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Alien Agency

Experimental Encounters with Art in the Making

Chris Salter

In Alien Agency, Chris Salter tells three stories of art in the making. Salter examines three works in which the materials of art -- the "stuff of the world" -- behave and perform in ways beyond the creator's intent, becoming unknown, surprising, alien. Studying these works -- all three deeply embroiled in and enabled by science and technology -- allows him to focus on practice through the experiential and affective elements of creation. Drawing on extensive ethnographic observation and on his own experience as an artist, Salter investigates how researcher-creators organize the conditions for these experimental, performative assemblages -- assemblages that sidestep dichotomies between subjects and objects, human and nonhuman, mind and body, knowing and experiencing.Salter reports on the sound artists Bruce Odland and Sam Auinger (O+A) and their efforts to capture and then project unnoticed urban sounds; tracks the multi-year project TEMA (Tissue Engineered Muscle Actuators) at the art research lab SymbioticA and its construction of a hybrid "semi-living" machine from specially grown mouse muscle cells; and describes a research-creation project (which he himself initiated) that uses light, vibration, sound, smell, and other sensory stimuli to enable audiences to experience other cultures' "ways of sensing." Combining theory, diary, history, and ethnography, Salter also explores a broader question: How do new things emerge into the world and what do they do?

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Allegorical Architecture

Living Myth and Architectonics in Southern China

Xing Ruan

Allegorical Architecture offers the first detailed architectural analysis of built forms and building types of the minority groups in southern China and of the Dong nationality in particular. It argues that Dong architecture symbolically resembles its inhabitants in many ways. The built world is an extension of their body and mind; their experience of architecture is figurative and their understanding of it allegorical. Unlike the symbolism of historical architecture, which must be decoded through a speculative reconstruction of the past, the Dong tell stories about inhabitants in their living state in the recurrent process of ritualistic making and inhabiting of their built world. This book thus offers architectural analysis of both spatial dispositions (building types) and social life (the workings of buildings). Xing Ruan likens the built world to allegory to develop an alternative to textual understanding. The allegorical analogy enables him to decipher minority architecture less as a didactic "text" and more as a "shell," the inhabitation of which enables the Dong to renew and reinvent continually the myths and stories that provide them with an assurance of home and authenticity. Attention is focused less on the supposed meanings (symbolic, practical) of the architecture and more on how it is used, inhabited, and hence understood by people. Throughout, Ruan artfully avoids the temptation to textualize the built world and read from it all sorts of significance and symbolism that may or may not be shared by the inhabitants themselves. By likening architecture to allegory, he also subtlety avoids the well-worn path of accounting for rich traditions via a "salvage ethnography"; on the contrary, he argues that cultural reinvention is an ongoing process and architecture is one of the fundamental ingredients to understanding that process. Ruan offers "thick description" of Dong architecture in an attempt to understand the workings of architecture in the social world. Paying attention to Dong architecture within a regional as well as a global context makes it possible to combine detailed formal analysis of settlement patterns and building types and their spatial dispositions with their effects in a social context. Architecture, in a broad sense, is assumed to be an art form in which the feelings and lives of its makers and inhabitants are embodied. The artifice of architecture—its physical laws—is therefore analyzed and contested in terms of its instrumental capacity. Allegorical Architecture is a work of refreshing originality and compelling significance. It will provide timely lessons for those concerned with the meaning and social sustainability of the built world and will appeal to architects, planners, cultural geographers, anthropologists, historians, and students of these disciplines.

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Allegories of Time and Space

Japanese Identity in Photography and Architecture

Jonathan M. Reynolds

Allegories of Time and Space explores efforts by leading photographers, artists, architects, and commercial designers to re-envision Japanese cultural identity during the turbulent years between the Asia Pacific War and the bursting of the economic bubble in the 1990s. This search for a cultural home was a matter of broad public concern, and each of the artists under consideration engaged a wide audience through mass media. The artists had in common the necessity to establish distance from their immediate surroundings temporally or geographically in order to gain some perspective on Japan’s rapidly changing society. They shared what Jonathan Reynolds calls an allegorical vision, a capacity to make time and space malleable, to see the present in the past and to find an irreducible cultural center at Japan’s geographical periphery.

The book begins with an examination of the work of Hamaya Hiroshi, whose images of village life expressed a nostalgia for the rural past widely shared by urban Japanese. Reynolds identifies a similar strategy in photographer Tōmatsu Shōmei’s search for an authentic Japan. The self-styled iconoclast Okamoto Tarō emphatically rejected the delicate refinement conventionally associated with Japanese art in favor of the dynamic aesthetics he saw expressed on prehistoric Jōmon-period ceramics; architect Tange Kenzō likewise embraced Japan’s ancient past in his work. As a point of comparison, Reynolds looks at the Shintō shrine complex at Ise as portrayed in a volume produced with photographer Watanabe Yoshio. He shows how this landmark book re-presented the shrine architecture as design consistent with rigorous modernist aesthetics. In the advertising posters of Ishioka Eiko and the ephemeral “nomadic” architecture of Itō Toyoo from the 1970s and 1980s, Reynolds reveals the threads linking urban nomad fantasies with earlier efforts to situate contemporary Japanese cultural identity in time and space.

In its fresh and nuanced re-reading of the multiplicities of Japanese tradition during a tumultuous and transformative period, Allegories of Time and Space offers a compelling argument that the work of these artists enhanced efforts to redefine tradition in contemporary terms and, by doing so, promoted a future that would be both modern and uniquely Japanese.

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Allie Victoria Tennant and the Visual Arts in Dallas

Light Townsend Cummins

At Fair Park in Dallas, a sculpture of a Native American figure, bronze with gilded gold leaf, strains a bow before sending an arrow into flight. Tejas Warrior has welcomed thousands of visitors since the Texas Centennial Exposition opened in the 1930s. The iconic piece is instantly recognizable, yet few people know about its creator: Allie Victoria Tennant, one of a notable group of Texas artists who actively advanced regionalist art in the decades before World War II.
Light Townsend Cummins follows Tennant’s public career from the 1920s to the 1960s, both as an artist and as a culture-bearer, as she advanced cultural endeavors, including the arts. A true pathfinder, she helped to create and nurture art institutions that still exist today, most especially the Dallas Museum of Art, on whose board of trustees she sat for almost thirty years. Tennant also worked on behalf of other civic institutions, including the public schools, art academies, and the State Fair of Texas, where she helped create the Women’s Building. Allie Victoria Tennant and the Visual Arts in Dallas sheds new light on an often overlooked artist.

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Ambient Media

Japanese Atmospheres of Self

Paul Roquet

Ambient Media examines music, video art, film, and literature as tools of atmospheric design in contemporary Japan, and what it means to use media as a resource for personal mood regulation. Paul Roquet traces the emergence of ambient styles from the environmental music and Erik Satie boom of the 1960s and 1970s to the more recent therapeutic emphasis on healing and relaxation.

Focusing on how an atmosphere works to reshape those dwelling within it, Roquet shows how ambient aesthetics can provide affordances for reflective drift, rhythmic attunement, embodied security, and urban coexistence. Musicians, video artists, filmmakers, and novelists in Japan have expanded on Brian Eno’s notion of the ambient as a style generating “calm, and a space to think,” exploring what it means to cultivate an ambivalent tranquility set against the uncertain horizons of an ever-shifting social landscape. Offering a new way of understanding the emphasis on “reading the air” in Japanese culture, Ambient Media documents both the adaptive and the alarming sides of the increasing deployment of mediated moods.

Arguing against critiques of mood regulation that see it primarily as a form of social pacification, Roquet makes a case for understanding ambient media as a neoliberal response to older modes of collective attunement—one that enables the indirect shaping of social behavior while also allowing individuals to feel like they are the ones ultimately in control.


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America Goes to War

The Civil War and Its Meaning in American Culture

Bruce Catton

A fascinating study of the first modern war and its effect on American Culture.

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America Town

Building the Outposts of Empire

Mark L. Gillem

American servicemen and -women are currently stationed in more than 140 countries from Central America to Western Europe to the Middle East, often living and working on military bases that not only dominate foreign territories but also re-create familiar space that “feels like home”—gated communities filled with rambling subdivisions, franchised restaurants, and lush golf courses.

 

In America Town, Mark Gillem reveals modern military outposts as key symbols of not just American power but also consumer consumption. Through case studies of several U.S. military facilities—including Aviano Air Base in Italy, Osan and Kunsan Air Bases in South Korea, and Kadena Air Base in Japan—Gillem exposes these military installations as exports of the American Dream, as suburban culture replicated in the form of vast green lawns, three-car garages, and big-box stores. With passion and eloquence he questions the impact of this practice on the rest of the world, exposing the arrogance of U.S. consumption of foreign land.

 

Gillem contends that current U.S. military policy for its overseas troops practices avoidance—relocating military bases to isolated but well-appointed compounds designed to prevent contact with the residents. He probes the policy directives behind base building that reproduce widely spaced, abundantly paved, and extensively manicured American suburbs, regardless of the host nation’s terrain and culture or the impact on local communities living under empire’s wings.

 

Throughout America Town, Gillem demonstrates how the excesses of American culture are strikingly evident in the way that the U.S. military builds its outposts. The defense of the United States, he concludes, has led to the massive imposition of tract homes and strip malls on the world—creating mini-Americas that inhibit cultural understanding between U.S. troops and our allies abroad.

 

Mark L. Gillem is assistant professor of architecture and landscape architecture at the University of Oregon. He is also a licensed architect, a certified planner, and a former active-duty U.S. Air Force officer.

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American Architects and Their Books, 1840-1915

edited by Kenneth Hafertepe and James F. O'Gorman

Since the Renaissance, architects have been authors and architecture has been the subject of publications. Architectural forms and theories are spread not just by buildings, but by the distribution of images and descriptions fed through the printing press. The study of an architect's library is an essential avenue to understanding that architect's intentions and judging his or her achievements. In this well-illustrated volume, a chronological sequel to American Architects and Their Books to 1848, twelve distinguished historians of architecture discuss from various points of view the books that inspired architects both famous and not-so-famous, and the books the architects themselves produced. They examine the multifaceted relationship of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century architects to print culture—the literary works that architects collected, used, argued over, wrote, illustrated, designed, printed, were inspired by, cribbed from, educated clients with, advertised their services through, designed libraries for, or just plain enjoyed. The result is a volume that presents the intersection of the history of architecture, the history of ideas, and the history of the book. Changes in print culture during this period had a significant impact on the architectural profession, as revealed in these well-informed scholarly essays. In addition to the editors, contributors include Jhennifer A. Amundson, Edward R. Bosley, Ted Cavanagh, Elspeth Cowell, Elaine Harrington, Michael J. Lewis, Anne E. Mallek, Daniel D. Reiff, Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., and Chris Szczesny-Adams. Among the architects discussed are A. J. Downing, Charles Sumner Greene, James Sims, Samuel Sloan, John Calvin Stevens, Thomas U. Walter, and Frank Lloyd Wright.

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The American Kaleidoscope

Race, Ethnicity, and the Civic Culture

Lawrence H. Fuchs

Do recent changes in American law and politics mean that our national motto -- e pluribus unum -- is at last becoming a reality? Lawrence H. Fuchs searches for answers to this question by examining the historical patterns of American ethnicity and the ways in which a national political culture has evolved to accommodate ethnic diversity. Fuchs looks first at white European immigrants, showing how most of them and especially their children became part of a unifying political culture. He also describes the ways in which systems of coercive pluralism kept persons of color from fully participating in the civic culture. He documents the dismantling of those systems and the emergence of a more inclusive and stronger civic culture in which voluntary pluralism flourishes.

In comparing past patterns of ethnicity in America with those of today, Fuchs finds reasons for optimism. Diversity itself has become a unifying principle, and Americans now celebrate ethnicity. One encouraging result is the acculturation of recent immigrants from Third World countries. But Fuchs also examines the tough issues of racial and ethnic conflict and the problems of the ethno-underclass, the new outsiders. The American Kaleidoscope ends with a searching analysis of public policies that protect individual rights and enable ethnic diversity to prosper.

Because of his lifelong involvement with issues of race relations and ethnicity, Lawrence H. Fuchs is singularly qualified to write on a grand scale about the interdependence in the United States of the unum and the pluribus. His book helps to clarify some difficult issues that policymakers will surely face in the future, such as those dealing with immigration, language, and affirmative action.

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American Pietàs

Visions of Race, Death, and the Maternal

Ruby C. Tapia

In American Pietàs, Ruby C. Tapia reveals how visual representations of racialized motherhood shape and reflect national citizenship. By means of a sustained engagement with Roland Barthes’s suturing of race, death, and the maternal in Camera Lucida, Tapia contends that the contradictory essence of the photograph is both as a signifier of death and a guarantor of resurrection.

Tapia explores the implications of this argument for racialized productions of death and the maternal in the context of specific cultural moments: the commemoration of Princess Diana in U.S. magazines; the intertext of Toni Morrison’s and Hollywood’s Beloved; the social and cultural death in teen pregnancy, imaged and regulated in California’s Partnership for Responsible Parenting campaigns; and popular constructions of the “Widows of 9/11” in print and televisual journalism.

Taken together, these various visual media texts function in American Pietàs as cultural artifacts and as visual nodes in a larger network of racialized productions of maternal bodies in contexts of national death and remembering. To engage this network is to ask how and toward what end the racial project of the nation imbues some maternal bodies with resurrecting power and leaves others for dead. In the spaces between these different maternities, says Tapia, U.S. citizen-subjects are born—and reborn.

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