Haughty Taughty Meets A Tweaker

I’ve always wanted to walk through a fridge. You know, Chronicles of Narnia wardrobe style. And if I wanted to travel to New York, then I could do that with the Black Acid Co-op exhibition by Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman. This walk-through art display takes you through scenes of meth labs and others. There’s a slideshow from The New York Times I recommend checking out. The exhibition site says this:

Black Acid Co-Op is the moniker for a counter-culture enclave embedded in the metropolis. In this incarnation, the artists shift the focus from the production of illegal drugs to sites of sub-cultural groups and how they are situated in the larger urban environment. The installation will expand on the notions relating to the connection between counter-culture and industrial society resulting in a spatial collage that extends itself into a vast architectural setting.

Despite the strong contrast of scenes, the entire installation will feel as if it is a unified system of spaces, interconnected and functioning together. Ducts, wires and tubes traverse rooms creating a semblance of an organism: architecture as body, electricity as capillaries, and volumes as organs. And the intended use of many of the sites will feel transformed or hybridized: factories have become homes, kitchens are used as drug labs, the radical chic living room is frozen in a museum, the high-rise is carved into makeshift maze to evade the law.

I love art work like this–Art work that immerses the spectator and brings him or her into a completely different world only to realize that this is a real world too. Ah, the duplicitous meanings formed are fantastic. Non?

Via Vitia. Thanks!

Rhetoric in the News


The BBC published an article this morning on rhetoric, even though they frame it as “speech-writing.”  It’s a super-quick primer on persuasive basics, which won’t reveal too much to the amateur rhetorician, but is intriguing nevertheless, if only to see how rhetoric gets represented.

I find it interesting that the article revolves mostly around the rhetorical situation of speeches, pulling examples almost exclusively from powerful politicians, but has pictures sprinkled throughout that nod to rhetoric’s everyday usefulness.  I’m not so sure that you’d want to perform a “speech” (in the way the genre demands) in these situations (parking meter attendant, finger-pointing boss, depressed friend, or screaming-match with the significant other).  Each rhetorical situation calls for different tactics and adaptation; a crucial first step in beginning to explore persuasion is knowing that rhetoric–the art, study, and practice of human communication–is contingent and conditional.

The article lists a few general techniques, however, that have proved effective over time:

  • Contrasts
  • Three-part lists
  • Imagery and anecdotes
  • Break the rules

It’s encouraging to see “break the rules” as the last section, though stated a little bluntly.  We might consider it as something like “genre-bending.”  Messing with the audience’s expectations is an excellent way to generate and maintain engagement and, at times, increase your credibility.  This is often done by bringing one genre format into a situation that doesn’t quite call for it.  Having been primed for certain communication patterns over time, we’re surprised when the pattern gets jostled.

Oh, and in the comments someone correctly identifies one of the examples given in the “Contrasts” section as antimetabole (a specific form of chiasmus . . . but you already knew that).


Have you heard of Jezebel? I look at this publication kinda as a sarcastic Vanity Fair. Although they talk about celebrity, fashion, and stereotypically girlie things, they’re quite critical of it all. For instance, they have articles ranging from the ever-evolving drama of Jon & Kate Plus 8 to animal rights advertising to an excellent run-down and critique of Huckabee on The Daily Show. The site’s description:

Jezebel is celebrity, fashion, and sex without the airbrushing. The witty, informative tone draws a readership that is intelligent and sophisticated, but still willing to get down and dirty. Jezebel does what those women’s monthlies only wish they could.

Sorta reminds me of Harlot–exchange all of that celebrity and fashion stuff for rhetoric and we ain’t far off. Certainly, I think some of their articles fit nicely into the realm of rhetorical critiques of pop culture with a dash of wit. Given the site’s high readership, perhaps there’s something that Harlot could learn from its (maybe not-so) distant cousin. Of course, they’ve been at it a bit longer, have major sponsors, and their editors even get paid! Ah, to earn a wage at this. Harlot is a bit too indie for that major sponsorship though, eh? And we encourage our audience to be more participatory as well. It’s a thought. One still in development.

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Terministic Screen

Our attention is naturally directed toward certain things and not others based on our motives; it both receives and refuses information in the meaning-making process, reflecting and deflecting sensory data, as well as models for understanding that data.  Burke’s concept of terministic screens is productive for helping us understand this process.  Concentrate on the awareness tests below and see how you fare–they’re excellent examples for showing students and friends the power of this concept and how it relates to rhetorical analysis.

(Thanks to Kay Halasek for passing these along.)

Designed to Persuade

I find myself watching far too much HGTV these days. I particularly like Property Virgins and Designed to Sell. I’m a bit enamored with the visual rhetoric of home interiors. From these shows, I’ve learned that getting someone to buy your house is not just about adding a fresh coat of paint. Apparently, you have to make the home seem as impersonal as humanly possible. By getting rid of any bold colors, taking down any personal photographs, and going with a slightly more contemporary style, the house hunters can envision themselves in your house. This is all an exercise in rhetoric. Everyone is actively trying to portray a particular image to persuade buyers that, yes, this is not only a place where they could live, but that this is their home and the only possible place they could even think of buying.