Volume 44 (Winter 2011)
Issue 2

Article Abstracts

Abstract: Alison Isenberg, ""Culture-a-Go-Go": The Ghirardelli Square Sculpture Controversy and the Liberation of Civic Design in the 1960s "

Abstract: In the early 1960s, historic Ghirardelli Square was crafted from old factory buildings by leading modernist architects, landscape architects, and innumerable allied artists, and to great acclaim emerged from the transformative crosscurrents of the Bay Area in that decade. In 1968 a public controversy over a new sculpture in Ghirardelli stirred latent attitudes towards the Square as a civic place and as an artifact of urban design. Landscape architect Lawrence Halprin's demand for the removal of Ruth Asawa's mermaid sculpture galvanized debate over men's domination of the symbols and design of urban public space. While it began as a formulaic battle over the appropriateness of abstract or representational art, the controversy revealed that a different modernism was at stake, namely the boundaries of feminism, and the presence of women and female sexuality in public places. In the local context, the mermaids offered either a wholesome, maternal alternative to the neighboring topless club scene, or confirmed fears of an encroaching, corrupting public sexuality. Focusing on the Square and sculpture controversy, this essay explores how such civic-commercial sites brokered as well as distilled urban transformation. The generational revolutions in San Francisco and the national experimentations with urban redevelopment were woven together. These two stories of arts and place-the local and the national-intertwined as San Francisco's rebuilding crossed boundaries and redrew distinctions between historical and modern, preservation and renewal, men's and women's realms, art and urban design, benign form and radical content, and civic and commercial space.

Abstract: Benjamin Looker, "Microcosms of Democracy: Imagining the City Neighborhood in World War II-Era America"

Abstract: This essay sketches the rise of a Popular Front-inflected vision of the U.S. city neighborhood's meaning and worth, a communitarian ideal that reached its zenith during World War II before receding in the face of cold-war anxieties, postwar suburbanization, and trepidation over creeping blight. During the war years, numerous progressives interpreted the ethnic-accented urban neighborhood as place where national values became most concrete, casting it as a uniquely American rebuff to the fascist drive for purity. Elaborations appeared in the popular press's celebratory cadences, in writings by educators and social scientists such as Rachel DuBois and Louis Wirth, and in novels, plays, and musicals by Sholem Asch, Louis Hazam, Kurt Weill, Langston Hughes, and others. Each offered new ways for making sense of urban space, yet their works reveal contradictions and uncertainties, particularly in an inability to meld competing impulses toward assimilation and particularism. Building on the volume's theme "The Arts in Place," this essay examines these texts as a collective form of imaginative "placemaking." It explores the conflicted mode of liberal nationalism that took the polyglot city neighborhood as emblem. And it outlines the fissures embedded in that vision, which emerged more fully as the provisional wartime consensus dissolved.

Abstract: Fabiana Serviddio, "Exhibiting Identity: Latin America Between the Imaginary and the Real "

Abstract: The place where art is exhibited affects the perception of an artwork as it implicitly speaks about who selects and supports the display. The introduction of Latin American art in the United States is bound to the political aims pursued by the organizations that carried on this project: the Office of the Coordinator of Inter American Affairs (OCIAA), in the 1940s; the Organization of American States (OAS), during the Cold War; and, especially, the Center for Inter-American Relations (CIAR), in the 1970s. Because art was being used as a political vehicle to improve relations between culturally detached regions, these initiatives favored artworks that more easily entered into an already fixed and pre-established identity pattern. The selected artworks promoted a stereotyped image of Latin America as a place untouched by modernity, or a magical site linked to the pre-Columbian past. By the 1970s, however, artworks exhibited the complexity and impossibility of identity fixations and definitions about what was Latin America. Interested in dealing with the convulsive reality of the region, artists made full use of international languages, and doing so they exposed all the institutional initiatives that had manipulated the place of art and its representations for political purposes.

Abstract: Glenn Reynolds, ""Africa Joins the World": The Missionary Imagination and the Africa Motion Picture Project in Central Africa, 1937-9 "

Abstract: This paper explores the films and filmmaking process of the Africa Motion Picture Project (AMPP) in Central Africa, 1937-39. Involving a missionary film experiment designed to portray Africa 'as it really is' to American church-goers for fund-raising and recruitment purposes, recently discovered diaries and scrapbooks of the film crew offer a counter-narrative to the early twentieth century stereotypes of Africa guiding the AMPP narratives. Focusing on production issues in the field as well as the final product allows us to resurrect a measure of agency on the part of the colonized, including on-going cultural negotiations, forms of micro-resistance, and demands for remuneration on the part of Africans acting in the films.

Abstract: Gregory Shaya, "How to Make an Anarchist-Terrorist: An Essay on the Political Imaginary in Fin-de-Siècle France "

Abstract: This essay centers on the debate that surrounded the anarchist-terrorists of France in the 1890s. As a wave of bombings washed over Paris, commentators argued over the source of terrorism. With an eye toward a handful of notorious French anarchists—Ravachol, Auguste Vaillant, Emile Henry—they asked: How do you make an anarchist-terrorist? The debate that followed offers a window on the political imaginary of the French Third Republic in the years before the Dreyfus Affair. At times, the response to the anarchist bombings took the shape of a proxy war over the issues that moved French politics in the 1890s. But it was more than just this. For all of its variety, the debate centered on the problem of intellectual responsibility and gave form to the specter of the dangerous, rootless intellectual. There is a larger lesson in this tale, for the debate over the anarchist-terrorists of fin-de-siècle France makes for a revealing case study in the ways in which democratic societies respond to the threat of homegrown terrorism. It demonstrates the difficult challenge that terrorism poses to democratic societies and shows just how easily political-cultural interests can hijack discussions of terrorism.

Abstract: Julia L. Foulkes, "Streets and Stages: Urban Renewal and the Arts After World War II "

Abstract: Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan and the revitalization of the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Brooklyn offer insights into the intersection of arts and urbanization after World War II. This intra-city comparison shows the aggrandizing pull of the international arena in the shaping of Lincoln Center and the arts it featured in contrast to the local focus and debate that transformed how BAM fit into its Brooklyn neighborhood. The performing arts, bound as they are to a moment fused in space and time, reveal the making of place within grandiose formal buildings as well as outside on the streets that surround them—and it is, perhaps, that tensile connection between stages and streets that informs the relevancy of both the institution and the arts it features. At a time when the suburbs pulled more and more people, the arts provided a counterforce in cities, as magnet and stimulus. The arts were used as compensation for the demolition and re-building of a neighborhood in urban renewal, but they also exposed the more complex social dynamics that underpinned the transformation of the mid-20th century American city from a segregated to a multi-faceted place.

Abstract: Julie Nicoletta, "Art Out of Place: International Art Exhibits at the New York World's Fair of 1964-1965 "

Abstract: Set against the backdrop of the cold war, the New York World's Fair of 1964-1965 emphasized capitalism and commercialization while it downplayed art as an element that should be elevated above other exhibits. This emphasis placed art in settings that seemed populist, even vulgar to some critics, in order to attract as many visitors as possible. Adding to this perception that the fair lacked high culture, officials did not sponsor any exhibits showcasing art despite the fact that most earlier fairs had at least one pavilion dedicated to art. The two most distinctive features of the 1964-1965 fair—no separate fine arts pavilion and being the first to feature a number of newly independent nations emerging from colonialism—provide an opportunity to examine the place of the arts in this new global commercial context. This article examines art displays found in selected official international pavilions to show that fair organizers sought out great works of art not simply to create a culturally edifying fair, but to use art as spectacle to enhance the commercial aspects of the event. The fair served as a venue where both exhibitors and fair officials used art, high and low, to serve multiple ends, among them economic development, religious proselytizing, and cultural prestige.

Abstract: Mark Tebeau, "Sculpted Landscapes: Art & Place in Cleveland's Cultural Gardens, 1916-2006 "

Abstract: Perhaps the world's first peace garden, the Cleveland Cultural Gardens embody the history of twentieth-century America and reveal the complex interrelations between art and place. This essay uses the Cleveland Cultural Gardens as a lens through which to explore how art and place have intersected over time. It explores how communities have negotiated questions of national, ethnic, and American identity and embedded those identities into the vernacular landscape. It considers how the particulars of place were embedded into a public garden and asks whether it is possible for public art to transcend its place—both in terms of geography and history. In some sense, the Gardens have transcended their place, but in others respects, their fortunes were bound inextricably to that place, to the economic, demographic, and cultural contours that shaped and reshaped Northern Ohio. As works of art, the Cleveland Cultural Gardens both have reflected the history of Cleveland and American industrial cities during the 20th century and revealed something of the dynamics that underscored the changing character of public art and gardens in American cities.

Abstract: Sarah Schrank, "Public Art at the Global Crossroads: The Politics of Place in 1930s Los Angeles "

Abstract: The relationship of art to place is pronounced in Los Angeles, a world center for the production and projection of visual culture. The historical pursuit of a unifying civic identity grounded in both the arts and assumptions of white Anglo homogeneity led to a fraught public art history as excluded cultural groups fought for a vital stake in Los Angeles's self-representation. As an era when civic resources were challenged and the Federal Arts Project infused new life into public culture, the decade of the 1930s provides an especially ripe opportunity to examine the clash between a conservative, booster vision of Los Angeles and the city as imagined by foreign, ethnic and immigrant artists. This article focuses on artworks by David Siqueiros, Myer Shaffer, and Sabato Rodia and argues that in trying to project a specific (and narrow) image of Los Angeles globally, civic elites ultimately provoked these artists into fundamentally reinterpreting the local. Localized art meant something valuable and they resisted a flawed and false separation of art from place. In laying bare the significance of local places and local histories, these artists produced, in effect, poignant monuments to radical visions of social equality, economic justice, and cultural diversity.

Abstract: Sun Joo Kim, "Culture of Remembrance in Late Chosŏn Korea: Bringing an Unknown War Hero Back into History "

Abstract: Numerous scholarly works have been produced on "memory projects" as the culture and politics of nation-states in the modern world. Yet remaking of the past is not the monopoly of modernity. This paper investigates the problem of engineering memory in Chosŏn Korea (1392-1910) through the case of Kim Kyŏngsŏ, a commanding general during the Ming-Chosŏn joint war against the rising Jurchen in 1619. I examine competing memories constructed by various social political groups and the historical and cultural contexts in which such construction took place. In particular, I analyze the processes of inventing, commemorating, and enshrining "public memory" as a way for a disadvantaged social group of local elites from Chosŏn's northwestern region to overcome social and political discrimination against them.

Abstract: Yvette Florio Lane, ""No Fertile Soil for Pathogens": Rayon, Advertising, and Biopolitics in Late Weimar Germany "

Abstract: Recent research on twentieth-century German history has begun to re-examine the centrality of race as a category of analysis. While not discounting its importance in the shaping and enacting of Nazi policies and practices, race is seen instead as one among many factors leading to the crimes of the Nazi regime. In this paper, the author considers the role consumerist desires and fantasies played in the wider context of the inter-war European fascination with notions of technology, "hygiene," democracy, and modernity. Using advertisements that were created to promote manufactured-fiber (rayon) apparel, this article suggests that continuities across cultures and time periods necessitate a re-evaluation of race as the signal organizing principal. Instead, the author argues that by complicating the intersections between class, science and technology, and an emerging, but troubling, modernity, 1920s rayon advertising offers an especially rich site for analysis of the ways in which biopolitics and nascent consumerism both sold products and constructed ideologies before 1933, and influenced the post-war welfare state.