Panel Four Abstracts

Panel Four, Presenter Six

Julián Serna
M.A. Candidate, Visual Culture, Illinois State University

Presentation Title:
Performing Capitalism: Infomercials and the Public Sphere
This presentation explores the notions of subjectivity and the public
sphere in the sociopolitical scenario after the fall of the Berlin Wall. For
Sunil Manghani the fall of the Berlin Wall is understood as an event where a
history ended—that history was made by dialectic interpretations of the
world that was characterized by what is now known as the Cold War.
Following the ideas of Zygmunt Bauman, the author writes that “the political
landscape has been made up of alternative and opposing ideologies, the
notion of ideological resolution eliminates all alternatives, leaving us with
´unprecedented freedom´” (Manghani 2008, 142). Under this new
socio- political reality, it is necessary to turn our focus on the local reality of
the United States in the decade following 1990. This decade presents a
scenario where a series of discursive structures concretized to shape the logic
of this new global landscape. During the period that Manghani points to as
the non-history epoch, we have been witnesses to the emergence of Neoliberalism
as the predominant organizational paradigm for the world. This is a
world in which the political system has been constructed over private
property and in which the notion of the individual has been privileged over
that of the community. It is a period in which the accumulation of economic
capital has become the purpose and way to exercise power. In short, it is a
world governed by corporations. This presentation studies the boom of infomercials
on U.S. television-networks during the 90’s decade as one of the
remaining sites for the public where a series of alternative realities might be

Panel Four, Presenter Seven

Neal Vandenbergh
M.F.A. Candidate, University of Illinois at Chicago

Presentation Title:
What does Contemporary Art have to do with the Radical Left?
“Therefore, meaning can only be political when it does not lend itself to
be easily stabilized and when it does not rely on any single source of authority,
but, rather, empties it, or decentralizes it.” -Trinh T. Minh Ha
The contemporary art world can (and does) suck. The old complaint, the
fundamental Marxist criticism—that it’s just a bunch of rich white dudes
making luxury items for each other—is unfortunately still pretty evident while
strolling around galleries and museums on one’s day off. So where does the art
world’s potential lie? And what does art have to do with the radical left?
Political theorist Michael Hardt’s theory of revolution offers us a way to think
about art’s potential in our current vast landscape of visual culture. His is a
complex proposal that can be (reductively here for the sake of space)
summarized as a way to shape human nature in order to learn democratic and
autonomous behaviors.
When interpreting art, I propose, this is what we are doing: practicing
autonomous, egalitarian and anti-authoritative forms of making meaning.
Contrasted against other public signification systems, filmmaker and theorist
Trinh T. Minh Ha’s thoughts on meaning and French philosopher Jacques
Ranciere’s theory of spectatorship will be used to show how this is achieved in
contemporary art. Addressing the question proposed by the symposium, what
it means to allow images to speak for themselves, I suggest Sunil Manghani’s
proposal is actually to let each viewer/reader speak for themselves, with one
interpretation no more legitimate than another.


About Lisa

I am an Assistant Professor of Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University.
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