Vol. 1 No. 3 (2012) Art and the City

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Mandy-Suzanne Wong and Joanna Demers

Introduction (pp. 1-9)


Louis Ho and Mayee Wong

Collision:  The Sticker Bomber and the Nanny State (pp. 10-22)

In the Southeast Asian city‐state of Singapore, street artist SKLO has come into conflict with the authorities for her sticker bombing and stenciling. Her arrest foregrounds issues about the socio‐cultural resonances and broader value of street art in local public discourse. This article explores SKLO’s praxis vis‐à‐vis the phenomenon of official graffiti, and its structuring of the tightly regulated public realm. Dubbed the “Sticker Lady,” SKLO has been also referred to as “Singapore’s Banksy” by local and international media. Besides prompting questions regarding the value of street art as expressions of local culture, these references shed light on how the figure of Banksy has become a figure of neoliberal urban aesthetics, especially pertaining to urban entrepreneurialism – a globally circulated signifier of a particular image of street art that sees the attachment of monetary value, celebrity and cool to such artistic works of subversion. These references to Banksy also raise a deeper question: can the Singaporean authorities accept the subversive and political aspects of art as the city‐state embarks on a neoliberal agenda to present itself as a considerable player in the global art market?

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Kris Coffield

Collision:  Terror, Trauma, and the Thing at Ground Zero (pp. 23-32)

Ten years after the assault on the World Trade Center, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum was opened to the public. Built amidst the busy financial corridors of Lower Manhattan, the memorial was designed to provide a tranquil space for honoring those who perished in the terror attacks. Yet reading the 9/11 Memorial in terms of public remembrance fails to account for either the ontopolitical impact of the attacks as an event that continues to unfold or the contingent relationship of the monument to modes of narratizing 9/11 trauma. To counter the recuperation of the 9/11 Memorial within nationalist security discourses, this essay employs an object‐oriented framework to evaluate how 9/11 texts, political symbols, and memorial components operate as things‐in‐themselves, retaining individual agency apart from human motivations. Theorizing the signifer of “9/11” as a fiction productive of homogenized affect, I argue that the 9/11‐signifier stabilizes the equilibrium of the state by suppressing the agency of objects that propose ways of relating to 9/11 that challenge the “hyperrelational” logic of United States security constructs, whereby all objects are said to be interconnected through a conflation of the marketplace, Constitution, and God. In preserving the material displacement of objects from familiar spatiotemporal locations, however, I contend that the 9/11 Memorial deterritorializes becoming from human subjectivity to withdrawn objectal being, in turn creating space for an uncanny affirmation of difference.

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Alan Nakano

Collision:  The Incidental in the Work of Inouk Demers (pp. 33-40)

Incidents are peripheral, rather than central, phenomena. This Collision considers sound and installation artist Inouk Demers, whose recent work explores the incidental in both its geographical and conceptual relationships to the megalopolis of Los Angeles. In Zine‐o‐file, Conveyance, Wireless Landscape, and Custom Audio Products, Demers offers the incidental as an alternative to straightforward themes and fleshed‐out narratives.

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Carol Magee

Collision:  Experiencing Lagos through Dis-stanced Stillness (pp. 41-49)

This essay offers distance and stillness as means by which to access and understand the dynamism of cities. I reflect on stillness as an unexpected aesthetic within artistic projects that represent urban environments, and as a vital approach to engaging with such artworks. Focusing on Lagos, Nigeria, I consider one photographic series by Abraham Oghobase and one sound work by Emeka Ogboh. I read their work in light of philosopher Jeff Malpas’s conceptualization of place as “existential ground.” In considering this relational aspect of place, I ruminate on the way distance facilitates the careful looking and listening that connects artist, object, and viewer/listener through stillness.

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Diana Boros

Public Art as Aural Installation:  Surprising Musical Intervention as Civic Rejuvenation in Urban Life (pp. 50-81)

Surprising artistic interventions in the landscape of the public everyday are psychologically, socially, and politically beneficial to individuals as well as their communities. Such interventions enable their audiences to access moments of surprising inspiration, self‐reflection, and revitalization. These spontaneous moments may offer access to the experience of distance from the rational “self,” allowing the irrational and purely emotive that resides within all of us to assert itself. It is this sensual instinct that all we too frequently push aside, particularly in the public realm, for the sake of our responsibilities. Urban communities in particular are persistently accosted by visual and aural advertisements and consumerist lures, that further discourage individuals from accessing their non‐rational selves. Yet, I argue that it would improve the health and vibrancy of our communal lives if we encountered among others in public, even for a moment, the strong feelings of sudden elation or confusion that we generally consider to be private. I also argue that an addition could be made to the already diverse oeuvre of artistic approaches that comprise the realm of “sound art” and that it may be termed “musical intervention art” – or, simply put, music played in a circumscribed area in the form of an outdoor installation, that is designed to accost, surprise, overwhelm, and through this, actively engage. This article will describe an imaginary example of musical installation art.

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Ljubica Ilic

Collision:  To Listen or Not to Listen? (pp. 82-89)

In 1965, Claude Chabrol created La Muette – a fifteen‐minute homage to Paris’s sixteenth district. In this short movie, Chabrol uses silence to ask some fundamental questions about the nature of human coexistence: the movie is seen, or better heard, from the perspective of a boy who, ignored by his parents, does not manage to say a word throughout; provoked by this imposed restriction, the boy decides to become not only “mute” but also “deaf.” His decision, however, results in tragic consequences. In La Muette, Chabrol reminds us that the question of coexistence already posed by Virgil in his Eclogues, and signified by sound that freely resounds, has never ceased to be asked. In this Collision, I use the term “postpastoral” to connect Virgil and Chabrol, and to open a discussion on sonically signified freedom.

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David Goldblatt

Urban Shanties:  Improvisation and Vernacular Architecture (pp. 90-112)

The practice of architecture takes place in what is aptly called “an architectural practice.” But, in a sense, no architecture takes place there. Unless something outside that practice is built, we merely have plans for architecture, unfulfilled ideas, but nothing that functions or shelters. In this paper, my attempt to show an important connection between improvisation and architecture is about the process of architecture as its execution of a built structure. My idea is to begin with an unheralded example from vernacular architecture, glean from it what I think is improvisational and work with issues I believe are generated from it in order to point out some things about improvisation as well as architecture. That example is the collective of buildings known as the shantytown. The shanty, like the ruin, comes about with “unintentional visual interest” to pervert the phrase of Michael Baxandall, happening as it does without foregrounding concern for architectural beauty or elegance. Philosophical investigations of vernacular architecture are not new, but one where an improvised mode of construction is a serious component of its analysis has largely been passed over. One question I try to answer can put the issue another way: What is the limiting case of improvisation in architecture?

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