Friday, August 21, 2009

Rust Belt Tour '09: Traces of Industrial History in America: First Generation and Second Generation Rust Belt

The first, nineteenth-century industrial revolution began with mill-building along the rivers of New England in the eighteenth century. It grew to encompass a wide network of canals and rivers. The decline of early industrial towns today leaves few traces of decline, relative to the second industrial revolution.

The second industrial revolution, a revolution in scale, was predicated upon the vertical and horizontal integration of steel, rail, and labor across segments of the economy. Its foundations laid in the financial revolutions of the 1870s, the second industrial revolution transformed America, reaching its apex with the growth of the military-industrial complex after World War II. By the 1970s and 80s, however, its decline wrote ruin upon the industrial towns of the Midwest at a scale unprecedented in the history of America.

This conversation, recorded on the road in Western Massachusetts, offers an on-the-fly description of salient differences between the kinds of towns that America built during the first and second industrial revolution.

In Rust Belt Tour '09, scholar Jo Guldi and activist Simon Strikeback traveled the landscape between Flint, Michigan and Holyoke, Massachusetts, documenting the foreclosures, arsons, vacant lots, anarchist squats, community gardens, and revitalization projects across eleven cities.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rick Prelinger on the lost landscapes of San Francisco

Footage collector Rick Prelinger takes us on a tour of the forces that built the vernacular sinews of twentieth-century experience in San Francisco: ethnic migration, infrastructure on the an enormous scale, mass transport, and consumer videography.

His presentation draws attention to how vulnerable are the landscapes, experiences, and even memory of those landscapes not linked directly to the needs of the state.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Robert Todd: Thunder

Robert Todd feels things through landscape. In the first film of his I saw, fields bristled in sunlight, the hirsute stems of Queen Anne's lace lit by the rising sun. Like the psychoanalyst Gaston Bachelard, Todd thinks that all materiality contains a metaphysics of unseen relations.

"Life shivers as the ground beneath and sky above tremble," he writes.

More of his films are available for viewing here:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Max Cafard: The Surre(gion)alist Manifesto

Max Cafard's Surre(gion)alist Manifest first appeared in Exquisite Corpse in 1990 and was afterwards republished with a preface by New Orleans poet Andrei Codrescu. Arguing for the eminence of the local as a point of view, the manifesto urged readers to consider their own perspective, political and culture, as the outcome of their existence at a certain place and time. It argued that only in radical utopian moments such as May 1968 do individuals become able to envision life beyond the bounds of their own history.

The Surre(gion)alist Manifesto excavates radical European and Chinese philosophy for a new political philosophy appropriate to twenty-first century America. It looks back to the radical individual Taoism of Lao Tse, the utopian experiments of nineteenth-century Europe, the anarchist/individualist critique of Dada, and the radical Situationist Internationale of 1960s Paris, searching for a utopian logic that respects the radical difference of place and individual will. The intellectual roots here are serious: the analysis of psychogeography pioneered by Bachelard, Dubord, and De Certeau, combined with the Henri Lefebvre's critique of capitalism. Cafard reduces, engineering a new dialectic of liberation, a landscapey recipe, the navigation between the "utopian nowhere of meaning and the topian density of earth."

In the Manifesto, attention to local landscape offers a movement towards political and economic liberation. Cafard urges, Strive to reject the people who would manage you from another place far away, whether they are capitalists or teachers. Try not to be like them: try to live instead in the landscape of your journey, taking lessons from the cities and seasons where you find yourself.

This injunction to inhabit the local first, as a beginning of a radical politics, is explained more fully in another fine essay, "Deep Play in the City." Here Cafard applies radical psychogeography as an instruction set for looking at urban landscapes. Landscapeyness becomes the beginning of radical political freedom.

The video version of the Manifesto is here presented by Cafard's student Andrew Goodrich. If you'd prefer the text version, you can find it here.