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The Spectacle of Science: the Art of Illusion in Prints of the French Revolution

Claire Trévien, University of Warwick, UK

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Abstract

In this article, I will discuss prints from the French Revolution that utilize scientific instruments as political metaphors. France’s fascination with science during the Enlightenment has been well documented, notably by Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent and Christine Blondel in their recent investigation of its uses as a popular form of entertainment. Whether it was seen as an ally or a foe, the spectacle of science attracted Revolutionary artists. This pull reveals not only an understanding of scientific material thanks to the groundwork of the Enlightenment, but also a need to reposition science within a Revolutionary context. What the prints have in common is ‘spectacle’ in the sense that they are pre-occupied with the idea of illusion, not just as a negative act of deception but as a creative and potentially empowering process, allowing the viewer to see beyond reality into a brighter future.

CREATIVE: Invasive Species by Roy Frank Staab

About the Artist

Roy Frank Staab (b. 1941) attended Layton School of Art and received a BFA from UWM in 1969, extending studying in Europe, settling in Paris.  He had first exhibition in 1977.  His artworks found place in the collections of the Muséed’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France, Le Fonds national d’art contemporain, Paris, France.  He began making site-installation art in 1979 in France. In 1980 he moved to New York City [works-on-paper in Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY].  By 1983 he shifted to working entirely in nature, employing natural materials from each site and became a peripatetic artist making his ephemeral outdoor sculpture installations in many places throughout the world. He received grants from the New York Foundations for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, U.S./Japan Creative Artists’ Fellowship, Artist-in-Museum Yokohama Museum of Art, Joan Mitchell Foundation award.  He has installed works in Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the United States.

Artist’s Statement

I learned to question and opened the door to experiment and experience, finding the freedom to make art ‘my way’ and choose or reject traditional techniques as a means—to create visual experiences that excite me. It took ten years for my art to evolve from painting, to line structure on paper, to installation. I started to make works in/over water—large works, my drawings in space, using only natural materials gathered from near by. I like the idea of working with nature, geometry and physical science to make works that can be considered a meditation on perception and being—with the idea of ephemeral, nothing to hold on to but the visual experience; Art that is and transcends the object. I make art in nature and refer and depend upon nature and natural sciences to work with me on the art.

Artworks

Invasive Species*
Invasive Species*

 [*because of the fish that escaped that were non-native and took over the native species there in Chen-Long, Taiwan]

There is the oyster fishing industry where they grow oysters and then they reuse some of the shell to grow a new stock. I found piles of discarded shells.  I came up with the idea of putting them on bamboo, held in place by the tension of a slit.  But I learned later, that was the old way they used to grow oysters there. The work is designed to be a long free form like an abstract fish [that I told the children] to fit the land area. I use the oyster shells all facing the sunrise to give the very white glow at that special time.  I was told of the high water rainy season and made the work to be magic.  The rain did not come in May as predicted, but in the end of July, making my art complete with reflection and isolation in the water.

Suspended between the living and the dead
Suspended between the living and the dead

In Philadelphia—I use the cantenary curve (gravity) and wind for my art to move and swing. The situation is to make a work over the canal in a visible place accessible to people to. I chose a place where trees suspend over the canal. But one tree, an elm, was dead, hence the title ‘Suspended between the living and the dead’. I had to test the branch of the dead tree and make sure it will hold. I put up a measuring line between the trees and then took it down and extended it out along the canal edge. The materials for the lines are collected from the nearby abandoned lands. I did not want the line to stretch out as it did on another work, so I use the Japanese knotweed as the main support and tooth-picked it end to end and then layered the line with other weeds such as goldenrod, mug wart and bundle it using jute cord. Sometimes the wind in the tops of the trees makes the work bounce, other times it moves and sways by the wind in the work.  It is held out by bamboo and balanced by stones where needed.

Eau Claire Currents
Eau Claire Currents

For the work Eau Claire Currents, made for the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, a suggested idea as to make a work on the sandbar in the river below the walking bridge.  But the two times that I came to see the site, the Chippewa River was in flood because of the heavy rains. I responded to the site, the bridge and my concern that the people walking over the bridge could see something, not just hang down hanging down, but pulled out by the current. I use the bridge railing supports for the placement of the work and the measure between the lines, for the right shape and proportions of the lines. I am concerned with it lasting as long as possible so the junctions had to be above the water, as I know that the natural materials breakdown in a short time in the water and current.  Ephemeral art belongs in nature and I have no problem with that. The ‘Y’ shaped tendrils were made with wild weeds and bundled with jute. I chose to punctuate the ends in the water using torpedo shaped logs. To my surprise when they were tied on, instead of just staying in a straight line of the current [they were not streamlined enough], they move back and forth giving movement to the work that I like. Slowly, piece-by-piece, parts break off and slipped silently down the river. The work is made with all organic materials and will rot as other river detritus does over time.

More info about Roy Staab and his art can be found at http://roystaab.blogspot.com

Charles Dickens’s A Child’s History of England and Spain

José Ruiz Mas, University of Granada, Spain

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Abstract

In this article I endeavour to analyse the image of relevant Spanish historical figures such as King Pedro I, Catherine of Aragon, Christopher Columbus, Philip II, the Spanish Armada and other pro-Spanish English characters such as Mary I, as depicted in Charles Dickens’ A Child’s History of England (1851-53). In his overtly didactic attempt to convey a specific image of the legendary antagonism existing between Spain and England to his contemporary English children and youngsters through this peculiar history book, Dickens amply shows his prejudiced view of Spanish history and his overtly patriotic description of England’s history. Proof of the relevance and the persistence of Dickens’ anti-Spanish and anti-Catholic attitude that prevailed in English society throughout the second half of the 19th century is that C. R. L. Fletcher and Rudyard Kipling insist on similar ideas of Anglo-Spanish relations in A School History of England (1911).

Spiritual Vacuity and Corporeal Disobedience: Contemporary Plays on Organ Transplants

Sita Maria Kattanek, Carl Hanser, Munich

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Abstract

This study will look at dramatic representations of organ transplants because contemporary plays address the more subterranean fears surrounding the medical endeavor called transplantation. The conflicts of the dramas have their origin in debates that took place among bioethicists. The theater, however, “becomes the domain where the debate is acted out before a live audience” (Belli 2008: xiv), thus rendering the involved questions visible in a public setting. Dea Loher’s Hände (2002) and Tomio Tada’s The Well of Ignorance (1991)use the dialogical quality of drama to reveal the absurdities and grotesqueness of modern medical technologies. With emotional discomfort these plays question what it means to receive a donated body part and whether it is justified to endlessly repair the human body.

“Popart”: the ‘Global’ Avatar of Bollywood

Prateek, Ramjas College, New Delhi, India

 Abstract

Since its inception, the concept of “popart” – the interaction of popular cinema and art cinema – has been heralded as one of the most important contributions to Indian film scholarship. Drawing upon insights from Dev Benegal’s English, August, which is supposedly the first and the best example of “popart” film, I shall try to track down the genesis of ‘popart’ cinema and show how and why “popart” has become India’s countershot to world cinema. The first part of the article addresses the rise of Indian cinema through the process of imitation of its western counterpart either in terms of themes borrowed from Western mainstream cinema or cinematic techniques imitated from the “auteurs” of New Wave cinema. The second part of the article argues how a new art form popularly known as “popart” could become an Indian success story.

Drama and the Politics of Climate Change in Nigeria: A Critical Appraisal of Greg Mbajiorgu’s Wake Up Everyone

Norbert Oyibo Eze, University Of Nigeria, Nsukka

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 Abstract

Johnny Igbonekwu observes that ‘an obvious primal instinctive human quest” is to “conquer the world” but he equally notes that man has not been able to achieve this goal, in spite of his “formidable intellectual assaults on the multifarious stupendous mysteries of the world” (Talk About Man 1). The quest for all manner of domination-economic, political, territorial, and spatial, etc, has driven man into invention and mindless application of technology which in choking nature, cause it to frequently retaliate through global warming, tsunami, landslide, erosion, and flooding of different dimensions. The constant decimation of human lives, businesses, buildings, and municipal services as well as the emergence of perturbing diseases owing to these palpable effects of natural disaster, force the issue of climate change to occupy a significant place in the world of environmental studies and research. This paper seeks to explain the place of drama in tackling the problem of climate change through a detailed analysis and interpretation of Greg Mbajiorgu’s Wake Up Everyone considered to be a giant impact assessment study and provocative wake-up call.

Tipu Sultan and the Politics of Representation in Three 19th Century English novels

Ayusman Chakraborty, Jadavpur University, India

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 Abstract

Tipu Sultan was the ruler of the native state of Mysore. His fierce opposition to British rule in India earned him unrivalled notoriety in England. Colonial writings usually portray him as a cruel tyrant who tortured Indians and Englishmen alike. This article studies the representation of Tipu Sultan in three nineteenth century English novels – The Surgeon’s Daughter by Sir Walter Scott, Tippoo Sultaun: A Tale of the Mysore Wars by Captain Meadows Taylor, and The Tiger of Mysore by G. A. Henty . In these works, Tipu is painted in an extremely unfavourable light. Arguing that the politics of imperialism influences such representations, this article tries to show how the depiction of Tipu as a monstrous villain served to justify British rule in India. These novels seem to suggest that the British deserve credit for rescuing Indians from such egregious villain. The article also focuses on politicization of Tipu’s dead body. Colonial art and literature constantly return to the scene where Tipu’s body is discovered by his enemies. This article argues that colonial imagination converts Tipu’s corpse to a ‘grisly trophy’ which becomes a sign of British triumph over Oriental despotism.

Magic Realism in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude

B.J Geetha, Periyar University, India

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Abstract

In his One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez through the arsenal of magic realism, deals with war, suffering, and death in the mid-1960 of Colombia which had witnessed two hundred thousand politically motivated deaths. The purpose behind portraying the politics of the region is to comment on how the nature of Latin American politics is towards absurdity, denial, and never-ending repetitions of tragedy. His magical flair is to merge fantastic with reality by introducing to the reader his Colombia, where myths, portents, and legends exist side by side with technology and modernity. These myths, along with other elements and events in the novel recount a large portion of Colombian history.

Kittens in the Oven: Race Relations, Traumatic Memory, and the Search for Identity in Julia Alvarez’s How the García Girls Lost Their Accents

Natalie Carter, George Washington University, USA

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Abstract

The search for an ever-elusive home is a thread that runs throughout much literature by authors who have immigrated to the United States.  Dominican authors are particularly susceptible to this search for a home because “for many Dominicans, home is synonymous with political and/or economic repression and is all too often a point of departure on a journey of survival” (Bonilla 200).  This “journey of survival” is a direct reference to the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, who controlled the Dominican Republic from 1930-1961. The pain and trauma that Trujillo inflicted upon virtually everyone associated with the Dominican Republic during this era is still heartbreakingly apparent, and perhaps nowhere is that trauma more thoroughly illustrated than in the literature of Julia Alvarez.  Alvarez is a prime example of an author who utilizes narrative in a clear attempt to come to grips with lingering traumatic memories.  After her father’s role in an attempt to overthrow the dictator is revealed, Alvarez’s family is forced to flee the Dominican Republic as political exiles, and a sense of displacement has haunted her since.  Because both the Dominican Republic and the United States are extraordinary racially charged, concepts of home and identity are inextricably bound to race relations in much of Alvarez’s art.  Using theoretical concepts drawn from the fields of trauma studies and Black cultural studies, this essay examines Alvarez’s debut novel in order to illustrate the myriad ways in which culture, politics, and race converge and speak through each other, largely in the form of traumas that can irreparably alter one’s sense of home, voice, and identity.

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