[-empyre-] concerning violence

Jon McKenzie jvmckenzie at wisc.edu
Sat Nov 8 17:42:23 EST 2014

The diversity of voices and texts from so many sites and times of terror both troubles and consoles. Does sharing violence somehow console even as/if it amplifies? How to thread ourselves through so many events of violence, events erupting at different scales and speeds, as well as different with forms and degrees of animation and annihilation?

It's good to that Reinhold Görling is here and to hear his question: “If there is a theatricality of violence: can we really be sure that theatre, art, film, literature does break with the repetition compulsion? “

Our situation/tempo is very complex and shifting and calls for juxtaposing perspectives. I’ve been grappling with terror, performance, and media through graphe, understood first through the Platonic oppositions of logos/graphe, speech/writing, origin/repetition, true/false, good/bad, unity/difference, order/violence, theory/theater. Today through Descartes and others, what’s graphic often threatens what’s human, what’s humane, that is, us humans, certain in our doubt. 

At the same time, the Frankfurt School and postwar French theorists revealed how humanism imposed itself with a vengeance—with its theory as well as its theater. As portrayed by the writing machine in Kafka’s “On the Penal Colony” and Artaud’s “Theater of Cruelty,” modern institutions privilege the narrowest of graphe: the alphabet, ruled by the logos of human subjects. Armies and schools led the way. 

For better and worse, the displacement of logos releases hypergraphe and vice versa. Let us recall Bataille’s secret society, Acephale, the figure of the headless man. 

From hashassins and anarchist bombings to drone strikes and YouTube beheadings, modern terror develops within a global network of increasing density and resonance. Terror one sees “over there” suddenly is here, collapsing space and time and with them one’s points of reference.

One morning preparing to teach at NYU, my mother called from Florida saying a plane had just hit the Trade Towers. I hung up and turned on the TV, transfixed for hours. Eventually I got up to our roof on 103rd and later downtown to the smoldering site. The air in the subway and streets was laced with a moist dust, an entire city terrorized, seized for days then weeks by anthrax attacks, a third plane going down on Long Island, and blaring, unending sirens. The terror slowly passed, the shock not. It waits. A friend—a major performance theorist who’ll go unnamed here—confessed seeing the first tower burning and thinking it was a film shoot. 

And if cliches, images, ghosts preceded the real… what violence would there be in that?

In Of Grammatology, Derrida draws on Nietzsche to sketch a genealogy of violence, roughly: 1) violence against instituted law (eg, ISIS vs international laws, 2) violence of instituting law (eg, system of international laws tied to European colonialism), and 3) arche-violence, violence “prior” to the distinction of law/violation. Derrida later critiques Benjamin’s divine violence but his own notions of trace, differance, graphe carry the senses of path-breaking, spur, and explosive dissemination, and through pharmakon, the scents of perfume, poison, and parricide (of logos).

To ask Reinhold’s question differently: How to navigate such genealogical strata while making performances that cite and grapple with violence and terror and graphe? 

It’s graphe vs graphe, and beyond Platonic logos lies modern graphe: graphic arts, photography, typography, cinematography, choreography… These are our means, but not the only ones.


On Nov 7, 2014, at 3:03 PM, Reinhold Görling <goerling at phil.hhu.de> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Thanks for the question and the possibility to try to say it more precisely. 
> To ways to describe this come into my mind. The first follows Fanon and his rewriting of the master-slave-dialectics in Hegel’s „Introduction“ to his „Phenomenology". The master denies the recognition to the slave. But working for the master the slave gets able to develop a consciousness of herself by seeing herself producing things and changing the world. In the colonial situation of continuously performed cruelty, in a world strictly separated departed in two, the constant pain or negation prevents this possibility.
> But I doubt that this this model of subjectivity is still useful. We no longer can think of mediation mainly in the logic of production of things: that the subject sees itself in the product, recognizes its abilities. Mediation perhaps is always new and changing, it is becoming of the subject itself. There is no subject before it emerges out of a scene, a dramatization. But this is a continuous process. 
> When subjectivity is what emerges out of the indeterminacy of a play than it is possible to destroy the subject exactly by destroying this room to play (Spielraum in German). 
>> Am 07.11.2014 um 20:50 schrieb simon <swht at clear.net.nz>:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> On 08/11/14 04:48, Reinhold Görling wrote:
>>> this lasting impact of violence is exactly the denial of recognition and the lack of mediation that is in the core of the theatricality of violence. Violence aims to produce an image of negation that occupies the victim, that colonizes the space of its subjectivity. (Isn’t subjectivity first of all a free space to relate images, thoughts, emotions, memories of being affected in an always and continuously new way, to dramatize
>> Does violence at its core possess a theatricality which lacks mediation? Perhaps it places the victim - and the victim of its images - at its core. Where there is - and the 'there is' would constitute the moment of action taking place in its 'theatricality' - a negation that occupies the victim... by overcoming the individual? 
>> The mediation is the impossible act of the subject, impossible to perform. Is this why it is lacking?
>> best,
>> Simon
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20141108/51ea70c6/attachment.htm>

More information about the empyre mailing list