... this blog is an ongoing investigation into modes of suspension that started as a research project in Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths College in 2011 ...

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Untitled (2010-ongoing)

What are the wins and losses when forms of inner conflict are not allowed to represent themselves within the community that produced them? If such forms are suspended, indefinitely denied expressing and consequently to engage communication, the individuals who gave birth to this form are separated from a part of their collective being and consequently cannot take on their social responsibility, causing burdens. Here, the very structure of the society is suspended. As such, what we experience to be our collective identity is constantly closed and unclosed: we cannot access nor assess our collective memory’s archive and lack freedom to interpret who we are. When we talk about suspension, does this always mean elimination? Could it offer not a negative perception, but rather a moment of clarification or alternative to future progress? It is argued that suspension is not only common to the state of emergency but also to emergencies that could potentially arise. Thus suspension is a measure of global dominance and control, and requires alternative type of governance. 

So what are the remains, where are the traces, what are the narratives in this blur of information? How can we uncover our mood boards whilst we experience the social distinctions within ourselves and reconfigure the information cloud we’re part of?

This video installation is part of Who told you so?! first show Truth vs Government
April 14 - May 27
Open Thursday to Sunday 13:00 - 17:00
onomatopee, Eindhoven, NL

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Who told you so?! #1 Truth vs. Government

Mode of Suspension is exhibited as part of Onomatopee 75: Research project Who told you so?! The first chapter of the year-long program focuses on the story of Truth vs. Government.

April 14 – May 27 
Open Thursday – Sunday 13:00-17:00 
onomatopee, Eindhoven, NL 

Who told you so?! is the 2012 Research project year-program featuring four group shows, delivering four chapters of social ambiguity. The truth vs. government, organisation, scene and family: about the secularisation of stories of social cohesion through individually processed hybrid flows of information. 

Living through ambiguity and searching for cohesion: this is where we pair up the increasingly hybrid character of the points of reference by which we narrate our personal identities, together with our need for stories that allow us to engage in social cohesion (government, organisation, scene and family) and proceed to confront these traditional social structures. 

The first chapter of Who told you so?! program focuses on the story of Truth vs. Government. The stories that construct our national identities become arguable as they are overrun by an extreme flow of global data exchanges via Internet, social media, travel and migration. Humanity has become global as the stories we deal with on a daily basis arise from everywhere across the globe. We generate our own narration through these in an eclectic manner, intuitively. Identities are configured from the bottom-up, throughout the lively narrations of the multitude. Meanwhile national and supranational governments attempt to offer identities in which we can find cohesion, just as the “European” storyline is trying to postulate something of a Jewish/Christian/humanist body. 

This first chapter takes on the visual and textual narrations that are able to question the official story and help us to produce our individual narrations. They provoke us to doubt the context in which the story of the government presents itself, and allow for speculation and new relationships through which we are able to playfully recount the configuration of the narrative. It stimulates us to go beyond our own pleasantly eclectic narratives as well as the constant stream of “official” stories. 

With: Aleksandra Domanovic (SI / DE), Foundland (NL), Gokce Suvari (TR), Group R.E.P. (revolutionary experimental space) (UA), Lieven De Boeck (BE), Mauro Vallejo (ES), Monika Löve (EE / UK), Slavs and Tatars (INT) 

Curator/editor: Freek Lomme 
Exhibition design: Dave Keune 
Graphic design: Novak Ontwerp 
Made possible thanks to: Municipality of Eindhoven and Mondriaan Fund

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Traces-of-governance. Political autonomy of in-between*

*this text was written in preparation for Who told you so?! First exhibition installation on Truth vs Government, Research Project by onomatopee

THE LOGIC OF GOVERNMENT (governance apparatus) 
“The gods on Mountain Olympus were enjoying a festive party, to which, understandably, they had not invited Eris, the goddess of discord. Eris, just as understandably, took the matter personally. She had the blacksmith Hephaestus fashion a golden apple, on which was written -"To the fairest." Then she opened the door and rolled the golden apple into the festive hall. In no time at all, the gods were fighting over who should have the apple.” (Greek mythology) 

Some theorists argue that without “government” society would plunge into a war of all against all and the result of this would be a life that is “nasty, brutish, and short.” It is not really my goal to find out “what is government” or even “what it is not”. Instead I am interested in tracing government through its operations, techniques and tools and perhaps then ask: “But what does government do?” The function of government can then be understood as “means to provide domestic stability in the form of law* and order** and the protection of property***”. These however are as abstract concepts as government itself. Not to fall to the dichotomist opposition trap (where one has A or not A, one can always draw a sharp line that will divide two terms clearly and there is no third or in-between) I will try to trace these three concepts – law, state order and property – like points between magnetic poles that are never fixed, continuously shifting towards one or another. When/how they come into being and when/how do they decay? Or are they instead ever present, in-between other states? What happens in this in-between state? Perhaps the suspended state of law/order/property allows me to trace government? 

 “No one would voluntarily recognize a legal system that was not expected to treat him fairly.” (Bernard Herber) 

Actually, that law can be suspended is not a novelty in politics or history. Most well known suspension of law is the US PATRIOT Act issued by the US Senate in 2001 that allows the attorney general to “take into custody” any alien suspected of activities that endanger “the national security of the US” but within seven days the alien has to be either released or charged with the violation of immigration laws or some criminal offense. Bush’s order in that sense erases temporarily any legal status of the individual, producing legally unclassifiable being. Neither prisoner nor person accused, but simply “detainee” that is not indefinite but is entirely removed from judicial oversight – that’s state of exception. Is state of exception a special kind of law or more a suspension of the judicial order itself? Does “suspended” essentially mean elimination? Or does suspension rather occur as a void between constitutive and constituted power, between the state and the sovereign - a void that accommodates alternative type of power? 

We use the term “lawless” often referring to lack of consistent system of criminal and civil legal apparatus. However no functioning system of laws in the sense westerners understand does not necessarily mean “without law” but can instead also refer to “stateless order” where there is no authority that dictates what the (one-and-only) law should be. Were there such a category, Somalia would hold a place in Guinness World Records as the country with the longest absence of a functioning central government – suspended state order. Although multiple governments in exile were created in Somalia from 1991 to 2005, none was able to establish its rule over a significant portion of the country. When Somalis dismantled their government in 1991 and returned to their pre-colonial political status, the expectation was that chaos would result. But like most of pre-colonial Africa, Somalia is traditionally a stateless society with common body of customary law, the Xeer - an oral system, which has not been formally codified. What distinguishes xeer from most other systems of law is that it is based on the relationship between groups of men rather than individuals. Injustice done by or to any member of the group implicates all those who are party of its treaty. No direct individual responsibility is the fundamental difference from the English common law and virtually all other legal systems. In Xeer law and, consequently, crime are defined in terms of property rights. 

“Robinson believed that if he looked at it hard enough, he can cause the surface of the city to reveal to him the molecular basis of his own sorrowful events, and in this way he hoped to see into the future” (Patrick Keiller) 

Wall is not only a physical fortification - to enclose settlements and regions, or mark territorial boundaries; depending on topography; or a symbolic function – to represent the status and independence of the communities embraced. Wall - organization of geographical space - is not only government executive power but is rather diffused among multiplicity of actors. Wall is a battlefield, a line of communication, on which various agents of state power and independent actors confront each other. Elements of construction, planning and architecture then become tactical tools of inclusion and division, means of dispossession. Wall expands beyond its materiality into territories by establishing networks. Sometimes these distinctions between inside and outside cannot be marked clearly. Furthermore, the straighter, more geometrical and more abstract official border tends to be, the more fragmented the territory’s effective control is. 

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Saturday, 24 September 2011

24:05:00 [Five Minutes Past Midnight]

Conceived as a public moment that takes the form of an exhibition, 24:05:00_Five Minutes Past Midnight leads us through ‘research in progress’ of eight participants of the year long MA programme at the Centre for Research Architecture. Working through an elaborate archive that was individually collected and assembled to serve as a source of discussion; it offered a forum at the time and a visual insight in this exhibition now, towards that what is stake. Specifically informed, inspired or moved by the archive, results of critical spatial research are presented in the form of videos, publications, interventions, texts and images that are put to work.

Mode of Suspension newspaper/ getting ready for 24:05:00 exhibition

Friday, 2 September 2011

Mode for suspension #1

Mode of suspension, not absence or standstill - rather a mode FOR suspension.

This video essay involves two projections set side-by-side - a fictional world. This fiction exists in the realm of possible as the video assemblage offers no narrative allegory or a clear statement nor is it a documentary of the “truth”. Though clearly set in historically different times, no context or explanation is given. The events are hinted at but not grounded on substance. More than trying to prove a point, the split screen format rejects completeness, singularity and instead can be seen as confronting opinions. Its doubled image announces multiplicity but it feels in-complete. The gaps between and within the frames operate in the realm of the virtual.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Suspended to overlook the medium

In 2008, during United States presidential elections, Hillary Clinton characterized the recent reports on Iraq with “suspension of disbelief” to imply that these documents could be considered unbelievable or factual. Suspension of disbelief was used in order to advise the audience to overlook the medium; hence that what was presented would not interfere with facts or judgment. In the world of fiction it is common to require believing propositions, which would not be acceptable in the real world if presented in a newspaper as facts. Even though one is often asked to “go beyond the boundaries of what might be real”, it is always a semi-conscious decision to accept the premise as being real for the duration of the story. To put it in Foucauldian terms, to deconstruct or suspend systems means to reconstruct the forms of knowledge: “We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms: it excludes, it represses, it censors, it abstracts, it masks, it conceals. In fact power produces; it produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth. The individual and the knowledge that may be gained of him belong to this production.”

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Carnival or protest?

Men dress up and behave like animals, masters serve their slaves, males and females exchange roles and criminal behavior is considered legitimate or, in any case, not punishable - carnival has the license to temporarily suspend existing hierarchic distinctions, barriers, norms and prohibitions. As such, carnival serves as a brief metaphorical portrayal of broader social processes that would come into play in the overthrow of established authority. It is hard to reason these sudden explosions within well-ordered societies. But is this not in large a question of power in its many manifestations? A power as domination, charisma, hegemony, resistance, bio-power and so forth?

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Out-of-Sync #2

"I'm sure I'll take you with pleasure!" the Queen said. "Two pence a week, and jam every other day." Alice couldn't help laughing, as she said, "I don't want you to hire ME - and I don't care for jam." "It's very good jam," said the Queen. "Well, I don't want any TO-DAY, at any rate." "You couldn't have it if you DID want it," the Queen said. "The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday - but never jam to-day." "It MUST come sometimes to "jam to-day,"" Alice objected. "No, it can't," said the Queen. "It's jam every OTHER day: to-day isn't any OTHER day, you know." "I don't understand you," said Alice. "It's dreadfully confusing!" "That's the effect of living backwards," the Queen said kindly: "it always makes one a little giddy at first..." "Living backwards!" Alice repeated in great astonishment. "I never heard of such a thing!" "... but there's one great advantage in it, that one's memory works both ways." "I'm sure MINE only works one way," Alice remarked. "I can't remember things before they happen." "It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards," the Queen remarked.

According to Jung, synchronicity is the experience of two or more events, that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner. In a similar way do we expect from the overlay of sound-image-text. I wonder about the news channel that would not be formed in past tense but rather that of future. (what if the research project was... #2)

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Suspension in funeral rites

Just as during crisis normal social structures can collapse, and social functions and roles break down to the point where behaviours and customs are overlooked, so are periods of mourning characterised by an alteration and, in fact, suspension of all social relations. "All societies are constructed in the face of chaos. The constant possibility of anomic terror is actualised whenever the legitimations that obscure the precariousness are threatened or collapse" (Vernsel, 1980) Not only does Vernsel explain the state of exception to public mourning, but that the ultimate reason for this resemblance is sought in the idea of "terror" said to characterise the human societies as whole. The feelings of grief and disorientation and individual, collective expressions are not restricted to one culture or type of cultural pattern.

Seston seems to be aware of iustitium as public mourning as he stages and dramatises the funeral of the sovereign as a state of exception: "In imperial funerals survives the memory of mobilisation... Framing the funerary rites within a sort of general mobilisation, with all civil affairs stopped and normal political life suspended, the proclamation if the iustitium tended to transform the death of a man into a national catastrophe, a drama in which each person was involved, willingly or not". (Seston, 1962) The political significance of public mourning lies not in the presumed character of mourning but in the uproar that the sovereign's funeral can cause. Is it possible that the public mourning is nothing but a sovereign's attempt to appropriate the state of exception? It coincides with the death of the sovereign, while the suspension of the law is integrated into the funeral ceremony. It is as if the sovereign became unbound by laws at the moment of his death. In binding together norm and anomie, law and exception, one ensures the relation between the law and life/ death?

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Non-relationship and indifference

Our culture is mainly structured between dichotomist oppositions. In dichotomist model one has A and not A, there is no third. The third is excluded. One can trace a line and that will divide two terms clearly. What Agamben in his lecture "Forms of power" in EGS suggests is to describe the world more like a magnetic field that is bipolar, from pole to pole, where one can never trace a single dividing line. In bipolar model a third is automatically admitted. The third is indifference. It is part of the structure, not a result of the model.

In fact Schelling has suggested that this indifference is the most original dimension that comes before any opposition. Indifference starts a new relationship between the two opposite elements - that is a non-relationship. Indifference is when all dichotomies break. Schelling calls this thing love. Love is a non-relationship. Love is when you reach the point of indifference, as you cannot prescribe properties to love. You can only love when all properties are indifferent. Indifference is usually described in negative terms - as no feeling at all. In Kant‘s model things are described with their counterparts. But in the beginning of the model is a thing with no counterpart. He calls it admiration. It is the point where you perceive the difference. In that sense admiration is the threshold of the system but there is exclusion in the model - that of indifference. Giorgio Colli states that two points are in contact only where there is a void of representation between them. Contact, in that sense, is again a non-relationship.

I wonder whether suspension (or state exception for that matter) in fact acts similarly to indifference in bipolar models - between everyday life and emergency, crisis...

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Form-of-Law (on potentiality #2)

A man from the country seeks the law and wishes to gain entry to the law through a doorway. The doorkeeper tells the man that he cannot go through at the present time. The man asks if he can ever go through, and the doorkeeper says that is possible. The man waits by the door for years, bribing the doorkeeper with everything he has. The doorkeeper accepts the bribes, but tells the man that he accepts them "so that you do not think you have failed to do anything." The man waits at the door until he is about to die. Right before his death, he asks the doorkeeper why even though everyone seeks the law, no one else has come in all the years. The doorkeeper answers "No one else could ever be admitted here, since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it." ("Before the Law" by Kafka)

Nothing - and certainly not the refusal of the doorkeeper - prevents the man from passing through the door of the Law if not the fact that this door is already open and that the Law prescribes nothing. "The Law", Derrida writes, "keeps itself without keeping itself, kept by a doorkeeper who keeps nothing, the door remaining open and open onto nothing." The power of Law lies precisely where one already is. How can we open if the door is already open? The already open immobilises. It includes in excluding, and excludes in including.

On potentiality (quote)

"It is often said that philosophers are concerned with essence, that, confronted with a thing, they ask:"What is it?" But this is not exact. Philosophers are above all concerned with existence, with the mode (or rather modes) of existence. If they consider essence, it is to exhaust it in existence, to make it exist." (Aristotle)

It is a potentiality that is not simply the potential to do this or do that but the potential to not-do, potential not to pass into actuality.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Time-space relations (notes on Heidegger)

Einstein has said: “Space is nothing in itself; there is no absolute space. It exists merely by way of the bodies and energies contained in it. Time is too nothing. It persists merely as a consequence of the events taking place in it. There is no absolute time, and no absolute simultaneity either.”

Time is that within which events take place. But as time itself is not movement, it must somehow have to do with movement. Time is within which things/ entities change. Measuring the time by clock – a physical system in which an identical temporal sequence is constantly repeated – we learn about a now-point. Each earlier and later can be only determined in terms of now. 

Friday, 22 July 2011

Politics of Exception

That law can be suspended is not a novelty in politics and history. What is novel is that the specter of the suspension of the law becomes a measure of global dominance and control. The law can be suspended not because there is a state of emergency requiring exceptional measures, but because such emergency COULD arise. Thus the suspension of law acts in the realm of potential. Accordingly, when the law is suspended, one could enter the paradox of regime of a permanent state of exception.

Exception? Sovereign is the one who decides

Commitments are binding because they rest on natural law; but in emergencies the tie to general natural principles ceases. But to what extent is the sovereign bound to laws, and to what extent is he responsible to estates? And who is supposed to have unlimited power? Who is competent to act when the legal system fails to answer the question of competence? It is precisely the exception that makes relevant the subject of sovereignty – who decides in a situation of conflict what constitutes the public interest of the state, public safety and order.

According to article 48 of the German constitution of 1919, the exception is declared by the president of the Reich but is under the control of parliament, the Reichstag, which can at any time demand its suspension. Article 48 grants unlimited power. If the individual states no longer have the power to declare the exception, then they no longer enjoy the status of states.

If measures undertaken in an exception could be circumscribed by mutual control, by imposing a time limit or by enumerating extraordinary powers, the question of sovereignty would be less significant but would not be eliminated. What characterizes an exception is principally unlimited authority, which means the suspension of the entire existing order. The exception is different from anarchy and chaos – the state remains, whereas the law recedes. Unlike the normal situation the norm is destroyed in the exception. There exists no norm that is applicable to chaos. For a legal order to makes sense, a normal situation must exist. (Notes from Carl Schmitt Political Theology)

Thursday, 21 July 2011

State of Exception (notes from Agamben)

The US Patriot Act issued by the U.S Senate in 2001 allows the attorney general to “take into custody” any alien suspected of activities that endanger “the national security of the United States,” but within seven days the alien has to be either released or charged with the violation of immigration laws or some other criminal offense. What is new about Bush’s order is that it erases any legal status of the individual, thus producing a legally unnamable and unclassifiable being. Neither prisoner nor person accused, but simply “detainee” – the object of a pure de facto rule of a detention that is not indefinite as it is entirely removed from judicial oversight – the state of exception. But the state of exception is not a special kind of law, rather is a suspension of the juridical order itself.

The first idea of a suspension of the constitution reads: “In the case of armed revolt of disturbances that would threaten the security of the State, the law can, in the places and for the time that it determines, suspend the rule of the constitution. In such cases, this suspension can be provisionally declared by a decree of the government if the legislative body is in recess, provided that this body be convened as soon as possible”.

In 1942 Benjamin argues that the state of exception has already become the rule. It not only appears increasingly as a technique of government rather than an exceptional measure, but it also lets its own nature as the constitutive paradigm of the juridical order come to light.

The problem of the state of exception presents analogies to the right of resistance. If resistance were to become a right or even a duty, what is ultimately at issue is the question of the juridical significance. If the state of exception’s characteristic property is a total or partial suspension of the juridical power, how can a suspension be contained within it? In fact, the state of exception is neither external nor internal to juridical order. The problem of defining it concerns a threshold, or a zone of indifference, where inside and outside do not exclude each other but rather blur with each other. The suspension of the norm does not mean its abolition. To understand the problem of exception, one must determine its localization (or illocalization).

Friday, 24 June 2011

Research Blurb V1

In a state of liminality, however brief, the past is momentarily suspended and the future has not yet begun. Dislocation of established structures, reversal of hierarchies and uncertainty regarding continuity of tradition and future outcomes, the liminal can also become permanent. When are things or matter suspended? What forms of governance appear between two desired end states? What is the mode of suspension? Grounding itself in three instances, this research explores how can one make a positive act of inbetween - a mode for suspension.


Monday, 13 June 2011

CASE 3: Bridging the GAP

The Southeastern Anatolian Project (GAP), Turkey's ambitious, 12-phase hydropower initiative, has been in the works since the late 1960s. Its completion will, its planners hope, provide Turkey with necessary energy and water resources. Stressing how political and economic policies are interrelated, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said on July 15, 2008 that economic goals were as important as political objectives. According to an official in Iraq's Water Resources Ministry, when Ilisu Dam, a critical component of GAP, is completed, it will reduce the Tigris River waters by 47 per cent a year. Up to 78,000 people, mainly Kurds, but also members of other ethnic origin (Armenian, Arab) and Turks, will be directly affected by the project in Turkey. Thousands more will be affected in the downstream neighbouring countries.

Sunday, 12 June 2011


Inspired by Fareed Armaly's ongoing project Shar(e)d Domains

“Archaeology begins with the shards. This is the most evident type of remain you will find excavated on an archeological site, because pottery was everywhere and broken everywhere.”

Archaeology begins with the shard and history obliges with an endless amount. As a museum science, archeology’s analysis of history operates with agreed-upon classifications. “Diagnostic shards” are collected as the more telltale rims, handles, bases, and parts with special features that identify the vessel. “Body shards” that seem featureless are deemed without meaning, unnecessary to archive.

My artwork begins through an archeological beginning: the shard. It matches the exhibition’s emphasis on history as a collection of fragments by operating through one - the Gaza amphora. Thus I commissioned a new ‘excavation’ of this amphora. A computer-assisted imaging process relieved the physical artifact of its surface appearance. Because nothing is “featureless” anymore in this resulting new shell of precise, depthless vectors of information coordinates, the distinction between body and diagnostic shards is suspended. This new artifact’s information from depthless vectors points to the exhibition’s unfinished center: the Gaza Archeological Museum.

The archeologists reassembling the Gaza-Geneva Amphora required montaging diagnostic and body shards, thus introducing one further element: the seam. This is the space between the original artifact as a construction and the event of its destruction. The seam functions as a chronicle of correspondences produced by the archeologist’s labor as they attempt to reconstitute the historical artifact in a present state.

In museological discourse the artifact serves as an expression of the contemporary routed through a historical condition. The vessel here is inversed, outlined, and suspended in a tenuos state of equilbrium that no longer contains but exposes. It reminds us that it is impossible to reconstruct history but only our current relation to the past as active discourse.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

A Real Monument?

In the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, monuments all over the country were being toppled and carted off. A very old technique - either worship or destroy. Each time it is history, the past that is being conveniently obliterated. Usually by the same people! In most cases not by the passionate crowds, but cool hand officials. Is there a third way, beyond the tendency to either worship or destroy? Can the monuments be saved through transformation?

Pragmatically each monument is made to be admired, contemplated, worshipped. In reality, however, monuments rarely become objects of genuine cult or admiration. In the urban landscape, the monuments virtually disappear from the field of vision by the obligatory placement of the object - slightly above the eye level, keeping at a distance and inaccessible. But one must keep in mind that monuments are usually constructed on the locations of the old, demolished monuments. Destruction affirms the power of the victor in the same way as the erection of the new monument. In some sense it becomes a memorial to external destruction. The monument is paradoxical - it creates the illusion of continuity, introduces consciousness; but then again it demands a forerunner. Could the time when the monument is detached from a pedestal in fact be historically more valuable than the monument itself? And even more. Isn't the pedestal also a monument, even if there is no figure on top? Doesn't the pedestal designate continuity and stability? It becomes a monument in itself as the statue is just a subject to the influence of time.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Monuments/ Defacement

"I am too tired, I must try to rest and sleep, otherwise I am lost in every respect. What an effort to keep alive! Erecting a monument does not require the expenditure of so much strength." (Franz Kafka, diary entry, 1914)

In Lenin in Ruins Mark Lewis quotes Robert Musil to the effect that we never pay much attention to monuments in our city as we pass them by. Quite possibly we don't notice them at all. Why then, we must as all the fuss that suddenly arises concerning monuments during and after the toppling of the regime? Toppling of course gives the game away as if the regime itself is a monument and, what is more, as if there exists a sort of death wish deep within the monument, something in the monumentality of the monument that cries out to be stopped, besmirched, desecrated - in a word, defaced. This is the law of the base at the heart of religion and things sacred. Like Flaubert's concept of the act of writing, to erect a statue is to take revenge on reality. And reality in turn exacts its due. Mark Lewis suggests that the lies, or repressed history, of the regime are installed in the statue as a hidden flaw, an invisible fault line awaiting the resurgence of the truth of the past; and it is this, he suggests, that accounts for the fury of defacement and the effervescent magical effect thereof that yields more. But this hopeful suggestion itself suffers, so it seems to me, from the same monumental faith in truth and history, not to mention in memory, that sustains the self-portrayal of the regime. It lacks the defacement quality necessary to any worthwhile theory of defacement. It fails to see the law of the base, the attraction no less than the repulsion of ruins, and the ecstasy therein. How charming, therefore, the contributions to the defacing art provided to the New Yorker by several artists asked in 1993 what to do with the monuments of the recently toppled USSR. One inverts the statues, burying the tops of the figures in the ground, leaving the base in the air, on which vegetables arch as cabbages and carrots are planted. Another artist suggests simply to take the base away, or at least that part of it on which the Worker and Peasant are about to place their feet, leaving them both magically suspended in the air, unsure of what the next step shall bring. One step forward… Of course these stirring examples of defacement are somewhat weakened by the fact that they only occur after the regime has, as we say, fallen, emerging from the vantage point of the security provided by another strong state. (from Michael Taussig, Defacement)

Sunday, 5 June 2011

CASE 1: In a parallel world, in a parallel time-scale

In 2008 Slavoj Zizek wrote an article for Die Zeit, where he argued that during contemporary tests of international politics, instead of the superpowers (e.g. USA and Russia), only small nations (e.g. Georgia and Iraq) get wounded, as they are treated like mice in a laboratory. The same argument applies in much smaller scale and in minority groups. In that sense, the Estonian government’s decision to remove an two-meter-long sculpture from the city center in Tallinn in 2007 can be seen as a sort of declaration to the world that Estonia has left its Soviet past completely behind. As if the object’s mere physical presence in the city center could threaten the country’s independence. Yet it is never just about things, in this instance the public statue; it is about the collective memory they embody.

Recent years have witnessed intensified action on the memory front in the Russian-Baltic relations, be they debates over ‘occupation’ or ‘liberation’ in the context of border treaties; or controversies over WWII monuments in Estonia. Both the Baltic and Russia attempt to seek pan-European recognition of ‘Europeanness’ and their ‘self’, whilst denying of the other. Relative geographically peripheral position has created a case where both sides use the other as a negative reference point in order to veil its own sense of inferiority. The attempts to fix certain meanings of the past show that in fact these are substantially struggles over power. The control over the narratives of the past enables one to gain control over the construction of further narratives for an imagined future. In recent years Russia has expressed the view that some of its neighboring countries are trying to ‘re-write history’. But is it re-writing history or perhaps writing your own parallel histories?

Saturday, 4 June 2011

To govern is to govern things?

“Government is the right disposition of things arranged so as to lead to a suitable end.” 
Guilaumme de la Perriere

If we look at what characterizes the objects on which power bears in Macchiavelli’s The Prince, we see that objects, the target of power is, on the one hand, a territory, on the other, its inhabitants. From the Middle Ages to the sixteenth century, sovereignty is not exercised on things, but first of all on a territory, and consequently on the subjects who inhabit it. In La Perrier’s text the definition of government does not refer to the territory in any way: one governs things. It is not a matter of an opposition of between things and men, but rather showing that government is not related to the territory, but to a sort of complex of men and things. The things government must be concerned about men in their relationships, bonds and complex involvements with things like wealth, resources, means of subsistence, and, of course, the territory with its borders, qualities, climate, dryness, fertility, and so on. “Things” are men in their relationships with things like customs, habits, ways of acting and thinking. Finally, they are men in their relationship with things like accidents, misfortunes, famine, epidemics, and death. So, to govern means to govern things. Government therefore has a purpose; it arranges things (for an end).  Government is defined as a right way of arranging things in order to lead them, not to the ‘common good’, but to a ‘suitable end. This implies, first of all, a plurality of ends. It is not a matter of imposing law on men, but the of the disposition of things, that is to say that, of employing laws as tactics; arranging things so that this or that end may be achieved through a certain number of means.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Zero degrees

"Zero degrees is the reference point where everything begins…
... and everything ends" (Akram Khan)

What is at play is ambivalence. Numeric quantities seem determinate but the infinite is brought into play because zero is simultaneously a benchmark and a transition in a series where opposites (beginnings/ endings) can meet. It signifies absence (or the arithmetical value of nothing which is not the same as a lack) but marks this with a presence, the 0 symbol itself. Does 0 designate a third space? Is it surrounded by emptiness? Flows? The piece is a formal and narrative exploration of the politics of border spaces as a metaphor for the transient nature of diasporic identity. In the programme notes, Khan explains that 'zero degrees' symbolises the rite of passage between life and death, belonging and non-belonging and most importantly identity and the lack of.

"We are functioning in a world fundamentally characterised by objects in motion. These…include ideas and ideologies, peoples and goods, images and messages, technologies and techniques. This is a world of flows." (Appadurai, 2001)

Friday, 27 May 2011

Know-how and No-How

“Visual Art as Knowledge Production” involves sundry epistemic engines and contraptions that we might broadly refer to as “Thinking Through the Visual”. What do such modes of knowing entail? Perhaps method is less about given, handed-down procedures than about approaches that have to be thrashed out, forged again and again on the spot, impromptu in the course of the art practice-research effort. Perhaps method is not so much readymade and received as “knocked together for the nonce” - something that has to be invented each time with each research endeavour.

Deleuze came to explore the sense of an unfolding flux between the “poles” in all its phases and variability through the notion of “any space whatever” - drawing on a series of examples from film. In his critique, “any space whatever” takes on the force of method: it embodies the concept of “singularity” that cuts across the poles of the universal and particular dissolving them. This notion seems to lie with Ferdinand Gonseth who had tussled with the “any space whatever” in mathematics, with rules that undergo change, with process and contingency. In the framework of a non-Aristotelian logic, Bachelard uses the term for an alternative tack to the Kantian principle of the “universal” - to bridge the gap between thinking.

It is not only about thinking by means of the visual, via its sticky thick as it were. It is about unpacking it, taking apart its components, scouring its operations. What I am trying to finger eventuates not so much in the well-trodden terrain of the academic disciplines or in the so-called gaps, chinks and cracks between them or in any designated “interdisciplinary/ transdisciplinary” belt. Rather it is a force in its own right, always incipient in “whatever” spaces where intimations of unknown elements, thinking probes, spasms of non-knowledge emerge and come into play. It is distinct from the circuits of know-how. It is the rather unpredictable surge and ebb of potentialities and propensities - the flux of no-how. The term is Samuel Beckett’s. No-how embodies indeterminacy, an “any space whatever” that brews up, spreads, inspissates.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

If the research project was... #1

If the research project was a play, it would look at the modes of suspension by questioning the notions of overlay, synchronicity and the time in-between. The play would be in three parts. In the first part, the action is set ahead of the screened subtitles; in the second part these would be in sync, while in the third part titles would reveal what was about to happen on the stage. Subtitles would be the exact wording of the play, building up tension towards the third part. The stage would be screened off from the audience by a lightly reflective translucent net. The screen is used for projecting the titles, but it also creates a border between the actors and viewers. During the play one can never directly engage with the other. In that sense, the act is double-removed - in space, and in time...

The content of the play until now remains a question...

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Out-of-Sync (exhibitions)

Laurie Anderson: "I usually watch TV in a rocking chair, and I have noticed as the chair moves, the image bends at the edges. A good solution is to put the TV in another rocking chair that is in sync, so that the image stabilises." A video composed for 2 violins that go in and out of phase, 1970s

The Globe shrinks (2010). A multi-channel video installation by Barbara Kruger that incorporates written and spoken text in an exploration of how we express and communicate, but also confront ourselves. Composed of 4 screens, each on the facing wall, the installation places the viewer in the middle of the storyline. The installation space becomes disturbingly intimate as one never knows which screen is turned on next. Thus the visitor finds itself in the middle of the conversation trying to face the person speaking, but ends up turning itself from right to left to back to front, unable to grasp the setting, and losing any control over the event and space. The seating for the audience is placed in-between the screens. Even though one might try to walk to the corner of the room to get a better view, it turns out to be unachievable.

Saturday, 14 May 2011


... reading Deleuze Cinema II

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Quasi-emotion theory

Quasi-emotions differ from their actual counterparts both in their source (they are generated by beliefs about what is fictionally rather than actually true), and, typically, in their behavioral consequences. Views in the second subgroup maintain that when we engage with fiction, our emotional responses are directed not towards the characters or events within the imaginary context, but rather towards appropriate real-world surrogates for or counterparts of those characters and events. So, for example, we don't feel sadness for Romeo and Juliet, but rather for people in the actual world who have led relevantly similar lives. (Charlton 1984)

A second family of response rejects the Belief Condition, denying that the situations and characters to which subjects have emotional responses are situations and characters that they believe to be fictional or merely imaginary. Advocates of such confusionist or illusionist or belief-suspension views maintain that when we engage emotionally with fictional characters and situations, we temporarily cease to represent them as imaginary, instead representing them (as the result of some confusion, or an illusion, or a ‘suspension of disbelief’) to be real and mind-independent. Such views have few adherents among contemporary philosophers and are generally discussed only to be subsequently dismissed.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Giardini: A Fairytale

A visually sumptuous film of thirty minutes, Giardini comprises two projections set side-by-side, which steadily gather a series of evocative vignettes. Like McQueen’s past films, such as Caribs’ Leap / Western Deep (2002) and Gravesend (2007), Giardini denies clear links between representation and significance, between form and content – not to exclude reference but instead to allow the image’s potential meanings to crystallize, its facets reflecting numerous paths of fabulation.

Indeed, the film’s suspension of its images in a field of multiple possibilities defines its power: to release life from belonging to any certain code, clear narrative, or restrictive regimen, and to do so in the quintessential location of national order: the Giardini of the Venice Biennale. As its title indicates, the film is set in the famous exhibition grounds. These otherwise well-known monuments are shown here in an unexpected light, during the interim between biennales, in the down-time and during the nights, in the shadows of spectacle. The renowned gardens are thereby recast as a site where everything is suddenly up for grabs, seems unfamiliar and unpredictable, where life is shown to assume forms of creative survival that transcend the fanfare of the great exhibition. Giardini constructs a fictional world and does so with great care, although its stories are not necessarily impossible accounts of what might actually happen.

Saturday, 7 May 2011


Parallel universes, also known as meta-universes or multiverses, are a group of theoretical twin universes that coexist at the same time as our own. Parallel universes are said to be simple variations of our reality, all running at the same time in different realities. Parallel universes are not uniquely confined to the science fiction realm anymore; philosophy, physics and even theology have theories about why multiverses exist and how they work. Parallel universes have often been used in fiction and TV programs as an explanation for strange phenomena. Quantum mechanics the science that looks for explanations to phenomena that cannot be explained by the regular laws of physics and science, has been studying parallel universes since 1956. American physicist Hugh Everett first formulated the idea of parallel universes to explain the theory that every possible outcome of every choice we have actually does happen. While in this universe you may choose path A, an alternate you will choose path B in a parallel universe. Where and how parallel universes exist is actually the most heated source of debate. Some say meta-universes exist close to us. So close, in fact, that ghosts may be nothing more than people from alternate universes somehow slipping into our reality. Others postulate that parallel universes are infinitely far, way beyond the farthest galaxies. A third theory is that parallel universes exist in different dimensions, either lower or higher than the four-dimension world we live in.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The liminal

Liminality, as developed by van Gennep (1960), refers to "in-between situations and conditions that are characterised by the dislocation of established structures, the reversal of hierarchies, and uncertainty regarding the continuity of tradition and future outcomes". The word liminal is derived from Latin "limen" (threshold), and simply means a situation in which, in order to facilitate a "passing through", ritually or temporarily, all limits are removed. As a consequence, the very structure of society is temporarily suspended. The primary meaning however is not simply a passage, but successful completion of a passage. It assumes particular ordering in which someone goes ahead, showing the way so that others could follow, "imitating" him.

Although the liminality concept was initially developed as a means to analyse the middle stage in ritual passage, it can be seen as events or situations that involve in dissolution of order but which are also formative of institutions and structures. But liminality is also a situation where almost anything can happen. This is why, in a rite, such openness is limited: any rite must follow a strictly prescribed sequence, where everybody knows what to do and how; and second, everything is done under the authority of a master of ceremonies. (Turner, 1967) Liminal is a moment, however brief, when the past is momentarily suspended and the future has not yet begun.

Liminal situations can be applied to whole societies going through crisis or a collapse of order. But a liminal state may also become fixed; referring to a situation in which the suspended character of social life takes on a more permanent character (Turner, 1967). Szakolczai defines three types of permanent liminality: monasticism (with monks endlessly preparing the separation), court society (with individuals continuously performing their roles in an endless ceremonial game), and Bolshevism (as exemplifying a society stuck in the final stage of ritual passage). He argues that not only the emergence but also the maintenance of the communist regime was only possible under such liminal conditions. The communism as a regime was based on the perpetuation of temporary liminal conditions into a permanent state, and it was only possible if the political system kept the society in a permanent state of liminality and transitions: of confusion, threat and uncertainty. The liminal is the temporary suspension of order. In that state there is no concreteness. Therefore objectivity becomes impossible; without concreteness, matter, resistance to set limits is absent and therefore necessary development of control and responsibility is missing.