M/C Journal https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal <h1>M/C Journal</h1> <p><em>M/C Journal</em> was founded (as "M/C – A Journal of Media and Culture") in 1998 as a place of public intellectualism analysing and critiquing the meeting of media and culture. <em>M/C Journal</em> is a fully blind-, peer-reviewed academic journal, open to submissions from anyone. We take seriously the need to move ideas outward, so that our cultural debates may have some resonance with wider political and cultural interests. Each issue is organised around a one-word theme (<a href="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/issue/archive">see our past issues</a>), and is edited by one or more guest editors with a particular interest in that theme. Each issue has a feature article which engages with the theme in some detail, followed by several shorter articles.</p> en-US <p>Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:</p><ol><li>Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licenced under a <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/" rel="license">Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivatives 4.0 Licence</a> that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.</li><li>Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.</li><li>Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (see <a href="http://opcit.eprints.org/oacitation-biblio.html" target="_new">The Effect of Open Access</a>).</li></ol> editor@media-culture.org.au (Axel Bruns) editor@media-culture.org.au (Axel Bruns) Wed, 07 Oct 2020 08:59:48 +0000 OJS http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss 60 Collaborative Creative Processes That Challenge Us as "Anomaly", and Affirm Our Indigeneity and Enact Our Sovereignty https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1674 <h1><strong>Introduction</strong></h1><p>Australian universities are built on land that was deemed <em>terra nullius</em> at the time of British settlement. <em>Terra nullius</em> translates to a land unoccupied or uninhabited and, in the face of the clear presence of Aboriginal peoples living on the land, established the false pretence for British colonisation and settlement. Moreton-Robinson explains that British settlement became a project in which a foreign “unoccupied” land was claimed and renamed as a reflection of a white British self. She notes that, from the construction of the first fence for the first building, British colonists set about creating an Anglo-centric world that replicated the one they had left behind. In undertaking this process, they dispossessed Aboriginal peoples and eroded elements of Aboriginal culture and history from the land. Through claiming, renaming, and constructing, non-Indigenous people established dominance over the landscapes, backed by the governments and policies they implemented. </p><p>In this article, I discuss how the claiming and subsequent re-territorialisation of place has become “normalised” by non-Indigenous people and is continually reinforced through interactions, practices, ceremonies, and events held and perpetuated within places. Positioning my discussion in relation to Australian universities, I consider how such orientations have contributed to a habit of many non-Indigenous people of seeing Indigenous people as seemingly out of place (Fredericks). Indigenous peoples are often presented as an “anomaly” or an “unsettling presence” (Douglas and Besley). However, while the processes of colonisation have dispossessed Indigenous peoples and altered Indigenous connections with place, ownership or belonging is not lost. Indigenous peoples are not an “anomaly” and increasingly challenge false discourses that un-write and mask our very existence. I illustrate practical challenges to the “anomaly” through three examples centred around The University of Queensland’s Great Court.</p><h1><strong>Creating the Anomaly of Place </strong> </h1><p>Non-Indigenous dominance of the landscape has occurred through colonisation, but the realities of Indigenous places and Indigenous ownerships remain unchanged. Indigenous ownership continues, despite the multi-story buildings, roads, sports grounds, houses, and places of worship built in specific locations. It exists regardless of whether individuals claim ownership and hold title deeds over places. </p><p>As Australia’s non-Indigenous population grew, meanings of place were transformed. Some places developed multiple realities and connections, reflecting different meanings, attachments, and connections for different peoples. As Sommerville contends, the places that offer multiple and contested meanings create complex political realities that inform the relationships between Aboriginal and non-Indigenous people. In addition, some groups may have a collective experience of place in which certain emotions, beliefs, and behaviours are embedded (Memmott and Long)—particularly in public and shared places such as universities. </p><p>Some places are inclusive and welcoming; they enable movement by all people. However, other places are exclusive; they restrict access and create a sense of alienation (Mills; Oakes; Sibley). Power and hierarchy may reinforce how these places are perceived and apprehended, reflecting the views and interests of the powerful at the exclusion of others (Gupta and Ferguson). Within each place, social relations are continuously produced and reproduced in ways that reflect, reinforce, and sometimes challenge such hierarchies (Gregory and Urry; Lefebvre; Massey; Soja). Symbols in each place embody its histories, connections, interconnections, texts, signs, beliefs, emotions, and politics to convey messages of belonging and exclusion. In doing so, they produce and reproduce power relations within society and create sites of social struggle and contested realms of identity (Foucault). </p><p>Symbols of place communicate the mutually constitutive relationships that exist within each place. These symbols are neither natural nor neutral, but are rather political and often contested. They reflect a dualistic dynamic of “us” and “them” which remains regardless of whether or not the CEOs, managers or “owners” of a site recognise their position of privilege and power. Histories, white possessiveness, and the “us” and “them” dynamic can actively operate to make Indigenous people become “non-locals” or “strangers” on Aboriginal land (Fredericks; Moreton-Robinson). Through colonisation, as non-Indigenous presence on place gained visibility, Indigenous cultures became hidden and Indigenous peoples became “foreign” and seemingly out of place (Fredericks). Indigenous people became the “anomaly” and an “unsettling presence” (Douglas and Besley) in the new settings that were situated within ancient landscapes. </p><p>Australia’s universities exist within this historical and cultural context. Their symbols of place clearly communicate who is “us” and who is the “anomaly”. Australia’s “sandstone universities” for example, contain buildings and walls of sandstone that act as bastions of the dominant culture’s knowledge and ways of being within the world. Their architecture, governance, and landscape celebrate the dominant culture’s heritage. Everything linked to the university, including its iconography, selection and display of artworks, photographic imagery used in marketing materials, and events held in and around the sandstone buildings, are evidence of their Anglo-centrality. The very buildings communicate cultural dominance. Cultural dominance is also communicated through the university’s physical infrastructure, systems, structures, budget allocations, and everyday interactions.</p><p>For Australia’s sandstone universities, Anglo-centrality exists within their cultural memory, further cementing them as institutions with inherited rules and procedures that communicate who built the nation (and the academy) and who did not. This is perpetuated each time symbols, signs and funders’ names are added to new buildings and each time “stakeholders” are consulted during planning for new developments. It speaks to the suppression of Aboriginal sovereignty and to non-Indigenous possessiveness of place (Moreton-Robinson). It is a suppression and possession that operates whether Aboriginal people are present or not. </p><p>Australian universities undertake research and education that is generally positioned within Anglo-centric worldviews, knowledges, and ideologies. Universities reflect the historical, political, cultural, social, and economic values that inform and attempt to perpetuate the power relations of broader society (Massey; McDowell). The interactions within universities are embedded in power that is associated with ownership. This power operates with minimal understanding or questioning that the dominance of non-Indigenous worldviews can only take place because of the dispossession of Aboriginal people, including the Traditional Owners of the land on which universities are situated.</p><h1><strong>The University of Queensland and Its Great Court </strong> </h1><p>The St Lucia Campus of the University of Queensland (UQ) is part of the sandstone university tradition. As with all Australian universities, the white territorialisation of the UQ site is only possible through the dispossession and de-territorialisation of Aboriginal people from the site. </p><p>UQ’s Great Court was designed by Jack F. Hennessy and constructed between 1938 and 1962 (Pascoe). It was intended “to form the literal and symbolic heart of the university—reflected in the commissioning of friezes and sculptural reliefs on the interior and exterior of the buildings” (Nicoll 4). Over time, buildings such as those around the Great Court become a symbolic part of the iconography of the university and valued as public art (Nicoll, drawing on the work of East). </p><p>The friezes and sculptures in the Great Court do not feature Aboriginal people, except as anonymous beings of pre-colonial scenes or bystanders to Australia’s agricultural and industrial development. The Great Court suppresses Aboriginal sovereignty while positioning white Australians as the makers of the nation (Babidge) who exercise power along with their possessiveness and “ownership” of place (Moreton-Robinson). The possession and whiteness exercised is productive in that it constitutes both the white author and the Indigenous subject within place (Moreton-Robinson). </p><p>Lipsitz, quoted by Moreton-Robinson, contends that “White [Australians] are encouraged to invest in their whiteness, to remain true to an identity that provides them with resources, power and opportunity” (31). This is how white Australians “adhere to narratives that valorise their past and their present” (Moreton-Robinson 31). This plays out through the imagery associated with UQ’s Great Court, including the university’s marketing materials and way the Great Court is used for events such as market day, graduations, and the annual Great Court Race. The Great Court Race was initiated for UQ’s 75th anniversary and is based on the race at Cambridge University featured in the 1981 movie <em>Chariots of Fire</em>. Through these narratives, the dominant culture continues to invest in whiteness, while others are seen as an “anomaly”. </p><h1><strong>Challenging the Great Court</strong></h1><p>UQ has a history of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who challenge the knowledges, power, racism, and representations of Indigeneity embodied within the Great Court. Three examples are discussed here to show how cultural expression can challenge historical representations of the Great Court and its portrayal of Aboriginal as “anomaly”. </p><h2>Displaying Cultural Identity</h2><p><em></em>The first example involves two opportunities to display Aboriginal identity within the Great Court setting. The first of these occurred in the 1990s, when Gregory Phillips challenged the Great Court’s flags. In 1990 and 1991, Gregory Phillips and other Indigenous students attempted, without success, to get the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags raised on UQ’s St Lucia campus during National Aboriginal and Islander Observance Committee Week (NAIDOC Week). In 1992, they received permission to raise the flags on the Forgan Smith Building (which forms one boundary to the Great Court), but only on the last Friday of NAIDOC Week (Foley and Martin-Chew 16-17). It is unclear from the records when the flags began to be flown more often. Today, the flags fly for all of NAIDOC Week, other significant days and events, and most days acknowledging Indigenous people. What is clear, however, is that the struggle of raising the flags and the challenge presented to UQ in the early 1990s is now embedded within the oral and written histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in relation to UQ and the Great Court (Foley, Martin-Chew, and Nicoll). This was a clear example of Aboriginal people seeking representation and presence within UQ’s Great Court.</p><p>The second display of Aboriginal identity developed from UQ’s <em>Reconciliation Action Plan</em> (The University of Queensland). In 2020, a digital copy of UQ’s Reconciliation Artwork, <em>A Guidance through Time,</em> was installed in the foyer of the Forgan Smith Building. The artwork, which was created by Quandamooka artists Casey Coolwell and Kyra Mancktelow, is a visual symbol of UQ’s broader reconciliation efforts. The artwork documents the history of the UQ site; incorporates both past and contemporary histories; addresses ongoing connections with Country, knowledges, culture, and people; and recognises the importance of the river, the purple corporate colour, the purple of jacaranda flowers, the jacaranda tree itself, and the Great Court. </p><p>Both the artwork and the flags challenge the assumed ownership of place and provide some visibility for Aboriginal people in the landscape. While flags and artwork no longer present the physical anomaly they once did, this does not mean that Indigenous knowledges, cultures, and peoples are no longer an anomaly within the Great Court and the wider university landscape. </p><h2>Performing Cultural Identity in the Great Court<strong></strong></h2><p><strong><em></em></strong>A second example of how Indigenous peoples challenged dominant ideologies and epistemologies of place is the program<em> Courting Blakness: Recalibrating Knowledge in the Sandstone University. </em>Held at UQ in 2014, <em>Courting Blakness</em> was a “platform of cultural and political experimentation that culminated in a unique program of original art, research, teaching and staff training” (Foley, Martin-Chew, and Nicoll 3). The eclectic, inter-disciplinary, mixed-medium, academic, and artistic event approached UQ as a site that consisted much more than buildings designed to facilitate an education within a global context (Foley). <em>Courting Blakness</em> encouraged awareness of the Great Court as the embodiment of the relationships between people and place within its sandstone walls, lawn, and the university’s history—acting as a connector of disciplines and peoples.</p><p>Through artistic representations, performance, and other media, <em>Courting Blakness </em>encouraged staff, students, and members of the public to engage in and through the works, presentations, and conversations. It provoked critical thought about history, racism, sovereignty, whiteness, domination, and knowledge itself. AustLit outlines some of the questions posed through the event: </p><blockquote><p>as research collaboration and teaching migrate to online platforms, what is the unique space and potential of the university campus? What is the place of art in the global university? How does art shape academic knowledge and how does academic knowledge shape art? What does contemporary Aboriginal art allow us to see? What does it prompt us to think and feel about the ways we occupy spaces of knowledge? </p></blockquote><p><em>Courting Blakness</em> was a dynamic event that generated an edited collection of the papers (Foley, Martin-Chew, and Nicoll) and a digital archive available via AustLit. These artefacts have laid the tracks for others to follow, and encourage a critical awareness of the understandings, thoughts, and expressions that exist within spaces such as the Great Court. Furthermore, they provide an opportunity to assess how ideas have changed since the Great Court was originally designed and built, along with how it has been reconfigured through time and within changing contexts. The artefacts offer ongoing opportunities to unsettle understandings and consciousness (Bradfield) and to challenge the notion of Aboriginal people as an “anomaly” within the Great Court.</p><h2>Writing Cultural Identity into the Great Court</h2><p>The third example involves a creative collaboration titled <em>Singing the Court</em> (conducted in 2019). This work was developed at a writing retreat with 15 of UQ’s Indigenous higher-degree research students and Indigenous academics. The retreat was facilitated by UQ’s Indigenous Engagement Division and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit (ATSISU). It was designed to discuss research in a culturally safe environment (Fredericks, Mills, and White; Fredericks and Brien) and support individual and “joint collaborative” writing practice. The writing practice focused on place, in particular UQ’s Great Court (Brien and Brady). This project is discussed in more detail in the sections below.<strong> </strong></p><h2>Indigenous Creative Collaboration</h2><p><strong><em></em></strong>While there is a growing body of Indigenous-authored works, Indigenous writing is still under-represented in both academic and creative publications (Heiss; Phillips and Archer-Lean). Indigenous writing is often situated as autobiographical or biographical (Heiss; Knudsen; Van Toorn). Such works make a valuable contribution in terms of providing a vehicle for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to articulate, clarify, preserve, and assert their identity, histories, knowledges, truths, sovereignty, language, and much more (Fredericks, White, Phillips et al; Heiss; Phillips and Archer-Lean). However, these works may not meet the traditional definitions of being “scholarly”.</p><p>Part of the training for higher-degree research students, and an important aspect of performance for academics is to publish works which are recognised as scholarly contributions in their field. Indigenous students and academics are increasingly incorporating Indigenous subjectivity, narratives, and perspectives within their contributions (Fredericks, White, Bunda et al.) and earning their place in the scholarly canon. Some Indigenous writing challenges understandings of what is and is not known, encouraging critical engagement of how people might think about particular issues, knowledges, or ways of seeing the world. </p><p><em>Singing the Court</em> used a collaborative writing process that drew on the individual understandings and life experiences of each collaborator (Brady and Krauth; Bruner). Through discussing and articulating individual and collective perspectives of place (the Great Court), a process of motion and exchange took place (Koestenbaum). Engaging in and developing the collaborative creative work within the writing workshop enabled the diverse and shared elements of individual and collective experiences to culminate within the work. </p><p>Brien and Brady describe collaborative writing practice as “two or more writers/artists [who] work together on a single product producing a seamless text unrecognisable as belonging in part to any individual collaborator”. In this process, all participants have a role as writer and editor, and all are named as author of the work. The collaborative writing process can be a useful praxis for Indigenous people (Heiss; Fredericks, White, Phillips et al.; Phillips and Archer-Lean). </p><p>In <em>Singing the Court</em>, the Indigenous identity and experiences of each collaborator offered a powerful basis for considering a range of perspectives on sovereignty and colonisation. It enabled participants to unpack the racism and white possession imbued within the Great Court and its wider contextual setting (Clandinin et al). In this way, the writing workshop enabled individual and shared active learning (Hayler and Thomson) providing a new and dynamic collaborative approach to research (Richardson). The facilitator and collaborators operated through an open collective process of listening, where feedback was offered in a constructive, developmental, and team-building manner. This was done to produce the best work possible within a defined timeframe (Brady; Donnelly; Fitzpatrick; Green).</p><h2>Creating <em>Singing the Court</em><em> </em></h2><p><em></em>The writing session for <em>Singing the Court</em> was scheduled late in the afternoon. Participants worked in three groups, each with five participants. The groups were formed by members numbering off around the larger group. Each small group included a mix of Indigenous higher-degree research students and academics. The numbering off and mixing of students and academics enabled communication between people who weren’t sitting next to one another. It provided an opportunity for people to meet and establish Indigenous relationality (Martin) with one another while discussing the activity. </p><p>All three groups viewed the same three images of UQ’s Great Court (see figs. 1, 2, 3). The images operated as visual prompts for discussion, and enabled participants to describe what they saw, thought, felt, smelt, and understood about the Great Court. From here, each group member wrote three sentences or comments inspired by the images and conversations with their group. </p><p><img src="/public/files/journals/1/articles/1674/submission/proof/1674-12-6924-1-10-20200807.jpg" alt="" width="4592" height="2584" /> </p><p><em>Figure 1: Walkway alongside the Forgan Smith Building within the UQ Great Court. Photo by Donald Johannessen.</em></p><p><img src="/public/files/journals/1/articles/1674/submission/proof/1674-12-6925-1-10-20200807.jpg" alt="" width="4592" height="2584" /></p><p><em>Figure 2: Within the UQ Great Court. Photo by Donald Johannessen.</em></p><p><img src="/public/files/journals/1/articles/1674/submission/proof/1674-12-6926-1-10-20200807.jpg" alt="" width="4592" height="2584" /></p><p><em>Figure 3: Within the cloisters of UQ's Great Court. Photo by Donald Johannessen.</em></p><p>After the writing time, each person read aloud their sentences while remaining group members listened carefully and were encouraged to think about how the words sounded and felt. Each group then re-read and re-ordered their speakers until all members were happy with the order of all five statements. Once the small group process was completed, each group took turns to stand out the front, in their reading order, and share their words with the other groups. The larger group was encouraged to listen carefully and offer feedback on the order. This helped finalise the order within each set of five. </p><p>In this way, the individual voices combined as a collaborative text (Brien). The second reading enabled more emphasis on expression. This collaborative creative writing process facilitated movement from theory to practice (Brady and Krauth), the sharing of life narratives (Bruner), and developed a text (Brady) that the larger group called a poem.</p><blockquote><p align="center"><strong>Singing the Court</strong></p><p align="center">Red flowers blooming<br />Old fullas looking down<br />Arches, arches, arches<br />Long walk<br />Good trees for sleeping under<br />Green lawn</p><p align="center">Green<br />Stone<br />Tree<br />Land<br />Leaves<br />Grass<br />Red<br />Blue<br />Rock </p><p align="center">Foreground trees<br />represents “come in”<br />Calming<br />too many structures<br />“in a box”<br />Need more creativity<br />Hierarchy<br />Too structured </p><p align="center">Nature imprisoned by colonial tradition<br />Shadows and shapes paint the earth<br />Guarded by shadows of the past<br />Red, beauty, blossoms, blood</p><p align="center"> Institution seen past nature<br />See the forest for the trees<br />Blood on the walls</p><p align="center">Sandstone source<br />Castle / estate<br />Sharp lines—round colours<br />Patchwork motley</p><p align="center">Gardens<br />Blue sky<br />Space</p><p align="center">Controlling nature—lawns, manicured<br />Sandstone removed and rebuilt<br />Contrast in light<br />Sky, building enlightenment happens,<br />darkness in light<br />Trees old, buildings old</p><p align="center">Knowledge<br />Strength<br />Roots of trees of knowledge, learning<br />History</p><p align="center">Sandstone<br />Foreign, white law<br />Indigenous erasure<br />Cleared land </p><p align="center">Sandstone strong<br />Strong sandstone<br />Mined, cut out, exploited from land<br />Country, strong Country </p><p align="center">Life, growth, place<br />Hierarchy<br />Concrete structures from rigidity<br />Merging spaces<br />In between shades<br />Places</p><p align="center">Trees holding firm<br />Dominant, arms-crossed<br />Overbearing<br />Stark, cold<br />Cased<br />Colonial architecture and design </p><p align="center">Growth<br />Hope<br />Promise<br />Intimidating, contrasting, conflicting<br />Vibrancy </p><p align="center">Freedom within<br />Barrier institution, locked-out<br />Pathway through </p><p>Singing the Court<em> by (in order as the verses appear) Nereda White, r e a Saunders, Bruce Simpson, Annette Simpson, Andrew Goodman, Tracey Bunda, Ren Perkins, Shay-Lee Aitken, Llewelyn Williams, Amy McQuire, Bronwyn Fredericks, Susan Beetson, Tracy Hardy, Haylee Williams and Ree Jordan (Brisbane, 2019).</em> </p></blockquote><p>Through the collaborative writing process, the 15 Indigenous scholars who participated in <em>Singing the Court</em> produced a reflexive and academic work that stimulated a combination of critical thinking, creative thinking, and performance. Their work drew on the Great Court as a space of learning, teaching, and research, and provided an opportunity to publish a collaborative and cohesive work created through Indigenous practice. On a deeper level, the workshop and creative process allowed for a safe and inclusive space where topics relating to Indigenous place, sovereignty, inclusion, and exclusion could be unpacked. It provided a way for Indigenous scholars to challenge their positioning as “anomaly” in the space of the Great Court. </p><h1><strong>Conclusion </strong></h1><p>The arrival of the colonists, subsequent removal and dispossession of Aboriginal people, and the claiming and renaming the land through constructing buildings and other structures changed the landscape forever. Embedded within these processes and structures are historical, political, cultural, social, and economic values that expose the power relations of broader society (Massey; McDowell). In this way, power is embedded within interactions as well as within place itself. In Australian universities, this is demonstrated through the use of land, physical infrastructure, systems, structures, budget allocations, cultural memory, inherited rules and procedures, and interactions. The University of Queensland and its Great Court exist within this context, creating a space that embodies colonial power and positions Aboriginal people as an “anomaly.” </p><p>Non-Indigenous claims of ownership of place and territorialisation of land, including the land of UQ and its Great Court, can only exist through dispossessing and de-territorialising Aboriginal people from that site (Fredericks). Within this dynamic, non-Indigenous people exercise power, domination, and control over the land, demonstrating that they are its “owners”. Within the university, ownership is demonstrated through media, marketing, policy, rules, governance, curriculum, ceremonies, celebrations, and more. By claiming and exercising control, power, and ownership, non-Indigenous people render Aboriginal people as “foreign” or “an anomaly to place” (Moreton-Robinson). </p><p>The three examples discussed in this article show that Indigenous people continue to challenge and exercise agency in regards to Indigenous dispossession, marginalisation, and non-Indigenous territorialisation and claims of ownership. In doing so, they re-assert Indigenous power to place and shift perspectives of what is seen as anomaly and what is not. </p><h2><strong>Acknowledgments </strong></h2><p>I recognise and acknowledge the sovereignty of Aboriginal peoples as the original custodians of the country on whose land this article was developed, and where UQ St Lucia, including the Great Court, is located. I am thankful to the Indigenous academics and higher-degree research students who participated in the workshop, and collaborated to develop the poem <em>Singing the Court</em>. Thanks are additionally extended to Dr Abraham Bradfield and Dr Judy Gregory for their assistance in bringing the article to finalisation, and to Mr Donald Johannessen for the photographs featured in the article. </p><h2><strong>References </strong></h2><p>AustLit. <em>Courting Blakness: Recalibrating Knowledge in the Sandstone University.</em> Brisbane: U of Queensland P, 2015. &lt;<a href="https://www.austlit.edu.au/austlit/page/10043258">https://www.austlit.edu.au/austlit/page/10043258</a>&gt;.</p><p>Babidge, Sally. “Who Belongs in the Nation?” <em>Courting Blakness Recalibrating Knowledge in the Sandstone University</em>. Eds. Fiona Foley, Louise Martin-Chew, and Fiona Nicoll. St Lucia: U of Queensland P, 2015. 112–117.</p><p>Bradfield, Abraham. 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St Lucia: U of Queensland P, 1992.</p><p>Phillips, Sandra, and Clare Archer-Lean. “Decolonising the Reading of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Writing: Reflection as Transformative Practice.” <em>Higher Education Research &amp; Development</em> 38.1 (2019): 224–237. </p><p>Richardson, Laurel. “Writing: A Method of Inquiry.” <em>Turning Points in Qualitative Research: Tying Knots in a Handkerchief. </em>Eds.<em> </em>Yvonna S. Lincoln and Norman K. Denzin.<em> </em>Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003. 379–396.</p><p>Sibley, David. <em>Geographies of Exclusion: Society and Difference in the West. </em>London:<em> </em>Routledge, 1995. </p><p>Soja, Edward. <em>Postmodern Geographies.</em> London: Verso, 1989.</p><p>Sommerville, Margaret. “A Place Pedagogy for ‘Global Contemporaneity’.” <em>Educational Philosophy and Theory </em>42.3 (2010): 326–44.</p><p>The University of Queensland. <em>Reconciliation Action Plan 2019–2022</em>. St Lucia: U of Queensland P, 2018. &lt;<a href="https://about.uq.edu.au/files/535/UQ-RAP.pdf">https://about.uq.edu.au/files/535/UQ-RAP.pdf</a>&gt;.</p><p><em></em>Van Toorn, Penny. <em>Writing Never Arrives Naked: Early Aboriginal Cultures of Writing in Australia. </em>Canberra: Aboriginal Studies P, 2006.</p> Bronwyn Fredericks Copyright (c) 2020 Bronwyn Fredericks https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1674 Wed, 07 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0000 The CCTV Headquarters—Horizontal Skyscraper or Vertical Courtyard? Anomalies of Beijing Architecture, Urbanism, and Globalisation https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1680 <blockquote><p>I have decided to launch a campaign against the skyscraper, that hideous, mediocre form of architecture…. Today we only have an empty version of it, only competing in height.</p><p><span>— Rem Koolhaas, <a href="https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-03/02/content_310800.htm">“Kool Enough for Beijing?”</a></span></p></blockquote><p><img src="/public/files/journals/1/articles/1680/submission/proof/1680-12-6899-1-10-20200731.jpg" alt="" width="1404" height="1150" /></p><p><em>Figure 1: The CCTV Headquarters—A Courtyard in the Air. </em>Cher Coad, 2020<em>.</em></p><h1><strong>Introduction: An Anomaly within an Anomaly </strong></h1><p>Construction of Beijing’s China Central Television Headquarters (henceforth CCTV Headquarters) began in 2004 and the building was officially completed in 2012. It is a project by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) headed by Rem Koolhaas (1944-), who has been called “the coolest, hippest, and most cutting-edge architect on the planet”(<a href="https://www.notablebiographies.com/news/Ge-La/Koolhaas-Rem.html"><span>“Rem Koolhaas Biography”</span></a>). The CCTV Headquarters is a distinctive feature of downtown Beijing and is heavily associated in the Western world with 21st-century China. It is often used as the backdrop for reports from the China correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Bill Birtles. The construction of the CCTV Headquarters, however, was very much an international enterprise. Koolhaas himself is Dutch, and the building was one of the first projects the OMA did outside of America after 9/11. As Koolhaas describes it: </p><blockquote><p>we had incredible emphasis on New York for five years, and America for five years, and what we decided to do after September 11 when we realized that, you know, things were going to be different in America: [was] to also orient ourselves eastwards [Koolhaas goes on to describe two projects: the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia and the CCTV Headquarters]. (<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oW187PwSjY0"><span>Rem Koolhaas Interview</span></a>) </p></blockquote><p>Problematically, Koolhaas claims that </p><blockquote><p>the building we created for CCTV could never have been conceived by the Chinese and could never have been built by Europeans. It is a hybrid by definition. It was also a partnership, not a foreign imposition…. There was a huge Chinese component from the very beginning. We tried to do a building that conveys that it has emerged from the local situation. (Fraioli 117) </p></blockquote><p>Our article reinterprets this reading. We suggest that the OMA’s “incredible emphasis” on America—home of the world’s first skyscraper: the Home Insurance Building built in 1885 in Chicago, Illinois—pivotally spills over into its engagement with China. The emergence of the CCTV Headquarters “from the local situation”, such as it is, is more <em>in spite of</em> Koolhaas’s stated “hybrid” approach than because of it, for what’s missing from his analysis of the CCTV Headquarters’ provenance is the <em>siheyuan</em> or classical Chinese courtyard house. We will argue that the CCTV Headquarters is an anomaly within an anomaly in contemporary Beijing’s urban landscape, to the extent that it turns the typologies of both the (vertical, American) skyscraper and the (horizontal, Chinese) <em>siheyuan</em> on a 90 degree angle. </p><p>The important point to make here, however, is that these two anomalous elements of the building are not of the same order. While the anomalous re-configuration of the skyscraper typology is clearly part of Koolhaas’s architectural manifesto, it is against his architectural intentionality that the CCTV Headquarters sustains the typology of the <em>siheyuan</em>. This bespeaks the persistent and perhaps functional presence of traditional Chinese architecture and urbanism in the building. Koolhaas’s building contains both starkly evident and more secretive anomalies. Ironically then, there <em>is</em> a certain truth in Koolhaas’s words, beneath the critique we made of it above as an example of American-dominated, homogenising globalisation. And the significance of the CCTV Headquarters’ <em>hybridity </em>as both skyscraper and <em>siheyuan</em> can be elaborated through <a href="http://we-aggregate.org/piece/stakes-of-the-unbuilt"><span>Daniel M. Abramson’s</span></a> thesis that a consideration of <em>unbuilt </em>architecture has the potential to re-open architecture to its historical conditions. </p><p>Roberto Schwarz argues that “forms are the abstract of specific social relationships” (53). Drawing on Schwarz’s work and Abramson’s, we conclude that the historical presence—as secretive anomaly—of the <em>siheyuan</em> in the CCTV Headquarters suggests that the building’s <em>formal</em> debt to the <em>siheyuan</em> (more so than to the American skyscraper) may continue to unsettle the “specific social relationship” of Chinese to Western society (Schwarz 53). </p><p>The site of this unsettlement, we suggest, is data. The CCTV Headquarters might well be the most data-rich site in all of China—it is, after all, a monumental television station. Suggestively, this wealth of airborne data is literally enclosed within the aerial “courtyard”, with its classical Chinese form, of the CCTV Headquarters. This could hardly be irrelevant in the context of the geo-politics of globalised data. The “form of data”, to coin a phrase, radiates through all the social consequences of data flow and usage, and here the form of data is entwined with a form always already saturated with social consequence. The secretive architectural anomaly of Koolhaas’s building is thus a heterotopic space within the broader Western engagement with China, so much of which relates to flows and captures of data. </p><h1><strong>The Ubiquitous <em>Siheyuan</em> or Classical Chinese Courtyard House </strong></h1><p>According to <a href="https://iaps.architexturez.net/system/files/pdf/1202bm1029.content.pdf"><span>Ying Liu and Adenrele Awotona</span></a>, “the courtyard house, a residential compound with buildings surrounding a courtyard on four (or sometimes three) sides, has been representative of housing patterns for over one thousand years in China” (248). Liu and Awotona state that “courtyard house patterns could be found in many parts of China, but the most typical forms are those located in the Old City in Beijing, the capital of China for over eight hundred years” (252). In their reading, the <em>siheyuan</em> is a peculiarly elastic architectural typology, whose influence is present as much in the Forbidden City as in the humble family home (252). Prima facie then, it is not surprising that it has also secreted itself within the architectural form of Koolhaas’s creation. It is important to note, however, that while the “most typical forms” of the <em>siheyuan </em>are indeed still to be found in Beijing, the courtyard house is an increasingly uncommon sight in the Chinese capital. An article in the <em>China Daily</em> from 2004 refers to the “few remaining siheyuan” (“Kool Enough for Beijing?”). </p><p>That said, all is not lost for the <em>siheyuan</em>. Liu and Awotona discuss how the classical form of the courtyard house has been modified to more effectively house current residents in the older parts of Beijing while protecting “the horizontal planning feature of traditional Beijing” (254). “Basic design principles” (255) of the <em>siheyuan</em> have supported “a transition from the traditional single-household courtyard housing form to a contemporary multi-household courtyard housing form” (254). In this process, approaches of “urban renewal [involving] demolition” and “preservation, renovation and rebuilding” have been taken (255). <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/292735947_Classical_courtyard_houses_of_Beijing_architecture_as_cultural_artifact/link/56b25a0708aed7ba3fedce2d/download"><span>Donia Zhang</span></a> extends the work of Liu and Awotona in the elaboration of her thesis that “Chinese-Americans interested in building Chinese-style courtyard houses in America are keen to learn about their architectural heritage” (47). Zhang’s article concludes with an illustration that shows how the <em>siheyuan </em>may be merged with the typical American suburban dwelling (66). </p><p>The final thing to emphasise about the <em>siheyuan</em> is what Liu and Awotona describe as its “special introverted quality” (249). The form is saturated with social consequence by virtue of its philosophical undergirding. The coincidence of philosophies of Daoism (including <em>feng-shui</em>) and Confucianism in the architecture and spatiality of the classical Chinese courtyard house makes it an exceedingly odd anomaly of passivity and power (250-51). The courtyard itself has a highly charged role in the management of family, social and cultural life, which, we suggest, survives its transposition into novel architectural environments. </p><p><img src="/public/files/journals/1/articles/1680/submission/proof/1680-2-6900-1-10-20200731.jpg" alt="" width="1536" height="2048" /></p><p><em>Figure 2: The CCTV Headquarters—Looking Up at “The Overhang”. </em>Cher Coad, 2020<em>. </em></p><h1><strong>The CCTV Headquarters: A New Type of Skyscraper? </strong></h1><p>Rem Koolhaas is not the only architect to interrogate the standard skyscraper typology. In his essay from 1999, “The Architecture of the Future”, Norman Foster argues that “the world’s increasing ecological crisis” (278) is in part a function of “unchecked urban sprawl” (279). A new type of skyscraper, he suggests, might at least ameliorate the sprawl of our cities: </p><blockquote><p>the Millennium Tower that we have proposed in Tokyo takes a traditional horizontal city quarter—housing, shops, restaurants, cinemas, museums, sporting facilities, green spaces and public transport networks—and turns it on its side to create a super-tall building with a multiplicity of uses … . It would create a virtually self-sufficient, fully self-sustaining community in the sky. (279) </p></blockquote><p>Koolhaas follows suit, arguing that “the actual point of the skyscraper—to increase worker density—has been lost. Skyscrapers are now only momentary points of high density spaced so far apart that they don’t actually increase density at all” (“Kool Enough for Beijing?”). </p><p>Foster’s solution to urban sprawl is to make the horizontal (an urban segment) vertical; Koolhaas’s is to make the vertical horizontal: “we’ve [OMA] come up with two types: a very low-rise series of buildings, or a single, condensed hyperbuilding. What we’re doing with CCTV is a prototype of the hyperbuilding” (“Kool Enough for Beijing?”). Interestingly, the “low-rise” type mentioned here brings to mind the <em>siheyuan</em>—textual evidence, perhaps, that the <em>siheyuan</em> is always already a silent fellow traveller of the CCTV Headquarters project. </p><p>The CCTV Headquarters is, even at over 200 metres tall itself, an anomaly of horizontalism amidst Beijing’s pervasive skyscraper verticality. As <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/06/30/forbidden-cities"><span>Paul Goldberger</span></a> reports, “some Beijingers have taken to calling it Big Shorts”, which again evokes horizontality. This is its most obvious anomaly, and a somewhat melancholy reminder of “the horizontal planning feature of traditional Beijing” now mutilated by skyscrapers (Liu and Awotona 254). </p><p>In the same gesture, however, with which it lays the skyscraper on its side, Koolhaas’s creation raises into the air the shape of the courtyard of a classical Chinese house. To our knowledge, no one has noticed this before, let alone written about it. It is, to be sure, a genuine courtyard shape—not merely an archway or a bridge with unoccupied space between. Pure building entirely surrounds the vertical courtyard shape formed in the air. </p><p>Most images of the building provide an orientation that maximises the size of its vertical courtyard. To this extent, the (secret) courtyard shape of the building is hidden in plain sight. It is possible, however, to make the courtyard narrow to a mere slit of space, and finally to nothing, by circumnavigating the building. Certain perspectives on the building can even make it look like a more-or-less ordinary skyscraper. But, as a quick google-image search reveals, such views are rare. What seems to make the building special to people is precisely that part of it that is <em>not</em> building. Furthermore, anyone approaching the CCTV Headquarters with the intention of locating a courtyard typology within its form will be disappointed unless they look to its vertical plane. There is no hint of a courtyard at the base of the building. </p><p><img src="/public/files/journals/1/articles/1680/submission/proof/1680-2-6901-1-10-20200731.jpg" alt="" width="1537" height="2049" /></p><p><em>Figure 3: The CCTV Headquarters—View from “The Overhang”. </em>Cher Coad, 2020<em>.</em></p><p><img src="/public/files/journals/1/articles/1680/submission/proof/1680-2-6907-1-10-20200731.jpg" alt="" width="1536" height="2048" /></p><p><em>Figure 4: The CCTV Headquarters—Looking through the Floor of “The Overhang”. </em>Cher Coad, 2020<em>.</em></p><h1><strong>Visiting the CCTV Headquarters: A “Special Introverted Quality?” </strong></h1><p>In January 2020, we visited the CCTV Headquarters, ostensibly as audience members for a recording of a science spectacular show. Towards the end of the recording, we were granted a quick tour of the building. It is rare for foreigners to gain access to the sections of the building we visited. Taking the lift about 40 floors up, we arrived at the cantilever level—known informally as “the overhang”. Glass discs in the floor allow one to walk out over nothingness, looking down on ant-like pedestrians. Looking down like this was also to peer into the vacant “courtyard” of the building—into a structure “turned or pushed inward on itself”, which is the anatomical definition of “introverted” (<em>Oxford Languages Dictionary</em>). </p><p>Workers in the building evinced no great affection for it, and certainly nothing of our wide-eyed wonder. Somebody said, “it’s just a place to work”. One of this article’s authors, Patrick West, seemed to feel the overhang almost imperceptibly vibrating beneath him. (Still, he has also experienced this sensation in conventional skyscrapers.) We were told the rumour that the building has started to tilt over dangerously. Being high in the air, but also high on the air, with nothing but air beneath us, felt edgy—somehow special—our own little world. </p><p>Koolhaas promotes the CCTV Headquarters as (in paraphrase) “its own city, its own community” (“Kool Enough for Beijing?”). This resonated with us on our visit. Conventional skyscrapers fracture any sense of community through their segregated floor-upon-floor verticality; there is never enough room for a little patch of horizontal urbanism to unroll. Within “the overhang”, the CCTV Headquarters felt unlike a standard skyscraper, as if we were in an urban space magically levitated from the streets below. Sure, we had been told by one of the building’s inhabitants that it was “just a place to work”—but compared to the bleak sterility of most skyscraper work places, it wasn’t that sterile. The phrase Liu and Awotona use of the <em>siheyuan</em> comes to mind here, as we recall our experience; somehow, we had been inside a different type of building, one with its own “special introverted quality” (249). <em>Special</em>, that is, in the sense of containing <em>just so much of horizontal urbanism</em> as allows the building to retain its introverted quality as “its own city” (“Kool Enough for Beijing?”). </p><p><img src="/public/files/journals/1/articles/1680/submission/proof/1680-2-6908-1-10-20200731.jpg" alt="" width="1536" height="2048" /></p><p><em>Figure 5: The CCTV Headquarters—View from “The Overhang”. </em>Cher Coad, 2020<em>.</em></p><p><img src="/public/files/journals/1/articles/1680/submission/proof/1680-2-6909-1-10-20200731.jpg" alt="" width="1536" height="2048" /></p><p><em>Figure 6: The CCTV Headquarters—Inside “The Overhang”. </em>Cher Coad, 2020<em>. </em></p><h1><strong>Unbuilt Architecture: The Visionary and the Contingent </strong></h1><p>Within the present that it constitutes, built architecture is surrounded by unbuilt architecture at two interfaces: where the past ends; where the future begins. The soupy mix of urbanism continually spawns myriad architectural possibilities, and any given skyscraper is haunted by all the skyscrapers it might have been. History and the past hang heavily from them. </p><p>Meanwhile, architectural programme or ambition—such as it is—pulls in the other direction: towards an idealised (if not impossible to practically realise) future. Along these lines, Koolhaas and the OMA are plainly a future-directed, as well as self-aware, architectural unit: </p><blockquote><p>at OMA we try to build in the greatest possible tolerance and the least amount of rigidity in terms of embodying one particular moment. We want our buildings to evolve. A building has at least two lives—the one imagined by its maker and the life it lives afterward—and they are never the same. (Fraioli 115) </p></blockquote><p>Koolhaas makes the same point even more starkly with regard to the CCTV Headquarters project through his use of the word “prototype”: “what we’re doing with CCTV is a prototype of the hyperbuilding” (“Kool Enough for Beijing?”). At the same time, however, as the presence of the <em>siheyuan</em> within the architecture of the CCTV Headquarters shows, the work of the OMA cannot escape from the superabundance of history, within which, as Roberto Schwarz claims, “forms are the abstract of specific social relationships” (53). </p><p>Supporting our contentions here, Daniel M. Abramson notes that unbuilt architecture implies </p><blockquote><p>two sub-categories … the visionary unbuilt, and the contingent … . Visionary schemes invite a forward glance, down one true, vanguard path to a reformed society and discipline. The contingent unbuilts, conversely, invite a backward glance, along multiple routes history might have gone, each with its own likelihood and validity; no privileged truths. (Abramson)</p></blockquote><p>Introducing Abramson’s theory to the example of the CCTV Headquarters, the “visionary unbuilt” lines up with Koolhaas’ thesis that the building is a future-directed “prototype”. while the clearest candidate for the “contingent unbuilt”, we suggest, is the <em>siheyuan</em>. Why? Firstly, the <em>siheyuan</em> is hidden in plain sight, within the framing architecture of the CCTV Headquarters; secondly, it is ubiquitous in Beijing urbanism—little wonder then that it turns up, unannounced, in this Beijing building; thirdly, and related to the second point, the two buildings share a “special introverted quality” (Liu and Awotona 249). “The contingent”, in this case, is the anomaly nestled within the much more blatant “visionary” (or futuristic) anomaly—the hyperbuilding to come—of the Beijing-embedded CCTV Headquarters. Koolhaas’s building’s most fascinating anomaly relates, not to any forecast of the future, but to the subtle persistence of the past—its muted quotation of the ancient <em>siheyuan </em>form. </p><p>Our article is, in part, a response to Abramson’s invitation to “pursue … the <em>consequences</em> of the unbuilt … [and thus] to open architectural history more fully to history”. We have supplemented Abramson’s idea with Schwarz’s suggestion that “forms are the abstract of specific social relationships” (53). The anomaly of the <em>siheyuan</em>—alongside that of the hyperbuilding—within the CCTV headquarters, opens the building up (paraphrasing Abramson) to a fuller analysis of its historical positioning within Western and Eastern flows of globalisation (or better, as we are about to suggest, of glocalisation). In parallel, its form (paraphrasing Schwarz) abstracts and re-presents this history’s specific social relationships. </p><p><img src="/public/files/journals/1/articles/1680/submission/proof/1680-2-6910-1-10-20200731.jpg" alt="" width="1536" height="2048" /></p><p><em>Figure 7: The CCTV Headquarters—A Courtyard of Data. </em>Cher Coad, 2020<em>.</em></p><h1><strong>Conclusion: A Courtyard of Data and Tensions of Glocalisation </strong></h1><p>Koolhaas proposes that the CCTV Headquarters was “a partnership, not a foreign imposition” and that the building “emerged from the local situation” (Fraioli 117). To us, this smacks of Pollyanna globalisation. The CCTV Headquarters is, we suggest, more accurately read as an imposition of the American skyscraper typology, albeit in anomalous form. (One might even argue that the building’s horizontal deviation from the vertical norm reinforces that norm.) Still, amidst a thicket of conventionally vertical skyscrapers, the building’s horizontalism does have the anomalous effect of recalling “the horizontal planning feature of traditional Beijing” (Liu and Awotona 254). Buried within its horizontalism, however, lies a more secretive anomaly in the form of a vertical <em>siheyuan</em>. <em>This </em>anomaly, we contend, motivates a terminological shift from “globalisation” to “glocalisation”, for the latter term better captures the notion of a <em>lack of reconciliation</em> between the “global” and the “local” in the building. </p><p>Koolhaas’s visionary architectural programme explicitly advances anomaly. The CCTV Headquarters radically reworks the skyscraper typology as the prototype of a hyperbuilding defined by horizontalism. Certainly, such horizontalism recalls the horizontal plane of pre-skyscraper Beijing and, if faintly, that plane’s ubiquitous feature: the classical courtyard house. Simultaneously, however, the <em>siheyuan</em> has a direct if secretive presence within the morphology of the CCTV Headquarters, even as any suggestion of a vertical courtyard is strikingly absent from Koolhaas’s vanguard manifesto. To this extent, the hyperbuilding fits within Abramson’s category of “the visionary unbuilt”, while the <em>siheyuan</em> aligns with Abramson’s “contingent unbuilt” descriptor. The latter is the “might have been” that, largely under the pressure of its ubiquity as Beijing vernacular architecture, “very nearly is”. </p><p>Drawing on Schwarz’s idea that “forms are the abstract of specific social relationships”, we propose that the <em>siheyuan</em>, as anomalous form of the CCTV Headquarters, is a heterotopic space within the hybrid global harmony (to paraphrase Koolhaas) <em>purportedly</em> represented by the building (53). In this space thus formed collides the built-up historical and philosophical social intensity of the classical Chinese courtyard house <em>and</em> the intensities of data flows and captures that help constitute the predominantly capitalist and neo-liberalist “social relationship” of China and the Western world—the world of the skyscraper (Schwarz). Within the <em>siheyuan</em> of the CCTV Headquarters, globalised data is literally enveloped by Daoism and Confucianism; it is saturated with the social consequence of local place. The term “glocalisation” is, we suggest, to be preferred here to “globalisation”, because of how it better reflects such vernacular interruptions to the hegemony of globalised space. </p><p>Forms delineate social relationships, and data, which both forms and is formed by social relationships, may be formed by architecture as much as anything else within social space. Attention to the unbuilt architectural forms (vanguard and contingent) contained within the CCTV Headquarters reveals layers of anomaly that might, ultimately, point to another form of architecture entirely, in which <em>glocal</em> tensions are not only recognised, but resolved. Here, Abramson’s historical project intersects, in the final analysis, with a worldwide politics. </p><p><img src="/public/files/journals/1/articles/1680/submission/proof/1680-2-6911-1-10-20200731.jpg" alt="" width="2048" height="1536" /></p><p><em>Figure 8: The CCTV Headquarters—A Sound Stage in Action. </em>Cher Coad, 2020<em>. </em></p><h2><strong>References </strong> </h2><p>Abramson, Daniel M. “Stakes of the Unbuilt.” <em>Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative</em>. 20 July 2020. &lt;<a href="http://we-aggregate.org/piece/stakes-of-the-unbuilt"><span>http://we-aggregate.org/piece/stakes-of-the-unbuilt</span></a>&gt;.</p><p>Foster, N. “The Architecture of the Future.” <em>The Architecture Reader: Essential Writings from Vitruvius to the Present</em>. Ed. A. Krista Sykes. New York: George Braziller, 2007: 276-79. </p><p>Fraioli, Paul. “The Invention and Reinvention of the City: An Interview with Rem Koolhaas.” <em>Journal of International Affairs</em> 65.2 (Spring/Summer 2012): 113-19. </p><p>Goldberger, Paul. “Forbidden Cities: Beijing’s Great New Architecture Is a Mixed Blessing for the City.” <em>The New Yorker—The Sky Line</em>. 23 June 2008. &lt;<a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/06/30/forbidden-cities"><span>https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/06/30/forbidden-cities</span></a>&gt;.</p><p><span>“Kool Enough for Beijing?” <em>China Daily</em>. 2 March 2004. &lt;<a href="https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-03/02/content_310800.htm">https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-03/02/content_310800.htm</a>&gt;. <br /></span></p><p>Liu, Ying, and Adenrele Awotona. “The Traditional Courtyard House in China: Its Formation and Transition.” <em>Evolving Environmental Ideals—Changing Way of Life, Values and Design Practices: IAPS 14 Conference Proceedings</em>. IAPS. Stockholm, Sweden: Royal Institute of Technology, 1996: 248-60. &lt;<a href="https://iaps.architexturez.net/system/files/pdf/1202bm1029.content.pdf"><span>https://iaps.architexturez.net/system/files/pdf/1202bm1029.content.pdf</span></a>&gt;.</p><p><em>Oxford Languages Dictionary</em>.<em> </em></p><p>“Rem Koolhaas Biography.” <em>Encyclopedia of World Biography</em>. 20 July 2020. &lt;<a href="https://www.notablebiographies.com/news/Ge-La/Koolhaas-Rem.html"><span>https://www.notablebiographies.com/news/Ge-La/Koolhaas-Rem.html</span></a>&gt;. </p><p>“Rem Koolhaas Interview.” <em>Manufacturing Intellect</em>. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2003. &lt;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oW187PwSjY0"><span>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oW187PwSjY0</span></a>&gt;.</p><p>Schwarz, Roberto. <em>Misplaced Ideas: Essays on Brazilian Culture</em>. New York: Verso, 1992. </p><p>Zhang, Donia. “Classical Courtyard Houses of Beijing: Architecture as Cultural Artifact.” <em>Space and Communication</em> 1.1 (Dec. 2015): 47-68. </p> Patrick Leslie West, Cher Coad Copyright (c) 2020 Patrick Leslie West, Cher Coad https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1680 Wed, 07 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0000 Bleeding Puppets: Transmediating Genre in Pili Puppetry https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1681 <div class="page" title="Page 1"><div class="layoutArea"><div class="column"><h1><strong>Introduction</strong></h1><p>What can we learn about anomaly from the strangeness of a puppet, a lifeless object, that can both bleed and die? How does the filming process of a puppet’s death engage across media and produce a new media genre that is not easily classified within traditional conventions? Why do these fighting and bleeding puppets’ scenes consistently attract audiences? This study examines how Pili puppetry (1984-present), a popular TV series depicting martial arts-based narratives and fight sequences, interacts with digital technologies and constructs a new media genre. The transmedia constitution of a virtual world not only challenges the stereotype of puppetry’s target audience but also expands the audience’s bodily imagination and desires through the visual component of death scenes. Hence, the show does not merely represent or signify an anomaly, but even creates anomalous desires and imaginary bodies.</p><p>Cultural commodification and advancing technologies have motivated the convergence and displacement of traditional boundaries, genres, and media, changing the very fabric of textuality itself. By exploring how new media affect the audience’s visual reception of fighting and death, this article sheds light on understanding the metamorphoses of Taiwanese puppetry and articulates a theoretical argument regarding the show’s artistic practice to explain how its form transverses traditional boundaries. This critical exploration focusses on how the form represents bleeding puppets, and in doing so, explicates the politics of transmedia performing and viewing. Pili is an example of an anomalous media form that proliferates anomalous media viewing experiences and desires in turn.</p><h1><strong>Beyond a Media Genre: Taiwanese Pili Puppetry</strong></h1><p>Converging the craft technique of puppeteering and digital technology of filmmaking and animation, Pili puppetry creates a new media genre that exceeds any conventional idea of a puppet show or digital puppet, as it is something in-between. Glove puppetry is a popular traditional theatre in Taiwan, often known as “theatre in the palm” because a traditional puppet was roughly the same size as an adult’s palm. The size enabled the puppeteer to easily manipulate a puppet in one hand and be close to the audience. Traditionally, puppet shows occurred to celebrate the local deities’ birthday. Despite its popularity, the form was limited by available technology. For instance, although stories with vigorous battles were particularly popular, bleeding scenes in such an auspicious occasion were inappropriate and rare. As a live theatrical event featuring immediate interaction between the performer and the spectator, realistic bleeding scenes were rare because it is hard to immediately clean the stage during the performance. </p><p>Distinct from the traditional puppet show, digital puppetry features semi-animated puppets in a virtual world. Digital puppetry is not a new concept by any means in the Western film industry. Animating a 3D puppet is closely associated with motion capture technologies and animation that are manipulated in a digitalised virtual setting (Ferguson). Commonly, the target audience of the Western digital puppetry is children, so educators sometimes use digital puppetry as a pedagogical tool (Potter; Wohlwend). With these young target audience in mind, the producers often avoid violent and bleeding scenes.</p><p>Pili puppetry differs from digital puppetry in several ways. For instance, instead of targeting a young audience, Pili puppetry consistently extends the traditional martial-arts performance to include bloody fight sequences that enrich the expressiveness of traditional puppetry as a performing art. Moreover, Pili puppetry does not apply the motion capture technologies to manipulate the puppet’s movement, thus retaining the puppeteers’ puppeteering craft (clips of Pili puppetry can be seen on <a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/epilinet">Pili’s official YouTube page</a>). Hence, Pili is a unique hybrid form, creating its own anomalous space in puppetry. </p><p>Among over a thousand characters across the series, the realistic “human-like” puppet is one of Pili’s most popular selling points. The new media considerably intervene in the puppet design, as close-up shots and high-resolution images can accurately project details of a puppet’s face and body movements on the screen. Consequently, Pili’s puppet modelling becomes increasingly intricate and attractive and arguably makes its virtual figures more epic yet also more “human” (Chen). </p><p><img src="/public/files/journals/1/articles/1681/submission/proof/1681-2-6915-1-10-20200806.jpg" alt="" width="377" height="550" /></p><p><em>Figure 1: Su Huan-Jen in the TV series </em>Pili Killing Blade<em> (1993). His facial expressions were relatively flat and rigid then. Reproduced with permission of Pili International Multimedia Company.</em></p><p><img src="/public/files/journals/1/articles/1681/submission/proof/1681-2-6916-2-10-20200806.jpg" alt="" width="432" height="525" /></p><p><em>Figure 2: Su Huan-Jen in the TV series </em>Pili Nine Thrones<em> (2003). The puppet’s facial design and costume became more delicate and complex. Reproduced with permission of Pili International Multimedia Company.</em></p><p><img src="/public/files/journals/1/articles/1681/submission/proof/1681-2-6917-1-10-20200806.jpg" alt="" width="408" height="525" /></p><p><em>Figure 3: Su Huan-Jen in the TV series </em>Pili Fantasy: War of Dragons<em> (2019). His facial lines softened due to more precise design technologies. The new lightweight chiffon yarn costumes made him look more elegant. The multiple-layer costumes also created more space for puppeteers to hide behind the puppet and enact more complicated manipulations. Reproduced with permission of Pili International Multimedia Company.</em></p><p>The design of the most well-known Pili swordsman, Su Huan-Jen, demonstrates how the Pili puppet modelling became more refined and intricate in the past 20 years. In 1993, the standard design was a TV puppet with the size and body proportion slightly enlarged from the traditional puppet. Su Huan-Jen’s costumes were made from heavy fabrics, and his facial expressions were relatively flat and rigid (fig. 1). Pili produced its first puppetry film <em>Legend of the Sacred Stone </em>in 2000; considering the visual quality of a big screen, Pili refined the puppet design including replacing wooden eyeballs and plastic hair with real hair and glass eyeballs (Chen). The filmmaking experience inspired Pili to dramatically improve the facial design for all puppets. In 2003, Su’s modelling in <em>Pili Nine Thrones</em> (TV series) became noticeably much more delicate. The puppet’s size was considerably enlarged by almost three times, so a puppeteer had to use two hands to manipulate a puppet. The complex costumes and props made more space for puppeteers to hide behind the puppet and enrich the performance of the fighting movements (fig. 2). In 2019, Su’s new modelling further included new layers of lightweight fabrics, and his makeup and props became more delicate and complex (fig. 3). Such a refined aesthetic design also lends to Pili’s novelty among puppetry performances.</p><p>Through the transformation of Pili in the context of puppetry history, we see how the handicraft-like puppet itself gradually commercialised into an artistic object that the audience would yearn to collect and project their bodily imagination. Anthropologist Teri Silvio notices that, for some fans, Pili puppets are similar to worship icons through which they project their affection and imaginary identity (Silvio, “Pop Culture Icons”). Intermediating with the new media, the change in the refined puppet design also comes from the audience’s expectations. Pili’s senior puppet designer Fan Shih-Ching mentioned that Pili fans are very involved, so their preferences affect the design of puppets. The complexity, particularly the layer of costumes, most clearly differentiates the aesthetics of traditional and Pili puppets. Due to the “idolisation” of some famous Pili characters, Shih-Ching has had to design more and more gaudy costumes. Each resurgence of a well-known Pili swordsman, such as Su Huan-Jen, Yi Ye Shu, and Ye Hsiao-Chai, means he has to remodel the puppet.</p><p>Pili fans represent their infatuation for puppet characters through cosplay (literally “costume play”), which is when fans dress up and pretend to be a Pili character. Their cosplay, in particular, reflects the bodily practice of imaginary identity. Silvio observes that most cosplayers choose to dress as characters that are the most visually appealing rather than characters that best suit their body type. They even avoid moving too “naturally” and mainly move from pose-to-pose, similar to the frame-to-frame techne of animation. Thus, we can understand this “cosplay more as reanimating the character using the body as a kind of puppet rather than as an embodied performance of some aspect of self-identity” (Silvio 2019, 167). Hence, Pili fans’ cosplay is indicative of an anomalous desire to become the puppet-like human, which helps them transcend their social roles in their everyday life. It turns out that not only fans’ preference drives the (re)modelling of puppets but also fans attempt to model themselves in the image of their beloved puppets. The reversible dialectic between fan-star and flesh-object further provokes an “anomaly” in terms of the relationship between the viewers and the puppets. Precisely because fans have such an intimate relationship with Pili, it is important to consider how the series’ content and form configure fans’ viewing experience.</p><h1><strong>Filming Bleeding Puppets</strong></h1><p>Despite its intricate aesthetics, Pili is still a series with frequent fighting-to-the-death scenes, which creates, and is the result of, extraordinary transmedia production and viewing experiences. Due to the market demand of producing episodes around 500 minutes long every month, Pili constantly creates new characters to maintain the audience’s attention and retain its novelty. So far, Pili has released thousands of characters. To ensure that new characters supersede the old ones, numerous old characters have to die within the plot.</p><p>The adoption of new media allows the fighting scenes in Pili to render as more delicate, rather than consisting of loud, intense action movements. Instead, the leading swordsmen’s death inevitably takes place in a pathetic and romantic setting and consummates with a bloody sacrifice. Fighting scenes in early Pili puppetry created in the late 1980s were still based on puppets’ body movements, as the knowledge and technology of animation were still nascent and underdeveloped. At that time, the prestigious swordsman mainly relied on the fast speed of brandishing his sword. Since the early 1990s, as animation technology matured, it has become very common to see Pili use CGI animation to create a damaging sword beam for puppets to kill target enemies far away. The sword beam can fly much faster than the puppets can move, so almost every fighting scene employs CGI to visualise both sword beams and flame. The change in fighting manners provokes different representations of the bleeding and death scenes. Open wounds replace puncture wounds caused by a traditional weapon; bleeding scenes become typical, and a special feature in Pili’s transmedia puppetry.</p><p>In addition to CGI animation, the use of fake blood in the Pili studio makes the performance even more realistic. Pili puppet master Ting Chen-Ching recalled that exploded puppets in traditional puppetry were commonly made by styrofoam blocks. The white styrofoam chips that sprayed everywhere after the explosion inevitably made the performance seem less realistic. By contrast, in the Pili studio, the scene of a puppet spurting blood after the explosion usually applies the technology of editing several shots. The typical procedure would be a short take that captures a puppet being injured. In its injury location, puppeteers sprinkle red confetti to represent scattered blood clots in the following shot. Sometimes the fake blood was splashed with the red confetti to make it further three-dimensional (Ting). </p><p>Bloody scenes can also be filmed through multiple layers of arranged performance conducted at the same time by a group of puppeteers. Ting describes the practice of filming a bleeding puppet. Usually, some puppeteers sprinkle fake blood in front of the camera, while other puppeteers blasted the puppets toward various directions behind the blood to make the visual effects match. If the puppeteers need to show how a puppet becomes injured and vomits blood during the fight, they can install tiny pipes in the puppet in advance. During the filming, the puppeteer slowly squeezes the pipe to make the fake blood flow out from the puppet’s mouth. Such a bloody scene sometimes accompanies tears dropping from the puppet’s eyes. In some cases, the puppeteer drops the blood on the puppet’s mouth prior to the filming and then uses a powerful electric fan to blow the blood drops (Ting). Such techniques direct the blood to flow laterally against the wind, which makes the puppet’s death more aesthetically tragic. Because it is not a live performance, the puppeteer can try repeatedly until the camera captures the most ideal blood drop pattern and bleeding speed. </p><p>Puppeteers have to adjust the camera distance for different bleeding scenes, which creates new modes of viewing, sensing, and representing virtual life and death. One of the most representative examples of Pili’s bleeding scenes is when Su’s best friend, Ching Yang-Zi, fights with alien devils in <em>Legend of the Sacred Stone. </em>(The clip of how Ching Yang-Zi fights and bleeds to death can be seen on <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FiTY-Giysw">YouTube</a><span>.</span>) Ting described how Pili prepared three different puppets of Ching for the non-fighting, fighting, and bleeding scenes (Ting). The main fighting scene starts from a low-angle medium shot that shows how Ching Yang-Zi got injured and began bleeding from the corner of his mouth. Then, a sharp weapon flies across the screen; the following close-up shows that the weapon hits Ching and he begins bleeding immediately. The successive shots move back and forth between his face and the wound in medium shot and close-up. Next, a close-up shows him stepping back with blood dripping on the ground. He then pushes the weapon out of his body to defend enemies; a final close-up follows a medium take and a long take shows the massive hemorrhage. The eruption of fluid plasma creates a natural effect that is difficult to achieve, even with 3D animation. Beyond this impressive technicality, the exceptional production and design emphasise how Pili fully embraces the ethos of transmedia: to play with multiple media forms and thereby create a new form. In the case of Pili, its form is interactive, transcending the boundaries of what we might consider the “living” and the “dead”.</p><h1><strong>Epilogue: Viewing Bleeding Puppets on the Screen</strong></h1><p>The simulated, high-quality, realistic-looking puppet designs accompanying the Pili’s featured bloody fighting sequence draw another question: What is the effect of watching human-like puppets die? What does this do to viewer-fans? Violence is prevalent throughout the historical record of human behaviour, especially in art and entertainment because these serve as outlets to fulfill a basic human need to indulge in “taboo fantasies” and escape into “realms of forbidden experience” (Schechter). When discussing the visual representations of violence and the spectacle of the sufferings of others, Susan Sontag notes, “if we consider what emotions would be desirable” (102), viewing the pain of others may not simply evoke sympathy. She argues that “[no] moral charge attaches to the representation of these cruelties. Just the provocation: can you look at this? There is the satisfaction of being able to look at the image without flinching. There is the pleasure of flinching” (41). For viewers, the boldness of watching the bloody scenes can be very inviting. Watching human-like puppets die in the action scenes similarly validates the viewer’s need for pleasure and entertainment. Although different from a human body, the puppets still bears the materiality of being-object. Therefore, watching the puppets bleeding and die as distinctly “human-like’ puppets further prevent viewers’ from feeling guilty or morally involved. The conceptual distance of being aware of the puppet’s materiality acts as a moral buffer; audiences are intimately involved through the particular aesthetic arrangement, yet morally detached. </p><p>The transmedia filming of puppetry adds another layer of mediation over the human-like “living” puppets that allows such a particular experience. Sontag notices that the media generates an inevitable distance between object and subject, between witness and victim. For Sontag, although images constitute “the imaginary proximity” because it makes the “faraway sufferers” be “seen close-up on the television screen”, it is a mystification to assume that images serve as a direct link between sufferers and viewers. Rather, Sontag insists: the distance makes the viewers feel “we are not accomplices to what caused the suffering. Our sympathy proclaims our innocence as well as our impotence” (102). Echoing Sontag’s argument, Jeffrey Goldstein points out that “distancing” oneself from the mayhem represented in media makes it tolerable. Media creates an “almost real” visuality of violence, so the audience feels relatively safe in their surroundings when exposed to threatening images. Thus, “violent imagery must carry cues to its unreality or it loses appeal” (280). Pili puppets that are human-<em>like</em>, thus not human, more easily enable the audience to seek sensational excitement through viewing puppets’ bloody violence and eventual death on the screen and still feel emotionally secure. Due to the distance granted by the medium, viewers gain a sense of power by excitedly viewing the violence with an accompanying sense of moral exemption. Thus, viewers can easily excuse the limits of their personal responsibility while still being captivated by Pili’s boundary-transgressing aesthetic.</p><p>The anomalous power of Pili fans’ cosplay differentiates the viewing experience of puppets’ deaths from that of other violent entertainment productions. Cosplayers physically bridge viewing/acting and life/death by dressing up as the puppet characters, bringing them to life, as flesh. Cosplay allows fans to compensate for the helplessness they experience when watching the puppets’ deaths on the screen. They can both “enjoy” the innocent pleasure of watching bleeding puppets and bring their adored dead idols “back to life” through cosplay. The onscreen violence and death thus provide an additional layer of pleasure for such cosplayers. They not only take pleasure in watching the puppets—which are an idealized version of their bodily imagination—die, but also feel empowered to revitalise their loved idols. Therefore, Pili cosplayers’ desires incite a cycle of life, pleasure, and death, in which the company responds to their consumers’ demands in kind. The intertwining of social, economic, and political factors thus collectively thrives upon media violence as entertainment. </p><p>Pili creates the potential for new cross-media genre configurations that transcend the traditional/digital puppetry binary. On the one hand, the design of swordsman puppets become a simulation of a “living object” responding to the camera distance. On the other hand, the fighting and death scenes heavily rely on the puppeteers’ cooperation with animation and editing. Therefore, Pili puppetry enriches existing discourse on both puppetry and animation as life-giving processes. What is animated by Pili puppetry is not simply the swordsmen characters themselves, but new potentials for media genres and violent entertainment. </p><h2>Acknowledgment</h2><p>My hearty gratitude to Amy Gaeta for sharing her insights with me on the early stage of this study.</p><h2>References</h2><p>Chen, Jasmine Yu-Hsing. “Transmuting Tradition: The Transformation of Taiwanese Glove Puppetry in Pili Productions.” <em>Journal of the Oriental Society of Australia </em>51 (2019): 26-46.</p><p>Ferguson, Jeffrey. “Lessons from Digital Puppetry: Updating a Design Framework for a Perceptual User Interface.” IEEE International Conference on Computer and Information Technology, 2015.</p><p>Goldstein, Jeffrey. “The Attractions of Violent Entertainment.” <em>Media Psychology</em> 1.3 (1999): 271-282.</p><p>Potter, Anna. “Funding Contemporary Children’s Television: How Digital Convergence Encourages Retro Reboot.” <em>International Journal on Communications Management</em> 19.2 (2017): 108-112.</p><p>Schechter, Harold. <em>Savage Pastimes: A Cultural History of Violent Entertainment. </em>New York: St. Martin’s, 2005.</p><p>Silvio, Teri. “Pop Culture Icons: Religious Inflections of the Character Toy in Taiwan.” <em>Mechademia</em> 3.1 (2010): 200-220.</p><p>———. <em>Puppets, Gods, and Brands: Theorizing the Age of Animation from Taiwan.</em> Honolulu: U Hawaii P, 2019. </p><p>Sontag, Susan. <em>Regarding the Pain of Others. </em>New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2004.</p><p>Ting, Chen-Ching. Interview by the author. Yunlin, Taiwan. 24 June 2019.</p><p>Wohlwend, Karen E. “One Screen, Many Fingers: Young Children's Collaborative Literacy Play with Digital Puppetry Apps and Touchscreen Technologies.” <em>Theory into Practice</em> 54.2 (2015): 154-162.</p></div></div></div> Jasmine Yu-Hsing Chen Copyright (c) 2020 Jasmine Yu-Hsing Chen https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1681 Wed, 07 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0000 From the Elephant Man to Barbie Girl: Dissecting the Freak from the Margins to the Mainstream https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1687 <h1>Introduction </h1><p>In <em>The X-Files</em> episode “Humbug”, agents Scully and Mulder travel to Florida to investigate a series of murders taking place in a community of sideshow performers, or freaks. At the episode’s end, one character, a self-made freak and human blockhead, muses on the future of the freak community:</p><blockquote><p>twenty-first century genetic engineering will not only eradicate the Siamese twins and the alligator-skinned people, but you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a slight overbite or a not-so-high cheek bone … . Nature abhors normality. It can’t go very long without creating a mutant. (“Humbug”) </p></blockquote><p>Freaks, he says, are there to remind people of the necessity of mutations. His observation that genetic engineering will eradicate anomalies of nature accurately illustrates the gradual shift that society was witnessing in the late twentieth century away from the anomalous freak and toward surgical perfection. Yet this desire for perfection, which has manifested itself in often severe surgical deformities, has seen a shift in what constitutes the freak for a contemporary audience, turning what was once an anomaly into a mass-produced creation. </p><p>While the freaks of the nineteenth and early twentieth century were born with facial or anatomical deformities that warranted their place in the sideshow performance (bearded ladies, midgets, faints, lobster men, alligator-skinned people, etc.), freaks of the twenty-first century can be seen as something <em>created</em> by a plastic surgeon, a shift which undermines the very understanding of freak ontology. As Katherine Dunne put it: “a true freak cannot be made. A true freak must be born” (28). </p><p>In her discussion of the monstrous body, Linda Williams writes that “the monster’s body is perceived as freakish in its possession of too much or too little” (63). This may have included a missing or additional limb, distorted sizes and heights, and anatomical growths. </p><p>John Merrick, or the “Elephant Man” (fig. 1), as he was famously known, perfectly embodied this sense of excess that is vital to what people perceive as the monstrous body. In his discussion of freaks and the freakshow, Robert Bogdan notes that promotional posters exaggerated the already-deformed nature of freaks by emphasising certain physical anomalies and turning them into mythological creatures: “male exhibits with poorly formed arms were billed as ‘The Seal Man’; with poorly formed legs, ‘the Frog Man’; with excesses of hair, ‘The Lion Man’ or ‘Dog Boy’” (100). </p><p><img src="/public/files/journals/1/articles/1687/submission/proof/1687-12-6987-1-10-20201005.jpg" alt="" width="447" height="293" /></p><p><em>Figure 1: John Merrick (the Elephant Man) &lt;<a href="https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/193584483966192229/">https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/193584483966192229/</a>&gt;.</em></p><p>The freak’s anomalous nature made them valuable, financially but also culturally: “in many ways, the concept of ‘freak,’ is an anomaly in current social scientific thinking about demonstrable human variation. During its prime the freak show was a place where human deviance was valuable, and in that sense valued” (Bogdan 268). </p><p>Many freaks were presented as “human wonders”, while “their claims to fame were quite commonplace” (Bogdan 200). Indeed, Bogdan argues that “while highly aggrandized exhibits really were full of grandeur, with respectable freaks the mundane was exploited as amazing and ordinary people were made into human wonders” (200). Lucian Gomoll similarly writes that freakshows “directed judgement away from the audience and onto the performers, assuring observers of their own unmarked normalcy” (“Objects of Dis/Order” 205).</p><p>The anomalous nature of the freak therefore promoted the safety of normality at the same time as it purported to showcase the brilliance of the extraordinary. While the freaks themselves were normal, intelligent people, the freakshow served as a vehicle to gaze at oneself with a sense of relief. As much as many freakshows attempt to dismantle notions of normality, they serve to emphasise <em>empathy</em>, not <em>envy</em>. The anomalous freak is never an envied body; the particular dimensions of the freakshow mean that it is the viewer who is to be envied, and the freak who is to be pitied. </p><h1><strong>From Freakshow to Sideshow</strong></h1><p>In nineteenth-century freakshows, exploitation was rife; as Alison Piepmeier explains, “many of the so-called Aztecs, Pinheads, and What Is Its?”, were, in fact, “mentally disabled people dressed in wild costumes and forced to perform” (53). As a result, “freakishness often implied loss of control over one’s self and one’s destiny” (53). P.T. Barnum profited from his exploitation of freaks, while many freaks themselves also benefited from being exhibited. As Jessica Williams writes, “many freak show performers were well paid, self-sufficient, and enjoyed what they did” (69). Bogdan similarly pointed out that “some [freaks] were exploited, it is true, but in the culture of the amusement world, most human oddities were accepted as showmen. They were congratulated for parlaying into an occupation [that], in another context, might have been a burden” (268). </p><p>Americans of all classes, Anissa Janine Wardi argues, enjoyed engaging in the spectacle of the freak. She writes that “it is not serendipitous that the golden age of the freak show coincided with the building of America’s colonial empire” (518). Indeed, the “exploration of the non-Western world, coupled with the transatlantic slave trade, provided the backdrop for America’s imperialist gaze, with the native ‘other’ appearing not merely in the arena of popular entertainment, but particularly in scientific and medical communities” (518). </p><p>Despite the accusations levelled against Barnum, his freakshows were seen as educational and therefore beneficial to both the public and the scientific community, who, thanks to Barnum, directly benefited from the commercialisation of and rising public interest in the freak. </p><p>Discussing “western conventions of viewing exotic others”, Lucian Gomoll writes that “the freak and the ‘normal’ subject produced each other in a relationship of uneven reciprocity” (“Feminist Pleasures” 129). He writes that Barnum “encouraged onlookers to define their own identities in contrast to those on display, as <em>not</em> disabled, <em>not</em> animalistic, <em>not</em> androgynous, <em>not</em> monstrous and so on”. By the twentieth century, he writes, “shows like Barnum’s were banned from public spaces as repugnant and intolerable, and forced to migrate to the margins” (129).</p><p>Gomoll commends the Freakatorium, a museum curated by the late sword swallower Johnny Fox, as “demonstrating and commemorating the resourcefulness and talents of those pushed to the social margins” (“Objects of Dis/Order” 207). Gomoll writes that Fox did not merely see freaks as curiosities in the way that Barnum did. Instead, Fox provided a dignified memorial that celebrated the uniqueness of each freak. Fox’s museum displays, he writes, are “respectable spaces devoted to the lives of amazing people, which foster potential empathy from the viewers – a stark contrast to nineteenth-century freakshows” (205). Fox himself described the necessity of the Freakatorium in the wake of the sideshow: </p><blockquote><p>New York needs a place where people can come see the history of freakdom. People that were born with deformities that were still amazing and sensitive people and they allowed themselves to be viewed and exhibited. They made a good living off doing that. Those people were to be commended for their courageousness and bravery for standing in front of people. (Hartzman)</p></blockquote><p>Fox also described the manner in which the sideshow circuit was banned over time:</p><blockquote><p>then sideshows went out because some little girl was offended because she thought the only place she could work was the sideshow. Her mother thought it was disgraceful that people exhibited themselves so she started calling the governor and state’s attorney trying to get sideshows banned. I think it was Florida or South Carolina. It started happening in other states. They said no exhibiting human anomalies. These people who had been working in sideshows for years had their livelihood taken away from them. What now, they’re supposed to go be institutionalized? (Hartzman) </p></blockquote><p>Elizabeth Stephens argues that a shift occurred in the early twentieth century, and that by the late ‘30s “people with physical anomalies had been transformed in the cultural imagination from human oddities or monsters to sick people requiring diagnoses and medical intervention” (Stephens). Bogdan noted that by the 1930s, “the meaning of being different changed in American society. Scientific medicine had undermined the mystery of certain forms of human variation, and the exotic and aggrandized modes had lost their flamboyant attractiveness” (274). So-called freaks became seen as diseased bodies who “were now in the province of physicians, not the general public” (274). Indeed, scientific interest transformed the freak into a medical curiosity, contributing to the waning popularity of freakshows. Ironically, although the freaks declined in popularity as they moved into the medical community, medicine would prove to be the domain of a new kind of freak in the ensuing years. </p><h1><strong>The Manufactured Freak</strong> </h1><p>As the freakshow declined in popularity, mainstream culture found other subjects whose appearance provoked curiosity, awe, and revulsion. Although plastic surgery is associated with the mid-to-late twentieth century and beyond, it has a long history in the medical practice. In <em>A History of Plastic Surgery</em>, Paolo Santoni-Rugiu and Philip J. Sykes note that “operations for the sole purpose of improving appearances came on the scene in 1906” (322). Charles C. Miller was one of the earliest pioneers of plastic surgery; Santoni-Rugiu and Sykes write that “he never disguised the fact that his ambition was to do Featural Surgery, correcting imperfections that from a medical point of view <em>were not considered to be deformities</em>” (302). This attitude would fundamentally transform notions of the “normal” body. In the context of cosmetic surgery, it is the normal body that becomes manipulated in order to produce something which, despite intentions, proves undoubtedly freakish. </p><p>Although men certainly engage in plastic surgery (notably Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff) the twenty-first century surgical freak is synonymous with women. Kirsty Fairclough-Isaacs points out the different expectations levelled against men and women with respect to ageing and plastic surgery. While men, she says, “are closely scrutinised for attempting to hide signs of ageing, particularly hair loss”, women, in contrast, “are routinely maligned if they <em>fail</em> to hide the signs of ageing” (363). She observes that while popular culture may accept the ageing man, the ageing woman is less embraced by society. Consequently, women are encouraged—by the media, their fans, and by social norms around beauty—to engage in surgical manipulation, but in such a way as to make their enhancements appear <em>seamless</em>. Women who have successful plastic surgery—in the sense that their ageing is well-hidden—are accepted as having successfully manipulated their faces so as to appear flawless, while those whose surgical exploits are excessive or turn out badly become decidedly freakish. </p><p>One of the most infamous plastic surgery cases is that of Jocelyn Wildenstein, also known as “catwoman”. Born Jocelynnys Dayannys da Silva Bezerra Périsset in 1940, Wildenstein met billionaire art dealer Alec N. Wildenstein whom she married in the late 1970s. After discovering her husband was being unfaithful, Wildenstein purportedly turned to cosmetic surgery in order to sculpt her face to resemble a cat, her husband’s favourite animal. Ironically but not surprisingly, her husband purportedly screamed in terror when he saw his wife’s revamped face for the first time. And although their relationship ended in divorce, Wildenstein, dubbed “the Bride of Wildenstein”, continued to visit her plastic surgeon, and her face became progressively more distorted over the years (Figure 2). </p><p><img src="/public/files/journals/1/articles/1687/submission/proof/1687-12-6988-1-10-20201005.jpg" alt="" /></p><p><em>Figure 2: Jocelyn Wildenstein over the years &lt;<a href="https://i.redd.it/vhh3yp6tgki31.jpg">https://i.redd.it/vhh3yp6tgki31.jpg</a>&gt;.</em> </p><p>The exaggerated and freakish contours of Wildenstein’s face would undoubtedly remind viewers of the anatomical exaggerations seen in traditional freaks. Yet she does not belong to the world of the nineteenth century freak. Her deformities are self-inflicted in an attempt to fulfil certain mainstream beauty ideals to exaggerated lengths. </p><p>Like many women, Wildenstein has repeatedly denied ever having received plastic surgery, claiming that her face is natural, while professing admiration for Brigitte Bardot, her beauty idol. Such denial has made her the target of further criticism, since women are not only expected to conceal the signs of ageing successfully but are also ironically expected to be honest and transparent about having had work done to their faces and bodies, particularly when it is obvious. The role that denial plays not just in Wildenstein’s case, but in plastic surgery cases more broadly, constitutes a “desirability of naturalness” (122), according to Debra Gimlin. There is, she argues, an “aesthetic preference for (surgically enhanced) ‘naturalness’” (122), a desire that sits between the natural body and the freak. This kind of appearance promotes more of an uncanny naturalness that removes signs of ageing but without being excessive; as opposed to women whose use of plastic surgery is obvious (and deemed excessive according to Williams’ “monstrous body”) the unnatural look that some plastic surgery promotes is akin to an <em>absence</em> of normal features, such as wrinkles. One surgeon that Gimlin cites argues that he would not remove the wrinkles of a woman in her 60s: “she’s gonna look like a freak without them”, he says. This admission signifies a clear distinction between what we understand as freakish plastic surgery (Wildenstein) and the not-yet-freakish appearance of women whose surgically enhanced appearance is at once uncanny and accepted, perpetuating norms around plastic surgery and beauty. </p><p>Denial is thus part of the fabric of performing naturalness and the desire to make the unnatural <em>seem</em> natural, adding another quasi-freakish dimension to the increasingly normalised appearance of surgically enhanced women. While Wildenstein is mocked for her grotesque appearance, in addition to her denial of having had plastic surgery, women who have navigated plastic surgery successfully are congratulated and envied. Although contemporary media increasingly advocates the ability to age naturally, with actresses like Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep frequently cited as natural older beauties, natural ageing is only accepted to the extent that this look of naturalness is appeasing. Unflattering, unaltered naturalness, on the other hand, is demonised, with such women encouraged to turn to the knife after all in order to achieve a more acceptable look of natural ageing, one that will inevitably and ironically provoke further criticism. For women considering plastic surgery, they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. </p><p>Grant McCracken notes the similarities between Wildenstein and the famous French body artist Orlan: “like Orlan, Wildenstein had engaged in an extravagant, destructive creativity. But where Orlan sought transformational opportunity by moving upward in the Renaissance hierarchy, toward saints and angels, Wildenstein moved downwards, toward animals” (25). McCracken argues that it isn’t entirely clear whether Orlan and Wildenstein are “outliers or precursors” to the contemporary obsession with plastic surgery. But he notes how the transition of plastic surgery from a “shameful secret” to a ubiquitous if not obligatory phenomenon coincides with the surgical work of Orlan and Wildenstein. “The question remains”, he says, “what will we use this surgery to do to ourselves? Orlan and Wildenstein suggest two possibilities” (26).</p><p>Meredith Jones, in her discussion of Wildenstein, echoes the earlier sentiments of Williams in regards to the monster’s body possessing too much or too little. In Wildenstein’s case, her freakishness is provoked by excess: “when too many body parts become independent they are deemed too disparate: wayward children who no longer lend harmony or respect to their host body. Jocelyn Wildenstein’s features do this: her cheeks, her eyes, her forehead and her lips are all striking enough to be deemed untoward” (125). For Jones, the combination of these features “form a grotesquery that means their host can only be deemed, at best, perversely beautiful” (125). </p><p>Wildenstein has been referred to as a “modern-day freak”, and to a certain extent she does share something in common with the nineteenth century freak, specifically through the manner in which her distorted features invite viewers to gawk. Like the Elephant Man, her freakish body possesses “too much”, as Williams put it. Yet her appearance evokes none of the empathy afforded traditional freaks, whose facial or anatomical deformities were inherent and thus cause for empathy. They played no role in the formation of their deformities, only reclaiming agency once they exhibited themselves. </p><p>While Wildenstein is, certainly, an anomaly in the sense that she is the only known woman who has had her features surgically altered to appear cat-like, her appearance more broadly represents an unnerving trajectory that reconstructs the freak as someone manufactured rather than born, upending Katherine Dunne’s assertion that true freaks are born, not made. Indeed, Wildenstein can be seen as a precursor to Nannette Hammond and Valeria Lukyanova, women who surgically enhanced their faces and bodies to resemble a real-life Barbie doll. </p><p>Hammond, a woman from Cincinnati, has been called the first ‘Human Barbie’, chronicling the surgical process on her Instagram account. She states that her children and husband are “just so proud of me and what I’ve achieved through surgery” (Levine). This surgery has included numerous breast augmentations, botox injections and dental veneers, in addition to eyelash extensions and monthly fake tans. </p><p>But while Hammond is certainly considered a “scalpel junkie”, Valeria Lukyanova’s desire to transform herself into a living Barbie doll is particularly uncanny. Michael’s Idov’s article in <em>GQ</em> magazine titled: “This is not a Barbie Doll. This is an Actual Human Being” attests to the uncanny appearance of Lukyanova. “Meeting Valeria Lukyanova is the closest you will come to an alien encounter”, Idov writes, describing the “queasy fear” he felt upon meeting her. “A living Barbie is automatically an Uncanny Valley Girl. Her beauty, though I hesitate to use the term, is pitched at the exact precipice where the male gaze curdles in on itself.” </p><p>Lukyanova, a Ukrainian, admits to having had breast implants, but denies that she has had any more modifications, despite the uncanny symmetry of her face and body that would otherwise allude to further surgeries (Figure 3). </p><p>Importantly, Lukyanova’s transformation both fulfils and affronts beauty standards. In this sense, she is at once freakish but does not fit the profile of the traditional freak, whose deformities are never confused with ideals of beauty, at least not in theory. While Johnny Fox saw freaks as talented, unique individuals, their appeal was borne of their defiance of the ideal, rather than a reinforcement of it, and the fact that their appearance was anomalous and unique, rather than reproducible at whim. </p><p><img src="/public/files/journals/1/articles/1687/submission/proof/1687-12-6989-1-10-20201005.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="364" /></p><p><em>Figure 3: Valeria Lukyanova with a Barbie Doll &lt;<a href="http://shorturl.at/mER06">http://shorturl.at/mER06</a>&gt;.</em></p><h1><strong>Conclusion</strong> </h1><p>As a modern-day freak, these Barbie girls are a specific kind of abomination that undermines the very notion of the freak due to their emphasis on acceptance, on becoming mainstream, rather than being confined to the margins. As Jones puts it: “if a trajectory […] is drawn between mainstream cosmetic surgery and these individuals who have ‘gone too far’, we see that while they may be ‘freaks’ now, they nevertheless point towards a moment when such modifications could in fact be near mainstream” (188). </p><p>The emphasis that is placed on mainstream acceptance and reproducibility in these cases affronts traditional notions of the freak as an anomalous individual whose features cannot be replicated. But the shift that society has seen towards genetic and surgical perfection has only accentuated the importance of biological anomalies who affront the status quo. While Wildenstein and the Barbie girls may provoke a similar sense of shock, revulsion and pity as the Elephant Man experienced, they possess none of the exceptionality or cultural importance of real freaks, whose very existence admonishes mainstream standards of beauty, ability, and biology. </p><h2><strong>References</strong> </h2><p>Bogdan, Robert. <em>Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit</em>. Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 1990. </p><p>Dunne, Katherine. <em>Geek Love</em>. London: Abacus, 2015. </p><p>Fairclough-Isaacs, Kirsty. "Celebrity Culture and Ageing." <em>Routledge Handbook of Cultural Gerontology</em>. Eds. Julia Twigg and Wendy Martin. New York: Routledge, 2015. 361-368.</p><p>Gimlin, Debra. <em>Cosmetic Surgery Narratives: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Women’s Accounts</em>. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. </p><p>Gommol, Lucian. “The Feminist Pleasures of Coco Rico’s Social Interventions.” <em>Art and the Artist in Society</em>. Eds. José Jiménez-Justiniano, Elsa Luciano Feal, and Jane Elizabeth Alberdeston. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013. 119-134. </p><p>———. “Objects of Dis/Order: Articulating Curiosities and Engaging People at the Freakatorium.” <em>Defining Memory: Local Museums and the Construction of History in America’s Changing Communities</em>. Eds. Amy K. Levin and Joshua G. Adair. Lanham: Rowman &amp; Littlefield, 2017. 197-212. </p><p>Hartzman, Marc. “Johnny Fox: A Tribute to the King of Swords.” <em>Weird Historian</em>. 17 Dec. 2017. &lt;<a href="https://www.weirdhistorian.com/johnny-fox-a-tribute-to-the-king-of-swords/"><span>https://www.weirdhistorian.com/johnny-fox-a-tribute-to-the-king-of-swords/</span></a>&gt;.</p><p>“Humbug.” <em>The X-Files: The Complete Season 3</em>. Writ. Darin Morgan. Dir. Kim Manners. Fox, 2007. </p><p>Idov, Michael. “This Is Not a Barbie Doll. This Is an Actual Human Being.” <em>GQ</em>. 12 July 2017. &lt;<a href="https://www.gq.com/story/valeria-lukyanova-human-barbie-doll"><span>https://www.gq.com/story/valeria-lukyanova-human-barbie-doll</span></a>&gt;.</p><p>Jones, Meredith. <em>Skintight: An Anatomy of Cosmetic Surgery</em>. Oxford: Berg, 2008.</p><p>McCracken, Grant. <em>Transformations: Identity Construction in Contemporary Culture</em>. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 2008.</p><p>Levine, Daniel D. “Before and After: What $500,000 of Plastic Surgery Bought Human Barbie.” <em>PopCulture.com</em>. 7 Dec. 2017. &lt;<a href="https://popculture.com/trending/news/nannette-hammond-before-human-barbie-cost-photos/"><span>https://popculture.com/trending/news/nannette-hammond-before-human-barbie-cost-photos/</span></a>&gt;. </p><p>Piepmeier, Alison. <em>Out in Public: Configurations of Women's Bodies in Nineteenth-Century America</em>. Chapel Hill and London: U of North Carolina P, 2004. </p><p>Santoni-Rugiu, Paolo, and Philip J. Sykes. <em>A History of Plastic Surgery</em>. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2017. </p><p>Stephens, Elizabeth. “Twenty-First Century Freak Show: Recent Transformations in the Exhibition of Non-Normative Bodies.” <em>Disability Studies Quarterly</em> 25.3 (2005). &lt;<a href="https://dsq-sds.org/article/view/580/757"><span>https://dsq-sds.org/article/view/580/757</span></a>&gt;.</p><p>Wardi, Anissa Janine. “Freak Shows, Spectacles, and Carnivals: Reading Jonathan Demme’s <em>Beloved.</em>” <em>African American Review</em> 39.4 (Winter 2005): 513-526.</p><p>Williams, Jessica L. <em>Media, Performative Identity, and the New American Freak Show</em>. London and New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2017. </p><p>Williams, Linda. “When the Woman Looks.” <em>Horror, The Film Reader</em>. Ed. Mark Jancovich. London and New York: Routledge, 2002. 61-66. </p> Siobhan Lyons Copyright (c) 2020 Siobhan Lyons https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1687 Wed, 07 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0000 Anomalous Forms in Computer Music https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1682 <h1 style="text-align: left;" align="center"><strong>Introduction</strong></h1><p>For Gilles Deleuze, computational processes cannot yield the anomalous, or that which is unprecedented in form and content. He suggests that because computing functions are mechanically standardised, they always share the same ontic character. M. Beatrice Fazi claims that the premises of his critique are flawed. Her monograph <em>Contingent Computation: Abstraction, Experience, and Indeterminacy in Computational Aesthetics</em> presents an integrative reading of thinkers including Henri Bergson, Alfred North Whitehead, Kurt Gödel, Alan Turing, and Georg Cantor. From this eclectic basis, Fazi demonstrates that computers differ from humans in their modes of creation, yet still produce qualitative anomaly. This article applies her research to the cultural phenomenon of live-coded music. Live coding artists improvise music by writing audio computer functions which produce sound in real time. I draw from Fazi’s reading of Deleuze and Bergson to investigate the aesthetic mechanisms of live coding. In doing so, I give empirical traction to her argument for the generative properties of computers.</p><h1><strong>Part I: Reconciling the Discrete and the Continuous</strong> </h1><p>In his book <em>Difference and Repetition</em>, Deleuze defines “the new” as that which radically differs from the known and familiar (136). Deleuzean novelty bears unpredictable creative potential; as he puts it, the “new” “calls forth forces in thought which are not the forces of recognition” (136). These forces issue from a space of alterity which he describes as a “terra incognita” and a “completely other model” (136). Fazi writes that Deleuze’s conception of novelty informs his aesthetic philosophy. She notes that Deleuze follows the etymological origins of the word “aesthetic”, which lie in the Ancient Greek term <em>aisthēsis</em>, or perception from senses and feelings (Fazi, “Digital Aesthetics” 5). Deleuze observes that senses, feelings, and cognition are interwoven, and suggests that creative processes beget new links between these faculties. In Fazi’s words, Deleuzean aesthetic research “opposes any existential modality that separates life, thought, and sensation” (5). Here, aesthetics does not denote a theory of art and is not concerned with such traditional topics as beauty, taste, and genre. Aesthetics-as-<em>aisthēsis</em> investigates the conditions which make it possible to sense, cognise, and create anomalous phenomena, or that which has no recognisable forebear.</p><p>Fazi applies Deleuzean aesthetics towards an ontological account of computation. Towards this end, she challenges Deleuze’s precept that computers cannot produce the aesthetic “new”. As she explains, Deleuze denies this ability to computers on the grounds that computation operates on discrete variables, or data which possess a quantitatively finite array of possible values (6). Deleuze understands discreteness as both a quantitative and ontic condition, and implies that computation cannot surpass this originary state. In his view, only continuous phenomena are capable of <em>aisthēsis</em> as the function which yields ontic novelty (5). Moreover, he maintains that continuous entities cannot be represented, interpreted, symbolised, or codified. The codified discreteness of computation is therefore “problematic” within his aesthetic framework “inasmuch it exemplifies yet another development of the representational”. or a repetition of sameness (6). The Deleuzean act of <em>aisthēsis</em> does not compute, repeat, or iterate what has come before. It yields nothing less than absolute difference.</p><p>Deleuze’s theory of creation as differentiation is prefigured by Bergson’s research on multiplicity, difference and time. Bergson holds that the state of being multiple is ultimately qualitative rather than quantitative, and that multiplicity is constituted by qualitative incommensurability, or difference in kind as opposed to degree (Deleuze, <em>Bergsonism</em> 42). Qualia are multiple when they cannot not withstand equivocation through a common substrate. Henceforth, entities that comprise discrete data, including all products and functions of digital computation, cannot aspire to true multiplicity or difference. In<em> The Creative Mind, </em>Bergson considers the concept of time from this vantage point. As he indicates, time is normally understood as numerable and measurable, especially by mathematicians and scientists (13). He sets out to show that this conception is an illusion, and that time is instead a process by which continuous qualia differentiate and self-actualise as unique instances of pure time, or what he calls “duration as duration”. As he puts it,</p><blockquote><p>the measuring of time never deals with duration as duration; what is counted is only a certain number of extremities of intervals, or moments, in short, virtual halts in time. To state that an incident will occur at the end of a certain time <em>t</em>, is simply to say that one will have counted, from now until then, a number <em>t</em> of simultaneities of a certain kind. In between these simultaneities anything you like may happen. (12-13)</p></blockquote><p>The in-between space where “anything you like may happen” inspired Deleuze’s notion of ontic continua, or entities whose quantitative limitlessness connects with their infinite aesthetic potentiality. For Bergson, those who believe that time is finite and measurable “cannot succeed in conceiving the radically new and unforeseeable”, a sentiment which also appears to have influenced Deleuze (<em>The Creative Mind </em>17).</p><p>The legacy of Bergson and Deleuze is traceable to the present era, where the alleged irreconcilability of the discrete and the continuous fuels debates in digital media studies. Deleuze is not the only thinker to explore this tension: scholars in the traditions of phenomenology, critical theory, and post-Marxism have positioned the continuousness of thought and feeling against the discreteness of computation (Fazi, “Digital Aesthetics” 7). Fazi contributes to this discourse by establishing that the ontic character of computation is not wholly predicated on quantitatively discrete elements. Drawing from Turing’s theory of computability, she claims that computing processes incorporate indeterminable and uncomputable forces in open-ended processes that “determine indeterminacy” (Fazi, <em>Contingent Computation</em> 1). She also marshals philosopher Stamatia Portanova, whose book <em>Moving Without a Body: Digital Philosophy and Choreographic Thoughts</em>indicates that discrete and continuous components merge in processes that digitise bodily motion (Portanova 3). In a similar but more expansive maneuver, Fazi declares that the discrete and continuous coalesce in all computational operations. </p><p>Although Fazi’s work applies to all forms of computing, it casts new light on specific devices, methodologies, and human-computer interfaces. In the next section, I use her reading of Bergsonian elements in Deleuze to explore the contemporary artistic practice of live coding. My reading situates live coding in the context of studies on improvisation and creative indeterminacy.</p><h1><strong>Part II: Live Coding as Contingent Improvisational Practice</strong></h1><p>The term “live coding” describes an approach to programming where computer functions immediately render as images and/or sound. Live coding interfaces typically feature two windows: one for writing source code and another which displays code outcomes, for example as graphic visualisations or audio. The practice supports the rapid evaluation, editing, and exhibition of code in progress (“A History of Live Programming”). Although it encompasses many different activities, the phrase “live coding” is most often used in the context of computer music. In live coding performances or “AlgoRaves,” musicians write programs on stage in front of audiences. The programming process might be likened to playing an instrument. Typically, the coding interface is projected on a large screen, allowing audiences to see the musical score as it develops (Magnusson, “Improvising with the Threnoscope” 19). </p><p>Technologists, scholars, and educators have embraced live coding as both a creative method and an object of study. Because it provides immediate feedback, it is especially useful as a pedagogical aide. Sonic Pi, a user-friendly live coding language, was originally designed to teach programming basics to children. It has since been adopted by professional musicians across the world (Aaron). Despites its conspicuousness in educational and creative settings, scholars have rarely explored live coding in the context of improvisation studies. Programmers Gordan Kreković and Antonio Pošćic claim that this is a notable oversight, as improvisation is its “most distinctive feature”. In their view, live coding is most simply defined as an improvisational method, and its strong emphasis on chance sets it apart from other approaches to computer music (Kreković and Pošćić). </p><p>My interest with respect to live coding lies in how its improvisational mechanisms blend computational discreteness and continuous “real time”. I do not mean to suggest that live coding is the only implement for improvising music with computers. Any digital instrument can be used to spontaneously play, produce, and record sound. What makes live coding unique is that it merges the act of playing with the process of writing notation: musicians play for audiences in the very moment that they produce a written score. The process fuses the separate functions of performing, playing, seeing, hearing, and writing music in a patently Deleuzean act of <em>aisthēsis</em>. Programmer Thor Magnusson writes that live coding is the “offspring” of two very different creative practices: first, “the formalization and encoding of music”; second, “open work resisting traditional forms of encoding” (“Algorithms as Scores” 21). By “traditional forms of encoding”, Magnusson refers to computer programs which function only insofar as source code files are static and immutable. By contrast, live coding relies on the real-time elaboration of new code. As an improvisational art, the process and product of live-coding does not exist without continuous interventions from external forces.</p><p>My use of the phrase “real time” evokes Bergson’s concept of “pure time” or “duration as duration”. “Real time” phenomena are understood to occur instantaneously, that is, at no degree of temporal removal from those who produce and experience them. However, Bergson suggests that instantaneity is a myth. By his account, there always exists some degree of removal between events as they occur and as they are perceived, even if this gap is imperceptibly small. Regardless of size, the indelible space in time has important implications for theories of improvisation. For Deleuze and Bergson, each continuous particle of time is a germinal seed for the new. Fazi uses the word “contingent” to describe this ever-present, infinite potentiality (<em>Contingent Computation</em>, 1). Improvisation studies scholar Dan DiPiero claims that the concept of contingency not only qualifies future possibilities, but also describes past events that “could have been otherwise” (2). He explains his reasoning as follows:</p><blockquote><p>before the event, the outcome is contingent as in not-yet-known; after the event, the result is contingent as in could-have-been-otherwise. What appears at first blush a frustrating theoretical ambiguity actually points to a useful insight: at any given time in any given process, there is a particular constellation of openings and closures, of possibilities and impossibilities, that constitute a contingent situation. Thus, the contingent does not reference either the open or the already decided but both at once, and always. (2)</p></blockquote><p>Deleuze might argue that only continuous phenomena are contingent, and that because they are quantitatively finite, the structures of computational media — including the sound and notation of live coding scores — can never “be otherwise” or contingent as such. Fazi intervenes by indicating the role of quantitative continuousness in all computing functions. Moreover, she aligns her project with emerging theories of computing which “focus less on internal mechanisms and more on external interaction”, or interfaces with continuous, non-computational contexts (“Digital Aesthetics,” 19). She takes computational interactions with external environments, such as human programmers and observers, as “the continuous directionality of composite parts” (19).</p><p>To this point, it matters that discrete objects always exist in relation to continuous environments, and that discrete objects make up continuous fluxes when mobilised as part of continuous temporal processes. It is for this reason that Portanova uses the medium of dance to explore the entanglement of discreteness and temporal contingency. As with music, the art of dance depends on the continuous unfolding of time. Fazi writes that Portanova’s study of choreography reveals “the unlimited potential that every numerical bit of a program, or every experiential bit of a dance (every gesture and step), has to change and be something else” (<em>Contingent Computation</em>, 39). As with the zeroes and ones of a binary computing system, the footfalls of a dance materialise as discrete parts which inhabit and constitute continuous vectors of time. Per Deleuzean aesthetics-as-<em>aisthēsis</em>, these parts yield new connections between sound, space, cognition, and feeling. DiPiero indicates that in the case of improvised artworks, the ontic nature of these links defies anticipation. In his words, improvisation forces artists and audiences to “think contingency”. “It is not that discrete, isolated entities connect themselves to form something greater”, he explains, “but rather that the distance between the musician as subject and the instrument as object is not clearly defined” (3). So, while live coder and code persist as separate phenomena, the coding/playing/performing process highlights the qualitative indeterminacy of the space between them. Each moment might beget the unrecognisable — and this ineluctable, ever-present surprise is essential to the practice.</p><p>To be sure, there are elements of predetermination in live coding practices. For example, musicians often save and return to specific functions in the midst of performances. But as Kreković and Pošćić point out all modes of improvisation rely on patterning and standardisation, including analog and non-computational techniques. Here, they cite composer John Cage’s claim that there exists no “true” improvisation because artists “always find themselves in routines” (Kreković and Pošćić). In a slight twist on Cage, Kreković and Pošćić insist that repetition does not make improvisation “untrue”, but rather that it points to an expanded role for indeterminacy in all forms of composition. As they write,</p><blockquote><p>[improvisation] can both be viewed as spontaneous composition and, when distilled to its core processes, a part of each compositional approach. Continuous and repeated improvisation can become ingrained, classified, and formalised. Or, if we reverse the flow of information, we can consider composition to be built on top of quiet, non-performative improvisations in the mind of the composer. (Kreković and Pošćić)</p></blockquote><p>This commentary echoes Deleuze’s thoughts on creativity and ontic continuity. To paraphrase Kreković and Pošćić, the <em>aisthēsis</em> of sensing, feeling, and thinking yields quiet, non-performative improvisations that play continuously in each individual mind. Fazi’s reading of Deleuze endows computable phenomena with this capacity. She does not endorse a computational theory of cognition that would permit computers to think and feel in the same manner as humans. Instead, she proposes a Deleuzean aesthetic capacity proper to computation. </p><p>Live coding exemplifies the creative potential of computers as articulated by Fazi in <em>Contingent Computation</em>. Her research has allowed me to indicate live coding as an embodiment of Deleuze and Bergson’s theories of difference and creativity. Importantly, live coding affirms their philosophical premises not in spite of its technologised discreteness — which they would have considered problematic — but because it leverages discreteness in service of the continuous aesthetic act. My essay might also serve as a prototype for studies on digitality which likewise aim to supersede the divide between discrete and continuous media. As I have hopefully demonstrated, Fazi’s framework allows scholars to apprehend all forms of computation with enhanced clarity and openness to new possibilities.</p><h1><strong>Coda: From Aesthetics to Politics</strong></h1><p>By way of a coda, I will reflect on the relevance of Fazi’s work to contemporary political theory. In “Digital Aesthetics”, she makes reference to emerging “oppositions to the mechanization of life” from “post-structuralist, postmodernist and post-Marxist” perspectives (7). One such argument comes from philosopher Bernard Stiegler, whose theory of psychopower conceives “the capture of attention by technological means” as a political mechanism (“Biopower, Psychopower and the Logic of the Scapegoat”). Stiegler is chiefly concerned with the psychic impact of discrete technological devices. As he argues, the habitual use of these instruments advances “a proletarianization of the life of the mind” (<em>For a New Critique of Political Economy</em> 27). For Stiegler, human thought is vulnerable to discretisation processes, which effects the loss of knowledge and quality of life. He considers this process to be a form of political hegemony (34).</p><p>Philosopher Antoinette Rouvroy proposes a related theory called “algorithmic governmentality” to describe the political effects of algorithmic prediction mechanisms. As she claims, predictive algorithms erode “the excess of the possible on the probable”, or all that cannot be accounted for in advance by statistical probabilities. In her words,</p><blockquote><p>all these events that can occur and that we cannot predict, it is the excess of the possible on the probable, that is everything that escapes it, for instance the actuarial reality with which we try precisely to make the world more manageable in reducing it to what is predictable … we have left this idea of the actuarial reality behind for what I would call a “post-actuarial reality” in which it is no longer about calculating probabilities but to account in advance for what escapes probability and thus the excess of the possible on the probable. (8)</p></blockquote><p>In the past five years, Stiegler and Rouvroy have collaborated on research into the politics of technological determinacy. The same issue concerned Deleuze almost three decades ago: his 1992 essay “Postscript on the Societies of Control” warns that future subjugation will proceed as technological prediction and enclosure. He writes of a dystopian society which features a “numerical language of control … made of codes that mark access to information, or reject it” (5). The society of control reduces individuals to “dividuals”, or homogenised and interchangeable numeric fractions (5). </p><p>These accounts of political power equate digital discreteness with ontic finitude, and suggest that ubiquitous digital computing threatens individual agency and societal diversity. Stiegler and Deleuze envision a sort of digital reification of human subjectivity; Rouvroy puts forth the idea that algorithmic development will reduce the possibilities inherent in social life to mere statistical likelihoods. While Fazi’s work does not completely discredit these notions, it might instead be used to scrutinise their assumptions. If computation is not ontically finite, then political allegations against it must consider its opposition to human life with greater nuance and rigor.</p><h2><strong>References</strong></h2><p>Aaron, Sam. “Programming as Performance.” Tedx Talks. <em>YouTube</em>, 22 July 2015. &lt;<a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CEcLnUIABeK/?igshid=19x6girrv7gpo">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TK1mBqKvIyU&amp;t=333s</a>&gt;.</p><p>“A History of Live Programming.” <em>Live Prog Blog</em>. 13 Jan. 2013. &lt;<a href="/index.php/mcjournal/editor/viewMetadata/liveprogramming.github.io/liveblog/2013/01/a-history-of-live-programming/">liveprogramming.github.io/liveblog/2013/01/a-history-of-live-programming/</a>&gt;.</p><p>Bergson, Henri. <em>The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics</em>. Trans. Mabelle L. Andison. New York City: Carol Publishing Group, 1992.</p><p>———. <em>Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness</em>. Trans. F.L. Pogson. Mineola: Dover Publications, 2001.</p><p>Deleuze, Gilles. <em>Difference and Repetition</em>. Trans. Paul Patton. New York City: Columbia UP, 1994.</p><p>———. "Postscript on the Societies of Control." <em>October</em> 59 (1992): 3-7.</p><p>———. <em>Bergsonism</em>. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. New York City: Zone Books, 1991.</p><p>DiPiero, Dan. “Improvisation as Contingent Encounter, Or: The Song of My Toothbrush.” <em>Critical Studies in Improvisation / Études Critiques en Improvisation </em>12.2 (2018). &lt;<a href="https://www.criticalimprov.com/index.php/csieci/article/view/4261">https://www.criticalimprov.com/index.php/csieci/article/view/4261</a>&gt;.</p><p>Fazi, M. Beatrice. <em>Contingent Computation: Abstraction, Experience, and Indeterminacy in Computational Aesthetics</em>. London: Rowman &amp; Littlefield International, 2018.</p><p>———. “Digital Aesthetics: The Discrete and the Continuous.” <em>Theory, Culture &amp; Society</em> 36.1 (2018): 3-26.</p><p>Fortune, Stephen. “What on Earth Is Livecoding?” <em>Dazed Digital</em>, 14 May 2013. &lt;<a href="http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/16150/1/what-on-earth-is-livecoding">https://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/16150/1/what-on-earth-is-livecoding</a>&gt;.</p><p>Kreković, Gordan, and Antonio Pošćić. “Modalities of Improvisation in Live Coding.” <em>Proceedings of xCoaX 2019, the 7th Conference on Computation, Communication, Aesthetics &amp; X</em>. Fabbrica del Vapore, Milan, Italy, 5 July 2019.</p><p>Magnusson, Thor. “Algorithms as Scores: Coding Live Music.” <em>Leonardo Music Journal </em>21 (2011): 19-23. </p><p>———. “Improvising with the Threnoscope: Integrating Code, Hardware, GUI, Network, and Graphic Scores.” Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression. Goldsmiths, University of London, London, England, 1 July 2014.</p><p>Portanova, Stamatia. <em>Moving without a Body: Digital Philosophy and Choreographic Thoughts</em>. Cambridge, MA: The MIT P, 2013.</p><p>Rouvroy, Antoinette.“The Digital Regime of Truth: From the Algorithmic Governmentality to a New Rule of Law.” Trans. Anaïs Nony and Benoît Dillet. <em>La Deleuziana: Online Journal of Philosophy</em> 3 (2016). &lt;<a href="http://www.ladeleuziana.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Rouvroy-Stiegler_eng.pdf">http://www.ladeleuziana.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Rouvroy-Stiegler_eng.pdf</a>&gt;</p><p>Stiegler, Bernard. <em>For a New Critique of Political Economy</em>. Malden: Polity Press, 2012.</p><p>———. “Biopower, Psychopower and the Logic of the Scapegoat.” <em>Ars Industrialis</em> (no date given). &lt;<a href="/index.php/mcjournal/editor/viewMetadata/www.arsindustrialis.org/node/2924">www.arsindustrialis.org/node/2924</a>&gt;.</p> Emma Stamm Copyright (c) 2020 Emma Stamm https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1682 Wed, 07 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0000 Object-Oriented Diaspora Sensibilities, Disidentification, and Ghostly Performance https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1685 <blockquote><p>Neither mere flesh nor mere thing, the yellow woman, straddling the person-thing divide, applies tremendous pressures on politically treasured notions of agency, feminist enfleshment, and human ontology. </p><p>— Anne Anlin Cheng, <em>Ornamentalism</em></p><p>In this (apparently) very versatile piece of clothing, she [Michelle Zauner] smokes, sings karaoke, rides motorcycles, plays a killer guitar solo … and much more. Is there anything you can’t do in a hanbok?</p><p align="right">— Li-Wei Chu, commentary, <em>From the Intercom </em></p></blockquote><h1><strong>Introduction</strong></h1><p><strong></strong>Anne Anlin Cheng describes the anomaly of being “the yellow woman”, women of Asian descent in Western contexts, by underlining the haunting effects of this artificial identity on multiple politically valent forms, especially through Asian women’s conceived ambivalent relations to subject- and object-hood. Due to the entangled constructiveness conjoining Asiatic identities with objects, things, and ornaments, Cheng calls for new ways to “accommodate the deeper, stranger, more intricate, and more ineffable (con)fusion between thingness and personness instantiated by Asiatic femininity and its unpredictable object life” (14). Following this call, this essay articulates a creative combination of José Esteban Muñoz’s disidentification and Avery Gordon’s haunting theory to account for some hauntingly disidentificatory ways that the performance of diaspora sensibilities reimagines Asian American life and femininity.</p><p>This essay considers “Everybody Wants to Love You” (2016) (EWLY), the music video of Michelle Zauner’s solo musical project Japanese Breakfast, as a ghostly performance, which features a celebration of the Korean culture and identity of Zauner (Song). I analyse it as a site for identifying the confrontational moments and haunting effects of the diaspora sensibilities performed by Zauner who is in fact Jewish-Korean-American. Directed by Zauner and Adam Kolodny, the music video of EWLY features the persona that I call the Korean woman orchestrated by Zauner, singing in a restroom cubicle, eating a Dunkin Donuts sandwich, shotgunning a beer, shredding a Fender electric guitar on the hood of a truck, riding a motorcycle with her queer lover, and partying with a crowd all in the traditional Korean attire hanbok that used to belong to her late mother. The story ends with Zauner waking up on a bench with a hangover and fleeing from the scene, conjuring up a journey of self-discovery, self-healing, and self-liberation through multiple sites and scenes of everyday life.</p><p>What I call a ghostly performance is concerned with Avery Gordon’s creative intervention of haunting as a method of social analysis to study the intricate lingering impact of ghostly matters from the past on the present. Jacques Derrida develops hauntology to describe how Marxism continues to haunt Western societies even after its so-called failure. It refers to a status that something is neither present nor absent. Gordon develops haunting as a way of knowing and a method of knowledge production, “forcing a confrontation, forking the future and the past” (xvii). A ghostly performance is thus where ghostly matters are mobilised in “confrontational moments”:</p><blockquote><p>when things are not in their assigned places, when the cracks and rigging are exposed, when the people who are meant to be invisible show up without any sign of leaving, when disturbed feelings cannot be put away, when something else, something different from before, seems like it must be done. (xvi)</p></blockquote><p>The interstitiality that transgresses and reconfigures the geographical and temporal borders of nation, culture, and Eurocentric discourses of progression is important for understanding the diverse experiences of diaspora sensibilities as critical double consciousness (Dayal 48, 53). As Gordon suggests, confrontational moments force us to confront and expose the interstitial state of objects, subjects, feelings, and conditions. Hence, to understand this study identifies the confrontational moments in Zauner’s performance as a method to identify and deconstruct the triggering moments of diaspora sensibilities.</p><p>While deconstructing the ghostly performances of diaspora sensibilities, the essay also adopts an object-oriented approach to serve as a focused entry point. Not only does this approach designate a more focused scope with regard to applying Gordon’s hauntology and Muñoz’s disidentification theory, it also taps into a less attended territory of object theories such as Graham Harman’s and Ian Bogost’s object-oriented ontology due to the overlooking of the relationship between objects and racialisation that is much explored in Asian American and critical race and ethnic studies (Shomura). Moreover, while diaspora as, or not as, an object of study has been a contested topic (e.g., Axel; Cho), the objects of diaspora have been less studied.</p><p>This essay elaborates on two ghostly matters: the hanbok and the manicured nails. It uncovers two haunting effects throughout the analysis: the conjuring-up of the Korean diaspora and the troubling of everyday post-racial America. By defying the objectification of Asian bodies with objects of diaspora and refusing to assimilate into the American nightlife, Zauner’s Korean woman persona haunts a multiculturalist post-racial America that fails to recognise the specificities and historicity of Korean America and performs an alternative reality. Disidentificatory ghostly performance therefore, I suggest, thrives on confrontations between the past and the present while gesturing toward the futurities of alternative Americas. Mobilising the critical lenses of disidentification and ghostly performance, finally, I aver that disidentificatory ghostly performances have great potential for envisioning a better politics of performing and representing Asian bodies through the ghostly play of haunting objects/ghostly matters.</p><h1><strong>The Embodied (Objects) and the Disembodied (Ghosts) of Disidentification</strong></h1><p>The sonic-visual lifeworld constructed in the music video of EWLY is, first of all, a cultural public sphere, through which social norms are contested, reimagined, and reconfigured. A cultural public sphere reveals the imbricated relations between the political, the public, and the personal as contested through affective (aesthetic and emotional) communications (McGuigan 15). Considering the sonic-visual landscape as a cultural public sphere foregrounds two dimensions of Gordon’s hauntology theory: the psychological and the sociopolitical states. The emphasis on its affective communicative capacities enables the psychological reach of a cultural production. Meanwhile, the multilayered articulation of the political, the public, and the personal shows the inner-network of acts of haunting even when they happen chiefly on the sociopolitical level. What is crucial about cultural public spheres for minoritarian subjects is the creative space offered for negotiating one’s position in capacious and flexible ways that non-cultural publics may not allow. One of the ways is through imagination and disputation (McGuigan 16). </p><p>The idea that imagination and disputation may cause a temporal and spatial disjunction with the present is important for Muñoz’s theorisation of disidentification. With such disjunction, Muñoz believes, queer of colour performances create <em>future-oriented</em> visions and coterminous temporality of the present and the future. These future-oriented visions and the coterminous temporality can be thought through disidentifications, which Muñoz identifies as</p><blockquote><p>a performative mode of tactical recognition that various minoritarian subjects employ in an effort to resist the oppressive and normalizing discourse of dominant ideology. Disidentification resists the interpellating call of ideology that fixes a subject within the state power apparatus. It is a reformatting of self within the social. It is a third term that resists the binary of identification and counteridentification. (97)</p></blockquote><p>Disidentification offers a method to identify specific moments of imagination and disputation and moments of temporal and spatial disjunction. The most distinct example of the co-nature of imagination and disputation residing in the EWLY lifeworld is the persona of the Korean woman orchestrated by Zauner, as she intrudes into the everyday field of American life in a hanbok, such as a bar, a basketball court, and a convenience store. Gordon would call these moments “confrontational moments” (xvi). When performers don’t perform in ways they are supposed to perform, when they don’t operate objects in ways they are supposed to operate, when they don’t mobilise feelings in ways they are supposed to feel, they resist and disidentify with “the oppressive and normalizing discourse of dominant ideology” (Muñoz 97).</p><p>In addition to Muñoz’s disidentification and Gordon’s confrontational moments, I adopt an object-oriented approach to guide my analysis of disidentificatory ghostly performances. Object theory departs from objects and matters to rediscover identity and experience. My object-oriented approach follows new materialism more closely than object-oriented ontology because it is less about debating the ontology of Asian American experiences through the lens of objects. Instead, it is more about how re-orienting our attention towards the formation and operation of objecthood reveals and reconfigures the vexed articulation between Asian American experiences and racialised objectification. To this end, my oriented-object approach aligns particularly well with politically engaged frameworks such as Jane Bennett’s vital materialism and Eunjung Kim’s ethics of objects.</p><p>Taking an object-oriented approach in inquiring Asian American identities could be paradoxically intervening because “Asian Americans have been excluded, exploited, and treated as capital because they have been more closely associated to nonhuman objects than to human subjects” (Shomura). Furthermore, this objectification is doubly performed onto the bodies of Asian American women due to the Orientalist conflations of Asia as feminine (Huang 187). Therefore, applying object theory in the case of EWLY requires special attention to the interplay between subject- and object-hood and the line between objecthood and objectification. To avoid the risk of objectification when exploring the objecthood of ghostly matters, I caution against an objects-define-subjects chain of signification and instead suggest a subjects-operate-objects route of inquiry by attending to both the haunting effects of objects and how subjects mobilise such haunting effects in their performance. From a new materialist perspective, it is also important to disassociate problems of objectification from exploration of objecthood (Kim) while excavating the world-making abilities of objects (Bennett). For diasporic peoples, it means to see objects as affective and nostalgic vessels, such as toys, food, family photos, attire, and personal items (e.g., Oum), where traumas of displacement can be stored and rehearsed (Turan 54).</p><p>What is revealing from a racialised subject-object relationship is what Christopher Bush calls “the ethnicity of things”: things can have ethnicity, an identification that hinges on the articulation that “thingliness can be constituted in ways analogous and related to structures of racialization” (85). This object-oriented approach to inquiry can expose the artificial nature of the affinity between Asian bodies and certain objects, behind which is a confession of naturalised racial order of signification. One way to disrupt this chain of signification is to excavate the haunting objects that disidentify with the norms of the present, that conjure up what the present wants to be done. This “something-to-be-done” characteristic is critical to acts of haunting (Gordon xvii). Such disruptive performances are what I term as “disidentificatory ghostly performances”, connecting the embodied objects with Gordon’s disembodied ghosts through the lens of Muñoz’s disidentificatory reading with a two-fold impact: first exposing such artificial affinity and then suggesting alternative ways of knowing.</p><p>In what follows, I expand upon two haunting objects/ghostly matters: the manicured nails and the hanbok. I contend that Zauner operates these haunting objects to embody the “something-to-be-done” characteristic by curating uncomfortable, confrontational moments, where the constituted affinity between Koreanness/Asianness and anomaly is instantiated and unsettled in multiple snippets of the mundane post-racial, post-globalisation world.</p><h1><strong>What Can the Korean Woman (Not) Do with Those Nails and in That Hanbok?</strong></h1><p>The hanbok that Zauner wears throughout the music video might be the single most powerful haunting object in the story. This authentic hanbok belonged to Zauner’s late mother who wore it to her wedding. Dressing in the hanbok while navigating the nightlife, it becomes a mediated, trans-temporal experience for both Zauner and her mother. A ghostly journey, you could call it. The hanbok then becomes a ghostly matter that haunts both the Orientalist gaze and the grieving Zauner. This journey could be seen as a process of dealing with personal loss, a process of “reckoning with ghosts” (Gordon 190). The division between the personal and the public, the historical and the present cease to exist as linear and clear-cut forces. The important role of ghosts in the performance are the efforts of historicising and specifying the persona of the Korean woman, which is a strategy for minoritarian performers to resist “the pull of reductive multicultural pluralism” (Muñoz 147). These ghostly matters haunt a pluralist multiculturalist post-racial America that refuses to see minor specificities and historicity.</p><p>The Korean woman in an authentic hanbok, coupled with other objects of Korean roots, such as a traditional hairdo and seemingly exotic makeup, may invite the Orientalist gaze or the assumption that Zauner is self-commodifying and self-fetishising Korean culture, risking what Cheng calls “Oriental female objectification” operating through “the lenses of commodity and sexual fetishism” (14). However, she “fails” to do any of these. </p><p>The ways Zauner acts in the hanbok manifests a self-negotiation with her Korean identity through disidentificatory sensibilities with racial fetishism. For example, in various scenes, the Korean woman appears to be drunk in a bar, gorging a sandwich, shotgunning a beer, smoking in a restroom cubicle, messing with strangers in a basketball court, rocking on a truck, and falling asleep on a bench. Some may describe what she does as abnormal, discomforting, and even disgusting in a traditional Korean garment which is usually worn on formal occasions. The Korean woman not only subverts her traditional Koreanness but also disidentifies with what the Asian fetish requires of Asian bodies: obedient, well-behaved model minority or the hypersexualised dragon lady (e.g., Hsu; Shimizu). Zauner’s performance foregrounds the sentimental, the messy, the frenetic, the aggressive, and the carnivalesque as essential qualities and sensibilities of the Korean woman. These rarely visible figurations of Asian femininities speak to the normalised public disappearance of “unwanted” sides of Asian bodies.</p><p>Wavering public disappearance is a crucial haunting effect. The public disappearance is an “organized system of repression” (Gordon 72) and a “state-sponsored procedure for producing ghosts to harrowingly haunt a population into submission” (115). While the journey of EWLY evolves through ups and downs, the Korean woman does not maintain the ephemeral joy and takes offence at the people and surroundings now and then, such as at an arcade in the bar, at some basketball players, or at the audience or the camera operator. The performed disaffection and the conflicts substantiate a theory of “positive perversity” through which Asian American women claim the representation of their sexuality and desires (Shimizu), engendering a strong and visible presence of the ghostly matters operated by the Korean woman. This noticeable arrival of bodies disorients how things are arranged (Ahmed 163), revealing and disrupting whiteness, which functions as a habit and a background to actions (149). The confrontational performances of the encounters between Zauner and others cast a critique of the racial politics of disappearing by reifying disappearing into confrontational moments in the everyday post-racial world.</p><p>What is also integral to Zauner’s antagonistic performance of wavering public disappearing and failure of “Oriental female objectification” is a punk strategy of negativity through an aesthetic of nihilism and a mediation of performing objects. For example, in addition to the traditional hairdo that goes with her makeup, Zauner also wears a nose ring; in addition to partying with a crowd, she adopts a moshing style of dancing, being carried over people’s heads in the hanbok. All these, in addition to her disaffectionate, aggressive, and impolite body language, express a negative punk aesthetics. Muñoz describes such a negative punk aesthetics as an energy that can be described “as chaotic, as creating a life without rhyme or reason, as quintessentially self-destructive” (97). What lies at the heart of this punk dystopia is the desire for “something else”, something “not the present time or place” (Muñoz). Through this desire for impossible time and place, utopian is reimagined, a race riot, in Mimi Thi Nguyen’s term.</p><p>On the other hand, the manicured fingernails are also a major operating force, reminiscent of Korean American immigrant history along with the racialised labor relations that have marked Korean bodies as an alien anomaly (Liu). With “Japanese Breakfast” being written on the screen in neon pink with some dazzling effect, the music video begins in a warm tone. The story begins with Zauner selecting EWLY with her finger on a karaoke operation screen, the first of many shots on her carefully manicured nails, decorated with transparent nail extensions, sparkly ornaments, and hanging fine chains. These nails conjure up the nail salon business in the US that heavily depended on immigrant labor and Korean women immigrants have made significant economic contributions through the manicure business. In particular, differently from Los Angeles where nail salons have been predominantly Vietnamese and Chinese owned, Korean women immigrants in the 1980s were the first ones to open nail salons in New York City and led to the rapid growth of the business (Kang 51). The manicured nails first of all conjure up these recent histories associated with the nail salon business.</p><p>Moreover, these fingernails haunt post-racial and post-globalisation America by revealing and subverting the invisible, normalised racial and ethnic nature of the labor and objects associated with fingernails cosmetic treatment. Ghostly matters inform “a method of knowledge production and a way of writing that could represent the damage and the haunting of the historical alternatives” (Gordon xvii). They function as a reminder of the damage that seems forgotten or normalised in modern societies and as an alternative embodiment of what modern societies could have become. In the universe of EWLY, the fingernails become a forceful ghostly matter by reminding us of the damage done onto Korean bodies by fixing them as service performers instead customers. The nail salon business as performed by immigrant labor has been a business of “buying and selling of deference and attentiveness”, where white customers come to exercise their privilege while not wanting anything associated with Koreaness or Otherness (Kang 134). However, as a haunting force, the fingernails subvert such labor relations by acting as a versatile agent operating varied objects, such as a karaoke machine, cigarettes, a sandwich, a Fender guitar, and a can of beer. Through such operating, an alternative labor relation is formed. This alternative is not entirely without roots. As promoted in Japanese Breakfast’s Instagram (@jbrekkie), Zauner’s look was styled by a nail artist who appears to be a white female, Celeste Marie Welch from the DnA Salon based in Philadelphia. This is a snippet of a field that is now a glocalised industry, where the racial and gender makeup is more diverse. It is increasingly easier to see non-Asian and non-female nail salon workers, among whom white nail salon workers outnumbered any other non-Asian racial/ethnic groups (Preeti et al. 23). </p><p>EWLY’s alternative worldmaking is not only a mere reflection of the changing makeup of an industry but also calling out the societal tendency of forgetting histories. To be haunted, as Gordon explains, is to be “tied to historical and social effects” (190). The ghostly matters of the manicure industry haunt its workers, artists, consumers, and businesspeople of a past that prescribes racialised labor divisions, consumption relations, and the historical and social effects inflicted on the Othered bodies. Performing with the manicured nails, Zauner challenges now supposedly multicultural manicure culture by fusing oppositional, trans-temporal identities into the persona of the Korean woman. Not only does she conjure up the racialised labor relations as the child of a Korean mother, she also disidentifies with the worker identity of early Korean women immigrants as a consumer who receives service from an artist who would otherwise never perform such labor in the past.</p><h1><strong>Conclusion: Toward a Disidentificatory Ghostly Performance</strong></h1><p>This essay suggests seeing the disidentificatory ghostly performance of the Korean woman as an artistic incarnation of her lived Othering experience, which Zauner may or may not navigate on an everyday basis. As Zauner lives through what looks like a typical Friday night in an American town, the journey represents an interrogation of the present and the past. When the ghostly matters move through public spaces – when she drinks in a bar, walks down the street, and parties with a crowd – the Korean woman neither conforms to what she is expected to do in a hanbok nor does she get fully assimilated into this American nightlife.</p><p>Derrida avers that haunting, repression, and hegemony are structurally interlocked and that “haunting belongs to the structure of every hegemony” because “hegemony still organizes the repression” (46). This is why the creative capacity of disidentificatory performances is crucial for acts of haunting and for historically repressed groups of people. Conjoining the future-oriented performative mode of disidentification and the forking of the past and the present by ghostly performances, disidentificatory ghostly performances enable not only people of colour but also particularly diasporic populations of colour to challenge racial chains of signification and orchestrate future-oriented visions, where time is of the most compassion, at its utmost capacity.</p><h2><strong>References</strong></h2><p>Ahmed, Sara. “A Phenomenology of Whiteness.” <em>Feminist Theory</em> 8.2 (2007): 149–168.</p><p>Axel, Brian Keith. “Time and Threat: Questioning the Production of the Diaspora as an Object of Study.” <em>History and Anthropology</em> 9.4 (1996): 415–443.</p><p>Bennett, Jane. <em>Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things</em>. Durham: Duke UP, 2010.</p><p>Bogost, Ian. <em>Alien Phenomenology, or, What It’s Like to Be a Thing</em>. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2012.</p><p>Bush, Christopher. “The Ethnicity of Things in America’s Lacquered Age.” <em>Representations</em> 99.1 (2007): 74–98. </p><p>Cheng, Anne Anlin. <em>Ornamentalism</em>. New York: Oxford UP, 2019.</p><p>Cho, Lily. “The Turn to Diaspora.” <em>Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies</em> 17 (2007): 11–30.</p><p>Chu, Li-Wei. “MV Throwback: Japanese Breakfast – ‘Everybody Wants to Love You’.” <em>From the Intercom</em>, 23 Aug. 2018. &lt;<a href="https://fromtheintercom.com/mv-throwback-japanese-breakfast-everybody-wants-to-love-you/">https://fromtheintercom.com/mv-throwback-japanese-breakfast-everybody-wants-to-love-you/</a>&gt;.</p><p>Dayal, Samir. “Diaspora and Double Consciousness.” <em>The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association</em> 29.1 (1996): 46–62. </p><p>Derrida, Jacques. <em>Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International</em>. London: Routledge, 1994.</p><p>Gordon, Avery. <em>Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination</em>. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2008. </p><p>Harman, Graham. <em>Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics</em>. Melbourne: re.press, 2009.</p><p>Hsu, Madeline Yuan-yin. <em>The Good Immigrants: How the Yellow Peril Became the Model Minority</em>. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton UP, 2015.</p><p>Huang, Vivian L. “Inscrutably, Actually: Hospitality, Parasitism, and the Silent Work of Yoko Ono and Laurel Nakadate.” <em>Women &amp; Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory</em> 28.3 (2018): 187–203.</p><p>Japanese Breakfast. “Japanese Breakfast – Everybody Wants to Love You (Official Video).” <em>YouTube</em>, 20 Sep. 2016. &lt;http://<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNT7wuqaykc">www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNT7wuqaykc</a>&gt;.</p><p>Kang, Miliann. <em>The Managed Hand: Race, Gender, and the Body in Beauty Service Work</em>. Berkeley: U of California P, 2010.</p><p>Kim, E. “Unbecoming Human: An Ethics of Objects.” <em>GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies</em> 21.2–3 (2015): 295–320.</p><p>Liu, Runchao. “Retro Objects, Alien Objects.” <em>In Media Res</em>. 12 Dec. 2018. &lt;<a href="http://mediacommons.org/imr/content/retro-objects-alien-objects">http://mediacommons.org/imr/content/retro-objects-alien-objects</a>&gt;.</p><p>McGuigan, Jim. <em>Cultural Analysis</em>. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE, 2010.</p><p>Muñoz, José Esteban. <em>Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics</em>. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1999.</p><p>———. “‘Gimme Gimme This ... Gimme Gimme That’: Annihilation and Innovation in the Punk Rock Commons.” <em>Social Text</em> 31.3 (2013): 95–110.</p><p>Nguyen, Mimi Thi. “Riot Grrrl, Race, and Revival.” <em>Women &amp; Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory</em> 22.2–3 (2012): 173–196. </p><p>Oum, Young Rae. “Authenticity and Representation: Cuisines and Identities in Korean-American Diaspora.” <em>Postcolonial Studies</em> 8.1 (2005): 109–125.</p><p>Sharma, Preeti, et al. “Nail File: A Study of Nail Salon Workers and Industry in the United States.” <em>UCLA Labor Center and California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative</em>, 2018.</p><p>Shimizu, Celine Parrenas. <em>The Hypersexuality of Race: Performing Asian/American Women on Screen and Scene</em>. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2007.</p><p>Shomura, Chad. “Object Theory and Asian American Literature.” <em>Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature</em>. New York: Oxford UP, 2020.</p><p>Song, Sandra. “Japanese Breakfast Is the Korean-American Songwriter Empowering Everyone to Overcome.” <em>Teen Vogue.</em> 14 July 2017. &lt;<a href="http://www.teenvogue.com/story/japanese-breakfast-songwriter-empowering-everyone-overcome">http://www.teenvogue.com/story/japanese-breakfast-songwriter-empowering-everyone-overcome</a>&gt;.</p><p>Turan, Zeynep. “Material Objects as Facilitating Environments: The Palestinian Diaspora.” <em>Home Cultures</em> 7.1 (2010): 43–56.</p> Runchao Liu Copyright (c) 2020 Runchao Liu https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1685 Wed, 07 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0000 Hybridity, National Identity, and the Smartphone in the Contemporary Union of Myanmar https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1679 <p>In 2014, telecommunications companies Ooredoo and Telenor introduced a 3G phone network to Myanmar, one of the last, great un-phoned territories of the world (“Mobile Mania”). Formerly accessible only to military and cultural elites, the smartphone was now available to virtually all. In 2020, just six years later, smartphones are commonplace, used by every class and walk of life. </p><p>The introduction and mainstreaming of the smartphone in Myanmar coincided with the transition from military dictatorship to quasi democracy; from heavy censorship to relative liberalisation of culture and the media. This ongoing transition continues to be a painful one for many in Myanmar. The 3G network and smartphone ownership enable ordinary people to connect with one another and the Internet—or, more specifically, Facebook, which is ‘the Internet in Myanmar’ (Nyi Nyi Kyaw, “Facebooking in Myanmar” 1). However, the smartphone and what it enables has also been identified as a new instrument of control, with mass-texting campaigns and a toxic social media culture implicated in recent concerted violence against ethnic and minority religious groups such as the Muslim Rohingya. </p><p>In this article, I consider the political and cultural conversations enabled by the smartphone in the period following its introduction. The smartphone can be read as an anomalous, hybrid, and foreign object, with connotations of fluidity and connection, all dangerous qualities in Myanmar, a conservative, former pariah state.<span> </span>Drawing from Sarah Ahmed’s article, “The Skin of Community: Affect and Boundary Formation”<em> </em>(2005), as well as recent scholarship on mixed race identification, I examine deeply held fears around ethnic belonging, cultural adeptness, and hybridity, arguing that these anxieties can be traced back to the early days of colonisation. </p><p>During military rule, Myanmar’s people were underserved by their telecommunications network. Domestic landlines were rare. Phone calls were generally made from market stalls. SIM cards cost up to US$3000, out of reach of most. The lack of robust services was reflected by remarkably low connection rates; 2012 mobile connections numbered at a mere 5.4 million while fixed lines were just 0.6 million for a population of over 50 million people (Kyaw Myint, “Myanmar Country Report” 232). In 2013, the Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor and the Qatari company Ooredoo won licenses to establish network infrastructure for Myanmar. In August 2014, with network construction still underway, the two companies released SIM cards costing a mere 1500 kyats or US$1.50 each. At the time, 1500 kyats bought two plates of fried rice at a Yangon street food stall, making these SIM cards easily affordable. Chinese-manufactured handsets quickly became available (Fink 44). Suddenly, Myanmar was connected. </p><p>By early 2019, there were 105 smart connections per 100 people in the country (Kyaw Myint, “Facebooking in Myanmar” 1). While this number doesn’t count multiple connections within a single household or the realities of unreliable network coverage in rural areas, the story of the smartphone in Myanmar would seem to be about democratisation and a new form of national unity. But after half a century of military rule, what did national unity mean? Myanmar’s full name is The Republic of the Union of Myanmar. Since independence in 1948 the country has been torn by internal civil wars as political factions and ethnic groups fought for sovereignty. What actually bound the Union of Myanmar together? And where might discussions of such painful and politically sensitive questions take place? </p><h1><strong>Advertising as a Space for Crafting Conversations of National Identity</strong> </h1><p>In a report on Asian Advertising, Mila Chaplin of Mango Marketing, the agency charged with launching the Telenor brand in Myanmar, observes that</p><blockquote><p>in many markets, brands talk about self-expression and invite consumers to get involved in co-creation … . In Myanmar what the consumers really need is some guidance on how to start crafting [national] …] identities. (4) </p></blockquote><p>Advertising has often been used as a means of retelling national stories and myths as well as a site for the collective imaginary to be visualised (Sawchuk 43). However, Myanmar was unlike other territories. Decades of heavy censorship and isolationist diplomatic policies, euphemistically named the “closed” period, left the country without a functional, independent national media. Television programming, including advertising, was regulated and national identity was an edict, not a shared conversation. With the advent of democratic reforms in 2011, ushering in a new “open” period, paid advertising campaigns in 2015 offered an in-between space on nationally broadcast television where it was possible to discuss questions of national identity from a perspective other than that of the government (Chaplin). Such conversations had to be conducted sensitively, given that the military were still the true national power. However, an advertising campaign that launched a new way to physically connect the country almost inevitably had to address questions of shared identity as well as clearly set out how the alien technology might shape the nation. To do so required addressing the country’s painful colonial past. </p><h1><strong>The Hybrid in National Narratives of Myanmar </strong> </h1><p>In contemporary Myanmar, the smartphone is synonymous with military and government power (mobile Internet traffic in northern Rakhine state, for example, has been shut down since February 2020, ostensibly for security). Yet, when the phone was first introduced in 2014, it too was seen as a “foreign” object, one that had the potential to connect but also “instantiated ... a worldly sensibility that national borders and boundaries are potentially breached, and thus in need of protection from ‘others’” (Sawchuk 45). This fear of foreign influence coupled with the yearning for connection with the outside world is summed up by <span>Ei Phyu Aung, editor of Myanmar’s weekly entertainment journal <em>Sunday</em>:</span></p><blockquote><p>it’s like dust coming in when you open the window. We can’t keep the window closed forever so we have to find a way to minimize the dust and maximize the sunlight. (Thin)</p></blockquote><p>Ei Phyu Aung wishes to enjoy the benefits of connecting with the world outside (sunlight) yet also fears cultural pollution (dust) linked with exploitation, an anxiety that reflects Myanmar’s approach to belonging and citizenship, shaped by its colonial history. </p><p>Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, was colonised in stages. Upper Burma was annexed by British forces in 1886, completing a process of colonisation begun with the first Anglo-Burmese wars of 1823. The royal family was exiled from the pre-colonial capital at Mandalay and the new colony ruled as a province of India. Indian migration, particularly to Rangoon, was encouraged and these highly visible, economic migrants became the symbol of colonialism, of foreign exploitation. A deep mistrust of foreign influence, based on the experiences of colonialism, continued to shape the nation decades after independence. The 1962 military coup was followed by the expulsion of “foreigners” in 1964 as the country pursued a policy of isolation. In 1982, the government introduced a new citizenship law “driven as much by a political campaign to exclude the ‘alien’ from the country as to define the ‘citizen’” (Transnational Institute 10). This law only recognises ethnicities who can prove their presence prior to 1824, the year British forces first annexed lower Burma. As a consequence of the 1982 laws, groups such as the Rohingya are considered “Bengali migrants” and those descended from Chinese and Indian diasporas are excluded from full citizenship. In 1989, the ruling State Law and Order Council (SLORC) changed the country’s name to Myanmar and the anglicised Rangoon to Yangon. Thus the story of Burma/Myanmar since independence is of a nation that continues to be traumatised by colonisation. Given the mistrust of the foreign, how then might an anomalous hybrid object like the smartphone be received? </p><h1><strong>Smartphone Advertising and National Narratives </strong></h1><p>Television advertising is well suited to creating a sense of national identity; commercials are usually broadcast repeatedly. As Sarah Ahmed argues, it is through “the repetition of norms” that “boundary, fixity and surface of ‘social forms’ such as the ‘nation’ are produced” (<em>Cultural Politics of Emotion</em> 12). In her article, “The Skin of Community”, Ahmed describes these boundaries as a kind of “skin”, where difference is recognised through affective responses, such as disgust or delight. These responses and their associated meanings delineate a kind of belonging through shared experience, akin to shared identity—a shared skin. Telenor’s first advertisement in this space, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2G2xjK8QFSo"><em>Breakfast</em></a>, draws from the metaphor of skin as boundary, connecting a family meal with cultural myths and social history. </p><p><em>Breakfast</em> was developed by Mango Marketing Services in 2014 and Telenor launched its initial television campaign in 2015, consisting of several advertisements brought to market in the period between 2014 and 2016 (Hicks, Mumbrella). The commercial runs for 60 seconds, a relatively expensive long format typical of a broadly-disseminated launch where the advertiser aims to introduce something new to the public and subsequently, build market share. </p><p>Opening with images of Yangon, the country’s commercial centre, <em>Breakfast</em> tells the story of May, a newlywed, and the first time she cooks for her in-laws. May’s mother-in-law requests a famous breakfast dish, <em>nanjithoke</em>, typical of Mandalay, where May is from. But May does not know how to cook the dish and blunders around the kitchen as her in-laws wait. Sensing her distress, her husband suggests that she use his smartphone to call her mother in Mandalay and get the recipe. May’s dish is approved by her in-laws as tasty and authentic. </p><p>In <em>Breakfast</em>, the phone is used as if it were a landline, its mobility not wholly relevant. The locations of both parties, May and her mother, are fixed and predictable and the phone in both instances is closely associated with connecting homes and more significantly, two important cities, Yangon and Mandalay. The advertisement presents the smartphone as solving the systemic problem of unreliable telecommunication in Myanmar as well as its lack of access; there is a final message reassuring the user that calls are affordable. That the smartphone is shown as part of everyday life presents it as a force for stability, a service that locates and connects fixed places. This in itself represented a profound shift for most people, in light of the fact that such communication was not possible during the “closed” period. Thus, this foreign, hybrid object enables what was not previously possible.</p><p>While the benefits of the smartphone and network may be clear, the subtext of the advertisement nonetheless points to fears of foreign influence and the dangers of introducing an alien object into everyday life. To mitigate these concerns, May is presented in the traditional <em>htamein</em> or <em>longyi</em> and <em>aingi</em>, a long wrap skirt and fitted blouse with sleeves that end on the forearm, rather than western jeans and a t-shirt—both types of clothing are commonly worn in Yangon. Her hair is pulled back and pinned up, her makeup is subtle. She inhabits domestic space and does not have her own smartphone. In fact, it does not even occur to her to call her mother for the <em>nanjithoke</em> recipe, which is slightly surprising given her mother has a smartphone and knows how to use it, indicating that she has probably had it for some time. This subtext reflects conservative power structures in which elder generations pass knowledge down to new generations. </p><p>The choice to connect Yangon and Mandalay through the local noodle dish is also significant. <em>Breakfast</em> makes manifest historic meanings associated with “place” a mapping of the “hidden” and “already given cultural order” (Mazzarella 24-25). As discussed earlier, Yangon was the colonial capital, known as an Indian city, but Mandalay as the pre-colonial capital remains a seat of cultural sophistication, where the highest form of the Myanmar language is spoken. The choice to connect Myanmar with the phone, as foreign object and bearer of anomaly, should be read as a repudiation of its bordered past, when foreigners (or <em>kalaa</em>, a derogatory term), including European ambassadors, were kept separate from the royal family by walls and a moat. </p><p>The commercial, too, strongly evokes a shared skin of community through the evocation of the senses, from Yangon’s heat to the anticipation of a tasty and authentic meal, as well as through the visualisation of kinship and inheritance. In one extremely slow dissolve, May and her mother share the screen simultaneously, compressed in space as well as time. It is as if their skin of kinship is stretched before us. As the viewer’s eye passes from left to right across the screen, May’s present, past, and future is visible. She too will become the mother, at the other end the phone, offering advice to her daughter. There is suggestion of a continuum, of an “immemorial past” (Anderson 12), part of a national narrative that connects to pre-colonial Mandalay and the cultural systems that precede it, to the modern city of Yangon, still the commercial of contemporary Myanmar.</p><p>At first glance,<em> Breakfast</em> seems to position the phone as an object that will enable Myanmar to stay Myanmarese through the strengthening of family connections. The commercial also strives to allay fears of the phone as a source of cultural pollution or exploitation by demonstrating its adoption among the older generation and inserting it into a fantasy of an uninterrupted culture, harking back to pre-colonial Burma. Yet, while the phone is represented in anodyne terms, it is only because it is an anomalous and hybrid object that such connections are possible. Furthermore, the smartphone in this representation also enables a connection between pre-colonial Mandalay to contemporary Yangon, breaching painful associations with both annexation and colonisation. </p><p>In contrast to the advertisement <em>Breakfast</em>, Telenor’s information video, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cWOsXKuTeg"><em>Why we should use SIM slot 1</em></a>, does not attempt to disassociate the smartphone with foreignness. Instead, it capitalises on the smartphone as a hybrid object whose benefit is that it can be adapted to specific needs, including faster Internet speeds to enable connection to external video channel, such as YouTube.</p><p>The video features young women dressed in foreign jeans and short-sleeved tops, wearing Western-style make-up, including sparkly nail polish. Both women appear to own their smartphones, and one is technically adept, delivering the complex information about which slot to use to facilitate the fastest Internet connection. Neither has difficulty with negotiating the complicated ports beneath the back cover of their smartphone to make the necessary change. They are happy to alter their phones to suit their own needs. </p><p>These women are perhaps more closely in line with other markets, where the younger generation “do not expect to follow their parents’ practice” (Horst and Miller 9). This is in direct contrast to <em>Breakfast</em>, where May’s middle-aged mother has adopted the phone and, in keeping with conservative power structures, is already well-versed in its uses and capabilities. While this video was never intended to be seen by the audience for <em>Breakfast</em>, there remain parallels in the way the smartphone enables a connection within the control of its user: like May’s mother, both women in <em>Breakfast </em>are able to control or mitigate the foreign material through the manipulation of their device, moving from 2G to H+. They can opt in or out of the H+ network.</p><p>This article has explored discussions of national identity prompted by the introduction of the smartphone to Myanmar during a moment of unprecedented political change. <em>Breakfast</em>, the advertisement that launched the smartphone into the country, offered a space in which the people of Myanmar were able to address questions of national identity and gently probe the discomfort of the colonial past. The communication video <em>Why we should use SIM slot 1</em> reflects Myanmar’s burgeoning sense of connection with the region and presents the smartphone as customisable. The smartphone in advertising is thus positioned as a means for connecting the generations and continuing the immemorial past of the Burmese nation into the future, as well as a hybrid object capable of linking the country to the outside world. Further directions for this enquiry might consider how the discussion of Myanmar’s national identity continues to be addressed and exploited through advertising in Myanmar, and how the smartphone’s hybridity is used to counteract established national narratives in other spaces.</p><h2>References<span style="font-size: 10px;"> </span></h2><p>Adas, Michael. <em>The Burma Delta 1852-1941</em>. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 2011.</p><p>Anderson, Benedict. <em>Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. </em>London: Verso, 1983. </p><p>Ahmed, Sara. <em>Cultural Politics of Emotion</em>. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2014.</p><p>———. “The Skin of Community: Affect and Boundary Formation.” <em>Revolt, Affect, Collectivity: The Unstable Boundaries of Kristeva’s Polis</em>. Eds. Tina Chanter and Ewa Płonowska Ziarek. Albany: State U of New York, 2005. 95-111. </p><p>Chaplin, Milla. “Advertising in Myanmar: Digging Deep to Even Scratch the Surface.” <em>WARC</em>, Mar. 2016. &lt;<a href="https://origin.warc.com/content/paywall/article/warc-exclusive/advertising-in-myanmar-digging-deep-to-even-scratch-the-surface/106815">https://origin.warc.com/content/paywall/article/warc-exclusive/advertising-in-myanmar-digging-deep-to-even-scratch-the-surface/106815</a>&gt;.</p><p>Charney, Michael W. <em>A History of Modern Burma</em>. Cambridge, Cambridge UP: 2009.</p><p>Cheesman, Nick. “How in Myanmar ‘National Races’ Came to Surpass Citizenship and Exclude Rohingya.” <em>Journal of Contemporary Asia</em> 47.3 (2017): 461‑483.</p><p>Fink, Christine. “Dangerous Speech, Anti-Muslim Violence, and Facebook in Myanmar.” <em>Journal of International Affairs</em> 71.1 (2018): 43‑52.</p><p>Hicks, Robin. “Telenor Launches First TV Ad in Myanmar.” <em>Mumbrella</em>, 2 Feb. 2015. &lt;<a href="http://www.mumbrella.asia/2015/02/telenor-launches-first-tv-ad-myanmar">http://www.mumbrella.asia/2015/02/telenor-launches-first-tv-ad-myanmar</a>&gt;.</p><p>Horst, Heather A., and Daniel Miller. <em>The Cell Phone. An Anthropology of Communication</em>. New York: Berg, 2006.</p><p>Kyaw Myint. “Myanmar Country Report.” <em>Financing ASEAN Connectivity: ERIA Research Project Report.</em> Eds. F. Zen and M. Regan. Jakarta: ERIA, 2014. 221-267. </p><p><em>Breakfast.</em> Mango Creative, Mango Media Marketing, Telenor Myanmar. 26 Jan. 2015. &lt;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2G2xjK8QFSo">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2G2xjK8QFSo</a>&gt;.</p><p>Mazzarella, William. <em>Shovelling Smoke. Advertising and Globalization in Contemporary India. </em>Durham and London: Duke UP, 2003.</p><p>“Mobile Mania.” <em>The Economist</em>. 24 Jan. 2015. &lt;<a href="https://www.economist.com/business/2015/01/22/mobile-mania">https://www.economist.com/business/2015/01/22/mobile-mania</a>&gt;.</p><p>Nyi Nyi Kyaw. “Adulteration of Pure Native Blood by Aliens? Mixed Race <em>Kapya</em> in Colonial and Post-Colonial Myanmar.” <em>Social Identities</em> 25.3 (2018): 345-359. </p><p>———. “Facebooking in Myanmar: From Hate Speech to Fake News to Partisan Political Communication.” <em>Yusof Ishak Institute Perspective</em> 36 (2019): 1-10. </p><p>Sawchuk, Kim. “Radio Hats, Wireless Rats and Flying Families.” <em>The Wireless Spectrum: The Politics, Practices and Poetics of Mobile Media.</em> Eds. Barbara Crow, Michael Longford, and Kim Sawchuk. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2010.</p><p>Thin Lei Win. “Beauty Pageants Expose Dreams and Dangers in Modern Myanmar.” <em>Reuters</em>, 26 Sep. 2014. &lt;<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-foundation-myanmar-beautycontests/beauty-pageants-expose-dreams-and-dangers-in-modern-myanmar-idUSKCN0HL0Y520140926">https://www.reuters.com/article/us-foundation-myanmar-beautycontests/beauty-pageants-expose-dreams-and-dangers-in-modern-myanmar-idUSKCN0HL0Y520140926</a>&gt;.</p><p>Transnational Institute. “Ethnicity without Meaning, Data without Context: The 2014 Census, Identity and Citizenship in Burma/Myanmar.” Amsterdam: TNI-BCN Burma Policy Briefing, 2014. </p> Michelle Diane Aung Thin Copyright (c) 2020 Michelle Diane Aung Thin https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1679 Wed, 07 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0000 The Chav Youth Subculture and Its Representation in Academia as Anomalous Phenomenon https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1675 <h1><strong>Introduction</strong></h1><p>“Chav” is a social phenomenon that gained significant popular media coverage and attention in the United Kingdom in the early 2000s. Chavs are often characterised, by others, as young people from a background of low socioeconomic status, usually clothed in branded sportswear. All definitions of Chav position them as culturally anomalous, as Other.</p><p>This article maps out a multidisciplinary definition of the Chav, synthesised from 21 published academic publications: three recurrent themes in scholarly discussion emerge. First, this research presents whiteness as an <em>assumed </em>and <em>essential </em>facet of Chav identity. When marginalising Chavs because of their “incorrect whiteness”, these works assign them a problematic and complex relationship with ethnicity and race. Second, Chav discourse has previously been discussed as a form of intense class-based abhorrence. Chavs, it would seem, are perceived as anomalous by their own class and those who deem themselves of a higher socioeconomic status. Finally, Chavs’ consumption choices are explored as amplifying such negative constructions of class and white ethnic identities, which are deemed as forming an undesirable aesthetic. </p><p>This piece is not intended to debate whether or not Chav is a subculture, clubculture or neotribe. Although Greg Martin’s discussion around the similarities between historical subcultures and Chavs remains pertinent and convincing, this article discusses how young people labelled as Chavs are excluded on a variety of fronts. It draws a cross-disciplinary mapping of the Chav, providing the beginnings of a definition of a derogatory label, applied to young people marking them anomalous in British society.</p><h1><strong>What Is a Chav?</strong></h1><p>The word Chav became officially included in the English language in the UK in 2003, when it was inducted into the <em>Oxford English Dictionary</em> (<em>OED</em>). The current <em>OED</em> entry offers many points for further discussion, all centred upon a discriminatory positioning of Chav:</p><blockquote><p>chav, n. Etymology: Probably either &lt; Romani čhavo unmarried Romani male, male Romani child (see chavvy n.), or shortened &lt; either chavvy n. or its etymon Angloromani chavvy. Brit. slang (derogatory). In the United Kingdom (originally the south of England): a young person of a type characterized by brash and loutish behaviour and the wearing of designer-style clothes (esp. sportswear); usually with connotations of a low social status.</p></blockquote><p>Chav was adopted by British national media as a catch-all term encompassing regional variants. Many discussions have likened Chav to groups such as “Bogans” in Australia and “Trailer Trash” in the US. Websites such as <em>UrbanDictionary </em>and <em>Chavscum </em>have often, informally, defined Chav through a series of derogatory “backcronyms” such as Council Housed And Violent or Council House Associated Vermin, positioning it as a derogatory social label synonymous with notions of perceived criminality, poverty, poor taste, danger, fear, class, and whiteness.</p><p>Chav came to real prominence in the early 2000s in mainstream British media, gaining visibility through television shows such as <em>Shameless </em>(2004-2013)<em>, Little Britain </em>(2003-2006),<em> </em>and <em>The Catherine Tate Show </em>(2004-2009). The term exploded across the tabloid press, as noted by Antoinette Renouf in 2005. Extensive tabloid press coverage drove the phenomenon to front-page coverage in <em>TIME</em> magazine in 2008. Chavs were observed as often wearing Burberry check-patterned clothing. For the first time since its founding in 1856, and due to the extent of Chav’s negative media coverage, Burberry decided to largely remove its trademark check pattern between 2001 and 2014 from sale. </p><h1><strong>Chavs in Academia</strong></h1><p>The rubric of the Chav did not emerge in academia with the same vigour as it did in popular media, failing to gain the visibility of previous youth social formations such as Punks, Mods, et al. Rather, there has been a modest but consistent number of academic publications discussing this subject: 1-3 publications per year, published between 2006-2015. </p><p>Of the 22 academic texts explicitly addressing and discussing Chavs, none were published prior to 2006. Extensive searches on databases such as EBSCO, JSTOR and ProQuest, yielded no further academic publications on this subject since Joanne Heeney’s 2015 discussion of Chav and its relationship to contested conceptualisations of disability.</p><p>From a review of the available literature, the following key thematic groupings run through the publications: Chavs’ embodiment of a "wrong" type of white identity; their embodiment of a "wrong" type of working-class identity; and finally, their depiction as flawed consumers. I will now discuss these groupings, and their implications for future research, in order to chart a multidisciplinary conceptualisation of the Chav. Ultimately, my discussion will evidence how "out of place" Chavs appear to be in terms of race and ethnicity, class, and consumption choices. </p><h1><strong>Chavs as “Wrong” Whites</strong></h1><p>The dividing practices (Foucault) evident in UK popular media and websites such as <em>Urbandictionary</em> in the early 2000s distinctly separated “hypervisible ‘filthy whites’” (Tyler) from the “respectable whiteness” of the British middle-class. As Imogen Tyler puts it, “the cumulative effect of this disgust is the blocking of the disenfranchised white poor from view; they are rendered invisible and incomprehensible”, a perspective revisited in relation to the "celebrity chav" by Tyler and Joe Bennett. </p><p>In a wider discussion of ethnicity, segregation and discrimination, Colin Webster discusses Chav and “white trash”, within the context of discourses that criminalise certain forms of whiteness. The conspicuous absence of whiteness in debates regarding fair representation of ethnicity and exclusion is highlighted here, as is the difficulty that social sciences often encounter in conceptualising whiteness in terms exceeding privilege, superiority, power, and normality. </p><p>Bennett discusses <em>Chavspeak</em>, as a language conceived as enacting combinations of well-known sociolinguistic stereotypes. C<em>havspeak </em>derives from an amalgamation of Black English vernaculars, potentially identifying its speakers as "race traitors". Bennett's exploration of Chavs as turncoats towards their own whiteness places them in an anomalous position of exclusion, as “Other” white working-class people. </p><p>A Google image search for Chav conducted on 8th July 2020 yielded, in 198 of the first 200 images, the pictures of white youth. In popular culture, Chavs are invariably white, as seen in shows such as <em>Little Britain</em>,<em> The Catherine Tate Show </em>and, arguably, also in Paul Abbott’s <em>Shameless</em>. </p><p>There is no question, however, that whiteness is an <em>assumed </em>and <em>essential </em>facet of Chav identity. Explorations of class and consumption may help to clarify this muddy conceptualisation of ethnicity and Chavs. </p><h1><strong>Chavs as “Wrong” Working Class</strong></h1><p>Chav discourse has been discussed as addressing intense class-based abhorrence (Hayward and Yar; Tyler). Indeed, while focussing more upon the nexus between chavs, class, and masculinity, Anoop Nayak’s ethnographic approach identifies a clear distinction between “Charver kids” (a slang term for Chav found in the North-East of England) and “Real Geordies” (Geordie is a regional term identifying inhabitants from that same area, most specifically from Newcastle-upon-Tyne). Nayak identified Chavs as rough, violent and impoverished, against the respectable, skilled and upwardly mobile working-class embodied by the “Real Geordies” (825). </p><p>Similar distinctions between different <em>types </em>of working classes appear in the work of Sumi Hollingworth and Katya Williams. In a study of white, middle-class students from English urban state comprehensive schools in Riverside and Norton, the authors found that “Chav comes to represent everything about whiteness that the middle-classes are not” (479). Here, Chav is discussed as a label that school-age children reserve for “others”, namely working-class peers who stand out because of their clothing, their behaviour, and their educational aspirations. Alterity is a concept reinforced by Bennett’s discussion of Chavspeak, as he remarks that “Chavs are other people, and <em>Chavspeak </em>is how other people talk” (8). The same position is echoed in Sarah Spencer, Judy Clegg, and Joy Stackhouse’s study of the interplay between language, social class, and education in younger generations. <em> </em></p><p><em>Chavspotting</em> is the focus of Bennett’s exploration of lived class experiences. Here, the evocation of the Chav is seen as a way to reinforce and reproduce dominant rhetoric against the poor. Bennett discusses the ways in which websites such as <em>Chavscum.com </em>used towns, cities and shopping centres as ideal locations to practice Chav-spotting. What is evident, however, is that behind Chavspotting lies the need for recontextualisation of normalising social practices which involve identification of determinate social groups in social spaces. This finding is supported by the interviews conducted by Ken McCullock et al (548) who found the Chav label, along with its regional variant of Charva, to be an extension of these social practices of identification, as it was applied to people of lower socioeconomic status as a marker of difference: “Chav/Charva … it’s what more posh people use to try and describe thugs and that” (McCulloch et al., 552).</p><p>The semi-structured interview data gathered by Spencer, Clegg, and Stackhouse reveals how the label of Chav trickled down from stereotypes in popular culture to the real-life experiences of school-aged children. Here, Chavs are likened by school children to animals, “the boys are like monkeys, and the girls are like squeaky squirrels who like to slap people if they even look at you” (136) and their language is defined as lacking complexity. It bears relevance that, in these interviews, children in middle-class areas are once again “othering” the Chav, applying the label to children from working-class areas. </p><p>Heeney’s discussion of the Chav pivots around questions of class and race. This is particularly evident as she addresses the media contention surrounding glamour model Katie Price, and her receipt of disability welfare benefits for her son. </p><p>Ethnicity and class are key in academic discussion of the Chav, and in this context they prove to be interwoven and inexorably slippery. Just as previous academic discussions surrounding ethnicity challenge assumptions around whiteness, privilege and discrimination, an equally labyrinthine picture is drawn on the relationship between class and the Chavs, and on the practices of exclusion and symbolic to which they are subject. </p><h1><strong>Chavs as “Wrong” Consumers</strong></h1><p>Keith Hayward and Majid Yar’s much-cited work points to a rethinking of the underclass concept (Murray) through debates of social marginality and consumption practices. Unlike previous socio-cultural formations (subcultures), Chavs should not be viewed as the result of society choosing to “reject or invert mainstream aspirations or desires” but simply as “flawed” consumers (Hayward and Yar, 18). The authors remarked that the negative social construction and vilification of Chav can be attributed to “a set of narrow and seemingly irrational and un-aesthetic consumer choices” (18). Chavs are discussed as lacking in taste and/or educational/intelligence (cultural capital), and not in economic capital (Bourdieu): it is the former and not the latter that makes them the object of ridicule and scorn. Chav consumption choices are often regarded, and reported, as the <em>wrong </em>use of economic capital. </p><p>Matthew Adams and Jayne Rainsborough also discuss the ways in which cultural sites of representation--newspapers, websites, television--achieve a level of uniformity in their portrayal of Chavs as out of place and continually framed as “wrong consumers", just as Nayak did. In their argument, they also note how Chavs have been intertextually represented as sites of bodily indiscretion in relation to behaviours, lifestyles and consumption choices. </p><p>It is these flawed consumption choices that Paul Johnson discusses in relation to the complex ways in which the Chav stereotype, and their consumption choices, are both eroticised and subjected to a form of symbolic violence. Within this context, “Council chic” has been marketed and packaged towards gay men through themed club events, merchandise, sex lines and escort services. The signifiers of flawed consumption (branded sportswear, jewellery, etc), upon which much of the Chav-based subjugation is centred thus become a hook to promote and sell sexual services. As such, this process subjects Chavs to a form of symbolic violence, as their worth is fetishised, commodified, and further diminished in gay culture. </p><p>The importance of consumption choices and, more specifically, of choices which are considered to be "wrong" adds one final piece to this map of the Chav (Mason and Wigley). What was already noted as discrimination towards Chavs centred upon notions of class, socioeconomic status, and, ethnicity, is amplified by emphasis on consumption choices deemed to be aesthetically undesirable. This all comes together through the “Othering” of a pattern of consumerist choices that encompasses branded clothes, sportswear and other garments typically labelled as "chavvy". </p><h1><strong>Chav: Not Always a Label</strong></h1><p>In spite of its rare occurrence in academic discourse on Chavs, it is worth noting here that not all scholarly discussions focus on the notion of Chav as assigned identity, as the work of Kehily, Nayak and Young clearly demonstrates.</p><p>Kehily and Nayak’s performative approach to Chav adopts an urban ethnography approach to remark that, although these socio-economic-racial labels are felt as pejorative, they can be negotiated within immediate contexts to become less discriminatory and gain positive connotations of respectability in given situations. Indeed, such labels can be enacted as a transitional identity to be used and adopted intermittently. Chav remains an applied label, but a flexible label which can be negotiated and adapted. </p><p>Robert Young challenges many established conceptualisations of Chav culture, paying particular attention to notions of class and self-identification. His study found that approximately 15% of his 3,000 fifteen-year old respondents, all based in the Glasgow area, self-identified as Chav or "Ned" (a Scottish variant of Chav). The cultural criminological approach taken by Young does not clearly specify what options were given to participants when selecting "Neds or popular" as self-identification. Young’s work is of real value in the discussion of Chav, since it constitutes the only example of self-identification as Chav (Ned); future work reasserting these findings is required for the debate to be continued in this direction. </p><h1><strong>Conclusion: Marginalised on All Fronts?</strong></h1><p>Have Chavs been ostracised for being the wrong type of white person? Much has been discussed around the problematic role of ethnicity in Chav culture. Indeed, many scholars have discussed how Chav adopted the language, dress and style of ethnic minority groups. This assimilation of non-white identities leaves the Chav stranded on two fronts: (1) they are marked as Other by predominantly white social groups and vilified as race/ethnicity traitors (Bennett, Chavspeak); (2) they stand apart from ethnic minority identities through a series of exaggerated and denigrated consumption choices – adopting a bricolage identity that defines them against other groups surrounding them. </p><p>Are Chavs the wrong type of white, working-class consumer? We know from the seminal works of Dick Hebdige and Stuart Hall that subcultural styles can often convey a range of semiotic messages to the outside world. If one were to bear in mind the potentially isolated nature of those considered Chavs, one could see in their dress a consumption of "status" (McCulloch et al., 554). The adoption of a style predominantly consisting of expensive-looking branded clothes, highly-visible jewellery associated with an exaggerated sporting lifestyle, stands as a symbol of disposable income and physical prowess, a way of ‘fronting up’ to labels of poverty, criminality and lack of social and cultural capital.</p><p>As my charting process comes to a conclusion, with the exclusion of the studies conducted by Young, Kehily and Nayak, Chav is solely discussed as an “Othering” label, vastly different from the self-determined identities of other youth subcultures. As a matter of fact, a number of studies portray the angry reactions to such labelling (Hollingworth and Williams; Bennett; Mason and Wigley). So are Chavs vilified because of their whiteness, their class, or their consumption choices? More likely, they are vilified because of a combination of all of the above. Therefore, we would not be mistaken in identifying Chavs as completely lacking in identity capital. What is apparent from the literature discussed is that the Chav exists in an anomalous “no man's land”. </p><h2>References</h2><p>Adams, Matthew, and Jayne Raisborough. "The Self-Control Ethos and the Chav: Unpacking Cultural Representations of the White Working Class." <em>Culture &amp; Psychology</em> 17.1 (2011): 81-97.</p><p>Bennett, Joe. "‘And What Comes Out May Be a Kind of Screeching’: The Stylisation of Chavspeak in Contemporary Britain." <em>Journal of Sociolinguistics</em> 16.1 (2012): 5-27.</p><p>———. "Chav-Spotting in Britain: The Representation of Social Class as Private Choice." <em>Social Semiotics</em> 23.1 (2013): 146-162.</p><p>Bourdieu, Pierre. <em>Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste</em>. Boston: Harvard UP, 1984.</p><p>Foucault, Michel. “The Subject and Power." <em>Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics</em>. Eds. Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow. Brighton: Harvester, 1982. 777-795.</p><p>Hayward, Keith, and Majid Yar. "The Chavphenomenon: Consumption, Media and the Construction of a New Underclass." <em>Crime, Media, Culture</em> 2.1 (2006): 9-28.</p><p>Hebdige, Dick. <em>Subculture: The Meaning of Style.</em> London: Methuen, 1979. </p><p>Heeney, Joanne. "Disability Welfare Reform and the Chav Threat: A Reflection on Social Class and ‘Contested Disabilities’." <em>Disability &amp; Society</em> 30.4 (2015): 650-653.</p><p>Hollingworth, Sumi, and Katya Williams. "Constructions of the Working-Class ‘Other’ among Urban, White, Middle-Class Youth: ‘Chavs’, Subculture and the Valuing of Education." <em>Journal of Youth Studies</em> 12.5 (2009): 467-482.</p><p>Johnson, Paul. "’Rude Boys': The Homosexual Eroticization of Class." <em>Sociology</em> 42.1 (2008): 65-82.</p><p>Kehily, Mary Jane, and Anoop Nayak. "Charver Kids and Pram-Face Girls: Working-Class Youth, Representation and Embodied Performance." <em>Youth Cultures in the Age of Global Media</em>. Eds. Sara Bragg and Mary Jane Kehily. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 150-165.</p><p>Maffesoli, Michel. <em>The Time of the Tribes: The Decline of Individualism in Mass Society</em>. London: SAGE, 1995.</p><p>Martin, Greg. "Subculture, Style, Chavs and Consumer Capitalism: Towards a Critical Cultural Criminology of Youth." <em>Crime, Media, Culture</em> 5.2 (2009): 123-145.</p><p>Mason, Roger B., and Gemma Wigley. “The Chav Subculture: Branded Clothing as an Extension of the Self.”<em> Journal of Economics and Behavioural Studies</em> 5.3: 173-184.</p><p>McCulloch, Ken, Alexis Stewart, and Nick Lovegreen. "‘We Just Hang Out Together’: Youth Cultures and Social Class." <em>Journal of Youth Studies</em> 9.5 (2006): 539-556.</p><p>Murray, Charles. <em>The Emerging British Underclass</em>. London: IEA Health and Welfare Unit, 1990.</p><p>Nayak, Anoop. "Displaced Masculinities: Chavs, Youth and Class in the Post-Industrial City." <em>Sociology</em> 40.5 (2006): 813-831.</p><p><em>Oxford English Dictionary</em>. "Chav." 20 Apr. 2015.</p><p>Renouf, Antoinette. “Tracing Lexical Productivity and Creativity in the British Media: The Chavs and the Chav-Nots.” <em>Lexical Creativity, Texts and Contexts</em>. Ed. Judith Munat. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing, 2007. 61-93. </p><p>Spencer, Sarah, Judy Clegg, and Joy Stackhouse. "Language, Social Class and Education: Listening to Adolescents’ Perceptions." <em>Language and Education</em> 27.2 (2013): 129-143.</p><p>Thornton, Sarah. <em>Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital</em>. Cambridge: Polity, 1995.</p><p>Tyler, Imogen. “Chav Scum: The Filthy Politics of Social Class in Contemporary Britain”. <em>M/C Journal </em>9.5 (2006). 7 July 2020 &lt;<a href="http://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/0610/09-tyler.php">http://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/0610/09-tyler.php</a>&gt;.</p><p>Tyler, Imogen, and Bruce Bennett. "‘Celebrity Chav’: Fame, Femininity and Social Class." <em>European Journal of Cultural Studies</em> 13.3 (2010): 375-393.</p><p>Webster, Colin. "Marginalized White Ethnicity, Race and Crime." <em>Theoretical Criminology</em> 12.3 (2008): 293-312.</p><p>Young, Robert. "Can Neds (or Chavs) Be Non-Delinquent, Educated or Even Middle Class? Contrasting Empirical Findings with Cultural Stereotypes." <em>Sociology</em> 46.6 (2012): 1140-1160.</p> Christopher Little Copyright (c) 2020 Christopher Little https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1675 Wed, 07 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0000 The Anomaly of Anomaly of Anomaly https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1649 <blockquote><p>‘Bitzer,’ said Thomas Gradgrind. ‘Your definition of a horse.’</p><p>‘Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.’ Thus (and much more) Bitzer.</p><p>‘Now girl number twenty,’ said Mr. Gradgrind. ‘You know what a horse is.’</p><p>— Charles Dickens, <em>Hard Times</em> (1854)</p></blockquote><p>Dickens’s famous pedant, Thomas Gradgrind, was not an anomaly. He is the pedagogical manifestation of the rise of quantification in modernism that was the necessary adjunct to massive urbanisation and industrialisation. His classroom caricatures the dominant epistemic modality of modern global democracies, our unwavering trust in numbers, “data”, and reproductive predictability. This brief quotation from <em>Hard Times</em> both presents and parodies the 19th century’s displacement of what were previously more commonly living and heterogeneous existential encounters with events and things. The world had not yet been made predictably repetitive through industrialisation, standardisation, law, and ubiquitous codes of construction. Theirs was much more a world of unique events and not the homogenised and orthodox iteration of standardised knowledge. Horses and, by extension, all entities and events gradually were displaced by their rote definitions: individuals of a so-called natural kind were reduced to identicals. Further, these mechanical standardisations were and still are underwritten by mapping them into a numerical and extensive characterisation. On top of standardised objects and procedures appeared assigned numerical equivalents which lent standardisation the seemingly apodictic certainty of deductive demonstrations. The algebraic becomes the socially enforced criterion for the previously more sensory, qualitative, and experiential encounters with becoming that were more likely in pre-industrial life. </p><p>Here too, we see that the function of this reproductive protocol is not just notational but is the <em>sine qua non </em>for, in Althusser’s famous phrase, the manufacture of citizens as “subject subjects”, those concrete individuals who are educated to understand themselves ideologically in an imaginary relation with their real position in any society’s self-reproduction. Here, however, ideology performs that operation through that nominally least political of cognitive modes, the supposed friend of classical Marxism’s social science, the mathematical. The historical onset of this social and political reproductive hegemony, this uniform supplanting of time’s ineluctable differencing with the parasite of its associated model, can partial be found in the formation of metrics. </p><p>Before the 19th century, the measures of space and time were local. Units of length and weight varied not just between nations but often by municipality. These parochial standards reflected indigenous traditions, actualities, personalities, and needs. This variation in measurement standards suggested that every exchange or judgment of kind and value relied upon the specificity of that instance. Every evaluation of an instance required perceptual acuity and not the banality of enumeration constituted by commodification and the accounting practices intrinsic to centralised governance. This variability in measure was complicated by similar variability in the currencies of the day. Thus, barter presented the participants with complexities and engagements of skills and discrete observation completely alien to the modern purchase of duplicate consumer objects with stable currencies. Almost nothing of life was iterative: every exchange was, more or less, an anomaly. </p><p>However, in 1790, immediately following the French Revolution and as a central manifestation of its movement to rational democratisation, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand proposed a metrical system to the French National Assembly. The units of this metric system, based originally on observable features of nature, are now formally codified in all scientific practice by seven physical constants. Further, they are ubiquitous now in almost all public exchanges between individuals, corporations, and states. These units form a coherent and extensible structure whose elements and rules are subject to seemingly lossless symbolic exchange in a mathematic coherence aided by their conformity to decimal representation. From 1960, their basic contemporary form was established as the International System of Units (SI). </p><p>Since then, all but three of the countries of the world (Myanmar, Liberia, and the United States), regardless of political organisation and individual history, have adopted these standards for commerce and general measurement. The uniformity and rational advantage of this system is easily demonstrable in just the absurd variation in the numeric bases of the Imperial / British system which uses base 16 for ounces/pounds, base 12 for inches/feet, base three for feet/yards, base 180 for degrees between freezing and cooling, 43,560 square feet per acre, eights for division of inches, etc. Even with its abiding antagonism to the French, Britain officially adopted the metric system as was required by its admission to the EU in 1973. </p><p>The United States is the last great holdout in the public use of the metric system even though SI has long been the standard wanted by the federal government. At first, the move toward U.S. adoption was promising. Following France and rejecting England’s practice, America was founded on a decimal currency system in 1792. In 1793, Jefferson requested a copy of the standard kilogram from France in a first attempt to move to the metric system: however, the ship carrying the copy was captured by pirates. Indeed, <em>The Metric Conversion Act of 1975</em> expressed a more serious national intention to adopt SI, but after some abortive efforts, the nation fell back into the more archaic measurements dominant since before its revolution. However, the central point remains that while the U.S. is unique in its public measurement standard among dominant powers, it is equally committed to the hegemonic application of a numerical rendition of events.</p><p>The massive importance of this underlying uniformity is that it supplies the central global mechanism whereby the world’s chaotic variation is continuously parsed and supplanted into comparable, intelligible, and predictable units that understand individuating difference as anomaly. Difference, then, is understood in this method not as qualitative and intensive, which it necessarily is, but quantitative and extensive. Like Gradgrind’s “horse”, the living and unique thing is rendered through the Apollonian dream of standardisation and enumeration. While differencing is the only inherent quality of time’s chaotic flow, accounting and management requite iteration. To order the reproduction of modern society, the unique individuating differences that render an object as “this one”, what the Medieval logicians called haecceities, are only seen as “accidental” and “non-essential” deviations. This is not just odd but illogical since these very differences allow events to be individuated items so to appear as countable at all. As Leibniz’s principle, the indiscernibility of identicals, suggests, the application of the metrical same to different occasions is inherently paradoxical: if each unit were truly the same, there could only be one. </p><p>As the etymology of “anomaly” suggests, it is that which is unexpected, irregular, out of line, or, going back to the Greek, <em>nomos</em>, at variance with the law. However, as the only “law” that always is at hand is the so-called “Second Law of Thermodynamics”, the inconsistently consistent roiling of entropy, the evident theoretical question might be, “how is anomaly possible when regularity itself is impossible?” The answer lies not in events “themselves” but exactly in the deductive valorisations projected by that most durable invention of the French Revolution adumbrated above, the metric system. This seemingly innocuous system has formed the reproductive and iterative bias of modern post-industrial perceptual homogenisation. Metrical modeling allows – indeed, requires – that one mistake the metrical changeling for the experiential event it replaces. </p><p>Gilles Deleuze, that most powerful French metaphysician (1925-1995) offers some theories to understand the seminal production (not reproduction) of disparity that is intrinsic to time and to distinguish it from its homogenised representation. For him, and his sometime co-author, Felix Guattari, time’s “chaosmosis” is the host constantly parasitised by its symbolic model. This problem, however, of standardisation in the face of time’s originality, is obscured by its very ubiquity; we must first denaturalise the seemingly self-evident metrical concept of countable and uniform units.</p><p><span>A central disagreement in ancient Greece was between the proponents of <em>physis</em> (often translated as “nature” but etymologically indicative of growth and becoming, process and not fixed form) and <em>nomos</em> (law or custom). This is one of the first ethical and so political debates in Western philosophy. </span>For Heraclitus and other pre-Socratics, the emphatic character of nature was change, its differencing dynamism, its processual but not iterative character. In anticipation of Hume, Sophists disparaged <em>nomos</em><span> (νόμος)</span> as simply the habituated application of synthetic law and custom to the fluidity of natural phenomena. The historical winners of this debate, Plato and the scientific attitudes of regularity and taxonomy characteristic of his best pupil, Aristotle, have dominated ever since, but not without opponents.</p><p>In the modern era, anti-enlightenment figures such as Hamann, Herder, and the Schlegel brothers gave theoretical voice to romanticism’s repudiation of the paradoxical impulses of the democratic state for regulation and uniformity that Talleyrand’s “revolutionary” metrical proposal personified. They saw the correlationalism (as adumbrated by Meillassoux) between thought and thing based upon their hypothetical equitability as a betrayal of the dynamic physis that experience presented. Variable infinity might come either from the character of God or nature or, as famously in Spinoza’s <em>Ethics</em>, both (“deus sive natura”). In any case, the plenum of nature was never iterative. </p><p>This rejection of metrical regularity finds its synoptic expression in Nietzsche. As a classicist, Nietzsche supplies the bridge between the pre-Socratics and the “post-structuralists”. His early mobilisation of the Apollonian, the dream of regularity embodied in the sun god, and the Dionysian, the drunken but inarticulate inexpression of the universe’s changing manifold, gives voice to a new resistance to the already dominate metrical system. His is a new spin of the mythic representatives of Nomos and physis. For him, this pair, however, are not – as they are often mischaracterised – in dialectical dialogue. To place them into the thesis / antithesis formulation would be to give them the very binary character that they cannot share and to, tacitly, place both under Apollo’s procedure of analysis. Their modalities are not antithetical but mutually exclusive. To represent the chaotic and non-iterative processes of becoming, of physis, under the rubric of a common metrics, nomos, is to mistake the parasite for the host. In its structural hubris, the ideological placebo of metrical knowing thinks it non-reductively captures the multiplicity it only interpellates. In short, the polyvalent, fluid, and inductive phenomena that empiricists try to render are, in their intrinsic character, unavailable to deductive method except, first, under the reductive equivalence (the Gradgrind pedagogy) of metrical modeling. </p><p>This incompatibility of <em>physis</em> and <em>nomos</em> was made manifest by David Hume in <em>A Treatise of Human Nature</em> (1739-40) just before the cooptation of the 18th century’s democratic revolutions by “representative” governments. There, Hume displays the Apollonian dream’s inability to accurately and non-reductively capture a phenomenon in the wild, free from the stringent requirements of synthetic reproduction. His argument in Book I is succinct.</p><blockquote><p>Now as we call every thing custom, which proceeds from a past repetition, without any new reasoning or conclusion, we may establish it as a certain truth, that all the belief, which follows upon any present impression, is deriv'd solely from that origin. (Part 3, Section 8)</p><p>There is nothing in any object, consider'd in itself, which can afford us a reason for drawing a conclusion beyond it; ... even after the observation of the frequent or constant conjunction of objects, we have no reason to draw any inference concerning any object beyond those of which we have had experience. (Part 3, Section 12)</p><p>The rest of mankind ... are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement. (Part 4, Section 6)</p></blockquote><p>In sum, then, <em>nomos</em> is nothing but habit, a Pavlovian response codified into a symbolic representation and, pragmatically, into a reproductive protocol specifically ordered to exclude anomaly, the inherent chaotic variation that is the hallmark of <em>physis</em>. The Apollonian dream that there can be an adequate metric of unrestricted natural phenomena in their full, open, turbulent, and manifold becoming is just that, a dream. Order, not chaos, is the anomaly. </p><p>Of course, Kant felt he had overcome this unacceptable challenge to rational application to induction after Hume woke him from his “dogmatic slumber”. But what is perhaps one of the most important assertions of the critiques may be only an evasion of Hume’s radical empiricism: “there are only two ways we can account for the necessary agreement of experience with the concepts of its objects: either experience makes these concepts possible or these concepts make experience possible. The former supposition does not hold of the categories (nor of pure sensible intuition) ... . There remains ... only the second—a system ... of the epigenesis of pure reason” (B167). Unless “necessary agreement” means the dictatorial and unrelenting insistence in a symbolic model of perception of the equivalence of concept and appearance, this assertion appears circular. This “reading” of Kant’s evasion of the very Humean crux, the necessary inequivalence of a metric or concept to the metered or defined, is manifest in Nietzsche.</p><p>In his early “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense” (1873), Nietzsche suggests that there is <em>no possible equivalence</em> between a concept and its objects, or, to use Frege’s vocabulary, between sense or reference. </p><blockquote><p>We speak of a "snake" [see “horse” in Dickens]: this designation touches only upon its ability to twist itself and could therefore also fit a worm. What arbitrary differentiations! What one-sided preferences, first for this, then for that property of a thing! The various languages placed side by side show that with words it is never a question of truth, never a question of adequate expression; otherwise, there would not be so many languages. The "thing in itself" (which is precisely what the pure truth, apart from any of its consequences, would be) is likewise something quite incomprehensible to the creator of language and something not in the least worth striving for. This creator only designates the relations of things to men, and for expressing these relations he lays hold of the boldest metaphors.</p></blockquote><p>The literal is always already a reductive—as opposed to literature’s sometimes expansive agency—metaphorisation of events as “one of those” (a token of “its” type). The “necessary” equivalence in <em>nomos</em> is uncovered but demanded. The same is reproduced by the habitual projection of certain “essential qualities” at the expense of all those others residing in every experiential multiplicity. Only in this prison of <em>nomos</em> can anomaly appear: otherwise all experience would appear as it is, anomalous. With this paradoxical metaphor of the straight and equal, Nietzsche inverts the paradigm of scientific expression. He reveals as a repressive social and political obligation the symbolic assertion homology where actually none can be. Supposed equality and measurement all transpire within an Apollonian “dream within a dream”. The concept captures not the manifold of chaotic experience but supplies its placebo instead by an analytic tautology worthy of Gradgrind. The equivalence of event and definition is always nothing but a symbolic iteration. Such nominal equivalence is nothing more than shifting events into a symbolic frame where they can be commodified, owned, and controlled in pursuit of that tertiary equivalence which has become the primary repressive modality of modern societies: money. </p><p>This article has attempted, with absurd rapidity, to hint why some ubiquitous concepts, which are generally considered self-evident and philosophically unassailable, are open not only to metaphysical, political, and ethical challenge, but are existentially unjustified. All this was done to defend the smaller thesis that the concept of anomaly is itself a reflection of a global misrepresentation of the chaos of becoming. This global substitution expresses a conservative model and measure of the world in the place of the world’s intrinsic heterogenesis, a misrepresentation convenient for those who control the representational powers of governance. In conclusion, let us look, again too briefly, at a philosopher who neither accepts this normative world picture of regularity nor surrenders to Nietzschean irony, Gilles Deleuze.</p><p>Throughout his career, Deleuze uses the word “pure” with senses antithetical to so-called common sense and, even more, Kant. In its traditional concept, pure means an entity or substance whose essence is not mixed or adulterated with any other substance or material, uncontaminated by physical pollution, clean and immaculate. The pure is that which is itself itself. To insure intelligibility, that which is elemental, alphabetic, must be what it is itself and no other. This discrete character forms the necessary, if often tacit, precondition to any analysis and decomposition of beings into their delimited “parts” that are subject to measurement and measured disaggregation. Any entity available for structural decomposition, then, must be pictured as constituted exhaustively by extensive ones, measurable units, its metrically available components. </p><p>Dualism having established as its primary axiomatic hypothesis the separability of extension and thought must now overcome that very separation with an adequacy, a one to one correspondence, between a supposedly neatly measurable world and ideological hegemony that presents itself as rational governance. Thus, what is needed is not only a purity of substance but a matching purity of reason, and it is this clarification of thought, then, which, as indicated above, is the central concern of Kant’s influential and grand opus, <em>The Critique of Pure Reason</em>.</p><p>Deleuze heard a repressed alternative to the purity of the measured self-same and equivalent that, as he said about Plato, “rumbled” under the metaphysics of analysis. This was the dark tradition he teased out of the Stoics, Ockham, Gregory of Rimini, Nicholas d’Autrecourt, Spinoza, Meinong, Bergson, Nietzsche, and McLuhan. This is not the purity of identity, <em>A = A</em>, of metrical uniformity and its shadow, anomaly. Rather than repressing, Deleuze revels in the perverse purity of differencing, difference constituted by becoming without the Apollonian imposition of normalcy or definitional identity. One cannot say “difference in itself” because its ontology, its genesis, is not that of anything itself but exactly the impossibility of such a manner of constitution: universal anomaly. No thing or idea can be iterative, separate, or discrete.</p><p>In his <em>Difference and Repetition</em>, the idea of the purely same is undone: the <em>Ding an sich</em> is a paradox. While the dogmatic image of thought portrays the possibility of the purely self-same, Deleuze never does. His notions of individuation without individuals, of modulation without models, of simulacra without originals, always finds a reflection in his attitudes toward, not language as logical structure, but what necessarily forms the differential making of events, the heterogenesis of ontological symptoms. His theory has none of the categories of Pierce’s triadic construction: not the arbitrary of symbols, the “self-representation” of icons, or even the causal relation of indices. His “signs” are symptoms: the non-representational consequences of the forces that are concurrently producing them. Events, then, are the symptoms of the heterogenetic forces that produce, not reproduce them. To measure them is to export them into a representational modality that is ontologically inapplicable as they are not themselves themselves but the consequences of the ongoing differences of their genesis. Thus, the temperature associated with a fever is neither the body nor the disease.</p><p>Every event, then, is a diaphora, the pure consequent of the multiplicity of the forces it cannot resemble, an original dynamic anomaly without standard. This term, diaphora, appears at the conclusion of that dialogue some consider Plato’s best, the <em>Theaetetus</em>. There we find perhaps the most important discussion of knowledge in Western metaphysics, which in its final moments attempts to understand how knowledge can be “True Judgement with an Account” (201d-210a). Following this idea leads to a theory, usually known as the “Dream of Socrates”, which posits two kinds of existents, complexes and simples, and proposes that “an account” means “an account of the complexes that analyses them into their simple components … the primary elements (prôta stoikheia)” of which we and everything else are composed (201e2). This—it will be noticed—suggests the ancient heritage of Kant’s own attempted purification of mereological (part/whole relations) nested elementals. He attempts the coordination of pure speculative reason to pure practical reason and, thus, attempts to supply the root of measurement and scientific regularity. However, as adumbrated by the Platonic dialogue, the attempted decompositions, speculative and pragmatic, lead to an impasse, an aporia, as the rational is based upon a correspondence and not the self-synthesis of the diaphorae by their own dynamic disequilibrium. Thus the dialogue ends inconclusively; Socrates rejects the solution, which is the problem itself, and leaves to meet his accusers and quaff his hemlock. </p><p>The proposal in this article is that the diaphorae are all that exists in Deleuze’s world and indeed any world, including ours. Nor is this production decomposable into pure measured and defined elementals, as such decomposition is indeed exactly opposite what differential production is doing. For Deleuze, what exists is disparate conjunction. But in intensive conjunction the same cannot be the same except in so far as it differs. The diaphorae of events are irremediably asymmetric to their inputs: the actual does not resemble the virtual matrix that is its cause. Indeed, any recourse to those supposedly disaggregate inputs, the supposedly intelligible constituents of the measured image, will always but repeat the problematic of metrical representation at another remove. This is not, however, the traditional postmodern trap of infinite meta-shifting, as the diaphoric always is in each instance the very presentation that is sought. Heterogenesis can never be undone, but it can be affirmed. In a heterogenetic monism, what was the insoluble problem of correspondence in dualism is now its paradoxical solution: the problematic per se. </p><p>What manifests in becoming is not, nor can be, an object or thought as separate or even separable, measured in units of the self-same. Dogmatic thought habitually translates intensity, the differential medium of chaosmosis, into the nominally same or similar so as to suit the Apollonian illusions of “correlational adequacy”. However, as the measured cannot be other than a calculation’s placebo, the correlation is but the shadow of a shadow. </p><p>Every diaphora is an event born of an active conjunction of differential forces that give rise to this, their product, an interference pattern. Whatever we know and are is not the correlation of pure entities and thoughts subject to measured analysis but the confused and chaotic confluence of the specific, material, aleatory, differential, and unrepresentable forces under which we subsist not as ourselves but as the always changing product of our milieu. In short, only anomaly without a nominal becomes, and we should view any assertion that maps experience into the “objective” modality of the same, self-evident, and normal as a political prestidigitation motivated, not by “truth”, but by established political interest. </p><h2>References</h2><p>Della Volpe, Galvano. <em>Logic as a Positive Science</em>. London: NLB, 1980.</p><p>Deleuze, Gilles. <em>Difference and Repetition</em>. Trans. Paul Patton. New York: Columbia UP, 1994.</p><p>———. <em>The Logic of Sense</em>. Trans. Mark Lester. New York: Columbia UP, 1990.</p><p>Guenon, René. <em>The Reign of Quantity</em>. New York: Penguin, 1972.</p><p>Hawley, K. "Identity and Indiscernibility." <em>Mind</em> 118 (2009): 101-9.</p><p>Hume, David. <em>A Treatise of Human Nature</em>. Oxford: Clarendon, 2014.</p><p>Kant, Immanuel. <em>Critique of Pure Reason</em>. Trans. Norman Kemp Smith. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1929.</p><p>Meillassoux, Quentin. <em>After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency</em>. Trans. Ray Brassier. New York: Continuum, 2008.</p><p>Naddaf, Gerard. <em>The Greek Concept of Nature</em>. Albany: SUNY, 2005. </p><p>Nietzsche, Friedrich. <em>The Birth of Tragedy</em>. Trans. Douglas Smith. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008.</p><p>———. “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense.” Trans. Walter Kaufmann. <em>The Portable Nietzsche</em>. New York: Viking, 1976.</p><p>Welch, Kathleen Ethel. "Keywords from Classical Rhetoric: The Example of Physis." <em>Rhetoric Society Quarterly</em> 17.2 (1987): 193–204.</p> Daniel Fineman Copyright (c) 2020 Daniel Fineman https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1649 Wed, 07 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0000 A Site of Unsettlement https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1692 <blockquote><p>Anomaly: something different, abnormal, peculiar, not easily classified or classifiable; a deviation; a detour. Something <em>out of time</em> and <em>out of place</em>. </p></blockquote><p>No longer can we read the <em>anomaly</em> without considering the larger global crisis of COVID-19. Where were we if not <em>out of time</em> during the temporal disjunction – time out of joint, after Shakespeare – of worldwide lockdowns, which coincided with the time of proposal and submission, the time of reading and editing this issue? Where were we, as scholars in North America, if not <em>out of place</em> when we set out to curate a collection of essays in a journal which “originated” <em>down under</em>? A related question: what happens when the anomaly becomes standardised as the norm?</p><p>Daniel Fineman’s “The Anomaly of Anomaly of Anomaly” inverts the paradigm of scientific expression, opening the “philosophically unassailable” to “metaphysical, political, and ethical challenge” to make a claim about the anomaly as a reflection of global misrepresentation and the prevailing powers of governance. To accomplish this, Fineman returns to the metrics system, the cooptation of the 18th century’s democratic revolutions by “representative” governments, and the so-called “Second Law of Thermodynamics”.</p><p>What happens, moreover, when anomaly falls back onto social practices, and informs the way academia perceives social formations? Christopher Little raises this issue when reviewing the literature produced on “Chav” subculture, and how the anomalous Chav intersects with race, class, ethnicity, and consumer culture.</p><p>The ways in which social practices inform and intersect with national patterns of belonging and exclusion have never been more apparent than during the current pandemic. In Michelle Aung Thin’s contribution, the smartphone is read as an anomalous, hybrid, and foreign object with connotations of fluidity and connection, all dangerous qualities in Myanmar, a conservative, former pariah state. Within the framework of recent scholarship on mixed race identification and affect theory, Aung Thin addresses deeply held fears around ethnic belonging, cultural adeptness, and hybridity, tracing these anxieties to the original scene of colonisation. The smartphone, in her essay, acts as a conduit – between pre-colonial Mandalay and contemporary Yangon – and a reminder of historical trauma.</p><p>In an essay that unpacks the complexity of a music video by Japanese Breakfast, the solo musical project of Michelle Zauner, Runchao Liu posits identificatory ghostly performances as a locus of confrontation between past and present. In her analysis of what she defines as “ghostly matters: the hanbok and the manicured nails”, Liu locates both “the conjuring-up of the Korean diaspora and the troubling of everyday post-racial America”, where the connections between ethnic concerns and anomaly are both discomposed and concretised. </p><p>Starting from the theoretical premises laid out by Gilles Deleuze, who maintained that computational processes were incompatible with anomaly, Emma Stamm sets out to prove the contrary, grounding her analysis on the work of M. Beatrice Fazi, while applying it to the specific field of live-coded music. Through a close treatment of the improvisational techniques involved in the processes of writing audio computer functions for the production of “sound in real time”, Stamm herself produces a characterisation of the aesthetic dimensions of live coding that problematises the divisions between discrete and continuous media.</p><p>The anomalous body of the freak, from its early manifestation to its contemporary manufactured exaggeration of contemporary beauty standards, is the subject of Siobhan Lyons’s investigation of the freak as biological anomaly. Drawing on the parallel ascent of “Catwoman” and real-life “Barbie”, the author connects earlier manifestations of the biological freak to the mediatic resonance given to what she defines as “the twenty-first century surgical freak”.</p><p>Jasmine Chen’s exploration of Pili puppetry, a popular TV series depicting martial arts-based narratives and fight sequences, reveals how this “anomalous media form ... proliferates anomalous media viewing experiences and desires in turn”. Her attention to the culture of fandom and cosplay attends to a broader structural shift: the “reversible dialectic between fan-star and flesh-object”.</p><p>Shifting this volume’s inquiry from popular culture to architecture, we turn to Patrick Leslie West and Cher Coad, and their close reading of the CCTV Headquarters as “an anomaly within an anomaly in contemporary Beijing’s urban landscape”, due to the collision of classical China and the “predominantly capitalist and neo-liberalist ‘social relationship’ of China and the Western world”. Recalling Roberto Schwarz’s argument, that “forms are the abstract of specific social relationships” (53), the authors conclude that the real “site of this unsettlement” is data. </p><p>We end where we begin, with our featured article by Bronwyn Fredericks, who includes architecture among the practices that have evidenced the fraught relationship between Aboriginal and non-Indigenous people, using the University of Queensland and its Great Court as a landscape and a case study. Dismantling the perception of Indigeneity as anomalous, Fredericks articulates the visibility of Indigenous voices and sovereignty, ultimately establishing their presence and power through mixed-media events and collaborative writing productions.</p><p>Ultimately, our aim for this issue, and the response of its contributions, revolve on this question of power relations, and, indeed, on the politics of presence: to make <em>anomaly</em> visible, not as outlier or aberration, but as meta-textual shift, a symptom of and a reaction to larger conditions encompassing and obscured by the technical processes of logistics and the neoliberal governance that organise our everyday life. We hope that closer consideration to such a performative shift, explored here in its multiple and various facets, might also constitute a critical response.</p><h2><strong>References</strong></h2><p>Schwarz, Roberto. <em>Misplaced Ideas: Essays on Brazilian Culture</em>. New York: Verso, 1992. </p> Chris Campanioni, Giancarlo Lombardi Copyright (c) 2020 Chris Campanioni https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1692 Wed, 07 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0000