Collection:
Author(s) Deborah Levitt

Media Sensations

Today, our most popular blockbusters are 3D effects extravaganzas, hyper-kinetic action/adventure flicks, horror films, and gross out comedies. Pornography is a mainstream phenomenon, and products are increasingly marketed as lifestyle experiences. This course interrogates how these powerful interfaces between bodily sensation and images work through surveying the domain of media theory focused on perception, sensation, and feeling. Students read works by both contemporary thinkers of affect and historical precursors, and screen films that function as case studies and as theoretical interventions. Course requirements include screening films on one one’s own, in-class presentations, student blog posts, and a major final essay. Readings are often challenging. Requirements: at least two introductory courses, at least one “toolkit” methods course, and at least two 3000-level courses. One introductory course should be in the relevant Tracks M & S.

About the Creators

Deborah Levitt is Assistant Professor of Culture and Media Studies at The New School. She is the author of The Animatic Apparatus: Animation, Vitality, and the Futures of the Image (Zero Books, 2018), as well as articles on biopolitics, anime, digital cinema, and virtual reality (VR). She is also co-editor of Acting and Performance in Moving Image Culture: Bodies, Screens, and Renderings (Transcript Verlag, 2012). Her current research interrogates how perceptual infrastructures in post-cinema and VR create new configurations of experience.

What does thinking mean in the age of Artificial Intelligence? How is big-scale computation transforming the way our brains function? This collection discusses these pressing questions by looking beyond instrumental rationality. Exploring recent developments as well as examples from the history of cybernetics, the book uncovers the positive role played by errors and traumas in the construction of our contemporary technological minds.

Smell Dating is a mail odor dating service where participants match based on smell. Smell is one of the most poignant and evocative experiences afforded by the human sensory apparatus. Also known as olfaction, it is our physical capacity for detecting and perceiving the molecules around us. It is mediated by specialized sensory cells of the nasal cavity, which can be considered analogous to sensory cells of the antennae of invertebrates. In humans, olfaction occurs when odorant molecules bind to specific sites in the olfactory receptors inside the nose. These come together at the glomerulus, a structure which transmits signals to the olfactory bulb, a part of the brain directly above the nasal cavity and below the frontal lobe. From here, the signals are fed into the limbic system, where emotion and memory are processed, before finally passing into the language-processing frontal cortex. This particular neural pathway means that, unlike sight and sound, smell is interpreted first in terms of memory and emotion before being mapped to language. Although much remains unknown about smell perception, this cognitive process may be the reason that smell is so hard to describe in words, and often thought to be subjective. As researchers Nadia Wagner and Adam Jasper observe, the difficulty with communicating smell is not due to the subjectivity of perception but in describing it in language. This is evident in the English language, which has no specific vocabulary to describe smell and approximates olfactory experience using adjectives borrowed from the other senses.

This conversation with Rahel Aima and Ahmad Makia is the first of two (the second one is with Dena Qaddumi) recorded live in the event organized by Columbia University Studio-X in Amman, directed by Funambulist friend Nora Akawi. The first audio file above is the presentation of Archipelago in general and of the Levant series in particular as it originally preceded the conversation with Rahel and Ahmad. We begin the latter with the introduction of their online/printed platform, The State, and its subtle articulation between the politics of space and the politics of body. This discussion mostly focuses on the third issue of The State, entitled The Social Olfactory, as well as its peripheral articles online. We question both the undervalue of smell when it comes to body politics, as well as the monopoly of our imaginary linked to smell by Western references. The second part of the conversation focuses on the militarization/surveillance of smell, as well as its potential forms of subversion.

The way we conceive the human today is particularly affected by the shifts in media technology during the 20th century. Affect emerges as the new liminal concept that renders the body compatible in novel ways with the technology and politics of media. By ways of a relational reorganization the organic end technological life is condensed in a new, intense way to an ecology of affects.

This call for submissions was drafted the day after the 2016 U.S. election, partially as a response to the concept of “post-truth”: ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. While facts obviously still matter, the larger issue is that persuasion and creative communication is important. In some ways, progressive dialogue has stagnated in its own Facebook filter bubble and needs to refocus with its roots in direct action.

Musk is a fluid that is akin to the human body. Originally obtained from a gland of the musk deer, it was already in use in Ancient Persia. If dosed correctly, the odor it yields is perceived as enticing. An overdose, however, smells repellent. The neuronal reactions to which musk gives rise are similar in human beings and animals. But musk is also a stabilizer for other scents applied to the human skin. Numerous products take advantage of this quality. Due to its expensiveness and in response to animal-rights concerns, the most common form of musk in the cosmetic and detergents industry is synthetically produced. Synthetic musk, though, is only partly biodegradable and its residues have been found in sewage, plants, animals, and human beings. Synthetic substances lead to enduring transformations of the organic that are often beyond human control. This is a poignant reminder of just how untenable the ideological separation of culture and nature is.

Linda Williams teaches courses on popular moving-image genres (pornography, melodrama, and “body genres” of all sorts). She has recently taught courses on Oscar Micheaux and Spike Lee, Luis Buñuel, eastern and western melodrama, film theory, and selected “sex genres.” Her books include a psychoanalytic study of Surrealist cinema, Figures of Desire(1981), a co-edited volume of feminist film criticism (Re-vision, 1984), an edited volume on film spectatorship, Viewing Positions (1993), the co-edited Reinventing Film Studies (with Christine Gledhill, 2000). She has also edited a collection of essays on pornography, Porn Studies, featuring work by many U.C. Berkeley graduate students (Duke, 2004). In 1989 Williams published a study of pornographic film entitled Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the Frenzy of the Visible (second edition 1999). More recently she published Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White, from Uncle Tom to O.J. Simpson (2001, Princeton).

What is the language of scent? Master perfumer Christophe Laudamiel and artist Sean Raspet chat with Anicka about our limited olfactive vocabulary and how to expand it.

Photomediations: A Reader offers a radically different way of understanding photography. The concept of photomediations that unites the twenty scholarly and curatorial essays collected here cuts across the traditional classification of photography as suspended between art and social practice in order to capture the dynamism of the photographic medium today. It also explores photography’s kinship with other media – and with us, humans, as media.

Discussing the discussion of gender, transitioning, transgenderism, transhumanism, and trying to find structures in a liquid world… Also ants. /// Caroline Busta, Anke Dyes, Daniel Keller, LIL INTERNET, Steven Warwick, and Ziúr.

Part aggregator, part independent journal, NEW MODELS brings together a human-directed selection of information and opinion — including scholarly research, mass media, social media, imageboard threads — from across the culture sector’s increasingly algorithmically-determined and generationally/socially segregated channels. Anchoring NEW MODELS is its propriety content — texts, visual essays, podcasts, videos, and more. For its first podcast, just before May 1, Julian Wadsworth sat down with Caroline Busta, Daniel Keller, and Masha Tian to discuss New Models and the current media ecology — from e-flux to cyber-hitler, Alec Monopoly to MMORPGs.

The MEDIUM issue was produced with Tate Liverpool’s fall 2014 season Making Things Public, where The Serving Library‘s collection of artifacts (http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-liverpool/display/serving-library) was installed with two related exhibitions: Transmitting Andy Warhol and Gretchen Bender.

In addition to our usual PDF and print formats, Bulletins are also available this time as VIDEO, funneled through the form of a speaking asterisk. The asterisk’s Scottish accent is provided by Isla Leaver Yap, assembled into software by Cereproc, Ltd., and coordinated by James Langdon. (You can read more about this at https://sinkhole-audio.net/your-host/.) VIDEOS are linked from each PDF download page, for example, http://www.servinglibrary.org/read.html?id=181250&watch=1.

Bulletins arrive from Larissa Harris, Ian Svenonius, Emily Gephart, Paul Elliman, Michael Bracewell, Eli Diner, Joe Scanlan, Lucy Mulroney, and Ben Davis. As always, #8 is edited by Angie Keefer, David Reinfurt, and Stuart Bailey.

Center for Experimental Lectures (March 15th and 16th, 2013)

Jalal Toufic is a thinker whose influence in the Beirut artistic community over the past two decades has been immense—notwithstanding that, as he put it, many, if not all of his books, most of which were published by Forthcoming Books, “continue to be forthcoming even after their publication.” In relation to one of these books, he wondered: “Does not a book titled Forthcoming suggest, ostensibly paradoxically, a second edition?” Here’s the revised edition of Forthcoming, a book first published nearly a decade and a half ago by Atelos press.

In Christine Sun Kim’s video Close Readings, she compiled a selection of film clips and invited deaf friends to provide captions providing possible additions to the films, resulting in a flipping of the typical power dynamic between filmic experience and deaf audiences, where the meaning of the film is dependent on how it is captioned. Here, the hearing viewer is subjected to the captioning of the deaf viewers. Sun Kim has provided us with 11 stills from this video, and a rekindling of our fondest memories of the CEL’s 2013 collaboration with her, “Seeing Voice: The Seven Tone Color Spectrum” at Recess in Soho, which invited 7 presenters, including Sun Kim, to make presentations exploring the relation between color and sound inspired by Isaac Newton’s alignment of the color wheel and the octave. This entire event could be described as having been “silent”, by which we mean that our hearing and deaf audiences both experienced it without interpretation.

Produced as a catalogue for the exhibition Holy Fire: Art of the Digital Age (2008), this book is more than a simple catalogue. Along with the works of the 27 artists in the exhibition it features the editors’ essays along with a collective interview involving some of the most important representatives of the new media art world.
 Holy Fire is not a book on new media art, but an exploration of the contemporary art of the digital age, and a pamphlet against the new media art paradigm and the self-isolation in which these practices evolved in the last sixty years.
 In the words of Régine Debatty (We-make-money-not-art.com): “the new media label fits the genre like a straitjacket and sends it to a ghetto without even a flicker of compassion. Forget the new, drop the media, enjoy art.”

Hashfail is the first in the series of three nation-wide events by Open File investigating the distribution and production of art through the use of virtual and digital platforms via sound, performance and digital media. Hashfail coincides with (On) Accordance a project by or-bits. com and Grand Union.

A Torrent file is a file distributed via the web through the rapid peer-to-peer ‘seeding’ of information. Becoming representative or pirate and copyright- infringing distribution it is also a mode of sharing that relies upon direct con- nection with other anonymous users of the internet.

A Hashfail occurs when ‘seeded’ files have become corrupted in distribution and therefore certain ‘bits’ of data can- not be received. Numerous Hashfails leeds to the loss of quality and grad- ual decomposition of a file, shifting it ever-further from its origin and subject- ing it to a new type of physicality and texturing.

The noisy buzz of the mains electricity power supply has been one of our urban environment’s most persistent background noises. One day in 1996 Dr Catalin Grigoras realised that the electricity wasn’t just making noise, but in fact singing…

The UK national electrical grid delivers power across the country. This mains power supply makes a constant humming sound, yet there are tiny changes to the frequency of this sound every second. Most recordings made in the UK have a trace of mains hum on them and this can be forensically analysed to determine the time and date they were made, and as a result, whether anyone has edited the recording.

For over ten years, the UK government has used this technique as a surveillance tool. This is the Hummingbird Clock, an online time piece that aims at making this technique available to everyone. If you need to know the exact time an audio or video recorded event took place in the UK after 7 July 2016 then simply submit a claim through this site.

Franz Erhard Walther should be far more widely known in the US than he is. Since the late 1950’s, he has developed a language around the activation of fabric-based sculptures, using them not in “performances” but in what he calls “demonstrations”. When being demonstrated, his objects are in their “handlungsform”, their active situation, and when functioning as static sculpture they are in their “lagerform”, their storage situation. Here, Walther demonstrates the “reading” of an edition of his Grosses Prozess-Buch (Large Process-Book), made in 1969 in conjunction with his First Work Set, a suite of fifty-eight usable sculptures made between 1963 and 1969. At 77, Walther’s persistence in kneeling and using the object himself despite the strain of this exertion brought me to tears (visible in the background of the video if you look closely.) Demonstration begins at 14:20

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