“The Nicaragua Media Project and the Politics of Representation in the 1980s”
Erina Duganne, Texas State University
In 1984, a group of photographers and criticsorganized The Nicaragua Media Project at the New Museum of Contemporary Art. Intended to interrogate the mainstream news media’s depiction of the conflicts in Nicaragua, the curators turned to postmodernist theories, including Roland Barthes’s seminal essay “The Rhetoric of the Image,” as way to challenge news photography’s truth claims. In this paper, I situate the use of Barthes’s ideas within the exhibition in terms of 1980s postmodernist photography more generally while at the same time address some of the limitations of the deconstructivist tendencies of these theories, most especially, as a model of activist intervention.
“Whose Memories? Imagining the Vietnam War in An-My Lê’s Small Wars”
Karen Huang, University of Southern California
In the photographic series Small Wars (1999-2002), An-My Lê participates in and portrays Vietnam War reenactments conducted by hobbyists in the forests of Virginia. Using nineteenth-century camera technology that gestures both to the Civil War and early geological surveys of the United States, Lê reenacts a variety of conflicting positions, as a photographer carefully constructing visual imagery of the United States during a period of intense nation-building; a soldier in the Vietnam War; a journalist narrating the Vietnam War; and an artist interpreting the bodily enactment of American memories of the war. This paper explores these specific, contradictory roles as well as Lê’s engagement with legacies of American Civil War photography, landscape photography, and war reenactment to interrogate how reenactment and photography can alter and produce American collective memories of the Vietnam War in the present.
Respondent: Shawn Smith, School of the Art Institute, Chicago
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