Critical Writing Index

A Time to Gather Stones: Nomadism after War in Susanne Slavick's Out of Rubble

by G. Roger Denson

Cultural Politics, July 2012, v. 8, no. 2, pp. 254-271

Susanne Slavick's Out of Rubble is an exhibition in a book that boldly epitomizes the new, globally nomadic curation of art representative of current concerns of the world's vital cultures, both ancient and modern. Although the motif of rubble is chosen by Slavick to index the ubiquitous features of war and its aftermath, the artworks included herein equally represent indigenous cultures' intent to reinforce and maintain local customs and values as a defense against both reactionary regional insurgencies that embrace modernity from within and the long arm of homogenizing forces that are insidiously imposed from without, internationally. Although largely unintentional, Slavick's essay and selection of art combined present the scholar and critic of theory and ideology with a fascinating study of the ongoing tension between the current predilection for commentary and analysis of conflict and the universal visual signage of war that compels a more immediate response. This tension agitates beneath the surface of Slavick's study, renewing the debate between poststructuralist and existentialist analyses of conflict. Whereas the poststructuralist commentary is ideally suited for exhuming the archeology and economics of war, it is prone to textual insularity. By contrast, the existentialist reading, particularly well suited to the imagery of the aftermath of war, is given to overly metaphysical, if at times overwrought, ideological melodrama. Meanwhile, Slavick's selection of artworks reconciles two threads of the art-making process that are exceedingly relevant to cultures grappling with the effects of war: the direct experience of war knowable only by living through it and the empathetic response to war gathered and "known" through the media. In less capable hands, the distinct responses would polarize to the point of canceling each other out. It is to Slavick's credit that she manages to make the two seem equally viable, even complementary.

NOTE: Slavick's curated collection includes artists working in multiple media. Listed below are those who use video.

ITEM 2012.055 – available for viewing in the Research Centre

Videos, Artworks and Artists Cited

White HouseLida Abdul

How to Appear InvisibleJennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla