[-empyre-] language, reporting the virtually true

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Tue Nov 4 04:43:45 EST 2014

dear all
as our first week gets under way, may I follow up my welcome with the question of language, the medium of the ground, the poetry of the wall and proximity to the daily potentials or protocols of humiliation?

I had a longer meeting the other week, listening to Olga Danylyuk's fieldwork and her subsequent re-siting of the evidences and testimonies she gathered from war combatants. I was moved by her account
of the gathering, first of all --  a form of performance ethnography, but also I wondered about the questions she asked, and languages and observations she used (before the re-siting and reciting).  Keeping the problem of observation in mind, whether ethnography, quantum physics, geography, politics .. -    the forms and processes of observing violence came back to haunt me in the form of the reportages written earlier in the summer by Pia Holenstein, regularly sent out to receivers, when she worked as a volunteer human right violations observer in Israel and the occupied territories. I read some, not all. Last week I went back to reread, and wondered what troubled me in the first place, or whether the massiveness of humiliation of people was not readable in this way.

Language and deformation of truth, as probably many have experienced at some point in some manner, can be traumatic, painful, and can lead to collapse of existence as Heiner Weidmann learnt when a teacher colleague of his was falsely accused, persecuted (forcing exile). 

I wish to invite Olga and Pia to offer some introductory statements about their work and methods of performance/observation; and Heiner would you please comment on how you would "read" the power of deformation, or also perhaps, what Benjamin called the "destructive character", perhaps in the context of a larger question of what remains unspeakable in the face of acts of terror.    

thank you, 
Johannes Birringer
(Brief bios are further below)

- - -
Olga Danylyuk is a theatre practitioner and researcher in RCSSD, London, where she recently submitted her thesis under the title ‘Virtually True’: Intermedial  Strategies in the Staging of War Conflict. Olga takes a critical approach to the mediatized culture which is exemplified in her recent works concerning war and conflict: Death Club (2011), Soldiers of the Last Empire (2012), Serious Games (2013). Her research projects exploit aspects of popular cultural forms like clubbing, museums and digital gaming in order to create new affective experiences for participants that might question the popular imagination of war. Current intermedial performance work encompasses film, photography and animation as prevailing creative tools in contemporary culture. It also explores the social and political implications of contemporary media practices. Olga draws on her diverse experience in theatre design and directing for developing new dramaturgical approaches. Previous experience includes working with  the Broadway designer Ann Hould-Ward  (N Y),  Yara Art Group, LaMama Theatre (N Y), International Centre of Creative Initiative (Moscow),  collaboration with choreographer Julia Gleich (Laban Contemporary Dance School) for 13 Scenes InSanity , Performing Arts Laboratory Back Hill ( London), directing  the physical theatre performance When We Were Gods with the students of Kiev Circus College and musicians from Italy, Edinburgh Fringe Festival,  exploring puppetry and choreography in  Poem Unwritten (Camden People’s Theatre), short film Black Cat Leaves Black Track (official selection, New York short film festival ) and others.

Pia Holenstein Weidmann, Dr. phil., is specialized in Medieval and Early Modern German literature, feminist & cultural theory. Besides her work as literary critic, teacher and inventor of cultural projects, she turned to working for NGOs, as in Vietnam 2012 and as a Human rights' violations monitor/ watcher in Palestine 2014.

Heiner Weidmann, Phd, lives near Zug, Switzerland; teaches literary and cultural criticism ,and philosophy; he has published books and articles about Kleist and Benjamin, about fashion, text and body. Recently he participated in an anti-discrimination campaign and blogged on a public discussion platform  (http://www.lesenstatthetzen.ch). 

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