Eastern Thoughts: a travel memoir by Marta Maia and Vitor Queiroz

“And everything starts at the airport. […] Structures that put us closer to the rest of the world and that separate us from the people who have seen us grow.”

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Eastern Thoughts is a poetic, philosophical, and tender reflection on the phenomenon of travelling. Writer Marta Maia and photographer Vitor Queiroz traverse 1708 km through Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand to bring us an inward contemplation on the feelings attached to journeying, the complexity (and complicity) of tourism, the meaning of home and belonging, our attachment to memory, and more. This book will be of interest to and a consolation for all those travelers at heart who constantly seek out for an embracing place, and are always a little bit homesick.
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Countess Le Castiglione: author, scribe, or trickster?

“Mirror of male desire, a role, an image, a value, the fetishized woman attempts to locate herself, to affirm her subjectivity within the rectangular space of another fetish – ironically enough, the ‘mirror of nature’.” Abigail Solomon-Godeau

Figure 1: Louis Pierson, The Eyes, c1864.

Figure 1: Louis Pierson, The Eyes, c1864.

A mysterious femme fatale of the nineteenth century Paris, Countess Le Castiglione immortalised herself through a fascinating series of more than four hundred photographs taken over a period of forty years, the majority between 1856 and 1865 “at the height of [her] fame and beauty.”[1] Rather than conventional portraits, these photographs record her elaborate performances in which she either restages scenes from her life or plays a variety of mythological and fictional characters.[2] The costumes, the set-designs, and the overall scenarios were all meticulously designed and directed by the Countess herself, the photographer being there as a mere technician.[3] More than a means of self-expression or signs of narcissism, these photographs could be understood as the Countess’ attempt to take control over her own representation and challenge the narrow, patriarchal view of previously assigned identity inscriptions, thus, asserting herself as an autonomous subject rather than a fetishized object of the gaze.

According to theorist of fetishism and photography, Abigail Solomon-Godeau, such a reading of Countess’ photographs is presumptuous because it is impossible for the Countess to occupy a critical position from which she would desire to overturn the patriarchal principles of fetishisation. As she watches herself, explains Solomon-Godeau, the Countess automatically assumes a position of a patriarchal surveyor and can only relate to herself through this patriarchal gaze.[4] From this position, which is tainted by an inherent patriarchal scopic regime, she is unable to radically reimagine herself as anything but an object of sight. Rather than disavowing patriarchal prerogative, she participates in it and even endorses it. Solomon-Godeau writes: “a living artifact, the countess has so fully assimilated the desire of others that there is no space, language, or means of representation for any desire that might be termed her own.”[5] Rather than an author, she is nothing more than “a scribe”.[6]

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Rodchenko’s Twisted Views

A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive Moscow House of Photography Museum_Pioneer-Trumpet Player. 1930 Vintage Print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum: Multimedia Art Museum Moscow

Alexsander Rodchenko, Pioneer with a trumpet, 1930

With multi-story buildings and high scaffoldings, rapid vehicles and airplanes, the early twentieth century urban and technological developments literally revolutionized the way we see the world. Soviet era photographer Alexander Rodchenko maintained that photography must respond to the new reality of urban life and capture images from radically “different vantage points.”[1] Rather than following the traditional belly-button or eye-level perspective (which pictorialist photographers inherited from paining) camera should capture events “from inside, from above down, and from below up.”[2] Only in this way can camera fulfill its task[3] and function as prosthesis of the eye, offering the view that is truer (more objective) than the naked eye could ever capture.[4] Continue reading

Queer Art & Identity Politics

“I don’t believe that gender, race, or sexuality have to be identities, I think that they’re vectors of power.” Judith Butler

Drew Pettifer, The Decisive Moment, 2009.

Drew Pettifer, The Decisive Moment, 2009.

It is necessary to “radically challenge the entire concept of an identity based upon sexual orientation,”[1] wrote Elizabeth Ashburn in her 1996 publication on lesbian art. Twenty years on, American feminist and queer art theorist Amelia Jones finds it necessary to echo Ashburn in her 2012 book Seeing Differently reminding us to “think beyond […] the grain of binary models of identity in favour of multiple, intersectional, and relational processes of identification.”[2] Sexuality must converge with issues of race, gender, geographical and socio-political location, class, religion, age, etc. to reveal the immense complexity and diversity of subjectivities. Jones likens this intersectional approach to anamorphic viewing which distorts the one-point perspective to reveal a new, previously neglected viewing angle.[3] The result of this perspectival distortion is de-objectification, de-fetishisation, and abandonment “of oppositional othering.”[4] Continue reading

Impermanence

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In the sixteenth and seventeenth century, symbols of vanitas and momentum mori signified fragility of life and earthly pleasures. Opulent items such as exotic food, imported wine, and luscious flowers were painted as reminders of inevitable decay and brevity of material possessions. In the twenty-first century, the idea of impermanence is explored in significantly different forms and mediums. The core message, however, remains (more-less) the same.

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HEX: A triumphant return to joy, passion, and exuberance

20140508-GL-hex-0525 HEX by James Welsby Photo Gregory Lorenzutti

Recently I spoke to Australian contemporary dancer and choreographer JAMES WELSBY whose work HEX explores the legacy and impact of the 80s AIDS crisis through the lens of the generation that was born in its wake. Combining contemporary dance with queer club performance, HEX provides an experience of both celebration and reflection; it is a tribute to those who have been lost, but also a celebration of the community they shaped, and which continues to grow.  Continue reading

Queering the Language with Astrid Lorange

Nick Cave's personal dictionary

ASTRID LORANGE is Sydney based poet, performer, researcher and academic whose recently publish book ‘How Reading is Written’ explores the legacy of Gertrude Stein and challenges the settled conventions of language. Astrid believes that language – both in writing and reading – should be open for experimentation; always kept fresh and innovative. Language, in other words, should be a constant discovery. On Friday 27 February, I interviewed Astrid on Eastside Radio 89.7FM.  Continue reading