Mobility/Exchange

Creativity frequently springs from the movement of people, ideas, and objects across frontiers and boundaries and into places deemed new, foreign, strange, or remote.  These encounters produce highly charged, often violent, contact zones, stimulating the desire to collect, to map, to trade, and to possess. We investigate the things that result from such encounters and the ways in which these things affect the people who make, recreate, and use them.

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Mobility/Exchange

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    Let's Have a Go at Writing an Abstract

    The First Experiences in Research (FE-R) program requires its students to write abstracts about their research projects.  So, here's the first draft of mine:

    We care about people and objects because they are ingrained in the history of our species.  However, in our rapidly-digitalized age, these old details can be easily misplaced.  Through the database Itinera, we are able to preserve art history.  The database is a resource to help make people feel more aware and connected with our historic past.  In my research tracking the Elgin marbles, I am able to deduce where and why these objects traveled around Europe at the turn of the 1800s.

    Categories: 
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Current Projects
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
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    What's Been Going on in Itinera for the Past Couple Weeks

    For the month of January, I've been researching for Itinera to catalog the travels of artists and artifacts around Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries.  The project has had its ups and downs, but so far, all is well.

    When I first started working in Itinera, my graduate mentor Jen assigned me to input information straight into the database.  I have no past experience with computer programming.  This was actually one of the reasons why I chose this research project, in the hopes that it would prepare me for more tech-oriented positions in the future.  I was a great programmer, when Jen sat directly next to me and dictated instructions on how to individually do each step.  But it wasn't all that great when she let me do it on my own.

    NB: Right now, I am really bad at computer programming.

    The information that goes into Itinera is important and public.  You're tracking the cross-country movements of real people who have lived and died, and real art that has existed for hundreds of years.  This is not something an undergraduate researcher wants to mess up.

    Since then, Jen has taken pity on me.  I'm now directly researching information and prepping it to go into Itinera.  So we've taken a couple leaps back.  This task is much less stressful and requires more page turning than button clicking.

    I'm currently researching the Elgin Marbles (or the Parthenon Marbles), which is a collection of antique sculptures, inscriptions and architectural pieces that decorated the Acropolis in Greece from about 447 BCE up through 1800.  By that time, Athens was pretty miserable and sketchy in term of being a city.  But they had their Marbles!

    Cue: Lord Elgin.

    Around the turn of the century, a Scottish diplomat named Thomas Bruce (but I'll call him Lord Elgin, since that's one of his titles), decided to seize the Marbles from the Parthenon and send them over to London.  Elgin initially sent a group of artists to Athens under the assumption that they would just sketch and study the sculptures at the Acropolis.  But after a lot of back and forth, he decided that he wanted the Marbles, so he basically just took them.

    The Elgin Marbles are tricky to track because rather than being one solid object, they're broken up into seperate sculptures and friezes at different countries and museums throughout Europe.  Most of the collection is either in London or Athens, but Paris, Copenhagen, Vienna, and parts of Germany have some sculptures as well.  Since Elgin was a diplomat, he traveled a lot between England and then-Constantinople.  Elgin also sent other people on Marbles-related missions around Europe during this time.

    The overall story of the Elgin Marbles is pretty dramatic, laced with political controversy and ethical questions.  So far in my research, at least two people have been imprisoned.  There is a lot of sneaking around and stealing about this affair, too.  I've even found one account of adultry between Elgin's wife and her lover.  It'll be interesting to see how the Elgins' marriage [spolier] fell apart.

    Tracking the movement of the Elgin Marbles and all the people involved is pretty fascinating.  It's interesting to see why there was (and continues to be) all this controversy about the Elgin Marbles when, with an unsentimental eye, they're really just a couple hunks of old rock.  But caring about history means being sentimental about old things, so I think the Elgin Marbles are pretty awesome.

    Photo courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elgin_Marbles#mediaviewer/File:Elgin_Marble...

    Categories: 
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Current Projects
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  • Ill-Treatment of Chinese at San Francisco.  From Arthur H. Smith, "A Fools Paradise," Outlook, March 24 1906.

     

    The Search for Bertillon Cards from the Chinese Exclusion Act

    For the past few months, Aisling and I have been searching for the identification cards created for Chinese immigrants using the Bertillon system of measurement.  While we have found many earlier and later identification cards from the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Bertillon cards created during the system’s short-lived period of use, between 1903 and 1906, have eluded us.  The Bertillon system was used to create a database of Chinese laborers who were exempt from the Chinese Exclusion Act and thus allowed to remain in the United States.  While the law only required laborers submit to measurement, the definition of laborer was ambiguous, and any Chinese immigrant suspected of being a laborer, as many were, could expect to be measured.  The Bertillon system was considered incredibly degrading by those Chinese immigrants who underwent measurement, as Bertillonage was known as a method of criminal identification.  The repeal of the Bertillon system was part of a moderate liberalization of the Chinese Exclusion Act after the- Chinese boycott of American goods in 1905.

    In the absence of the any Bertillon cards used during the Chinese Exclusion Act, there is at least one first hand account of the process written by a Chinese immigrant: “First, the person’s picture is taken, full body and from the waist up.  Then the face, frontal view; and then from the back of the head, and facing left and right.  Afterwards, a machine is used to measure the width of the skull.  The distances between the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth are measured as well as one’s height and the length of one’s hands and feet.  The distance between the shoulder, elbow, and wrist are measured, as are the distances between the hips, knee, and calf.  The arms are measured out-stretched and bent as are the legs measured while standing and in-step.  All of these measurements are taken while the person is nude.  The length of the fingers and toes between each joint is also recorded.  There is nothing that is not recorded in great detail.” Liang Qichao Ji Huagong jinyue. Excerpt translated in K. Scott Wong, “Liang Qichao and the Chinese of America: A Re-Evaluation of His ‘Selected Memoir of Travels in the New World,’” Journal of American Ethnic History, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Summer 1992): 3-24.

    The striking revelation from Liang’s testimony is that the Chinese immigrants were measured in the nude.  Compare this to the account of an Ohio prisoner: “The second day of my imprisonment I was taken to the room for the identification of prisoners by the Bertillon method.  My photograph was taken with my glasses off, front and side view, with my prison number 31498 fastened across my breast.  Then I was weighed and measured in many dimensions, and my own clothes were taken from me, except my underclothing and shoes, and I was put into the gray uniform of the highest grade allowed to be given to any prisoner on his first coming there. “ Charles C. Moore, Behind the Bars; 31498, Lexington, K.Y. 1890.  While Moore’s self-aggrandizing tone leads one to question the reliability of this account, his reveals the Bertillon process as the critical moment in the transition from citizen to prisoner.  Moor associated the loss of his street clothes, which he claimed happened after measurement, with his (uncharacteristically enthusiastic) achievement of the grey prisoner’s uniform.

    If we take Moore’s account to understand Bertillon measurement as a moment of transition from one state of identity to the next, what does that mean for the Chinese immigrant?  This person is also transition.  He or she is passing between national boundaries, transforming from national-citizen to immigrant-outsider, and being distilled from a complex background into two dominate identities: “Chinese” and “laborer.” According to Simon A. Cole in Suspect Identities, what emerged from the Bertillon system “was a new way of visualizing criminality: the authorities did not read criminality in the body itself, but rather used the body as an index to a written criminal record.”  The physical traces of the anthropological “born criminal” was replaced by the Bertillon system’s preference for the individual’s unique mark.  In other words, the grasping overreaches of the search for the identifiable characteristics of criminality in the nineteenth century were replaced by a system in which the criminal’s body was itself a unique trace of criminality.  Such an identity was permanent and unambiguous.  For the Chinese immigrants, this becomes more complex.  The enforcement of Chinese Exclusion Act was based on broad generalizations of  “Chinese-ness,” leading to infinite confusion and appeal as to the definition of identifiable physical and cultural characteristics for identifying those Chinese laborers to be turned away from the United States.  With the adoption of the Bertillon system, the Chinese immigrant was subjected to a method in which the label “Chinese laborer” was no longer a generalization, but the unique mark of their person, exposed in the moment of transition from an assumed state of personhood to the pretext of criminality.  Thus, for now, we continue to search for these cards.

     

    Categories: 
    • Research Groups
    • Agency
    • Identity
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Current Projects
    • VMW
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    Sisterhood

    Sisters Mary and Agnes Berry, daughters of Robery Berry, born in Britain only 14 months apart, naturally had an insepreable bond. Their mother passed away when they were quite young in childbirth, and so did what would have been their third sister. Their fathers story is tragic, in that 18th century kind of way, his Uncle left all his money and estate to Robert's younger brother, William, because Robert had failed to create a male heir (of course)! Mary did not forget this, she wrote, "For many years afterwards," she could not of the will, "without my blood boiling in my veins, and lamenting that I had not been present to support and reply for my father," (Journals and Correspondance of Miss Berry). Although Mary did not need to stay for long in Britain lamenting this disrespect because in 1783 she convinced her father to give up thier house in London and travel abroad, fullfilling Mary's lifelong dream of fleeing British society. In Naples she was invited to the court of Caroline, daughter of the Austrian Empress Maria Thersea and Emperor Joseph II, in Rome she was presented to the Pope, and on following trips she conversed with famous mathmetician Pierre Simon Laplace and personally met Napoleon Bonaparte. The sisters travelled to "the Continent" together nine times in their life before their death only months apart.

    Today, I must choose what I would like to research with the VMW this semester, to help build a web of knowledge about the Grand Tour. My choice is simple-- women who travelled-- exploring thier world and educating themselves. Miss Berry never married but instead dedicated herself to being a role model for her sister and guide to her father (and not the other way around). She is an impressive women, whose adventures in Europe deserve a chance to be documented and logged into the world of Itinera! It is my little way of supporting sisterhood. 

    Categories: 
    • Agency
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Current Projects
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
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    Mobilities

    This is the current theme of Wesleyan's Humanities Center.  To add to all the many "turns" we have heard about, there is now a "mobility turn":

    MOBILITIES

    Over the past decade, a new approach to the study of mobilities has emerged involving research on the combined movement of peoples, animals, objects, ideas, and information. This can be viewed through the lens of complex networks, relational dynamics, and the redistribution or reification of power generated by movement.  But despite the emphasis on movement, this “mobility turn” must be viewed in the light of the relationships between mobilities and associated immobilities:  borders as well as border crossings, isolation as well as connectivity, disability as well as ability. It thus encompasses both the embodied practice of movement and the representations, ideologies, and meanings attached to the mobile and immobile.... (click here for the full description)

    Of course we've already made the turn with our constellation mobility/exchange and Itinera in particular.  But I wanted to add a couple of notes to this topic that I have been thinking about a lot lately.  

    One is that art history overwhelmingly privileges sedentary societies and non-mobile populations.  "Art" and "architecture" do tend to serve the needs of sedentary states and institutions. The distinction between center and periphery only makes sense in a world that assumes the sedentary as the norm.  Our own Kathy Linduff, who works on exchange between mobile and sedentary societies in ancient China, is one of the very few who does not think in this "sendetarinormative" way. (I believe I have just coined a new jargon term.)  

    The other idea I have been revolving is the notion that in the sedentary world of territorial states and civilizations, art is used often to defeat mobility, or dishonor it, or deny it.  My cemetery project is making me think about how the nation-state fixes dead soldiers in place, as a response to their tragic dislocations in life.  Out of the terrible flux of their wartime experiences, the national cemetery creates a monumental arrangement of graves and names that is supposed to be static, unchanging, and hence honorific.

    Categories: 
    • Research Groups
    • Agency
    • Identity
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Current Projects
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    ULS now subscribes to ARTMargins journal!

    ULS has recently subscribed to the peer-reviewed journal ARTMargins, published by MIT Press. According to its website, "ARTMargins publishes scholarly articles and essays about contemporary art, politics, media, architecture, and critical theory. ARTMargins studies art practices and visual culture in the emerging global margins, from North Africa and the Middle East to the Americas, Eastern and Western Europe, Asia and Australasia. The journal seeks a forum for scholars, theoreticians, and critics from a variety of disciplines who are interested in postmodernism and post-colonialism, and their critiques; art and politics in transitional countries and regions; post-socialism and neo-liberalism; and the problem of global art and global art history and its methodologies."

    Here is the URL (log in through PittCat to access off campus): http://www.mitpressjournals.org.pitt.idm.oclc.org/loi/artm

    Thanks to Kate Joranson for making this subscription possible!

    Categories: 
    • Agency
    • Temporalities
    • Identity
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
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    Itinera News!

    In the coming weeks, I will be producing a new set of standardized instructions for entering data into Itinera, as well as updating the older data to comply with these new insructions.  Key changes include the way we will handle agents, tours, and tour stops going forward.  Work on Itinera has discovered that the boundary of a "tour" is actually quite fluid, and the fact that a particular agent is stationary on one tour does not mean that he or she will not travel in a later tour entered by a future Itinera researcher.  Therefore each agent entered into Itinera will receive a tour and every life event a tour stop.  This opens opportunities for future development, including the development of a module in which the research is able to enter in informtation for moving objects as well as people.  As more users add their research to Itinera, new researchers can build on the research of their predecessors by expanding and developing existing agents.  

    There is also interest in using Itinera to research the broader spectrum of travel.  Presently, Itinera deals with European travelers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  My work on Alexander von Humboldt amd Aimé Bonpland extends Itiera into South America and Russia.  Drew Armmstrong is interested in extending Intinera into the 20th century with the travels of Le Corbusier.  The hope is that, with clear input standards, more and more researchers will find Itinera to be a useful tool.  As our network becomes denser and more complex, more inter-related opportunities will emerge.

    Categories: 
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Itinera
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    New forum to discuss constellations event 2016

    For those of you who weren't at the Agency meeting on Sept 28, we decided that we would take up the challenge offered by Barbara to help create a "signature" event for the Constellations to be held in Spring 2016.  The basic goal of the event is to bring national/international attention to our constellations model here and to forge possible collaborations with scholars and others outside our university.  We are clear that we don't want to do the standard keynote + conference panels, and that instead we want to put into practice what we are preaching here -- new models of collaboration and research practice, pedagogical innovation, and public engagement.  Barbara's initial idea was to build on the question posed by Gretchen, WHAAM (why history of art and architecture matters).  Some good discussion of this idea pro and con took place at the meeting.  If I can offer my takeaway from that discussion, it was this: while we do need to make our work matter to people outside our subfield, discipline, and instittution, we also need to give those external constituencies some good reason to join us.  

    I have set up a forum to brainstorm and discuss this event.  Go to forums in the navigation bar up above and you will find it listed.  Only constellations registrants can see the forum for now. 

    Categories: 
    • Research Groups
    • Agency
    • Temporalities
    • Environment
    • Identity
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Current Projects
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    Alexander von Humboldt's and Aimé Bonpland's South American Voyage

    Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland expressed the intent of their voyage was to discover how the "forces of nature intersect upon one another and how the geographic environment influences plant and animal life."  They hoped to  "find out about the unity of nature."  The voyages and their "discoveries" did not necessarily uncover new knowledge, but rather interpreted the knowledge of the South American continent and made it legible to a European audience.  This becomes clear after closer anayslis of the networks of Humboldt's and Bonpland's South American travel companions, some named and some unnamed.  Humboldt and Bonpland, ensconced in the global legibility of nature, attempted to make the world visible and readable to an audience of both European specialists and armchair explorers.  Thus the product of the voyage was a series of presentations and 22 publications between 1805 and 1834.  Humboldt's publications can be divided into 5 subject catagories, survey measurements. botany, plant geography, zoology, and travel.  Most of the publications were published in French and some in German, and many immediately translated into English. Each topic reframed the inofmraiton for either a specific specialsit or general audience.

    The challenge of putting Humboldt and Bonpland into Itinera is limits.  The voyage proper begins and ends in Paris, but Humboldt also travels to and from Berlin before and after the voyage.  These European trips add a level of complexity to Humboldt's network.  The first stage of the project will consider the major stages of the trip between departure and arrival in Paris, but a later stage of hte project could consider the Berlin and Italian voyages of Humboldt and his companions.  Antoher roadblock is the extensive nature of Humboldt's social network, which was vast.  Selections will have to be determined on the basis of what networks are most useful to the project.

    Categories: 
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Itinera
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    Painting the Grand Tour

    This painting, attributed to William Theed, represents a Grand Tour that I would readily embark on, replete with breathtaking panoramas and adorable spaniels. Is it overly idyllic? Perhaps! However, it offers a brief snapshot of the type of exploration documented in Itinera and this makes it all the more exquisite. 

    According to the account: 

    Rome Seen on a Grand Tour, attributed to John Frearson (c. 1792-1831), who set out for Italy with the painter William Theed in 1790 but travelled from Florence to Rome alone later that year when Theed was recalled to England. Frearson stayed mostly in Rome, but also visited Naples and Venice before returning to England in 1766. This picture captures the fascination with the light of the South seen in many paintings, as well as the closeness between city and countryside.

    -Italy and the Grand Tour, Jeremy Black, Yale University Press: 2003 page 48

     

    Categories: 
    • Itinera
    • Mobility/Exchange

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