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4 • Gyapagpa Temple’s Painting Style and Its Antecedents

Melissa R. Kerin Indiana University Press ePub

Based on the insights of the last two chapters it is clear that the Gyapagpa Temple’s sixteenth-century painting program was the result of a vital ’Bri gung (Drigung) resurgence that affected much of the western Himalayan region during the late medieval period. Given this temple’s significant role in piecing together the region’s religious history, a lingering question must be raised: How could this valuable historic document have gone underanalyzed for so long? The answer to this question is enmeshed within at least two interconnected issues regarding trends in South Asian, and specifically Tibetan, art historical scholarship. As for the first of these two issues, there has generally been a tendency to document, analyze, and publish Tibetan art from earlier rather than later periods. Much of Tibetan art history has focused on earlier material of the eleventh through fourteenth centuries.1 Indeed, this is the case with the late sixteenth-century paintings at the Gyapagpa Temple, which were overshadowed by neighboring eleventh- and twelfth-century painting programs, both in the compound and in surrounding villages, such as Tabo. Antiquity was not always the deciding factor, however. It would seem that issues of connoisseurship also came into play when scholars neglected Gyapagpa’s paintings. Likely, its now faded paintings with limited modeling and sometimes clumsily executed lines inspired scholars to look at other sites, with similarly dated murals, such as at the religious and political centers of Tabo, Tholing, and Tsaparang.

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Medium 9780253006875

11. Undisciplined Knowledge

Joanna Grabski Indiana University Press ePub


This chapter explores the possibility of art-writing occupying a space that is “undisciplined,” where it resists categorization and translation into the domain of art history. We propose that such a space is enabled not only through dialogue but also by recognizing the multi-sited character of art-making and the effects that its movement, politics, and social relations can have on writing about and framing contemporary art. Constructed as a series of exchanges between the two of us, this chapter builds on the contingencies and temporal qualities of its own making; we tack back and forth, betraying and probing our own disciplinary biases in an effort to meet in the middle. The chapter is defined by its process, which, despite its mix of anecdotes, external references, and tentative offerings, is not an example of the undisciplined per se, but rather an exploration of its possibilities.

Purpura: In February 2008, I attended a conference at Harvard University, “New Geographies of Contemporary African Art,” in which artist Allan deSouza was asked to present a paper on his work that was written by a scholar who, the audience was told, was unable to attend the conference. What follows is an excerpt from deSouza's presentation.

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6. Warrior Theatre and the Ritualized Body

Sidney Littlefield Kasfir Indiana University Press ePub



The body of a warrior is both an aesthetic locus and a site of signification, bridging what often appears to be a conceptual discontinuity by blurring the structurally imposed boundary between nature (the body experienced as an anatomical fact) and culture (the body as aesthetic object and signifier). Moving from artisan back to warrior again, this chapter explores the issue of how not only certain objects (masks, spears) but also the decorated, mutilated, or sexually androgynous body as an artifact of culture acquires meaning in relationship to the institution of warriorhood. Both Idoma and Samburu warriors were deeply enmeshed in their own ritual systems and their respective systems of objects that structured cultural practice at the beginning of the twentieth century. These two systems were linked through a series of performative practices that included dancing and masquerading for the Idoma, dances and lmugit ceremonies for the Samburu, and of course warfare itself, also a type of performance. The most ritually marked objects were (at least so far in this reading) Samburu spears and Idoma enemy heads and mimetic carved representations of such heads.

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Chapter Four On Father’s Side: The Baks

Samuel S. Bak Indiana University Press ePub
Medium 9780253353801

19 Size Matters

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Judith Roof

The Collector’s Edition DVD of The Big Lebowski begins with an appended introduction to the film by Mortimer Young, president of Forever Young Film Preservation. His prologue, in the genre of the ceremonial film introduction, addresses both the casual viewer and the aesthete. Narrating the film’s history and provenance, and preparing the audience for its delights, Young traces the journey of the version that follows, recounting its rediscovery in a dubbed Italian version that has been redubbed into English. What survives, he warns us, is not exactly the original, but close enough for a film that has been destroyed in a fire, multiply translated, lost and found, and restored to us under the title The Grand Lebowski.

How you gonna keep them down on the farm
once they’ve seen Karl Hungus?

In The Big Lebowski, a film with so many pins and balls, with so many penetrations, penetrating looks, and penetrated eye views, one would think there would be an ample supply of penetrations, all big, bulky, and vain. But there are not. Or there are too many soon-to-be disqualified contestants. The only real man in the place seems to be “The” Jesus Quintana, a pastel-coordinated pederastic bowler with a penchant for threatening anal intercourse while waving the hard-on of his prosthetic finger stiffener. Bowling pins are relatively smaller than balls, if we wish at all to ascribe to what seems to be the obvious binary sex symbologies of the bowling alley. But the allegory is not as obvious as it seems, in fact, and it is at best fluidly shifting. Balls penetrate alleys and pins, and bowlers penetrate balls, three-fingering those bounding lasses that serve in turn as their rotund synecdoches, now big roly-polies frotting the standing ten, glancing the circle jerk where nine out of ten on the average come off. Then the benedictions of the great enfolding matrix, a giant set of holes descending on the hapless pins, sucking them up or brushing them off, cupping them in a caressingly careful (re)placement, and beneficently endowing the hungry balls with a ten-pack’s impending generosity.

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6 The Big Lebowski and Paul de Man: Historicizing Irony and Ironizing Historicism

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Joshua Kates

Let me begin by historicizing, not irony, but the Dude, though these two options may turn out to be closer than one suspects. The link between the Dude, the hero of the Coen brothers’ 1998 film The Big Lebowski, and the era of the 1960s has seemed to many incontestable. I propose, however, not the 1960s themselves, but a certain reception and interpretation of this era in the 1970s as Jeff’s actual socio-cultural reference point.

Indeed, at issue in the character and way of life of Jeff—as his homonym, the Big Lebowski, points out—is the fate of the already failed revolutionary hopes of the 1960s, as these have been taken up and “processed” by the 1970s. Jeff as we are shown him, in fact, has no living contact with that earlier era. The Dude cannot even be imagined actually doing any of the earlier deeds attributed to him, or to his supposed archetype Jeff “the Dude” Dowd: taking over campus buildings, writing the Port Huron Statement, etc. So, too, from the beginning of Lebowski, Lebowski little and big are distinguished along the axis of activity and quiescence, laziness and achievement (suited to the reference of the 1970s), not in terms of politics or political commitment (as would befit the 1960s). Big Lebowski is credited with being an achiever at least five times after the film’s opening, and even the doting cowboy narrator calls the Dude the laziest man in L.A. (Of course, by the end of the film, the attribute of achievement having been stripped from the putatively “larger” Lebowski, and Jeff having fathered a still smaller Lebowski, it is not clear who really is the big Lebowski: perhaps the larger-than-life, and about to become large with child, Maude Lebowski?)

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Medium 9781574412208

CHAPTER FOUR: Africa and Post-Africa, 1957–1974

Olive Jensen Theisen University of North Texas Press PDF

Africa and Post-Africa: 1957–1974




deas for drawings originate from many sources, just as do pieces of a quilt. They might emerge from the depths of an artist’s emotional memories and fantasies or from a draftsman’s powers of observation. The drawings that have been selected for the past three chapters have been expressionistic, emotional, and have come from inner memory as much as a reporter’s observations. Throughout the

first several decades of his career, Biggers’s images were deep and somber impressions of the downtrodden, tragic expressions of the human condition. When asked about this characteristic feature of his early work, Biggers explained that he felt that it was absolutely necessary to show his feelings about what happens to people in poverty. “This to me is what art is all about—showing the spirit of man struggling above the mundane, above the material, above suffering.”1

The influence of Viktor Lowenfeld can perhaps be understood by reviewing

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Medium 9781574412895

CHAPTER 3. BRIDGING PAST AND PRESENT:Africa and after, 1957–1974

Olive Jensen Theisen University of North Texas Press PDF

Chapter 3

Bridging Past and Present:

Africa and After, 1957–1974

The journey to Africa was the most significant of my life’s experiences. Living intimately with the African and understanding something of his problems enabled me to better understand my own. Thus strengthened, I gained a new confidence for the future.

—John Biggers, Ananse: The Web of Life in Africa

u  u  u 

West Africa, July 1957–December 1957

In July of 1957, John Biggers left America with his wife, Hazel, for six months of study in West Africa, funded by a UNESCO grant. The artist kept a careful record of his trip in words, drawings, and photographs, which he later incorporated into a book, Ananse: The Web of Life in Africa, first published in 1962.

In Ananse, he wrote of his thoughts in flight, as his plane approached the coast of Africa: “As an American Negro, my lifelong desire had been to bridge the gap between African and American culture. When I was an art student …Viktor

Lowenfeld taught us something about the noble meaning of African sculpture.”

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Medium 9780253008145

NINE Vulnerability Unveiled: Lubna’s Pants and Humanitarian Visibility on the Verge of Sudan’s Secession • AMAL HASSAN FADLALLA

Edited by Elisha P Renne Indiana University Press ePub

Journalist Lubna Ahmed Al-Hussein traveled to France to sign a book based on her story on the 23rd of November, 2009. Internet sales of her book . . . reached half a million copies, each selling for 18 Euros, 6% of which will go to Lubna. Lubna told reporters that the book will be translated into various languages.

—Reuters (Paris), 2009

In July 2009, the transnational media circulated news about yet another grave human rights violation perpetrated by Sudan’s Islamist regime, the latest in a series of violent crimes against humanity.1 Lubna Al-Hussein, dubbed “the pants journalist” for wearing pants in public and hence countermanding the prevailing dress code of modest body covering, was sentenced to flogging after an arrest by the public order police in Sudan. This case became one of the most widely reported narratives about the subordination of Muslim women in the world.2 Lubna was arrested, along with twelve other women, in a public restaurant in Khartoum and charged with disturbing public order by dressing indecently. Lubna contested the immodesty charge by addressing the media and arguing that at the time of her arrest she was wearing baggy pants, a long blouse with long sleeves, and a headscarf.

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Medium 9780253005984

1 Beyond the Ghetto Walls: Shtetl to Nation in Photography by Alter Kacyzne and Moshe Vorobeichic

Carol Zemel Indiana University Press ePub

I begin with the Jewish culture of Ashkenaz, the vast region that stretched from modern Lithuania through Poland, Russia, and Ukraine, where Jews lived in great number from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. In 1797, with much of the region under Russian control, the Russian Empire declared the area a “Pale of Settlement” (map 1.1), intended to confine the Jewish population, as well as to serve as a buffer zone between the Russians and Poles. For Jewish inhabitants, however, the Pale became a supranational territory, which was a space of diasporic culture and consciousness that transcended shifting frontiers, and whose landmarks were synagogues, study centers, and rabbinical courts. Within the Pale, Ashkenazi Jews developed an extensive shtetl (small town) culture, by which is generally meant a Yiddish-speaking, provincial society, orthodox in its religious practice and traditional Jewish way of life.1 By the 1920s, however, this shtetl culture had been transformed by half a century of modernization, secularization, and emigration to cities in Europe and America. For many Jews, this was an ambivalent undertaking: an escape from ethnic and economic oppression, but also an escape from “self” or home, and a flight from the shtetl’s fixed traditions and orthodoxy.

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Medium 9780253014092

Conclusion: What Fashion Shows

Victoria L. Rovine Indiana University Press ePub

Fashion is cultural identity.

—Abdoulaye Tembely, writer, Coura magazine, Bamako, 30 July 2008

I look for materials that have a story, passion, a soul.

—Anna Getaneh, designer, organizer of African Mosaïque fashion shows, Johannesburg, 20 May 2008

Anyone looking for a few masks or leopard spots will be disappointed.

—Duro Olowu, Nigerian designer 1

African fashion offers abundant insights into cultures, both close to home and distant, real and imagined. Through garments, designers tell stories about history, heritage, and global networks of style, as well as the perpetuation or revival of local dress practices. Fashion also provides a medium for portraying or inventing other peoples’ cultures, offering a highly visible forum for projecting impressions and preconceptions. This concluding chapter reiterates and expands on these stories through two media that make African fashion, and fashion everywhere, widely visible far beyond the limited number of consumers who can afford to purchase designer clothing: fashion shows and fashion magazines. It also returns to cosmopolitanism—and the closely related concept of Afropolitanism—as frameworks for elucidating Africa’s fashion manifestations, exploring how dress practices both illustrate and complicate these notions.

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Chapter Five Sailing on Rachel’s Wet Floor

Samuel S. Bak Indiana University Press ePub
Medium 9780253349118

13. After the Wedding

Pravina Shukla Indiana University Press ePub

WHEN SHE TALKED about adornment, Mukta Tripathi made clear that a woman’s choices are influenced by her personal taste—and by the factors of age and social development. Mukta easily describes the clothes she wore during different phases of her life. As a little girl, until the sixth grade, she wore frocks, skirts and blouses, shorts or pants. From the seventh to the twelve grades, she wore salwar suits and jeans, but never skirts or dresses, since it was improper for a young lady to show her legs. As a young bride, she dressed in bright saris and wore makeup and jewelry in abundance. Now Mukta has switched to saris in “sober colors,” because, as she explained to me, in India a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law “should not match.” Although Mukta is not yet a mother-in-law, she feels she has reached the age when it is inappropriate for her to show herself as a flashy, young wife.

Mukta, in her forties, prefers saris in tones of beige, cream, and other “light colors,” but they shift with the current fashion. In 2003, the trend was to wear saris with a thin strip of monochrome embroidery along the border that matched the field of the sari exactly in color, and to wear it with a blouse in the same color, with the same monochrome embroidery on the edges of the sleeves. Mukta continues to wear “natural, decent makeup.” The subtle shift in clothing, marked mostly by its palette, reflects her view of herself as a mother of grown-up boys—the oldest one is in high school—who is still attuned to style. She told me that wearing a lot of makeup ruins the skin, making women look old, which is another reason to decrease the amount of makeup as one ages. Mukta is fully aware of the social and developmental categories women pass through, categories that are publicly communicated by clothing and jewelry. Her decision to abandon certain styles or colors is partially influenced by other people’s opinions, for middle-aged and older women are often criticized for being too ornamented.1 Mukta told me that she would like to wear salwar suits occasionally, but her kids made fun of her when she did in the past, calling her “Mukta didi”—big sister Mukta—implying that when she wears a salwar suit she does not look like a mother, but rather, like somebody’s sister (children often hold a rigid and conservative vision of what their parents should look like). On a few recent occasions, Mukta’s two sons pointed to older women on the streets whom they deemed to be dressed inappropriately in a style too youthful, and begged Mukta not to dress that way when she becomes “aged.”

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18 Logjammin’ and Gutterballs: Masculinities in The Big Lebowski

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Dennis Allen

To be honest, I’ll admit that I’m a bit embarrassed by the topic of this chapter—masculinity in The Big Lebowski—simply because it is so obviously thematized, so omnipresently there in the film. It’s embedded in the film’s generic allusions—most notably film noir but also the Western—those stories of heroic masculinity, which the film, of course, proceeds to rewrite and undo.1 It plays directly across the surface of the text: for example, when the Big Lebowski, asking the Dude to help him find Bunny, wonders rhetorically, “What makes a man, Mr. Lebowski? Is it being prepared to do the right thing whatever the cost?” (to which the Dude replies, “That and a pair of testicles”). And if, following the Dude, we want to reduce the definition of masculinity to a more biological level, then the film certainly provides some moments in which to ponder the phallic, from Uli’s performance as Karl Hungus in Logjammin’ to the Dude’s Gutterballs dream sequence, which may very well be the definitive statement of the link between bowling and sex.

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2 A Once and Future Dude: The Big Lebowski as Medieval Grail-Quest

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Andrew Rabin

Although medieval allegory might seem distant from Lebowski’s “parlance of the times,” references to the Middle Ages—and to the Grail-quest in particular—form a crucial component of the film’s narrative world.1 Like the Old French Queste del Saint Graal, Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzifal, or Malory’s Morte Darthur, The Big Lebowski recounts the adventures of three companions seeking to restore a lost fetish-object. This quest leads them through a contemporary wasteland to the castle of a crippled king whose paraplegia marks him as both sexually and politically impotent. Here, the object is found and lost again, and the goal now becomes to restore the king’s potency, as well as to recover the original object of the search. On his journey, the principal Grail knight experiences allegorical visions and confronts the temptations of the flesh. He encounters both Jesus (Quintana) and Arthur (Digby Sellers) and receives dubious aid from an “Irish monk” (the “brother Seamus,” Da Fino). In perhaps the most obvious Grail allusion, the Dude’s second meeting with the “Big” Lebowski takes place in a neo-Gothic great hall with Wagner’s Lohengrin, an opera based on Wolfram’s Parzifal, playing in the background. The adventure finally ends with the death of the most innocent of the questers and the return of his two companions, sadder yet wiser men. However, despite such obvious similarities between the medieval and modern narratives, the inhabitants of the Dude’s world remain as ignorant of their Arthurian analogues as they seem to be of the Iraq War beginning around them. In this film, the voice of history is that of “a Stranger.” Like the child who wanders in in the middle of a movie, they have, as Walter tells Donny, “no frame of reference.”

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