Photography and the Rhythm of Place: On Victor Burgin's Prairie

Domietta Torlasco - Northwestern University
October 19, 2017

Thursday, October 26th 1:00-3:00 PM
125 Nolte Center 
University Of Minnesota
I sit in front of Prairie, Victor Burgin’s new digital projection piece, and experience it as one self-differing photograph: a place of rhythm, place as rhythm. In ancient Ionian philosophy and the atomistic tradition of Democritus, rhythm (rhuthmos) names a form that does not coalesce, an intermittent configuration, a manner of flowing. Prairie is such a rhythm: a building that opens up into itself, a dancer that endures the injustices of time, cast iron leaves fluctuating in the wind of a prairie that was once crossed by wagons. This constellation of images points to, photographs an overlay in the history of the same Chicago site. Now occupied by the Mies van der Rohe’s Crown Hall building at the Illinois Institute of Technology, this plot of land had seen the flourishing of “The Mecca” apartment building (the city’s most vital center of African American culture, demolished in order to make room for the modernist masterpiece) and, decades earlier, the arrival of white settlers. Prairie makes visible this layering as “the staging of an appearance-as-disappearance” (to momentarily borrow Barthes’ striking formulation), the trace of what had always been other than itself. How can Burgin’s piece and the rhythm it performs help us rethink medium specificity and photography’s much-debated indexical properties? What does it mean to practice photographyby other means if we shift our critical attention to rhythm and the disturbance of property it entails?

Free and Open to the Public

Sponsored by the Program in Moving Image Studies and the Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature

Domietta Torlasco will also present three of her video essays at 7:00 PM in the Mediatheque of the Walker Art Center. This is a free event as part of the Walker's Free Thursday Nights
Domietta Torlasco is an Associate Professor in the Department of French and Italian at Northwestern University. She works at the intersection of film theory and practice, with a specific interest in European cinema, psychoanalysis, phenomenology, feminist theory, and time-based visual arts. She is currently at work on a video installation exploring the relationship between violence and play and on a book manuscript titled Re-Framing War: Experiments in European Film and Installation Art, aimed at investigating the parameters according to which violence becomes visible and acquires political urgency.