Podcast, Caren Kaplan: “Bringing the War Home” – Visual Aftermaths and Domestic Disturbances in the Era of Modern Warfare

At the close of the First Gulf War, feminist architectural historian Beatriz Colomina wrote that “war today speaks about the difficulty of establishing the limits of domestic space.” That conflict of 1990-91 is most often cited as the first to pull the waging of war fully into the digital age and therefore into a blurring of boundaries of all kinds. Yet, most modern wars have introduced technological innovations that transform social relations and modes of communication and representation. In this paper Caren Kaplan focuses on a period that includes the Vietnam War (1955-1975) and extends into the “War on Terror” through a consideration of Martha Rosler’s photo collage series “House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home” (1967-2004). The technique of collage reinforces the artist’s emphatic effort to bring together seemingly incommensurable elements—images of exquisite domestic interiors, glamorous consumer commodities, and landscapes and bodies damaged by warfare. Literally bringing wars waged by the United States throughout this long durée into the hyper commodified environment of fashion layouts and magazine advertisement, Rosler demonstrates the impossibility of limiting domestic space, an impossibility that challenges representation across genres and practices—televisual, photographic, cinematic, social media, analogue, digital, etc. Such disturbances of “here” and “there,” “now” and “then,” resonate as powerful “aftermaths” of wars visible and invisible, always already underway.

Caren Kaplan is Professor of American Studies at the UC Davis. Her research draws on cultural geography, landscape art, and military history to explore the ways in which undeclared as well as declared wars produce representational practices of atmospheric politics. Recent publications include Aerial Aftermaths: Wartime from Above (Duke 2018) and Life in the Age of Drone Warfare (Duke 2017).

Rachel Thompson

About Rachel Thompson

Rachel Thompson earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Anthropology and Comparative Literature from Harvard University. Her honors thesis explored literature’s evolving role in the digital age through an ethnographic study of an online literary magazine. She also co-founded and directed the Harvard Organization for Prison Education and Reform, a network of eight volunteer groups that tutor in prisons across Massachusetts and work on advocacy initiatives relating to mass incarceration and education. Before joining CMS, Rachel worked in Boston-area art museums — the Harvard Art Museums and the Peabody Essex Museum — with a focus on developing teaching curriculum for makerspaces as well as integrated digital media experiences for visitors. At MIT Rachel is interested in interrogating the ethics of American incarceration media, from made-in-prison podcasts to exploitative reality television. She works as a Research Assistant in the Global Media Technologies and Cultures Lab under the direction of Lisa Parks. Extracurricularly, Rachel has a passion for retrieving the past; in her spare time, she works on restoring film cameras and mid-century modern furniture and really just wants to talk to someone about The Twilight Zone.

 
 

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