A week of seminars, lectures and workshops (part 1)

2 10 2009

It’s been a busy, busy week of taking in information, scrambling to digest it and writing it all down. Happily, an initial draft of my Bibliography and Aims & Objectives sections of my proposal have come out of this week, and so I am still keeping up with the workplan. I read somewhere that the best way to learn something is to teach it. This certainly was the case for the workshop I gave regarding my workplan. Although I had the main ideas and timelines hashed out on paper, it was planning for the workshop that really forced me to think through all the details in my timeline and look for any holes in the planning. In reality I think I benefited most from of all of it. Now all I have to do is try and stick to the plan 😉

Also this week, I was a part of two very engaging but different seminars. The first was led by TrAIN’s Oriana Baddeley and we discussed the merits and context of Mandan Sarup’s article on ‘Home and Identity’.  Sarup’s article was subjective and auto-biographical. His writing style is unassuming but he manages to slip in so much relevant theory that ones hardly realize how deep everything is getting until one is in the thick of it all 😉 Everyone in the seminar agreed that his writing is a refreshing difference from the  much of what you see in academic articles.

More importantly for me, Sarup broke down the main differences between Marixist and Heideggerian thought in the context of place and nation and ultimately identity. Essentially, Marx defined places as being created through movement of capital. Furthermore, Marx stated that ‘capital is about technological change and the (consequent) expansion of places.’ In last week’s Methodolgy Lecture, David Cross mentioned that his process was influenced by Marx and he referenced the Marxist tenant that clearly defines differences in use value (the physical and practical worth of a commodity or service) and the exchange value (the market worth of a commodity or service). This becomes relevant to my project as much of the migration of peoples is effected by individuals looking for a better life in a different place from where they were born.  A ‘better’ life can then be translated to more exchange value for their work. Thus, following this logic one can state that the migration of people is a consequence of a migration of capital which in turn is technological change. People follow technology. Of course things are not as simplistic as this in reality, but I find the connection quite between people and technology quite relevant. My coming to London to study digital art is in itself reaffirming this logic.

Sarup also summarized some Heideggerian theories relevant to place and the experience of the individual (Being).  Heidegger deals with issues authenticity and inauthenticity of place. Heidegger places more emphasis on the social construction of places and tackles issues of roots and rootedness in a place. Diaspora narrative will ultimately lead to themes of displacement and assimilation which for me is essentially the shedding of old roots and the finding new ones. In this en masse movement of people, an evolving transnational identity forms and ultimately changes the landscapes of the places it passes through. and the land in which they wish to settle. It is this aspect of the Philippine-London diaspora I wish to represent and refer to in my current project.

I hope to be able to find physical evidences of displacement and assimilation in London’s urban landscape. Specific transition points where this may occur could be in the evolving storefronts of specialty shops (Philippine variety shops that are a mainstay in both the Philippines and many metropolitan cities I have observed so far- Paris, Tokyo, New York, Montreal, etc.) as well as the line of consumer goods (both imported and exported) that these stores choose to carry. Restaurants are another good point of transition. Evidences of displacement and assimilation will be found in the menus of the Philippine restaurants of London. What dishes are commonly considered traditionally Filipino in London? What dishes can easily be made in London? How have dishes evolved in the cultural integration process of the community?

I am reminded of my time living in Tokyo and my first visit for breakfast at a Denny’s (a chain diner in North America that I had always known to serve a proper ‘Western Breakfast’ of sausage, eggs, toast and coffee or the standby Canadian preferred alternate of pancakes, eggs, pea-meal bacon and maple syrup). The Denny’s chain in Japan carried a similar menu of toast, eggs but little sides of seaweed, rice, fermented beans and green tea had slipped into the menu to fit the Japanese palette. As with most people who have left their ‘home’, food can be an immediate reminder that you have changed place.

Things will not and cannot be exactly the same as the place you left. For me this is often a good thing but for those who fight it, displacement can be profoundly felt. That said, I still am thoroughly frustrated with the ridiculous amounts red tape required to cut through to get internet access at home. It has been one month of trying to open a bank account to get a valid debit card, call British Telecom to set up a landline and finally get a modem installed in my flat and still no internet! Hot spots abound in my neighbourhood so I shouldn’t really complain, but it is just one of those points of transition where I am forced to accept my own feelings of displacement.

Oriana commented on levels of displacement between individuals and each of us in the group discussed how in some way or another we play the role of ‘the other’- the foreigner without place in society. She also noted that recently in London the Philippine migration has occurred through populations of women who are domestic staff to wealthy Saudi families that have moved to the UK. The levels of displacement these women are two-fold. Firstly, they are in England and must deal with assimilating to British culture from a South-east Asian background. Next they are tied to a family of Saudis who are going through their own assimilation and displacement.  I should also mention the obvious master/servant/division of class these women must also feel. Do the employers of these Filipina women relate more to their domestic staff now that they too are foreigners? With English as the primary language in the UK do these women feel more/less empowered in London? What influences if any have these women made on the existing Philippine community? How have they changed the visual landscape?

Lots of questions to answer. It seems like the closer I get to finding something, the more questions I get.

Bibliography in progress

30 09 2009

This week marks the end of my initial bibliography research and I’m feeling pretty good about the material I’ve been able to gather. There certainly is a lot of it anyways. It seems like every exciting book I come across leads me to at least five more relevant resources!

I applied to the course with some theoretical knowledge and context to my work. Key artists like Ken Lum, Manuel Ocampo, Byron Kim, Coco Fusco and Niki Lee have been influential in introducing me to themes of transnationalism, diaspora identity, migration and assimilation. Furthermore, travelling exhibition “Cities on the Move” (curated by Hou Hanru in 1999) introduced me to a slew of diasporic artitsts in Asia and how they tackled pertinent themes of multi-modernities and glocalism. On the technological side, I have been influenced by artists Marcel Duchamps (in regards to his ‘readymades’ and the debate it started over authenticity in art and has lead to my ‘made_ready series’), David Hockney (for his visual cut, paste and layered landscapes) and Nancy Burnsen (for her earlier digital manipulations profile distillations). Media theorists such as Marshall McLuhan, Jean Baudrillard and Walter Benjamin have also provided theoretical underpinnings in my artistic practice… I should probably add cultural theorist Epifanio San Juan for his specific work on the post-colonial Philippine diaspora and the ubiquitous Edward Said for his much referenced ‘Oreintalism’ as well.



That said, in the last few weeks I have been introduced to so much more!

Some key names that come to mind are digital theorist Lev Manovich who in turn got me into Friedrich Kittler and Peter Weibel. Other new media theorists that have come may way in the building of this bibliography are Christaine Paul, Andrew Murphy and Rachel Greene. Key transnational/diaspora theorists I have been introduced to are Homi K. Bhaba, Olu Oguibe and Mandan Sarup. More excitingly I am starting think about my work under the context of Marxist and Heideggerian theory (specifically in regards to space and movement of capital and consequently people) as well as thought from David Harvey who has offered a post-modern analysis of Marxism.

Ultimately the result over these last few weeks of visiting libraries and combing through bookshelves is a working bibliography which I’ve divided into three themed sections:

1) Transnational, Diaspora and Asian Art Theory

2) Media, Digital and Visual Art Theory

3) Philosophy about Society, Space and Movement

In the search for these texts, I discovered that there is an overwhelming amount of discourse regarding digital art and an equal amount for transnationalism– both, interestingly enough, are relatively new fields of study in academe and seem to carry a trendy, sexy buzz around them. But, I am having trouble finding any writing that addresses both themes, specifically in regards to digital media and urban diasporas. Of course there are artitsts who have instinctively incorporated both themes in their work. Maria Lucia Cattani immediately comes to mind as I just heard her speak at the FADE (Fine Arts Digital Environment) Lecture today about her methodology which involves a process of bringing ‘the original’ to ‘the multiple’ and back to ‘the original’ again. Her creative involves scanning fictional script, laser cutting a dye caste (not sure if this is the correct terminology), making prints from the dye, then destroying these prints to create original books that are in libraries in the UK and Brazil! Brilliant really. She clearly flows between themes of reproducibility and global movement as well as cross cultural communication and what get lost in the translation. I love it and hope to touch on her elegance of message in my own work.

Ok, that was a mouthful.  CAVEAT: I’m not claiming to know these artists’ complete life’s work or to have read a complete text by any of these authors (with exception to Marshall McLuhan, Walter Benjamin, Christaine Paul and Lev Manovich… authors I couldn’t put down when I got hold of their texts), but what I am doing is starting to scratch the surface. More importantly, I am starting to discover is that there is a massive world of thought and really thoughtful art out there and that my little old project just might have a place in it. 😉

Initial Bibliography

30 09 2009

Below is my initial bibliography up to this point.

Transnationalism, Diaspora & Asian Art Theory

Armitage, John and Joanne Roberts. (2003).  ‘From the Hypermodern City to the Gray Zone of Total Mobilization in the Philippines’, in Bishop, Ryan et al. (eds.). Postcolonial Urbanism: Southeast Asian Cities and Global Processes. New York, London: Routledge.

Beaulieu, Jill and Mary Roberts. (eds.). (2002). Orientalism’s Interlocutors: Painting, Architecture, Photography. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Bhaba, Homi K. (1994). Location of Culture. New York: Routlege.

Bradley, Fiona. (1999). Cities on the Move: Urban Chaos and Global Change East Asian Art, Architecture and Film Now. London: Hayward Gallery.

Buck, Louisa. (1998). UK artist Q & A: Manuel Ocampo. The Art Newspaper. Vol. 9 No. 81. May, London: Newspaper Publishing plc. p. 49.

Buenaventura, Loreli C. (1998). Renegotiating ‘home(s)’: identities, racism(s) and resistance in

The lives of second generation Filipinas in Canada. University of Toronto, MA


Fusco, Coco. (1999). Corpus Delecti: Performance Art of the Americas.  New York, London:


(2003). Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of The American Self.  Harry Abram Inc.

(1995). English is Broken Here: Notes on Cultural Fusion in the Americas.  New York: The New Press.

Kee, Joan. (ed.). (2004) Intersections: Issues In Contemporary Art (Positions: East Asian cultures critique special issue). Duke University Press, Volume 12, Number 3, Winter.

Kelly, Philip F. (2000). Landscapes of Globalisation. New York: Routledge.

Kramer, Paul A. (2006). The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States and the

Philippines. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Lewis, Reina. (1996). ‘Gendering Orientalism: Race, Femininity and Representation’, in Kum-Kum Bhavnani et al. (eds.) Gender, Racism, Ethnicity Series. Phoenix London and New York: Routledge.

Lusis, Tom. (2005). Class Identity and Filipino Transnationalism: the Toronto-Tagbilaran Connection. York University, MA Thesis.

MacKenzie, John M. (1995). Orientalism: History, theory and the arts. Manchester, New York City: Manchester University Press.

Oguibe, Olu. (2004). The Culture Game. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press.

Papastergiadis, Nikos. (2007). The Turbulence of Migration. Cambridge, Malden: Polity Press.

Rydell, Robert W. (1984). All the World’s a Fair: Visions of Empire at American International Expositions, 1876-1916. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Said, Edward. (1979). Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books (A Division of Random House).

San Juan Jr., Epifanio. (2004). Working Through the Contradictions: From Cultural Theory to

Critical Practice.  Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press.

(1992). Racial Formations/Critical Transformations: Articulations of Power in Ethnic and Racial Studies in the United States. New Jersey, London: Humanities Press.

Scarborough, James. (1994). “Manuel Ocampo one-man national movement.” Flash-Art, No. 176, May/June 1994: 84-85.

Vergara Jr., Benito M. (1995). Displaying Filipinos: Photography and Colonialism in Early

Twentieth Century Philippines.  Manila: University of the Phillipines Press.

Media, Digital & Visual Art Theory

Benjamin, Walter. (1978). Illuminations.  New York: Schocken Books.

(2008). The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility and Other Writings on Media. Jennings, Michael W. et al. eds. Jephcott, Edmund et al. trans. Cambridge, London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Bentkowska-Kafel, Anna et al. (eds.). (2005). Digital Art History. Bristol: Intellect Books.

Blais, Joline & Jon Ippolito. (2006). At the Edge of Art. New York: Thames & Hudson.

Cutting Edge, The Women’s Research Group. (eds.). (2000). Digital Desires: Language, Identity and New Technologies. London, New York: I.B.Tauris Publishers.

deMèredieu, Florence. (2005). Digital and Video Art.  tr. Richard Elliott.  Edinburgh: Chambers

Harrap Publishers.

Greene, Rachel. (2004). Internet Art. London: Thames & Huson.

Holden, Todd Joseph Miles and Timothy J Scrase (eds.). (2006). Medi@sia: Global media/tion in and out of context. London, New York: Routledge.

Kittler, Friedrich.  (1990). Discourse Networks. (Original German edition 1985).  Stanford:

Lovejoy, Margot. (1992). Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age.  New York, London: Routledge.

Maeda, John. (2004). Creative Code. London: Thames & Hudson.

Manovich, Lev. (2001). The Language of New Media. Cambridge MA, London UK: The MIT Press.

McLuhan, Marshall. (1994). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Cambridge, London: MIT Press.

Murphie, Andrew & John Potts. (2003). Culture and Technology. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Paul, Christiane. (2005) Digital Art. 2nd ed. London: Thames & Hudson.

Stallabrass, Julian. (2003). Internet Art: The Online Clash of Culture and Commerce. London: Tate Publishing.

Wright, Richard. (1998). “Some Issues in the Development of Computer Art as a Mathematical Art Form.” in Electronic Art.  Hokken, Ton et al. eds. pp.103-109. Pergamon Press.

Philosophy about Society, Space and Movement

Harvey, David. (2001). Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography. Edinburgh: Edinburg University Press Ltd.

(2000). Spaces of Hope. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

(1990). The Condition of Postmodernity. Cambridge MA, Oxford UK: Basil Blackwell Ltd.

Heidegger, Martin. (1990). Being and Time. John Macuarrie and Edward Robinson (trans.). Trowbridge, Wiltshire: Dotesios Printers Ltd.