[-empyre-] night sea crossing

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Sat Oct 20 07:17:47 EST 2012

yes, i agree it is not easy to express yourself about either intimate matters, say, one's fear of illness or dying, or of one's body becoming dilapidated; 
or about public matters, say, if you were to comment here, on a forum such as this, on a massacre, or a killing, on the murder of a friend or the
behavior of a group that witnessed an act of discrimination, of hurt, of violence.

[Alan schreibt]
..... difficulty when I try to relate it to the moderated
and rationalized discourse one finds on an email list, especially a list
which is text-oriented, and oddly self-contained in that regard - one
_reads_ empyre. Pain, suffering and death all relate to individual
experience that breaks through whatever circumlocution has been
theoretically established.....
...One may describe  the dynamics, diplomacy, history, culture, economics, and politics of slaughter, but slaughter itself, the _thingness_ of it, eludes us, is 
inexpressible. So this is where the text bears witness to its own limits and limitations, and this might be also where the structure of an email  list founders.

in the linked report that you gave us, Ana writes:.......<Jenin is Palestine's Ground Zero. Around this hole hundreds of people gather. They are paralysed onlookers>>
she describes in measured tone and in straightforward but poignant, captivating language one thing after another that she encounters, step by step,  the place, the people there who help to 
collect and identity human remains, the people who dwell there under attack or occupation, the ones who remain;   the ones who go there to offer relief or help or support, and
the ones to make the photographs and the ones who write. 

I spoke on this list, in another month, about ones who go there to help on pallliation (is that the word), on a performative cure or what it might be called after
talking cure,  a therapeutic or cathartic (?) acting out of trauma or death.

 And i had great admiration for the action taken; in the spirit of activism and human rights
policy it was a daring act, and when I heard about it, remembering that war, and when I was approached by Per Roar, I published his report in a book i recently helped to edit on dance and madness 
For Per's project, see some visuals here:  http://www.choreomania.org/maniavisuals5.html

And thus,  if it is not the ones who suffered the violence  (the subject, i think the word victim is problematic, the fieldworkers speak of the survivors),
then in such projects you also see artists and activists taking on the trauma and its acting out, taking on the mimesis,  and then we are obviously in the realm of the symbolic and the metaphoric,
even if such work, on site  (after the Srebrenica massacre of the Bosnian war), can be affective, it can be a signal and it can transform all of us, and it can do neither. 

And it for me also thus acts  like a memento, a deeply confounded gesture (i think back to Susan Sontag flying into Sarajevo to
direct Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot' under sniper fire, the photographers got it all), bringing the group or the individual, in these cases, or the fieldworkers (the returning ethnographers)  in a very tight relationship to other acts of commemoration (Eisenman in Berlin, building the Holocaust memorial), those however commissioned / paid by the State in its helpless search for absolution, those maneuvered by media and entertainment culture industry in search of profitability.

commemoration of the inexpressible.

Alan, we could also be wrong, no?  perhaps it is not inexpressible at all.

Johannes Birringer

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