This article explores the aesthetic of the grotesque in Lu Yang’s recent work Delusional Mandala (2015) and Delusional World (2020). I argue that the aesthetic of the grotesque envisioned in these two works becomes a radical tool for the artist’s deconstruction and dismantling of the socially and culturally sanctioned boundaries of corporeality and normativity. My approach to Lu Yang’s aesthetic of the grotesque is based on Sara Cohen Shabot’s theorization of grotesque philosophy and the grotesque body as well on the concept of faciality proposed by Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus (1980). Two questions guide my reflection and readings in this article: What are the characteristics of the grotesque aesthetic in Lu Yang’s films? In what ways does this aesthetic deconstruct concepts such as the human and normativity?
Lu Yang’s Art and an Organological Redefinition of the Human in the Planetary Age
Studying artworks on the human body and the brain, as exemplified by Lu Yang’s work, enables a new perspective in the debates over the redefinitions of the human, whether anthropocenic redefinitions of the human (in the scholarships of the Anthropocene, posthumanism, new materialism, and speculative realism) or a technoscientific redefinition of the human (in the scholarships of technological transformations). Not only does Lu Yang question the defining properties of the humanness but the artist also creates an organological form of the human. This organological perspective enables an aesthetics of futurism based on both a nonreproductive kinship between the human and the nonhuman, and a new regime of the future grounded in the habitability of the human as a more-than-human agent in the planetary age.
Climbing, climbing the circular staircase of a decaying art deco apartment house, a throwback to Old Shanghai’s grandeur in the 1930s, I felt like I was stepping back in time. It was fall of 2011, and I was accompanied by a twenty-seven-year-old artist named Lu Yang who led me on this upward trek to a studio. As Lu Yang opened the green door to the space, I was immediately thrown forward from the past to the future. The darkened room was packed with computer monitors flickering with the running text of chatrooms. Aquariums, filled with dead frogs floating in formaldehyde, gave off an eerie green light. There were no sketches or paintings or anything like traditional art making. What an awakening! I realized that this was the kind of art I had been searching for on my trips to China since 2004. I was looking for an artist whose work reflected the enormous upheaval of the Reform era, the influx of Western goods, the possibilities of the internet, and the shock to the psyche that these changes had wrought. Lu Yang completely fit the bill.
Wyatt Moss-Wellington, Dooley Murphy, Robert Sinnerbrink, and Kirsten Moana Thompson
Martin P. Rossouw. Transformational Ethics of Film. Leiden: Brill, 2021, 316 pp., $150.00 (hardback), ISBN: 9789004459953.
Grant Tavinor. The Aesthetics of Virtual Reality. New York: Routledge, 2021, 163 pp., $160.00, ISBN: 9780367619251.
Rebecca A. Sheehan. American Avant-Garde Cinema’s Philosophy of the In Between. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020, 292 + xi pp., $41.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9780190949716.
Deborah Walker-Morrison. Classic French Noir: Gender and the Cinema of Fatal Desire. London: I.B. Tauris, 2019, 272 pp., $77.00, ISBN 9781350157446.
Carrie Ann Benjamin, Heike Drotbohm, Carolin Fischer, Witold Klaus, Alexander Kondakov, Annika Lems, Yelena Li, Nina Sahraoui, and Ioana Vrăbiescu
ADVENTURE CAPITAL: Migration and the Making of an African Hub in Paris Julie Kleinman. 2019. Oakland, CA: University of California Press. 224 pages. ISBN 9780520304406 (hardback); ISBN 9780520304413 (paperback).
PAPER TRAILS: Migrants, Documents, and Legal Insecurity Sarah B. Horton and Josiah Heyman, eds. 2020. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 264 pages. ISBN 9781478008453 (paperback).
ARC OF THE JOURNEYMAN: Afghan Migrants in England Nichola Khan. 2020. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. 288 pages. ISBN 9781517909628 (hardback).
EU MIGRATION AGENCIES: The Operation and Cooperation of FRONTEX, EASO, and EUROPOL David Fernández-Rojo. 2021. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 272 pages. ISBN 9781839109331.
Queer Migration and Asylum in Europe ed. Richard C. M. Mole. 2021. London: UCL Press. 262 pages. ISBN 9781787355811.
FINDING WAYS THROUGH EUROSPACE: West African Movers Re-Viewing Europe from the Inside Joris Schapendonk. 2020. New York: Berghahn. 230 pages. ISBN 9781789206807 (hardback).
ILLEGAL: How America's Lawless Immigration Regime Threatens Us All Elizabeth F. Cohen. 2020. New York: Basic Books. 272 pages. ISBN-13 9781541699847 (hardback).
THE OUTSIDE: Migration as Life in Morocco Alice Elliot. 2021. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. 204 pages. ISBN 9780253054739 (hardback).
WASTELANDS: Recycled Commodities and the Perpetual Displacement of Ashkali and Romani Scavengers Eirik Saethre. 2020. Oakland, CA: University of California Press. 252 pages. ISBN 9780520368491.
An Analysis of Lu Yang’s The Great Adventure of Material World
The Material World Knight is an anime-style superhero from Lu Yang’s artwork The Great Adventure of Material World—Game Film (2020) who battles oppressive binary systems on his quest for transcendence. This article uses discourse and visual analysis to study how this short film employs references to Buddhist philosophy and Japanese anime to reconceptualize subjectivity. The study draws on posthuman theory by Rosi Braidotti and Donna Haraway to show how the artwork produces a post-dualist, posthuman, relational concept of subjectivity while also complicating any straightforward interpretations in favor of maintaining complexity and “staying with the trouble.”
The Theory of Constructed Emotion as a Biocultural Framework for Cognitive Film Theory
In the classical view of emotion, the basic emotions (anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise) are assumed to be natural kinds that are perceiver-independent. Correspondingly, each is thought to possess a distinct neural and physiological signature, accompanied by an expression that is universally recognized despite differences in culture, era, and language. An alternative, the theory of constructed emotion, emphasizes that, while the underlying interoceptive sensations are biological, emotional concepts are learned, socially constructed categories, characterized by many-to-many relationships among diverse brain states, physiological signs, facial movements, and their emotional meanings. This biocultural view permits a greater degree of cultural-historical specificity when interpreting the emotions of others. In this article, I consider the implications of the theory of constructed emotion for cognitive film theory, especially regarding the interpretation of depicted facial expressions of emotion as one aspect of cinematic expression. Particular attention is given to recent work revisiting the Kuleshov effect, in which the meaning of a character’s facial expression is thought to change in the context of a montage.
Negotiating the Coalition Contract after the 2021 Bundestag Election
Sven T. Siefken
Getting a new government together in Germany requires building a coalition. The process for doing so has evolved, becoming more institutionalized but remaining part of informal politics. Looking closely at the coalition building in 2021 shows that its organizational structure was vertically slimmer and horizontally more differentiated than in previous years. The role of parliamentary actors was more pronounced than before, and parliamentary organization was mirrored throughout it. Yet the strong inclusion of the Länder (party) perspectives prevailed, making coalition building a multi-level task. While the process in 2021 had more procedural transparency than before, its content remained largely out of public sight. At defined steps, party approval was gathered through formal votes. Whether the established account of better personal trust among the involved partners is more than a nice narrative remains to be seen in the analysis of the coalition’s governing practice.
Maria Nerina Boursinou, Pierre Monforte, and Phevos Simeonidis
In this interview with Nerina Boursinou and Pierre Monforte, Phevos Simeonidis—cofounder of the Disinfaux Collective—reflects on the role of civil society organizations in the field of refugee support in Greece, in particular through the focus on their relations with public authorities. The interview provides an account of the changing environment in the field of migration and the diversity of the organizations working to support refugees in Greece, while it highlights such organizations’ ambivalent relations with public authorities. Moreover, the interview discusses the impact of the measures taken by the Greek government(s) to control or repress the activities of civil society organizations in recent years, including their criminalization. Finally, it makes reference to the complex ethics that accompany migration research and support practices, especially in relation to the collective's operation and decision-making processes.
Yousif M. Qasmiyeh
Returning to the refugee camp, “The Crack Invites” revisits what it means to invite and be invited to a camp. This invitation remains suspended, unanswered, and perhaps unanswerable to this day.