|Everywhere you go
Always take the weather with you
Transformations has, through its short but determined history, placed much analytical attention on the many meanings of regionality. This special issue continues this spirit, but with a twist. My original idea was to explore the visuality of memory, and how it resonates through contemporary places. Such a debate is sadly an underplayed card in the deck of cultural studies. While we may teach tourism, we rarely think touristically – as an academic traveler through time and space. It is no surprise that my original ideas about visual memory broadened and flowered into the current topic of this issue.
Cultural Memory became the trope and approach of this edition. It was obvious that the contributors were drawn to the taste, smell and touch of the past, as much as the surfaces of the landscape. As expected, the articles submitted to this special issue of Transformations were varied in their cultural emphasis and approach. Obviously, Cultural Memory became a resonate phrase that encompassed magazines, music, television, food and tourism. There were surprises, triggering a renewed consideration of Transformations and its regional motif.
Many of the articles were drawn to London’s night time economy: of nightclubs, the Underground, of rhythms and surfaces. The referees were troubled: how did these pieces access regionality? Surely there should be some mention of globalization? Not recognized by these reviewers is that there is a political imperative in reclaiming sites of (former) colonial powers. These pieces move through the plurality, inequalities and flaws of economic and stylistic empires.
Therefore, the first part of this special edition focuses on London, a London of decay, excess and conflict. Steven Quinn’s “Rumble in the Jungle,” explores a racialised capital, where sounds change the pathways through a landscape. The history of drum ‘n’ bass, which Quinn describes as “invisible,” pounds the contradictions out of recent British history. Remarkably, Quinn constructs a new underground map, with more black, and less blue.
Amanda Evans’ “Keeping it (Hyper)real” shows how a fashionable London of the 1980s punctuates the memory of other times and places. Using The Face magazine as her focus and metaphor, Evans explores the role of fashion in marking both bodies and years. She also demonstrates how magazines actually – and actively – build a readership and a community. What makes her piece important is that she shows how the 1980s Face still traces over each new edition of the magazine, over a decade later.
The third paper in this London-based Star Wars trilogy is my own. I investigated the popular memories that wash over the wall encircling Abbey Road studios in London. I became fascinated with how fans conducted conversations through their graffiti. While visiting the wall at different times, the shared space created shared meanings. Particularly, I focused on the way in which women’s memories are frequently washed from the landscape.
None of these papers mention the word globalization. None present London as a core of colonial power. Instead they becomes sites of racialised, feminised, temporal critique and questioning. Cultural memory allows the reclamation of unknown stories, truths and sounds.
The second branch of articles in this special edition capture the memories sparkling from film and television. Tiziana Ferrero-Regis is drawn to a highly under-theorised sphere: Italian cinema of the 1990s. She explores how the past is presented through cinema, in a way that appears both more authentic and important than the present. This is best embodied by one her carefully chosen case studies: The Icicle Thief. She shows how baby-boomer generations have used cinema to create continuity with the past.
The filmic focus is continued by Jeannette Delamoir, but with a detour. A fine paper, Delamoir tracks Australian women’s magazines, and how they covered the marital breakup of Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. The celebrity industry requires such trauma, and remains the fodder of a publicist’s work day. But Delamoir demands something more of her celebrities, exploring the construction of a star persona, and its role for women and the visual memory of women’s magazines.
Moving from one decaying couple to another, Leanne McRae summons the great cultural archive of Mulder and Scully that is The X-Files. McRae remains interested in how play and inversion operate in the programme, perhaps offering a way to re-focus and re-theorise the political terrain of contemporary cultural studies. Working through the “Postmodern Prometheus,” she shows how The X-Files mobilises both popular and dominant renderings of the past. In this re-writing of the Frankenstein narrative, Cher makes a guest appearance. In the terrain of Cultural Memory, such a trajectory is not unexpected.
The final paper in this collection – not surprisingly – stands alone. It is a profoundly appropriate conclusion to this special collection of papers. Felicity Newman, summoning the first of the Four Questions on Passover night, asks “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Not working with the rhythms or surfaces of London, not drawn to the visual history of the media, Newman’s words taste food memory. Evocatively written, the paper shadows the rituals of food, and the celebration of a meal. Food tells stories – of loss, and belonging. Our concluding piece allows food to convey the tales of memory.
Cultural Memory has proved an evocative topic for our contributors. I hope you enjoy your passage through the underground maps, magazine pages, streets, films and meals. May you smell, taste and touch the texts of the past that continue to bubble in our present.
Rumble in the Jungle
Drum’n’bass is a musical form that expresses the antagonisms of British identity in the 1990s and it also situates itself outside of the dominant terms of African-American expressions of black identity. It speaks of a more productive possibility in the traditional relationship between national and global polarities or public and private histories. Being at once an expression of the crucial significance of place in any characterisation of identity, it also recognises the influence of circumstances that exist outside of the narrow terms of national affiliation. Drum’n’bass represents a metonymic formulation of the long history of race and migration and its (often invisible) effects on the nature of British cultural identity in particular and popular music in general.
Key terms: Drum’n’Bass, British cultural identity, Black cultural identity, electronic dance music, rave, Harry Beck, London Underground Map.
Keeping it (Hyper)real
This article investigates the (history) lessons revealed by THE FACE about the present. As such it concentrates on one area of deviation that exists within THE FACE – the yearly fashion issue. The seductive, and highly hegemonic, nature of fashion is no more obvious than in the pages of monthly style and genre journals. Within these pages, fashion literacy is assumed and naturalised as commonsensical. The visual communities that revolve around magazines like THE FACE further enhance this legitimising process. This framing requires a literacy of THE FACE discourse, one that melds the knowledge of fashion with the familiarity of lifestyle, consumption and pleasure. Fashion, then, is a language embedded with the signs and syntax of the everyday. Fashion is not a free-standing construct: it is socially defined within the sphere of a community ideology. The illustration of THE FACE community could concentrate on many facets of the magazine, but in this investigation it is these vogue registers that demand a specialised understanding of THE FACE and its mobilisation of a verbal and visual fashion language, or indeed a fashionable FACE language.
Key terms: magazines, fashion, hyperreal, imagined (virtual) communities, semiotics.
We’re one short for the crossing: Abbey Road and popular memory
One of the most understated debates within contemporary cultural studies is popular memory. Requiring radical interdisciplinary work, and a diverse array of textual sites, it remains a challenge for the theorist. This piece takes a cultural text – the wall encircling Abbey Road studios in London – and explores how fans inscribe their memories and meanings on its surface.
Key terms: Beatles, popular memory, London, popular music, fandom, Abbey Road
Cinema on Cinema: Self-reflexive Memories in Recent Italian History Films
This essay focuses on a discourse of contestation about the present which has emerged in Italian cinema since the end of the 1980s. This discourse is narrated in cinematic images of past films inserted in fictional stories. Through cinema self-reflectivity, the past is depicted as more authentic and signifies the loss of innocence of the Italian society of the 1990s, buried under scandals of political corruption and deconstruction of its traditional party system.<
Films such as Cinema Paradiso, Splendor, The Icicle Thief and La vera storia di Antonio H., but also many other films produced in recent years, emphasise a common heritage in a period of individual and collective internal and external chaos.
A common term of reference in these films is the relationship between cinema and television. This relationship is portrayed in these films in a problematic way, as the pervasive presence of television in Italian everyday life is held as responsible for the crisis in the cinema industry. With its omnipresent images, re-runs, programme clones, anthologies and stock programmes, television seems to have taken over the function as archive of the country’s historical memory.
The pivotal work of Maurice Halbwachs on collective memory is used here as a tool of analysis of the role of memory as an instrument of reconfiguration of the past for specific groups of the Italian audience. The argument that stems from this analysis is that the films produced in Italy in the last decade that focus on history and memory reconstruct identity in the group of the baby-boomer generation, ensuring thus continuity with the past.
Key terms: cinema and television self-reflexivity, history and collective memory, identity, Italian politics, Italian cinema, Italian television.
Eyes Wide Shut: Tom, Nicole, Stardom and Visual Memory
The star phenomenon is highly visual; among the many texts that conglomerate into what is experienced as a “star,” visual artefacts have a privileged position. Visual memory, then, is an important but little considered factor in the construction of the star persona. In order to investigate the role played by visual memory in star personae, Australian women’s magazine coverage of the Nicole Kidman/Tom Cruise breakup is examined. This exploration shows how magazines create interpretive contexts for images-contexts that can change, exposing the instability of the meanings of the images. The media’s use of star images is frequently influenced by powerful and highly paid publicists, whose job it is to attempt to control the possible interpretations of the images, and therefore to shape and reshape visual memory.
Key terms: visual memory, star, spectacle, narrative, women’s magazines, Kidman/Cruise.
The Postmodern Prometheus: Collective experience and the carnivalesque
The resistive potential of the marginal collective has framed cultural studies interrogation of popular culture. It has often mobilised an ethic of play and inversion that sits comfortably with cultural studies politics. The capacity for official versions of history to mask these local and fragmented experiences has silenced the range of alternative identities that circulate through the fringes of culture. The X-Files episode The “Postmodern Prometheus” creates a visibility for unofficial and popular versions of the past. This paper tracks the metamorphosis of the carnival moment from official inversionary practice through the deviancy of American B-grade horror and science fiction films to its reanimation via a celebration of radical difference mobilised through the popular media. The X-Files’ rewriting of Frankenstein dislodges social meanings from their original context and articulates a distinctly visual memory of a popular past to rewrite the collective experiences of the present.
Key terms: The X-Files, Carnivalesque, Popular Memory, Unofficial Discourses, Mediated Memories, Grotesque.
Why is this night different from all other nights?
Memories are called up by many different methods. Jewish family life is so tightly wound up with mothers and chicken soup that these memories are best accessed via the kitchen. This fragment of culinary memoir attempts to convey the way in which certain foods conjure competing images of brown-eyed Jewish mothers and desolation in the desert. Enjoy already!
Key terms: collective memory, foodways, ritual, cultural superfood, Seder.