or simply "pissing around and pissing us off", according to a certain individual.

Δευτέρα, Ιουνίου 11, 2007

The Transfiguration of Tom Torlino


The second image reminds us that account ledgers represent of course only one armature of colonial transformation. Here is another of the sort especially favoured by missionaries, the photographic, albumen page from the unbound, cumulative visual archive giving us before and after images of Tom Torlino, Navajo from Arizona, on Arrival at the IndianTraining School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1885 (Berlo figure 3. It could as easily be a photo from the Saskatchewan Archives of, say, young Thomas Moore, on admission and then allegedly “after a few years attendance at Regina Industrial School” [Miller 199]). Here we see another technology of surveillance and subjection unashamedly at work in the transformation of identity by the “resident” school photographer, John Choate (Berlo 44). The transformation of this Navaho man via literacy and Christianity and industrial training will produce skills useful to Pennsylvania employers (most notably the ability to make hats and shoes) but worse than useless to those who alienate themselves from their culture and lose their independence in acquiring and exercising such skills. The page can be predominantly or entirely an image, destined to be bound or not, but still working with paper of a standard size (8 3/8 x 5 1/8 inches) in order to record and permit ongoing access to details of the civilizing mission underway. The lighting of a particular shot, like the massaging of a particular prose account, or the cooking of a particular set of books, may exaggerate a process of assimilation which can then be further legitimated and accelerated by reproducing and disseminating sets of text, images, or numbers.


The third image shifts us towards Indigenous agency within the contexts of exchange and surveillance sketched above (Bear’s Heart, a Cheyenne artist, depicting Troops Amassed against a Cheyenne Village, 1876-77 ; Berlo plate 1). In this drawing, collectivities are contrasted. Colour, social and physical formation, and page division all underscore, after the fact and amidst the fallout, the clash of values and practices, the juxtaposition of a green and grounded, circular encampment and the apparently endless, ominously uniform, linear regiments in static array on the left, on the quasi-blank ground of ledger paper, with agency as usual, and deeply ironically in this case, located on the right, subordinating the westward movement of US troops and settlers to the right/left dynamic typical of ledger drawings. This diptych reconstructs military defeat in the visual elegy to a way of life increasingly imperilled and unavailable to the person doing the drawing here--except on these documentary pages and the secret rituals and opaque conversations of Indigenous inmates. One kind of column of figures prepares the way for another, columns of soldiers for columns of numbers, to seal the fate of the dispossessed whose casualties are already accumulating and whose property losses and human survivors will be dutifully recorded. Alive or dead, their number is up. Uniformity under a single flag is contrasted with diversity under an open sky, before military discipline achieves an outcome that educational disciplines will endeavour to consolidate, legitimate, and complete in the name of progress. Yet Bear’s Heart knows this already to be the case and his drawing is an earnest of resistance based on understanding. Pace too many ‘expert’ commentators (even very recent ones like Lovatt and Dewitt), there is nothing naive about this drawing at all. A keeping of detailed financial accounts such as in the first ledger image we saw could be no more hard-headed or politically astute than Bear’s Heart’s visual practice.

Of course, not all clashes were explicitly military. After conquest come negotiation, administration, legislation, and hegemony, as in this fourth image (Howling Wolf & Soaring Eagle at Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida, home of a well-heeled, ‘white,’ market for native Americana; Szabo plate 25, a destination arrived at after more than seventy “Bad Indians” journeyed more than twenty days by wagon train, locomotive and steam ship, while being abused by a white reception committee at every populated stop along the way [Viola intro]). This drawing is a kind of pictorial accounting. It commemorates a formal gathering for the distribution of annuity or treaty goods, where commodities are not represented by numbers and words but are centrally displayed in an overdetermined and internally conflicted process of exchange. Once again, though, there is pride as well as vulnerability in the physical disposition and diversity of the First Nations figures within the page-frame where the Stars and Stripes now flies over everyone and does its symbolic work without the visible presence of uniformed troops. The page, in the very rectangularity it shares with the flag, functions as a kind of cultural or semiotic stockade, having the very shape that Chief Joe Mathias would later have in mind when, after the collapse of the fourth Canadian Conference on Aboriginal Self-Government, he told his people that they would never “be contained within the four corners of a history book and put on a shelf” (Dancing Around the Table). The history of the book in Canada must deal, imaginatively and respectfully, with that reality.

The fifth of the images I have selected complicates matters further (an example of Howling Wolf of the Southern Cheyenne’s work, Sept 26 1876 in Fort Marion, Florida; Szabo plate 12). Here the tendency to formalize and control space in a quasi-military or industrial way is evident in the scene of instruction. The classroom demands ominous uniformity of its Indigenous students; the page is prominent and endlessly replicable as an agent of socialization, in situations where the instructor from the dominant culture is now--and usually is in these drawings--female rather than male, and often a volunteer. Note the pathos and historically determinate ambiguity of these versions of the stylus, pencils doubling as lances and spears, each infantilizing backview of a pupil offering an analogy to the transformation of the young Navaho, Tom Torlino, and of so many other young people in such schools on both sides of ‘the’ border. Note also the ominous fidelity with which the picture of Christ and his disciples is reproduced in this variation on the theme of dominus et discipuli, and the new pupil being directed with his chair to an appropriate spot in the classroom (one less Indian to worry about). The scribal gesture of the teacher is reproduced by the pupils, while the non-Indigenous male figure who maintains written records in wooden pigeonholes-- and spatial order in the classroom-- employs an equally directive gesture echoed in the religious painting on the wall. The blackboard next to the painting represents an endlessly re-usable page employed in tandem with the Christian image, script assisting Scripture, the one replete with meaning even though for the moment rasa and the other glorifying teaching but also conveying the pathos of an outdoor scene within a confined and thoroughly regimented space. Such classrooms are not always rendered so sombrely (the whole schoolroom even seems to be smiling, with the matching adults and attentive pupils apparently ratifying the civilizing mission in Berlo plate 3; Wohaw, Kiowa, Fort Marion), but neither humour nor apparent acceptance can quell the sense of indoctrination and the residual power of Indigenous tradition–unless of course you happen to be Harriet Beecher Stowe, who had a house near Fort Marion and wrote thus in the Christian Union for April17, 1877:

When the bell rang for school hours, there came rushing from all quarters dark men “in the United States uniform, neat, compact, trim, with well-brushed boots and nicely kept clothing and books in their hands.” For a time, until all the teachers had arrived, the students formed a square around the blackboard. “Large spelling-cards adorned one side of the wall, containing various pictures and object-lessons adapted to the earliest stages of learning. ... When they read in concert, when they mastered perfectly the pronunciation of a difficult word, when they gave the right answer to a question they were evidently delighted.... There was not a listless face, not a wandering eye in the whole class.” (cit. Viola 111)

In the Kiowa image, which is an “object-lesson” of another sort, the two non-students are in reality more rivals than collaborators, the detached and spectral Indigenous figure a symbol of self-containment contrasting powerfully with the didactic gestures of the teacher and the legitimating instruments she holds in her hands, the pointer and the page. The traditional figure appears to be behind the seated students as an active ally as well as an adjacent memory. As Anna Blume astutely notes, “this enigmatic Native figure ... looms like the image of an inner eye, faint yet present, present in the drawing as evidence of a split and troubled consciousness” (in Berlo 40). The sundance and the potlach and much else may have to go underground but they will not go away–so that, to adapt Victor Hugo, “Ceci ne peut pas tuer cela,” except by killing off Aboriginal languages and their speakers, and defining knowledge, in institutions like universities, as that which they with their inefficient orality and proto-literacy and pseudo-science and their strange spirituality simply don’t have–despite being rewarding objects of inquiry for humanists and social scientists and invaluable sources of knowledge for mining and agricultural and pharmaceutical companies.

Το κείμενο από το κείμενο.
Rethinking the Prairie Page in Print Culture
Paper Presented at the Prairie Print Culture Colloquium
by L. M. Findlay
Department of English
University of Saskatchewan

Οι εικόνες από το βιβλίο.
The Future of the Page - By Peter Stoicheff, Andrew. Taylor

3 σχόλια:

Κουνουπι είπε...

Αρχίζω να πιστεύω ότι είσαι ο Θεός.
Μιλάω σοβαρά.

(Τις ρούφηξα τις φωτογραφίες)

akindynos είπε...

Μάζεψα και κάποιες ακόμα ζωγραφιές που βρήκα. Με την πρώτη ευκαιρία θα τις βάλω κι αυτές. Αυτή με τη δασκάλα και τον ινδιάνο-φύλακα των παιδιών, μου ράγισε τη καρδιά.

Στο pdf της μεταμόρφωσης των σωτήρων έχει κι άλλες φωτογραφίες.

(υπερβολές)

thief42 είπε...

Μάζεψα και κάποιες ακόμα ζωγραφιές που βρήκα. Με την πρώτη ευκαιρία θα τις βάλω κι αυτές.

Υποσχέσεις.