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GALLERY 2010/2011

critical writing

In sickness and in health

About work

When a system is disrupted, and reveals the possibility of it’s extreme, the malfunctioning casts a new light or shadow on how we observe(d) it. Some doors that seemed open, suddenly close. Can open‐closed be observed as a binary opposition? And if not, how do we structure the meaning around them? Or, is the contrast stronger between open non‐open? I will consider two cases in which doors are partially open/closed in regards to their functional and dysfunctional state: The painting “The Effects of Good Government” from 1338. Siena, and the case of Twitter over usage during the swine flu epidemic in 2009. What connects these two is disease, as a means of infecting a system. In the vast abundance of space online for everyone, of discourse of connectedness to the world and endless exchange, thin lines between wanted and compulsive. I would like to examine the walls that exist in the discourse of openness in media.

system, paranoia, network, control, virus


Editors comments More info on Curators & Editors ›

I really liked the explanation of the Siena fresco – its historical context, its production as a work of communication and symbol of the city, and the textual analysis of the piece. Its use as a counterpart to the arguments about social network doesn’t work quite so well, because it is a mediation of the gates of a city, rather than the gates themselves – a more direct, physical example might be better in the comparison to the limits and boundaries of the Internet and social networking. The gates themselves, of how they operated, are a closer metaphor to the rest of the paper. Using the painting as the opening, as it were, to the gates, provides for an interesting discussion but turns out to be a bit digressive.

The points about social networking seem a little diffuse, which may be perfectly appropriate in studying a new phenomenon that celebrates its own diffuseness. One of the main points here is that this diffuseness is a mask that hides systems of control. The one that interests me the most is that of space limitation. Hand-written letters ceded to telephone calls as a primary means of personal communication; telephonic conversation was more expansive than letters, as well as more immediate, but less permanent and precise. Telephone calls ceded to email, which brought back permanence, but restricted the quantity within any communicative act. Facebook made communication even shorter; now texting and Twitter have shrunk the space even more, to bite-sized morsels. What does this radical constraint do to our thinking, communication, and community? Twitter provides the expansiveness of global messaging, and the immediacy of digital culture, but within tightly-controlled boundaries of volume. I hope Darija continues this work with comparison to previous modes of communication, but more recent than medieval art. What has constituted inside/outside in these previous forms, conceptually and in practice? How does this help us understand the most contemporary forms of communication? What parallels to previous forms are most pertinent and enlightening, in exploring issues of control, inclusivity/exclusivity, and openness?

View other works commented by Daniel Marcus  ››

Both examples offered in this essay (a painting from 1338 and Twitter coverage) are appropriately discussed with regards to the standards of academic writing and the expectations of the competition subfield. However, although both examples are also connected through the concept of disease, and despite the fact that I personally have a lot of sympathy for such seemingly quirky transhistorical associations, I failed to see the connection as a properly productive one with regards to the theme of Love: Conflict: Imagination.
One of the ways in which the above problem could have been avoided could have been through a strong introduction connecting Memefest’s general theme and the particular examples offered in continuation. A good point of departure could have been to seek possible answers to the following questions: how does the individual and/or social imagination of epidemics (or the fear of them) disrupt or confirm our understandings of love and conflict? What is the role of communication in this? How does human agency change or not change when confronted with situations? Such an examination could then have been rounded up with an equally strong conclusion bringing all the different strands of the essay together.

View other works commented by Nikolai Jeffs  ››

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Entry details


In sickness and in health

Concept author(s)

Darija Medic

Concept author year(s) of birth




Competition category

critical writing

Competition field


Competition subfield


Subfield description

/Rotterdam University/Piet Zwart Institute/Media design:Networked media