[-empyre-] screens

tarek elhaik tarekelhaik at gmail.com
Mon Jul 9 01:32:32 EST 2012

Allow me to join the conversation on a personal anecdote, a political
modernist one in a way, filtered with the sensibility of an anthropologist
who things with moving-images and screens. Hope it's relevant to some
issues regarding abstraction, modernism, and materiality fascinatingly
circulating here.

I was recently making travel arrangements to attend an event in Algiers in
a conference aiming at rethinking the affective and political legacy of
1962, year of the algerian independence. The itinerary i chose was in sync
with the internationalist 'spirit' of the film i am to present at the
conference (Solana's The Hour of the Furnaces) and it resonated with the
tricontinental cinematic imaginary and the chronotope evoked by the
datum/plateau 1962. Bay area/americas (black panthers from oakland, san
francisco where i teach and live), rome (pontecorvo, pasolini),
algiers.(iconic capital of the 60s, like la havana or mexico city).  In the
days i was making these travel arrangements the 50th anniversary of
Algerian independence (July 5th, 1962) was being celebrated, often ad
nauseum, with boring, official, FLN like tone. It was also the week where i
was reading the fascinating conversation on empyre. So, for instance, last
week I could view on French and Algerian television networks (from arte to
the history channel, to maghreb tv, to algerian television, etc) a litany
of programs on the topic.  A few days ago, i also had the opportunity to
view some of these programs on a tiny, individual screen on a flight
between Rabat and Rome, Footage from the Rosselinian's sounding film
"Algerie, annee Zero"showed footage of the historical visit of che guevara
to algiers.  Electronic maps of the region and flight itinerary would at
times interrupt and punctuate the broadcast, showing various permutations
of locations flown over, from Murcia, Oran, Algiers, Sardinia, and so on,
linked by a continuous white line, alternating names in french and
arabic. The screen had become, for a moment, the site where brain, cinema
and geography entered into a zone of indisctinction. If Deleuze's notion of
the brain is the screen has more than metaphorial purchase this was the
moment where i had the chance to experience it. The screen as event,
ethnographic and neurocinematic, at once, irrespective of Tarek the
spectator. I felt fleetingly the enigma of the gift, the circulation of the
gift as enigma, to quote from the anthropologist maurice godelier, and the
joy of living for a moment amidst these moving-images. Images that,
although mostly official and nationalist in tone, revealed the incurable
excess that never ceases to manifest itself, always unexpectedly.
Somethibng of 1962 remained, something of 1962 as chronotope remained on
these screens, something intractable insisting like a refrain, beyond both
colonial and nationalist appropriations. This gift that erupted on this
variety of screens (tv, airplaine monitors, etc) was perhaps nothing less
and nothing more than a notion that the people continously invents itself,
continously lives on. In the  midst of the so-called arab spring, the
screen became, once again, the site of repetition of incurable images, if i
may call them so. Incurable images that need the screen with which they are
bound with a pact of recurrence,  Images that will come back in the future,
episodically so to speak, to remind us we ought to firmly believe in the
distinction between the work of the people in revolt (and not just
peasants, workers, intellectuals, etc) and the official history that
subsumes that work.  Could we call screen anything that enables this kind
of ethical operation that connects overwhelming affect with a political
project that was highjacked from the people? It goeoes without saying, this
is only ONE form of interacting and using the screen with indifference to
its medium specificity.

thanks all for the stimulating conversation.


On Sun, Jul 8, 2012 at 2:56 PM, <Christiane_Paul at whitney.org> wrote:

> Thanks! I agree that medium / material specificity and agency, affect, and
> the relationships between living beings and objects are deeply interrelated
> (while neither side of the equation is reducible to the other).
> I haven't read all the posts in this very interesting discussion but
> assume someone has brought up Erkii Huhtamo's understanding of Screenology (
> http://wro01.wrocenter.pl/erkki/html/erkki_en.html) as a history of the
> screen that "should comprise not only the evolution of different kinds of
> screens and the interconnections between them, but also account for their
> uses as part of different media apparata and within changing cultural,
> social and economic settings." The current constellations of big screen
> (urban screens, imax) and small screens (mobile devices) seem particularly
> rich territory for exploring economic and social relations.
> Christiane
> ________________________________________
> From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au [
> empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] on behalf of Richard Grusin [
> rgrusin at gmail.com]
> Sent: Sunday, July 08, 2012 1:44 AM
> To: soft_skinned_space
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] screens
> As a recent lurker on Empyre and "first-time caller," I've appreciated the
> discussion on screens, particularly the claims by many on the list about
> the importance of taking account of the material specificity of screens. I
> especially admire Ian Bogost's dogged insistence about keeping this
> material specificity at the forefront of the discussion.
> But in addition to taking up the materiality of mediation, my work (like
> the work of others) also takes up questions of agency and affect and the
> way in which objects like screens and sandwiches and orchids and humans act
> and affect other objects.  I believe that this agency and affectivity
> operate in ways that are directly related to (but I would say not reducible
> to) their material specificity.  I think we need to move more cautiously
> and think more carefully about the interaction among agency, affectivity,
> and materiality, resisting the urge to reduce screens (or whatever) to any
> one of those concerns.  To call attention to the ontology of agency or
> affect is not necessarily to eliminate all material difference, just as
> insisting on the ontology of objects should not be to eliminate
> considerations of agency, affectivity, or other forms of what I understand
> as mediation (although this kind of "reductionism" can happen all too
> easily, especially in discussion lists like empyre).  For those like me
> (and I think others on this list) who agree with Ian about material
> specificity and about the ontological continuity among all "objects," but
> who are also interested in affective and agential specificity and the
> affective and agential continuity among humans and nonhumans, it is crucial
> to find a way to talk about the complex interrelations among agency,
> affectivity, materiality, temporality, mediation, and so forth.
> My two cents.
> On Jul 7, 2012, at 1:47 PM, Ian Bogost wrote:
> > On Jul 7, 2012, at 2:10 PM, Rob Myers wrote:
> >
> >> Computers are significantly correlated with screens at present.
> Televisions are now computers (or their thralls) following the death of
> analog broadcast and recording. Even cinemas are transitioning to digital
> projection with increasing speed.
> >
> > All the more reason to distinguish between different material objects.
> The digital cinema is not the computational system in my Denon receiver
> that upsamples signals for HDMI transmission to my television, is not the
> input/output apparatus in my iPad.
> >
> >>> Many of which have screens of particular
> >>> kinds. If we're ready to simply call all those things "screens" then
> >>> I'm not sure why we wouldn't also call them automobiles or
> >>> architecture or sandwiches.
> >>
> >> I'm currently watching "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" on a baguette so I see
> your point.
> >
> > Here, let me connect the dots: Even sandwich shops order supplies and
> take and manage orders by computer.  Sandwiches are implicated in the logic
> of computers, c'est à dire screens. Therefore sandwiches are screens.
> >
> > I'm not being coy. This is how this conversation feels to me.
> >
> >> Screens serve to conceal as well as present. Think of hospital screens
> (or the back wall of the cinema). In Simon's comment, the screens have
> served to conceal the computers. What the computers conceal probably has
> something to do with agency.
> >
> > Yikes, there's the sound of the world melting again. All is one. Agency,
> or affect, or screens, or whatever. I can't get behind it, sorry.
> >
> > Ian
> > _______________________________________________
> > empyre forum
> > empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> > http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> Richard Grusin
> rgrusin at gmail.com
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
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