a conference
hosted by the graduate students in the Department of Comparative Literature at
UC Irvine
May 5&6, 2006




emergent scholarship panel

panel descriptions and participant bios


screening: experimental film shorts "global visions: memory-traces, libidinal imaginaries, and intercessory images"

maps, directions, and helpful links

"global states"
poster (pdf)

other events and activities


many thanks to our CONFERENCE SPONSORS:

UCI Department of Comparative Literature, UCI Humanities Center, International Center for Writing and Translation, UCI Critical Theory Emphasis, Critical Theory Institute, UC Humanities Research Institute, Department of Asian American Studies, Ph.D. Program in Visual Studies, Department of French and Italian, Department of German, Department of History, Department of English, Postmodern Culture, the Philosophy Graduate Students, and the Program in Women's Studies


Friday, May 5th 2-4pm HIB 110

"Global Visions: Memory-Traces, Libidinal Imaginaries, and Intercessory Images"

In Lida Abdul’s video piece, Military/Body, the artist—frank and unadorned except, perhaps in the negative, by the starkness of a completely white background—stands, impassively, as a flood of toy soldiers rains down upon her head. The first image in the screening program, “Global Visions: Memory-Traces, Libidinal Imaginaries, and Intercessory Images,” Military/Body is both overtly political and conceptually oblique, visualizing the oscillating tension between action and inaction, animate and inanimate objects, agency and passivity, aggression and play, affect and perception. The piece introduces a set of themes that each of the subsequent works in the program takes up in its own incommensurable ways.

Situating agency with play, Ami Motevalli’s drily humorous, I USD 2 B WRTCHD, figures resistance as the transposition and translation of the history and rhetoric of revolutionary discourse into the new, immediate, and foreshortened vernacular of text messaging. Fanon orchestrates an uprising via wireless telecommunications networks, and the urban expanse of Los Angeles appears as a hazy, fantastic theater of operations.

Further elaborating the realm of fantasy, though in this case, in the realm of ecstatic religous experience, Tapau Apparition, a video by Tony Do, is an otherworldly assemblage of found footage. Shown are two documented instances of Vietnamese Catholic spiritual practice: one in pursuit of a vision—a pilgrimage inspired by a reported sighting of Mary, the second, a ritual of exorcism—the image of an abject soul in its moment of restitution. Tapau Apparition is doubly haunted. It presents the traces of bodies—devoted, afflicted, and orientalized—in the harsh materiality of documentary video images. These images, however, are also haunted by time—the physical degradation of the surface of the tape—as well as the legacy of ethnographic modes of seeing and relating.

Nguyen Tan Hoang’s film Pirated! also dwells in the elliptical space of Vietnam, which, for Nguyen, figures as a radically defamiliarized, phantasmatic point-of-origin. Memory, fantasy and desire are coextensive, in Pirated!, a piece inspired by the filmmaker’s own traumatic experience of displacement and forced emigration. Libidinal investments, intersecting with traumatic memory, are envisioned in the spaces of gay pornography and the popular imaginary of filmic images of sailors and pirates, some of which are, themselves, pirated.

A similar relation between psychic trauma and the formation of fantasy is also posited by Soni Kum’s troubling and moving film, Beast of Me. Structured as two disjunctive halves, the first sequence documents the exhilarating spectacle of nationalist propaganda, performed by a group of schoolgirls in a state-sponsored, North Korean school in Japan. The theatricality of the performance, accentuated by the bright colors of traditional Korean costumes, and the bright faces of the performers, is juxtaposed with the latter half’s intimate narration of the filmmaker’s memories of abuse and discrimination as a young girl in Tokyo, a perpetual target of Japanese xenophobic anxiety and colonial aggression. Kum’s quietly cacophonous, multilingual voiceover, bordering on incomprehensibility, is a medium that converges with its message. Her film draws out the imbricated factors of oppression, fantastic reactionary nationalisms, and the deeply felt affective responses of the members of the community of exiled North Koreans in Japan.

Interiority as personal memory is presented as a poetic field of experience that registers longing, as still photographs, interviews, insects, and type are collected and displayed in Arshia Haq’s film, Recollection, the final work in “Global Visions.” A meditation on the preservation and loss of both objects and experience in the operation of memory, Haq’s lyrical work identifies multiple orders of memorialization: through the suspension of time in the photograph as index, through the objectifying discourse of science and its epic struggle against contingency and aberration via taxonomies of species/specimens, and through symbolization, as words and letters become cathected sites of nostalgia, exceeding what the mere letters are capable of signifying. These forms of “re-collection” are, throughout, accompanied by a further operation of memory as meditation, narration, and working through.
- -Michelle Cho

Featuring short works by:

As an artist who works both in performance and video art, Lida Abdul 
creates poetic spaces that allow the viewer to interrogate the 
familiar and the personal. Her work is guided by a ritualized 
formalism that insinuates the immediacy of myth and the playfulness 
of a mind seeking to understand the surrounding world. In many ways, 
witnessing her pieces is like attempting to understand the riddles of 
the gestures and the repetitions that highlight her work. Abdul's 
work is located at the intersection between art and architecture; it 
invites the viewer to see the unfolding of new forms but never 
resolves the contradictions and the paradoxes, the purpose of which
seems to be to make us doubt our claims of understanding.

Born in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1973, she lived in Germany and India as 
a refugee before going to U.S. Her work fuses the formalist 
traditions she was trained in the US with the numerous aesthetic 
traditions--Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, pagan and nomadic--that 
collectively influenced Afghan art and culture. She has produced work 
in many media including video, film, photography, installation and 
live performance. Her most recent work has been featured at the 
Venice Biennale 2005, Kunsthalle Vienna, Museum of Modern Art Arnhem, Netherlands and Miami Cantral, CAC Centre d'art contemporain de Brétigny and Frac Lorraine Metz, France. She has also exhibited in 
festivals in Mexico, Spain, Germany, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and 
Afghanistan; She was also a featured artist at the Central Asian 
Biennial 2004. Recently she was in Kabul, Afghanistan working on 
projects exploring the relationship between architecture and identity 
in post-war Afghanistan.

AMITIS MOTEVALLI -- MFA, Claremont Graduate School
Amitis Motevalli was born in Tehran, Iran and moved to the US with her family in 1977. In her exploration of artwork, she has incorporated a combination of near-eastern aesthetic with a western art education. Since her immigration from Iran to the United States, her vision has shown a duality of culture, both natural and learned. Amitis Motevalli introduces a dialogue that critiques the western view of Middle Eastern women and culture in general. Her work recreates the concepts of Islamic art, yet with a resolve that adapts and exploits her environment and experiences.

Professionally, she has been involved in art education with youth who share with her a similar duality in their vision. Through her involvement with youth and art, Motevalli has worked in creating social change with her students on civil rights and equal access within their schools. Her civil rights work includes collaboration with several community organizations such as Community Coalition, the ACLU and Pacifica.
She is currently living and working in Los Angeles, exhibiting art and organizing youth on issues of educational justice. Her work is now focused on a collaboration with students in Los Angeles and East Oakland on a multi-media exhibition looking at repressive tactics in local schools.

TONY DO -- UC Irvine, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)
Tapau Apparition
Tony Do is a Vietnamese American artist who lives and works in Los Angeles.  Combining the genres of performance, sculpture, and video installation, his work investigates issues concerning the ethnological gaze, colonial sovereignty, Christianity and the psychic space of the convert, and the relation of religious ecstasy to madness.  Inspired by Artuad’s concept of the “Theater of Cruelty”--in the words of Susan Sontag: "the communal performance of a violent act of spiritual alchemy"--his recent work employs a strategy visual magic in order to incorporate the concept of mystical irony with abject, heretical, and transgressive elements.

NGUYEN TAN HOANG -- MFA, UC Irvine; Berkeley, Rhetoric/Film Studies
Nguyen Tan Hoang is a Vietnamese American video artist whose work interrogates forms of desire in queer Asian male identities. His short experimental videos have screened nationally and internationally, in such venues as the Musée National d'Art Moderne at the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), Impakt Festival (Utrecht, The Netherlands), Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen (Germany), VIPER: International Festival for Film, Video, and New Media (Basel, Switzerland), THAW (Iowa City, IA), European Media Art Festival (Osnabruck, Germany), Bangkok Experimental Film Festival, Images Festival of Independent Film and Video (Toronto), and San Francisco Cinematheque. His critical writings have appeared in the anthologies Porn Studies (Ed. Linda Williams, Duke University Press, 2004), Alien Encounters: Popular Culture in Asian America (Eds. Mimi Nguyen and Thuy Linh Tu, Duke University Press, forthcoming), and "The Object of Media Studies" (Ed. Amelie Hastie, www.vectorsjournal.org, forthcoming). He has programmed film, video, and performance work for MIX: New York Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film/Video Festival, the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, and Artists' Television Access (San Francisco). Hoang received his MFA in Studio Art at the University of California, Irvine. Currently, he is a PhD candidate in the Department of Rhetoric/Film Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

-- MFA, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)
Beast of Me
Born in Tokyo in 1980, Soni Kum was raised in Japan as a third generation North Korean refugee. She recently received an MFA in Film and Video from the California Institute of the Arts in the United States. Her video works and performances have been shown in various galleries in the Los Angeles area and in Brazil.

ARSHIA HAQ -- MFA, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)
Arshia Haq is an East Indian-born filmmaker residing in Los Angeles. She received her MFA from California Institute of the Arts in 2004 and recently premiered her film Recollection at the International Flaherty Seminar.