[-empyre-] Before the Law / control and cutting, stripped naked

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Sun Oct 28 05:07:56 EST 2012

this last dialogue between Jon and Alan was very productive, it moved everything a bit further, and thanks also for recent responses and the new
link that you posted to the 'forbidden' song "A Matter of Habits."  
What moved further for me was to see how the discussion approaches action (and morality).  To a certain extent i also clearly feel i understand
what Jon asks for, or even demands (from himself and from others) – empathy. 

[Jon schreibt]
>>This happens everywhere, and if art is moral, or against power, then perhaps art should focus on overcoming this barrier to empathy? this aim might have nothing to do with the location of pain, or replicating pain. I cannot know the pain of Palestinian or Israeli or anyone else, but i can empathise and imagine, i can resonate with great fiction, I can think that maybe israeli and palestinian are like me and people i know, and think about what to do to lessen the empathy barriers. then art becomes politics......

earlier, though, there was a question why there is mentioning of art, and why not directly address pain or suffering or death..... i think everyone has has done the addressing, in various ways,
and we also spoke about the personal and the expressible (what, indeed prepares you to see your mother die in front of you, or losing your child or your lover,  i think nothing much does, and everyone needs to
cope with it, I suppose, people before us had to and those after us will have to), and we spoke about our cultures, modes or representation, the imaginary, and matters of habit, and we spoke of politics (and States engaged in persecution and military warfare and  covert action and "extraordinary rendition");  

here in answer to Alan's recent question, how i would consider the "self-immolations of Tibetan monks", in comparison to the self-lacerations i mentioned of the generations of body artists since the 1960s?    
 interestingly the auto da fé (which has a longer history) i remember also happening during the same 60s and 70s of these beforementioned body artists,  during the protests against the Vietnam war, and some of the actions of the body artists were of course political protest gestures as well, but i would see Marina Abramovic's or Carolee Schneemann's or Gina Pane's early actions as gestures/performances, not actions that have the same deadly consequence as a self-immolation. It might however be very fruitful to see "auto da fé" in historical contexts  (the expression, in portuguese, means "act of faith").

to a certain extent, the actions of body artists or suspension artists are real, and Stelarc's self-suspension is real, yet I would call them performance gestures and they  are contestable, as you propose, Alan. Any action of course is. The artistic gestures are self serving, promotional,  and they can also be protesting, accusatory, provocative, and all the various shades of "transgression" that such acts have been considered to represent (as erotic acts do too, and conceptual ones, and here, think of OCCUPY and strategic retreats, the actions of squatters and occupiers become both political and aesthetic/strategic. A difficult mix. 

Empathy-creation could also be strategic, and thus one enters a similar realm of complex debate, looking at tactical gain, the stakes. 
and also how we walk away and have to walk away; 

empathy is vital, and moral.

But you realize of course that it happens in many forms and appearances, and can be manipulated;   it is also for example  studied in the social sciences and neurosiences, with respect to numerous social interaction rituals (Erving Goffman, in his book Interactual Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior[1982] talks about the problem of "losing face" - i always found this very true and inspiring), and the recent "Watching Dance" project conducted in the UK was about "kinetic empathy." [the results just published:  Dee Reynolds and Matthew Reason, Kinesthetic Empathy in Creative and Cultural Contexts (Bristol: Intellect, 2012)].   How do you "move" (and get moved) when you watch movement?

 when you look at the history of auto da fé, say in the 16th century, folks liked to go to the burnings to see the (self)-executions, to be moved? dazzled?  re-convinced of
the community, religious devotion and conformity, the law? god?  justice?    

Pain and guilt, Kafka might have said, are inside the Law, given.   And you ware there waiting, Before the Law.   lucky you, if you can grasp it (the door to inside), if not, then despair. 

Johannes Birringer 

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