Dissective Nostalgia

This blogspace will allow for an ongoing discussion on topics of global and local significance, specifically as they relate to our discussion on 21 October.

It is my understanding that, to date, you have come to understand certain contemporary processes of globalization through the lenses of more invisible structures such as class struggle, nationhood and professional propriety.

Today, I'd like to begin by leaving global behind for a moment, and thinking purely local. I'm going to discuss design in the context of writing and history, and share with you one particular project that has become a catalyst and a conduit for some of my own ongoing questions about visual thinking, cultural disparity and the paradoxical relationship between memory and memorabilia.

By way of disclaimer, let me just say that my comments are unquestionably biased toward my own interests, perspectives and proclivities. I am a designer, a writer, an educator, a mother, a collector and a critic.

To begin, rather than assigning readings, I'd like to direct our conversation to the images here.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Like the exercise of the exquisite corpse, this painting was produced by six different Pakistani artists. Currently on view at the Aldrich Museum for Contemporary Art, these collaged paintings represent a particular form of collaborative work that has an unusual formal history: the Urdu term "karkhana" describes the kind of painting workshops patronized by Mughal emperors who ruled the territories of present-day India and Pakistan. (Multiple artists would have worked on a single painting under the direction of a master, each contributing visual components according to their particular skills.)


Blogger jay harlow said...

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8:05 PM  
Blogger jay harlow said...

what is fascinating about this example is that it speaks of the "local" through collaboration; it is no accident i'm sure that this is also the only non-western example of the five. the other four seem to rely on a sense of individual authorship to confirm their "local"ness.

one thought i had during the discussion was how the current popularity of scrapbooking makes tremendous sense as a reaction to the "global"ness of modern american (suburban) culture. i'll speculate that the people who participate are looking essentially for something "local," that is, some touchstone, or proof, of their uniqueness. scrapbooking offers two ways to affirm one's uniqueness:

1. what more natural place to look for existential legitimacy than one's own past? especially in america, the details of our ancestors' lives confirm that yes, we have struggled, we are special, and we are good.

2. western culture conceives of creativity as an expression of individuality, and i'll hazard a guess that these people don't have many outlets for creative expression in their lives. prefab kits of course enable anyone to "be" creative.

in this context, it is not surprising that there would be very little criticality by the participants of the specific visual forms employed, nor an awareness of the irony of expressing individuality with mass-produced parts. the automobile changed the world by being a vector for individual freedom rather than (at least initially) assuming the form of individuality itself.

8:08 PM  

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