Joseph Cialdella, University of Michigan and Peter Hales, University of Illinois at Chicago | Newberry

Joseph Cialdella, University of Michigan and Peter Hales, University of Illinois at Chicago

Friday, September 13, 2013

2 pm to 5 pm

Towner Fellow’s Lounge

Center for American History and Culture Programs
American Art and Visual Culture Seminar

“From the Garden of Botanic Anarchy: Making Visual Cultures of Nature, Place, and Renewal in Detroit”
Joseph Cialdella, University of Michigan

The image of Detroit’s landscape is well known as a symbol of industrial decline and abandonment. Yet what symbolic potential does nature hold in such a place? With the landscape as a starting point, this paper looks at how visual choices of photographers and gardeners in the city reveal how culture is being used to construct ideas about humans’ relationship to nature in the so-called rust belt. By juxtaposing photographs of nature amidst industrial abandonment with the material practice and politics of urban agriculture transforming the landscape of Detroit, this paper demonstrates how these two cultural practices create shared, if competing, narratives about what it means to be a part of this place socially, culturally, and environmentally.

The End of History and the Return of the Repressed: Landscapes of Catastrophe in the Virtual World”
Peter Hales, University of Illinois at Chicago

This paper argues for the importance of the gaming environment as the most important new visual cultural form since the arrival of television in the early ’50s, and the need to “read” the games and the worlds surrounding them in ways the require new methodologies, just as the rise of television required new ways to “do” media studies.

Comment: Greg Foster-Rice, Columbia College

Cost and Registration Information 

Scholl Center Seminar papers are pre-circulated electronically. For a copy of the paper, email the Scholl Center at Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.