Beyond the Mirror: Indigenous Ecologies and ‘New Materialisms’ in Contemporary Art

Jessica L Horton & Janet Catherine Berlo


Many Native North American artists working today do not accept the terms of ongoing negativity. Recent works by Durham, Rebecca Belmore, Will Wilson and Jolene Rickard share a concern with the liveli- ness of matter that can provide the grounds – at times quite literally – for looking beyond the mirror. While there is evidence of the indigenous phi- losophical precepts that inform the work, the artists locate their practices in an extensive and shared contemporary landscape that includes the space of exhibition, thus short-circuiting a romantic gaze that might locate indigenous art or bodies in nature somewhere else. Their works issue an invitation to a wider audience – including us, a pair of non-Native, English-speaking scholars writing this article – to seriously consider the relevance of indigenous intellectual traditions to the contem- porary global challenges of co-habitation.

Certainly, the four artists’ work dovetails with a wider trend in eco-art that TJ Demos describes as ‘comprehending ecology as a field of interlink- ing systems of biodiversity and technology, social practices and political structures’.15 But a systems approach to the environment can still support forms of anthropocentrism, so long as humans are treated as privileged arbiters of the future. In each of the four projects we discuss, artists grant environmental entities the agency to push back, to punish or reward human activity, to remind people of their precarious position in a relational world where allies are essential to flourishing, as the quotes that open this article emphasize. In lieu of an exhaustive account of these works, we focus on a single material agent in each project, tracing its complex forms of movement and affiliation into spaces of exhi- bition. Seeking to bind viewers into a shared fate with material friends and foes, the following works raise the possibility of an ethics premised on mutual recognition and shared livelihood.

In stone, a substance that is indigenous to every place on the globe, Durham has found a material ally to match the mobility of contemporary art and commerce.16 In Encore Tranquilite ́ (2009), the artist staged an encounter between a giant boulder and single engine aeroplane in an aban- doned airfield outside Berlin. In a widely published story, the antiquated ex- Soviet plane was deemed unsafe by European standards and was slated for sale in Africa, tying its fate to the ethical failures of the neocolonial market- place.17 The boulder came out on top, nearly splitting the plane in two. The implied buoyancy of substrate worked against European metaphors that link it to inertia: ‘stone dead’, ‘stone faced’, ‘stone cold’. While Franke reads Durham’s many works with stone as staging the disruptive force of Europe’s repressed ‘other’, we emphasize an equally affirmative strain: the lively rock acted as an unexpected ally in a tale of global injustice, a potential saviour of countless undervalued human lives that demanded acknowledgement for its intervention before the eyes of viewers. When stone and splintered plane were relocated to the foyer of the Muse ́e d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris for Durham’s 2009 retrospective, ‘Rejected Stones’, the materials indexed an encounter that took place in the past.18 Visitors could only scan the scene for clues: Did the stone fall from above or sail through the air? Was it local to Europe or a hit man from Africa? Was the plane it targeted in motion, empty, defunct? Here, material evinced not only liveliness and ethical orientation, but also the ability to know things, marking the limits of viewers’ capacities to control their sur- roundings. Durham lets stone tell its own part in the story.

While relating to Durham’s work does not necessarily depend upon recognizing indigenous influence, highlighting such connections across the intellectual boundaries we have described can certainly enhance an understanding of its philosophical and political dimensions. Personified stones are a well-established feature of indigenous landscapes across the Americas, appearing at travellers’ shrines, in sentient architecture, or as people temporarily stilled: Durham has written of Indian pilgrimages to the sanctuary of Chalma in Mexico, during which ‘those who give up or try to stop or turn back become stones’, awaiting new life via the decisive kick of a future pilgrim. In a famous 1960 essay that we quote in the epigraph, anthropologist A Irving Hallowell likewise recounts Anishi- nabe peoples’ understandings of stone as ‘other-than-human persons’ whose animate potential can be latent or active. Anishinabe language grasps stones in a state of becoming – a concept communicated word- lessly in Encore Tranquilite ́, where resting stone threatens to spring back into action.20 Durham (who is Cherokee, but widely intellectually engaged with transnational indigenous materialities) articulated a politi- cal role for animate stone under colonial conditions in a poem published in 1983, following his involvement in the American Indian Movement (AIM). ‘They Forgot that Their Prison is Made of Stone, and Stone is Our Ally’ was inspired by the incarceration of AIM leader Russell Means.21 In it the stones spoke ‘the language of the Sioux; what other language could a South Dakota stone speak?’.22 Conversing with the walls allowed the jailed man to forge sustaining networks of communi- cation and alliance, thus keeping objectification at bay. While Durham’s early poem described the stones’ address in English, his work since the late 1990s foregrounds a materialist language of collision and debris – one in which the agency of stones no longer needs linguistic translation to be ‘read’ by international visitors.23 If befriending stone could help humans shed their shackles in what Michel Foucault deemed the quintessential architecture for modern surveillance, the prison, then why not also in the neocolonial marketplace – and the modern museum?

Jessica L Horton & Janet Catherine Berlo (2013) Beyond the Mirror, Third Text, 27:1, 17-28, DOI: 10.1080/09528822.2013.753190

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Patterns of Neighboring: Practicing Community in the Parochial Realm

Margarethe Kusenbach

NEIGHBORING AND COMMUNITY The worlds formed by intimate interaction and primary relationships have been thoroughly studied and theorized throughout the history of sociology. In recent decades, urban scholars have provided solid descriptions and analyses of the social sphere dominated by strangers, the public. In the past, sociologists have also investigated a third social realm quite extensively, one of “communal” or “parochial” interaction and relationships. However, theorizing in this particular area remains underdeveloped. In this article, I aim to advance scholarly understanding of this realm by investigating the normative patterns of neighboring.

The conceptual gap noted above is significant because communal interaction and relationships make up a substantial portion of everyday social reality. We all engage in communal interaction, for instance, neighboring; we all develop and sustain communal relationships, whether they are with neighbors, coworkers, or other kinds of acquaintances. Arguably, most of our life outside the home takes place in communal territories such as neighborhood streets, workplaces, coffee shops, and bars— the latter two niches carved out from public territory, aptly named “third places” by Oldenburg (1989). From Lofland (1973), we also know that people tend to transform public territories into more homey environments in order to maximize personal comfort and benefits. Far from being derivations of the private or the public, communal worlds are distinct, vital, and ubiquitous fixtures of everyday social reality, deserving of independent investigation and theorizing. One aim of such inquiry is to shift sociologists and others’ preoccupation with the dichotomy between “public” and “private” (Sheller and Urry 2003) toward a more complex and more accurate conception of social reality. Building on Hunter’s (1985) model of three social orders, Lofland (1998) provides a new “rudimentary geography” of the lifeworld as a composite of three social realms: the private, the parochial, and the public. She defines realms as social territories, each characterized by a distinctive “relational form” that refers to how individuals interact with one another. An intimate relational form indicates the existence of a private realm, a communal relational form suggests a parochial realm, and a stranger or categorical relational form corresponds with a public realm (p. 14). While, theoretically, any realm can appear anywhere, empirically, certain environments tend to anchor specific realms: “To oversimplify a bit, the private realm is the world of the household and friend and kin network; the parochial realm is the world of the neighborhood, workplace, or acquaintance network; and the public is the world of strangers and the ‘street’” (p. 10). Lofland’s new geography of the lifeworld is tremendously helpful in identifying and overcoming misconceptions in past studies of urban life. Most revealing is her observation in a footnote that Chicago school ethnographies, while routinely considered to be the quintessential body of research on urban and thus public life, are in fact rooted in neighborhood environments dominated by communal forms of interaction (p. 22; cf. Lofland 1983). Elsewhere, she suggests that most of what sociologists diagnose to be calamities of the public realm are actually social control problems pertinent to the parochial realm (Lofland 1994:30). In short, one payoff of a more-differentiated social geography is a better understanding of social territories— their boundaries, structures, functions, and problems—as expressed through interpersonal conduct. Perhaps even more important, by emphasizing social interaction, Lofland’s model can inspire a paradigm shift in the conception and study of “community.” Despite the legendary ambiguity of the concept of community, previous overviews (Altman and Wandersman 1987; Driskell and Lyon 2002; Hillery 1955; Hunter 1975; Karp, Stone, and Yoels 1991; Lyon 1987) largely agree on three basic components that have dominated definitions of community in the past: first, the presence of a shared territory; second, the presence of significant social ties; and third, the presence of meaningful social interaction. I argue that most scholars of community have prioritized the first and second elements—either separately or in combination— over the remaining one. Proponents of a predominantly territorial definition of community have long diagnosed and bemoaned the continuing “eclipse,” or “loss,” of community in our society (e.g., Nisbet 1953; Putnam 2000; Stein 1960; cf. Lyon 1987 for an overview). Over the last three decades, Wellman and other promoters of social network theory (Hampton and Wellman 2003; Wellman 1979, 1996, 1999, 2001; Wellman and Leighton 1979; Wellman and Wortley 1990) have developed an alternative approach that considers community to be “transformed,” “liberated,” or even “saved” instead of being lost. This definition virtually abandons a territorial understanding of community and provides for a radical despatialization and individualization of the concept. Between these two opposing positions stand the many urban scholars who embrace the conceptual gains the social network approach has made, yet who are not ready to fully retire the spatial reality of communities (e.g., Hunter 1974). Numerous empirical studies have substantiated the existence of functioning neighborhood communities. In fact, a recent shift toward community optimism and chronicling neighborhood success stories can be observed among urban scholars of various convictions (Hoffman 2003; Keller 2003; Putnam and Feldstein 2003). Compared with the scholarly attention paid to shared territory and social ties, the third definitional element of community, social interaction, has been relatively neglected. Beyond establishing the existence of parochial social relationships, few urban scholars have focused on examining the exact “nature of social ties” (White and Guest 2003:241) in neighborhoods or, in other words, the patterned social practices and interpretations that generate and sustain social ties. Lofland’s model, while resonating with previous work by urban scholars in the symbolic interactionist tradition (Karp, Stone, and Yoels 1991), provides a fresh impulse for such an investigation. Defining community as a genre of social conduct calls for microscopic analyses of the snippets and strands of communal interaction as the smallest building blocks of community “DNA.” Such a “community magnified” perspective will ground and hopefully invigorate ongoing debates. It will enhance the investigation of “interaction spaces and urban relationships” that Lofland (2003:949ff.) identified as one subarea of urban sociology that particularly benefits from symbolic interactionist scholarship. In more detail, such a perspective can advance theorizing and research beyond current limitations in at least two ways. First, it encourages the inclusion of seemingly nonsignificant interaction and relationships, thereby filling a noticeable conceptual void. Second, it allows one to problematize the nontrivial role of territory for community, not as externally fixed space but as places, that is, complex and layered chunks of environment ripe with individual and collective meanings. Yet of what does the work of neighboring actually consist? What is neighboring? In 1968 Keller offered a basic definition of the concept that is still useful today:

“Neighboring refers to the activities engaged in by neighbors as neighbors and the relationships these engender among them” (p. 29). Informed by Keller’s definition, and Warren’s (1981:73) reminder that neighboring actually follows rules, I define neighboring as a normative set of interactive practices that characterizes neighborhoods as one kind of parochial territory. Generally speaking, I view neighboring as a vital ingredient in the development of local community. Below, I analyze four distinct practices individuals enact to treat each other “as neighbors”: friendly recognition, parochial helpfulness, proactive intervention, and embracing and contesting diversity. In the following pages, I briefly review the literature, describe my research methods and settings, present my analysis, and conclude with a summary and some general comments.

Source: Symbolic Interaction , Vol. 29, No. 3 (Summer 2006), pp. 279-306 Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction

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The power of urban street art in re-naturing urban imaginations and experiences

Claire Malaika Tunnacliffe clairetunnacliffe@yahoo.frJuly 2016

Abstract. Urban street art is a powerful tool in reflecting the experience of the urban, provoking an engagement of urbanites with their environment, and in re-socialising public spaces. En- counters with urban street art within the everyday create social interstices, opening up ways of seeing and feeling the world differently; allowing for a creative feedback loop between artist, individual spectator and society. Through the lens of environ- mentally engaged urban street art, this working paper explores how this artistic and social movement reconnects the natural and social worlds within an increasingly urban existence. By disconnecting from the world around us, we have forgotten the natural and social entanglements that make up the fabric of the urban context, and in doing so we continue to create irreparable damages to the environment. With environmentally engaged urban street art disrupting the mainstream experience of the urban, the spectator is provided with an alternative vision of the world at play within the everyday setting. As a result, it is proposed that at the crossroads between urban street art and everyday life, the spectator evolves from a passive to an active participant in the contemporary make up of urban cities. By awakening new understandings and raising consciousness, environmentally engaged urban street art provokes a re-engagement of urbanites with the environment, acting as a catalyst for transformative social change.

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The Artistic Dividend: The Arts’ Hidden Contributions to Regional Development

Ann Markusen and David King


Artistic activity is often viewed as a discretionary ele- ment in a regional economy, rather like icing on a cake of industry, finance and basic services. The eco- nomic impact of the arts has generally been gauged by totaling up the amounts that patrons spend on performances and restau- rant meals, parking and shopping in districts around major the- atres, symphony halls and galleries. The occupation “artist” conjures up dual images of a few star painters, composers and photographers who land the prestigious grants and the many aspiring actors, dancers and writers waiting tables to underwrite creative time in attic rooms.

In this study, we show that this is an impoverished view of the arts and its role in the regional economy. It treats the arts as a con- sequence of, even a parasite on, a successful business economy. We show, on the contrary, that artistic activity is a major and varied contributor to economic vitality. We suggest that the productivity of and earnings in a regional economy rise as the incidence of artists within its boundaries increases, because artists’ creativity and specialized skills enhance the design, production and market- ing of products and services in other sectors. They also help firms recruit top-rate employees and generate income through direct exports of artistic work out of the region.

Using an occupational approach rather than a focus on major arts organizations and venues, we define artists broadly to include actors, directors, performance artists, dancers, choreographers, musicians, composers, authors, writers, painters, sculptors, and pho- tographers. We showcase several artistic careers that are highly entrepreneurial — where the artist is not starving, working menial jobs or waiting for the next grant, commission or role but actively seeking diverse markets and venues for their work. Many artists directly “export” their work to customers, firms and patrons else- where, enabling them to live in the region, to contract work from other individuals and to generate work for and prompt innovation among suppliers. Artistic networks, often enhanced by new spaces for working and gathering, are helping to spread entrepreneurial ideas and practices both within and outside the region.

Artists, like firms, have locational preferences and gravitate towards certain regional economies. We show that some metro- politan areas in the US host larger contingents of artists than oth- ers of similar size. We proxy the significance of the artistic divi- dend by the incidence of artists in a regional workforce. We find the pre-eminence of New York and Los Angeles as artistic poles softening as artists spread out toward selective “second tier” cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, Albuquerque and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Artistic specialization is not a function of rapid growth — fast-growing Atlanta and Dallas/Ft Worth have below-average concentrations of artists, as do slower-growing Chicago, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

This “artistic dividend” is a product of long term commitments by philanthropists, patrons and the public sector to regional arts organizations, arts education and individual artists. It is enhanced by entrepreneurial activity among artists and fostered by (and contributes to) high urban quality of life. Through extensive interviews with artists in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul (MN) a region with relatively high artistic presence, we show the importance of amenities, quality of life and an active and nur- turing arts community in attracting and retaining artists. For the artists showcased, we document how they have built their careers, why they decided to live and work in the region, and the ways in which their careers have enhanced the success of other individu- als and businesses in the regional economy.

Artistic activity as a significant contributor to the regional econ- omy needs nurturing. In comparison to the very modest amounts they devote to the arts, state and local governments pour hundreds of millions of dollars into downtown revitalization, new plant attraction and even big box retail developments in the suburbs. Vis- à-vis the arts, large physical performing and visual arts spaces receive the lion’s share of public and patron support while the labor side of the equation is under-nourished. Our work suggests that artist-dedicated spaces such as older industrial buildings made into studios and new or renovated live/work spaces and occupation- dedicated gathering venues such as the Open Book in Minneapolis deserve public and patron support. Patrons and arts foundations should consider unconventional grants to arts occupational groups to help their members position themselves in larger national and international marketplaces, enhancing the export orientation of the artistic sector. Similarly, channels of connection between regional businesses and the artistic community could be enhanced to facili- tate contributions by artists to business product design, marketing and work environments. Finally, among artists themselves, we coun- sel more attention to and cooperation in entrepreneurial pursuits, including changes in attitude toward artistic careers.

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Social Structure

John L Martin and Monica Lee 

Social structure refers to patternings in social relations that have some sort of obduracy. Within this general definition, there are two primary families of more specific approaches. In the first, ‘structure’ may be used to refer on the macro level to the abstract organization of reciprocally defined social categories that are seen to comprise some social whole. In the second, the term can be used to refer to smaller scale ‘social structures,’ configurations of concrete relationships among individuals without reference to a notion of a larger societal totality. We organize our exposition accordingly. (We note that Porpora (1989) in addition gave as conceptions of social structure first, that of Anthony Giddens, which we treat here as an extreme form of the first understanding of structure, and second, relations between variables, but we have not seen any examples of people claiming this as a definition of structure, and we discuss this under the related heading of social systems below.)

Structure as Abstract Relations between Social Positions

Although all the approaches in this category link structure to some sort of organization of positions or types that anchor action, they differ as to the logic of the organization of the positions that may variously be taken to be social functions, roles, or classes.

Structure and Function

The idea of ‘social structure’ was first introduced by Herbert Spencer (e.g., 1896[1873]: pp. 56–60). At the time, the word ‘structure’ in biology referred to what we would now call ‘organs,’ sets of contiguous tissue that performed a specifiable function for the organism as a whole. Spencer argued that society had ‘social structures’ that carried out social functions.

Thus the root of the idea of social structure comes from the organismic metaphor applied to society. This metaphor is certainly an old one; in the Western tradition we often begin with Plato, who (we now say) suggested that the city might be understood as a ‘man writ large,’ and thus a convenient place for an anthropology. (In the Republic (II:368d) Plato argues that, given that those of us with imperfect vision have an easier time reading larger letters, we should find a place to study the nature of justice similarly writ large, and that is the city. From here, he uses our interdependence to derive the need for specific occupations, for specialization, and for trade (369–371).) Now indeed, Plato did suggest a mapping between characteristics of persons and those of the city. Most important, Plato made a distinction between (what might appear to us as) cognition, emotions, and instincts. Thus in the fourth book of the Republic (espec. x436), Plato had Socrates demonstrate that there are three parts of the soul that have different functions – that we “learn with one part of ourselves, feel anger with another, and with yet a third desire the pleasures of nutrition and generation.” (The physical organs to which these were taken to correspond were for many centuries taken to be the head, the heart, and the liver, organized in a vertical hierarchy.) So too, he argued, the city has three classes, each of whom must do its part. Some make things (or ‘make money,’ corresponding to the appetitive), some make rules (corre- sponding to the nous, the intellect), and some make war. These correspond to three qualities of the good city, which should be wise (the wisdom of the city is the wisdom of its counselors), brave (the bravery of the city is the bravery of its fighters), and sober (Republic, x428–434). Now despite his famous emphasis on our interdependence and even on the division of labor, Plato did not propose an organismic model of the state, and it seems that no such developed analogies arose in Europe until the mass of differentiable urban occupations were no longer associated with servile status.

With the rise of materialist views of human beings and of society, organismic metaphors were extended into more developed allegories: thus Hobbes (1943[1651]: pp. 8, 171, 183–188, 193f., 246–257) proposed correspondences in the body politic to nerves, blood and joints, and could liken its states of illness to pleurisy, Siamese triplets, and constipation. But despite his categorical rejection of metaphor, Hobbes’s use of the organismic language stemmed as much from his love of pursuing a simile as from his explanatory goals. (Thus not only is the distribution of goods analogous to nutrition, but these good ultimately come from either the land or the sea, ‘(the two breasts of our common Mother),’ adds Hobbes (1943[1651]: p. 189).) Certainly, Hobbes treated the organismic predicate as one of metaphor and not as one of identity (e.g., systems “may be compared . to the similar parts of man’s body” (emphasis added)), and alternated between it and others (the common- wealth as building, as Leviathan, or as ‘Mortall God’). 

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