[-empyre-] Art, Representation, Communication

paulina aroch p.aroch at gmail.com
Thu Nov 29 07:28:18 EST 2012

On Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 2:22 PM, paulina aroch <p.aroch at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi Erin,
> Thanks for that... Yes, the drone does seem an interesting place to think
> through questions of neoliberal technologies, logics, aesthetics.
> Especially because of the subjectlessness involved or, much more
> accurately, the displacement of subjectivity.
> It is interesting how the drone's "artificiality" plays out when it is
> used as mechanism to guard and maintain the equally "artificial" borders of
> a nation-state. Especially considering that the nation-state in question is
> the U.S., at once an exacerbated paradigm of the nation as such and the
> place from which the state has been emptied out of the substance it had in
> an industrial-capitalist society, now functioning as mere place of juncture
> in a neoliberal private-oriented mode of governamentality. The
> juxtaposition of those two artificialities in the patrolling drone lays
> bare the role of artifice (understood as form in place of substance) in
> safeguarding spatially displaced yet historically very real relationships
> of power in today's world. Also, it elicits questions concerning the
> relationship of art and artifice which I would like to think further about.
> Thinking back on the question of the ship for the Elizabethan imagination,
> it strikes me how the ship is also significant of desire, of a positive
> sexual drive. Back to the drone, and its hyper-mediated, always-already
> deferred subjectivity, I wonder how we could think of desire here (it
> resonates strongly with Lacan's understanding of the subject in terms of
> his [sic.] desire, the subject as *occurring *in an ever displaced
> chain). I wonder also how the drone as a particular mode of
> structuring/displacing desire frames the drone as a figure standing in for
> neoliberalism's particular mode of transportation/communication, its
> particular mechanisms for the exertion of power. Any ideas?
> Paulina
> On Tue, Nov 27, 2012 at 10:33 PM, Erin Obodiac <emo57 at cornell.edu> wrote:
>>  *Paulina,*
>> *
>> *
>> *I like your employment of the figures/devices/machines "ship" and
>> "tank."  I would like to add "drone" in light of the drone attacks in
>> Pakistan and the drone patrolling of the Canada/US/Mexico borders.  Here's
>> an interesting link on drone and robotic weapons:*
>> *Robotic Weapons: *<
>> http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/11/27/us/ROBOT.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=ab1
>> >****
>>  Patty,
>>  For Derrida etc. the trace is always under erasure, constituted by
>> erasure, n'est-ce pas?
>>  best,
>> Erin Obodiac
>>  ------------------------------
>> *From:* empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au [
>> empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] on behalf of Maria Damon [
>> damon001 at umn.edu]
>> *Sent:* Tuesday, November 27, 2012 10:31 AM
>> *To:* soft_skinned_space
>> *Subject:* Re: [-empyre-] Art, Representation, Communication
>>  I would be very interested to know if people have references to a
>> subject one could loosely call the "poetics of debt"– a colleague and I are
>> trying to assemble a panel for a conf next year.
>> On 11/26/12 11:59 PM, paulina aroch wrote:
>> *Art, Representation, Communication*
>>  For this week’s discussion of risk on *empyre_soft_skinned_space*, we
>> would like to pose some questions about the relationship between risk,
>> representation and communication. Is it possible to aesthetically represent
>> risk, understood either as a foreseeable and thus anticipated event or,
>> conversely, as a more abstract, imagined scenario? And, if so, what are the
>> potential implications and responsibilities that such a representation
>> might bear, whether political, social, ethical, or otherwise? Insofar as
>> risk corresponds to a future tense (something will or will not happen), and
>> representation, by definition, adheres to a logic of “afterness”—are the
>> terms themselves conceptually and categorically incompatible? Conversely,
>> precisely because risk depends on imagining something that has yet to come,
>> in what ways could we say that it always needs a system of representation
>> to make such an imagining legible and meaningful? In other words, in what
>> ways might risk, in order to be understood, depend on representational
>> systems? Reciprocally, what might representation, understood as an
>> “after-the-fact” practice bring to bear on contemporary conceptions of
>> risk?
>> In what ways might representation serve as a constructive tool for
>> bridging—rather than widening— the divide between risks that remain in the
>> sphere of potentiality and those effectively realized? Thinking of new
>> communication and transportation technologies as the condition of
>> possibility for neoliberalism, and communication itself as both a valued
>> commodity and a hyper-inflated trope in today’s world, what is the relation
>> between representation and communication in art? And how is the
>> communication/representation of risk modified by those conditions?
>> The images presented here (see attachments) gesture toward not an
>> anticipation of an event, but rather the time of ongoing risk (revolution)
>> and the time of aftermath (disaster). We offer readings of two different
>> images by two different artists, operating in different mediums, cultural
>> contexts, and geographies. The first, a photograph of graffiti images,
>> features an intriguing arrangement of artistic responses to social protest
>> and political turmoil in a shared space in Cairo (“Tank vs. Biker”); the
>> second, an image from a photographic series of graffiti texts written by
>> victims of a common natural disaster in New Orleans(“Destroy this Memory”).
>> *1. “Tank vs. Biker”*
>> “Tank vs. Biker” is a graffiti piece sprayed on a street of Cairo in the
>> context of the Arab Spring; while some hold it to be anonymous, other
>> sources attribute it to Ganzeer. I first came across the image at a lecture
>> that another Egyptian street artist, Bahia Shehab, gave on September 22,
>> 2012 at Cornell. Shehab showed a chronological photographic account of how
>> this wall had been successively occupied by a series of different artists,
>> mostly anonymous to each other yet in dialogue through the public space of
>> this wall. The authorities also participated in the dialogue, by
>> selectively black-spraying some of the elements that were successively
>> incorporated into this virtual public landscape. (The image you see in
>> attachment is at the earliest stages of the graffiti interaction, which
>> Ganzeer inaugurated. For a video account of the wall’s posterior stages see
>> Shehab’s TED lecture at
>> http://www.ted.com/talks/bahia_shehab_a_thousand_times_no.html)
>> Shehab’s account of the risks involved for graffiti artists under the
>> present conditions in Egypt is twofold. On the one hand, there is the risk
>> of getting caught in the act and being arrested by the police. On the other
>> hand, there is, at least for Shehab herself, the persistent risk of
>> publicly recognizing her art as hers, of claiming authority over the
>> illegal action in Western public forums. The risk might be worth taking
>> since only by acknowledging the position from where she speaks can Shehab
>> communicate the information that concerns her and which is also a major
>> public concern. Yet there is a second reason: authorial claim is perhaps
>> the sine qua non for art to be able to participate in the circuits of
>> aesthetic and economic value production in the global art market. Shehab
>> needs to own her art if she is to make a living as an artist.
>> The catachrestic encounter between superimposed values in the same act of
>> authorship calls for considering the question of how risk might be
>> configured differently from the perspective of the global periphery.
>> Furthermore, I wonder how we can understand risk from the “periphery,” not
>> only in the sense established by world-systems theory, but also in the
>> disciplinary sense. In what ways do these graffiti artists question
>> academic imaginations of risk? Against what kind of concept is risk being
>> defined in the social sciences? And in the arts? What notions of stability
>> unfold? How does stability – as a condition of understanding or as a desire
>> – mark the narratives of the core geographical and disciplinary areas from
>> where risk itself is imagined?
>> Since early on risk was imagined as a thing of the sea. We can think of
>> Gaspar Mairal’s ongoing investigation into the word’s first appearance in
>> maritime insurance contracts in the Mediterranean and its dissemination in
>> association with the overseas realities of the New World. Risk as belonging
>> to a seascape is an image that takes a strong hold over the Elizabethan
>> imagination: think of the role and meaning of the sea and particularly of
>> ships in Shakespearean plays such as *The Merchant of Venice*. But if
>> the ship is paradigmatic figure of risk for a mercantilist society whose
>> (imagination of) wealth pivots around the colonies, what trope organizes
>> our imagination of risk in neoliberal times? What is the paradigmatic
>> transportation/communication technology evoking a mode of capitalist
>> accumulation with a logic and an aesthetics entirely different from that of
>> mercantilism? Ganzeer portrays a tank and a bicycle, represented on a one
>> to one scale, face to face. Can we imagine the tank as the mode of
>> transportation that is to open a new horizon for capital in the very
>> particular ways it has done so, at the global periphery, since Santiago de
>> Chile, 1973? In other words, is the tank to neoliberalism what the ship was
>> to the mercantilist world? And can we think of the realistic mode of
>> representation of this graffiti art as risking exile from the global
>> circuits of aesthetic value production? What is the risk involved for art
>> when its aim – distant from both the “the means is the message” precept
>> that characterizes modernism and the hyperinflation of the means as such
>> that characterizes postmodernism – seems to be simply the message?
>> Paulina Aroch p.aroch at cornell.edu
>> *2. “Destroy this Memory”
>> *
>> To say that Hurricane Katrina was a tremendous disaster, the effects of
>> which are still largely unfathomable and the response to which is still
>> largely unconscionable, is an understatement. Interestingly, it is perhaps
>> the word “failure”—and not “risk”—that first comes to mind when remembering
>> the devastation caused by Katrina along the Gulf Coast in August 2005.
>> There were basic infrastructure failures resulting in the collapse of
>> multiple floodwalls and levees surrounding New Orleans, where the greatest
>> damage occurred, submerging over 80% of the city under water. There were
>> rescue and response failures, state and government support failures,
>> evacuation failures, and perhaps at the root of all these, there were
>> systems and communication failures. In fact, few disagree that regarding
>> communication, the Bush administration’s response—both with preparations
>> beforehand and relief efforts after the storm hit— was unequivocally a
>> double failure of public health and public affairs.
>> Much of the news coverage of the disaster offered images that evoked the
>> feeling of failure as well. Many of us likely remember the dramatic scenes
>> of the overcrowded Superdome, the mesmerizing aerial shots of the fallen
>> levees, listless in their watery graves, or pictures of residential
>> wreckage—uprooted trees, toppled cars, and ravaged houses. In the weeks
>> after the hurricane, internationally acclaimed photojournalist, Richard
>> Misrach (*Desert Cantos, Cancer Alley, Petrochemical America*) traveled
>> to New Orleans, where he began taking photographs of Katrina’s aftermath.
>> In this process, he took “field notes” with a small point-and-shoot camera,
>> the contents of which would later prove to contain dozens of hidden
>> treasures that would become a project all on their own. Hundreds of the
>> locations that he shot as a note-taking strategy for mapping both the
>> disaster’s pathways and his own photographic trajectory contained textual
>> traces of human survival. These traces took the form of writing. Graffiti
>> messages became testimonials indicating the number of dead or alive, phone
>> numbers, and an array of emotional expressions: rage, fear, love, and
>> sadness. As he developed these photos, Misrach realized that the messaging
>> pattern shifted from practical information (i.e. names of those who had
>> been abandoned or rescued) to larger existential questions centered on
>> trauma, memory, and survival (i.e. “what now?”). Some victims wrote
>> messages of faith and recovery, such as the textual inscription on the
>> plywood scraps featured in the photograph included here, small fragments of
>> hope among the trashed landscape. The accumulation of these graffiti
>> messages by Misrach meant that they would become art, eventually published
>> in a book and exhibited in museums. But many of the messages had a much
>> simpler purpose: they were meant to inform their future readers of who had
>> survived and who had not. As a response to a catastrophic event, these
>> texts communicated something visceral and real that was being threatened to
>> disappear as the floodwaters remained: “I am here.”  Equally moving were
>> those messages that indicated that no one was present (either due to death
>> or evacuation), yet nonetheless promised a return harbored in messages of
>> belief and solidarity: “we will rebuild.”
>> If Rene Magritte’s paradigmatic representation of a pipe entitled “This
>> is not a Pipe” played, through intermediality, with representation as such,
>> then how might we think of Misrach’s project, where intermediality traces
>> the impossible yet actual transition from representation as communication
>> to representation as art? Does the photographic register risk the erasure
>> of the pragmatic dimension of the primordial semiotic act in the face of
>> trauma and, with it, the erasure of trauma itself? Does this artistic act
>> succeed in turning trauma—understood as that which cannot be put into
>> words—into a dialogic counterpoint? Or does it foreclose that possibility
>> by emptying communication out of the picture, transforming the message into
>> a referentless trace and allowing trauma, as the direct impact of the real,
>> unmediated by the symbolic, to take over the space of representation as a
>> whole? When natural disaster strikes the social order in the form of
>> trauma, when risk control fails, is communication itself at risk of erasure?
>>  Patty Keller pkeller at cornell.edu
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forumempyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.auhttp://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20121128/2c476d1b/attachment-0001.htm>

More information about the empyre mailing list