Kuan

Free Write on Carl Beam

In Uncategorized on April 5, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Questions:

How is Beam’s work acting as an act of resistance? What rhetorical strategies does he use? How do you perceive my essay as an act of resistance? What is/are my main rhetorical purpose(s)? What legitimizing identitities am I working against? What community and/or project identities am I creating on the page and aligning myself with? What are the specific rhetorical strategies that I use to accomplish my own rhetorical purposes? What can you learn from reading this essay that you might employ in your own essay?

Reflections:

I think Carl Beam’s work uses writing as rhetoric on canvas to target at both native and non-native audience, which is an active act of resistance to art that merely target at either the oppressors or the oppressed. Beam’s art also resist to the linear thinking of western art. His collages with distorted images and writing create a strong voice that advocates a change of perception of the native and their art. Lastly, I think Beam’s work spurs reactions and responses from the audience, which differs from many other art pieces that merely present the artists’ state of mind.

Beam uses Eurocentric visual to challenge the Eurocentric idea of the Indians, which in a way makes me think of autoethnography. He uses images of Indians that were taken by the colonials to challenge the colonials themselves. Another strategy that Beam uses is juxtaposition. The position of the photos and painting on the canvas creates an interesting juxtaposition that challenge the linear thinking of the white. The irrational juxtaposition poses uncomfortableness among the audiences, and thus challenge their perception of art, and their understanding of the content of the art.

This essay in many ways act as a form of resistance. It resists to traditional linear way of reading. The interruption of the sentence poses challenges on readers in the process of reading, that readers may have to go back a few lines or go back and forth between the lines in order to connect the content. In this way, our notion of acquiring knowledge is challenged. Knowledge or understanding should be granted as this linear, streamline-like system, but be respected as a process of thinking back and forth what we’re learning. As scholars, we need to go back to ask “Wait, what did you just say?” more often, instead of blindly following the stream rational line.

The fact that quotations should not be viewed as secondary text also serves an act of resistance, as the “voices” of others are respected as equally as author’s own. This way, the author tries to challenge what Powell puts as “Academic as another powerful agent of imperialism” (4).

In a way, I think this article is trying to engage the viewer with itself to represent the notion of “‘active participant’ in the mizzens” (Gries, 8). I was drawn to the writing of the author and the visuals throughout the article, and I realized afterward that I was participating in this piece of writing as an active thinker and responder.

The most helpful take-away I get from this piece is to engage with the audience with whatever I produce as rhetoric. In my final seminar project, I’m interested in knowing how audience can interact with different sensational experience and thus react to my presentation. I will look into more about audience’s engagement for my project.

Class Leadership Project Reflection

In Uncategorized on April 1, 2010 at 2:30 am

We are learning, constantly, through an exchange of knowledge and understanding of certain subjects. As class leaders, we learn just as much, if not more, as the rest of the class. It’s fantastic.

When I approached Amanda about teaming up to do this project, I was a little nervous. I wasn’t sure if my research interests would fit hers, either was I sure I would be helpful to her ideas. But once I mentioned to her that I’d like to do something with African art, her eyes sparked and then our project unfolded: looking at African American quilting as a form of resistance.

I started searching very generic African resistance art, but the topic is too broad to be really studied in such a short period of time. I was frustrated with my research, and I turned into Amanda to see if she got some ideas. She told me that she is work with the Somali-Bantu kids on a quilt, and that fascinated me. Soon I became more and more interested in this particular genre of African resistance art. First appearing as a topic too specific to relate to other rhetorical strategies, quilting, as a form of resistance, keeps opening up to me as a world where many struggles, compromises, conflicts overlap and interact. It relates to almost everything we have talked about: slavery, definition of “writing,” resistance, autoethnography, Alzadua’s usage of language, imperialism, eurocentricism, contact zone, etc. Quilting, as a act of resistance that has long been overlooked, should be understood, respected and appreciated. Maybe choosing, researching and then presenting the topic itself is our resistance to that ignorance.

Our project in many ways relates to our course readings and discussions. The most distinguish connection to me lies in the patterns of the quilts to Eurocentricism. The patterns African American slaves made for themselves are very different from those they made for their masters. Their masters like linear, organized, floral patterns that come from linear Eurocentric thinking. By saying that Eurocentric thinking is linear, I mean the European rational thinking: if A then B–the streamline thinking or the one-point-to-the-other-point thinking. In contrast, the almost chaotic, integrated, non-linear, colorful African American patterns, which are rooted in Africa, reflect African’s circular/fractal thinking. Everything is related with everything else: individual to community, women to men, nature to human to spirit. That kind of thinking to me is like a spider web, the center is nature. The fact that European-trained slave masters despised the native African patterns, and asked the seamstresses to make quilts using their organized, detailed patterns reveals the oppression of other culture and the domination of the European thinking.

The other important relation between African American quilting and our readings and discussions is that quilting challenges our notion of “writing.” Not only writing is defined as verbal documentation in Western cultures, but also are other forms of writing denied by scholars. Quilting hasn’t been acknowledged by scholars as crucial historical evidence of resistance until 1970s because for so long, non-written information doesn’t count as scholar enough. The African oral story telling tradition was taken away by the scholarship. What is writing exactly? This blog post? The words on your T-Shirt? Books? Does music notes count as writing then? If so, then so do the stitches on African American quilts. Those stitches form patterns that symbolize their native language: the rhythm of the stitches is like music that carry a deep cultural meaning that sometimes even goes beyond written words. Furthermore, who has the authority to say whether or not written evidence is “true’? Those questions bothered us while we were doing our research, and we hoped that our presentation could make the rest of the class think about those questions and re-value “scholarship.” What we are doing as students: are we consumers of colonial system of knowledge or we are learning to resist those authorities?

With that goal in mind, I think our presentation was successful in asking those questions and relating our presentation to previous class discussions. In their responses, students hit most of the points in the answers we prepared. For example, in answering the question how is quilting a form of resistance and to what they resist, they not only mentioned the codes/symbols that embodied in the quilts as African heritages, but they brought up some points that we hadn’t prepared. Kiana said that quilting broke the silence among African American slaves, and it is quite loud itself. That point never occurred to me during my research. In comparing quilts for slaves themselves and for their masters, I think students also did a good job identifying many differences.

Yet, I would like our discussion to be a little more self-initiated by the students, not by us. During the class, I felt the urge to push the discussion sometimes. It was certainly not a bad thing, but I guess I would like the conversation to flow more naturally. For future leadership projects, we can work on improving the relationship between questions and maybe try the activity first and then unfold the questions, etc. We also prepare more than we delivered because of the time we had. I think I’d like to have the whole class period for the presentation because we’d then be able to finish off with the other topic we wanted to talk about: gender roles.

During the research, we found that many African American studies scholars such as Booker T. Washington promoted art that represented the manhood of African Americans, such as blacksmithing. Quilting, which is done by females, is excluded. Traditionally, African males create textile, but this situation changed when the slaves were brought to America, where women were supposed to do those craft jobs. Thus, women took on Eurocentric gender role of seamstress. Although the act of imposing gender roles on African American slaves was undoubtedly wrong, it might not do as much harm as the oppressors expected. Women’s taking on the job that was used to be done by men encourage a tie between women and their family in the community. Quilting didn’t separate families, but actually bond them tighter. Woman’s role in quilting also leads to the appearance of female leaders in the civil rights movement. If we have a chance to compare women’s resistance to that of men, it would be very interesting to see the results. In my opinion, the resistance of females is not as violent, yet more effective.

This leadership project reminds me to define “writing” consciously, to look at rhetoric of resistance in a much broader sense: it can be revealed through stitches, clothes, textiles and many other aspects that we normally overlook. Moreover, it made me very conscious about the scholar sources I will run ino in the future, as I will be critical about the sources of their scholarship. Is education a product of imperialism? If so, how can we fight against it? That thought is scary: I feel like I am a product of this problematic system of education, and I have no idea about what I can do. The project also helps me look at art differently. I used to view art as a form of expression, and people produce art in order to resist. However, I think quilting serves as a form of resistance first before it become a form of art itself. Then what is art? How can we define it? The slaves didn’t see quilting as form of art. They saw it more as life necessity, a job, or an escape from heavy slave work. But later on, quilting is recognized as a form of art. Is the term “art” an imperial notion? Is it only when something is not so urgent anymore that it can be entitled as “art”? Is what we defined as art perceived in the same way by those who create them (“artists”)? How are we, as viewers, responding to “art” differently than for example, food? This project keeps puzzling me with those questions, and it really made me rethink many existing information that I took in for granted. It complicated my thinking in many ways, and I really enjoyed it!

Seminar Project Proposal

In Uncategorized on March 29, 2010 at 12:43 am

INTRODUCTION

The project is inspired under these conditions:

1. As a student of rhetoric, I am always interested in the rhetoric of war. What was sparked at the edge of life and death fascinates me as they are the reflections of bare human nature, full of emotions: anger, fear, despair, calmness, etc.

2. As a designer, I always try to come up with non-conventional solutions to problems. The question of what else can be done other than what has already existed challenges me to learn from the existing experience and pushes the boundary further. I want this project to be part of my portfolio that I can be proud of, and can use as a demonstration of my creativity to problem solving.

3. As a fonder for resistance art, I have been looking at examples such as Polish poster art, South African resistance art and other art forms that are created under extreme restrictions.

4. As a supporter of environment protection, I try to stay away from printing or consuming natural resources for the final presentation of the project.

Thus, I want to look at art created in Holocaust, to examine the condition in which they were created, to research how the art serves as resistance to the victims, and finally to experiment if somehow we can be part of them, feeling their fear, anger, despair and yet, hope.

GENRE

I will be writing a research essay on the resistance of art in Holocaust and trying to answer the inquiries, such as “What does the art work produced by the victims of the Holocaust say beyond the obvious?” and “What is shared between the experience of the Holocaust artists and other resistance artists, and in what sense are they different from each other?”

I will also be preparing an interactive presentation in a gallery/studio to re-produce the experiences of the victims, and to challenge the audience’s perception of the Holocaust, and to bond the artists of the Holocaust with the living. Instead of a gallery of images or film viewing, I am thinking of leading the audience through a set of experiences in which they feel/hear/touch/see the process of the holocaust. At last, I hope the audience will walk away with a new understanding the Holocaust and the realization of we are all part of a resistance process.

Some of my initial thoughts of the site installation:

1. Viewers take off their shoes before enter the space. Their shoes will be re-arranged to mimic the pile of shoes left by the victims. OR viewers can put their shoes into a pile as they enter the space.

2. The space will be in complete dark, and viewers need to lie down on the floor right next to each other, as the victims did in the camp.

3. Audio will be playing along with a narrative of my research people so that viewers can hear the story while feeling the physical uncomfortablity. The audio will include bells, alarms, dog barks, steps, etc that occurred in the Holocaust camps.

4. When the audio presentation is over, the space will be lit so that the viewers can see the environment. The surround walls will be wrapped with white fabrics with writing on them. I will handwrite my research paper on the fabric and the writing will form the barbed wire surrounding the space.

5. Then, the viewers will go through a tunnel where the fabric will turn into red, as flames.

6. Last, they will enter the space where their shoes have been rearranged in a pile in the middle the room. A scale will be presented to show the ratio between the viewers’ shoes and the victims’.

7. A discussion will be followed.

AUDIENCE

I think I am writing for the general public across religions, ethnics, race and age, as everyone should remember the experience, carry on the resistance spirit of the artists in Holocaust and regard themselves as participators of a big current social movement—to make the world a better place.

RESEARCH

I will look at books of art produced in the Holocaust as well as site installation inspirations. I will also look into online resources. Some books that I’ve found are:

Research-related:

Art of The Holocaust by Janet Blatter and Sybil Milton

Spiritual Resistance 1940-1945: Art from Concentration Camps by Union of American Hebrew Congregations

The Living Witness: Art in the Concentration Camps and Ghettos by Mary Costanza

Without Surrender: Art of the Holocaust by Nelly Toll

Site-Installation Related:

Conversation Pieces: Community + Communication in Modern Art by Grant Kester

Installations by Architects: Experiments in Building and Design by Sarah Bonnemaison and Ronit Eisenbach

Other resources:

Resistance Art in South Africa by Sue Williams

Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance under the Gun by Wafaa Bilal and Kari Lyderson

INTENT/IDENTITIES OF RESISTANCE

While looking the identities of the artists in the Holocaust, I want my project to resist to the identity of “viewer.” We are not just outsiders looking at historical artwork. We should not merely see the artwork as evidence of what happened in the history of humanity and view them as part of “the past.” Holocaust is still going on in one form or the other, and we are all part of the victims. Thus, we are part of the “resistance fighters.” I want to craft the identity of “victims” and “fighters” among viewers through the project.