On Shock Therapy
Modernist Aesthetics and American Underground Film
This article tracks various twentieth-century figural appropriations—in the realm of artistic theory and practice—of a controversial method of treating the mentally ill. In the first section, I revisit Walter Benjamin’s canonical speculation on the importance of a shock aesthetic, underscoring the functional imperatives informing his model. For him, shock was the aesthetic cornerstone of cultural undertakings designed to enable persons to inhabit urban-industrial modernity in a socially empowered fashion. In the second section, I apply this notion to two products of the American underground: Marie Menken’s Go! Go! Go! (1962–1964) and Jonas Mekas’s Walden (1969). Here, my argument is that it was in experimental film that the purposefulness or “mission” that Benjamin detected in Charles Baudelaire’s poetry was realized. I then conclude with some reflections on the pertinence of the model in question to two related avant-garde cinematic endeavors: Stan Vanderbeek’s collage works and Ken Jacobs’s Nervous System performances.
Andrew J. Webber
This article is concerned with the 2012 feature Lore, which was made in Germany by Australian director Cate Shortland and is based on the story of the same name by Rachel Seiffert. Focusing on a group of siblings and their odyssey across Germany at the end of World War II, the film explores questions of identity constitution and subversion in the transitional ground between childhood and adulthood, in particular as this is registered in bodily experience. The three main sections of this article focus on the family archive (not least through the medium of photography), structures of double identity (in particular around the figure of the German Jew), and aesthetic strategies of representation (especially framing and mirroring). Through these steps, the article probes the ethical, aesthetic, and political stakes involved in representing the passing of children through the violence of history in what the director calls “grey zones.”
A Compassionate Look
Ling Tang, Jun Zubillaga-Pow, Hans Rollmann, Amber Jamilla Musser, Shannon Scott, and Kristen Sollée
“There’s nothing makeup cannot do”
Women Beauty Vloggers’ Self-Representations, Transformations, and #thepowerofmakeup
Women beauty vloggers, or video bloggers, produce YouTube self-representations as a means of considering cosmetics, their appearance, and cultural expectations about femininity. These vloggers developed “the power of makeup” videos and related social media texts in order to critique makeup shaming and attempts to limit women’s representations and aesthetic choices. Their incomplete cosmetic applications are connected to and rework reality television makeovers and feminist considerations of beauty. Feminist scholars, including Bordo and Bartky, suggest that makeovers direct women to pursue transformations into better selves and to follow beauty experts’ directions. In contrast to these forms of control, beauty vloggers have more authority over their practices. They use the term “transformation” to describe applications that are not focused on ideal looks or ever-improvable selves, and reform beauty culture around participants’ interests and artistry rather than male heterosexual expectations. These women’s practices of self-definition challenge mainstream conceptions of art, makeup, and femininity.
This article revisits questions of embodiment (screen and otherwise) with regard to one of the most representative first-generation hypertext fictions—Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl—in order to show how this new genre’s search for identity takes the form of a programmatic inversion of the principles underlying the Romantic poetics and imagery and of a conscious identification with the forms that established views of literature exiled from its realm. The analysis follows the train of metaphorical oppositions deriving from the contrast that Patchwork Girl sets up between book and hypertext by presenting itself as a derivative of Mary Shelley’s novel embodied in a monster (re)born from discarded pieces (of prose or flesh) as opposed to the beautiful and harmonious body that is the book.
Steen Ledet Christiansen
Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2010) produces a cinesthetic subject that articulates issues of gendered violence but at the same time also opens up space for producing a new subject outside of biopower. Tracing the production of pain as a way of feeling gendered violence rather than simply understanding it, the article also argues that Nina Sawyer’s transformation is an act of subversive becoming. Pain is produced by the film’s formal properties, pulling us along as viewers, and producing new modes of sensing biopower’s cultural techniques and subjugation of bodies. At the same time, pain becomes a path to a new mode of being.