Now: Visual Rhetorics

The visual rhetorics course I’m teaching this semester is by now well enough plotted to pass along a link, finally. I haven’t taught the class before, which only means that its materials this time are spun provisionally from many influences–an independent study and qualifying exam at SU, Michael Salvo’s syllabus, Dànielle DeVoss’s syllabus, and good conversations with CGB just after the new year. Its large arc follows from photography to document design to infographics and data visualization. I remain cautiously optimistic that these three sub-arcs will fit together okay within the fourteen meetings we have. No surprise, but I’m supplementing heavily with PDFs and assigning as required texts only Barthes’ Camera Lucida, Handa’s edited collection, and Cairo’s The Functional Art. One project involves writing (and designing) Ch. 10 for the Cairo book–a “missing” chapter focused on visual rhetoric. There’s an ignite presentation set up to articulate in short-form one’s emerging visual-rhetorical priorities and interests in relation to one of the people interviewed at the end of The Functional Art. And then there is a loose-fitting, build-your-own-collection portfolio whose creation and assembly is spread as evenly as possible throughout.

I’m still trying to figure out the role of in-class workshop blocks devoted to self-paced attempts with Photoshop and Illustrator. And I can’t quite decide how formally and explicitly to dwell on technical matters and rationale related to different image file types. Against these uncertainties (or yet-unmade decisions), I count as one advantage that I have had all but three of the fourteen students in class before, and it’s a terrific bunch who will assert their preferences whenever I’m slow to decide.

Context Hacking

Here’s a talk from Monochrom’s Johannes on “context hacking” from TedX Vienna (via). Mostly anecdotes. Not a lot here on method, i.e., on how to sub-subversion-vert. Yet I find it interesting in part because of the ascendant status of contextualism in rhetoric and writing (as a point of pedagogical, intellectual, and methodological insistence), and in part because of how constantly and arbitrarily contexts must be fenced in, demarcated. Watching this I wanted to know, is context hacking generalizable? Maybe not. Another problem is that the leftist/postmodernist/melancholic identifications risk functioning as a ticket to an ethics-free zone. Leftist-postmodernist-melancholics might not sweat this detail, but the presentation leads us up to the other side of the coin, even if it does not reckon with still another reversal of subversion: What is the function of context hacking on the right?

No, really, I’m asking.

If for none of these reasons, it’s worth watching/contemplating for a peak at the mundane self-portrait, Material Study with Scanned Photo of Self in a Beer Mood and Photoshop Crystallization Filter (2001).



Eyebrows: Is.’s latest facial-anatomical fixation. Fine if you sketch a stick person, but the omission of brows concerns her greatly. “Add them,” she says. As for her own marker board sketches, eyebrows began appearing on every single one early last week.

Digital Canvass


Purple Dino

Is. has been asking lately–passionately–to paint. In
fact, "paint" is one of those five-alarm words around the house: we know that
saying it will tip Is. into such intense determination that, once it is said,
there is no getting out of some sort of painting. D. will happily set out
the water colors for her on the kitchen table (at breakfast this morning, Is.
pointed to lingering brush marks on the wall and proudly claimed it: "Baby
paint!" But she is almost as content with the graphics tablet and
digital canvass. I can
map the tablet to the exact size of the blank canvass on the interface and
assist her (by mouse) with choosing colors–all a far better match with my own
material preferences when it comes to painting. Whatever else can be said
of it, Is. is picking up on subtle distinctions between colors (i.e. dark red
and what she calls "yellow-white," although I’m still not always sure what this
latter one is). And, on any given day, she gets enough of the water colors
and enough of the graphics tablet to refer to them both as "painting" (a word
you must not mutter in our company unless you want to alter the course of our
lives for an hour).

Above, the first is just some futzing around with colors.
The second looks to me like the end of the purple dinosaurs or the smoke monster
from Lost knocking Mr. Echo onto his back.


The Reanimation Library
in Brooklyn (via)
offers a collection of discarded and found books not likely to be held elsewhere:
curios, out-of-print, wonders. Here librarianship is inflected with an art
aesthetic (perhaps more outwardly or radically than in the common case). There seems to be more than rarity justifying the in-status of the
books; but it is a sort of rare collection, one inflected with the idiosyncratic
impulses and tastes of the collector. The 600-book collection raises the question of whether it is
simply an installation called by the name of library. The mission

The Reanimation Library seeks to assemble an inspiring collection of
resources that will facilitate the production of new creative work and
promote reflection and research into the historical, legal, and
methodological questions surrounding the adaptive reuse of found materials.
It strives to provide the necessary space and tools to allow these
activities to flourish, and to foster a climate of spirited collaboration.

"Adaptive reuse of found materials" and so on: sounds like ideas that would
serve well as the guiding impetuses for a composition course–one I’d like to
teach, anyway. The Thingology entry refers to
this recent
report from the Minneapolis City Pages
; both of them mention
Dewey’s Nightmare, a
playwriting experiment tied to the Reanimation Library in which seven writers
wear blindfolds and pick one book each randomly from the stacks. Their
challenge, then, is to shape the random sample into something for the stage.
Quite a methodology, and one not unlike the stuff Sirc discusses in "Box-Logic":
the found collection, the interplay of contingent samples and selections,
renewal in re-coordinating affinities, pulsion, etc.

Don’t miss the
or the pile of

Maybe I Need One of These

In case I do need one of them (for research and related work-tasks), if I went ahead and picked one up now, got up to snap with how it works, then I would be fully prepared when the time comes that I actually have to use it. Maybe?


As you can see, there are the great challenges involved when predicting the future (while frittering away a few minutes before the next WC consulting session).

And Now Here

A week ago Thursday we stopped through the closing reception of a show at the
Delavan Art Gallery here
in Syracuse. Hadn’t been to the gallery before, but several pieces produced by our
friend (and former neighbor), Amy Bartell, were on display (some of it by such
enigmatic and inventive techniques I can’t get my mind off of it). I don’t have a
program with me now, and I couldn’t find the exact title for her exhibit online,
but I think it was called "Archeological Memoir." Basically, she works with
various materials (impressions, overlays, exposure, stamping) to layer together
what I would describe as ‘geographic impressions.’ They’re not
impressionist, in the sense of that tradition; rather they involve the plying
(layering, doubling over, folding and folding) of found things (symbols and
materials)–a sandwiching effect by which their pressed-ness amplifies the deep
entanglement of place, object, and spatial imagination. I was struck by the
collection because it resonated conceptually with some of the stuff you would
find in Harmon’s You Are Here and at
Strange Maps. This it to say it
hooked into the same way-finding attitude or manner I continue to find
tremendously appealing. But the pieces were also detailed and varied–as
pastiche: almost imaginary maps, almost documentary,
autobiography. Digital versions of two of the pieces are online–Travelogue
and Your Call
Cannot Be Completed At This Time
–but the entire exhibit is worth
experiencing in its entirety, and because she does at least one show each year,
there is a decent chance of catching it again in Central New York.