Category Archives: history

High Static, Dead Lines. A book about the spooky resonances of communication technology

High Static, Dead Lines. Sonic Spectres & the Object Hereafter, by Kristen Gallerneaux, an artist, sonic researcher and a curator at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn in the United States.

Publisher MIT Press writes: Trees rigged up to the wireless radio heavens. A fax machine used to decode the language of hurricanes. A broadcast ghost that hijacked a television station to terrorize a city. A failed computer factory in the desert with a slap-back echo resounding into ruin.

In High Static, Dead Lines, media historian and artist Kristen Gallerneaux weaves a literary mix tape that explores the entwined boundaries between sound, material culture, landscape, and esoteric belief. Essays and fictocritical interludes are arranged to evoke a network of ley lines for the “sonic spectre” to travel through—a hypothetical presence that manifests itself as an invisible layer of noise alongside the conventional histories of technological artifacts.

The objects and stories within span from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, touching upon military, communications, and cultural history. A connective thread is the recurring presence of sound—audible, self-generative, and remembered—charting the contentious sonic histories of paranormal culture.


Dr. John Farrar using an FM antenna to pick up radio waves from a pill as it passes through Dr. Vladimir Zworykin, 1957. Photo

In 1924, as Mars drew near Earth’s orbit, Charles Francis Jenkins, an American pioneer of early cinema with his Phantoscope and one of the inventors of television, teamed up with Dr. David Todd for an attempt to “listen to Mars”. The whole country collaborated in the experiment. A military-imposed radio silence ensured that Jenkin’s Radio Camera, an apparatus that could picturize sound produced by radio phenomena, had a chance to detect signals from Martians trying to communicate with us. The US Naval Observatory cooperated too by sending an antenna 3,000 meters above ground in a dirigible pointed to Mars. After 3 days of recordings, the film was developed, the dots and dashes on the image were analyzed but Jenkins had to conclude that they didn’t constitute a message from outerspace.


Photo: Music Trade Review, via International Arcade Museum Library

Still in the 1920s, psychologist Walter Van Dyke Bingham worked with Thomas Edison to study the effects that music has on the moods of human beings. His “Mood Music” study became the basis of a marketing campaign to sell phonographs to customers on the idea of holding social ‘mood changing parties’. The New Edison, the Phonograph with a soul was born!

In 1932, inventor A. B. Saliger patented a device he called Automatic Time-Controlled Suggestion Machine. The machine, more commonly known under the name Psycho-phone was a kind of phonograph which played recordings during sleep. Saliger made a fortune promising his clients that the messages would enter their unconscious and have a powerful influence on their behavior and help them be more successful in life and in love.

News segment on WFLD Channel 32 regarding the Max Headroom Pirating Incident in 1987

Kristen Gallerneaux‘s book is a fascinating exploration of the ‘shadow world’ of communication devices. High Static, Dead Lines weaves together the histories of media and material culture with superstitions, conspiracies, quests for ghosts and the exploitation of our misunderstanding of communication technologies.

The real walks hand in hand with the dubious and the mysterious. One moment you learn about the invention of muzak, the swallowable radio, the woman who set the record for high altitude communication and the urban legend of the mass burial of unsold Atari video game cartridges. Next, a fridge throws a cabbage at a little girl, Poltergeists are all around you and devices are inhabited with spiritual resonance.

“Finding ways to allow our media to haunt us is crucial to understanding it,” writes the author. Gallerneaux reminds us that it’s ok to be irrational when confronted with new technologies. She doesn’t seem to pass any judgement whatsoever on the appeal that the supernatural might have on perfectly balanced minds. We might look with amusement at the historical examples of human gullibility described in the book but i doubt we are much wiser today. The inner functions of our devices are getting more opaque with each new model and the power communication technologies have over our lives is more mystifying than ever.

I can’t recommend enough that you check out Nicolas Nova‘s contribution to the 2017 edition of the Mapping festival if you’re interested in that topic:

Magical Thinking, Contemporary Superstitions And Digital Technologies

I have two minor criticisms. The first one is that i wish the book were illustrated with photos of the devices and the experiments (when available). The second is that the texts don’t follow a clear chronology nor logic. Now i do realize that this is part of its charm and that the non-narrative strategy leaves space for imagination to expand beyond the pages but i sometimes found it challenging to follow the narrative.

The Museum of NonHumanity


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

Many of us, consciously or not, believe in human exceptionalism. We assume that the human species is not only ‘categorically or essentially different than all other animals’ but that it is also the most significant entity of the universe. Furthermore, at several moments throughout history, a group of people have declared another group of people to be nonhuman or subhuman and have used the argument to justify slavery, oppression and genocide. Examples abound. Think of how the Nazis defined Jews, Roma, Slavs and other non-Aryan “inferior people” as Untermensch. Or how Belgium brought 60 Congolese people to live in a human zoo for visitors of the 1897 International Exposition (and the 1958 one) to gape at.

Such atrocious practices are not confined to the past, alas! Women and girls from Iraq’s Yazidi minority are routinely enslaved, raped and tortured by IS militants who regard them as sub-human. Palestinians are discriminated against on a daily basis and called snakes or animals by prominent figures in Israel. Even today‘s hate speech contain elements of dehumanization.

The Museum of NonHumanity is an itinerant museum that presents the history of the distinction between humans and other animals, and the way that this imaginary boundary has been used to oppress human and nonhuman beings.

The Museum of Nonhumanity was launched by History of Others, a large scale art and research project led by visual artist Terike Haapoja and writer Laura Gustafsson. The duo collaborate with experts in ethology, cognitive sciences, civil-rights and animal-rights activism and other culture practitioners to look at the issues that arise from our anthropocentric world view. In an effort to open new paths for more inclusive notions of society, The Museum of Nonhumanity also teams up with local individuals and organizations to set up a program of lectures, guided tours and seminars that explore local environmental and social issues.

I discovered The Museum of Nonhumanity a couple of weeks ago while i was in Moss, Norway, for the press view of MOMENTUM 9, the brilliant Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art. The Museum of Nonhumanity was one of the two artworks that moved me the most at MOMENTUM because it uses a compassionate, perceptive and pertinent lens to explore some of the issues that mar our relationship with the other inhabitants of this planet.

I asked Terike Haapoja and Laura Gustafsson to tell us more about their art & research project:


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

Hi Terike and Laura! Why do you think it is important to draw attention to the topic of dehumanization nowadays?

When you look at any major crises of our world today, be it related to environmental or animal rights, war or terrorism, you can as a rule find an element of human-animal distinction at play. You can find it in explicit instances, such as the dehumanising language used by right wing xenophobes in Europe of immigrants, but also in the internalised dehumanisation imbedded in structural racism and sexism. And there’s also the fact that nature and all the other species have, because they’re literally “non-human”, no way to be visible to the justice system as a victim of a crime. Underneath all this is a logic where defining something or someone as less human justifies discrimination and abuse.


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

There seems to be an enormous amount of research and thoughtful selection behind the work. How did you select which particular historical case illustrated a specific chapter? Why did you chose Rwanda to typify Disgust for example? etc.

We weren’t interested in cataloguing all the atrocities in history that had been justified by dehumanisation, but in examining the rhetoric devices and the reasoning and motives that connect these actions. So while doing research on concrete cases, we started to think of key words that open up a specific viewpoint to the phenomenon of this boundary making: using someone or -thing as resource, referring them to something disgusting, creating physical or emotional distance between “them” and “us” and so on. Rwanda, the Holocaust or the horrible history of colonised Congo are well documented, but once you start to look into how and where the human – animal boundary is constructed, you see that the boundary making is present in seemingly innocent details, like the guidelines of scientific research, in how we talk about the body and female body in particular, or in the key ideas of western philosophy. its not something that happens somewhere there, or to someone else. We wanted to bring in this complexity.


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

I was particularly moved by the story of the female members of the Red Guards that were imprisoned after the Finnish Civil War. Is their history well known in Finland? The reason why i’m asking that is that i’m Belgian and when i was at school, we were never told about the atrocities committed by Belgium in Congo. I learnt about it much later, while studying in another country. This has changed of course (to a certain extent) and i think children learn about it at school now, but the awakening is actually quite recent. Also i was discussing with a Swedish artist recently and she told me that most Swedish people actually do not know much about the discrimination the Sami people face in Sweden and possibly in other countries too. Do you feel that most nations tend to try and cover up all the terrible and cruel acts they committed in the past?
And do you think it would still be possible to bury atrocities nowadays, in this age of surveillance and over sharing?

The history of the civil war is still very much silenced in Finland, just as is the atrocities towards Sámi people and their culture. There is a lot of work to be done. It seems that the mechanism of dehumanisation is at play in nation making itself, where unwanted and negative characteristics are projected on anyone that is desired to be kept out of the nation. Perhaps that’s the reason why it’s always easier for a nation to see and acknowledge other histories than its own.

In terms of whether it’s possible to bury atrocities – what’s central is that once this boundary has been established, it’s possible to perform these atrocities in plain sight. They become invisible to the collective moral code that forbids them, and in ways that are immune to surveillance. And that happens all the time. Once someone or -thing is collectively defined as “animal”, anything can be done to it.


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

What i find remarkable about the work is that the historical documents you selected sometimes echo so well current situations and opinions. In fact, while reading some of the quotes, i assumed that they were all from decades ago but the dates underneath each quote revealed that some of the most appalling ones were actually found in forum discussions or politician declarations of recent years. Do you see hope in the way we treat each other?

There is something very effectively violent in the culture that we live in, and something that enables ‘othering’ and looking at violence from a distance. The technologies we live with are definitely a product of that culture, and we are a product of it. You can go to the most liberal leftist bubble and see how, even there, people use dehumanising and violent language online. So it’s something that is in us, not out there, and the only hope there is is that we are committed to being self reflective and cultivating solidarity and empathy, and acting against these mechanisms.

The information you share is laid out in a rather neutral way. The way you selected each theme and document is not neutral of course but you leave every document speak for itself. What do you hope people will get from visiting the exhibition or reading the catalogue? Is it about informing them? About inviting them to pause and take a critical look at their own prejudices? Or did you have other objectives in mind?

We decided very early on that we would only include archival material, and reference everything very well. In that way it is not only information, it’s also evidence. This way it becomes a memorial museum, where these things have been put on show, to remind us of a past we don’t want to return. What we’d like the viewer to take with them is an understanding of how fast things can move from words to action.

We’d also hope that it would be a way for people to see that human rights violations and environmental or animal rights issues are not competing struggles, but born out of the same roots. Environmental destruction and factory farming is killing our planet, and it’s happening in plain sight just because this boundary has been so well established.

It’s good to remind here that an important part of the project is programming, which is built by local practitioners and for local audiences. The programming is all about proposing bridges to a more sustainable coexistence. We had lot of programming, a vegan cafe and a book shop in Helsinki, and we will be having that in our Italy exhibit too. In Momentum we will be working with local guest guides and environmental protection activists, and organise a seminar later in the fall. So the project is not only looking back, but it really is a platform for looking forward too.


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

The installation i saw at Momentum9 is quite stunning, it’s hard not to be drawn into it. How do you turn a research process or catalogue into an installation like this? Which kind of artistic decisions did you take in order to translate a catalogue into a piece of visual art?

We knew it would be encyclopaedic from the beginning, and that it would be a memorial museum. You just have to work with the material and start to organise it and trust that pieces will fall into place. The amount of research material we had was enormous, so working through the structure and making sure all the details, foot notes, references were correct was a big part of the work. When we came to the idea of building the whole thing with video and sound it felt right, because it’s so immaterial, but also because it makes a kind of symphonic approach possible. It’s extremely important to have the viewers open up emotionally to the realities behind the stories and not just the cold data.

The text on the webpage of The History of Cattle states that “The exhibition is suitable for scientific, pedagogical or art context.” Would you say that this statement can also be applied to The Museum of Nonhumanity as well?

Since we are appropriating the form of a museum, it makes sense to think of it from the point of view of pedagogy also. We had a specifically tailored outreach program for high schools and upper classes in Helsinki. That said, it’s clearly an art project, built to make you think, not to give you easy answers. But I guess our approach is that art can be pedagogical, and it doesn’t mean that it would be didactic.

Thanks Terike and Laura!

Check out The Museum of Nonhumanity at Momentum 9, The Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art curated by Ulrika Flink, Ilari Laamanen, Jacob Lillemose, Gunhild Moe and Jón B.K Ransu. The exhibitions remain open in various location in Moss, Norway, until 11 October 2017
The Museum of Nonhumanity is also open in Santarcangelo di Romagna, Italy for the Santarcangelo Festival.

Previously: MOMENTUM9 – “Alienation is our contemporary condition” and MOMENTUM9. Maybe none of this is science fiction.

Economia Festival. Consumerism, crabs, automation, and other insights by non-economists


Keith Yahrling, Home Depot, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2007


Evgeny Morozov with Olga Mink. Photo by Diewke van den Heuvel for Baltan Laboratories

Another quick look back at the Economia festival that took place at Baltan Laboratories in Eindhoven a few weeks ago…

As i mentioned earlier, the event’s rallying cry was that time had come to discuss the economy without inviting the economists to the table. The festival performances, screenings, artworks and talks did indeed bring a radically new perspective on the economical challenges that society has been facing over the last decade. The keynotes were particularly unexpected and enlightening. The ever eloquent and provocative Evgeny Morozov walked us through the signs of the formidable march of the tech giants towards political control and economic monopoly. Pankaj Mishra explored the Age of Anger and his talk was, imho, far less incisive than his book. The videos of their keynotes are online but i’m going to put the spotlight on the other two talks: Frank Trentmann‘s chronicle of the consumerist society and Geerat Vermeij‘s theory about how a closer study of biological ecosystems can teach us more about the mechanisms and trends of the economy than we might suspect.


Frank Trentmann. Photo by Diewke van den Heuvel for Baltan Laboratories


Frank Trentmann. Photo by Diewke van den Heuvel for Baltan Laboratories

Frank Trentmann: A world of consumers. Keynote lecture at the Economia Festival

Historian Dr. Frank Trentmann drew upon his book Empire of Things to narrate the history of consumption and the many impulses that drive our ‘material self’. It was a fascinating and instructive talk. I learnt that consumption didn’t start in the 1950s in the US but long before that, in Europe and in the China of the Ming dynasty. And that the biggest boom in consumption took place in the 1950s and 1960s when society was becoming more equal and the states started to dedicate more resources to the well-being of their citizens. I was reminded that women, at a time when they were not allowed to vote, turned their purchasing power into civic power, feeling that they had a social duty towards the underpaid workers who were producing the goods. Whether you agree with his views or not, you might find Trentmann’s concluding remarks thought-provoking, especially when he explains why he doesn’t believe that we’ve reached peak stuff, and why the drive for ‘experiences‘ is nothing new and won’t slow down our shopping frenzy.


Geerat Vermeij. Photo by Diewke van den Heuvel for Baltan Laboratories


Geerat Vermeij: The economy of nature. Keynote lecture at the Economia Festival

Geerat Vermeij is an evolutionary biologist. Eleven years ago, he wrote Nature: An Economic History, a book which explores how processes common to all economic systems–competition, cooperation, adaptation, and feedback–govern evolution as surely as they do the human economy, and how historical patterns in both human and nonhuman evolution follow from this principle.

Throughout his talk, the scientist highlighted strong parallels between biological evolution and economics in the human realm in order to try and answer a rather vital questions: Can we construct a healthy economy that doesn’t grow?


Pankaj Mishra. Photo by Diewke van den Heuvel for Baltan Laboratories


Evgeny Morozov. Photo by Diewke van den Heuvel for Baltan Laboratories


Photo by Diewke van den Heuvel for Baltan Laboratories

The Economia festival was curated by Wiepko Oosterhuis and organised by Baltan Labs in Eindhoven.

Previously: Economia, a festival on economy without the economists and Economia festival: short films about finance.

Book review: Privacy. A Short History

Privacy. A Short History, by David Vincent, Professor of Social History at the Open University.

On amazon USA and UK.

Vincent-Privacy2Publisher Polity writes: Privacy: A Short History provides a vital historical account of an increasingly stressed sphere of human interaction. At a time when the death of privacy is widely proclaimed, distinguished historian David Vincent describes the evolution of the concept and practice of privacy from the Middle Ages to the present controversy over digital communication and state surveillance provoked by the revelations of Edward Snowden.

Deploying a range of vivid primary material, he discusses the management of private information in the context of housing, outdoor spaces, religious observance, reading, diaries and autobiographies, correspondence, neighbours, gossip, surveillance, the public sphere and the state. Key developments, such as the nineteenth-century celebration of the enclosed and intimate middle-class household, are placed in the context of long-term development. The book surveys and challenges the main currents in the extensive secondary literature on the subject. It seeks to strike a new balance between the built environment and world beyond the threshold, between written and face-to-face communication, between anonymity and familiarity in towns and cities, between religion and secular meditation, between the state and the private sphere and, above all, between intimacy and individualism.


The Archive of Mass Observation at the University of Sussex, England

People have always aspired to privacy and this book recounts the many forms that threats to privacy have taken through time: 14th century litigious window repeatedly taking her neighbours to court because they could watch her through their windows, Bentham’s Panopticon dreams, UK’s Mass-Observation records, NSA global surveillance programs, etc.

Our notions of privacy have been constantly shifting and made more complex over time. But one thing that seemed to be a constant in the past was that privacy was accessible to those who could afford it. If you had enough money, you could enjoy furniture to store letters, a private room or garden to discuss freely with your guest, separate quarters for servants, individual rooms for children, thicker walls, etc. And of course domestic plumbing in your lavatory and bathroom so that even your hygiene business could be conducted in peace. Not everyone could afford an indoor toilet in the late 19th-early 20th century.


Women working at the U.S. Capitol switchboard, 1959. Photo: vintage everyday

I’m not sure money would be enough to ensure you total privacy these days. A reason for that is of course the widespread adoption of digital communication. Each new communication technology has always allowed for both greater privacy and greater intrusion. Letters facilitated illicit or unsanctioned intimacy but this freedom coexisted with ‘epistolary anxiety’ (the fear of private correspondence falling into the wrong hands.) Telephones meant that callers no longer had to be seen on your front door but until 1958 operators were a latent threat to this new sense confidentiality.

The digital revolution marks a rupture with the past because it redefines the network in need of protection. The home and family used to be the vulnerable unit. Nowadays privacy is less of a household aspiration and more of an individual human right issue. The other discontinuity lies in the scale and complexity of the data available on the internet. But also in the willingness of some security agencies to bypass formal agreements with internet companies and tap directly into their fiber-optic cables. ‘For security purposes’ and without public debate.


Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) attempts to listen in on a private conversation in Francis Ford Coppola’s movie The Conversation. Photo via Cinematic

Vincent believes that we put too much faith in the idea of an all-seeing internet at the center of the web of surveillance. He states that privacy is not dead but merely distorted and that we are constantly devising new ways to regain what we’ve lost of it.

States and corporations are not constantly spying our every gestures. But they can still know a lot about us if they want to and this power to intrude might lead to mistakes, misunderstanding and misinterpretations that could end up being costly for citizens. Especially if you couple this power with our well-documented social media exhibitionism.

A lot of the research in the publication relies on UK material but i’d still recommend that you have a look at the book if you have a chance because the story of privacy is a fascinating one. It is made of small victories and defeats, domestic improvements and invisible inks, state surveillance and gossip press scrutiny.

Relics of the Cold War

PRESS PHOTO ONLY TO BE USED IN RELATION WITH EXHIBITION RELICS OF THE COLD WAR IN DHM, BERLIN 2016. CUTTING PICTURES IS NOT ALLOWED. Latvia, Liepaja. At the former Soviet naval base Liepaja an old bunker lies in the Baltic Sea. Photo: Martin Roemers
Bunker in the Baltic Sea, near the former Soviet naval base of Liepāja, Latvia, 2002. © Martin Roemers

PRESS PHOTO ONLY TO BE USED IN RELATION WITH EXHIBITION RELICS OF THE COLD WAR IN DHM, BERLIN 2016. CUTTING PICTURES IS NOT ALLOWED. Germany West, Lorch, Former depot of the Bundeswehr. Foto: Martin Roemers
West Germany, Lorch, Former depot of the Bundeswehr in a fallout shelter, Lorch 2008. © Martin Roemers

PRESS PHOTO ONLY TO BE USED IN RELATION WITH EXHIBITION RELICS OF THE COLD WAR IN DHM, BERLIN 2016. CUTTING PICTURES IS NOT ALLOWED. Germany East, Juterbog  Soviet Army hospital. Foto: Martin Roemers
Gynecologist’s chair in a deserted Soviet Army hospital, Juterbog, East Germany, 2007. © Martin Roemers

Military barracks, atomic-bomb shelters, air force bases, storage spaces for nuclear weapons, army graveyards, abandoned training grounds, underground tunnels, decaying control centers, rusty tanks, fallen statues and other dilapidated monuments. Dutch photographer Martin Roemers spent 10 years traveling on both sides of the former Iron Curtain to document the architectural and structural remains of the Cold War. The quest for relics of a war that lasted 40 years but never turned into an armed conflict brought him to Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Latvia and Lithuania but also to Great Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium, and of course to both parts of the once-divided Germany.

Some of the images the photographer took all over the continent are currently on view at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin.

Roemers grew up during the Cold War, a time when the Soviets and the Americans had missiles that could reach and obliterate their target anywhere in the world within 30 seconds. He wanted to document the remnants of the crisis that served as a background to his youth. With the photos, Roemers also wanted to create a kind of memorial to the war. After a real war, a commemoration culture develops, he told DW. The veterans and victims have their ceremonies and monuments are built. But the Cold War never became a real war, at least not in Europe, so there are not many physical reminders, let alone a commemoration culture.
Relics of the cold war
Radioroom of the Dutch civil defense organization in a nuclear shelter, Grouw, The Netherlands. 2001. © Martin Roemers

GERMANY, Germany, Berlin, Teufelsberg, This image is from the project Relics of the Cold War (1997-2009). Former listeningpost of the USA army from the Cold War. Europe, west, EU, cold war, army, military, listeningpost, USA, espionage,  DUITSLAND, Duitsland, Berlijn, Teufelsberg, Voormalige afluisterpost van het Amerikaanse leger uit de Koude Oorlog.  Europa, west, EU, koude oorlog, afluisterpost, Amerika, leger, afluisteren, spionage,  DEUTSCHLAND, Deutschland, Berlin, Teufelsberg, Europa, west, EU,  Photo: Martin Roemers
Former listening post of the USA army from the Cold War. West Berlin, Germany, 2008. © Martin Roemers

The exhibition underlines that the Cold War was both a confrontation between two systems and a system in itself: one that has left remains of army bases, bunkers and other infrastructures that look fairly similar on both sides of the Iron Curtain. They built the same defense structures out of the same fears, he added.

As Bernd Greiner, Director of the Berlin Center for Cold War Studies, there is an important element we tend forget when we talk of the Cold War in Europe or the USA: the same period saw ‘hot wars’ raging other parts of the world (in Korea, Vietnam, etc.) and the US and the Soviets as well as their respective allies intervened in these conflicts and left traces that still linger: environmental pollution, economic damages, health problems suffered by local populations, landmines, etc.

Germany East, Altes Lager Mural of a Soviet Soyuz (left) and an American Apollo spacecraft in the former pilot school of a Soviet air force base. The Russian-American Apollo-SoyuzTest was the first joint flight of the U.S. and Soviet space programs in 1975. The project was seen as a symbol of the policy of detente between the two superpowers. cold war; army; military; war; Germany; Russia; USSR; Soviet Union; politics; GDR; DDR; Europe; EU; statue; lenin; painting; art; portrait; propaganda, spacecraft, spaceship, space,  Duitsland, Altes Lager Muurschildering van Spoetnik in voormalige pilotenschool bij  verlaten Sovjet luchtmachtbasis in voormalig Oost-Duitsland.  Het vaartuig links is duidelijk een Sojoez, het vaartuig rechts is wat minder duidelijk maar is blijkbaar een Russische interpretatie van een Amerikaanse Apollo capsule. Verder is te zien dat de ruimtevaartuigen elkaar naderen. De muurschildering beeldt het Apollo-Sojoez Test Project uit waarbij Amerikanen en Russen een koppeling in de ruimte uitvoerden. De koppeling vond plaats op 17 juli 1975. Het Apollo-Sojoez Test Project was een politieke onderneming in een warmer moment van de koude oorlog die samenwerking tussen de Amerikanen en Russen moest uitdrukken. Voor details zie ook http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo-Soyuz_Test_Project  Koude Oorlog, Rusland, Sovjet-Unie, USSR, Rusland, leger, luchtmacht, ruimtevaart, kosmonauten Photo: Martin Roemers
Germany East, Altes Lager Mural of a Soviet Soyuz (left) and an American Apollo spacecraft in the former pilot school of a Soviet air force base. The Russian-American Apollo-Soyuz Test was the first joint flight of the U.S. and Soviet space programs in 1975. The project was seen as a symbol of the policy of detente between the two superpowers. © Martin Roemers

Germany West, Marienthal Former nuclear bunker for the west German government. The German bundeskanzler and his ministers would be transferred to this bunker in case of a nuclear war. cold war, army, military, war, Germany, Russia, USSR, Soviet Union, politics, GDR, DDR, Europe, EU, nuclear, bunker, government Duitsland, Marienthal Voormalige bunker voor de West-Duitse regering t.t.v. een aanval met kernwapens. Europa, dreiging atoombom, schuilkelder, Koude Oorlog, atoombunker, West-Duitsland Foto: Martin Roemers
West Germany, Marienthal. Former nuclear bunker for the west German government. The German bundeskanzler and his ministers would be transferred to this bunker in case of a nuclear war. © Martin Roemers

Germany East, Brandenburg, Wollenberg, This image is from the project Relics of the Cold War (1997-2009). Underground NVA bunker. NVA was the East German Peoples Army. Europe, west, EU, cold war, GDR, DDR, NVA, cold war, Europa; cold war; army; military; war; politics, Europe; EU; nuclear; bunker;  history, conflict, USSR, Soviet Union, Russia Duitsland Oost, Brandenburg, Wollenberg, NVA bunker. Europa, west, EU, bunker, DDR, Koude oorlog, leger,  Deutschland, Brandenburg, Wollenberg, Troposphärenfunkzentrale 301 von der NVA. Europa, west, EU, Kalter Krieg, DDR, Bunker,  Photo: Martin Roemers
Underground bunker of the NVA (the East German Peoples Army), Wollenberg, East Germany, 2005. © Martin Roemers

Bunkers offered a sense of security in the face of total annihilation. Underground shelters were built all over Europe for the political elite, the military and part of the civilian population but the reality was that they were not suitable for people to live there for long periods of time.

RUSSIA, Russia, Jerjomino, Old Russian army trucks. Eastern Europe, Europe East, Baltics, Baltic Republics, USSR, Soviet Union, Cold War, army, military, car, cars, truck, trucks, ZIL RUSLAND, Rusland,  Oude Russische legertrucks. Oost Europa, Oost-Europa, Balten, Baltische landen, Balticum, USSR, Sovjet Unie, Sovjet-Unie, Koude Oorlog, truck, trucks, auto, transport, auto's, leger,  RUSSLAND, Russland,  Ost Europa, Ost-Europa, Baltikum, UdSSR, Sowjetunion, SU,  Photo: Martin Roemers
Old Russian army truck in Yeremino, Russia. © Martin Roemers

Relics of the cold war
Former submarine base ‘Object 825 GPOe’ of the Soviet Navy in the Balaklava Bay at the Black Sea. It was a service and repairing station for submarines and an ammunition storage. Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine. 2005. © Martin Roemers

Germany East, Altes Lager,  Mural, depicting the siege over Nazi Germany, in the pilot school on a Soviet airforce base. cold war; army; military; war; Germany; Russia; USSR; Soviet Union; politics; GDR; DDR; Europe; EU; statue; painting; art; portrait; propaganda Duitsland, Altes Lager (Brandenburg) Muurschildering van het Russische leger in een verlaten kazerne in de voormalige DDR. Rusland, Sovjet-Unie, soldaten, Rode Leger, koude oorlog Photo: Martin Roemers
East Germany, Altes Lager. Mural depicting the siege over Nazi Germany, in a Soviet school for aircraft technicians, Altes Lager, East Germany, 1997 © Martin Roemers

PRESS PHOTO ONLY TO BE USED IN RELATION WITH EXHIBITION RELICS OF THE COLD WAR IN DHM, BERLIN 2016. CUTTING PICTURES IS NOT ALLOWED. GERMANY, Germany east, Lieberose Left behind ammunition on former exercise terrain of the Soviet army. Photo: Martin Roemers
East Germany, Lieberose, Ammunition parts left behind on a former Soviet army training area, Lieberose, 1998. © Martin Roemers

PRESS PHOTO ONLY TO BE USED IN RELATION WITH EXHIBITION RELICS OF THE COLD WAR IN DHM, BERLIN 2016. CUTTING PICTURES IS NOT ALLOWED. POLAND Poland, Borne Sulinowo Cemetery for Russian soldiers. Foto: Martin Roemers
Poland, Borne Sulinowo, Grave in a cemetery for Russian soldiers, Borne Sulinowo 2005. © Martin Roemers

PRESS PHOTO ONLY TO BE USED IN RELATION WITH EXHIBITION RELICS OF THE COLD WAR IN DHM, BERLIN 2016. CUTTING PICTURES IS NOT ALLOWED. GERMANY, Germany east,  Sachsen Anhalt, Altengrabow Russian tank which was used as a target on former shooting range of the soviet army. The terrain is now in use by the German army. foto: Martin Roemers
East Germany, Altengrabow, Tank which was used as a target on former Soviet army training area. The terrain is still used by the German army, 2004. © Martin Roemers

When you look at these photos now, they serve as a reminder of how things used to be in the Cold War, Roemers told DW. But you can also imagine how things could be again in the political climate of today. That’s the important thing about showing them now.

Two video interviews are shown in the exhibition space. In the first one, Martin Roemers talks about the motivations and adventures behind the photo series. In the other one, Bernd Greiner, Director of the Berlin Center for Cold War Studies, provides historical information about the Cold War era.

Interview with Martin Roemers about the exhibition Relics of the Cold War

Interview with historian Prof. Dr. Bernd Greiner about the Cold War

Deutsches Historisches Museum, Eröffnung der Ausstellung:  Relikte des Kalten Krieges Fotografien von Martin Roemers 4. März bis 14. August 2016
View of the exhibition at the Deutsches Historisches Museum. Copyright © Martin Roemers

Relics of the Cold War is at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin until 14 August 2016.

A People’s Art History of the United States. 250 Years of Activist Art and Artists Working in Social Justice Movements

A People’s Art History of the United States. 250 Years of Activist Art and Artists Working in Social Justice Movements, by artist and author Nicolas Lampert.

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It’s on amazon USA and UK.

Publisher The New Press writes: Called “important” by renowned art critic Lucy Lippard, A People’s Art History of the United States introduces us to key works of American radical art alongside dramatic retellings of the histories that inspired them. Richly illustrated with more than two hundred black-and-white images, this book by acclaimed artist and author Nicolas Lampert is the go-to resource for everyone who wants to know what activist art can and does do for our society.

Spanning the abolitionist movement, early labor movements, women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement, and up to the present antiglobalization movement and beyond, A People’s Art History of the United States is a wonderful read as well as a brilliant tool kit for today’s artists and activists to adapt past tactics to the present, utilizing art and media as a form of civil disobedience.

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Asco, Decoy Gang War Victim, 1974. Photo: Harry Gamboa Jr.

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Danny Lyon, Poster—Is He Protecting You? Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee poster, about 1963

The book tells the history of artistic and popular resistance and recounts events that have changed society from the bottom up. Some of these events were initiated by activists who used visual tactics. Others by trained artists who joined a cause and anchored their art within an existing movement.

Each chapter zooms in on a specific political combat and explains with great details the tactics employed at the time by the activists. The tactics that triumphed but also the ones that flopped. Because it singles out specific political struggles instead of providing us with an all-encompassing survey of activism art, the book is also as an inspiring call to action for more artists to respond to contemporary crises and for more activists to use art in their interventions.

Nicolas Lampert is a talented writer and his book will take you on a memorable ride. One that goes from clergymen supporting the abolition of slavery to The Yes Men challenging unethical corporations. From women fighting for the right to have a say in politics to artists campaigning for museums and galleries to exhibit more women and people of color.

A People’s Art History of the United States is an invigorating book. It reminds us of the real impact that visual art can have on society, especially when it forgoes established art institutions, and roots itself in the communities and movements that push for social change. A book like this one is opportune and necessary at any moment in history and particularly in ours.

Stories, struggles and images discovered in the book:

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Description of the slave ship Brookes, 1788

In the late 1700s, abolitionists in England and USA used lithographs and illustrations in their fight against slavery. Their strategies differ though. In the USA, slavery was part of fabric of life and the campaigns there were more about moral persuasion. England had very few slaves on its soil so slavery was a more abstract concept for citizens.

In 1787, a young English clergyman called Thomas Clarkson started to investigate conditions of slave transport. He interviewed sailors, obtained equipment used on slave-ships, such as iron handcuffs, leg-shackles, thumbscrews, branding irons and even got seamen to testify before the Parliament. But it was an image that had the biggest political influence: the architectural rendering of the slave ship Brookes. Based on a detailed plan of a slave ship, he had an image drawn of chained black figures loaded on the ship, a view no English man could see when slave ships were docked in the harbours. The striking image was combined with texts that detailed the men’s ordeal, creating a sense of empathy for African slaves. London abolitionists had it printed on thousands of posters, and, in the years that followed, the diagram circulated in broadsheets, pamphlets and books in Scotland, France and the United States.

The graphic agitation produced results: the House of Commons passed first the law against slave trade in 1792.

Richard Throssel (American, 1882–1933) Interior of the best indian kitchen on the Crow Reservation, 1910 Glass; 12 in. x 8 in. mounted 6 1/2 in. x 8.5 in. original size The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NAA INV 00486700. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution (SL.7.2015.65.1) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/653797
Richard Throssel, Interior of the Best Indian Kitchen on the Crow Reservation, 1910 (via Met museum)

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Edward S. Curtis, Sioux chiefs, 1905

Another chapter looks at widely circulated historical photos that shouldn’t be taken at face value. The text brings side by side the works of white photographer Edward S. Curtis and the one of his contemporary, the lesser-known Native photographer Richard Throssel (Cree.)

Curtis portrayed Native people as untouched by white society, even though, at a time he was working, the reservation system and forced acculturation were firmly in place. Many of the scenes in his photos are staged, they erase any intrusion of modernity and perpetuate the ‘noble savage’ myth that people who bought his photos were so fond of. His images correspond more to what you would see in a Hollywood western film than to the reality of reservations.

Throssel, on the other hand, had been formally adopted by the Crow and his images of the tribe are the ones of an insider to the culture. This, of course, gave him additional credibility. He did produce staged image as well though. But with another objective, the one to discourage traditional living habits that were thought to be one of the main causes of diseases. Although they belong to a federal campaign to address the spread of diseases, his images responded to immediate needs and acted as a form of community activism. By showing Natives into more modern settings, they also offer a more realistic portrait of the Crows than the ones made for white tourists.

These two examples of approaches show the importance of looking at social conditions, politics, funding and motives behind images.

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Jesse Washington, an African-American mentally handicapped teenager lynched in Waco, Texas, on May 15, 1916. He was accused of raping and murdering the wife of his white employer. Photo via DarkVictory’s fascinating flickr account

Another chapter zooms in on the personality of civil rights activist, author and editor W.E.B. Du Bois. The first African American to earn a doctorate at the University of Harvard, Du Bois was also one of the co-founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909.

Du Bois fought against a society characterized by segregation. At the time, the black working class was seen as a threat to the economic well-being of white working class and its members were demonized as being rapists.

This climate led to race terrorism, and in particular to lynch mobs that threatened African Americans, Jews, gay people, immigrants, catholics, radicals, labour organizers, etc. Some 4,742 people were lynched in US between 1882 and 1968. The vast majority of them were black.

Du Bois aimed to change the situation through the NAACP publication The Crisis. Progressive ideas were not only communicated through articles but also by photos showing successful African American businessmen, college graduates and other images aimed at uplifting the spirit of African Americans. The publication also printed horrific drawings and photos of African Americans being lynched. The images were accompanied by eyewitness accounts that aimed to provoke the federal government to eradicate the crime.

Du Bois also organized public actions such as large scale parades, silent demos, and the boycott of D.W. Griffith’s film The Birth of a Nation which portrayed black men (some played by white actors in blackface) as half-wits and sexual predators.

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Lynching flag flying at NAACP headquarters, ca. 1938. NAACP Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Along with the anti-lynching campaign, in 1920 the NAACP began flying a flag with the words “a man was lynched yesterday” from the windows of its headquarters in New York city when a lynching occurred. Threatened to lose its lease, the NAACP had to discontinue the practice in 1938.

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Suzanne Lacy, Three Weeks in May exposed the extent of re- ported rapes in Los Angeles during a three-week performance in May, 1977

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ASCO, First Supper (After a Major Riot), 1974. Photo: Harry Gamboa Jr.

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John Fekner, Groundwork: The Anti-Nuke Port Stencil Project, 1988. Image via justseeds

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Iraq Veterans Against the War, Operation First Casualty, San Francisco, 2008

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Miné Okubo, Waiting in lines, Tanforan Assembly Center, San Bruno, California], 1942. Part of Citizen 13660, a collection of 189 drawings and accompanying text chronicling the artist experience in Japanese American internment camps during World War II

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Emory Douglas, Minister of Culture and revolutionary artist for the Black Panther Party, March 9 1969: ‘All Power to the People’

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Emory Douglas, poster from The Black Panther, December 19, 1970, (copyright 2013 Emory Douglas/Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York

“How to Look at Artist Networks” by Angie Waller

Turbulence.org Commission: How to Look at Artist Networks by Angie Waller, with Jonathan Butterick:

How to Look at Artist Networks allows you to search 60,280 names in the Google Knowledge Graph to see if they are more closely connected to Marcel Duchamp or Pablo Picasso. Fame has muddied their differences, but not too long ago Duchamp and Picasso signified two distinct strains of artistic practice. Pointing to the two of them as the progenitors of all modern/post-modern art can introduce amusing, and hopefully enlightening, associations: for instance, you might find yourself contemplating the similarities between Sarah Palin’s and Duchamp’s practices.

How to Look at Artist Networks is a 2015 commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc. for its Turbulence.org website. It was made possible with funds from the Jerome Foundation.

BIOGRAPHY

Angie Waller investigates collective longings that endure society’s technological advances. Her work combines data mining techniques and analog materials. Her research series, “Unknown Unknowns” (titled after a Donald Rumsfeld tautology), uses databases of web search engine traffic to uncover questions that one may have never thought to ask oneself. Included in this series is an eponymous email newsletter, a growing volume of auto-generated romance novels entitled “Love Unknown,” and text-based works on paper. Angie received her B.F.A. from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and M.F.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her work has exhibited in museums, festivals and galleries internationally.

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Krewe Coumbite & Muthi Reed

Peace! … I want you to know about new work. Your insight and any references you suggest I explore, are invaluable to my process of planning and actualization. Thank you in advance.

Krewe Coumbite is a sonic instrument of study in Black and Indigenous Diasporas ecology and vernacular rhythms documented from 1940s til current. The work focuses specifically on vernacular of cultural musings expressed in: noise, chants, stories, lullabies, narratives around naming, Cultural sayings/proverbs/recipes, and in working-class rituals such as public transit, migration, service work, and in community gatherings.

Startup support/funding for the work comes in partnership with Turbulence.org to create an interactive web portal. And with Harvestworks to research, document, and archive this idea of Black Sound. Some conceptual elements i am including are: GIS mapping, audiovisual gaming, algorithmic patterns, literary worldbuilding, sound remixing, and live performance.

Your Help…

My aim with this work is to produce a signature sound that carries the resonance of Black and Indigenous transcontinental movement and activism. Using the oral/aural algorithms of “passing it on” and “repetition is the mother of learning” as tools. I’m working with both original sound recordings, and stuff i’ve scavenged from the internet of sound produced from public marches, rallies, speeches, and viral videos. With remixing, I want this work to embody the cultural wisdoms of the Indigenous and Black Diasporas. Of particular interest to me are the articulations of Black and Brown working class individuals, community groups, and multi dialect/multi lingual freedom fighters.

Who should i talk with?

What archives(public & private) should i visit?

Are there historical and contemporary sonic nuances you feel must be included to contextualize th Black Sound and/or Cultural Wisdom?

Thank You!

Muthi Reed

Black is not a color. Black is an attitude – James Brown.

Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe. The term “world building” appeared as early as 1965 in science fiction criticism, and is used in relation to science-fiction or fantasy stories and games. The resulting world may be called a constructed world. Developing an imaginary setting with coherent qualities such as a history, geography, and ecology is a key task for many science fiction or fantasy writers. Worldbuilding often involves the creation of maps, a backstory, and people for the world. Constructed worlds can enrich the backstory and history of fictional works, and it is not uncommon for authors to revise their constructed worlds while completing its associated work. Constructed worlds can be created for personal amusement and mental exercise, or for specific creative endeavors such as novels, video games, or role-playing games.

An informal definition for Algorithm could be “a set of rules that precisely defines a sequence of operations.”

The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People

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The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People cleverly organizes the daily schedules of famous artists, philosophers, writers, and composers as recorded in their own diaries and letters. Not only does it show how they switched gears between creating, sleeping, and leisure time, but the chart is fully interactive including quotes from each individual. I would love to see a version of this with modern creatives (and more women) as well. (via Coudal)

Update: The information used to create the infographic comes from the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey.