November 5 // Fall Doctoral Colloquium : Session I

M+M Program in Media and Modernity presents

Doctoral Colloquium Fall 2019 : Session I
Ivan L. Munuera
Ying Sze Pek
Tue November 5, 2019 @6pm
Princeton University – School of Architecture – Room N107


Ivan L. Munuera (Ph.D. Candidate, Architecture)
“Grounded Bodies, Flying Plasma: The Origins of the Hemogeography”

The HIV/AIDS techno-spatial urbanism did not start in New York in 1981—when the syndrome was first clinically observed—or in 1983—when the HIV retrovirus was discovered—but in 1971, with Hemo-Caribbean, a multi-faceted company with two vectors: Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Miami, Florida. Hemo-Caribbean was a large plasmapheresis center that operated between 1971 and 1973, exporting and selling plasma from their Haitian units to a series of transnational health facilities: laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals in the United States, Germany, and Sweden. No controls were practiced among donors, no scanning for diseases, and no collecting data about the plasma itself or the sale of it. Nor did the international organizations responsible for the control of plasma commerce. This was possible because a form of transnational piracy was enacted, one that had its roots in the colonial map. As a result, from the early 1970s, Haitians were seen as an origin of disease according to US medical organizations. It was in this context that at the end of 1982, doctor Bruce Chabner, of the US National Cancer Institute, announced that AIDS had probably originated in Haiti through voodoo practices on the island and brought by the homosexual community to the United States.

This lecture explores how Hemo-Caribbean created a hemogeography wherein medical technologies performed a definition of bodies and nations through different architectures: laboratories, hospitals, maritime exportations, airlines. Haitians were reduced to blood, reiterating the urban constitution of a microbiological operation in which plasma could fly freely among different countries, but its human hosts were banned from this kind of mobility. This was a fluid sociopolitical urbanism in which legislations and the constitution of borders were embodied in Haitians’ plasma, confronting the United States legislations and ideologies on frontiers and identities.


Ying Sze Pek (Ph.D. Candidate, Art & Archaeology)
“Duration, Discursivity, and Experience: Moving Image Works at the Global Art Exhibition”

The transformation of the spaces of art exhibition into the spaces of cinema took on a specific inflection with a prominent instantiation of the global art exhibition Documenta. Critics perceived Documenta 11 (2002), that privileged works in the mediums of film, video, and film and video installation, as a sensory and informational overload due to the lengthy combined duration of such artworks on display. Still, the supplanting of the exhibitionary complex of the “white cube” by the “black box” in the instance of Documenta 11 was seen as contributing to the spectator’s experience of social and political realities, what came to be known by the art critical shorthand “the documentary turn.” My paper looks closely to the work and writings of Hito Steyerl, whose practice, I show, was deeply influenced by the debates around Documenta 11. I argue that Steyerl’s videos and video installations from the 2000s explored the relays between engaged art, the cinematic, and the biennial form that the 2002 exhibition exemplified. Developed almost exclusively by commission for contemporary art biennials, her moving image works reflect the exhibitionary condition of the global contemporary art biennial as well as the exhibition’s conditions of production.