The Fragrance of Sensory Studies

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In a previous post I suggested that a handful of important books (mostly published within the past decade) offer a productive entry into the leading concerns of sensory history. Few have done more to promote that kind of history by way of their role as pioneers in the wider interdisciplinary field of Sensory Studies than two Canada-based scholars – the anthropologist David Howes and cultural historian Constance Classen. They’ve just collaborated on a new hit, Ways of Sensing: Understanding the Senses in Society (2014) that puts us in mind of the relationship between art, history, and the senses. Howes, who directs the ambitious programs of the Centre for Sensory Studies at Concordia … [Read more...]

From Bauhaus to Your Mouse: Fred Turner’s Brilliant New Book on the Origins and Politics of Interactive Media

glimpses of USA

Democracy is a funny word.  In the strictest sense, it means “government by the people,” with decisions made by direct choice of those governed (in the classic Athenian or New Englandian sense) or by elected representatives. “Democratic” can mean inclusive; it can mean egalitarian.  It can mean diverse, in the sense that a democracy includes multiple voices, even if some end up prevailing over others.  It can also be a cultural sensibility—blue jeans, sloppy joes, and general unostentatiousness. “I know you like to line-dance, with everything so democratic and cool,” David Berman sang sixteen years ago, “but baby there’s no guidance when random rules…” The classic Silver Jews tune makes … [Read more...]

East of East: Using Vacant Space to Create Place in South El Monte

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[Editor's note: This article originally appeared under the Intersections column for the KCET Departures website, January 31, 2013] When the housing bubble burst in 2008, the fallout scattered widely. California and the metropolitan region of Los Angeles took it in the teeth. In Cleveland and Detroit, where unoccupied housing had long proven to be a drag on local economies and communities, vacant homes and lots accumulated rapidly. Rustbelt inner cities struggled mightily and their sprawling Sunbelt cousins endured crippling retrenchment. Phoenix, Fresno and Orlando witnessed declining economies and rising crime rates as vacant homes and lots proliferated. In "Sunburnt Cities," Tufts … [Read more...]

Too Much to Choose From: Searching for Inspiration in Asheville

local is the new black poster

Asheville is an Appalachian Shangri-La. This year-round resort town, tucked between the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, draws a funky mix of New Agers, fleece-clad mountain bikers, antiques lovers and old-time farmers. And what's there not to like? Charming yet surprisingly cosmopolitan for a town of about 73,000, Asheville has a Southern appeal all its own. There are lazy cafes and buzzing bistros, Art Deco skyscrapers and arcades reminiscent of Paris, kayaking and biodiesel cooperatives and one of the world's largest private homes — the Biltmore Estate, a French Renaissance-style mansion with 250 rooms. No wonder so many locals first started out as tourists. -- New York Times “Freak … [Read more...]

Making Place: Mapping South El Monte and El Monte

PowerPoint Presentation

South El Monte Arts Posse’s upcoming project “East of East: Mapping Community Narratives in South El Monte and El Monte” will use interdisciplinary workshops to create a digital archive. Our hope is that our archive will be accessible to community members, journalists, and scholars and thus produce more written and other forms of cultural production about El Monte and South El Monte. Ultimately, we hope this will produce a better sense of place. Over a four-week period (Jan to Feb 2014) we will be bringing a range of professionals from Mexico City to work in South El Monte and El Monte with community members. Together, we will create a range of primary sources--oral histories, creative … [Read more...]

Finding the Bones in Immigrant America

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In her new chapbook, Finding the Bones, poet Aimee Suzara writes about a Filipino migrant family, their place in the Philippines and the U.S., as well as the relationship between the “sending” and “receiving” country. The scope is simultaneously expansive (geographically and historically) and intimate as she asks the reader to constantly move between countries, to grasp the present by understanding the past. Divided into three sections, Finding the Bones digs through the materials of an unnamed narrator’s personal and family story, while discovering ancient layers of sedimented life, creatures that bear some eerie semblance to us. Suzara’s poetic excavations complicate the relationship … [Read more...]

Domestic Art: Nannies, Immigrants, and Labor

babystroller in the kitchen

While most artists find their voice in the studio, Ramiro Gomez Jr. found his in the space between two very disparate and disconnected worlds. In 2009, he left the California Institute of the Arts and moved in with a wealthy family in West Hollywood to work as a live-in nanny and care for two infants. Although nervous about his huge new responsibilities, he was also grateful and relieved to finally have some stability and a chance to rethink his artistic path. With one baby strapped to this chest and another baby slung on his hip, Ramiro found his way to the park, the un-official gathering and organizing space for maids and nannies. At first the other domestic workers didn’t know what to … [Read more...]

Activating Alternative Historical Narratives: The Black Arts Collective of Philadelphia Visits South El Monte

"Let It Sparkle"

SEMAP Interview from Henry Pacheco on Vimeo. For Activate Vacant, the South El Monte Arts Posse invited artists to transgress space by creating installations in abandoned, un-used, and, often, fenced of lots. Carribean Fragoza’s two word self-titled poem installation/billboard “ay corazon,” made entirely of white plastic grocery bags, interrupted the monotonous landscape and functioned as an emotional holograph for El Monte’s commuters. Christopher Anthony Velasco’s “Let It Sparkle,” invited bus riders and the SEMAP team to cover the adjacent abandoned car garage and parking lot with yarn. Lastly, Jennifer Renteria’s rendering “The Uncultivated Park,” allowed residents to contemplate … [Read more...]

The Relentless Pace of Hipsterdom: A Day at Pitchfork Music Festival Paris

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[Editor's note: Please welcome Greg Spivak to ToM.  All photos appearing here were taken by Mr. Spivak, we encourage you to click on them to see them at full size and resolution.] In French there is no equivalent for “hipster.” Recently the term has been adopted by the French press, with articles describing this American idea of “le hipster”; slowly, the word is starting to lose its italicized status as a new loan word along with les has-been, les best-of and les lifting (fine, the last is a strange Gallic deformation of "face-lift"). The closest the French come is the bobo, which, although coined by David Brooks, moved to, settled, and thrived in France -- talk shows speak endlessly of … [Read more...]

Jennifer Renteria’s “The Uncultivated Park”

Jennifer Renteria. Uncultivated Park

For Activate Vacant, the South El Monte Arts Posse invited artists to transgress space by creating installations in abandoned, un-used, and, often, fenced of lots. Jennifer Renteria, a recent graduate of USC's School of Architecture," imaged and rendered "The Uncultivated Park." Join us for the on-site installations: October 13th, 9am, corner of Merced and Santa Anita, South El Monte. For further reading on SEMAP and Activate Vacant, see: The South El Monte Arts Posse Presents "Ay Corazon" Christopher Anthony Velasco's "Let It Sparkle" Blurring Boundaries: A Conversation about Urban Nature with Jennifer Renteria … [Read more...]

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