Department of Rhetoric and Writing

The University of Texas at Austin

Slippery Images

Edmonton Swastikas, 1916

Paul Lukas, who runs a weblog called Uni Watch (the obsessive study of athletics aesthetics), has an entry up on the swastika and uniforms from the early 1900s. This picture shows the Edmonton Swastikas from 1916. Lukas details the popularity of the swastika graphic prior to its ignominious use by the Nazi party. Lukas’ piece is interesting for a variety of reasons (including some nice images and a link to a “Canadian artist/mystic” devoted to rescuing the swastika from its association with the Nazis), but it got me thinking about the ease with which images become iconic (at times unintentionally or at cross purposes with an image’s original meaning) and the kinds of control this easy iconicity demands in visual practice.

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Getting the Most Out of Your Graffiti (and the first bounty offered on our blog)

I've always thought that the best graffiti is on train cars. Maybe it's not always the best graphically, but I like the statement--not only has the tagger tagged, but the canvas is mobile and likely to get pulled all over the country, set forth into the world. It's bold. Not as bold as the graffiti on interstate signs where some kid crawled out on a metal pole over 80 mile-an-hour traffic, but bold nonetheless. Train Car Graffiti

MIT suing Gehry over impractical design

Stata Center, MIT. Gehry & Partners

Last month I posted a link to Slate’s photo-essay on functional architecture. That essay emphasized the trend in architecture toward functional buildings over flashy—and often impractical—works like those Frank Gehry is known for. Now, MIT is suing Gehryfor his design of the Stata center, pictured above.

The school asserts that the center, completed in spring 2004, has persistent leaks, drainage problems and mold growing on its brick exterior. It says accumulations of snow and ice have fallen dangerously from window boxes and other areas of its roofs, blocking emergency exits and causing damage.
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Tufte course in Austin, December 10–11

Edward Tufte book covers

Information design guru Edward Tufte will be offering his one-day course “Presenting Data and Information” in Austin on Monday, December 10, and Tuesday, December 11. Here’s the list of course topics from Tufte’s website:

• fundamental strategies of information design • evaluating evidence used in presentations • statistical data: tables, graphics, and semi-graphics • business, scientific, legal, financial presentations • complexity and clarity • effective presentations: on paper and in person • use of video, overheads, computers, and handouts • multi-media, internet, and websites • credibility of presentations • design of information displays in public spaces • animation and scientific visualizations • design of computer interfaces and manuals

Registration includes copies of Tufte’s four books, and there is a generous discount for students (it’s basically the cost of the books).

The rhetoric of wandering around your apartment in your bathrobe

Richard Meier apartments in Manhattan, a glass-walled condo building

The New York Times has an article on architects Jeremy Fletcher and Alejandra Lillo of Graft, who have designed a new condo tower in Manhattan, the W Downtown, with glass walls. According to Fletcher and Lillo, the purpose of the see-through design is to “[work] out a dialogue between voyeurism and exhibitionism”:

Not only will the building’s glass walls allow W residents to see, and be seen by, passers-by on the street below, but Mr. Fletcher and Ms. Lillo have created peekaboo features within each apartment, like a window between the kitchen and the bedroom, and a bathroom that’s a glass cube, allowing residents to expose themselves to their roommates and family members, too. The idea, Mr. Fletcher said, was to frame and exhibit the intimate details of life, or at least ones that would be aesthetically pleasing, “like your silhouette in the shower.”
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Mexican-American studies, visual culture, and film theory reading in Austin

Bill Nericcio lecture poster

If you’re going to be in Austin on Thursday, November 1, you will want to plan on attending Bill Nericcio’s reading from his book Tex[t]-Mex: Seductive Hallucinations of the “Mexican” in America. He’ll be speaking from 4–6 p.m. at UT’s Cactus Cafe.

Wikipediavision: Visualizing anonymous edits to Wikipedia

screen grab of Wikipedia vision

László Kozma, a grad-student at the Helsinki University of Technology, has created Wikipediavision a mashup of Wikipedia edits and Google maps reminiscent of Twittervision and Flickrvision [ED: original links are no longer live, but you can see some screenshots here].

A Compendium of the Visual Tropes of War

The music video above is by Serj Tankian (lead singer of System of a Down) and directed by Tony Petrossian. Depending on your taste in music, you may want to watch it with the volume turned down.

Making type taste good: Typographics

This short film by Boca and Ryan Uhrich provides an introduction to typography while illustrating some of the possibilities of typographic videos.

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