Aesthetically, the poster directly imitates “Acid Bath in Mai” by Fons Hickman. It is also inspired by “Personal Works Show Invitation” by Sussner Design (with the layering of text over images) and “Better Days” by cyan (with the b&w photography and the contrast of message/photo).
The content of my poster is driven by a quote from Australian anthropologist Stephen Muecke in his 2002 essay “The Fall: Fictocritical Writing.” He writes:
“I invite you to the cinema, but you say you cannot come. You are stuck where you are, you say, writing your thesis about symbols and meanings, and I imagine a paradise full of flowers.” (Muecke 2002, 110)
The “you” Muecke addresses throughout his fictocritical essay is revealed to be the scholarly readers—”my critical friends” (111). The image of refusing the cinema notes what my Croation roommate would call a “professional deformation” of the literary critic. Muecke is talking about traditional literary criticism being writing-as-product where he thinks it should be writing-as-process, revealing the contingency and subjectivity always already implicated in criticism. But this is not the place for me to discuss fictocriticism; I will do that elsewhere.
I think the other deformation is about labor—the ‘deformation’ isn’t just a problem of critical disposition once one gets to the thesis. It is a problem of the disposition of how the critic lives, too… Muecke—following Derrida and Latuor and a legion of post-critical thinkers—notes that criticism was meant to unmask art, but now must trace (affective) paths to understand how “we got to this position, and what is at stake” (108). The student is too absorbed in producing criticism to wonder “how the hell did I get here?” (Muecke 2002, 108) and actually go experience symbol- and meaning-making in the world.
Prof. Jason Farman asked us to consider what we would put on this poster about our labor as grad students. If we were to hang it above our desk and look at it whenever we work, what would we want it to say/mean? Muecke’s quote stood out to me. It is a permission slip to leave the unmasking impulse behind occasionally. It is a reminder that I should not say no to every invitation because there are always more things to read and write (more symbols and meanings to discuss/unmask).
I paired this quote with a 35mm photo of my best friend Oliver and I standing at Ben’s Cookies. As housemates in a few homes in a couple countries, we would often escape writing/working by leaving the house to buy a cookie. I like the contrast of the image being an example of taking a break while the quote is about someone refusing to do so. It creates a tension—like Muecke’s essay—between forcing meaning-making and recognizing meaning not yet fully grasped.
Similarly, I chose the photo our friend holding the camera made as a mistake (reproduced in color as the feature image) before capturing the actual photo (below). Photos like these—motion blur, out of focus, is she dropping the camera?, Oliver barely staying in the frame—capture a frantic energy that I think heightens the tension in the contradiction of accepting/refusing the option to be released from writing a thesis.
Can I come? Can I have a cookie? Or will I imagine it while attempting to answer how the hell did I get here?