


When I left Facebook a few years ago, it was with little explanation or even reflection. It was more of an impulsive move to cut off a big time-sink for me, a distraction from the heart of things. Like the flaneur, I like to watch, to peek in from outside, and it’s not good for my relationships to do so. Like so many, I struggle to get free of the “tyranny of thoughts,” to pay attention to being and relating rather than to thinking. Facebook and other stream-based feeds mire me. Linear information streams consume me – I am very suscept-

ible to the suspense they create, the sense of heightened present. The same is true for Twitter and even RSS feeds (I was a faithful Bloglines user before it died and I switched to Google Reader, which now of course has died as well.) For that matter, even the CNN news crawl had me when it launched as a ubiquitous signal of emergency (or potential emergency) after September 2001. I even made an artwork about this, where I explored the desirable “present” through extending it as long as I could.

Continue reading

Summer Labors

It’s been a good season around here for re-immersing myself in matters archival, material, and rhetorical. The online film archive is shaping up thanks to the tremendous work of some dedicated Research Assistants over the past year. Ned and I are also working on some re-framing of our “Operators” project.

The video above is a sort of trailer/intro I put together as a sketch of our new approach. (The final product will most likely be an online interactive project, rather than a printed book.)

In other news, the video Lara Scott and I made is now available from ASPECT. You can catch a clip and description on their site, or order the DVD to catch it with Matt Freedman‘s excellent commentary.

Lastly, it’s been fantastic to return to drawing this summer on some admittedly naive comics projects. The book on Urbana history progresses well, and I’ve also been doing some little four-panel strips that I hope to put together as a little book in the Fall. Here’s one example, not yet cleaned-up or anything:



Beyond Utopia: On Seeing and Revolution

Last week our campus hosted the Beyond Utopia symposium, concluding a semester of discussion in which I played a small part. Thanks to the unusual co-presence of Eyal Weizman and Saba Mahmood, among others, we were able to think about critical spatial practices in light of discourses of the secular – something I’ve been hungry to do for some time. I was asked to offer some brief reflections at the event’s conclusion, and these comments have since been posted here on the Unit’s blog.