This article critically evaluates Alex Garland’s film ‘Ex Machina’ (2015) and its reiteration of romanticism, modernism and affiliated critical discourse. Rather than exploring the film in relation to associated science fiction, Cukor’s ‘My Fair Lady’ (1964) is cited as the film’s historical precedent: the encoding of a woman by gentleman scholars who test the woman’s capacity to be assimilated into wider society. The digital context of the film’s futurist Artificial Intelligence restages romantic ruin as the future of the human species, which must prepare for motherless reproduction and the logic of the digital corporation. The article develops a theory of ‘Artificial Stupidity’, described by Hito Steyerl as the ‘Real’ of Artificial Intelligence. Attending to the particularities of violence toward women that characterise Garland’s film, we explore the inevitability and intractability of the film’s narrative that reflects the wider condition of gendered power relations in Hollywood.
The display of Allan Sekula’s ‘Waiting for Tear Gas (white Globe to Black)’ at Tate Modern from July 2013 to May 2014 coincided partly with Liberate Tate’s creative civil disobedience against Tate’s engagement with their sponsor British Petroleum. The article examines these two parallel episodes of Tate’s recent institutional history, focusing on the tension emerging from the Tate’s display of an artwork, which stems directly from a grassroots activist movement, and the institutional reluctance to engage with an artist-activist collective that targets the museum itself, or its sponsors. The article argues that Sekula’s artwork and Liberate Tate’s collaborative artistic interventions and participatory performances are part of a horizontal and rhizomatic network of anti-capitalist struggles against the privatisation of every aspect of life, the destruction of the environment and the degradation of human relations and attest to their unfinished nature.
This article explores the role of Africa in the avant-garde aesthetic and political convictions of Jeff Donaldson and the AfriCOBRA group. It considers AfriCOBRA and its Black Nationalist artistic expressions in terms of a diasporic strategy for articulating and constructing community. Rather than consider the work's engagement with Africa as solely a look to an ancestral past, this article considers Africa as a touchstone for articulating a revolutionary and future-looking art movement. Discussions of ‘Afrofuturism’ often focus on fantasy and science fiction seen in examples such as the futuristic persona of Sun Ra and his film, Space is the Place. This article discusses the political and rhetorical work of revolution in the Black Nationalist thinking embraced by AfriCOBRA as a similar kind of conceptual reimagining of the world and its potential futures.
This article seeks to elaborate on the immanent aspects of the slide as an object that – due to its ‘thingness’ in different cultural realms – was able to ‘migrate’ transculturally. The example I would like to present for this approach is the work of the British Chinese artist, curator and poet Li Yuan-chia (1929–1994), who took a number of astonishing slides, which were found in his house after he died. My research focuses on the different practices applied to these polydimensional objects – especially when selected for retrospective exhibitions, and presented in an altered form. This article seeks to respond to and examine the idea that meaning is attributed to (Western) objects in exhibitions of a (Western) cultural background, and that objects like slides, traditionally seen as an achievement of Western culture and communication, can also propose processes that question the contextual framings of our exhibition practices.
This article investigates the reception and representation of the Colour Field artist, Natvar Bhavsar (b 1934), and his paintings in art historical and critical discourses. It argues that American art discourse continues to misinterpret the proposals made by Asian American artists like Bhavsar because it maintains categories and narratives of Abstract Expressionism devised by nationalist critics from the 1950s and 1960s. An alternative analytic framework is then proposed in this article, based on the understanding that Modernism was practised globally and that modern artists identified themselves and their practice of abstraction as transnational. With these two conditions of transnationalism structuring this study, Bhavsar, as an Asian American artist, is represented in a more accurate manner. The racial and ethnic identities of the artist are not viewed as the originating cause of the work, but as one of several vectors of influence that are woven into his practice.
This article examines the role of participatory programming to increase access to marginalised socio-demographic groups in Scotland. It uses as case study the Africa in Motion (AiM) Film Festival and examines the progress the festival has made in developing Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) audiences by creating a less hierarchical and more inclusive festival structure through participatory programming. Applying the theory of cultural democracy, I assess how far these new curatorial methodologies have advanced access for marginalised BAME community groups, in programming and exhibiting African film. Framing this within the Scottish cultural and geopolitical landscape, the paper explores the strategies of a predominantly white programming team and the importance of recognising cultural hegemony for creating a more inclusive festival programme. I assess new trends within public funding organisations suggesting that the renewed focus on diversity has strengthened Africa in Motion’s position to cater to a broader socio-demographic audience base. This article proposes that the new methods of participatory programming used by the festival have enhanced cultural democracy, suggesting that the use of space, access and inclusion were paramount in achieving this.
New Zealand’s South Island came into view on 10 February 1777 and for the fifth time in seven years James Cook made for a familiar location, Ship Cove. It was a location from which he had observed the changes over time of its inhabitants and we can imagine the expedition artist, John Webber, busying himself with sketches of this new place and the people who lived in it. Eleven years later, in his London studio, in part from memory, Webber composed ‘Ship Cove, Queen Charlotte Sound’. But, according to critics, Webber’s painting exhibits nothing of the significance of his cross-cultural encounter. In contrast I want to suggest that Adam Smith’s concept of the ‘impartial spectator’ provides us with a key to the enigma of ‘Ship Cove’ just as it would seem a perfect fit for the enigma of James Cook, described by his biographer as exhibiting a compassionate and controlled imagination.
THIRD TEXT is published in print and online by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group