[-empyre-] night sea crossing 4

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Tue Oct 23 07:55:59 EST 2012

dear soft_skinned 

thank you for clarifications, Alan. 

you never meant to draw us into the second lives and virtual spaces as such (as well as the extended terrain of social
media, f-book, online lists, etc) or examine avatars and digital online spaces ,
 but you felt that at issue -  when discussing pain and death -- are the various systems of representations
(aesthetic systems, and thus also the virtual domains in particular, which may have been given a kind of "dispensation" by some who admire 
the so-called immaterial technologies or the so-called disembodied "safe place" (you quote 
Kristeva here, the "clean and  proper body" that hides or bypasses pain and suffering) , seemingly apart from
deeper inexpressibility at the heart of traumatizing concerns.

This seemingly apart bothered you.  
And i now find again your initial questions from the first week:

So how do we feel, convey, or act in relation to, pain, suffering, and 
death, online? How can we deal with the political beyond petition? How can 
we situate ourselves in a world of images and the imaginary?

One would have liked to hear from others as well how this is understood, as in the question just quoted you seem to say [both]
how do you act online or in non-physical space? Or how do you act when something painful occurs in non-physical space, how does it revert
into the everyday space you move in? and back again into the imaginary?

Probably,  much of what I tried to say in the past days was drawing attention to the huge difficulties activists and artists have in the political ream or the social realm or the aesthetic
corridors (whether MoMA or Museo de la memoria y los derechos humanos,or  other installations, projections, performances, dances, photographs, music, and writings,
single actions and collaborative projects..), and also moving in-between the realms and available strategies for action, the little space..... 

    Link:  on "rendition"  - this is a new word i learnt reading Ian Cobain on  "Torture UK: why Britain has blood on its hands
                                        How did the British government get involved in the torture of its own citizens?" 19 Oct. 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/oct/19/torture-uk-britain-blood-government

           I quote from this article: <<Since 1987, the CIA had been quietly apprehending terrorists and "rendering" them to the US for prosecution, without any regard for lawful extradition processes. In 1995, President Bill Clinton – apparently   
                                                    with the full encouragement of his vice-president, Al Gore – agreed that a number of terrorists could be taken to a third country, including countries known to use torture, a process that would come to be known as
                                                    extraordinary rendition.
                                                    Within five days of 9/11, [Cofer] Black [head of counter-terrorism]  had drawn up plans for the CIA's response. It would entail a vast expansion of the rendition programme. Hundreds of al-Qaida suspects would be
                                                     tracked down and abducted from  their homes and hiding places in 80 different countries. The agency would decide who was to be killed and who was to be kept alive in a network of secret prisons, outside the US,
                                                    where they would be systematically tormented until every one of their secrets had been delivered up>>>

This moving in-between:  Rendering body art or performance art, acting on the real, as a form of atonement, or ritual cleansing or clearing? or a willed catharsis?  i was pursuing this in refering you to the Marina Abramovic contradictions in "The Artist in Present"  where i felt the clearing was emotonal fakery, muddled with the show or showwomanship  (and a show just went up in San Francisco mocking the earlier one, and calling itself "The Artist is Absent") and also to her/their re-performances.  I tried to also link you to a collective project that was undertaking by a choreographer after human rights activists went to help and work with survivors after the Srebrenica massacre of the Bosnian war. I remembered the work that Monika Weiss has mentioned here, "Shrouds", in Zielona Góra, and what she offered in the first week:

    Monika wrote:  >>I think a lot of the interest in the visceral experience, in the choreographed language of gestures and the language of stillness, almost-silence --arrive to me from music...>>

and then I thought a lot about the research example that Diane Gramola gave us, it was very provocative -  her mentioning of "SnowWorld"  and research in pain distraction. 

>>SnowWorld is immersive VR (HMD version), based on the notion of pain distraction.
The immersants travel down a kind of river, mostly in an ice cave. There are flying fish,
a mastadon, and snowmen (men). Immersants use a mouse (they are often using VR while
in a cold bath, so there are definite limitations) to shoot snowmen, who shatter.>.

Diane's postings were of great interest, directing us to "virtual" spaces created to have therapeutic affect. She writes:  >>I won't use the term art therapy, and pain doctors don't either, mostly because they want 
to maintain the value of expression and art instead of getting caught in specific ways to do that....... I'm also working on assembling the names of artists and others who have chronic pain and whose work grapples with it in some way>>

This made me try to connect a few things that i had never really confronted in the work of creative persons or friends who perform, issues that were spoken by some, and not spoken at all by others, for some reason. 
I remembered seeing a film on and with the late Bob Flanagan (who at a young age was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a condition which would influence his art and ultimately claim his life), and he spoke about his pain. 
Body artists I got to know and admire, like Carolee Schneemann, did not address pain but were working on the other side of Thanatos, namely Eros and erotic or sexual excess, the beyonding of [female] pleasure and thus also asking where the normative limits or legal bounds set in, when and how power and the gaze operate, when surveillance or the apparatus intervenes and how.  
Artists i know well, like Stelarc, do not use their work in an overt political or activist sense, but perhaps performance art, in the manner in which Abramovic now promotes the "presence" has some claim to presencing that stare
across, when one confronts the other, or when one confronts this body there hanging on hooks, suspended, as if in some ancient manner of holy torture, and then, thus, one's own body if you imagine it there. 

Stelarc's suspension performances go way back, to the early 80s, and when he showed slides to the young students this past week, and someone asked about the pain involved, Stelarc never addressed the question and bypassed it, as if it was not interesting to him, or as if he felt it distracted from the work's conceptual direction.  He had stopped doing these suspensions a long while ago;  until this year, in Melbourne, he had himself "re"-suspended on fleshhooks again. I was very surprised to hear about it, and imagined his aged body, hoisted up in the air, creaking. 

To my even greater surprise,  he went to Oslo last weekend to "conduct" a group suspension event at the Fabrikken  (apparently there is now a suspension underground movement.......http://www.suspension.org/us/groups.htm
and they work on "traumatic stress discipline:" and "rites of passage").  I see there was also a suspension symposium!

Performance:   http://underskog.no/kalender/90375_stelarc-in-oslo/forestilling/141184 
Event for Multiple Suspensions
A performance devised by Stelarc for the Oslo Suspension Symposium 2012
Facilitated by Håvve Fjell and Wings of Desire
Suspended bodies:  Samar Soriano, Olive, June Ailin Bonsaksen, Morten Narverud, Ronnie Horner

I have the photographs the conductor sent me, but they are quite harrowing and I will not post them; I found out though that the performance was live streamed, so images must already exist in the ether.  

Our cultures, we like our rites of passages, no?   Reading about "extra-ordinary renditions", however made want to throw up. 

On personal scale, protesting for example airport security measures that border on the obscene, silently violent and invasive, like the one occasion when we were lined up against the wall, a few meters away from the plane on a narrow gangway, and they brought the dogs,  however, have been quite fruitless and seem to have no communal healing effect whatsoever, when you, amongst 300 other passengers try to resist being humiliated, you have no chance to receive support, I gathered. If the person pressed against the wall on the other side is detained, because the border guards suspect them, or the dog groveled, then what do we do to intercede against the Guards. I tried an intercession last year in Houston and raised my voice and demanded an explanation why someone was detained, and everyone looked at me as if i had lost my mind, gone completely mad, and the guards came and knocked me up the wall sending a holy terror into my body, and i could within one flash see the whole scenario unfolding, so I backed down. In one small sense, that was also a weird rite of passage, learning to condone the fear recognizing how utterly weak one might be in front of power, even though instinct would say, well, the group would protect the scapegoat?

Johannes Birringer


[Alan schreibt]
Pain in the virtual isn't pain of course, any more than pain in a
photograph is. So the question would be, how does the representation of
pain in the habitus or disembodiment of the virtual work on or with the

In this sense, the question really isn't about the virtual in itself, at
all, but part of a larger question: How does representation of pain,
suffering, and death, relate, motivate, and create in the viewers of a
work of any sort, a reaction which might touch and motivate them (towards
what end?) deeply?  And how does the representation of this (which, by
virtue of its being virtual, as representation) relate to those who are at
the verge of death, are suffering acute pain, are victims of slaughter,
and so forth?

The question isn't about anime or Second Life, but about what I still see
as the deep inexpressibility at the 'heart' of these concerns, in relation
to what art, or therapy, or dance, or any system of representation, might
do. There's a phenomenology of anguish here, that doesn't resolve, I
think. The problem is _most_ acute in the traditional virtual - where
anime, Second Life, Web 2.0 etc. meet, but it goes beyond this. I just
don't have the answers and see at the heart, for example, of Celan, an
inertness or silence that's uncanny.

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