[-empyre-] public lament and gardening

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Sat Oct 6 03:05:51 EST 2012

thanks Monika for these very illuminating and profound responses you wrote (answering Maria's and my questions), 
[strangely I am trying to re-read them while watching Alan's machinima on Anita Berber and Sebastian Droste, now that is a very strange dis/traction to the 1920s and the queering of Berlin's underground & performance, cabaret and film scene)

and what you say about your "polluting" strategies:  <<It's the pollution of the polis through staining it with empathy and affect, that drives my recent work>>, which i can now also understand much better since your posting on the "Shrouds" project.

I wonder what others here think about your postings? and your responses?

Monika schreibt: 
>>What comes to mind is that the work always exists in the context of the site and the context of one's life work, even one's writing. the projects I did in Dresden, New York. Potsdam, Warsaw or now Santiago -- and many other places -- the past are inscribed in the body of the city, so this forms one level of context. 
The prolonged moment, the experience of the passerby (I don't like the word "viewers" or "audience" and I always insist on "experiencer"), offers a possibility of a dialogue, the ABA, a return and circularity between presences. 

Yes, I see the significance of context/site and its histories inscribed, or its wounds still visible of not, or adapted/restituted.

I now think of Ana Váldes telling us she walks through the streets of Montevideo and might bump into one of her torturers from years back.  What would one do?

Ana, what catharsis?    
and how does the traveling artist who comes to Dresden and Santiago affect catharsis (amongst the locals, the audience?)  I think you can call them experiencers, if you wish, but for artworks and ritual
performance exhibitions, i think one can also see them as viewers and audiences, after all, it is not clear to me how empathy or affect works through video, installation, and why artworks should affect experiences in the profound ways you claim (for the polis community of ancient tragedy, the funeral gathering in Palestinia?). Video or body installations  are, a a category, different from the funerals that Ana seems to have in mind. I would insist so, and won't  need to mention Marina Abramovic or others at galleries, biennials and museums 'under'-going  their fasts and durational self-exhibition spectacles....

One would need to discuss funeral practices in context then, too, and examine them; the agonized groans, the tears, the gestures, the silence, the repetitions  (such as the protests of the madres de desaparecidos in Buenos Aires).....

Grave matters here this week. After Alan, may I also dis/tract you by passing on to you a brief message just received from Argentine friend asking me about the camera work in Madrid during recent public unrest and protests, when drones?/surveillance helicopters?  flew over the city, like angels, taking a look at the wounding?

Era cuestión de horas. De los cientos de cámaras personales que grabaron disturbios en Madrid han aflorado hoy vídeos que están recorriendo las redes sociales y se asoman a veces a medios de comunicación. Elegimos algunos de los más difundidos.

La primera carga en Neptuno vista desde arriba.

Un policía infiltrado se identifica ante sus compañeros cuando intentan detenerle: "¡Que soy compañero, coño!"

(video sources:  http://www.eldiario.es/politica/videos-actuacion-policial-ver_0_51795275.html#comments)

Johannes Birringer

Monika schreibt:

>>I consider lamentation as a communal mourning process in public sphere of polis, which in the ancient times was not supposed to be polluted by any openly expressed emotion (unworthy of citizen) nor by anything else coming from non-citizens such as were women at the time. In various geographies and traditions around the world women were the ones who organized themselves and then performed lament in response to war, response to the absurdity of war, often joining forces with the other mourners from the other side, the "enemies".  It's the pollution of the polis through staining it with empathy and affect, that drives my recent work. Even more so, I think the political force comes out of that unknown, permeable, leaky state of mourning, when the boundaries between you and me and the third (as in Levinas) are prone to overlap or momentarily melt, because we are indeed undone by each other.

 Soldiers are trained to un-think the Other as a no-body, through developing a specific language or vocabulary that avoids any reference to human beings (target, casualty etc.) and also through the strategic enforcing of the agenda of difference, we and them. It would be a military tragedy (and humanity's victory) if we were to actually look at one another with the understanding that the boundaries of Otherness are porous and permeable.

[very interesting, this makes me want to go back and have another look at Theweleit's "Male Fantasies"]

I think of Lament also as a form,incantation, return, calling, echoing, hence my use of Lament's ABA format. The pollution that happens when the two worlds cross and merge, then and now, dead and alive. I think of Lament as enunciation and as anamnesis, also as a direct sibling of historical memory which, when real and subversive, is capable of undoing power, to some extent. That's why my work has been gradually [over the last 10 years or so] moving towards a focus on the idea of a City, specifically City's memory and City as a martyr (more about this later...)

So yes, lamentation is a critique that serves towards community self-constitution, where the boundary between lamentation lamentations becomes fluid and reversible.>>

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