xii. joanne nucho

mapping memory, ethnographies of drawing and place

“The ‘‘manner’’ or ‘‘mode,’’ as a property of the gesture of drawing, refers to nothing other than the singularity of form—and this singularity insofar as a truth, essence, or characteristic comes to light there (however one might want to phrase it), each time singular, unique, and exclusive to the drawn thing. It makes no essential difference whether this thing is reputed to correspond to the representation of a real object or whether it configures itself within itself without figuring anything; as a matter of fact, its essence consists entirely of the manner, mode, and allure of its gesture, the force of its movement, the weight and lightness of its mark [trait].” - The Pleasure of Drawing,  Jean-Luc Nancy

Between 2008-2010, anthropologist and filmmaker Joanne Nucho launched an ethnographic project in a suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, which would result in her upcoming monograph Everyday Sectarianism (Princeton University Press), as well as a 90-minute experimental film entitled The Narrow Streets of Bourj Hammoud. Countering usual forms of interviews or oral histories as reconstruction, the film experiments with drawing as a form of ethnographic engagement. Participants drew maps that radically challenge spatial and temporal histories of space and place in the context of postwar Lebanon in a neighborhood constructed through decades of violent displacement and eviction. By documenting the drawing process, the film challenges representational modalities of visual “evidence,” instead exploring the status of these drawings as singular works of art that draw on memory and the materiality of cities, but are not reducible to reflections of a “reality” or the status of testimony.

Joanne Nucho's research interests include urban space, human and material infrastructures, and the activation of memory in everyday life. As a filmmaker, she places landscape and materialities of space at the center of her artistic and aesthetic inquiries, privileging the agency of things like bridges and roads, houses and buildings, electricity wires and pipes, over processes of subjectivity formation, and the construction of a sense of community, self and other. Nucho is clinical assistant professor at the Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University. Her films have shown worldwide, including at the London International Documentary Film Festival.