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Friday, November 2 • 11:00am - 12:30pm
2.A. Site Specificity

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PANEL. Site Specificity

“Afro-Surrealism in the Antietam National Battlefield”
Jeffrey Hogrefe
Pratt Institute

The erasure of multiple narratives in the National Park Service Civil War monuments which could have commemorated the abolition of slavery has had the effect of freezing past events in crystalline moments that privilege the universalist image of the White soldier and White slave owning townspeople in a simulacrum. The Abolitionist Landscape Project proposes that the human capacity to monumentalize that is supported by capital formations of material practices in the battlefields and historic towns can be acted on and against by the human capacity to locate interpretive practices that focus on landscape as the singular origin of all meanings and walkers as co-creators of the landscape in time and space. The Afro-surrealist interpretation of a section of the Antietam National Battlefield presented in this paper sets out to reorder, in uncanny juxtapositions, the events and objects that contain the memory of the Indigenous and enslaved African that are contained rhizomatically in the landscape. A global, transhistorical practice, Afro-Surrealism is in pursuit of liberation from the economic forces that support the militarization of landscape and language. As it seeks to unravel and reorder new imaginary potential for the everyday and ordinary, Afro-surrealism offers a possible rupture in the text of the place to allow the space of Africa to emerge in the Potomac River Valley. The N.P.S. functions to shore up the capitalist and neocolonial state. Afro-surrealism presupposes that beyond this visible world, there is an invisible world striving to manifest, and it is our job to uncover it.

“Anticolonial Anthropocene Surrealism: Time, Noise, Ecology, and Inhumanism in Basma Alsharif’s Deep Sleep and Wirephobia’s Lebanon’s Fatal Noise Walls
Sean Matharoo
University of California, Riverside

In this paper, I read Palestinian filmmaker Basma Alsharif’s experimental short Deep Sleep (2014) and Iraqi musician Wirephobia’s harsh noise wall album Lebanon’s Fatal Noise Walls (2017) as examples of what I am calling “Anticolonial Anthropocene Surrealism” (AAS). I maintain that AAS is a part of other surrealisms because its poetics invests objects with subjective meaning and affirms the liberating power of the imagination in language. But, I contend that AAS is conceptually distinct from other surrealisms because of its commitment to combatting colonial violence and the Anthropocene, the present geological epoch marked by humankind’s carbon signature. Such a commitment is reflected in Alsharif and Wirephobia’s exploration of alternative temporalities, formalist noise, ecology, and philosophical inhumanism. In her hypnotic study of ruins in Greece and Malta, Alsharif mobilizes a stroboscopic and haptic audiovisual language to (bi-)locate herself in Palestine and elaborate a failed attempt to locate colonial trauma in the deep time of geology. By lingering on a monolithic wall of static noise, Wirephobia’s album is a sonic katabasis into the colonial traumas of the Lebanese civil war. Both concatenate temporalities critical of the spatial-visual epistemology that would presuppose colonial divisions. This presupposition would inadvertently make the argument that all groups of people considered to be non-human from the perspective of reason are excluded from life in the same way. I demonstrate that, as works of AAS, they instead allow for an ecological approach to transcultural solidarity that contributes to the ongoing global project of inhumanism.

"Alice Rahon and the Importance of Place"
Danielle Johnson
Vero Beach Museum of Art
Alice Rahon (1904-1987), a prolific and inventive Surrealist poet and painter, is little known outside of Mexico. Rahon was born in France and became involved with the Surrealist movement in the 1930s. During World War II, she and her husband Wolfgang Paalen moved to Mexico, where she chose to reside for the remainder of her life. This paper examines the importance of place in Rahon’s writing and artwork. Art historians have tied Rahon’s painted landscapes and cityscapes to the familiar Surrealist idea of the vast, unchartered landscape of the unconscious mind. Yet her work notably refers to specific locations she has experienced, intertwining their atmosphere, history, and myths with broader Surrealist themes. Rahon traveled extensively in her life, taking inspiration from India, Cuba, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Canada, Lebanon, and, most importantly, from Mexico. Her earliest Surrealist poetry evokes the landscapes from her childhood on the coast of France, while her second published book of poetry was inspired by her time in India. Many of her paintings similarly represent exact places in Europe, Africa, the United States, or Mexico. Despite early international exposure and her significant affect on Mexican modern art, Rahon disappeared from the art world by the 1960s and her work has not been sufficiently studied or exhibited. This paper begins to remedy the lack of sustained scholarly attention by showing that her dominant subjects, written and painted landscapes and cityscapes, are often linked to the specific geography and history of the places she lived and visited, rather than reflecting an undefined inner landscape of the mind.


Jeffrey Hogrefe

Pratt Institute

Danielle Johnson

Vero Beach Museum of Art
avatar for Sean Matharoo

Sean Matharoo

Ph.D. Candidate and Graduate Instructor, University of California, Riverside
Sean Matharoo is a Ph.D. candidate of Comparative Literature at University of California, Riverside, where he is writing his dissertation on French, Francophone and Anglophone speculative fiction and philosophy. He has published his research in Horror Studies and Green Letters, book... Read More →

avatar for Erika Doss

Erika Doss

University of Notre Dame

Friday November 2, 2018 11:00am - 12:30pm EDT
Room A. Hildreth-Mirza Hall: Great Room Annex (ground floor)