Reviewed by Amy Ione, August 2020
Leonardo Reviews, https://www.leonardo.info/review/2020/08/from-melies-to-new-media-spectral-projections
From Méliès to New Media: Spectral Projections is an exploration of the presence and importance of film history in contemporary digital culture. Using a media archaeology approach, the author, Wendy Haslem, aims to demonstrate that innovative new media forms are not only indebted to, but firmly embedded within the traditions and conventions of early film culture. Throughout the book Haslem presents an array of projects that deftly move through topics, like indexicality, semiotics, memory, and digital restoration to light, materiality/immateriality, creative experimentation, time and obsolescence. While the overall goal is to introduce a new language of cinema and an alternative approach to historiography, the net result is a good start but falls short. The study is strongest and most original when presenting contemporary projects and examples of spectacle. Haslem tells us:
“Many of the films that I explore in this book favour spectacle over realism, some prioritize non-linear, experimental narration over linear, classical narrative form. Many of the older (and some of the newer) films exhibit surfaces etched with markers of time, and as such, they provide a rich surface aesthetic to encounter and explore. My approach to writing on film has always been to try to explore the surface of the film itself. That means prioritizing the aesthetic, looking for moments where details of the spectacle reveal history. My tendency is to zoom into surface details, focusing on the traces of celluloid that remain present within a digital ecology. Material detail, surface, aesthetic and mise-en-scéne drive my film analysis. This is also an approach that prioritizes the senses. (p. 28)
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Leonardo Reviews is pleased to announce this month’s reviews posting.
Soundtracking Germany: Popular Music and National Identity
by Melanie Schiller
Reviewed by Beate Peter
Planet of the Humans
by Jeff Gibbs, Director; Michael Moore, Executive Producer
Reviewed by George Gessert
IOBA Virtual Rare Book Fair
May 15–17, 2020
Virtual doors open 1:00pm EST
The Independent Online Booksellers Association (IOBA) is proud to announce its first virtual international rare and antiquarian book fair, to be held Friday, May 15 to Sunday, May 17, 2020 at www.iobabookfair.com.
The virtual book fair will enable attendees to browse hundreds, if not thousands, of books and items of ephemera from the safety of their homes. Over four dozen exhibiting booksellers will be available for questions at their “booths” so customers may shop at their leisure during the 3-day fair.
When asked what attendees can expect from the book fair, Doug Nelson, President of IOBA, responded, “We took the best elements from physical book fairs – fresh material, exhibitors from around the globe, and the ability for attendees to easily interact with the exhibitors – and put it online. We anticipate this fair will be a success for our members and the book-buying public, and it will hopefully be the first of many.”
The Independent Online Booksellers Association is a trade organization representing more than 300 online rare and antiquarian booksellers worldwide. IOBA has promoted professionalism, ethics, and trust in online bookselling since 1999. To learn more about IOBA, its members, or to join, visit www.ioba.org.
Reviewed by Amy Ione
As I began Phillip Thurtle’s well-researched Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life, I wondered how his “envisioning of life” would intersect with the abundant evidence that a complex array of grids have served as a foundational element in art, architecture, and design production throughout history. A few examples that quickly come to mind include those used to construct perfectly proportioned Egyptian and Aztec temples, Islamic and Buddhist art, Chuck Close’s stylized portraits, and the layout of medieval illuminated manuscripts. Rosalind Krauss’ 1978 statement that the surfacing of the grid in early twentieth century modernist art was an announcement of “modern art’s will to silence, its hostility to literature, to narrative, to discourse”  is also a part of the grid litany, although one that gives a negative cast to how we use grids to engage with objects in our world.
As it turns out, Biology in the Grid moves along a markedly different track. Despite his integration of graphic design, the entertainment industry, advertising, and cultural theory, the book is largely orthogonal to the long art and design trajectory. Thurtle sees grids as a framework within a biopolitical circumstance and makes the point that “living in the grid’ does not equalize us because all lives are not treated similarly despite the seeming uniformity of the form. In his words: Continue reading “Book Review: Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life by Phillip Thurtle”
According to Roberto Simanowski, the author of Facebook Society: Losing Ourselves in Sharing Ourselves, this volume isn’t a book about Facebook. Rather his concern is what he calls Facebook society. His starting point is Facebook’s claim that it is building a “global community,” and his underlying assumption is that social-media platforms have altered social interaction, political life, and outlooks on the world, even for people who do not regularly use them. Bringing boundless enthusiasm to how Facebook and other social apps create community, this cultural studies perspective both celebrates networked society and offers a critique of problematic elements derived from digital communities, with a particular focus on our concept of the self.
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Leonardo Reviews is pleased to announce this month’s reviews posting.
Continue reading “Leonardo Reviews: May 2019 Postings”
Reviewed by Amy Ione, March 2019
Published: Leonardo Reviews
A Different Kind of Animal is based on two lectures Robert Boyd delivered in 2016 at Princeton University as a part of the Tanner Lectures on Human Values series. In these lectures Boyd introduces his theory that biology and culture are both evolutionary, a topic he’s been working on with Peter Richerson for three decades. Needless to say, this is a broad topic, a point brought home by the four Responses to the lectures also included in the volume. All four commentators endorse the contours of Boyd’s theory and their critiques also raise valid questions: Is Boyd too reductive? Does Boyd’s view of social learning and cooperation rely too much on copying others? Does he adequately define the ways that norms arise and change? Is he ignoring how individuals manipulate norms?
At the beginning of the book Boyd points out that his lectures are about human uniqueness and cumulative cultural adaptation, not the inventive capacities of individuals. He writes:
“We are much better at learning from others than other species are, and equally important, we are motivated to learn from others even when we do not understand why our models are doing what they are doing. This psychology allows human populations to accumulate pools of adaptive information that greatly exceed the inventive capacities of individuals. Cumulative cultural evolution is critical for human adaptation.” (p. 16)
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In my 2007 Leonardo review of Rosalind Krauss’ book Perpetual Inventory I characterized her essay on William Kentridge as the most compelling in the book . Krauss introduced him as a South African artist whose animated films pursue the problems of apartheid and spoke about how he creatively mixed film, drawing, and erasure with highly charged ideas. She also spoke about how his peripatetic approach, improvisational process (fortuna), and his use of erasure spoke of a creative practice that combines drawing and seeing with making and assessing. Krauss concluded that regardless of whether Kentridge’s drawings for projection come together in a series that examines apartheid, capitalist greed, eros, memory, or whatever, his process is not based primarily on the theme of the series. Rather, in her view, and I share her view to some degree, the works result through the dictates of his creative process. William Kentridge: Process as Metaphor and Other Doubtful Enterprises by Leora Maltz-Leca sees his philosophical relationship to the work as more important than his creative practice per se. Therefore, one intriguing question on my mind as I wrote this review is why Maltz-Leca, and indeed Kentridge himself as relayed in this book through a number of interviews, did not change my mind.
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