In this issue of Afterimage (Volume 47, no. 4) our features offer a fresh look at a critical moment in visual and political history and take a deep dive into lesser-known contemporary cultural experiences. Inspired by a recent exhibition and subsequent publication of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work done in China, James Baron traces the Magnum cofounder’s travels and photographic assignments (as well as that of many colleagues) in the tumultuous Asian region in the middle of the last century. Blythe Stevenson Worthy interviews filmmaker Evangelia Kranioti, whose film Obscuro Barroco weaves documentary footage of Carnaval, a script compiled from the work of Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector delivered as an internal monologue, and a mysterious peripatetic local figure to analyze the complexities of transgender communities in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The film, concludes Worthy, documents a city “in staggering scope” while “lensing cultural transition with microscopic precision.”
In our reviews sections, Tijen Tunali takes us back to the groundbreaking exhibition The Museum of Transology, which was on view at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery in Brighton, UK. Tunali notes that the radicalism of this first-of-its-kind show was “located not just in its archival potential but also in the very act of creating a trans subjectivity in a public institution.” Elli Leventaki navigates ruptures of truth in storytelling as part of a.O.–b.c. An audiovisual diary at State of Concept in Athens, Greece, an exhibition that tracked and questioned a recent period of Greek economic and social history. And although many other exhibitions have been put on hold this year, the publishing world continues to entertain and inform. Claudia Costa Pederson takes readers through Pat Badani’s genre-bending new artist’s book Comestible 7-Day Meal Plan: Food as Text, connecting it to a modernist tradition of food as conceptual and material source as well as the cookbook as art manifesto. Christian de Mouilpied Sancto reviews Joanna Zylinska’s AI Art: Machine Visions and Warped Dreams, noting that the author “pulls no punches” in her pointed critique of contemporary AI art. Brian Arnold writes that artist-photographer Raymond Meeks’s new monograph, cyprian honey cathedral, is “a deeply moving book in which some of the elusive feelings of memory and longing are…expressed in a deeply crafted photographic palette.”
Finally, we continue our peer-reviewed content offerings with two pieces looking at contemporary filmic practices. Also taking on traditions and expectations of the city film, Dale Hudson, in “Toward a Cinema of Contact Zones: Intersecting Globalizations, Dubai, and City of Life,” argues that more than a conflict zone—as the Middle East is often conceived—the city of Dubai is a contact zone. Hudson outlines how Ali F. Mostafa’s 2009 film City of Life (Dar al-haya) “explores the possibility of a cinema of contact zones, drawing upon Dubai’s historical interconnections with the world through intersecting globalizations.” Hudson interrogates the Western filmic standard of looking down on the city as a voyeuristic trope that both anonymizes citizens and makes them invisible. City of Life, he argues, imagines other perspectives and demonstrates how emotions are a way of knowing via empathy—and how emotions can be complex and even ambivalent—as opposed to the kinds of realism favored by international film festivals. Hudson concludes that “transcultural relationships help locate empathy and understanding within the segmented spaces and bureaucratic hierarchies of intersecting globalizations.”
Patrick Brian Smith explores how the works of two contemporary artist-filmmakers, Thirza Cuthand and Thomas Kneubühler, tackle the ramifications and results of late capitalist violence and power within the context of settler-colonial Canada. Smith highlights the ways in which these differing critiques of such formations of power are built around radically divergent framings and conceptualizations of futurity: Cuthand presents it as “a potential catalyst for Indigenous decolonization and self-determination” and Kneubühler as “a dominant logic within the exploitative rationale of extractive capitalist speculation and projection.” Smith’s discussion, centered around Glen Sean Coulthard’s text Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition, demonstrates how diverse visual practices can successfully resist the “beast” that is the interconnected logics of extractive capitalism and settler colonialism.
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We review scholarly submissions on an ongoing basis, and continue to welcome reports on events and happenings; essays; photo essays; interviews; and exhibition, book, and project reviews for issues scheduled throughout the next calendar year. As we close out this extraordinary year of 2020, we look forward to sharing more stories, hearing more and varied voices, and providing a valuable venue for media arts scholarship in 2021.