Monday, January 17, 2011

The Sea in their Blood (1983)

I'm no fan of Peter Greenaway but this COI-commissioned documentary about Britain’s coastline is great.

Friday, January 07, 2011

William Bunge, Nuclear War Atlas (1982)

Bill Bunge's 1982 Nuclear War Atlas poster. From Martin Dodge's Cyber Badger Research Blog.

See D. Wood and J. Krygier, 'Maps and Protest,' in Rob Kitchin and Nigel Thrift, eds., International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2009), pp. 438-9:

'[The map] folded, William Bunge, its principal author recalls, "into a 5 in x 8 in. size designed for peace demonstrations where it was abundantly sold." Black, white, and red, the very design and layout of the maps were inflammatory, but the reframing of data that had been culled from a variety of impeccably researched sources (e.g., Progress in Nuclear Energy, Health Physics, Child Psychology) was largely carried out by the titling: "The march of doom", "Patriotic poisoning", "The sea of cancer". "The sea of cancer" was a map of the U.S. largely covered with red stippling that indicated areas that would be exposed to 100 or more rem of radiation in a full nuclear war. "Not only will most of the United States be washed in immediate radiation," read the caption, "but even the white areas on the map are safe only in the sense that people in the open escape short term damage but not long term. The cancer is everywhere." A map of the world makes the point that the boundaries of a missile armed United States and Soviet Union are global: "To state the new geographic reality using the militaristic language of the 1980s, ‘The Russians are not coming. They are already here.’ At least they are straight up in the sky above us and thus are bounded by the earth’s surface, not ‘contained’ by boundary lines. They can kill anything on the earth’s surface and for a considerable depth below it; the Americans likewise. 'Containment' has been a mathematically proven bankruptcy for almost twenty years." By dramatically reframing simple truisms like these, The Nuclear War Atlas gave people whole new grounds for protesting nuclear weapons.'

Scene from the Other Side

Science Fiction in the Present 26 May 2011

26th May 2011 - Research Beehive, Newcastle University. A one day symposium organised by the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape featuring the following speakers:
  • Noel Sharkey (University of Sheffield)
  • Stephen Graham (Newcastle University)
  • Mark Dorrian (Newcastle University)
  • David Cunningham (University of Westminster)
  • Matt Carr (Independent Scholar)
  • John Beck (Newcastle University)
  • Iain Boal (Birkbeck/Retort)
Attendance is free, places can be reserved by emailing

Trevor Paglen: Blank Spots

Some snippets from Dirty Wars:

Planning the rescue of a kidnapped friend who has been squirreled away in a disused government installation, two men in Thomas Pynchon’s Vineland (1990) study maps of the area: “They peered at the maps, each with that enigmatic blank in the middle, like the outline of a state in a geography test, belonging to something called ‘the U.S.,’ but not the one they knew”  (250).

The unmarked space on the map has become a common trope in writing about the American West in recent years, a double motif that speaks on the one hand of the shroud of secrecy covering military-industrial activity and on the other the resistant spaces beyond the inventory of the U.S. standing-reserve.

In Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge (1991), “A blank spot on the map translates into empty space, space devoid of people, a wasteland perfect for nerve gas, weteye bombs, and toxic waste” (241). Similarly, in DeLillo’s Underworld (1997), the white places on the map “include the air base, the army base, the missile range, the vast stretch to the northwest called the Jornada del Muerto and the interdunal flats as well.”  The flats themselves are perversely “map-white, on the page and in living fact,” so that their absence on the map does in fact represent their physical condition. In an uncanny twist, the blank space on this map tells the truth even as it continues to lie, since the few low buildings and propane tanks that are visible “service the underground operation in the Pocket, where weapons were conceived and designed” (404).

The blank space on the map is a visible marker of the state of exception that, as Giorgio Agamben explains in State of Exception (2005), “represents the inclusion and capture of a space that is neither outside nor inside (the space that corresponds to the annulled and suspended norm).”  The “topological structure” of the state of exception, claims Agamben, is “defined by the oxymoron ecstasy-belonging” (35); that is, being-outside yet also belonging.  This seems to me to be precisely the condition of the map’s blank spaces, which simultaneously refuse the function of the map’s signifying purpose while confirming this function: the blank space is where the hidden is emplotted, where the suspended norm gives shape to the normative representation of the world that surrounds it. The blank space is neither inside nor outside the nation state of the United States; it ruptures the continuous spatial indexing that produces the narrative sense of the map as a record of all there is while also indisputably being in that space.

The House in the Middle (1954)

'In the house on the right all the earmarks of untidy housekeeping...'

Producer: National Paint, Varnish and Lacquer Association
Sponsor: National Clean Up-Paint Up-Fix Up Bureau. Produced with the cooperation of the Federal Civil Defense Administration.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Lost Landscapes of Detroit (2010)

Compilation of historical images of Detroit, Michigan (1917-1970), edited by Rick Prelinger for presentation at Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) on February 10, 2010.

This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives

Heavy Water: A Film for Chernobyl (2009)

The rest of this is available on Youtube. Or the DVD is available: Heavy Water: a film for Chernobyl