Conference Notes 

Today, I am attending a conference at the University called "Subjects and Objects." The purpose of which is to explore how critic's perceptions, biases, and assumptions come into play when they are examining some kind of text. Of course, a text can be defined in any number of ways, and so too, for that matter, a subject. Before, I mentioned a critic, but you can apparently replace critic with "society" or, as some people want to do, even an "animal." Much of the discussion has been laden with the kind of critical jargon that the field of English scholarship has become infamous for. The new word I learned today is "hypermediated." Anyone care to guess what that means?

However, this is not to say that I haven't learned some interesting things here. First of all, I am apparently the last person to hear of Nikki S. Lee. Calling herself a performance artist, she lives with a particular group of people, learning as much about them as possible through immersion in their "culture." (I want to say sub-culture, but after this conference, or careful thinking, you have to ask yourself: who defines the "sub" part? or who even gets to say what "culture" is?) At some point, she then relinquishes the camera to another person within her chosen group and has her picture taken with them. She is both the subject and the object of her own work. Check out these pictures of her work from the web. It took me a minute to figure out that the old woman was her in the senior series. I'm still not sure what to think about her projects. Is this somehow unethical?

The other interesting thing that I heard, and I'll have to be brief because the conference is going to start again soon, is someone make a comparison between the torture pictures from Abu Ghraib prison and the lynching photographs that were taken in the old south. Both illustrate the dehumanization of the tortured, both have a sexualized and violent element, and both show exultant abusers seeming to glory in the act. I think it would be a good way for this to be discussed in the media. If the torture photographs from Iraq were compared with the lynching photographs of America's past on the six o'clock news, I don't think that there would be any more room for the apologists of the war to say that this torture occurring now is somehow justified.

15 May 2004
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