AIDS Image Quilt

ImageQuilt of AIDS activist art made using ImageQuilt Chrome Extension.
ImageQuilt of AIDS activist art made using ImageQuilt Chrome Extension.

Inspired by this ProfHacker post, I made a quick ImageQuilt based on a Google image search of “aids activist art.” The interface seems relatively easy, and it could make for the basis of an interesting assignment—maybe one to talk about curation or visual rhetoric. If you were teaching about how to construct effective web searches, you could make ImageQuilts based on different search entries and have students compare the resulting quilts.


Saturday Fun-Time Round-Up

1. My friend Ben’s December mix, You + Me, over at weiwabo, my friend Mon’s super-hip craft blog.  One of the tracks is a chillgaze* cover of The Hives’ “Hate to Say I Told You So,” and the whole thing makes for great writing music.  By the by, Mon is totally awesome and donated to Bike & Build to support my ride from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale over the Christmas/New Year interlude!  So go check her out, and listen to the mix!

She's crafty!

2. New video from Yelle for “Comme un enfant”:

Here’s the breakdown:



photo credit:


photo credit:

3. The Ronna & Beverly podcast, one of the few that I listen to religiously, and quite possibly the most consistently funny podcasts out there.  Jessica Chaffin and Jaime Denbo play middle-aged Jewish BFFs Ronna Glickman and Beverly Ginsburg, who host a podcast from Ronna’s immaculate living room in the Boston suburbs.  Although Chaffin and Denbo have been doing these characters at Upright Citizens Brigade for a few years and filmed a pilot for Showtime that was aired but never picked up, I first encountered them as guests on episode four of Julie Klausner’s also-hilarious How Was Your Week?, where the ladies discussed their favorite Holocaust films of all time.  Among the entries on Beverly’s list: Kramer vs. Kramer.

photo credit:

4. Speaking of Julie Klausner, I missed the live version of How Was Your Week? because I was at a conference in St. Louis, but a recording of that performance (including the aforementioned Jessica Chaffin as Lorraine Bracco) aired a few weeks ago as episode 36 of the podcast.  I listened to it in and around New York City on the day that I went to do research at the Schomburg Center only to find it closed because of Veteran’s Day.  (that was fun) Julie and Billy Eichner discuss casting for the upcoming all-black remake of Steel Magnolias brightened my mood, to the point that I had to listen in installments, because my frantic giggling was distracting to the other patrons at whatever coffee shop in Brooklyn I decided to make into my office for the afternoon.  So that was fun.

Julie and Billy, who may or may not be my pretend husband. photo credit:

Bonus: The trailer for Billy Eichner’s show, Billy on the Street, which is set to premiere December 22 on Fuse, the network that brought you the professional career of William Hung…

…and the show Pants Off Dance Off, which inspired numerous house parties and a whole lot of pictures that are inappropriate to post here.

And that’s it.  Have a good weekend, people!

*I just made that up.  You’re welcome.

UPDATE: Never mind, “chillgaze” is actually a thing, which is just silly.

Ward Shelley, knowledge, and maps.

Ward Shelley has been getting a lot of attention lately (at least in my corner of the internet) for his map of the history of science fiction:

"The History of Science Fiction, ver. 1" by Ward Shelley

Among other projects, including performance art, installations, and sculptural work, Shelley specializes in large (the above measures about three feet by four feet) and graphical timelines that recall both the intricate temporal maps recently collected by Anthony Grafton and Daniel Rosenberg in their recent book, Cartographies of Time, and the scientific illustrations done by past generations of natural historians.

"Who Invented the Avant Garde, ver. 3" by Ward Shelley
"Downtown Body, ver. 1" by Ward Shelley

These often describe the histories of art movements or genres, like the Beats or science fiction (above), or broader trends in cultural and artistic production, like the changing nature of the avant-garde, or the “autonomy” of art amid shifting economic pressures:

"Autonomous Art, ver. 1" by Ward Shelley

It’s worth viewing these (and the others) on Shelley’s site because there you can zoom in on high-resolution versions of these images, and these are pieces that definitely reward close viewing.

Shelley’s works are of course visually interesting in and of themselves, especially if you consider their real-life dimensions, and moreso for the way they draw connections among bits of disparate information to make visual arguments about the complex terrain of artistic expression and experience.  The generic references to both mapping and scientific illustration seem purposeful, as Shelley’s work meditates on the power that inheres to representations of knowledge.  From the artist himself:

These paintings… are about the struggle of form to express content in the cognitive space that exists between the Subject (us) and the Object (the world). If that cognitive space is a territory, these paintings are landscapes of that territory.

Other works of his similarly explore the materiality of information, as with the collaborative (with Douglas Paulson) installation piece “Archive,” which consists of thousands of stacked, uniquely labeled boxes:

"Archive" by Ward Shelley and Douglas Paulson

We might understand the boxes to represent many things, but to me they suggest the power of the archive–expressed here through sheer volume–to shape future narratives, as well as the sometimes arbitrariness of preservation:

"Archive" by Ward Shelley and Douglas Paulson

I just began reading Carolyn Steedman’s Dust: the Archive and Cultural History, which opens with a discussion of Derrida’s notion of “archive fever,” through which he links the repository of documentary knowledge to the Greek arkhe, “a place where things begin, where power originates, its workings inextricably bound up with the authority of beginnings and starting points” (Steedman 1).  One thing I try to get across to my students is that knowledge production is always contested and freighted with political assumptions.  Some have more trouble wrapping their heads around this than others, but fortunately (for my pedagogy, anyway) American history is filled with examples of specious “knowledge” deployed to political ends:


from Races of Mankind (1854) by Josiah Nott and George Gliddon

The trick is to get them to apply that critical perspective to the world around them.  It’s not easy, but for me it’s one of the major payoffs of teaching history.

For more esoteric cartography, check out Frank Jacobs’ appropriately titled blog, Strange Maps.


Photo courtesy of Makezine.

Artist Michael Hansmeyer makes these incredible columns by stacking laser-cut slices of millimeter-thick cardboard to create intricate, smooth-looking solid forms.  The computer algorithim was developed by Edwin Catmull, who is now the president of Pixar, to render curved solids using polygons.  Maybe that’s why people easily mistake them for computing renderings.  The final product is something like Frank Gehry’s “Easy Edges” furniture on LSD.  Of course, Antonio Gaudí was doing this kind of thing 100 years ago, and without computers or laser printers:

La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Photo courtesy of Feltworks.
Park Güell in Barcelona. Photo courtest of xarj.

Gaudí actually drew inspiration from the natural world as well as mathematics–not that they’re mutually exclusive.  He used hyperboloids and paraboloids repeatedly in his designs, which explains the organic appearance of a lot of his work, which often appears to grow straight out of the ground.  To me, the exterior of Casa Batiló looks like someone took a hot glue gun to their curio cabinet:

Casa Batiló in Barcelona. Photo courtesy of Soothbrush.
Casa Batiló on Barcelona. Photo courtesy of Damn Cool Pics.

But naturalistic shapes weren’t the extent of his mathematical interest.  He also drew from numerology, which intersected with his own kind of mystical Catholicism.  He included a magic square on the facade of La Sagrada Familia, in which all the rows and columns add up to 33, the age of Jesus Christ when he died:

Photo courtesy of Rhetorical Device.

Magical, eh?


In “Traumgedanken,” art student Maria Fischer uses different colors of thread to represent the connective themes in a book comprising different approaches to the study and interpretation of dreams.  The resulting tome is a meta-text whose hypertextual elements (those would be the threads) represent the non-linear and often impenetrable nature of dreaming itself.  It’s also gorgeous to look at:

Looks like my Windows 3.1 screensaver circa 1995.

Tangentially, this reminds me of a readings seminar I took at Berkeley with Maria Mavroudi, based on her dissertation research.  She was able to trace intellectual genealogies in dream interpretation from ancient Greece to the Arab world and back to the Byzantine empire because of her fluency in both Greek and Arabic.  They don’t give out the MacArthur “Genius Award” for nothing.  Anyway, this would have made for a much cooler final project than the paper I wrote on one of Bismarck’s dreams in about twelve hours after I had already walked in the department’s commencement ceremony.  It was the last paper I wrote as an undergrad–sue me.

It’s been a horrendously long time since I posted anything here, but not for lack of false starts.  In any case, sharing something that I thought was beautiful or fascinating is a lot easier than news analysis or criticism, so I’ll think of this as me easing back into it.  In the meantime, here are links to some newish blogs from my friends:

MOB Cycles Africa: Pretty much exactly what it sounds like.  Megan O’Brien continues to be “unemployed and moderately homeless,” and we continue to love her.

Fat for Winter: Ruby writes about her adventures in cooking and eating, which are legion and delicious.  Also, her post on her grandparents had me practically rolling on the floor.  Sometimes I get mentioned here in passing, as our gastronomies often intersect.

Megan, Ruby–get ready.  My grandma is about to blow up your comments section.

More posters, all the time.

It’s been nothing but posters and recipes around here lately (not that that’s a bad thing) but I found this awesome site via makezine.  It pretty much works (I think) on the same principle as threadless, but with art for your wall instead of art that you wear.  I really like James Griffioen’s “feral” houses, Scott Listfield’s Waiting Dangerously in Rio, and Ann Toebbe’s vaguely cubist visions of domestic space.  Oh hey, did I mention my birthday is coming up?  Just thought I’d throw that out there.

Another one for the retro posters file.

Mothman of Tokyo.
Is "vintage steampunk" an oxymoron?

Pink Tentacle has posted a great collection of vintage posters from Japanese industrial expositions, which Cyriaque at io9 describes as “Fritz Lang partying with Jules Verne in the Harajuku.”  This Da Vinciesque flying machine example surely appeals to steampunk* geeks everywhere, but it’s not representative of the gallery.  From this larger sample, you can see a definite increase in militaristic imagery in the 1930s, but is there really something about the design that makes them “downright fascistic” (as Cyriaque describes them) or do we read them that way because they share some formal elements with the constructivism of early Soviet propaganda?

The new Soviet woman.
Down with kitchen slavery!
All your base are belong to us.
Japan-Manchuria Industrial Exhibition--Toyama, 1936

The former is from the 1920s, when the Soviet authorities were pushing the feminist aspects of Bolshevik ideology, which promised to liberate women from the drudgery of housework through collective habitation, cafeterias, and daycares.  As numerous Sovietologists have pointed out, it didn’t quite work out that way.  The latter comes after the Japanese invasion of China in the early 1930s.  I don’t want to overdraw a comparison, but I think they have some things in common aesthetically, but not being a specialist in this area, I’m not sure how much that could have to do with printing techniques or international art movements.  In any case, I’d be reluctant to say that there’s anything you could call a broadly “fascistic” aesthetic, as I think you’d find the same formal elements in poster design of the future Allied nations during the same period.

I’m sure there’s a good research project on transnational poster design, but what I’m really wondering is…

…does an unironic affection for totalitarian propaganda make me a bad person?

*Wondering what the hell steampunk is?  The A.V. Club has you covered.


As a kid, I was obsessed with Star Wars.  Like, really obsessed.  Unhealthily so.  I had a life-size cardboard cut-out of Luke Skywalker in my bedroom well into my freshman year of high school, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I was a die-hard Star Wars fan long before it was cool.

I saw these “vintage” Star Wars Universe travel posters on io9 and immediately started salivating.

"And I thought they smelled bad... on the outside!"

Click on over to the artist’s Flickr page to see all five.