The Disinherited I am the dark one,—the widower,—the unconsoled, The prince of Aquitaine at his stricken tower: My sole star is dead,—and my constellated lute Bears the black sun of the Melencolia. In the night of the tomb, you who consoled me, Give me back Mount Posilipo and the Italian sea, The flower which pleased so my desolate heart, And the trellis where the grape vine unites with the rose. Am I Amor or Phoebus?…Lusignan or Biron? My forehead is still red from the kiss of the queen; I have dreamed in the grotto where the mermaid swims… And two times victorious I have crossed the Acheron: Modulating turn by turn on the lyre of Orpheus The sighs of the saint and the cries of the fay. Gérard de Nerval Translated by Robert Duncan
4 Editors Note Christina, Ioli, Rowan 7 Melancholic Universalism Sara Ahmed 14 Constant treadingâ€“ water that is livingâ€“ suspended Sophie Hoyle 18 Apertures Catherine Smiles 20 Living forward, looking backward Ioli Tzanetaki 26 Games with names Golschan Ahmad Haschemi
29 The woman, the orphan, and the tiger Jane Jin Kaisen & Guston Sondin-Kung 34 Raised from a silent storm Leonara Manyangadze 41 Grey in Grey Johanna Schmidt 42 Mourning of Another Kind Legacy Russell 52 Vulnerability & resistance in austerity Britain Rosanna Thompson
58 we need to assess yr fitness for work Sean Burn 62 Seoul: Echoes and Zones Haeryun Kang 64 Women behind walls Ezgi Duman 68 (An Abridged) Guide to memorials for sodiers in Israel â€“Part 1 Michal Huss 76 A mother never dies Gitan Djeli 78 Three Poems by Kiran (Kiz) Bangerh
81 For the Tate Modern 83 Leisons in the Landscape: Shona Illingworth and Talor Le Melle in conversation 94 Thinking ecology through my Fairphone 2 Carl Gent 102 My halmaeâ€™s sassiness as an antidote for academic melancholia Hae Seo Kim 104 Notes on archive melancholy Christina Harles 108 Biographies 5
It is in humoural medicine, where the body is made up of four essential juices; black bile, yellow bile, blood and phlegm, that we can see a trace of the feeling melancholia.1 The necessity of health was to maintain an equilibrium, a balance between all four elements, by a process of addition or removal. Prior to the primacy of Cartesian dualism, in which the body is said to function like an automata, controlled by the distinctly human ability to think and thus control the self, illness was not solely confined to the body. Federici notes that the revival of such beliefs, which lay outside of scientific empiricism, are possible now as they no longer represent a social threat. ‘The mechanisation of the body is so constitutive of the individual that at least in industrialised countries, giving space to the belief in occult forces does not jeopardise the regularity of social behaviour.’2 But perhaps a conscious turn outside of the rational and enlightened individual could still prove dangerous to the orderly and functional hum of capital. Though the notion of maladies that blow in like the weather is incommensurable with the rationalisation of the work force dependent on punching of the clock, daily, without fail – what a beautiful mess we would be in, if, when the mood took we chose simply to skip work, run late, shirk deadlines, and so on. A simple reordering of feeling over functionality. The melancholic of the 19th and 20th century sees a different figure, the morose intellectual, afflicted by great depression, perhaps from thinking and questioning a little too hard. Dovetailing happily with notions of individualism, genius and the self, the evocation of the melancholic in this instance perhaps serves as a reminder that man (white, heterosexual and propertied) also has an obligation as a ‘social creature’ and should not, for the sake of this, fall too far into himself. Following from the notation of the solitary thinker, afflicted with a melancholia, perhaps the most pervasive notion of melancholy is that which is presented by Freud. Here, it shows up as a failure of the seemingly a-historic individual, as a pathological form of 1 2
From Greek melankholia “sadness,” literally (excess of) “black bile,” from melas “black” + khole “bile” Medieval physiology attributed depression to excess of “black bile,” a secretion of the spleen and one of the body’s four “humors.” Federici, S. (2014). Caliban and the witch. 1st ed. New York, NY: Autonomedia.
mourning. Rather than following a ‘proper’ trajectory of loss (mourning), in which there is a clear sense of loss-object, the melancholic pathologically attaches their loss to their own ego. ‘The complex of melancholia behaves like an open wound, drawing to itself cathectic energies …from all directions, and emptying the ego until it is totally impoverished’.3 How to mourn a wound? To mourn a wound that is so large that it is engulfing, so in each direction as far as you can see there is only the distant edges of the wound. Das’s description of a ‘bad death’ comes to mind.4 A death in which no body is recovered, an improperly mourned or “unwitnessed” event. An attempt to understand mourning when a loss-object is denied. To take a loss which can never be fully owned, and redeploy it. To recover the specificities of losses, so that they can be fought for on their own terms. To hold loss at hand, without being overtaken. Instead, seizing futurity and demand it, in spite of everything lost. The editors were feeling melancholic on a sunny day in London. But what does it mean to be melancholic? Is melancholia, as a feeling or a state of being, politically relevant? Feminist Killjoy Sarah Ahmed writes about Melancholic Universalism. She writes that “Universalism becomes melancholic when you are required to identify with the very promise that you fail to embody.” From there we started thinking about melancholia as a feeling that has political meanings and implications. Can we think of melancholia as an emotional state that has to do with loss or non-belonging, but precisely because it comes from not “fitting in,” can it provoke alternate imaginations, imaginations that can become a political strategy? We wished to use this journal as a space for sharing experiences and imaginations that emerge from not fitting into dominant heteronormative spaces. We particularly welcomed voices that are often silenced, voices that speak from feminist, queer and decolonial encounters with melancholia. The issue includes poetry, photography, fiction and academic/ non-academic essays. The following contributions find words that express the feeling and emotional state of depression, loss and melancholia, both as the condition of not being included and the promise of being included. On which and who’s terms this is possible. It asks how melancholia can exist on systemic levels: economic, political, historical, social and the potential for melancholia to transform but it can also be transformed into something else: creativity, art, sassiness. – Christina, Ioli, Rowan
3 Freud, S., Strachey, J., Freud, A., Strachey, A. and Tyson, A. (2001). The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud. 1st ed. London: Vintage. 4 Language and Body: Transactions in the Construction of Pain. Author(s): Veena Das Source: Daedalus, Vol. 125, No. 1, Social Suffering (Winter, 1996), pp. 67-91Published by: The MIT Press on behalf of American Academy of Arts & Sciences. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20027354
What do I mean by “melancholic universalism”? Melancholic universalism is the requirement to identify with the universal that repudiates you. I can imagine this statement might not make immediate sense: surely, the universal does not repudiate anyone; surely, for the universal to be “universal” it includes everyone. Not so sure. I would say: the universal is a structure not an event. It is how those who are assembled are assembled. It is how an assembly becomes a universe. The universal is the promise of inclusion that has become heavy or weighed down by the way the promise has been send out and about: to promise is to send out as I explored in my book The Promise of Happiness (2010). The promise of the universal is what conceals the very failure of the universal to be universal. In contemporary theory this paradox of the promise that conceals its own failure (any failure becomes failure to live up to the promise) has led to the reinvention of universalism as formalism: the universal as pure or empty form, as abstraction from something or anything in particular. But remember: abstraction is an activity. To abstract is to drag away. The very effort to drag the universal away from the particular is what makes the promise of the universal a particular promise; a promise that seems empty enough to be filled by anyone is how a promise evokes someone. It is the emptiness of the promise that is the form of the universal; it is how the universal takes form around some bodies that do not have to transform themselves to enter the room kept open by the universal. The universal: what a drag. The universal is drag; in drag. Formalist universalism: how universalism stays up. I talked about universalism as a theoretical brick wall in my book, Willful Subjects (2014). That is to say: universalism is a wall that exists in the world of “theory.” In the fourth chapter I described how those lodged as particular can dislodge the general. Assembling a willfulness archive gives us another way to challenge the formalist universalism of philosophers such as Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek, which rests on more and less muted critiques of “particularism” and “identity politics.” The latter for example argues in relation to St. Paul that “his universe is no longer that of the multitude of groups that want to ‘find their voice,’ and assert their particular
identity, their ‘way of life,’ but that of a fighting collective grounded in the reference to an unconditional universalism” (2003: 10). Žižek is not necessarily making an argument in his own terms here; but the use of quote marks works to create a caricature of identity politics that is familiar both from his own writing and more general consensus. We need to challenge this consensus. Perhaps some have “ways of life” because others have lives: some have to find voices because others are given voices; some have to assert their particulars because others have their particulars given general expression. I was using the language of the general will rather than universalism here. General: to generalise. Universal: to universalise. And: no matter how convincing feminist and anti–racist critiques of universalism (of how the white man becomes the universal subject) universalism seems to come back up, right up, straight and upright, very quickly. I have also called this mechanism a “spring back mechanism.” An order is quickly re–established because the effort to transform that order becomes too exhausting. Universalism: when you push against it, you become pushy. Back to the same thing. Same old, same old. The following two descriptions are from two endnotes of Willful Subjects (2014): One: As Judith Butler describes with characteristic precision: “Hegel is clearly exposing what happens when a faction sets itself up as the universal and claims to represent the general will, where the general will supersedes the individual wills of which it is composed and, in fact, exists at their expense. The ‘will’ that is officially represented by the government is thus haunted by a ‘will’ that is excluded from the representative function. Thus the government is established on the basis of a paranoid economy in which it must repeatedly establish its one claim to universality by erasing all remnants of those wills it excludes from the domain of representation” (2000: 22). The universal is haunted by the will whose exclusion it both demands and conceals. Perhaps Willful Subjects has given this ghost a history. Another: I would extend this critique to Badiou’s formal universalism resting on set theory. If this book was read as a willful subject who was returning Badiou’s address, the book might say: hey I am not part of your set! We can use our particulars to challenge the very form of universality, which is only empty insofar as it extends from some particulars and not others whilst “emptying” the set from the very signs of this extension (the universal is an emptiness that cannot receive other particulars – just like the emptiness of the French secular nation based on laicité cannot accommodate the particularity of the veil). My argument extends over a century of feminist challenges to universalism. We have to keep up the challenge as the critiques of universalism do not seem to get through: I would describe universalism as a theoretical brick wall, which is to say a wall that exists in the actual world of theory. I realised what is at stake in Badiou and Zizek’s work for those of us who want to dislodge the universal, which I have primarily addressed in terms of the general will, when I read John D. Caputo’s introduction to an edited collection on St. Paul and the philosophers in which he lavishes praise on both. Caputo writes: “Each segment of identity politics creates a new market of speciality magazines, books, bars, websites, DVDS, radio stations, a lecture circuit for its most marketable propaganderizes, and so on” (2009: 6). He then states “cultural identity” fits “hand in glove with the ever–proliferating system of global culture” (6). We must challenge these kinds of caricatures of identity politics which not only assume identity as in the hand of the market (almost as if identity is
created to express the will of the market) but also for its gross under–description of what is at stake in challenging the universal. We might note the irony that Zizek and Badiou might not need to create a so–called “segment of identity politics” to guarantee their own lecture tours (indeed the critique of identity politics is probably more profitable and more inductive to the logic of capital; their critiques have mobility as they participate in “giving hand” of the right of some to occupy space). I would also suggest that the willingness to attribute agency to capital is part of rather than a critique of capitalist agency. I would also remind readers that markets do have their own hands (the myth of the invisible hand is the capitalist myth) and the markets are supplemented by hands. If the markets don’t want what is otherwise socially and politically valued, then ideology becomes a retainer: the use of ideological reasoning over the market was evident in the cutting of courses with high student numbers in universities in the UK. The hands of management will become visible only at some points; but they are always at work. The Universalist philosophers are handy: they grab the universal with two hands. We can begin to see in these descriptions why I now want to describe universalism as melancholic. Not all universalism is melancholic. That is precisely my point: that the universal is distributed. Some embody its promise; others embody the failure to live up to the promise. Universalism becomes melancholic when you are required to identify with the very promise that you fail to embody. You can break a promise without making a promise. This history: broken promises. But then: universalism is how some of us can enter the room. It is how that entry is narrated as magical; as progress. It is how universalism becomes the requirement to be grateful for what you have to give up. Feminist uses of universalism are usually melancholic: you identify with the universal even though it has been predicated on the universalising of a subject whom you cannot be. No wonder: I find feminist universalism depressing! It is depressing. We have been here before: male universal, female relative; women understood as female relatives. Sexism is predicated on universalism; racism too. Universalism: how some are understood as being in relation. In his exceptional book Melancholia and Moralism Douglas Crimp offers an analysis of gay conservatism as melancholic that I am drawing upon here (2004: 13). Conservative gays identify with the family even though the family repudiates them and their desires. Note the question of identification is not simply at the level of sharing an ideal: it is also a form of work (and emotional labour). You try to be as close to the thing (that is the source of your rejection) as you can be. You try and demonstrate that you are normal even when your desires take you away from the normal. The normal is certainly formal. You assume that this approximation might be rewarded with recognition: oh, you too, you are just like us; after all, you are just like us. You mime in the hope that those you mimic become approving of you; that they might register your becoming with approval. This approximation is often vain or in vain. You are repudiated, still. You fail to be what you aspire to be. You are putting yourself close to the very scene of your own rejection. And: scenes of rejection follow. To be rejected by the universal whose promise is not extended to you: melancholic universalism.
Rejection; dejection. Melancholic universalism is also an activity: but I want to use it to describe something other than a conscious effort to be like or proximate to the thing that rejects you. I want to describe it as a requirement or a compulsion: you must identify with the very thing that rejects you in order to be in the world at all. The all registers here as necessary for being. Of course we don’t always do what we must do. But the effort not to identify with the universal comes with great cost: you are identified as doing “identity politics,” too attached to your own particulars. Your very existence is then explained as an over–attachment to existence; as coming at the cost of the universal, to those whose entry into the room is not barred by the how of their appearance. In one of the notes above, I refer to the example of the veiled Muslim woman, as the one who cannot be accommodated by the universal. She must transform herself in order to enter the room. The white man can stay wearing what he is wearing: a suit say, a tie, say. The white woman too can wear what she was wearing. Her clothes; they are particular, yes, preferences, choices, but she does not have to give them up. Some differences become idiosyncratic. Welcome; come in, come in. An aside: whiteness is often performed as idiosyncrasy. Differences: individuated, quirky, not expressive of anything other than yourself. This is how: when white people are violent they are usually described as loners. Their deviation from the promise is exceptional. Whiteness: universal. To leave this universal for those who have already entered it: to become a loner. Those who don’t enter it: to become relative, or a relative. So: Brown: relative. Brown: you can enter the universal if you give up your relative. And so: only some differences become attachments that must be given up. Other differences are welcomed by the very requirement that some differences are given up. For those who have to give up something to enter something: your entry is melancholic. You are giving up the very thing that renders the room not open to you even when the room is understood as open to you. I first offered reflections on this theme in my book, The Cultural Politics of Emotion published over 10 years ago in 2004. It was in the chapter on love. I referred specifically to the work of Julia Kristeva. Let me share what I wrote then: Kristeva responds to the “problem” posed by immigration in the following way: First there is the interior impact of immigration, which often makes it feel as though it had to give up traditional values, including the values of freedom and culture that were obtained at the cost of long and painful struggles (why accept [that daughters of Maghrebin immigrants wear] the Muslim scarf [to school]) (1993: 36). The bracketed sentence evokes the figure of the “veiled/ Muslim woman” who comes into play as a figure that challenges the values that have become felt as crucial to the nation (including the values of freedom and culture). These values are what the nation as love object can give. She becomes a symbol of what the nation must give up to “be itself”, a discourse that would require her unveiling in order to fulfil the promise of freedom for all. It is not surprising that Kristeva poses the following question, which is clearly a rhetorical question: “Is it possible that the ‘abstract’ advantages of French universalism may prove to
be superior to the “concrete” benefits of the Muslim scarf” (1993: 47). Kristeva implies that the right to wear the scarf (with its multiple meanings) may give the Muslim women less than the rights afforded by entry into the abstraction of the idea of the nation. Modernity is understood as an empty form of universalism, one that does not take the shape of particular bodies, and as such can allow others into the community of strangers as long as they give up the visible signs of their “concrete difference.” The argument moves from the national idea to a “national ideal” via an analogy with the ego ideal. The “Muslim scarf” is not only “not” the idea of freedom “won” as the freedom of the nation, but it also challenges the image the nation has of itself: “The involves a breach of the national image and it corresponds, on the individual level, to the good image of itself that the child makes up with the help of the ego ideal and the parental superego” (1993: 37). The trauma of the Muslim scarf for the French nation is here like the trauma of “failing” to live up to the ego ideal, an ideal that depends on love and identification with the parent. Hence the nation becomes depressed when it is faced with the scarf and this shame and depression is what is used by the right wing discourse of anti–immigration: “Le Pen’s nationalism takes advantage of such depression” (1993: 37). The implication is that the task of the radical might not be to celebrate the right to the scarf as this would sustain the psychic conditions that enable anti–immigration and nationalism to flourish as a politics. However, Kristeva does not make this argument explicitly. Instead, she suggests that “we must not be ashamed of European and particularly French culture” (1993: 38). First, the presence of the veiled other causes the depression and shame of not living up to the national ideal. Second, the imperative is not to feel shame about French culture. In other words, the juxtaposition of these two arguments implies that the “the Muslim wish to join the French community” [i](1993: 37) might also depend on the elimination of the source of national shame: the concrete difference made visible by the veil itself. The argument suggests that by eliminating the veil, which stands in for concrete difference, the abstract national idea can be returned to an ideal that is enlarged by the appearance of others. Under such conditions, national pride or love, rather than shame and depression, would be possible, and it would not depend on aggression or hostility towards others. However, the argument that the national idea is abstract (and the difference of the Muslim woman is concrete) breaks down. The intimacy of the national idea with an ideal image suggests the national idea takes the shape of a particular kind of body, which is assumed in its “freedom” to be unmarked. The ideal is an approximation of an image of “Frenchness,” as an ideal that is deferred, but which nevertheless depends on being inhabitable by some bodies rather than others. The Muslim woman must give up her concrete difference in the interests of the national ideal, in which freedom takes the form of a particular kind of body (a particularity that is given value precisely insofar as it is represented as abstract–able or detach–able from particular bodies). Such an ideal is not positively embodied by any person: it is not a positive value in that sense. Rather, it accrues value through its exchange, an exchange that is determined precisely by the capacity of some bodies to inhabit the national body, to be recognisable as living up to the national ideal and as passing through the ideal. But other bodies, those that cannot be recognised in the abstraction of the unmarked, cannot accrue value, and become blockages in the economy; they cannot pass as French, or pass their way into the community. The veil in blocking the economy of the national ideal is represented as a betrayal not only of the nation, but of freedom and culture itself –as the freedom to move and acquire value. Hence the veil cannot be integrated into the national ideal – as part of the story of the nation as a love object – and stands for an unassimilable difference. She becomes the unlovable object that cannot be incorporated or “had” and whose loss cannot be grieved by the nation.
Love for the nation is hence bound up with how bodies inhabit the nation in relation to an ideal. I would follow Kristeva by arguing that the nation is hence an effect of how bodies move towards it, as an object of love that is shared. Or more precisely “the it” of “the nation” as an ideal or loved object is produced as an effect of the movement of bodies and the direction of that movement (the loved object is hence an effect of “towardness”). As a result, the promise of the nation is not an empty or abstract one that can then be simply filled and transformed by others. Rather, the nation is a concrete effect of how some bodies have moved towards and away from other bodies, a movement that works to create the very affect and effect of boundaries and borders, as well as allows the “approximation” of what can now call the character of the nation (“likeness”). In Kristeva’s text, moving towards the abstract promise of the nation requires moving away from the veiled woman, as a sign of a difference that cannot be inhabited by those who already inhabit the national ideal. This “limitation” shows how the ideal is not empty, but is already an effect of the privilege for some bodies to inhabit spaces as hosts (bodies–at–home), and hence to decide who gets let into the body of the nation, either through intentional acts of legislation or policy formation, or more everyday and inter–corporeal forms of encounter. End of quote. I think melancholic universalism is one way of describing what I was accounting for in this book. And of course: universalism is so often written in the language of love. Melancholic universalism: describes not just or only the affective state of those who are required to identify with what repudiates them but those who insist on the universal that repudiates others. The insistence is the promise. Melancholic universalism is another way of describing the promise of happiness; how depression is associated with concrete difference, and how some differences become concrete and not others.That wall again: it is hard again. It comes up for those who are not accommodated. For those who are accommodated there is no wall at all. Enter; easy, look, easy, just do it. The universal as a slogan. This is from a note in The Promise of Happiness: The nation as it were becomes the universal through being imagined as the bearer of the promise of happiness. It is no accident that V. S. Naipaul’s (1990) identification with universal culture proceeds through asserting the ideality of happiness: “It is an elastic idea; it fits all men. It implies a certain kind of society, a certain kind of awakened spirit. I don”t imagine my father”s Hindu parents would have been able to understand the idea. So much is contained in it: the idea of the individual, responsibility, choice, the life of the intellect, the idea of vocation and perfectibility and achievement. It is an immense human idea. It cannot be reduced to a fixed system. It cannot generate fanaticism. But it is known to exist, and because of that, other more rigid systems in the end blow away.” (np) The universality of happiness is one that is shaped around particular bodies: it cannot admit fanatics who appear outside the horizon of the human. I would describe Naipaul’s identification with universality as melancholic; it cannot grieve for the loss the grandfather who can appear only as the one who does not understand happiness, who suffers from what we might call “happiness illiteracy.” Nor can it cover over his inability to inhabit this universal given the family has already left its trace.
I think I would now give an account on slightly different terms: I would describe Naipaul’s description as an expression of what is required: to enter the room, to enter the universe you have to “give up” the parts of you that cannot be accommodated. Remember: brown becomes universal if you give up your relatives. You announce your departure from the parents of your parents: from Hinduism, from fanaticism, from culture as custom. That announcement is how you enter the room of the universal: by giving up part of your own history retold as fanaticism or “identity politics.” How fitting; the universal is fitting. An elastic band can snap; this is a stretch. A stretch: how you try and avoid a snap. There is grief in this position: of that there is no question.
References Butler, Judith (2000). “Restaging the Universal” in Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Žižek, Contingency, Hegemony, Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left. London: Verso. 11–43. Caputo, John D. (2009) “Introduction: Postcards from Paul: Subtraction Versus Grafting” in John D. Caputo and Linda Martín Alcoff (eds). St Paul among the Philosophers. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1–26. Crimp, Douglas (2004). Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. Kristeva, Julia (1993). Nations without Nationalism, trans. L.S.Roudiez, New York: Columbia University Press. Naipaul, V.S. (1990). “Our Universal Civilization,” New York Times. [i] We might note how this narrative constructs the French as “not Muslim” and the Muslims as “not French”, at the same time as it transforms migration into a wish to inhabit “the nation”. Hospitality and love are here constructed as opening the nation to others only insofar as they give up “being not us”, so “becoming us” whilst “not being us”.
constant treading–water that is living–suspended Sophie Hoyle
The loss of a parent: after the first time she left (again). feeling the walls internally shifting and the floor buckling in on itself, shutting close: the constant treading–water that is living–suspended According to attachment theory in developmental psychology, the loss of primary care–giving figure(s) through death, abrupt separation or acts of neglect in childhood can lead to severe attachment difficulties in later life. Attachment Disorder describes the failure to form ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ attachments and the consequent manifestation of supposedly pathological attachment styles. feelings of loss quantified through CBT charts, chemical imbalances, numericised tracking of bodily outputs, falling short of or exceeding the average time period for healthy mourning Bowlby’s evolutionary theory of attachment (1969) suggests that we are biologically programmed to form attachments from birth, as this is essential for animal survival. Mimicry in behaviour or ‘mirroring’ is another aspect to social psychology and adaptation, when a person subconsciously imitates speech
patterns, gestures and attitudes of others for a sense of recognition and belonging; as a child this is used to understand and establish self–other boundaries and to instigate processes of self–awareness and self–control, and the brain neurologically re–wires itself accordingly— narrow interpretations restrict brain– flow: insistence on oedipal tragedy and correction, but what of moving towards another way: multiple caregivers, multi–parent families, children raised in communities, neighbourhoods, sometimes cultural, sometimes by necessity, where poverty and double–shifts lead to reliance on shared childcare, then reprimanded for not upholding european– american family ideals in neat–packaged homes The loss of a family home; being removed: Home is commonly seen as the physical, cultural and familial place of stability, rootedness and sustenance where significant and formative social interactions take place. sleeping in the hallway, feeling the draft through the front door into the flats which then travelled through to ours,
with a musty smell hanging on the air; trying to keep it out by curling myself tighter into the sleeping bag. hearing the intimate creaks and mis–steps of a building caving in on itself, I wished it could be accelerated desperately trying to make roots in the shallow soil, worming its way through, spreading apart the flanks of grey meat, winding around the fibres defensive territoriality until the edges softened over decades...do they have to be separate, severed; in longhouses, 30 people may share the floor together: an ease of being with others outside of the individualised, enclosed–by–boundaries–of–the– body, the smells of cooking, the noise of movements and creaks as reassurance, (which the ethnographer promptly romanticised and scrawled in their journal)
distressing, intrusive thoughts. Subsequent methods of reducing this anxiety through repetitive rituals include: methods of weight reduction and binge–eating common in eating disorders, self–harm including mutilation, kleptomania, hoarding, trichotillomania (hair–picking), and dermatillomania (skin– picking).
The loss of a family home; through a fire: peeling black smoke–damage shot through everything remaining. paper curved under heat, was bitten at the corners and ash gathered where the pages met in the middle. the cat got out all right: a black blur darted across, claws scuttling and grappling at the floorboards in panic
They can originate in trying to reclaim a form of control in situations where other methods do not seem available, such as to counteract the loss of control of a parent with an addiction or a mood disorder, subsequently forming these ‘maladaptive’ coping strategies. They also appear to disproportionately affect marginalised social groups, who structurally have less control, power and a voice in Western societies: POC, women, queer, trans, the working– class, those with mental illnesses and the less physically able.
The loss of control: picking at pustules with scissor–points, flicking out the white globule in clear– juice and feel the pressure relieved a moment, until red replaces it and drowns the hole; once, the cyst–surface was too smooth, so the scissor–ends rolled over it and in a microsecond the blade swiftly gouged into, and embedded under, the arch of my eyebrow, silver against thinned–out black, curling hairs. it stopped short of cutting the optic nerve, or from carrying over the curved trajectory to slice through the top of the eyelid Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD) are obsessive thinking and behavioural patterns, often originating in experiences and feelings of fear and anxiety, and perpetuated by
the years, piles of papers, the scans have been harboured: to fix and keep, to legitimise through accreted evidence, tiny ornaments, the crust that could point to a whole underneath twitching muscles jerk me awake, the tendons in the foot arch snapping like elastic bands as they jolt me upright, vaguely recalling printed hand–outs about the side–effects of high–risk–medication
accelerating rates of disorders, arising from and feeding into constantly suggested micro–controls: calorie intake, body comportment, how to modulate the tone of voice to sound approachable (yet knowledgable [yet attractive]), which accent, which dialect to conceal or parade certain values, outline the nose, hinged metal measures the skull, measures the dirt tracks, grounds and breathing flesh, consistent pressures, accumulating and simmering; a neurological gap, a moment of carelessness, a tug against flesh that left a small lump of scar– tissue. the top–skin closed
neatly, sealed, but left a ridge, like the outline of a small slug crawling under the surface, the soft becoming hard; endlessly clicking on videos of reconstruction surgery: the quartered breast is sewn up in patches of flesh, with yellow–material spilling out, exposed and inert, gripped by plastic gloves smeared with red, like tearing out the stuffing of an old sofa The loss of a homeland or cultural identity: myths constructed, lineages alluded to, ‘relative choice’ and starting again, setting up in empty, cold apartments. enforcing it to become skewed and performative, an imitation. those sentiments, once pushed away, are only now understandable that there is a huge gulf, with drip–fed information from glowing screens; People may respond to geographic displacement through restorative nostalgia (Boym, 2001) to conserve, maintain, or re–form a connection perceivably ‘lost’ through transit. when the delayed sounds split through the building, the staples and crutches of scaffolds fall. the few seconds of blurry footage doesn’t seem real compared to your solid memory, estimating the movements between walls, the air travelling down corridors; ‘Report of damage; extent of damage, on the north–eastern plane: DG Jones and Partners, Chartered Quantity Surveyors, Brummana, Lebanon (Oct 1991)’ and you see it, split–open, in similar photographs in 3 different ‘world news’ sections. you’ve never seen it from that angle before, zoomed out from hovering helicopters and curious photographers; watch on–screen as screeching sirens, swaying camera, then another explosion realising now that the scraping of ends of tubes and micro–organising ephemera came from that mentality, when you’ve left everything behind and calculate all the resources left for survival
we didn’t draw the borders. we didn’t ask to be here there was always dust in a warm haze punctuated by high–beeps of horns and sharp angles of uphills, low–hanging wires and trilingual street–signs that no–one ever referred to, and the chaotic but well–timed movement of bodies and metal screeching in precise turns like an organism—an internal logic— tracking all, locatable as clunk forward, then scatters and darts off; between mis– steps look up to see posters on walls of various soft–focus painterly authority figure posters and graffiti scrawled in Arabic, Armenian, English and crossing out, expanding on; the forming of groups of men in movement, recirculating white plastic chairs, reoccupying pavement slabs Through conflict, persecution, poverty, and environmental disaster, whole communities and generations are displaced, with refugees and asylum–seekers requiring nuanced, politicised and longer–term understandings of their mental health issues. waiting for a translator in hospital corridors, your options detailed in the afterthought small–print on NHS posters; ‘the thickness of history’ felt in fingertips, flayed skins, debris embedded in torso not actively, but by omission: of our marginal longings and lives. when end of days feel, inexplicably, alienated, still feels hollow inside and left out. the references are different, the touch is different, the holding points, the ways to access, still just a skewed view from the sidelines; The loss of autonomy desperately imploring them to recognise you, how we live by abstract strangulation, that can’t be located back to when exactly...and to untangle yourself now would require a long, slow extraction; ‘There are other kinds of grief’. What of the griefs caused by poverty and social
inequality worsened by austerity, evictions, social housing knocked down and families and communities displaced. Can there be a response to these collective feelings and conditions outside of individualised pathology and treatment? terms too specific for this heaving mass that is complex and ever–evolving; not replaceable components or objects, but a re– wiring of attachments and significations, shifting turfs and retaining balance The increase in Anxiety Disorder may also be linked to wider socioeconomic conditions of increased precarity, job insecurity or joblessness during Austerity, alongside media narratives of lack of political agency, though no clinical psychiatric studies on this subject have yet been undertaken. State and private healthcare infrastructures still require GP referrals, where appointments may take weeks or months to get; they are considered the gatekeepers to accessing mental health treatment. However, alternatives are forming: from informal peer groups to radical mental health support, that offer forms of self and community treatment where specialist healthcare may be financially and physically inaccessible or where there are long waiting lists.
and the home: locate it in the self or the collective, not externally, not in capital, always promising and deferring the point of fixity and the ceasing of anxiety through overpriced surrogates, just out–of–reach We can regain what has been lost: we can re–learn of and through our overwritten histories and radical narratives obscured or criminalised We can regain power: we can protest, we can put our bodies in space, obstruct authority, or remove them, take them out of the sight of leering onlookers, to re–strengthen on the margins; to re–shape them as we wish, or as we don’t wish
From the loss of control to regaining control: These psychiatric conditions and their symptoms are not necessarily permanent. There is a growing body of research into neuroplasticity, or how the human brain learns and responds to ever– changing material environments: it can adapt and grow. ‘what’s your story?’ they met at a CODA 12–step group; we are trying to not hold on to our stories— recaps of maelstroms of barks and shouts, catatonic stares at TV, stemming the haemorrhage— not to fix them and stack them up like weights, but to allow something else: We can regain and re–form the parent
My gut was born first. It happened on the old red sofa–bed. The pillows were sewn together in a line and could be stacked on top of each other, or unfolded across the carpet. A moth–eaten tongue. I used to climb right inside this sofa, sitting on the wooden frame and arranging the pillows inside–out so the tongue was stretched above and over my head to make a roof, sealing me inside. The foam inside the pillows has slowly broken down over time. The material has softened, taking on the shapes of our bodies where we sat, putting all our weight into it. where does it hurt? It is hard to say. I am orifice, oesophagus, plastic.
trace an outline around its skin, making an invisible force field, juridical and militarised.
A routine blood test just going to feel a scratch. Metabolic panel and lipid profile, blood count and thyroid function. Serum TSH level, free T4 level, serum progesterone, AST serum, serum gamma GT level, serum lipids and sodium, alkaline phosphatase, total bilirubin, total protein, litres per minute, micrograms milliunits picomoles per litre, grams, %, 10*9, folate level, erythrocyte sedimentation rate: autoimmune disorder, very common. The sovereign figure gets into a warrior stance, one leg in front of the other, bent slightly at the knees, body locked, torso engaged, leaning back with the weight supported by the other leg. It raises one arm high above its head ready to strike and stretches the other arm forward, parallel to its leg bent at 90 degrees, palm facing outwards to ward off intruders. It can
At night I forget where I am. With my eyes closed I can bring what I see into focus. I can stop time. I’m pissing, sat there just doing it. I am half my usual size leaning forward. White ceramic piss–chair. Resting on my elbows pressing hard into my thighs. Making two circular impressions where the skin touches. Put my feet into the ground, floor cold bathroom tiles tighten over muscles, root them to the spot, so embarrassing I can’t stop there’s too much, shame takes me in–out–in–out of it. Mouths hanging open. Wordless mouth doing nothing. I can’t move a muscle but the bladder. Can’t move my feet hands to cover it. I feel myself skin wide open. Complex populations have inhabited the infant’s gut from the moment it was born. Inside me there are volcanic craters, thorny ultraviolet branches, marine invertebrates, fluoro styrofoam melted down by bubbling acetone. All the other lives inside me, after each death returning again in a slightly different form. I am from the inside out; I live in the dankness of here. An instruction orbiting my eye socket. Hijacking my vagus nerve. I am physically obsessed, my muscles are obsessed, they want to do the same movement over and over again until they swell beyond recognition. Memory is stored in my insides. It is transforming them.
In still half–dark light, the edges of my room become more coherent, more or less there. On the table next to my bed, a small rectangular packet. One for each day of the week. Each packet contains a month’s supply of Levothyroxine; I take one 50mg tablet every day, as soon as I wake up, at the same time every morning. The hormones it contains are synthetic but chemically identical to ones produced in a human body. I push the pill against the soft foil wrapping behind it, until it tears through and the object is released into my hand. White, circular, biconvex, uncoated. The tiny piece is swallowed, taste it all down my throat. Warm and wet, it swaddles the item. The instructions say I should wait for 30 minutes before eating or drinking anything. The hormones won’t get absorbed properly until they reach the small intestine, but the adjustments have already started. Psychoactive stimulant effects. Membranes slacken, muscle flexing self–consciously. Connections between muscle fibres, nerves, blood vessels shift, already prepared for movement.
width of my chin and my mouth is bigger than both my eyes put together. My cheeks are sloping diagonally into the bottom corners of the phone, with the left side of my face pulled down slightly towards the pillow. Gravity collaborates, involving itself in the distortion. The phone vibrates in my hand and the face freezes into one final expression before everything goes dark, shuts off, the cells have been drained, the end of battery life. Some cells are not as in need of constant care. Some are used to living on the outskirts of the body and grabbing what they can through osmosis, burning the last remaining energy– they can stay alive for days. At the bottom of the ocean, there are lakes with shorelines, surfaces and waves that move independently, a body within a body.
The room is not clean. Several cups are stacked next to the bed, with teabags poking out from under forgotten inches of cold tea, of varying shades and colours. Dust has collected in little piles, light enough to get blown around, sometimes by my physical movement through the room. The bits collide with eachother and stick. I look at my phone for the time. The front Dead dust. The sound of something caught camera switches on accidently and the in the air. Each hour, the temperature falls screen sends a beam of light out into the about 1 degree Celsius until it reaches room room. My face appears on the phone in front of me, my eyelids are swollen from the temperature. Windows left wide open. sleep. The outline of my head is expanding, I am moving closer to the camera. The angle makes it wider at the bottom than the top, so my forehead is about half the
Living forward, looking backward
A pair of orange View–Master stereoscopes next to a stack of ‘reels’ showing stills from 9/11. A megaphone accompanied by a monotonous broken sound which gives the impression that it has not been used for a long time. A paper PRIMARK bag placed within a vacuum bag. A kid’s inflatable armband abandoned on a beach by holidaymakers now placed in a cardboard box covered in EU postage stamps and filled with Styrofoam packing, as if the item was fragile. All those objects, placed on pillars commonly used to exhibit artefacts in museums, could be found in Remains of a Summer Bliss. This is the very poignant title of Bill Balaskas’ exhibition which took place in Athens, Greece in October 2016. These objects, so common to all of us who lived through the 90s, now have a different use as museum objects. Next to them a neon sign hangs on the wall forming the word ‘Amaurot’ which stands for the principle city of Thomas More’s Utopia. The sign is half lit to form the word ‘A…rot’. This can be read as a sign that the Utopia of the past that we so desperately hold on to, no longer exists…it probably never did. The end of the summer stands as the metaphor for the present of the Greek people as well as for the present of everyone who has had a similar experience of falling out of the bubble created by an accelerated consumer–driven reality. Items, such as the orange View–master stereoscopes, are now probably collecting dust, stacked away in storage, acting as a last grip on an idealised past. A past now remembered through an old mega-phone, a kid’s armfloat; when presented on museum pedestals, these consumer items can make memories feel almostworthless, irrelevant. But, it is these objects and the excessive
consumerism mentality of the 90s which is now haunting us in the form of a colossal debt. Debt creates an attachment to the past as it is ‘past decisions, past consumption, past investments and past pleasures’ which have caused it. The attachment to the past through debt obligations continues to haunt the present. Individuals, even whole societies, feel trapped by their past debt obligations and are unable to act towards the future. This means that both ‘collective and individual agency are restrained’ (Ibid.) therefore signifying that the logic of debt is as much political as it is economic. Ironically, capitalism is a politico– economic system intrinsically connected to the future. This can be seen for example, in the fact that the productivity growth of capitalism is powered by an optimism suggesting that the future will be better than the present. But, simultaneously it is precisely this mentality which through debt repayments creates strong connections to the past leading to a distinctively different kind of political economy compared to the first relationship. In situations where debts exceed a particular amount, ‘economic activity becomes locked into a perpetual repetition, aimed at honouring commitments to the past’. The items shown in Balaska’s exhibition act as a reminder of the fact that, when living in an accelerated and fetishist futurity that is wholly dependent on speculative growth, the connection with the excessive consumerist boom of the 90s becomes an inevitability. By legitimising the idea of living outside one’s means and promoting an endless accumulation of objects capitalism produces a culture of debt. Greece stands as an example of how this phenomenon can be experienced at a national level. Since the 2008 financial crisis, public policy focused on injecting money into the financial sector and decreasing support for the household sector. For instance, social investment such as disability benefits, health care, pensions and university tuition fees has dropped dramatically in recent years. This decline in social support led households to undertake more debt to replace the government support and welfare provisions. Therefore, many households borrow because it is necessary and not out of choice. What was before seen as a public responsibility became an individual responsibility. The individualisation of the responsibility to care for one’s own health care, education and so on, along with the commod-
ification of these services, comes together with the individual responsibility to cover one’s debt and often the inability to do so. Sigmund Freud in his essay ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ recognises two different reactions to loss. One can go through the process of mourning where after a painful period of reformation they eventually recover and let go of the past. This process of mourning is usually connected to cases where the individual does not feel that the loss is their own fault and can therefore regain the agency of their future. Alternatively, one might not be able to undergo the mourning process ‘correctly’, as they blame themselves for the loss, and are not able to ever externalise its source. When in a state of Melancholia, as this is called, an individual is unable to maintain the slightest hope of having agency towards the future. This is the condition created by the moral obligation one feels to repay their debts. Similarly, an individual in debt considers their inability to cover it as solely their own fault without considering the social conditions that led them to this result. Living within a capitalist system obsessed with the ideas of ‘freedom’ and ‘choice’ encourages the finger of blame to be pointed at the individual for their own exclusion, ignoring the social conditions which not only breed this very exclusion but also rely on it for its own existence. Additionally, the dependence on debt as a form of social security is not unanimous. As it has been found the factors that mostly prompt indebtedness are a fall in income and a change in circumstances with job losses being the most important cause of a decrease in income. Therefore,it is the already disadvantaged who are affected the most by debt dependence. For the already marginalised by configurations of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, mobility and so forth, debt often becomes a means through which to cope when presented with exclusion from education, health care, disability benefits and other such goods which used to be publicly provided. The inability to cover these unrealistic repayments exasperates their exclusion and marginalisation, while the responsibility which was previously public is now limited to the individual in the form of debt recovery. They exist in a constant state of melancholia for a future that has been denied for them. The appearance of numerous new forms of individual debt highlights this phenomenon. For instance, student loan debt, mortgage, credit card debt etc. affect millions of people. The increase of debt in our economy aside from affecting people at an individual level also means that a whole society can become trapped into a repayment of commitments of the past, and through it ‘entire societies can become indebted’. In these cases the responsibility for the loss is shifted from the individual to the national body which consequently becomes trapped within a state of melancholia. It is for this reason that Athens makes a very fitting location for Balaskas’ exhibition as Greece is one of the most striking examples of the recent financial crisis of a society in debt. Since 2008, Greece has been going through its most profound transformation in recent history. It is experiencing the most turbulent social, political, cultural and economic
situation since the fall of the military Junta in 1974. This transformation is inherently linked to an uncontainable humanitarian disaster, the collapse of private and public institutions and the feeding of a paralysing uncertainty on all aspects of life. The continuous city riots, rising unemployment and strict austerity measures have crushed any sign of social and political stability. A spectacle is surrounding these transformations and is looming all over the world. A spectacle created by the media, politicians, economic analysts and other so-called experts. This spectacle has created the myth of what is called the ‘Greek Crisis’. It is the representations comprising this spectacle which have created an image of Greece as being monstrous and failed. The myth of ‘Greece in Crisis’ and everything this narrative entails such as lazy lifestyles and people living above their means has come to represent what everyone recalls with hearing the word ‘Greece’. This myth and the perceptions it creates is also internalised within the Greek mentality. It acts as an apparatus of control and a way to conform Greece to the dominant standards presented by Western–Europe. By constantly focusing on the inconceivable growth of Greece’s fiscal deficit those representations are intended to create a general feeling of guilt which brings the Greek population to a condition of inertia and melancholia. Greece is put in the condition of the ‘Indebted Society’ which creates the impression that their only choice is to repay the creditors. Interdependence between debt and guilt is created and becomes a generic physical, mental and emotional condition. As Maurizio Lazzarato states, it turns the entire society into a ‘Factory of the Indebted Man’. The debt itself becomes a ‘semantic mechanism of discipline and control’ while, through public debt the whole society becomes indebted. It produces a specific mentality, the mentality of the promise to honour one’s debt but more specifically accepting the fault of having entered the indebted relationship. As Nietzsche mentions, the concept of ‘Schuld’ which is the German word for guilt originates from ‘Schulden’ which are the
debts. As those representations of Greece have shown, when the discussion is about the issue of debt the media, the politicians and the economists only communicate one message: that the Greek debtors are at fault; they are guilty. This guilt weights on every individual as each of them individually must take accountability for it (ibid). The responsibility of the loss i.e. the covering of the debt, rather than addressing the systemic mechanisms that have caused such a loss, falls exclusively onto the national body which exists within a constant state of melancholia. ‘The barbarian’, as Walter Benjamin calls the contemporary man, considers nothing as permanent but because of this he sees alternatives everywhere. Therefore, he finds himself constantly standing on crossroads. In such an environment confidence and trust become necessary denominators for any creative action. Contrariwise, fear and lack of confidence completely counteract any possibility of action. The conditions created by debt cause those exact sentiments which lead to the suspension of any action. This is exactly the situation Greeks experience in the present. The looming of debt over each individual has turned the whole nation into a condition of inertia and any possibility of action has collapsed. This way the creditor gains control over the debtor and the impossibility of his future behaviour. For the Greeks there seems to be no way out of this condition apart from reimbursing the creditor and conforming with the rest of Europe. It is this mentality of the lack of choice which led Greece in 2010 to accept the second bailout plan imposed by the IMF and Europe and add austerity on austerity. At the time of the imposition of the ‘rescue package’, as it was famously advertised by the creditors, European politicians, financial experts and the media suggested that everything Greece had of any worth had to go. The threat of the huge debt seems to loom over all Greeks and the only solution they can see is to repay the creditor. By the construction of this myth guilt and fear are inscribed in the mind of each individual. But, it is due to this mentality that Greece has entered a period of ‘permanent crisis’ which can be called ‘catastrophe’. It seems impossible to get out of this catastrophe by applying and imposing the same principles that led to it. As Lazzarato mentions ‘debt is not an economic problem but an apparatus of power’. Therefore, debt stops being something subjective and becomes something existential, it starts from the narrative created by the creditors which in turn creates a myth and is thus an aesthetic, a social and a political matter as much as it is an economic one. Balaskas through his exhibition asks Greeks to confront their complicated reality and go against the dominant perspective which declares that ‘ignorance is bliss’. If we are asking to find even a possibility to get out of the current condition of constant melancholia, we also need to analyse and evaluate the current situation through a different lens. We need to look beyond the individual or, in the case of Greece, beyond the national responsibility for the loss. We need to look at the systemic mechanisms which have caused it in order to allow space for mourning. Greece should use the differences that make it unfit for Europe to find a way out of its current situation. Greece is the bad sheep of Europe. That’s its virtue. Good thing there are black sheep like Greece to mix things up, to refuse a certain Germano–French
standardization, etc. So, continue being black sheep and we’ll get along just fine… Felix Guattari, Naples, July 15, 2011 Bibliography Argyropoulou, Nadja and Yorgos Tzirtzilakis. Hell As Pavilion, 2013. Berlant, Lauren Gail. Cruel Optimism. 1st ed. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011. Davies, Will, Johnna Montgomerie, and Sara Wallin. Financial Melancholia: Mental Health And Indebtedness. Ebook. 1st ed. Political Economy Research Centre, Goldsmiths, University of London, 2015. http://www.perc.org.uk/perc/wp–content/uploads/2015/07/FinancialMelancholiaMentalHealthandIndebtedness–1.pdf. Federici, Silvia. “From Commoning To Debt: Financialization, Micro–Credit And The Changing Architecture Of Capital Accumulation”. South Atlantic Quarterly, 2016. Freud, Sigmund, James Strachey, Anna Freud, Alix Strachey, and Alan Tyson. 1957. The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud. Volume XIV, 1914–1916, Volume XIV, 1914–1916. London: The Hogarth Press. Kalfayan Galleries, Bill Balaskas. Remains Of A Summer Bliss, 2016. Lazzarato, Maurizio. The Making Of The Indebted Man. Amsterdam: MIT Press, 2011. Montgomerie, Johnna and Daniela Tepe–Belfrage. “Caring For Debts: How The Household Economy Exposes The Limits Of Financialisation”. Critical Sociology, 2016. Papadimitriou, Dimitri B., Michalis Nikiforos, and Gennaro Zezza. The Greek Economic Crisis And The Experience Of Austerity. Ebook. 1st ed. Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, 2013. http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/sa_gr_7_13.pdf. (Accessed December 4, 2016). Profiting Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All – A Lecture By Costas Lapavitsas. Video. Boston, 2014. More, Thomas. Utopia. 1st ed. London: Penguin, 2009.
Games with Names
Hi. I’m Golschan. I have a secret wish that I’ve never really spoken about, nor did I ever really act on it. To be more accurate: I never tried it in IRL, on an actual stage. In my head, yes. Plenty of times. But never in front of a real audience. Or, to be even more accurate, never in front of an audience that actually knew exactly what I was trying to do. I am talking, of course, about my secret wish of becoming a stand–up comedian. Looking back at my school days I would do something quite similar to stand–up while actually standing in the overcrowded school–bus that drove us to school every morning. So while (as far as I remember) half of the bus was cracking up with my jokes, the other half seemed to honestly hate both me and my jokes. While I understood a couple years later, that the first half, I was just talking about, did not really laugh with my jokes but that in fact I was the joke, it took me a while to figure out why the other half hated me so much. They had created this whole universe of different ways of showing me their hate, while I genuinely was trying to be funny. As I think about this time of my life I get a weird feeling in my stomach. It’s something between older me pitying younger me and older me wanting to protect younger me, because older me has figured out by now, what younger me was trying to do in order to compensate the hostile at-
mosphere that sprang in her face when she entered the bus in the mornings: Trying to be funny in order to laugh the insecurity away. In the mornings some of the guys on the school–bus would tell me that I am weird and annoying for telling jokes and in the afternoons, after school, I would hear them sing this add, this jingle by Gillette, which they collectively had changed the lyrics from. This is a German add, so I will first quote it in German, and then translate it into English: The jingle goes like this: “Gillette! Für das Beste im Mann!’’. The boys had changed the lyrics and the moment me or my sisters entered the bus they would start singing “Gillette! Für das Beehestee der Frauuuu!’’ Quick translation: You know the brand Gillette – they produce shavers, right? The jingle goes “Gillette, für das Beste im Mann’’ which is translated something like “Gillette, for the best in men’’. The moment we entered the bus these guys would chant loudly “Gillette, for the best in women!’’. This was of course about my sisters, me and our hairy upper lips. Apparently, in order to get the best out of a woman you will need a shaver. “Gillette, for the best in women!’’. Come to think of it, it is quite an obvious indicator for why I wasn’t accepted to be the funny one: Hairy upper lip. Visible hairy upper lip. Visible because brown– haired hairy upper lip. Now...combine this with the fact, that I was
driving in a school–bus with prepubescent red– and yellow–haired boys that would sport pimples to their spiky hair, styled with cheap smelling hair gel, and add, that we were all living in a catholic suburb of a very catholic city, driving in a school–bus which dropped my sisters and me off at a very very catholic all–girls school. Maybe it gives you an image of how my school bus– rides made me try – in a weird and maybe even creative way of empowerment – stand–up comedy on the school–bus. But, it was also the creativity of those boys that didn’t stop there. Sometimes they weren’t even so subtle and would shout out: “you got a mustache!’’ (Elementary school); sometimes they would give me kind advice. “Go shave yourself!’’ I was told at the totally overestimated and actually very horrible age of 14, standing at the side of a public swimming pool on summer vacation; and one time my class–mates, in that all–girls catholic school, even had the tenderness to write a whole poem about me: about my – as they called it – beard, my eyebrows and my weird, because apparently uncool, clothes. Of course my name was subject to jokes, too. Now, I heard a lot of funny and not–so funny jokes with my name in it. My name, of course, is neither Erika Mustermann nor Jane Doe, (is that the English version of a normative placeholder name?). My name is Golschan Ahmad Haschemi, which is actually quite interesting in context of normative and non–normative names considering that A) Haschemi is actually a very common name in Iran; you could even call it the equivalent to Müller, Meier, Schmidt. ...Miller, Smith... Meier!? and B) Haschemi is quite close to HaSchem, which is Hebrew for the Name. So, TAKE THAT! all you red– and yellow– haired prepubescent pimpled boys’n’girls back from the catholic pleasant vile! Yess... woo them with brains Golschan...that always works...not... I remember how I hated it. I hated all the Goldschein, Goldzahn, Goldschwan, Goldhahn, Geldschein, Sunshine, GO–cean, Ocean, Colchão (which is actually Portuguese for mattress). But one day I talked to
a friend and this time it was me making a silly joke with his name when he turned around and answered “hey, that one’s not so bad. I hadn’t heard that one before!’’ And he told me, that, if it is a really good joke, he would actually find it funny. And somehow that stuck with me. It made sense to me, as I do like a good wordplay. Now, I must stress that normally, when some asshole or let alone a well–meaning person advises me, to “just take it with humor’’ and that humor is – as they heard – a good strategy to deal with racist and sexist bullshit comments, I would tell them “Laber mich nicht voll!’’ (is there a good translation of Laber mich nicht voll? Laber me not full? Chatterbox me not full? Maybe shit me not full with the nonsense crap you think you have to share with me!?’’) I even have business cards that say “Laber mich nicht voll!’’ And nothing else. And I hand them out. Like “Oh, you asking me where I am really really from!?’’ Hand her a business card. “Oh, oh what’s that? You think I speak good German? Well, thank you complete stranger with who I did not choose to sit in a waiting room with, here you go!’’. Business card delivered. So, as you see: generally, I do not have patience with people trying to shit with me. But over the years, this thing, making up funny games with my name actually grew on me. I even started collecting the best ones. And I would like to share my favourite ones with you. The first one of my most favourite three wordplays is an old one. I cannot remember when I heard it the first time. It is not my favourite, but it seems to be an all–time favourite for other people, at least I’ve heard it plenty of times: Goldzahn – which translates to goldtooth. There was a time in my teenage years when I was dying to get a certain pair of shoes... I wouldn’t call them sneakers, or tennis shoes, or Turnschuhe, as there was nothing sporty about them, but still I guess they would fall into this category. They looked more like car–tires, and they were silver and – as I thought back then – very cool. So eventually I got those shoes. It basically never happened that I got exactly the
clothes or shoes that I really really wished for. But I got those! And I was sooo proud. So, the very first day I got them, I put them on and went out in order to parade with them, to strike a pose and to tell everyone: I GOT COOL SHOES, WHAT YOU GOT!? And there was this boy, Alexander Engelbert, and he got a funny joke! It went something like this: “New shoes? Well, now imma better call you Silber–Zahn!’’ Got it!? Silver–Tooth! Because of my silver shoes! I was completely taken by surprise with this sharp joke; I thought it was really good! The second one is by a good friend of mine. He sent me an e–mail, which only contained one sentence:“golschan ‘niesmichan’ hatschi_me!’’ I really like the playing with words here, and also the melody of it: Golschan niesmichan hatschi_me! Golschan niesmichan hatschi_me! Golschan niesmichan hatschi_me! In English: Golschan sneeze on me hatschi_me! Ja... that’s the kind of funny I like. Now, the last one needs a little more explaining for people who do not live in Germany. It again has to do with an ad and its jingle. This time it was a campaign for Deutschland. And the name of that campaign was “Du bist Deutschland!’’ which is really stupid, because A) history tell us what comes out of rhetorics like that and B) I hate patriotism and nationalism. Now, during that time something funny happened. Not only did this add coincide with the 2009 World Football Championship, but both of them – the ad and the Championship – make people in Germany dare to say proudly and loudly DEUTSCHLAND again. Imagine 50 and more men shouting repeatedly Deutschland in a beer–drunken chorus. It goes something like this: clap. clap. clap.clap.clap. clap.clap. clap.clap. DEUTSCHLAND; clap. clap. clap.clap.clap. clap.clap. clap.clap. DEUTSCHLAND; … I don’t think you can picture it right, but, the way I heard it was not only creepy, cause there were men, drunken men, shouting Deutschland, nooo,
the way they were chanting it, it sounded pretty much like...Golschan! Now do this: clap. clap. clap.clap.clap. clap.clap. clap.clap. GOLSCHAN! clap. clap. clap.clap.clap. clap. clap. clap.clap. GOLSCHAN! Really unpleasant. I remember trying to get away from that public viewing crowd, and at the same time turning around automatically each time I thought someone or some choir was calling my name! And it doesn’t end there. Ever since that ad “Du bist Deutschland’’ came out, it happens every so often, that when I introduce myself as “Ich bin Golschan’’, people look at me with either a stunned, a bewildered or even a pleased look on their face and repeat “Du bist Deutschland!?’’ And, well, yesss, what should one reply to such a question?! Of course I say: “Ja. Ich bin Deutschland!’’ Just for kicks. I have one last wordplay for you, with another person’s name. Walter Mignolo. He is an Argentinian scientist who works – among other things – on colonialism and globalisation. (But that’s not important for the wordplay.) The other day, I came up with this – I think – GREAT joke with his name: what does Walter Mignolo call himself, when he wants to hang with the cool kids? Mign–YOLO! Get it!? Yolo!? … GREAT joke! … maybe I should give stand–up comedy a shot. At least you know what they say: #youonlyliveonce
The woman, the orphan, and the tiger
HD Video 16:9, single channel. 72 minutes. Color / B&W, 2010 Jane Jin Kaisen & Guston Sondin-Kung The Woman, The Orphan, and The Tiger, begins with the sound of women’s voices speaking of histories of violence, of things repressed and silenced. Gradually, their voices accumulate into a cacophony of pure sonic intensity against an extreme slow-motioned image of a woman survivor of Japan’s military sexual slavery who, in the absence of words to accurately account for her suffering, gets up and walks into the center of a war crimes tribunal courtroom and gestures wildly before she faints. The Woman, The Orphan, and The Tiger explores ways in which trauma is passed on from previous generations to the present through a sense of being haunted. Following a group of international adoptees and other women of the Korean diaspora in their 20s and 30s, the film uncovers how the return of the repressed confronts and destabilizes narratives that have been constructed to silence histories of pain and violence inflicted onto the bodies and lives of women and children. A genealogy is created by relating the stories of three generations of women: the former ‘comfort’ women who were subjected to military sexual slavery by the Japanese military between World War I and World War II – women who have worked as sex-workers around US military bases in South Korea since the 1950s to the present – and transnational adopted women from South Korea to the West since the Korean War. Composed of oral testimonies, poetry, public statements and interview fragments, the filmic narrative unfolds in a non-chronologic and layered manner. By reinterpreting and juxtaposing historical archive footage with recorded documentary material and staged performative actions, multiple spaces and times are conjoined to contour how a nexus of militarism, patriarchy, racism and nationalism served to suppress and marginalize certain parts of the population and how this part of world history continues to reverberate in the present moment.
Video Credits Directed, conceptualized, filmed and edited by: Jane Jin Kaisen & Guston Sondin-Kung Voices: Grace M. Cho, Isabelle, Jane Jeong Trenka, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Maja Lee Langvad, Mihee-Nathalie Lemoine, Myung Ki Sook, Pak Chun Sung, Rachel, Soni Kum, Tammy Chu, Yu Young Nim Written excerpts from: Jeong Trenka’s Fugitive visions, Maja Lee Langvad’s Find Holger Danske and Find Holger Danske Appendix Video projected films used as backdrop: Searching from Go-Hyang and Resilience by Tammy Chu Video material kindly lent by: Video Juku, ASK – Adoptee Solidarity Korea, TRACK – Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea, Steffen Nygaard Research assistance: Rev. Do Hyun Kim, Director of Koroot, Su Zhiliang, Director of the Chinese Comfort Women Research Center, Yu Young Nim, Director of My Sister’s Place (Durebang), Jacob Nielsen, Chenye, Uni Park, Kim Stoker, Tobias Hubinette, Hwe Sook Lee, Grace M. Cho, Tammy Chu, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Soni Kum, Maja Lee Langvad, Jane Jeong Trenka, MiheeNathalie Lemoine.
Organizational Support: My sister’s Place (Durebang), ASK – Adoptee Solidarity Korea, TRACK – Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea, GOAL: Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link, KoRoot, The Chinese Comfort Women Research Center, House of Sharing (Nanumui Jip), My Sister’s Home Foundational support: University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Yip Harburg Foundation, The Danish Arts Council Translation: Lim Yoon Kyung, Kim Tae Jeong, Young Jae Pak, Chenye, Youme Kim, BianFeng, Shi Wenrui Puppets created by: Jane Jin Kaisen, Guston Sondin-Kung, Alexander Kantarovsky / Puppeteers: Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Jane Jeong Trenka, Maja Lee Langvad, Eli Park Sørensen, Jane Jin Kaisen / Puppet play assistance: Iro Liess, Matthias Liess, Suyoon Koh Sound mix: Shim Hyun Junh, Jane Jin Kaisen, Guston Sondin Kung / Sound mastering: Michael Metzger / Color correction: Guston Sondin-Kung
Raised from a silent storm
Where there is no grave, we are condemned to go on mourning. Ruth Kluger, Still Alive1 In Specters of Marx, Jacques Derrida writes how the pursuit for justice must go beyond the empirical or ontological actuality of the present to consider what came before and what will come after. Whereby living–on fully is dependent on an acknowledgement of history and the ‘traces and traces of traces’ whose survival holds the possibility ‘to disjoin or dis–adjust the identity of the living present’.2 These spirits, Derrida suggests, must be reckoned with as any attempt at an ethical society requires serious consideration of spectres whose unresolved issues threaten to erupt and disrupt the present; only then is “justice” attainable. On this, Derrida poses the question: ‘To whom, finally, would an obligation of justice ever entail a commitment, one will say, and even be it beyond law and beyond norm, to whom and to what if not the life of a living being?’3 It is this—an unconventional pursuit for justice on behalf of the past and for the future—that I argue the position of the artist as one who goes beyond the law; of time, of any governing body, and beyond the norm, in challenging injustices. Kemang Wa Lehulere (b.1984) is an artist whose explorations unravel the relationship between South Africa’s past and its present. Looking specifically at “To whom it may concern” (2015), his exhibition at Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa, Wa Lehulere focuses on the personal narratives of marginalised figures in South African history. His work is a conscious effort to remember, in the face of societal amnesia, the not–so–distant violence of Apartheid. His commitment to artistically bear witness often has consequences that go far beyond the gallery space. The ways in which his work presents fractured narratives that recall past moments in order to rethink the present is unique and speaks directly to Derrida’s need to speak to, and of, ghosts and transgenerational trauma they transmit to their descendants. Through his artistic practice, Wa Lehulere revisits the past and pushes the limits of memory in the hope of not only representing the lives of historical figures Ruth Kluger, Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered (New York: The Feminist Press, 2001), p.80. Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, The Work of Mourning & the New International (New York and London: Routledge, 1994) 3 Ibid.
who have been previously overlooked, but by also staging interventions that disrupt time and the violent personal and collective histories in South Africa’s past which he believes continue to haunt the present. According to Wa Lehulere, South Africa is in “too much of a hurry to move beyond Apartheid when there are a lot of issues we have not dealt with.”4 South African history, like that of many African countries, is wrought by colonialism, the psychological and political impacts of which were never fully addressed during the processes of decolonisation (for both perpetrators and victims). Following Frantz Fanon and his notion that the negative effects of the oppressors are ‘deposited into the bones’ of the oppressed, Kelly Oliver argues that ‘colonization and oppression operate through depositing the unwanted affects of the dominant group onto those othered by that group in order to sustain its privileged position.’5 Post–Apartheid South Africa’s self–proclaimed identity as the Rainbow Nation, which can be read as an attempt to immediately heal and forge a unity between black and white South Africans at the moment of decolonisation, was premature, for there still exists institutionalised racism that reinforces and enables white privilege. This is evident in the recent “Rhodes Kemang Wa Lehulere, Must Fall” protest movement that began When I can’t laugh I can’t write, 2015 at the University of Cape Town where students were protesting the removal of a statue—unveiled in 1934—commemorating Cecil Rhodes, the British imperialist who in the late 19th century was a key player in Britain’s ruthless expansion of empire and the Scramble for Africa. The aim of the collective behind “Rhodes Must Fall” was to decolonise the spaces of education by taking direct action against institutional racism at the University of Cape Town. Acknowledging that the statue was just one component of the social injustice experienced by black students at the university, they argued that ‘the fall of “Rhodes” is symbolic for the inevitable fall of white supremacy and privilege at our campus.’6 Having gained momentum through social media and inspiring countrywide protests and allied movements 4 5 6
Sue Blaine, Spirit of Nat Nakasa haunts this exhibition, online review, Business Day Live, 29 January 2015, <http://www.bdlive.co.za/life/entertainment/2015/01/29/spirit–of–nat–nakasa–haunts–this– exhibition> [accessed 17 April 2016] Kelly Oliver, The Colonization of Psychic Space: A Psychoanalytic Social Theory of Oppression (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), p. xix Rhodes Must Fall, online publication, < http://rhodesmustfall.co.za/> [accessed 17 April 2016].
worldwide, Rhodes Must Fall succeeded in the removal of the statue, which took place on 9 April 2015. The narrative that runs through Wa Lehulere’s “To whom it may concern,” is that of Nat Nakasa (b. 1937), a prominent writer and critic of South Africa’s oppressive Apartheid regime at a time when the Suppression of Communism Act, 1950 made it an illegal act to speak against racial segregation and Apartheid. Knowing Kemang Wa Lehulere, To whom it may concern, 2015 his position in South African society – installation detail as a black man and an anti–Apartheid agitator, Nakasa left for America, a move that meant forfeiting his South African citizenry, and the possibility of ever returning to his home. Unbeknown to him, it would be in America where Nakasa would learn there was more to race than the colour of one’s skin. Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks details the ways in which trauma can arise when a black body is confronted with a racialised perception of the self – the ‘internalization of a racist imaginary through education, popular culture, and contact with the dominant white society.’7 Once in exile, the social and psychic environment of a “person of colour” changes drastically as one is severed from the comforts of being part of a collective “majority” (albeit an oppressed majority in the case of Apartheid South Africa), and goes elsewhere to become a marginalised minority, alienated and grappling for survival in a new and foreign environment. The state of mourning and melancholia, according to Sigmund Freud, is not only reserved for the loss of loved ones. Rather, it is an emotional state that extends to one’s loss of place, community or loss of ideals. Mourning and melancholia also encompass the loss of self experienced after traumatic events such as torture, or severe forms of rejection and humiliation. However, Freud’s approach focuses on (and normalises) a psychoanalytic understanding of trauma from the privileged perspective of a white European man. In order to begin to comprehend the impact of racialised oppression on the psyche—‘why so many people suffer at the core of their subjectivity and its concomitant sense of agency when they are abjected, excluded, or oppressed’—as stated by Kelly Oliver, we require a theory that reformulates psychoanalytic concepts with the lived experience of the individual at its core:8 a way of understanding the experience of an individual in light of—and not separate to—their social history. Violence has countless ways of impacting individuals, and Oliver’s psychoanalytic theory of oppression, based on a consideration of the individual psyche which is thoroughly rooted in an understanding of the social conditions that produce and impact the psyche, goes a long way in the consideration of transgenerational haunting and trauma because ‘we cannot separate subjectivity from subject position’ in society.9 Nakasa was plagued with homesickness and depression, overcome by the complexities of colonial/Apartheid trauma, the rejection and isolation that came from being black and African in America, and the inability to return home. As such, the psychical reality of exile became very real – producing physical effects and on 14 July, 1965, he committed suicide by falling from the seventh floor of a building in Manhattan. Even in death Nakasa was not allowed to return to South Africa as he was 7
Michael Rothberg, Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009), p.92. 8 Oliver, p. xvi. 9 Oliver, p. xviii.
buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in New York. Wa Lehulere came across Nakasa’s story when researching “falling”—particularly falling as a way one might commit suicide. This line of enquiry was inspired by the Spatial Poems of Japanese artist Chieko Shiomi and her international call for documents that would constitute the works. Conducted as a series of nine, it was Spatial Poem No.3, “Falling Event” (1966), that caught Wa Lehulere’s attention. Forty–eight years later, Wa Lehulere responded to this call by submitting documentation of his own falling events, as well as work that spoke to the fall of Nak Nakasa. Wa Lehulere, based in Amsterdam at the time, also had the idea to go and dig out a chunk of the grass from Nakasa’s burial site in order to return it to South Africa as a kind of gentle repatriation. On his visit to the grave, Wa Lehulere read Bring Nakasa Home, a poem by Mak Manaka, as a way of addressing his elder and initiating dialogue – an act that the artist filmed not for a specific use in his exhibition but simply as a way to document the moment. BRING NAKASA HOME Nakasa gone How long should the upstate Up stage Nakasa’s bones Let his soul come dance at home Far from the torment of Brooklyn Bridge blues Nakasa gone!! How long should the soil remain clueless? About the native that left, Only to encounter unchartered madness Bring Nakasa home!! Who will sing of his sacrifice? When his words could move no more. Deep in the hatred of his exit He found that, there is more to skin color in Harlem Than the strict movement freedom Down Victoria Street Keep Nakasa warm!! Because many of us Have been raised far from his silent storm Alive with possibility shouts the so called Rainbow Yet how possible is it to drum identity back Into the passport of a native from nowhere Because Nat’s name remains unknown Who among you Is strong enough to carry the legacy that’s untold Ma si goduke!!! Si hambe e khaya, Ma si goduke!!!!!!! And forget not Nakasa’s story…............10
10 See Kemang Wa Lehulere: Standard Bank Young Artist Award, 2015, by Kwezi Gule, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Kemang Wa Lehulere, (Cape Town: Stevenson Gallery, 2015), p.238.
A direct response to Spatial Poem No.3, “To whom it may concern” features a series of works through which Wa Lehulere looks at falling, literally and metaphorically, whilst also connecting different events in a non–linear way. Some of the works in the gallery space are site specific and only exist for the duration of the exhibition. His chalk drawings on wall–mounted blackboard are expressions of the life journey of Nakasa. This is Kemang Wa Lehulere, Reddening of the greens or dog sleep manifesto, 2015 also echoed in the titles of the artworks, some of which are words written by Nakasa himself; When I can’t laugh I can’t write, 2015; and I can’t laugh anymore, 2015. In the middle of the exhibition space is a piece titled Reddening of the greens or dog sleep manifesto, 2015 – a work comprised of earth and grass as living sculpture placed in old brown suitcases, blackboards, salvaged school desks (wood) and ceramic dogs. For Wa Lehulere, the suitcases and their contents are symbolic of the many ‘undiscovered and unmarked graves’ in South Africa’s Apartheid history.11 Abraham and Torok contend that it is only certain categories of the dead that return to haunt the living. Among them they list those ‘who were denied the rite of burial or died an unnatural, abnormal death, were criminals or outcasts, or suffered injustice in their lifetime.’12 The unresolved concerns of these ghosts are passed on to their descendants. However it is not the dead who haunt us but ‘the gaps left within us by the secrets of others’13 – that which goes unsaid or unresolved. On the trouble with becoming fixated on old traumas, Wa Lehulere states: ‘I am not saying we should live in the past, but I am making reminders that our history is incomplete and needs a lot of rehabilitation.’14 He goes on further to position Nakasa not simply as the poster child of South African trauma and exile, but rather as a ‘fact of the administration and bureaucracy of what it meant to be an exile.’15 The experience of exile is undoubtedly traumatic not simply because of the feelings of subjective isolation. Exile is also an experience that works in tandem with nationalism and the often institutionalised ‘assertion of belonging in and to a place, a people, a heritage:’16 the conflation of ‘national’ identity with a certain (and majoritarian) ‘race’ identity relegates racial minorities to ‘live in a condition of internal exile within the nation of which
11 Sue Blaine, Spirit of Nat Nakasa haunts this exhibition, online review, Business Day Live, 29 January 2015, <http://www.bdlive.co.za/life/entertainment/2015/01/29/spirit–of–nat–nakasa–haunts–this– exhibition> [accessed 17 April 2016]. 12 Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, ‘Notes on the Phantom: A Complement to Freud’s Metapsychology’, in The Shell and the Kernel: Renewals of Psychoanalysis, Volume 1, ed. by Nicolas Abraham, Maria Torok and Nicholas T. Rand (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1994), pp.171–176, (p.175). 13 Ibid., p.171. 14 Sue Blaine, Spirit of Nat Nakasa haunts this exhibition, online review, Business Day Live, 29 January 2015, <http://www.bdlive.co.za/life/entertainment/2015/01/29/spirit–of–nat–nakasa–haunts–this– exhibition> [accessed 17 April 2016]. 15 Ibid. 16 Victor Burgin, In/Different Spaces: Place and Memory in Visual Culture in Theories of Memory: A Reader, ed. By Michael Rossington and Anne Whitehead (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007), pp. 276–285, (p.277).
they are citizens – an exile that, if it is not legal, cannot be named.’17 The inclusion of the ceramic dogs is also central to any reading of this exhibition. Based on a South African myth that if a human takes sleep from a dog’s eye and places it in their own they are able to see into a spiritual realm, Wa Lehulere acknowledges/approaches history as something that needs a special lens for us to look at. He further stretches this as a metaphor to explore the possibility of travelling back in time—to a spiritual realm—in order to rewrite history in a way that appeases the ghosts that haunt us today. The ceramic dogs in Wa Lehulere’s work, ‘numbly attentive’18 as they are, could also represent the ways in which we watch over our dead, guarding their histories, and taking responsibility for them, especially if we were unable to do so when they were alive and because the work of keeping their memories alive goes towards reconstituting a broader collective memory. For Wa Lehulere, the attempt to understand Apartheid and to excavate its injustices rests on entering the discourse through a particular person’s story, and from there gaining access to the larger social, economic, and political consequences of Apartheid. Following Wa Lehulere’s two year project and coupled with efforts from journalists, writers and Nakasa’s family, the South African government took the action to return Nakasa’s remains from New York back to South Africa – a repatriation that prompted research into the lives of those others lying in undiscovered and unmarked graves. The threat of the unexpected return of the repressed or the possibility of phantoms disrupting the present requires the work of acknowledging the unrecognisable, and of considering the specificity of each individual beyond rights or the law and the ways in which that narrative contributes to an understanding of the collective body. Derrida states: No justice […] seems possible or thinkable without the principle of some responsibility, beyond all living present, within that which disjoins the living present, before the ghosts of those who are not yet born or who are already dead, be they victims of wars, political of other kinds of violence, nationalist, racist, colonialist, sexist, or other kinds of exterminations, victims of the oppressions of capitalist imperialism or any other forms of totalitarianism.19 One way of surviving the consequences of different kinds of violence, as identified by Gabriele Schwab, is often psychological splitting, which enables the victim to retain a level of agency that allows them to continue living, instead of succumbing to their experience of violence and trauma, personal or transgenerational. Schwab goes on to argue that even though trauma is intrapsychic, it can also be experienced by a collective—‘shared by a people of a nation’—and unless trauma is addressed, it is passed on and inherited by the next generation.20 The intergenerational transmission of memory or Marianne Hirsch’s concept of “postmemory” links children to the traumatic events experienced by their parents which in our digitised world means access to archive materials of unresolved violence. It has been argued that a focus on traumatic history takes one away from their present condition, and also the consequences of violent histories that unfold in the present whilst we are distracted by the past.21 However, such a “fixation” or a focus on the past trauma in the context of colonialism enables one to anchor oneself and to contextualise the systematic injustices of the present. This rings especially salient when we consider the position of previously colonised nations in the global market today. Our lives are destined to be touched by trauma in one way or another for ‘there is no 17 Ibid., p.281. 18 Ashraf Jamal, Art: History in the making, online article, Financial Mail, 22 March 2016, <http://www. financialmail.co.za/life/art/2016/03/17/art–history–in–the–making> [accessed 17 April 2016]. 19 Derrida, p. xviii. 20 Schwab, p.49. 21 See Schwab, p.6.
history without trauma’ and some lives will be overshadowed by histories of Apartheid, genocide, slavery or war – the magnitudes of which reveal themselves in multifarious and distorted ways. The construction of memory through a bringing together different spatial and temporal moments, and the initiation of dialogue – in the name of justice – between the living and the dead should not be limited to lawyers of human rights, though it does seem a task better suited for a shaman or witchdoctor. Yet, it is the artist – a living being – who is capable of undertaking such a task in their attempts to heal a nation of its trauma. Kemang Wa Lehulere self–referentially stated: ‘I am but a student in this world, and a voluntary disciple to better the black experience.’22 His art is an extension of this intent as he re–examines the histories of Apartheid and colonialism in South Africa in order to heal the social body and the collective memory. When we look at memory, it is evident that particular events take on more importance as they fade from our consciousness. There is therefore the need for artistic practice and spaces of exploration to go outside a rational discourse of history so that alternative memories of the forgotten figures in our histories remain vital and acknowledged; ‘opened up to emphatic connection through their reembodiment in present imagination.’23 In the postcolonial, this work often falls into the discourse of nation building and nationalism that posit themselves in opposition to an imperialist oppressor. While Wa Lehulere critiques colonialism and its agents, he simultaneously aims to set himself and his work apart from the post–colonial nation–state – the South African government – and any perceived forms of nationalism. Critically independent, the artistic expression of Kemang Wa Lehulere bridges the gap between individual histories and recorded history, creating poignant imageries of the past, present and future. Kemang Wa Lehulere, Please remember on my behalf, 2015
22 Kabelo Malatsie, Who Am I?, online review, Art South Africa, 2 May 2014, <http://artsouthafrica.com/ byt/2182–sep–2009.html> [accessed 17 April 2016]. 23 Jill Bennett, Empathic Vision: Affect, Trauma, and Contemporary Art (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005), p.132.
GREY IN GREY
When my grandfather taught me how to swim he stood next to me and held my abdomen so I could move my arms and legs on the surface of the water mass without feeling the gravitation. Before I was able to swim, I had dreamt how my body was swimming. My arms and legs found a common rhythm and started to move forward calmly in transparent water.
on water merge and turn into an image that seeks to reflect reality, it can only be known. It paints its grey in grey. Metaphor is always delayed.
As I was able to swim without my grandfather’s support I spent many summer afternoons with a friend in the centre of the lake, trying to dive as long and as deep as possible. The deeper we got down the darker and colder turned the water and the more we felt the pressure on our ears and eyes. Whenever we got back to the surface we recharged our lungs floating on a voluminous inflatable mattress that started to smell plasticky in the heat of the glaring sun. We rested on the flat surface until we could not bear the light anymore. Then we went back down. Only when the sun was about to set we started to paddle back to the shore. Taking the first steps on firm ground made my head swim. Before leaving the shore, we deflated the air that had filled our giant mattress into the evening breeze. When philosophy paints its grey in grey, one form of life has become old, and by means of grey it cannot be rejuvenated, but only known. The owl of Minerva takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering. I recently went to an exhibition, which encircled the issue of boundaries. Most of the pieces showed liquidity, waves or the sea. The exhibits conveyed a vertiginous feeling. Maybe it was a light form of naupathia. But I think that the opposite was the case. What caused my uneasiness was that the idea of water had become solid. – Some weeks later, I learned about Hegel’s owl of Minerva, which only starts to move after dusk: “Only one word more concerning the desire to teach the world what it ought to be. For such a purpose philosophy at least always comes too late. Philosophy, as the thought of the world, does not appear until reality has completed its formative process, and made itself ready.’’ – As topical perspectives
Surrounded by what I regarded to be solidified water, I got impatient. As any kind of impatience, my eagerness rested on the idea of a time lag: the image of water was merely expressing something that had already crystallized. I could not see it as anything but a manifestation of an abstract thought related to a given process. Against the backdrop of the global flow of capital and increasing flexibility, mobility, precarity and porosity, the image of the liquid might still be able to reflect an analysis of this time. It is a sad, unnerving image though because it cannot be rejuvenated, but only known. In order to gain some distance to my impatient perspective on the exhibits, I tried to focus on water for its own sake, asking myself how it would possibly reveal itself as l’eau pour l’eau. It would come into view as an element that existed long before humans could relate to it in mediated ways. Its potential to nurture or dehydrate plants, animals, and humans, carve out stone and let islands or even continents disappear would leave an uncanny feeling. With a more detached gaze, I returned to the image of water, to its solid shape in the mediated present. It stayed current but could not point beyond mere reflection. Perhaps, I thought, it belonged to the “cold stream’’ that Ernst Bloch identified as the unmasking of ideologies and the disenchantment of metaphysical illusion. The cold stream comprises the useful analysis of economic conditions and the resistance against ideological deception as implied in Marxist materialism. Yet, according to Bloch, there is a “warm stream’’ of Marxism as well, which refers to the hope that underlies all liberating intents, the goal towards which all disenchantments are undertaken. When philosophy paints its grey in grey, one form of life has become old, and by means of grey it cannot be rejuvenated, but only known. The owl of Minerva takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering.
Mourning of Another Kind
“Like any good son, I pull my father out / of the water, drag him by his hair / through white sand, his knuckles carving a trail and waves rush in to erase…” Ocean Vuong, Telemachus
How to write about mourning? That thing that has no words, that renders one speechless. Or—no!—it is the act of death that catalyses all, that moment that immolates, a lit match to an ocean of petrol. Where so much language rushes in like salt water; fills the mouth, suffocates. That moment that cuts the tongue out, before language formats. That reshapes, reprograms, sugars with the napalm of memory.
This loss is sweet, because it fills the hole of you.
But—how to write about mourning? I cannot. I will not. I will, and I will fail. I will fail you.
My father is dead; six months. There is no learning like that kind done through dying. It is a learning that is mythologised as the height of meaning, yet renders all meaningless. Weeks before he leaves, he weeps. He asks for my hand. He asks for my sister’s hand. He says, “Stop fighting! Please! They’re killing us!”
July 5th 2016: Alton Sterling is shot by officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The news is on, playing out into the house. He is asleep. I go with his EBT card to Trader Joe’s at Union Square; the line is long. I am on the phone with my sister. I am holding:
—tangerines —peanut butter —orange juice (4 cartons) —smoked salmon (in packets) —granola —yoghurt —sardines? —bananas —mixed nuts —ice cream —tea tree oil —Dr. Bronner’s Soap, peppermint —mangoes (fresh) They are in a basket. It is too heavy. The line doesn’t move. My sister is still on the phone. She is saying, “I wish I could help.” I wonder if this long line will lead me to that ending hour. I wonder if he’s ending, while I am holding these tangerines, these mixed nuts, this ice cream that will be soup soon. I wish then not to miss it. I wish to see it.
I want to see you leave. Two days before you go: it is night. You call out to me. It is night, and it is dark inside, but I am awake, I cannot see but my eyes are open. They are listening to you breathing. You call out. I come to you. You say: “Help me walk. If you can help me walk, I can get stronger. I can get my coat and go outside.” You want to go outside to make sure the world’s still there. You lean on me. You are too heavy. We move. We breathe.
July 6th, 2016: Philando Castile is shot in St. Paul, Minnesota, after being pulled over. In the car is his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and their four year old daughter. Diamond Reynolds live–streams the video on Facebook. The news is on loop, on auto–play: all day, all night. When I try to turn it off you tell me to stop. I realise: You are on loop, too. July 7th, 2016: Obama says: “...we’ve got a serious problem…” Obama calls the murders: “fatal shootings”.
You are right: they are killing us.
September 11th, 2011: The ten–year anniversary of September 11th, 2001. New York. It is ten years after 9/11. I am twenty five. I am an artist. I create a project. The project is called: PETITS FOURS / LA PETITE MORT: EDIBLE EFFIGIES FOR THE MODERN MOURNER. Here is the project: —There are 200 petits–fours. —“Petits–fours” means “small oven”. —Petits–fours are little cakes. —There are 200 little cakes. —The little cakes are smooth; covered with fondant icing. —The little cakes look like tombstones. —Each little cake has a name on it. —Each name is the name of someone who died in 9/11. —Each name is a name selected at random; there is no logic to this selection. —Each name has a little card associated with it. —There are bottles of wine, and little cups. Here are the rules: —I am: “Artist”. —Artist stands outside. —Artist stands outside in Brooklyn, by the water. —Artist stands outside, with a table, set up in Brooklyn, by the water. —Artist has petit–fours: petit–fours are little cakes. —Artist has little cakes on little plates: the little cakes have names on them. —Artist has wine in little cups. —Artist has little cards: the little cards have names, same names as little cakes. —Artist waits, and people come up to the table. People ask, “What is this?” —Artist says: “Today is 10 years after 9/11.” —Artist asks: “Do you remember where you were that day?” —Artist listens. People talk. People remember. —Artist asks: “Did you know anyone who died that day?” —Artist listens. People talk. People remember. —Artist asks: “Would you like to meet someone who died that day?”
—People answer: Yes. People answer: No. People answer: How? —Artist shares a little cake. A little glass of wine. —People read: name on cake. People realise: person on cake. People ask: “People in cake?” —Artist says: “No. No people in cake.” —People eat. Slowly. Quickly. In small bites. In one bite. In half bite: “I’ll save the other half for later, when I am home.” —People drink wine. —Artist hands card. —People read card. —Artist says, “Put card in your wallet. Look–up name. Meet this person. Know this person.” —People put card away. In pocket. In wallet. —People look up name right there, no waiting. —Artist watches. —People cry. —Artist cries. —People remember. —Artist remembers. Repeat!
You are there, you are still well then. It is September but it is still so warm. It is like a dream. You are standing just beyond the people, just like you always are: in your fishing jacket from ORVIS, with your crisp white ORVIS Wrinkle–Free Pure Cotton Chinos™, with your camera. I can see you. I am an artist. This is a project. You are a photographer. You can see me. You photograph all my projects. You photograph all the people on the plates with the seriousness of a forensic photographer. When the day ends and some go back into the gurney of their white boxes, you photograph them in their white boxes.
It is your idea to keep them. You say: “Freeze them.”
I freeze them. All these little bodies, lined up in rows, in Tupperware™.
September 11th, 2012. Brooklyn, New York. A curator producing a show at Franklin Street Works writes me. She says: “I’m writing to learn a little more about a project that Sarah mentioned to me that you did as a memorial for September 11th involving the distribution of cupcakes.” She is producing a show. She says it is about: “...kitchen and dining table as spaces that embody collaboration, and food and beverage art as a means of fostering interpersonal connections.” She says: “I plan to present historical pieces its [sic] crucial to this history, such as Gordon Matta–Clark’s Food, Alison Knowles’ Identical Lunch, and Tom Marioni’s The Act of Drinking Beer With Friends is the Highest Form of Art. Alongside documentation of these landmark historical works of the 70’s, I plan to include the work of some contemporary local artists working in this tradition.” That is me. I am: “contemporary local artist”. I am: “working in this tradition”. I say: “I have a small ‘coffin’ of relics (tombstones) from this project still in my freezer. Just ate one today to commemorate 9/11. That said, how about displaying the remaining ones for your show?” I take them out of the freezer: it is an autopsy.
The curator comes to see the bodies. The curator comes to meet the people. I make polite introductions into the silence.
The bodies go to the show. They are shown on a crisp white plinth, at eye level. The show runs for weeks. They thaw, and then decompose. The little cards stay behind.
All is gone: the little cakes, the little cards, the wine, the Tupperware™. Empty.
Your photographs stay behind. You stay behind.
July 16th, 2016. East Village, New York. You are having a bad day. You just remembered Emmett Till. You are here sometimes, and sometimes not here. When you are here, you weep. You talk about being a boy in Harlem.
When you are not here, your absence cuts at me; I can see you, but I cannot hear you. The heart–beating in my ears is deafening.
January 25th, 1990. East Village, New York. (I am four years old.) You write: 1953 – SUMMER I’M NINE YEARS OLD. BUILT LIKE BLACK STEEL WIRE. DAYS LIKE HOT ASPHALT. STREETS FULL OF PLAY. HARLEM A CITY IN A CITY. NIGHTTIME ACTION, FOUR OF US EBONY BOYS ON THE CORNER. CAR DOORS OPEN, ALL FOUR SWING WIDE. WHITEMEN GUNS IN HAND SCREAMING IN HIGH PITCH TONES. “DON’T MOVE BLACK BASTARDS”. EUGENE JUMPS OVER A CAR AND DISAPPEARS. IRVING TURNS THE CORNER AND YELLS “BRAKE”. LARRY DOES AN O.J. MOVE THROUGH SIX FAT WHITE HANDS. THIS ALL HAPPENS IN ONE TENTH OF A SECOND, ONE BLINK. MY BODY CURLS, AS I TURN TO BRAKE. TWO WHITE HANDS HOLDING A BLACK–STEEL–GUN, POINTED AT MY FACE, SCREAMING TURN AROUND NI==ER “AGAINST THE WALL YOUS––PUT YOUS HAND ON THE WALL. FUCKIN BLACK BASTARD COON, YOUS DEAD.” MY BODY FEELS SICK.
I feel sick. You write these words about 1953. You write these words about SUMMER. You write these words about NINE YEARS OLD. In 1955, Emmett Till is lynched in Mississippi. Emmett Till is FOURTEEN YEARS OLD. His mother is named Mamie Carthan. Mamie demands a public funeral service and an open casket. The world sees Emmett’s mutilated body.
July 2016. I find your poem while I am clearing out our home. I am preparing for you to die. The poem is called: RAPE OF ANOTHER KIND
I do not tell you that I have seen it.
I do not tell you that I have read it.
July 20th, 2016. New York. (Yesterday I turned 30 years old. You say: “You are beautiful.” You say: “I am sorry this is happening.”) Nothing is more beautiful than watching your chest move up, then down. I tell you that I am going for a walk. I have been inside for days. We have been inside for days.
It is so warm outside. It is like a dream. You are not there.
I lied: I am not going for a walk. I am going around the corner. Around the corner is the place you can’t hear me call the funeral home.
I order what you ask for: —1 cremation (within 24 hours) It is too heavy. I am a dutiful daughter. I am a “good son”.
July 30th, 2016. East Village, New York. (It is your birthday.) Our house is filled with friends. You cannot speak to them, but you can hear them. We are clearing out the house. We are preparing for you to die. In the drawers, we find erotic literature I wrote when I was [?] YEARS OLD. A little girl’s impressions of sex. You saved them, put them into drawers for safekeeping, along with years of other writing. The stories are not sexy. They are hysterical. We pass them around, each reading. We call out to you. You can hear us. You smile. Everyone is laughing, even the new nurse, who we
just met tonight. The new nurse tells me to go get some sleep. I haven’t slept in days. I don’t want to miss it. I want to see it. Happy birthday.
July 31st, 2016. East Village, New York. The call comes. It is morning. It is the new nurse. She tells me that you are gone. She was with you. I missed it.
I know what to do: —call the funeral home —1 cremation (within 24 hours) After that, I am lost.
My mother somehow knows what to do. She seals you up in the bedroom; she covers the door with a sheet. You are frozen. Your hands are ice. It is you, but it is not you, at the same time. You are here, but gone, at the same time.
We wait for the funeral home to pick you up. You are going to Green–Wood, where they will burn you, where they will make you dust.
More friends arrive. We take the rest of your marijuana edibles, those things for your pain are now for our pain. We are in a haze.
We keep clearing. We are preparing. We find one, two, three guns in the house. BLACK–STEEL–GUN I am lost. My mother somehow knows what to do: she checks for bullets with ease, removes them, packs the guns away.
We keep clearing. We are preparing. We find:
—bullet proof vest —emergency survival kits —riot gear You were right.
They come for you. They take you away. You are here: in your bed is the outline of your body in sheets. You are not here.
August 1st, 2016. Green–Wood Cemetery Chapel, Brooklyn. They have you in a cardboard box.
I know what to do: —look inside the box —1 cremation (within 24 hours) You said: “When I go, look inside the box, make sure it is me, make sure they haven’t done anything to me.” We sit in the chapel in silence. Then we follow them as they wheel you into the cremation room. They say “No photographs in here.” I wonder if you would get a good angle from the cardboard box. MY BODY FEELS SICK.
I ask to see you. I am standing close to the box, closest to where your face might be, to make sure it is you. They open the box. It is you: you’re dressed in your favourite crisp white shirt. ORVIS pants. Fishing hat. It is not you: your nose has collapsed a bit, your mouth is open, your lips are misshapen. I exclaim: “Oh! Dad!” Language fails.
TWO WHITE HANDS reach into the box and try to straighten your nose, close your mouth. I go blind and deaf: all there is left is rage.
You go: box closed, my mother presses the button. We see you down the chute. The chute closes: Adieu, petits–fours. Goodbye, daddy.
August 2nd, 2016. East Village, New York. You are delivered to us— You are in a small cardboard box. Your name is printed at the top. My mom drapes a lei over you. We talk about taking you to the ocean.
How to write about mourning? That thing that has no words, that renders one speechless. This loss is sweet, because it fills the hole of you.
Vulnerability & Resistance in Austerity Britain:
Mental Health Resistance Network and Disabled People Against Cuts
Saturday 28th June, 2014, Westminster Abbey A group named Disabled People Against Cuts are leading a protest against the closure of the Independent Living Fund.1 In the shadow of the houses of Parliament the 60 disabled people and their allies occupy the grounds of the Abbey, in the hope that this will draw more disabled people to join the protest, and put pressure on the government to abandon their plans. Whilst the police gradually increase their numbers some of the protesters chain themselves to railings, shout slogans in concert, raise banners and talk to the press and onlookers about what the closure of the fund will mean. Many protesting that day relied on the fund themselves. Others set about arranging the infrastructure for the camp; creating the conditions in which it would be possible to stay. They bring food and water, pitch tents, erect shelters, and attempt to assemble disabled toilets and ramps, to enable the several protesters in wheelchairs to move around the camp safely. Disabled people lead the demand to be heard, and an infrastructure of support is created which supports those perceived as the most vulnerable in society to be at the forefront of the resistance to the erosion of their rights.2 *** In a political and economic system which urges its subjects to place individual effort above collective care, the condition and experience of vulnerability is regarded as weakness, shameful, to be hidden away. The stigma around mental distress works to support the logic of neoliberalism by making it difficult to see increased vulnerability as anything but individual failure. Job Seekers Allowance Claimants are sent text messages by the job centre urging them that ‘success is the only option’, to ‘smile at life’ as part of a general trend towards pathologising unemployment. (Friedli and Stearn, 2015) Disabled people are forced to undergo humiliating work capability assessments, their lives at the mercy of profit making companies. This societal and governmental resistance to sharing our vulnerabilities makes it difficult for people to understand how, in these times of enforced precarity, many perceived ‘individual failures’ are actually part of wider structural problems. This makes 1 The Independent Living Fund enabled 18,000 severely disabled people to live in their own homes rather than institutions, where they would be effectively socially excluded from the community. (Punton, 2015) 2 This account of the day is gleaned from Occupy UK (2014)
it difficult to organise and resist this precarity collectively. However, there are groups resisting these cuts, and this neoliberal logic, by making their vulnerabilities to these cuts known, which begs the question, in what way we can reframe ‘vulnerability’ in light of how disabled people and people with mental health conditions have mobilised against the austerity measures in the UK since 2010? What does this say about vulnerability as a radical tactic to resist neoliberal ideology? To answer these questions, I have researched and engaged with two activist groups resisting the cuts to welfare and the reforms to mental health services, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), and Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN). To focus on these two groups is not to imply that they deal with the same set of issues, though of course there are many ways in which they intersect, and both have been targeted disproportionately by the austerity measures. Both DPAC and MHRN groups are self–organised, run by and for people with lived experience of mental distress, and/or disabilities, and are against the medical model of disability and mental health, which claims there are individual problems simply to be fixed, without regarding the social factors which disable us or increase our mental distress. These groups are often critical of charities for what they perceive as a paternalistic attitude. They have been outspoken critics of the way many charities have colluded with the government in their workfare schemes and framing of work as both the cure and the goal of recovery. (Peters, 2016a) I am interested in how MHRN and DPAC’s activism makes visible what Judith Butler calls in her recent work the undoing of the binary between vulnerability and resistance. Judith Butler makes the claim that all uprisings against precarity are mobilisations of vulnerability. She writes, ‘vulnerability, understood as a deliberate exposure to power, is part of the very meaning of political resistance as an embodied enactment. […] The very meaning of vulnerability changes when it becomes understood as part of the very practice of political resistance.’ (2014, p.12) If politics, as Rancière claims, ‘revolves around what is seen and what can be said about it, around who has the ability to see and the talent to speak, around the properties of spaces and the possibilities of time’ (2004, p.13), in order to effect political change we must first be seen, make our concerns visible. In their direct actions, DPAC and MHRN make that claim to the visible and political, but when they do so their own vulnerabilities are never absent from this display. Erinn C. Gilson’s study of the ethics of vulnerability (2014) is useful here for her reframing of the concept of vulnerability so it is not simply associated with negative concepts like weakness. She encourages us to preserve ‘ethical values that both condemn the myriad ways it is exploited and encourage the forms of vulnerability that enhance shared social life.’ (Ibid, p.11) Gilson differentiates between ontological vulnerability, a universal, shared
condition, the ‘unavoidable receptivity, openness, and the ability to affect and be affected’ (Ibid p.37), whilst situational vulnerabilities are ‘the specific forms that vulnerability takes in the social world, of which we have a differential experience because we are differently situated [for example] psychological/emotional, corporeal, economic etc.’ (Ibid) Distinguishing these two levels serves to unlink vulnerability from conditions like powerlessness and weakness, which is important because if we polarise vulnerability by opposing it to conditions like strength, autonomy, wellbeing, this can encourage the perception that those who are more situationally vulnerable, are undeserving of this care.(Ibid, p.32) So in one sense, situational vulnerability, disabled people and those suffering from mental distress are made more vulnerable by the unnecessary and ideological spending cuts to welfare, as Ellen Clifford from DPAC made very clear on BBC news when she highlighted that, ‘disabled people with high support needs have been hit nineteen times harder than other people, so we’re definitely not all in this together.’ (DPAC, 2016) We are all at risk of this situational vulnerability in that anyone can become disabled or suffer from mental distress, and then have to suffer from the same cuts to welfare. In the other sense, I argue that these groups make visible not only their situational vulnerability but everybody’s ontological vulnerability. By articulating our shared states of situational vulnerability under this government, as well as our desires for the conditions in which our shared ontological vulnerability and interdependency can become liveable, MHRN and DPAC undo some of the stigma and taboo attached to vulnerability. *** Back to the scene of the occupation of Westminster Abbey Green on Saturday 28th June. The presence of the members of DPAC in wheelchairs, some with padded head supports, communicates their increased vulnerability, the extra time, care and effort it will have taken to get to the protest in the first place. The extra support for one another at this protest, like the laying down of wheelchair ramps, is simply what they need to be able to stage their protest. Butler describes another protest where people slept in the public square, how the simple act of sleeping there, exposed and vulnerable, yet still resisting in obstinacy, must count as resistance. Yet also ‘they were incorporating into the very social form of
resistance the principles they were struggling to realize in broader political forms’. (2015, p.90) We can apply this to the scene at Westminster Abbey with protesters supporting one another, building the infrastructure of the camp. Yet it also serves the purpose of exposing the very infrastructures of support which enable them to partake in their right to a public life, to be seen in public, to live outside of institutions, and how these rights are being destroyed. And in fact, playing their parts as state representatives accurately, the police did obstruct those ramps on that day, letting able bodied people pass and for a time obstructing a wheelchair user from joining the other protestors. (Occupy UK, 2014) They also prevented medications, support workers and food and water from being passed into the kettle. (Pring, 2014) The whole scene was therefore a microcosm of not only interdependency, but also the discrimination and neglect which disabled people are facing on a daily basis through the cuts and reforms to welfare. DPAC took control of this space of appearance, they were the ones who positioned themselves on the green and were subsequently prevented from occupying the grounds. They exposed their vulnerabilities on their own terms, as part of their resistance, and the inevitable state repression of this only served to further validate their protest, with the media capturing the images which represented their struggle. In 2015 MHRN organised a march and a protest at Streatham Jobcentre. Iain Duncan Smith was planning to install a ‘mental wellbeing hub’ which would administer cognitive behavioural therapy in the same building as the job centre, as a pilot scheme to introduce psychologists to job centres. (Noworkfare, 2015) MHRN also use this similar tactic, which I’ve termed, ‘subversion and exposure’, at their demonstrations, which have mainly been protesting the conflation of employment and mental health: the treatment of unemployment as if it were a ‘mental problem’ of an individual.3 Robert Dellar, a leading MHRN member, recounted that day: ‘While everybody was demonstrating outside we went in to this launch party where the staff were celebrating the launch of this new mental wellbeing hub, that was really good fun, we ate all their sandwiches, disrupted the place, set sirens off, […] hung this big banner out the window…’ (Dellar, 2016) The banner said ‘Back to work therapy is no therapy at all’ (see image overleaf). This gate–crashing of the party and non–compliance with the rules of the job centre was also a performance of their non–compliance with the ideology. One video of this shows Robert and other protesters, shouting the slogan on the banner, and being asked to leave by staff, to which Robert answers in a very polite voice, ‘Thank you!’ (Goldengirl8, 2015a) In another video we can see balloons on the office partitions for the launch party, staff members at their desks looking confused, and security guards making lacklustre attempts at grabbing one protester’s siren which goes off intermittently. (Ibid, 2015b) In effect, and ironically, their protest was to completely interrupt the ‘working day’ of the job centre with their ‘disruptive’ ‘mad’ behaviour, staging the ‘real party’ in that it was more lively, as Robert describes, ‘really good fun’. This disruption and the protest outside, along with criticism from the media did eventually get the scheme moved to another area, in Kent.4 (Peters, 2016) MRHN held another protest on 9th December 2015, Camberwell, outside Thamesreach Employment Academy, which was due to have a party celebrating their own ‘wellbeing hub’ just like the one described above.5 A video documenting this (LetmelookTV, 2016) shows Roy Bard, another leading member of DPAC, dressed in a long blue African 3 Moreover, people suffering from mental distress are often quite terrified of Job Centres and therefore would not be able to set foot in the ‘mental wellbeing hub’ even if that was where they had been sent by their GP for treatment. (Peters, Bard, Dellar 2016) 4 One can only hope Kent forms a similar resistance. 5 This party was cancelled when they found out about the protest, but MHRN went ahead with the protest anyway.
style dress, with a Santa hat which says ‘Bah Humbug’.6 Roy walks down the street holding a banner which says ‘Professional or Collaborator’ in reference to the protest against the collaboration of psychologists with the job centre. He chants in a booming voice ‘we’re bonkers not bankers!’ His behaviour seems out of place on the high street, and people look on after him, slightly amused. What they do in this disruption, which challenges the norms they are pushed to conform to by the job centre, is what Butler calls, ‘an insistent form of appearing precisely when and where we are effaced’ which causes ‘the sphere of appearance [to] break and open in new ways.’ (2015, p.37) This is also one of the ways MHRN use a humorous subversion of the language used to describe them by society. At the same time as reclaiming words for humorous effect, MHRN’s slogan reaffirms the political nature of their protest, the fact that these reforms are ideological, and in the interests of a financial elite. As if to say, ‘Yes, we might be a bit bonkers, by society’s standards of normal behaviour, but at least we’re not bankers!’ One of the activities hosted by MHRN is their monthly socials, which they call SolidariTEA. In the magazine Southwark Mental Health News7, SolidariTEA is advertised as a ‘drop in peer support and campaigning hub for people affected by welfare benefit hassles and austerity.’ SolidariTEA is not just a political group, but aims to make things fun and build a social scene around these issues. More recent SolidariTEA sessions have been organised around a specific theme, for example, in March a screening of This Time It’s Personal; a film about psycho–coercion and workfare, and in July, an event called ‘Why work is shit’ with poetry, music performances and a discussion. All these events contribute to a general consciousness–raising about work, mental distress, how these two things are linked, and provide a platform for this to be spoken about. Situational vulnerabilities are not hidden at these events, but spoken about honestly, and not just drawn upon as a source of resistance, but joked about and placed into a social, cultural context which is fun and brings people together. It is in these spaces that neoliberal policies which seek to dismantle interdependency and instate invulnerability as an ideal, are not just countered and refused, but an alternative is actively created. In reference to this I will refer to one of the last few pages of Notes Towards a Performative Theory of Assembly, in which Butler considers Adorno’s question of ‘How to live a good life in a bad life.’ Butler posits that, We might still query in what way resistance must do more than refuse a way of life, a position that finally abstracts the moral from the political at the expense of solidarity, producing the very smart and morally pure critic as the model of resistance. If resistance is to enact the very principles of democracy for which it struggles, then resistance has to be plural and it has to be embodied. (2015, p.217) I see in the SolidariTEA events an imagining of this democratic alternative, which is ‘plural and embodied’– I mean this in the way that being part of something which falls beyond the reach of the market and the state, what Plan C call a ‘disalienated space’ (2014) goes some way to producing what Federici calls, ‘a common subject’8. Furthermore, the 6 I first assumed this hat was a reference to the demand to be positive in a negative situation. Actually, as Roy tells me, it is in reference to the time MHRN gate–crashed Simon Hughes’ Christmas party, and is now a running joke. 7 This newsletter was produced by Robert Dellar for the members of a user–led charity which has recently closed called ‘Southwark Association For Mental Health’ 8 Federici claims, ‘Indeed if “commoning” has any meaning, it must be the production of ourselves as a common subject.’ (2010, p.145)
meaning I take from Butler’s extract is that through our resistance we need to try to create more than just negation, refusal, awareness of what we don’t want. Just as MRHN and their SolidariTEA events sustain a whole vibrant cultural scene around Mad Pride, we need to incorporate into our resistance the creation of the lives we want to lead, the activities we enjoy doing together, the friendships and solidarities in order to make this happen. This way we can extend our theories and our politics beyond political and educational institutions and into our everyday lives. Bibliography Butler, J. (2014) Rethinking Vulnerability and Resistance, Lecture, Madrid June 2014. [Internet PDF] University of Sussex, Available from: < https://goo.gl/ZpcGQg> [Accessed 3/16] Butler, J. (2015) Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly, London, Harvard University Press Dellar, R. (2016) Mental Health Resistance Network. Interview with R.Thompson on 21st August. London. Gilson, E. C. (2014) The Ethics of Vulnerability: A Feminist Analysis of Social Life and Practice, New York, Routledge LetmelookTV, (2016) Mental Health Resistance Network go to CAMBERWELL [Video Online] Available at: <http://goo.gl/qsg9jD> [Accessed: 08/16] Noworkfare (2015) Streatham JobCentre Protest against Workfare Psychology, Boycott Workfare [Boycott Workfare Blog] June 14th Available at: <http://goo.gl/BxLgt1> [Accessed: 8/16] Occupy UK (2014) Disabled People Against Cuts Occupy Westminster, [youtube video] Available at: < https://goo.gl/yJBNHv > [Accessed: 8/16] Peters, P. (2016a) Disabled People Against Cuts, Interview with R.Thompson on 2nd August. London. Plan C, (2014) We Are All Very Anxious, Plan C, [Internet] Available at: < http:// goo.gl/IzqDBp> [Accessed 08/16] Pring, J. (2014) Westminster Abbey protest: Police launch inquiry over treatment of protesters, Disability News Service [Online] Available at:< http://goo.gl/TkLIha> [Accessed: 08/16] Punton, R. (2015) Robert Punton’s testimony to the Independent Living Fund, Disabled People Against Cuts, [Internet] Available at: < http://goo.gl/UD1fqg> [Accessed: 7/16] Ranciere, J. (2004) The Politics of Aesthetics, London, Continuum Thegoldengirlk8 (2015a) At window and being asked to leave: Mental Health Resistance Network occupation 26 June 2015 [video online] Available at:<http://goo.gl/OIoF0A> [Accessed 08/16]
we need to assess yr fitness for work
south–facing and the seventh floor ov cruddas park, sorry, jesmond dene now. i could jump. though i’d never reach the river. do salmon leap there? no–ones ever cleaned ma windows. been here a year now and never even seen the tyne. haul ma weekly shop thru security doors. porter grunts. no parcels. and ma * phone never rings a week ago and council removed flower box, did the crocuses no need encouraging? rare rat–run thru toon avoiding city cameras screaming and scamming us. gaining the new– * build library and photocopying a lengthy meds list. wrong season a month past, this big brown letter. tricking catkins into outing way too; atos. ‘we need to assess yr fitness one year ma hay–fever just stopping for work. p.s. the nearest railway dead station is four mile away.’ gull honks outside in the feral. carrier– bags counteracting a rare rainbow
* one day ago, a night really, urals to urinals, meteor–strike toppling infinite conifers and the scutting reindeer no even lifting their heads – strange mind–weavings these months since unilaterally cutting back then out the sacred antipsychotic olanzapine (but i’m no telling yu!). early hours and bladder burns – yet as always, at this hour – i cannot
* an hour past, scarce light and well on ma way to sunderland physioworld. over thirteen mile there, thirteen back. and they wont refund tyne tunnel, swines! at 8:30 a.m. precise i knock. ‘were not ready yet’. early morning sunlight catching the silver birches just so
* five minutes ago, we’re forty minutes in and physio’s still talking and typing. sweet–all from medusa about mental health tho – from melancholia to madnesses. they never asked ma c.p.n, support worker, psychiatrist or g.p. for supporting evidence tho i specifically wrote that on their form. balalaikas or baikal? no bleaker than wearside this age ov vengeful tory cuts. out–ov–time spine ov starlings stabbing past
* summoned into the now, ma mouth the sweat ov warm steel. i gyrate above a flower–bed from that self– same chain. string quartet storming, russian folk music below, a whiff ov rosin from their bows. light catches and i am the angel ov time, pure bursts ov energy. lowered, unchained, given a stiff bouquet ov scarlet gladioli and then applause – the siege ov leningrad lifting
62 Â· Archipelago #3
Seoul: Echoes and Zones
Open up a magazine promoting tourism in Seoul, and you’ll see photographs of flashy architecture, big consumer brands, and young people wearing the latest trends. Behind that image of modernity is a dirtier reality, of which melancholia is a recurring theme. The melancholia of newness: starting again from a blank, bulldozed surface, feeling stripped of context within a supposedly familiar space, repressing the not–modern–enough past. I climbed one of Ahyeon’s many hills. Ahyeon is a neighbourhood in Seoul, designated by the government as a site for “development.” The hill is largely emptied of its former inhabitants now. Most have moved away with government compensation, to let newer, better buildings replace the old. Just eight years ago, the hill was full of brick houses, cluttered together to form tight alleyways that are so characteristic in Korea’s older neighbourhoods. The houses must’ve been close enough that one could hear the sound of the neighbors washing the dishes, bickering, or watching television. Now the hill is largely inhabited by mould, plants, bugs and birds. This hill is Zone 1–1, one of Ahyeon’s subzones selected by Seoul for minor to major reconstruction. “New Town” is a Seoul–wide project that started in 2002. It designated 26 neighbourhoods, including Ahyeon, to create new towns out of the old. “The old” was full of bad plumbing, awful tiny streets, and frequent fire hazards. So Seoul teamed up with big construction companies, promising affordable and better housing, and a revitalized local economy. That was all before the 2008 financial crash. Just a few kilometers away, a university district bustles on, full of cheap shoes and hungry twenty–somethings on a Sunday afternoon. Here, standing in what was once an alleyway in Zone 1–1, I thought I was alone. I could hear only my footsteps on the rubble and bees buzzing around the weeds. And there he came, walking back home with a bottle of alcohol in a black plastic bag. “There must be 50 households still left here,” he said. “I’m not leaving. The contractors can sue me, but I’m staying here.” Chun Byungsul is 72 years old, and has lived in Ahyeon for over
four decades. He, like a handful of the original residents, want to defend their homes, and say that the government compensation is too little to cover the cost of living in the same place once it becomes a New Town. This alleyway, once a familiar road he traced millions of times, is now a ruined echo of what once was. Nearly a decade after development first began, some subzones in Ahyeon, like Chun’s 1–1, still suffer from the lagging real–estate project. Others, in Ahyeon’s total of ten Zones, have been completed and are already causing a real estate hype in the media. 81–year–old Ahn Heeyoung has lived in Ahyeon for over fifty years. She often sits on the side of the road, chitchatting with the occasional passerby, otherwise staring off into space. The view from her seat is concrete. New apartment buildings, part of Seoul’s development project, dominate the landscape. Here in Zone 1–3, construction is nearly complete. The canvas is nearly blank again. The empty windows and glossy verandas will be occupied by newcomers who can afford the higher cost of living. “I knew everyone who used to live there,” Ahn said, nodding toward the now apartment complex, formerly a messy jumble of small residences. “People are all scattered now, very far away.” Ahn is moving out of Ahyeon in a few months. The “eEasy World” apartments will be completed around the same time. In the next few years, Ahyeon hopes to bring in more than 20,000 households to the new homes. The melancholia in old Ahyeon is palpable and photogenically visible. The abandoned chairs, the wallpaper peeling off, the dusty doorknobs. They’re at once painful reminders and pretty photographs. What do they remind us of? Seoul’s unwillingness to remember, its willingness to repress the past. The bulldozers clean off the slate with no visible reminders of what used to occupy the space; new money (or promises of it) stampedes out the old residents; the New Town shines fabulously in the local press, and society moves on. It forgets, continuously. Soon the chairs, the wallpaper, the doorknobs, they’ll all be thrown away, and what remains of old Ahyeon before its death will be the flimsy, pretty photographs.
Women behind walls
Turkey’s Center For Prison Studies1 144 out of every 100,000 people on earth are incarcerated, and 9 to 10 of these 144 people are women. In other words, 6.5% of the world’s prison population are women. From 2000 to 2013, the population of incarcerated women increased over 40%. The gender-related issues for women in prisons are often neglected, sometimes due to the patriarchal perspective, and sometimes because the population is low. This does reflect on both practices and criminal execution law. Although not having separate provisions for women prisoners in the penal execution legislation seems an egalitarian application, in practice it creates a different situation. According to figures released by the Ministry of Justice in November 2016, there are 197,297 people in prisons in Turkey. This number is well above the capacity of the prisons. Especially after the state of emergency, the prison population has increased. This increase brought with it many problems. For example, six people stay in a room designd for three people and some prisoners have to sleep on the floor. Access to clean water and hygiene materials has become increasingly difficult. For women, the crowded wards and the hygiene problem create more problems. Recently, a lot of prisoners have been forced into distant places. Among them, the number of women is quite high. Because the relatives are far away, they can not visit the prisons. The isolation experienced by prisoners has intensified. It is very difficult for civil society organizations to enter prisons, to make observations, and to prepare objective reports because civil society organizations have to obtain special permission from the ministry of justice. This is not allowed in recent times. That is why a lot of our work involves correspondence and lawyer negotiations. Communicating and face-to-face conversation can be powerful especially for female prisoners. The woman ask 1 Turkey’s Center for Prison Studies (TCPS) was founded in 2015 by members of Civil Society in the Penal System (CISST), supported by the Delegation of the European Union to Turkey and the Open Society Foundation. TCPS is aiming to establish Turkish prisons as an academic field, by providing a platform and resources for the academicians, researchers and members of the civil society who are working in the field of imprisonment and prisons as well as working on implementing university courses. CİSST/ TCPS established Turkey’s Prison Information Network (THEA) to create a network of NGOs working on prison issues in Turkey. Furthermore, sub-networks work for prisoners with special needs: children, women, LGBTI, foreigner, elderly, health problems and prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment.
a lot of questions about their rights and problems. We answer the questions and try to find solutions with them. For example, women may want to go to prisons close to their families. We inform them about how they can apply: either by writing or through speaking to us directly. We also send requests to institutions if they have their wishes. Sometimes, as a result of these applications, positive developments can take place. If there are more specific and important problems that women experience, we try to bring the issue to the agenda and mobilize women and human rights organizations and journalists. Of course we do not just talk about rights and problems. A sharing between women is also taking place. Thus, the isolation of female prisoners is reduced and we are strengthened mutually. Crime and Punishment with Regard to Gender The phenomenon of committing acts deemed crimes by the laws is gendered. In general, “committing crimes” is an act deemed unsuitable for women who have the role of the sacred mother. The widely accepted idea is that women can only be the victims of acts deemed criminal. According to the sexist perspective, women are sensitive, fragile, shouldn’t be visible in the public space, therefore naturally committing crimes is men’s behavior and experience. A woman committing a crime is a game-changer. The woman who commits acts deemed criminal by society is seen both as a criminal and as having stepped outside of a woman’s role. In some places, the concern for honor also comes into play. For the patriarchal society, the woman in question has stepped into the public space, displayed behaviors incompatible with the role given to women, and dishonored her family on top of it all. The imprisonment of women can be approached this way. For women, there is a dual “punishment” not seen for other groups of prisoners. The system tries to “rehabilitate” prisoners on the one hand, and tries to put women back in their historical role on the other. Ιnstead of equalizing practices that remove sexuality, sexual-orientation and gender-identity-based discrimination in prisons, one can be faced with direct or indirect discrimination against women. For example, the execution of “punishments” of women and men within the same legislation in Turkey constitutes indirect discrimination and in practice deepens the inequality. Forms of Patriarchal Manifestations in Prisons Prisons are places of confinement. Prisons are places where the patriarchal domination is felt most intensely. This has several implications especially for women, children and LGBTI individuals. A woman in one of the women’s prisons in Turkey stated the following in her letter: “For one, socially and culturally defined assumptions regarding the identities and roles of woman and man, rigid approaches and sexuality exists. Sexism starts in the early stages of childhood and continues until the end of a person’s life. The subject that shapes the identity of woman is the hegemonic masculinity. This is so in all aspects of life. But, the place where it is most extreme and strict is the prison where oppression and inequality and control and surveillance run fairly regular.” G., İzmir (Şakran) Women’s Closed Prison Before all, in some systems of execution a gender blindness can manifest, whether due to the patriarchal perspective or because of the small population of women prisoners. Policy makers can skip over the specificities of women due to women’s experiences not being prioritized. The confinement on its own is a type of sanction that has different effects and out-
comes for women. M, who is in one of the high-security prisons in Turkey, the Ankara Sincan Women’s Closed Prison, wrote about the effects of confinement on her like so: “For example, we haven’t touched the earth in years. There are dirt fields in most prison exercise yards, but us women haven’t even touched any greenery in years, we have forgotten that shade of green. Isn’t this against the nature of women? (...)These places are against our nature as women, even though your struggle with your experience, with the walls, the system, the laws, etc. changes. Can you imagine, a place where green is forbidden, you forget the colors of nature. Around the middle of this month, I will have completed 20 years in prison and I have started to forget the color of the streets, the smell of nature.” Confinement, surveillance and constant monitoring can create serious problems for women who have already, especially in patriarchal societies, been restricted to the confines of the home, with limited socialization areas and means to make their own decisions and shape their own lives. The women in prisons are constantly monitored, surveilled and searched. Even the telephone calls they make with their social circles are monitored. For example, let’s imagine a woman prisoner talking to her lover on the telephone, and the administration is listening in. Better yet, let’s imagine this woman is a lesbian. This example is enough to understand the restricted situation created by the monitoring in prisons. Continuing with the example of Turkey, today many women prisoners (the exact number is not known) stay in sections transformed to women’s wards originally built for men. Like other groups of prisoners, women need to be held under conditions resembling their outside life as closely as possible. In this framework, it is not recommended for women prisoners to be held in places completely isolated from men -except for specific cases. But women, who are kept separate from the men, can only be present in a small part of the men’s prisons. A woman prisoner in Van Type M Women’s Closed Prison, one of the men’s prisons in Turkey, wrote the following: “First of all, our living space consists of the ward and the yard. There are no activities, we are told this is a men’s prison and our living spaces are restricted, and our demands are not taken entirely seriously.” These women also complain about the lack of sufficient female personnel in men’s prisons. Women not having access to female personnel when they want and the alternative being male personnel can become an element of oppression. Similarly, searches on entry to and exit from prisons and searches in rooms and other places being conducted with accompanying soldiers and male personnel make women more vulnerable to male violence. At this point, some things need to be expressed regarding search practices in prisons claimed to be carried out for security reasons. Strip searches and inner cavity searches are unfortunately practices seen in many countries around the world. These practices, which people of all sexes and gender identities can face, are of course derogatory for everybody. Individuals being forced to remove all their clothing in front of others and having their bodies touched without their consent are serious rights violations. When women, LGBTI individuals and children are concerned, the possibility that this turns into sexual harassment or abuse increases. In such situations, the aspect of trauma can also change. Especially for women who have experienced sexual violence before their time in prison the situation can turn extremely dire. Lawyer Eren Keskin’s interviews in İzmir (Aliağa) Women’s Closed Prison in 2012 on this matter were reflected in the inquiry report as follows: “On entering the prison, after they removed us from the vehicle they wanted to take us into the search area one by one. We said we didn’t want to be searched separately. Then they put us back into the shuttle, and started to remove us one by one. We heard the objections and screams of our friends
who entered the search area. The fact of the matter is, we of course accepted a normal search. But what was imposed upon us was a derogatory and abusive search. Six or seven women wardens started forcibly removing our clothes, asking ‘Are you ready for entry?’ and laughing. Many of us had our clothes torn. Our hair was pulled, we were pushed to the ground. Our trousers and underwear were removed forcibly.”
The prison phenomenon, especially with regard to punishment execution systems, is a matter that needs to be discussed seperately. This is even more crucial for disadvantaged groups. In this framework, alternatives to imprisonment should be sought for women. Under conditions where this can’t be enacted immediately, positive discrimination practices that take women’s specificities into consideration should be brought forward.
(An abridged) Guide to memorials for soldiers in Israel â€“Part 1
The works is a pocket size book consisting of images of all the memorials for Israeli soldiers in Israel, alongside descriptive text. It explores the relationship between place and memory and invites viewers to examine the way in which the memorials have become part of the physical and social landscape in Israel. The obsessive documentation of dozens of monuments gives close attention to details in order to understand how people use built forms to deal with bereavement. The systematic
principle of archiving and ordering of images suggests micro narratives and meanings that otherwise might have been unnoticed; it reveals the tensions between personal and official commemoration, and personal and collective mourning. Ultimately, the book can be seen as memorial in itself; it is a monstrous collection of physical marks of the repetition of death and violence motivated by nationalism.
Near the entrance to Kibbutz Netiv HaLamed In the Valley of Elah area in central Israel. Concrete sculpture consisting of two large Hebrew characters on winged–plinth. Multiple cylindrical forms intersect the wings while two metal plates with engraved text are attached to the plinth. Everything sits on a concrete base. The sculpture is made of a combination of dark and light–coloured concrete. In the background is a forested area.
Rishon LeTsiyon in the centre of Israel Green–coloured text on off–white wooden or plastic plate supported by wooden posts. Memorial installed in earth and shaded by tree. Cylindrical–shaped bin or container to the right of memorial.
Sheyzaf River Reserve between Hazeva Hamlet and Ein Yahav Hamlet, Arava area in the south of Israel Brown text on yellow coloured wooden rectangle attached to bronze abstract shapes and supported by easel–shaped wooden structure. View of desert in the background.
Sheyzaf River Reserve between Hazeva Hamlet and Ein Yahav Hamlet, Arava area in the south of Israel Brown text on yellow coloured wooden rectangle attached to bronze abstract shapes and supported by easel–shaped wooden structure. View of desert in the background.
Grove north of Beit Hashmonay Hamlet close to the entrance from Highway 424 Large clay vessel with ceramic mosaic text on stone plinth. This sits on a multiâ€“coloured brick patio with additional stone forms at its perimeter.
Near the Israel Border Police army base overlooking Ayalon Valley Blackâ€“coloured inscription on clay coloured rectangular metal plate and supported by grey coloured tubular steel.
Spring Geha along Highway 789 about 6 miles east of intersection Kursi north and Ein Gev Roadway in desert landscape environment. Combination of tree, wooden road sign sitting behind low stone wall with map shaped stone relief. Dead Sea visible on the horizon.
Two miles north of the town Tel Adashim, north of Afula, east of Highway 60 Grove surrounded by hexagonal shaped wooden fence. Arranged area consists of metal plate with black relief text and symbol attached to abstract stone placed on round plinth made of soil and plants and enclosed by stones. Wooden sign with attached wooden text supported by metal poles installed in background behind fence.
Shaked Park in Ofakim River, between Ofakim city and Hatzerim Airbase Abstract stone form with inscription on stone plinth or surface. To the right of this, three hollow inverted V–shaped forms with black– coloured text inscription. Set in landscape of a similar colour as abstract stone form.
Entrance to Kibbutz Kerem Shalom Black and white semi–abstract shaped inscribed stone plates on amorphous stone form mounted on plinth installed in large field. Also on plinth are five turquoise–coloured Yahrzeit (Memorial) Candles made out of tin. Black text on white rectangular inscribed stone placed on a stone plinth. Wooden posts to the rear of memorial.
Alongside Road 7599, about 200 metres east of Hamat Gader junction In the foreground are two stones containing engraved text and symbols in desert environment. To the right of these is a sign made from yellow metal plate with black text and a stone with more engraved text behind it. In the background are hills covered with yellow vegetation.
On a hill by the side of road Meron – Safed, near Kadita Abstract stone form mounted in mosaic–like plinth. Attached text–inscribed rectangular glass plates. Flag and flag pole and metal bollard to the left of stone form. Surrounding trees and grass in background. Second stone form to the left of flag pole. Memorial installed on large concrete patio.
Occupiers Garden in Tel Aviv, near the Hassan Bek Mosque Partly designed and inscribed stone form with attached marble plate. Surrounded by landscape with buildings to the right and and sculptural form to the left.
Near the entrance to the cemetery of Kibbutz Kfar Giladi Burnt piece of weaponry made out of bronze and tin on concrete–tiled floor. Black–coloured text inscription on three partially–formed vertical stones forms on three stone plinths. Two pictures of men resting on grey brick wall. Stone wall in background.
Miflasim Nir Aam road in the south of Israel near Gaza strip Stone block containing blue and green logo and brown–coloured inscription. Large landscape including soldiers and military vehicles in background.
North of the city Rishon Lezion, on the Sons and with Pinsker Street corner Text in raised steel on candelabra–shaped stone sculpture. Attached and inscribed white rectangular–shaped stone plates. Steel or wrought iron design element in centre of sculpture. Grass surrounding brick floor and stairs leading to memorial.
Near the cemetery of Moshav Almagor, north of the Kinneret Large–scale bronze cylinder on round stone plinth. Text inscription in black on angled– rectangle plates attached to plinth.
Dimona city centre, at the edge of the public park south of Sderot Herzl street Large–scale hollow cylinder made from salmon– pink tubular steel placed on concrete plinth and surrounded by palm trees, flag, clay vessel with plants. Everything contained by low metal fence and concrete platform.
Maginim Forest near Carmi Yosef, between highways 3 and 44 Hollow cylinder (possible shell–casings) made in black and red metal with letter–shaped holes.
Tom and Tomer Hill northwest of Kibbutz Negba, southern coastal area Images of white pigeons and blue text on large– cylindrical form installed in a field of grass.
Meeting point of Highway 40 and Highway 293 south of Kibbutz Beit Kama Hollow tower with intersecting diagonal walls. Text and army symbol sculpted in relief on attached concrete plate. To the right: black metal plate, white text and steel fence. Trees and metal poles in background. Sloping ground and stones in the foreground. To the left: trees and metal pole in background.
Hill overlooking the city of Beersheba from the east Large–scale arrangement of various abstract shapes on desert hill at the centre of which is a cylindrical form made of concrete.
Kurkar foothill , on the road from Rehovot to Gedera Large landscaped monument/ memorial containing black–coloured concrete cast, sculpted menorah made out of black metal and grey text on designed stonewall. Red sculpted army symbol on top of long trapezium made from stone. To the right of this are two flags. All are placed on a stone plinth with stairs and metal bannisters leading to it. Plants are arranged on either side of stairs.
West of Highway 40, near the fork Tel Nof, close to Rehovot Large scale horizontal stone form topped by vertical tower and red flame. Memorial includes 17 black rectangular text–plates and one oval shaped plate. Black flag pole on both sides of stone form. Small trees, rose bushes and lawn are planted in front of the structure while car park is to the rear.
A mother never dies
There was something unsettling about her gaze. Her eyes were the colour of burnt umber, a dark yellowish–greyish brown. But at moments of wonder, they were closer to the warm tone of a masala curry. At nine years old, Anarka was alert with a certain naive arrogance and defiance. While she was usually unimpressed, Anarka was intrigued by the peculiar set of framed photographs covering the wall of MamBinah’s living room. In her last home, the living room was ironically the least lived in – the space kept sacred for guests while chaos reigned in the backyard areas of the house. It had unfinished painted walls with dusty postcards from London and Paris stuck with sellotape. Electric cables were always hanging from unscrewed sockets. Fake plastic flowers in corner shop vases balanced on odd carton boxes, piled up on each other. At MamBinah, there was a certain serenity which attracted Anarka, almost like a déjà–vu. Together with her sister Nirma, they were to spend New Year with her maternal grandmother in Quartier Millitaire, until their new foster home was ready. On a misty early morning, when only the marsan dipain (bread seller) and marsan dile (milk– seller) were out on their tour, distributing piping hot bread rolls and fresh milk, Anarka and Nirma were dispatched to their temporary home. Quartier–Millitaire was quite urban for a village. Cradled in the middle of acres of sugarcane fields, it had a different ambience from Goodlands. Although Anarka couldn’t discern what it was, at first! As for MamBinah, she was a quiet and demure
woman. But when she opened her mouth, in the safety of her private space, it was soft thunder. She thought MamBinah had some kind of energy that was frightening, but also soothing. When it concerned her daughters, her voice was resonant, uncompromising and quite terrifying. She sweated a lot, Anarka noticed. She always had a handkerchief in her saree blouse, tucked in the safety of her bra and would use it to tap her forehead and neck. What really captured the attention of Anarka was the framed pictures. Her eyes fluttered, like crisp movements of a manual camera lens in front of one photograph in particular. Her upper eyelids remained tense. On the corner of her thin and pursed lips, almost as brown as her skin, a muscle, barely discernible, signalled erratic nerve activity. Anarka, with her long, straight, crispy hair flowing on her shoulders and her soft pointed nose almost touching the photograph, was enthralled by one woman in the picture. She would spend hours staring at her, finding it hard to believe that she really existed. And that she, once, lived in this house. She could almost imagine her mother, being the same age as her and standing in that same room. That would have been twenty years ago. Her image would haunt Anarka for many many years ahead. MamBinah would represent the living link to a person who had been part of her, yet whom she had never met. When she saw the faded black and white photograph of her mother for the first time,
her body quivered and her chest felt heavy. A cold moist shiver seemed to run across her skin, like night fevers which burn and freeze at the same time. It was captivating, real, yet intangible. She connected instantly to her fragility. Her mother was wearing a saree, with an ornate brooch on her right shoulder to hold the pleats tight to her blouse. It looked expensive. She had a thick necklace, like a stiff ring round her neck holding a big medallion sitting perfectly in her notch. Her head was slightly tilted to the left. Her nose ring elegantly big. Her eyes were alert in the photograph, her eyebrows casting a deep shadow on her face. She looked firmly at the camera, but reluctantly or dispassionately, while Anarkaâ€™s father was a real poser. She was stoically sad, Anarka thought. Her smile was imposed, restrained and blank. There was an eery grey silence around her. Anarka wished she could talk to her. In all the photographs that Anarka stared at, for days at length, the men owned the space. Whether their arms rested comfortably on their waist or they stood stiff, like heads of their clan, the men embraced and commanded the space. In the photographs, women and children posed for their protectors, blankly and without smiles. In another faded picture, her mother was young, probably younger that herself now. It was a studio photo. The studio setting looked plain with abstract wallpaper at the back and old curtains on the two sides. The slightly brownish monochromatic print gave it a timeless feel. Two wives sat in
armchairs with a line of children on their sides. The husbands with two other young men, cousins maybe, standing at the back in their ties and suits, rose like guardians. Copycats of colonial decency and masters of their dynasty, they conferred their physical protection over the women and their children who sprawled over the bottom half of the photograph. Seven children, all younger than Anarka, gazed blindly at the camera box. A baby in a frilly cotton dress was settled on MamBinah, and stared, eyes immaculately open. One boy, although dressed up, was bare feet. Anarka wondered if he had run to the studio without shoes, or if he removed them later, in a tantrum. The other children, in pulledâ€“up socks and polished boots were all in attention mode. Her mother was a small girl. Eight years maybe. Anarka was scotched to her, evocatively retrieving her forward, by her gaze. Sitting clumsily on a high studio prop disguised as a bench, with her hands cupped in each other and placed quietly on her thin legs, she looked aloof, present, yet not. She was very unassuming, her presence lost amidst her brothers, sisters and cousins. Her shoulders crouched low. She was pinching her lower lips. Her eyes seemed to move outside her socket while she stared hard, in a downwards glance. Anarka could see that she was completely detached in the photo. Her body was not present and her focus was almost blank, like she had been staring at a dot on the wooden floor, for minutes at length.
If Ya Wan Good Ya Nose Haff Wi’ Run – Kiran (Kiz) Bangerh
I got here by boat, the sea was stormy, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t stand, I could not see. I bring with me damp, sodden hopes lost dreams and empty chests. Treasures buried in the sea bed; Deep. Glowing like drowned stars, amidst the black, I bring loss. I’m travelling to a new shore For I can see a new horizon The air there is sweet. Don’t weep for me when I leave For my heart has spoken. Don’t weep for me Dream of me instead. And let me dream. There, Treasures glisten in the sun, I am boundless. Stars breathe light Upon God’s dark blanket. My heart sings its dreams And I answer with my feet. I thought I’d be lost on new soil, But the ferengi are friendly; My new brothers and sisters. Do you dream of me? Through the stars on God’s blanket? I gather the moments we spoke without caring and cried without sharing and danced without bearing the burden of loss. Now I weep for you, why did you leave? But your heart has spoken So I’ll dream of you instead. And let you dream.
Night Fall – Kiran (Kiz) Bangerh
I’m from night, bitter frost and an icy ladder to the stars. Empty pans, the milk burnt to the enamel, hungry rumbles, a curse. The sound screeching tyres make, clinging to tarmac, wailing for stillness, aching for silence. I’m from the drooping disappointment of parents who didn’t show up at the school play, someone else being picked to play Joseph, lost bus tickets, your last cigarette splattered with rain, too damp to smoke, tobacco spewing from cracks in the paper, and staining your skin, I’m from last words and don’t cry now! and hold it in! From bare trees undressed by Autumn, and lost hope, the breaking and making of things, stories and excuses that don’t quite fit, hearts snapped into place. Broken umbrellas and lips that can’t find the words, to say sorry. From beginnings and endings, and how the last sunny day of summer dies like the fruit. Yellow
Yellow – Kiran (Kiz) Bangerh
I cried and the tears were yellow Yellow with jaundice and the gold sparks that dance when sun flares throb from its molten, liquid surface molten and changing molten and constant
I sang and my voice was yellow Yellow with age and the yellow, glinting chime of a heavy–brass bell calling tribes of ancestors from past to present, there to here, then to now molten and changing molten and constant I listened and the sound was yellow Yellow and soothing the honeyed lullaby of a spring shower re–birth of the seasons molten and changing molten and constant I loved and the pain was yellow Yellow and warm bicarb arguing with syrup a hot pan for honey–comb brittle sugar bricks, like our smashed bodies molten and changing molten and constant
The following page is to be cut out from this publication. The page can then be taken to the 3rd floor of Tate Modern’s Switch House. The page can then be used to replace the wall text of Carl Andre, who’s work is currently displayed by the Tate. The display of Carl Andre’s work is a decision upheld by Tate Modern despite his murder of Ana Mendieta. This replacement wall text offers an account of the failure of the Tate to acknowledge the history of this brutally violent act.
St. Kilda, a group of islands located 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, was depopulated in August 1930 after 4000 years of continuous habitation. The islands, that now host a military base, form one of the subjects of Shona Illingworth’s 2015 film Lesions in the Landscape. Weaving the story of St. Kilda’s evacuation with the first person accounts of Claire, a woman living with irreversible amnesia due to structural damage in her brain from viral encephalitis, the three screen video and multi-channel sound installation ‘examines the complex and individual and societal impact of amnesia, a condition in which the capacity to retrieve and form memory is lost and the past, effectively erased’ (Bennett, Illingworth). The past existing as a space you can’t enter or feel – the future a space you can’t imagine. – Claire in conversation with Shona Illingworth, 2014 In the late 19th century, it was deemed too costly for newly streamlined state sanctioned healthcare to reach the island, and food supply some winters ran dangerously low. Although there was a nurse on the islands, access to medical facilities and a doctor was a challenge in winter months when travelling off the islands was often not possible. However, the subject of St. Kilda’s isolation should be up for further discussion. “St Kilda was not completely isolated. Historically it was located on a well-used sea route, and in more recent times has served as a military base. Tourism to the islands from the 19th Century exposed the islanders to increasing numbers of wealthy summer visitors in search of the ‘sublime landscape’. Tourists viewed the St Kildans as exotic primitives annexed from the modern world, reinforcing the historical construction of the islands as a place located ‘on the edge of the world’. This perpetuated the dominant narrative of a remote and primitive people living outside of time.’’ (Illingworth). The realisation of a British nation state is a continual process, at home and abroad. St Kilda was ill-fitted for the ways in which peoples and systems became bound within a national identity. Not fitting into the dominant perspective on what prescribed ‘modernity’, St. Kilda was petrified under the guise of ‘the primitive’ through a wave of tourism in the 19th century. A similar imperialist social dynamic erased cultures in the colonies abroad. I saw Lesions in the Landscape at CGP Gallery in Bermondsey [13 October – 27 November 2016]. Spread across CGP’s two locations within Southwark Park, Illingworth’s Landscape was comprised of a three-screen video installation and a companion ‘memory museum’ within which a scaled model of Claire’s brain lesion was included alongside photo stills of the evacuation of the island and a sound installation. What follows is an edited transcription a conversation between the artist and me, soon after I saw the exhibition and attended the accompanying Invisible Architectures symposium which was organised by
Kilda has been constructed – how it persists, and how the processes of mythmaking and construction of historical narratives enact a process of amnesia and cultural erasure, not only in the past, but also through a complexity of forces acting in the present. This work is an invitation to consider new ways of thinking about the spatial and temporal landscape of amnesia and cultural erasure, and its consequences within a wider socio-political context. It does this in part by drawing on emerging neuropsychological understandings of the dynamics of memory, working in collaboration with neuropsychologists Professor Martin A. Conway and Dr Catherine Loveday and with Claire, and her lived experience of amnesia.
TAYLOR Your project Lesions in the Landscape hits on a lot of the things that [Archipelago journal has] already been discussing in terms of loss and cultural memory….
I wanted to start by asking for clarification. Why was St. Kilda evacuated?
SHONA The island was evacuated for a multiplicity of reasons. Those reasons are still being contested. The evacuation was precipitated, in part by population decline – particularly young adults as they moved away from the islands to look for work – and by a gradual loss of self-sufficiency. There was no access to adequate medical facilities throughout the long winter months, which, even weather permitting, required making a long journey. There was little access to available technologies and the Scottish mainland infrastructure did not extend to the islands. All of this contributed to a matrix of pressures leading to 1930, when the St Kildans finally requested to be relocated to the mainland. It is important to note that there were many islands around the north and west coast of Scotland that were evacuated in the early 20th Century for similar reasons. Through its striking physical landscape, geographical remoteness and way of living, St Kilda became widely represented in the popular imagination as a remote and other-worldly place. My work examines this construction, and considers the evacuation of the islands within a much wider complex of social, economic and political pressure and change.
Lesions in the Landscape explores how this ‘lost world’ representation of St
T: You have spoken previously about ‘invisible architectures’. Can you discuss how this concept relates to different framings of St. Kilda in terms its geography and the narrative surrounding its former population? S: An on-going concern about how the shape of our world is experienced, defined and constructed, is central to my practice, and the geographical processes of marginalisation and the environmental, economic and socio-political are of course all interconnected. Extinction stories can serve to petrify cultures and ways of living within a limited, romanticised and essentialised frame. Essentialising subjects suggests an inevitability to the demise of their existence.
Lesions in the Landscape explores subjects and asks questions that are not isolated to St Kilda. Dominant narratives simplify what are in fact complex socio-political, cultural and economic interconnections between places, spaces, time and cultures. This
is what I mean when I refer to the term invisible architectures. It’s not that this is just an issue of history, or knowledge formations, experience or perspectives, it is also an issue for how we are able to imagine and plan for different futures.
The dominant narrative of St Kilda as an abandoned group of islands ‘lost in time’ denies the presence of a fully operational military radar station servicing a high-end weapons testing range. The islands are also a highly sensitive barometer for climate change. They are owned by the National Trust for Scotland. The archaeology on the island is carefully conserved and rigorous steps are taken to protect its biosphere. Yet St Kilda is profoundly affected by larger climate systems. Contrary to being on the ‘edge of the world’ it is central to the development of advanced weapons
systems for the west, and therefore represents a site of key geopolitical significance. This is all interconnected.
Tourists today, drawn by the narratives surrounding St Kilda, are overwhelmed by the spectacular number of gannets nesting on the sea stacks. What is invisible to these visitors, is the catastrophic drop in numbers of other sea bird species, over the last 50 years, which is a direct result of climate change on sea conditions. The islands would now be unrecognisable to the St Kildan people who lived there less than 100 years ago. This indigenous knowledge is no longer present, and is now only articulated through scientific survey.
It is really important, to consider both the division and imposition of a hierarchy of knowledge systems in this discussion, and the consequences
of cultural erasure and loss of voice and agency. Particularly in relation to developing critically informed approaches to major challenges such as the historical representation of the movement of peoples, the impact of climate change and geopolitical forces. T: In my view, cultural erasure operates by constructing a dominant narrative, and at certain points when it seems beneficial, allowing for revision. It seems to me very easy and quite prevalent in the way that things are historicised to say that ‘we thought this, we were wrong, we now think this’ as a complete replacement of one dominant reading with another that completely superimposes itself. And to me it seems like this is also insufficient. Can you talk about how this might have played out leading up to the evacuation? And how does Lesions in the Landscape respond to that historicisation? S: Imperial colonial narratives by their very nature are always self-serving. They discovered what they wanted
to discover. They were capable of describing others, such as the St Kildans, as hardy and self-sufficient, or when the purpose suited, as uneducated, lazy and savage. As geographer Issie MacPhail’s description, voiced in Lesions in the Landscape, details: the St Kildan’s were either subject to “the visitors’ enthralled condescension or revulsion’’. 1 Visitors have written almost the entire historical record of St Kilda. There are extraordinarily well preserved archaeological remains on the islands, dating back to prehistoric times, but little is known about the lives lived there from the perspective of the islanders themselves. Claire’s lived experience parallels this situation, where in Lesions in the Landscape she describes how other people tell her story. By employing a three-screen structure in making the work, I am able to challenge the early accounts pro1 Beyond Euclidian Convenience: Notes on the Paper Artifice of St Kilda, (in preparation), Issie MacPhail
duced by Martin Martin about the islands in 1703 (and 1698) which have formed the basis for much of the subsequent representations of St Kilda. At one time St Kilda sustained a large community of 180 people, and there are reports of occasions when calls were sent out to St Kilda from the Outer Hebrides during periods of destitute poverty and famine because they (St Kildans) had a massive supply of birds’ eggs and birds. As a people they thrived on the islands for over 4000 years, yet their contemporary framing is predominantly through their failure to continue living there, and to the moment of their final departure.
ested in questioning the hierarchies of knowledge and values that underlie these knowledge formations.
T: In Lesions in The Landscape, you refer to the multiple ways in which St Kilda is mapped and measured. Can you expand on this? S: I’m interested in how different systems and languages of description, analysis and classification concerning an individual, a place and its inhabitants can co-exist across different disciplines, temporalities and scale. I’m also inter-
There are many scientific, technological and academic knowledge systems in operation on St Kilda. These include weapons tracking and military communications technology; research in marine biology; genetics, population dynamics and genealogy; archaeology and the natural sciences. My experience of being on the islands is that each is focused on the language and processes within its own defined area. Lesions in the Landscape works to bring these knowledge systems and processes into critical dialogue with one another. The work engages a critical poetics and language of aesthetics as a means to upset hierarchies of knowledge – with the haunting presence of loss at the centre – and to set this interaction in motion within the dynamic and affective space of an immersive moving image and sound installation. The 18th and 19th century saw an obsession with measurement and mapping, and this still frames representations of
the islands. Running throughout this film are references to the in-exactitude of measurement – satellites map the landscape of St Kilda from Outer Space within an accuracy of a finger’s length. A finger’s length is nothing in Outer Space, but is significant on the ground. And during the film you also hear a litany of individual classifications given to pre-historic Soay Sheep: Young Light Blue – Dark Self – Scurred – 24; Beta Yellow – Dark Wild – Polled – 34; Alpha Red – Light Self – Scurred – 68. Studied in the ‘wild’, without human interference, the sheep roam through the carefully conserved archaeological landscape of the main island Hirte as the on-going subjects of scientific scrutiny. The complexities of memory, time, place and space are brought to bear in the film as the dynamic compression of different signals and processes of measurement intensify and build across the soundscape. The audience hear EEG (electroencephalogram) data mapping neurological firing in Claire’s brain as she searches photographs for memories of her journey to the islands. This is overlaid with a voiceover of a medical analysis of the MRI mapping of her lesion. Below this the drone of the generator powering the military installations on the islands is heard, and a recording of an American and a Russian operative guiding a Soyuz supply ship onto the International Space Station is interrupted by the interference of other radio signals. This creates an immersive sonic landscape within which you view slowed down archive film footage of St Kildan women and children fleeing from the camera that intrusively attempts to capture their preparations for evacuation. The women and children appear on the left and right screens of the three-screen video protection. We see the footage play frame by frame. They appear to be drawn into the vortex of a stark black
dome of the military radar tracking station in the centre screen, which is slowly rotating out of control.
We can map a brain lesion, but there is no way of mapping even on a neurological level the full impact that that lesion has in a dynamic system such as memory. We know that we work to a system of linear time with a forward temporal order but that we live in a much more complex temporal spatial dynamic. This is true of consciousness where we move from the present to the past and the present to the future all of the time.
T: In relationship to each other but not necessarily in unison. Archipelago looks specifically at this question, which I feel underpins much of your work, of how memory is transmitted into the future. Melancholia, from a psychoanalytic perspective, is an inability to process a loss, thereby carrying it into the future. In this sense memory of particular things lost is crucial for the ability to construct a sense of future. S: Martin A. Conway talks about consciousness moving through time in my recent work titled Time Present, (2016), a two-screen video and sound installation. Here he says “we all exist in an epoch of remembering and imagining, which forms a system that moves through time in a window of consciousness, with the past fading and the future manifesting’’. He goes on to say that if you can’t remember the past, you can’t imagine the future. This link between the past and the future is crucial. As we discussed, I would argue that if cultures don’t have access to memories of the past, their capacity to imagine, plan for and eventually act in the future is constrained.
How we remember and construct the past has direct consequences for the future. For example, at the recent symposium titled Invisible Architectures that I organised at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, Catherine Hall (Chair Emerita of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership) spoke about how the abolition of slavery was used to construct a dominant narrative of a modernising British island nation state, grounded in the notions of freedom and liberty. She described the role this narrative plays in disavowing the brutal involvement of British Imperial interests following abolition and discussed how this narrative persists as Britain continues to pursue its ‘national interests’. This form of dominant narrative not only resists a deeper and more critical understanding of the past, it generates a continuing process of amnesia, which continues to shape the present and impact on the future.
T: Even what is considered possible! So effectively there is a disconnection between the dominant narrative and the lived experience of the present, whereby certain inequalities and struggles are felt, but there is a void between this and their ability to exist in language, to be properly named as the consequence and continuation of a deep trauma. Invisible Architectures (Dominant Narratives: State, Cultural, Social) T: So in your work, amnesia, and modes of ‘forgetting’ function on many levels, and is explored through the personal, the interpersonal, cultural the neuroscientific… There seems to be a sense of correlation between forgetting and isolation, both spatially and individually. S: The Highlands of Scotland, where I grew up, is deeply marked by the un-
resolved history of the Clearances. This creates an underlying melancholy that is hard to escape. The narrative of loss can weigh heavy, and dangerously shape the narratives of the present. The Highlands continue to be marginalised, isolated within these narratives and yet the Clearances were part of and owned by a much wider set of forces. In Lesions in The Landscape we can also think of Martin A. Conway’s description of the dynamics of memory in cultural terms. He describes how ‘activation in the brain never stops’, and how unconscious and subconscious memories, or fragments of memories are being activated all of the time and so ‘locate us in the world’. Though for someone like Claire, who can’t access her past, locating herself in the world is fraught with difficulty. In my film she states: It feels like a world Well it’s a world I’ve lost all information about so I can’t share it anymore It feels like I’ve got no connections to the past And more frightening than not knowing it myself Seems that everybody else knows it T: This is huge actually because marginalised persons are often encouraged to think that their problems are individual as opposed to systemic. And that the solutions to their problems are also individual as opposed to necessarily structural, and a huge part of this comes down to who has control of the means to document, to tell these stories. S: In Lesions in the Landscape, archive footage from The Evacuation of St Kilda, filmed by ornithologist, JP Ritchie, appears at various points throughout the work. The footage was filmed on the 27th August, 1930, two days before the evacuation. As I mentioned earlier,
fied becoming the basis of a political identity. And I think that applies to the St Kildans. One of the things that I thought was really nice about your Invisible Architectures symposium was the way in which the discussion linked memory and colonialism. So the colonial subject is a huge example of an instance in which one might have to use the fact of the unrecoverable nature of whatever that loss is in order to move forward. I was wondering what you thought about that, given the project and also the conference.
the camera is very intrusive. Women and children are seen running away from it and older women hide their faces in their shawls. I found it painful to watch. In a sense this footage, which is slowed down and now seen frame by frame in my work, returns the viewer again and again to the St Kildans’ resolute resistance to the moment of capture. Bearing in mind that the Scottish Office ordered that no visual record of the evacuation was permitted and the existence of this footage was kept secret until 1979. T: Why was that? S: The failure of the State to provide services to the people of St Kilda was politically sensitive. The communities of St Kilda were at the westernmost edge of the British Isles and State provision failed to reach that far. This iconic place had a powerful position in the cultural imagination of the Highlands and there was the added concern that it should not look like the State had reinstituted another ‘Clearance’. This could open up painful memories of historical violence. T: There is a paternal element to that nondisclosure that you mention, a denial of autonomy. Somewhere else in Archipelago there is a reference to Judith Butler talking about the ways in which political agency could be generated or mobilised, and one of the things that she talks about is the unrecoverable, the sense of loss that cannot be recti-
S: In my film Time Present, Martin A. Conway talks about using autobiographical memory to build different histories with different shapes, and states that “giving shape to what you do or do not remember is an important creative process that allows you to come to terms with change”. I agree that it’s important that that which is irrevocably lost can be owned and reimagined, can be worked into the dynamics of a political and cultural identity that has the capacity also to challenge how the future is imagined.
Without the capacity to imagine, you are not able to create new memories. The creative imagination of whole sections of society and groups of peoples is denied or eradicated. Creative re-imaginings of the past in the present through art practices that develop different structures, create different dynamics, have different reference points, perspectives and coordinates,
and that speak to the processes of cultural erasure, are important ways of changing the course of loss. I would argue that the experiences of those who have been marginalised, oppressed or disenfranchised are central to revealing and questioning the invisible social, cultural and political architectures that we inhabit.
It is not possible to remember in isolation from the world. We are in the world and the present shapes how we remember, so memory and the past are not fixed. Historians want to fix the past irrevocably, but this is not the case, the past, like the present and the future is being made all of the time.
T: As opposed to happening.
Do you think it’s a passive process, people and their relationship to cultural events and the memories of things that have happened without their direct participation?
As you say, the imperative towards a complete and linear narrative of the past is an extremely pervasive one, it seems you are more interested in the breaks, the rupture points and how these in turn become fixed or drawn
back into an unwavering chronology. S: Resisting the structure of a linear narrative Lesions in the Landscape brings together a number of elements that are cut off from each other artificially and in this interplay, other critical associations and threads emerge from vastly different dimensions within the work. For instance, reference to the deep geological volcanic history of the islands’ formation resonates with the sudden pressure in Claire’s brain due to encephalitis, which causes the petrification of brain tissue in the form of a lesion. This in turn forms an associative thread with the petrification of the social and cultural history of St Kilda around the evacuation and the archaeological space conserved in time. Geological time and visions of the ‘sublime’ landscape counterpoint with the ‘sanitised airspace with unlimited altitude’ instrumentalised for military weapons testing, and Martin Martin’s descriptions echoing through to the present day narratives of a ‘lost world’.
When you go to St Kilda, and you are walking in the archaeological space, the sound of a military generator pervades the whole island. Nobody talks about this. It is screened out through a desire to engage with the story of
the evacuation without this intrusive sound interfering with the compelling atmosphere of loss. In my work it is these ‘interferences’ that are so important, they reanimate the complexity of these spaces and work to re-engage the presence of loss on more provocative terms. T: During the Invisible Architectures conference, there were actually lots of discussions about the implication of memory towards the future. I was wondering, what does that mean for your practice? S: There is a melancholy that comes from being stuck in a perpetual present – where the past does not speak your language – where you are irrevocably framed by a construction of the past that you have little power over – this requires creative reconstruction, of re-imagining pasts that have potential to anticipate other futures. My research and art practice is not about
creating ‘alternative truths’. It is about addressing the injustices and inaccuracy of singular, dominant narratives for the past.
Lesions in the Landscape aims to open up the possibility for multiple and diverse memories in a dynamic present. Key to this are investigations into voice, agency and hierarchies of knowledge. It is important, I think, to question the cultural, social and political architectures that we inhabit, particularly in relation to the current and escalating challenges that the world faces now. The struggles around conflicting narratives for both the past, the rapidly unfolding present and the speed with which these are all used to influence and shape the future.
Lesions in the Landscape and Time Present were supported by the Wellcome Trust The Lesions in the Landscape exhibition at CGP London was produced by FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Liverpool, in association with Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre, CGP London and UNSW Galleries, and is supported by an Arts Award from the Wellcome Trust. With additional support from the University of Kent. With special thanks to the National Trust for Scotland and Scottish Screen Archive NLS.
Image credits (in order of appearance): Image 1, 2, 4, 6, 7: Lesions in the Landscape, 2015, three screen video still, Shona Illingworth Image 3: Lesions in the Landscape, 2015, Shona Illingworth, installation view, FACT, Photograph Jon Barraclough Image 5: Lesions in the Landscape, 2015, Shona Illingworth, installation view, FACT, Photograph Jon Barraclough. With thanks to Scottish Screen Archive, NLS
Thinking ecology through my Fairphone 2
Here, at the dispersed and diffuse horror–show that is the human species’ slow–witted acclimatisation to their parasitical relationship with (of all things) the climate, two breeds of fallacious ‘eco–solutions’ abound. They both aim for hermetically sealed micro or macro communities and in this they both close down contingency, risk and play. The first attempted solution travels along the hopelines of regressive smallholding; a bunkering down with our immediate kith and kin and eating Interestingly, the recent renewal of a occasional goat and roadkill. While the secfervent enthusiasm for the colonisation of Mars by various billionaires and their auond approach embodies itself in the figure of diences points to a hybrid incorporation of the geo–engineer; aiming skyward for some both fantasies: a highly–advanced technomeasure of techno–utopia, a top–down applilogical smallholding with remarkably little cation of supplementary grafts and infrastrucof modern life’s luxuries coupled with the benefit of literally no extant lifeforms to tural overhauls until an inevitable societal poison us or for us to poison. Guilt free, model that can accommodate “acceptable” (for free from shame and history, joyless off in this read neoliberal definition of acceptable) the wild red yonder. Throwing out all the symbiosis of human and nonhuman concerns babies with all the bathwater. can be forged. Both solutions differ in the scale, style and application of their models and tools (though if forced to choose, the regressive option certainly possesses a less carbon–heavy outcome, not to mention a more playful relationship with temporality than the march–towards–utopia). In truth both remain trapped in an understanding of the planet as for us or, as some recent theorists have dubbed an ‘agrilogisitic’1 model of thinking. This monotheistic–Marxist understanding of the ‘self’ as consumer–by–birthright, separated from the Mystic–Mother1 Initially defined by Timothy Morton as ‘An agricultural program so successful that it now dominates agricultural techniques planet–wide. It arose in the Fertile Crescent 12 000 years ago. Toxic from the beginning to humans and other lifeforms, and now responsible for a huge amount of global warming. It led to industry, the other huge global warming factor. Though toxic, it has been wildly successful, because the program is even more compelling than Candy Crush. It operates blindly, just like a computer program. It promises to eliminate anxiety and contradiction––social, physical and ontological––by establishing thin rigid boundaries between human and nonhuman worlds, and by reducing existence to sheer quantity. Agrilogistics is the smoking gun behind the (literally) smoking gun responsible for the Sixth Mass Extinction Event.’ via their Ecology Without Nature blog at http:// ecologywithoutnature.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/agrilogistics–quick–and–dirty.html
The Innovator propagates HIS Martian seed gazing up at the nominally– blue dot he knows to be intimately rife with chaotic life. The Forager artfully manipulates a zone of familial dependence that isolates HIS family from lethal encounters with the horrid proximity of chaotic life.
Infinite-Provider of the environment, persists even as the absolutely enmeshed interrelations between humans and nonhumans are amplified to ridiculous, cancerous and baroque scales. These dual responses to the indigestible phenomena of mass extinction and a weather model that is bizarrely and uncannily Deistic in its retributory flavour reveal themselves not as tactical – stances working towards a future of coexistence – but the reactionary fumbling of a subject aflame. Petroleum–soaked scraps hysterically dabbing out the flamework. We can interpret these binary shout–outs of ‘progress!’ and ‘retreat!’ (or ‘accelerate!’ and ‘reverse!’) as symptomatic of the same understanding, simultaneous reactions to the shock of material intimacy that global warming and its concomitant revelations force onto the previously isolated and innocent (i.e. blood–soaked yet oblivious) modern subject. The violence of it, this unveiling. To take a lifeform that has lived as if it were a human being and to reveal to it that: → it is in fact a human being → that this being–human also involved being enmeshed with every other human, the entire planet and everything in it constantly to widely–varying degrees, and → that the human–corner of this enmeshed specieshood has been being really fucking destructive in a relentlessly alarming fashion for the entirety of the subject’s conscious existence, is to put any individual’s sense of self, world and cosmology under a remarkable amount of strain, especially given the weight of the ecological crisis. Any renewed intimacy with the stuff of the planet is a renewed intimacy with the anthropogenic slaughter of the stuff of the planet. In this context it is understandable that many flee to the smallholding and the off–planet colony, far from the charnel–ground of planet Earth. The agrilogistic model that has consumed and continues to pick the bones of the world (literally) via industrialised globalisation has no single, autonomous mind, but it does possess gigantic structural momentum, and the minds of its occupants (us) are both the biosphere of and the fuel behind this fatal momentum. The eruptive barrage of sensory awakening that the ‘Anthropocenic reveal’ engenders (and that recent2 western historical understanding exported to the planet via globalised industrialism has been actively covering up with tarmac, landfill and an endless broadcast of celebrity–bodies) can lead the human in question to some daft conclusions beyond and alongside the figures of the forager and the geo–engineer detailed above. The state of fragility from such a seismic quake in subjecthood may also provide opportunities to disrupt the reigning model’s fuel–line. If the truths of glob-
2 Here recent could mean the last 12,000 years of agrilogistic thinking, primitive accumulation through the last 800 years of expropriation, severing people from the land and means of sustenance forcing the transformation into waged labour, the last 500 years of European colonialism, slavery and indentured labour, the last 200 or so years of mass industrialisation or the failure to meaningfully instrumentalise sufficient structural responses to human–caused ecocide that can be attributed to the 54 years since the revelatory work behind and publishing of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.
potential hope exists in the possibility that an agrilogistic mindset will consume its ideological home [our minds] at a faster pace than its parent model [neoliberalism] does the planet.
al warming and its causes are in widespread circulation, indeed is common (if repressed) knowledge inside our shared catacombs of discourse, can we see a mutation in the corpus? If the ontological radiation of global warming is beginning to have any effect at all then the body of capitalism should be blooming with carcinogenic aberrations. Looking around. The cancer against capitalism is erupting everywhere. Neoliberalism’s long slow death rattle has finally degraded to the point where its altruistic facades have decomposed and the foul vapours of its current and imminent form – unapologetic fascism – are stenching up the place. Even those stationed in Washington D.C. have abandoned publically secure adherence to the Washington Consensus. Globally–networked movements of resistance have risen too and demagogues across all divides are smuggling either populist or socialist language into their claims to the throne. What to do in this instance? Where to find solace or evidence of deviant tissue–cells at the personal level? If the weird appearance of non–human agency has brought us here, then this non–human agency should be detectable at a domestic and bodily proximity as well as at the scale of governmental rhetoric. As intolerance and tribalism climb out of the poisoned swamp is there an artefact closer to home that bears the scarring mutations of Anthropocenic awareness, preferably one that leans toward something other than renewed violence and nostalgia for a mythic eugenics–fuelled dys/utopia? Material intimacy does not just arrive in the form of the aberrant weather models, hyper–adaptive bacterial strains nor my privileged musings about the labourer who harvested my chia seeds for me. For instance, the networked smartphone of the 21st century has enabled billions of humans to dissolve their subjectivity and activate modes of planetary awareness as never before. And so, can we find evidence of neoliberal–decay – a loss of market–based faith in the logics of recent capitalism – within this parallel system of material intimacy, one that doubles as one of the market’s greatest (if contested) technological victories in the sanctified realm of quality–of–life and individual power? With this in mind, I would like to home in on one particular aberrant polyp in the global body, a recent addition to the field of eco–consumerism, the smartphone market and my latest major electrical purchase: the Fairphone 2. Released in the summer of 2016, the Fairphone 2 (the ‘ethical, open and built to last’ smartphone) embodies so many ecological tropes that the very tragicomic existence of the device is something of a blessed miracle. ‘Meet the Fairphone 2. We’ve created the world’s first ethical, modular smartphone. You shouldn’t have to choose between a great phone and a fair supply chain. We want your Fairphone to last as long as possible. The modular design and spare parts make it easy for anyone to repair, plus the integrated regular or slim cover protects it from drops. Regular software updates keep everything running smoothly. The Fairphone 2 comes with everything you’d expect from a top quality smartphone. In addition to features like a 5–inch full HD screen and Android operating system, you’ll find convenient extras like two SIM slots, expandable memory and a replaceable battery. The Fairphone 2 is a smartphone dedicated to creating positive social change. We’re sourcing conflict–free minerals and Fairtrade gold, improving working conditions at the factory and recycling electronic waste.’ This is a model of techno–utopian potential in microcosm; a way to have the luxury
goods of recent capitalism while offsetting consumer anxiety of ghastly extractivist or abhorrent labour conditions that led to its convenient birthing. But the Fairphone 2 does more than replicate current phone aesthetics Do not misinterpret this writing as and upgrade their production history. cynicism. As this is an art–writing– It recognises that regular smartphone essay, you might be reading this in a use in itself presents opportunities to sneering tone of self–congratulatory combat agrilogistics on a daily basis wiser–than–thou mastery of doom– and–gloom. If we are to have phones, and as such, it arrives self–stocked with and we should <see later> then we passively ecognostic content. A preset should all have Fairphones or similar. background photo shows the miners Fairphone have tasked themselves who helped build my phone, thumbs up with the righteous goal of changing close to the screen. Etched into its modthe attitudes and practices of a vast and vastly destructive industry that ular circuitry is a map to the Congowill not disappear anytime soon. lese mine where its constituent tin and Their work is remarkable and all tantalum was pulled out of the ground. power to them! This writing investiVitally, it seems to loathe itself. Its gates what the phenomenon of the Fairphone 2 could mean and achieve lock screen declares: ‘You’ve had peace at an affective and ontological level. of mind for 0 MINUTES Your record 3 peace of mind was 955 MINUTES’ and as such the Fairphone 2 is constantly undermining its very being, equating smartphone usage to a lack of piece of mind. It tries to sacrifice itself for the greater good, by imploring you to look at it less. Simultaneously proud of being a part of the change and ashamed of its very material and carbon–heavy existence, the Fairphone 2 is not just for the eco–consumer, it echoes the attitudes of the eco–consumer and shrinks them down to its own phone–sized subjectivity. Much like any successful smartphone, it is the very model of its owner’s self–identity. Impressively the Fairphone 2 also attempts to expand the traditionally narrow window of smartphone–time into the future and the past, something it does by registering the length of its ownership – i.e. how old the phone is – on its lock screen. In this it tries to avoid the depressive blinkers of neoliberalism’s eternal present by evoking the shockingly present temporal realities of the phone’s constituent materials and subsequent manufacture. Further: a glitch in this particular feature incessantly, yet obliquely reminds me, that this ‘phone isn’t really mine. My Fairphone 2 ownership–clock currently reads: Your Fairphone for 04 MONTHS 01 WEEKS 02 DAYS But I definitely haven’t had it that long. When I first turned it on it read as already being mine for 02 MONTHS, definitely longer than when I ordered the contract. The phone existed before it arrived through my door. This is awkward in several ways. Firstly, it re–reminds us of the phone’s mineral prehistory. Secondly, it seems to imply that this phone was mine even before my old phone broke, that the tin and tantalum underground in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, dormant for however–many 3 I only managed this length of time by being excessively ill and unable to look at a screen for days on end.
millions of years, was headed to me, channelled by my desire for an ecological smartphone. If the phone–prosthesis notion is accurate (it is) then a part of me has been underground in the Congo for that amount of time. Just as the mobile–networked extrapolation of internet–me is a part of me and is anchored to the blue rectangle in my trouser pocket, the minerals that make that rectangle possible dissipate any secure notion of me by continents and eons. And yet for all its guilt–ridden materiality it is a smartphone. The very magical item of technological prowess, individuality, consumerist identity and consistently updated contemporaneity. Yours to Keep Yours To Own the packaging beckons, providing the unblemished assurance of fresh ownership and posthuman extension while suggesting On the Fairphone 2 Forum we find that this new toy must also be retained, a similar complaint thread: fixed and kept alive until it becomes an old toy. It still shimmers with a fetishist Hi everyone, I recently received a new FP2 since my promise of a cleaner design–led self. first one was completely buggy and kept rebooting by itself. The new one is working perfectly, a real pleasure. But on this new FP, the date indicated on the lock screen for “your own this fairphone since...” is not correct. Actually the time is in the future so it’s quite weird, and of course the date is not link to when I received my first FP2. Is there a way to modify this date? Even it’s quite complicated? I know it’s based on the date/time when I first boot the phone and if it was connected or not but, the date itself is saved somewhere?! Regards! _______ This user is prepared to undergo ‘quite complicated’ work to correct the seemingly trivial temporal disjunct between their ownership of the phone
The common–place cyborg nature of the 21st century phone has been well discussed. Much like traditional bodies or organs, phone–appendages require updating but normally these are components that, when updated, are definitely new components. Elements of the old phone are transferred via hosts and back– up units (cloud storage or micro–SD and SIM cards) but the failure of the older model, either by genuine technical fault or falling out of step with global trends and demands, is seized by the consumer as an opportunity for a total upgrade. This does not occur with the Fairphone 2. Rather you are expected to replace individual elements of the phone. It aims to be slower with the physical trash generation and less brutal with the mineral– birth. Built around a modular design it can be fixed without throwing the whole
thing away. But for many, it seems that to even annunciate the problem – the violence of contemporary supply chains and global logistics – is already too heinous, too heretical a statement to bear. It’s very mention and the possibility that a smartphone could Recognising that appearance is also a fundamental part of the have a near–neutral impact on the planet and the bodies smartphone’s potential shelf–life, employed to extract and choreograph their manufacture the external body of the phone is seems laughably unfunny. also updateable and has already Eco–products and the engagement with them are as been shrunk and had a colour– range tweak since its release. As sure–fire a way to garner accusations of idiocy from the my original case is becoming a bit enlightened as anything else. From Organic chicken corpsworn I may update to a turquoise, es to environmentally minded bleach cleaners, these are clear or red model. futile objects, naïve and systemically part of the problem.
The eco–consumer is decried as pathetically offsetting their shame; expensive blame–shifting. What is interesting as well as depressing here is that often these accusations of hypocrisy are voiced far louder than any complaints levelled at the captains of industry behind the violent systems the eco–consumer is seeking to disrupt. Hippy–ness is never tolerated. It is precisely through the absolute derision of its detractors that the eco–product performs its power; an almost gothic presence. By assuming the position of the well–meaning tech–object, the Fairphone 2 unearths the wide–spread knowledge–belief that a smartphone (a banana, a whatever, consumerism as such) is totally incompatible with ecological being. The eco–product provokes contempt for the sad–sucker alleviating their consumerist guilt via luxury consumerism but it also kicks into gear a melancholy self–loathing for/ by the critic and their alternative proposal: doing nothing. Cynical and neutered. Powerless. (Presumably the greater the hippy–shaming, the greater the self–loathing of the wise traditional–consumer.) ‘No–one likes having their unconscious pointed out and eco–awareness is all about having it pointed out.’4
The powerlessness the critic feels is apt and at least a more enlightened These sci–fi dramas envisioned a version than either of our earlier agrilfuture where such technological ogistic reactionaries (the Forager and liberation would naturally engender a the Geoengineer). The Critic underutopian society, much akin to neoliberalism’s [advertised] hopes for the socistands that consumerism, individualism eties that free–flowing capital would and extractivist practice – all of which propagate. The smartphone are succinctly crystallised in the body of of the 2010s also makes the cross– any smartphone – are antithetical, even sectional intercontinental playground allergic to a future coexistence with the of the 1990s Internet laughable, but this time the innocent chuckle at the fellow inhabitants of this planet. What is tricorder’s two–hour search is regothic about the Fairphone 2 as opposed placed by a bleak fatalist bark. 2016’s to its other smartphone sistren is its political upheavals and the resulting foregrounding of these truths. Annuncishocks in the liberal West’s populations have revealed how small our echo ating these contradictions and mounting chambers truly are. Ecologically, your them within the very totem of our maginternet–environment is very differical technological mastery. Confronted, ent to your real–world neighbours’. As the Critic gets gloomy and is taken aback such, those ‘90s pioneers of the digital by the hordes that surround them, both playground mourn longingly for the long decade of international and subthe mounds of corpses and the mounds cultural ambassadors online. However, of not–yet–corpses convinced that usthe reality of an entire billion people ing Ecover products and eating organic being online is much less like the world quinoa (that the communities nutrition– in microcosm and much more like the dependant on quinoa can no longer afford due to its increased demand in the Global North5) is a rational path into a shame–free future. The Critic has misunderstood what is at stake and how to proceed. They perceive the eco–product as neither accelerationist nor regressive and therefore of zero use in the battle it purports to engage in. For the Critic the phone is just a shell that we inhabit 4 p23 from Timothy Morton’s Dark Ecology: for a logic of future coexistence. 5 See https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/16/vegans–stomach–unpalatable–truth– quinoa or http://www.coha.org/appropriating–or–appreciating–an–examination–of–the–origins– and–rise–of–superfoods/ for an appraisal of the risks of superfood–trends in general on nutrition– dependant populations in the Global South.
with the hermit crab of our identity and our politics. For the Critic, one dead body is the same as a thousand. Why mitigate inequality when inequality is woven into the fabric of human being?
But aren’t phones more than that? Aren’t they more than the corporeal anchor to our idealised public selves? Phones are now the blood of the social body. The channels of rewiring pass in two directions between our brains and our black mirrors. Our rage, our sexuality, our dumbness, our language and our imagination pool over the planet in a fashion that makes information retrieval in pre–2010s sci–fi uncannily foolish. Ignore the sentimentalists. The smooshed–up intimacy of the phone–internet–body’space is a model of ecology that fits more closely to the biological planet than the naïve universalists, who paint ‘nature’ or ‘cyberspace’ with a single–spiritualist brush, would have it. A planet of interconnectivities at several scales, of actually–existing relationships, feedback loops, echo chambers and infophagal qualities that nurture, sustain and impinge uncomfortably on each other. If we are to learn how to live ecologically, then our knowledge–environments need to be understood as being no different to biological interaction. And why leave it at the planetary scale? As the ozone decays, our social media platforms will become ecstatically susceptible to solar fluctuations and extra–planetary radiation. Then our phone lives will finally cease resembling a refuge from reality into virtuality. As the arguably fictitious boundaries of offline and online erode ever further so will the non–human elements of the biotic, mineral and climatic planet reveal their weird omnipresence similarly frequently. Our phones will become less and less miraculous and evermore embedded into the planet (as the planet embeds itself deeper into us), or at least reveal that they always–already were. As we become sensible to these truths the story of our phones will need to complexify. The binaries of self/other, inside/outside and It seems that ethically sourced tech material independence/material symbijust isn’t up to scratch for some eco– osis will seem more and more outdated. consumers. To their fairness, Fairphone The Fairphone 2 is an early player in acknowledge that this is only the start how socially–conscious technology may of putting pressure on an industry that looks like it’s here to stay for a bit: bleed back into the consumerist body ‘Our phones hold a complex story of and bring all of these eroded structures the hundreds of people who helped back to the shore. make it. We want to open up that story, This is all fine and normal. This is so we can make a positive impact in how phones are made, used and recyfun and 21st century self. I am not concled. cerned about the possible challenge to Change doesn’t happen overnight. But the modern subject such odd dispersals together with our community, we’re and coagulations might induce. I relish building a movement to show the dein them. But link all of these things to mand for fair products.’ an attempt at ecognosis and what occurs? Disjunct. The Fairphone 2 troubleshooting board is filled with outrage. Battery drains within half a day. 4G refuses to work. Parts of the touchscreen don’t work. How to get a refund for the highly unreliable FP2? Too unpredictable to be a business phone. FP2 stuck in buzzing loop and black screen.
Stuck in buzzing loop and black screen. Personally however, I am quite charmed by the Fairphone’s glitches. In many ways they seem the most attuned to ecological–being. Perhaps my favourite element of my Fairphone’s functionality is easily its most inconvenient problem; its totally erratic battery. Sometimes my phone charges fine and fast. Sometimes it takes 23 hours. Sometimes the battery life lasts all day while sometimes it is dead and gone in three hours. It seems freakishly sensitive to the differing currents between sockets, extensions and chargers. It is making me very aware, if illiterate, of the variety of electrical flow behind the wall. But best and worst of all is when it fails to charge at all. I keep my phone under my pillow when I sleep. It’s close to a socket and means I can hit the snooze button as often as I like without having to leave the bed. I always charge my phone overnight but occasionally the phone fails to charge at all and it superheats. I really can’t overemphasise how weirdly hot it gets, confusingly hot for plastic and glass, especially when freshly woken up by a sense of impending trauma. I have no idea why but the current fails to reach the battery proper and it turns my phone into a very worryingly hot object directly under my sleeping head. Could I ask for a blunter metaphor for global warming and our collective inability to deal with it? Really this is not even a metaphor, this is global warming itself happening at the scale of me, my phone, its minerals, my consistent dependence on data, the fuel required for this, my sleeping head and the troubled sense of unease that successfully punctures the delirium–universe–womb of sleep that occurs when something potentially fatal from another universe is encroaching. This is exactly the disquiet of the Anthropocene. Materiality from nonhumans is heating up to such a degree that it punctures the anthropocentric relation to such nonhumans. Cooking things till they cook us. So I wake up and move the phone from under my pillow. I fiddle with the connection until it’s charging or I just unplug it all together and resolve to deal with it in the morning. Confused, I go back to sleep. Again, this is a clumsy metaphor, no matter how real it is. Remove the immediate peril and deal with it in the morning. Hot little rock.*
* This writing is presented against screengrabs I took on my Fairphone 2 where I was playing the game Phone Story designed for playing on Android and iOS supporting phones. The game was banned from Apple’s App Store after only four days but it is still available on Android (and therefore playable on Fairphones.) A description from Wikipedia: Phone Story is a satirical mobile video game conceived by Yes Lab activist Michael Pineschi and designed by Paolo Pedercini for Molleindustria with the stated aim of demonstrating what the developers refer to as “the dark side of your favorite smart phone.” The game consists of four minigames which require the player to complete activities such as forcing children in the Third World to mine coltan and preventing suicides at a Foxconn factory. The creators of the game stated the main purpose was to elicit a response from people who “fail to realize how their fashionable consumption can have negative effects on people in the globalized world.”’ More info and an online version can be found at http://phonestory.org/index.html
My halmae’s sassiness as an antidote for academic melancholia
Hae Seo Kim
My granma (halmae) is a really sassy old lady. When I’m sick in bed, she would laugh away my sickness by saying things like “In life there will be days when you have diarrhea and days when you will have constipation.’’ Of course, she would also make me a delicious bowl of rice soup to make me feel better.
during a time in Korea when divorce was considered a heresy, and not having a son was a woman’s dereliction of duty in life.
When she does say things though, sometimes out of the blue, it’s quite sharp and witty. When she watches the news about Korean politicians, or encounters something as ridiculous, she would say things like “I can only breathe because I have two nostrils,’’ and then go back to silently folding laundry or peeling garlic.
University was indeed the first time I encountered the language of academic feminism, which changed my perspective on the world forever. But much more so than Judith Butler or Gayatri Spivak, my intellectual hero is my grandmother, who never finished elementary school.
Halmae also raised my elder sister, me, and my younger brother.
Growing up, halmae used to tell me and my sister never to get tied down by a man. I used to think that I first encountered She’s not chatty. Actually she’s too reticent. Once for a high school history class I had to the language of feminism when I started write an oral history report so I interviewed university. But that would be an undermy grandmother about the Korean war but estimation of how incredibly lucky I was to grow up with a woman who taught me her story was so short that I ended up not something stronger than words. having enough stuff to work with.
I sometimes think that it’s her sassiness that allowed her to survive through so much without breaking from the conservative and patriarchal Korean society. She lived through the Japanese colonization, the Korean war, series of dictatorships and protests, and amidst all that; two divorces. She raised two daughters by herself,
Once I was having a conversation with a cultural studies student at Goldsmiths who told me that we have it easy because of the “intellectual giants’’ that came before us. She was talking about European critical theorists like Giorgio Agamben and Luce Irigaray. I told her that I don’t, in fact, want to stand on the shoulder of those “giants’’ but to write from the shoulder of my grandmother. I don’t think she got it. But that’s
the place I want to tread on and grow from, lightly and carefully, out of responsibility and love. I learned in the past year that critical theory, busy with building a world of its own, often loses touch with where it stands from. What historical conditions had enabled the European “critical thinkers’’ to be “critical’’, and what political and cultural conditions make it possible or necessary for me to heed to what they have said?
indeed only get an alternating series of diarrhea and constipation, but that it might totally be worth it in the end when the food you’ve had is as delicious as a hot broth of Korean seaweed soup. I can continue to write, think, and even hope, not because I am standing on the shoulder of European giants, but because I’m on the shoulder of my loving grandmother, who taught me to remember to laugh at those giants once in a while.
This conversation at Goldsmiths library was one of the moments that I decided that I don’t, in fact, want to start from what Agamben or Foucault said, but if anything, to start from what my grandmother has to say about this world. This perhaps aligns with the postcolonial perspective, which tries to look through fissures and cracks of dominant power to pay attention to the voices that had been denied, erased, or unheard. I used to think that “critical theory,’’ by deconstructing hegemonic discourses, makes space for a postcolonial intervention and a re/writing of the marginalized voices. Now I am just a little bit more skeptical. I always go back to my halmae when I’m feeling lost. She always makes me something delicious, and reminds me that in life you might
Notes on archive melancholy
Starting with the phrase ‘Writing history’ evokes the sentiment that an event needs to be written down or documented (filmed, recorded) in order to be remembered and to become history. With the following contribution that takes the form of notes – still thoughts in progress – I intend to explore the connection between archives, the construction of history and melancholy caused by absence. In the following I understand ‘the archive’ not solely as architectonic space, but more as a cultural technique that is involved in the process of creating the narrative called history. Taking in account that there are already a lot of counter-narratives and counter-archives, with this contribution I want to pursue the feeling that still there is a lot of symbolic and less symbolic power of ‘an official archive’ that needs to be questioned and thought of. In the following I wish to sketch 10 notes on the archive and melancholy: i. The Archive is a room, a building, (a box?) where documents of the past are preserved. Documents containing history. What room? What documents? Who produced the documents? How are they accesssed? What arrangements are they presented in? Who organises the material in the archive? In his article Archive Fever Jaques Derrida explains that the meaning of archive, coming from the Greek arκheion, refers to official documents that were held and guarded in the house of those in power. The citizens who held and represented political power did not only guard documents, but were those who commanded,1 “who were considered to possess the right to make or to represent the law“2, and in addition had the power to interpret the archive:
‘The archons are first of all the documents’ guardians. They do not only ensure the physical security of what is deposited and of the substrate. They are also accorded the hermeneutic right and competence. They have the power to interpret the archives. Entrusted to such archons, these documents in effect speak the law: they recall the law and call on or impose the law. To be guarded thus, in the jurisdiction of this speaking the law, they needed at once a guardian and a localization’.3
1 cf. Derrida, Jaques: Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. trans. Eric Prenowitz. Chicago: University Press, 1996. p.1-3 2 Ibid. p. 2 3 Ibid.
ii. If the archons, who are those in power as Derrida says have the power to interpret the archives, it means that history is told from the perspective of the dominant and priviledged group. “it is their home, in that place which is their house (private house, family house, or employe’s house)”4 [The national museum, the national library, the national archive, the national theatre, the national opera, the national ballet, the commercial gallery and the private art collection (involved in a capitalist market)...] “that official documents are filed”5 [written documents, paintings, records, books, files, objects, objects that were forced to migrate from their original homes, old stones, token temples....] What are the politics of what is considered preservable? Who is represented in that room and who commands, guards and interprets it? History claims to be universal, blurring power structures. But what does universal really mean? iii. Sara Ahmed teaches me that the universal is distributed and how some embody its promise and others embody the failure to live up to that promise. For those who are required to, but fail to embody what is defined as ‘universal‘, universalism becomes melancholic. Sara Ahmed describes melancholic universalism as when somebody is rejected by the universal whose promise is not extended to them. If universalism was a room, some could enter and others would have to give up what differentiates them from the ‘universal’6:
‘Universalism is how some of us can enter the room. It is how that entry is narrated as magical; as progress. It is how universalism becomes the requirement to be grateful for what you have to give up. Feminist uses of universalism are usually melancholic: you identify with the universal even though it has been predicated on the universalising of a subject whom you cannot be.(…) And so: only some differences become attachments that must be given up. Other differences are welcomed by the very requirement that some differences are given up. For those who have to give up something to enter something: your entry is melancholic. You are giving up the very thing that renders the room not open to you even when the room is understood as open to you.’7
iv. For whom is the the archive open? Whose entry is melancholic? Melancholia, loss, depression and mourning is an emotinal state that extends to one’s loss8; for example one’s loss and absence of stories. [frei nach Freud] For example stories along different territories, mapping belonging differently [migrating stories, territories crossing nation state’s borders where stories are told of community. First nations stories before nations existed as a concept, songs that speak to us, written and performed stories, different materialities of stories, the complexity of different narratives, different identities... ] v. Trauma and loss need to be symbolised. I suggest to decolonise and to queer the Archive! The archive needs to be re-distributed: 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 6 cf. Ahmed, Sara: Melancholic Universalism: https://feministkilljoys.com/2015/12/15/melancholicuniversalism/ [accessed 31 January 2017]. 7 Ibid. 8 Melancholia means to incorporate the object of loss and trauma, melancholic incorporation of the lost object; to identify with the lost object and to make the loss part of one’s identity
“other” stories, narratives, images and perspectives need (more) spaces, (a) ROOM to be re-written, rearranged and represented by those who own them:
vi. The archive can take different shapes I: How stories are told through the body. Our bodies remember. Bodies made out of blood and flesh as articulate matter, that move, live, eat, sleep, shaped by power structures that speak back to socio-political circumstances [bodies that speak politically] Bodies embedded in cultural contexts that tell stories in gestures, dance, movements, protesting on the streets; stories that are missing in the archive. Speaking from marginalised positions, claiming agency, visibility and the right for equality. Bodies made out of flesh and blood that produce meaning; challenging the symbolic in corporeal terms. Bodies that remember and that produce knowledge that is experienced through the body; from my grandmother’s body to my mother’s body, to my body. vii. The archive can take different shapes II: The body consists of over 70 percent of water. Water remembers, water preserves, that’s why the ocean knows and mourns. From the Black Atlantic, migrating, to sunken ships searching for refuge, drawned
stories and histories of struggle that nevertheless are being memorised. (by the sea) viii. The archive can take different shapes III: As water other parts of the earth remember. Lanscapes, where no human has ever been still memorize what has been, documented in the layers of stones, earth and mountains and the annual rings of the trees, or just traces of frozen time, quietly. xi. History is so ignorant. Thats why there’s so much mourning, trauma and melancholy. Traces of what is still absent, but always is and was there. There are words and stories that need to be told, that need to be mourned, that need to be made visible and that need to be brought into the room. Or destroy the room and build something else entirely. x. The archive is an experience of the future. We are all subjects of history. How we read history in the present, what we preserve for future generations, how we remember in the future is how we shape future societies and future power structures. I want to close by referring again to Derrida: “one associates the archive (…) with repetition, and repetition with the past. But it is the future that is at issue here, and the archive is an irreducible experience of the future.”9
9 Derrida, p.68
Contributors Sara Ahmed My name is Sara Ahmed. I am a feminist killjoy. It is what I do. It is how I think. It is my philosophy and my politics. I was formerly the director of a new Centre for Feminist Research (CFR) at Goldsmiths. Until the end of 2016, I was Professor of Race and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths. From January 1 2017, I have been working as an independent feminist scholar and writer. I recently completed a book Living a Feminist Life, which draws on everyday experiences of being a feminist to re-think some key aspects of feminist theory. I began this blog when I began the book: they were written together. Kiran (Kiz) Bangerh After losing her older sister, Promila, in a car accident in 2000, Kiran suffered a delayed grief reaction. An English Literature graduate and writer, she experienced a writer’s block that lasted ten years, ending with her father’s death. She wanted to avoid further harm from repression and so used therapeutic creative writing to channel her emotions. Wanting to spread the word, she began recording her experiences through her writer’s block: ‘Good Grief Kiz’ (www.goodgriefkiz.blogspot. co.uk). As a student on Metanoia’s MSc in ‘Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes’, she found an opportunity to combine two powerful tools for expression: ‘Hip Hop’ and ‘Poetry Therapy’. She went on to found ‘Hip Hop HEALS’, an organisation aimed at promoting Hip Hop as a therapeutic tool for healing. She is now completing her thesis entitled: ‘Can rap be therapeutic?’ Sean Burn sean here. hi, i’m a writer / performer / selftaught artist with active involvement in disability arts. i’m also part of the mad studies northeast collective. http://madstudiesne.weebly. com/ much of my creative work ‘reclaims the languages of lunacy’ based on my own experience as psychiatric survivor. i write up gallery walls with charcoal, project visuals at night, blank out dictionaries, create poster-trails, stage interventions, distribute alt-banknotes via mail
art & am published in zines, pamphlets and online. i even show work more conventionally. solo exhibition still alone in her voices - inspired by my experiences of psychosis, launched at broadacre house, newcastle (thanks to the mental health collective), and now tours until 2019. Ezgi Duman Ezgi Duman is the representative for the woman prisoners network in Turkey’s Center for Prison Studies. She recently published a book on “Being a Woman Prisoner in Turkey” within TCPS. Ezgi also works as a lawyer after graduating from Ankara University. She focuses on cases of violence against women and LGBTQs and consults women who are exposed to violence in Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation. Gitan Djeli Gitan Djeli is completing a research in Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, with interests in embodied histories, postcolonial literatures and visual arts. Her research examines neocolonial ideologies and resistant creative practices in postcolonial contexts. In the process, she has also been engaged in creative writing. Recently, her poem, Kan pou trouv lalimier? (When is enlightenment?), was published in Hysteria, a collection of Feminisms (Hysteria Press) in 2016. Carl Gent Carl Gent is an artist, musician and writer from Bexhill-on-sea, UK. They obtained their MFA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths College, London (2015) and their BA (Hons) Fine Art from UCA, Farnham (2009). Recent exhibitions and performances include Wiðercwedolu þá Glésincga, The Residence Gallery, London; De Regreso a la Isla, Casal Solleric, Mallorca; L’Heure Verte: 1st Tasting, Green Ray, London; Questions for Meliza hosted by cosmoscarl. com; Tongue of the Preinoculated #2 (Song for the Destructor Flue), the Museum of Technology at Cambridge; The Space of No Exception, Sokol Gallery, Moscow; Ground Ground, Cafe Oto Project Space, London; Bad Truth for the IV Moscow Biennale for Young Art; and Gnats Inside the Wind Transposed for the Proterozoic Eon
broadcast on All Silent but for the Broadcast, Royal College of Art Galleries, London. They have co-curated Material Cryptographies, a two-day seminar considering the implications of encryption practices for contemporary existence and art-making at Tenderpixel, London; performed at Gustav Metzger’s Facing Extinction conference at UCA, Farnham; featured in Daria Kalugina’s fictional exhibition catalogue As If; and were the inaugural recipient of the Goldsmiths MFA Fine Art Junior Fellowship. Recent and forthcoming residencies include City Under the Sea and Demonio! Demonio! at The Institute of Things to Come, Turin; Study Week Devised by Jesse Darling at Wysing Arts Centre, Bourne; ICA Academic Dacha, Vyshny Volochok, Russia; North Light, Dunbar, Scotland; and Conjunction Biennale Residency, Stoke-on-Trent, UK. They also blog about clothes with Rachel Arguile at Fashion Vacuum and perform as a part of drum and amplified sitar duo Perple Celotape with Andrew Ferguson. Christina Harles Christina Harles holds a BA in Cultural Studies, Aesthetics & Applied Arts with a focus on contemporary theatre and performance in Hildesheim (Germany) and studied the MA programme Art and Politics at Goldsmiths, University of London. She realised performative and interdisciplinary art works and is interested in experimental art and knowledge production at the interface of theory, artistic and activist practice. As a researcher she has a special interest in intersectional encounters of feminist, queer and post-colonial theory and decolonial practices. Currently she is working as a trainee at the department of Cultural Education at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. Golschan Ahmad Haschemi Golschan Ahmad Haschemi (*1985 in Isfahan) is a cultural scientist & performer. Her work oscillates at the interface between artistic, political and scientific theory & practice and includes the intersectional topics of feminism, (anti-)racism and (post-)colonialism. With performance art, music and theatre being her main means of expression, she examines ways of empowerment on both theoretical and practical levels, blending arts, politics and science. Apart from various theatre and music projects (i.e. in Nashville TN, Isfahan, Berlin, Porto, Hanover, Leipzig, Vienna) she has regular DJ-gigs as
Golsche & Gübbana. She is a Co-founder of the feminist performance-art collective donna’s gym and a member of the theatre network cobratheater.cobra. In 2014 she organised the feminist Hip-Hop Festival “bigger than...!”; In 2015 she was part of the Jury at the 100°- Theatre Festival at the independent theatre venue Sophiensaele in Berlin. In 2016 she published a short-text under the synonym Vitamine Yolo Ono in the French-speaking queer-feminist magazine TIMULT. Currently she is organising the Empowerment-Conference “Hotspot of Power“ and performing the piece “Meine Nase läuft – deine Stars hautnah” as part of the collective Technocandy in Austria and Germany. Sophie Hoyle I am an artist and writer whose artwork and research explores an intersectional approach to post-colonial, queer, feminist and disability issues. I currently work in moving-image, installation and video-essay to look at the relation of the personal to and as political, individual and collective anxieties, and how alliances can be formed where different kinds of inequality and marginalisation intersect. My recent work addresses my experiences of mental illness through the framework of anti-psychiatry and transcultural psychiatry, to critique the systems of biomedical diagnosis and pathologisation, especially where they contain implicit cultural norms that may further marginalise minority groups that suffer trauma through structural inequalities. I have looked at the intersection of individual anxiety through Anxiety Disorder and the technomediation of the body, and collective anxiety in geopolitical discourses of surveillance and security. These also relate to my experiences of being part of the Lebanese diaspora and exploring identity politics, negotiating prejudice and Orientalism in representations of the Middle East and North African (MENA) region in mainstream Western media, and experiences of imperialism and conflict. Hoyle has recently shown work as part of clearview presents, cosmoscarl, Off to Mahagonny, This Time With FEELing Cycle2 at [space] TWB, London and Transmediale: Anxious to Secure at HKW, Berlin (all 2016). They have written articles and reviews for AQNB, X-TRA, Runway, The New Inquiry and SALT. magazine. They graduated from Goldsmiths MFA Fine Art in 2015.
Michal Huss Broadly, my artwork is about global power structures and geopolitical conflicts. The key methods in my art practice are archiving and mapping that I utilized in order to challenge the social status quo division between art and science, personal and ideological, poetic and political. My art intends to intervene and unstable single historical or documentary genres. I explore the inherent tensions between the real, the staged and the organized within documentation and archiving of historical- political events, in which information is systematized, sequenced, processed and manipulated. I explore the ways in which nations and people carry the weight of their historical traumas, as well as the relationship between memory and language and memory and space. Shona Illingworth Shona Illingworth is an artist whose works using moving image and/or sound, take the form of gallery based and site specific installation. Her work combines interdisciplinary research, particularly with emerging neuropsychological models of memory and critical approaches to memory studies, with publicly engaged practice. Her most recent solo exhibitions include UNSW Galleries, Sydney (2016), The Wellcome Collection (2016) and FACT, Liverpool (2015). Upcoming solo shows include Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art, Toronto. She has also received high profile commissions from Film and Video Umbrella, the Hayward Gallery, London and Channel 4 Television. She was shortlisted for the 2016 Jarman Award. Jane Jin Kaisen Jane Jin Kaisen is visual artist and filmmaker born in Jeju Island, South Korea and adopted to Denmark in 1980. She is currently living in Copenhagen. In her research-based art projects that take the form of film, video installation, performance, writing and discursive events, she explores ways of addressing and giving aesthetic shape to contested transnational histories, entangled personal and collective memories and embodied experiences of difference. Projects such as Tracing Trades (2006), The Woman, The Orphan, and The Tiger (2010), Light and Shadow (2011), Reiterations of Dissent (2011/16), and Apertures/ Specters/Rifts (2016) constitute a multifaceted inquiry into present effects of coloniality, war and militarism from a gendered and diasporic lens. She was a Whitney Museum of American Art
Independent Study Program studio art fellow and holds an MFA from the University of California Los Angeles in the Interdisciplinary Studio Area. She also holds an MA in art theory from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts where she is currently a PhD Candidate in artistic research. Kaisen has presented her artworks and films at venues such as the 7th Liverpool Biennial (UK), Videonale13 (Germany), the Gwangju Biennale, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Asia Culture Complex, the Incheon Women Artists Biennale, Seoul New Media Art Festival, Coreana Museum of Art (South Korea), Gana Art New York, DePaul Art Museum, The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian American Experience, Vox Populi Gallery, Korean American Film Festival New York, Los Angeles Asia Pacific American Film Festival (USA), Kunsthallen Brandts, Museum for Contemporary Art Roskilde, Nikolaj Contemporary Art Center, The National Museum of Photography, Den Frie Udstillingsbygning, and Kunsthal Aarhus (Denmark), Malmö Konsthall, Malmö Konstmuseum, and Inter Arts Center (Sweden), Sørlandet Art Museum and Oslo Kunstforening (Norway), Kyoto Arts Center, Kyoto Museum of Art, Fukouka Museum of Art, and Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts (Japan), Beijing 798 Art Zone (China), Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival (Taiwan), Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (Philippines), The National Gallery (Indonesia), and Townhouse Gallery (Egypt). www.janejinkaisen.com Haeryun Kang Haeryun is a journalist based in Seoul, South Korea. She has contributed to radio stories for NPR, Radiolab, and TBS eFM. She is currently the managing editor of Korea Exposé, an online English news specializing in Korean culture and politics. Hae Seo Kim I was born in Suwon (South Korea), and raised in Seoul. I studied in upstate New York, in a small city called Poughkeepsie. In the past year, I was living in New Cross, London. I am now back in Seoul with my family and a black toy-poodle called Camus. I am looking forward to settling down a bit and spending a longer time in one place, so that hopefully I can have a companion dog (probably another poodle) of my “own.”
Legacy Russell Legacy Russell is a writer, artist, and cultural producer. Born and raised in New York City’s East Village she is the UK Gallery Relations Lead for the online platform Artsy. Her work can be found in a variety of publications worldwide: BOMB, The White Review, Rhizome, DIS, The Society Pages, Guernica, Berfrois and beyond. Holding an MRes of Visual Culture with Distinction at Goldsmiths College of University of London, her academic and creative work focuses on gender, performance, digital selfdom, idolatry, and new media ritual. Her first book Glitch Feminism will be published by Verso and is forthcoming in late 2017. Twitter: @legacyrussell | Instagram @ellerustle. www. legacyrussell.com. Leonara Manyangadze Leonara is a writer and researcher interested in art and politics with a focus on gender, transgenerational trauma and colonial legacies. Taylor Le Melle Taylor Le Melle is a writer, curator and researcher based in London. Rowan Powell Rowan is a publisher, editor and researcher. pssss.co Johanna Schmidt Johanna Maj Schmidt (*1992) is currently studying media art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Leipzig. In 2015, she graduated from Goldsmiths University of London, with an MA in Art and Politics. As an intercollegiate student, she also took part in the MSc Comparative Political Thought at SOAS, School of Oriental and African Studies. Before moving to London, she undertook her undergraduate studies in Politics, EnglishSpeaking Cultures and Performance Studies at the University of Bremen and at Jagiellonen University in Cracow. After having spent seven years in different places, last year she decided to return to Leipzig, where she grew up in a post-GDR setting.
Rosanna Thompson Rosanna Thompson’s research and interests have focused on histories and practices of commons and commoning in London. She has been a core member of The Field, an independently run social centre in New Cross, South East London. She recently founded and ran the campaign to reopen Nunhead Reservoir, and in 2016 co-founded ‘the Job de-Centre’, which is a group which mutually supports its members around issues surrounding the culture of jobs and joblessness. As an artist she makes collages, runs collage workshops and makes money as a professional face painter. As a writer she is concerned with anti-austerity, feminism and worker’s rights and she recently graduated with first class honours from an MA in Art and Politics at Goldsmiths University. Ioli Tzanetaki Ioli Tzanetaki is an independent curator, researcher and writer. Born in Athens, Greece and currently living in Berlin, she is the Assistant Curator for the Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art. She holds an MA in Art & Politics from Goldsmiths, University of London, a Postgraduate Diploma in Art History & Curating from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Exeter. Her work focuses on the relationship between art, politics and social issues. In 2016, she worked as a curatorial fellow for ‘A World Not Ours’, an exhibition reflecting on the refugee crisis which took place on the Greek island of Samos. In 2016 she curated the exhibition Eclectic Dreamers at Siegfried Contemporary in London where she also worked as a director’s assistant from 2015 to 2016. She co-founded the not-for-profit project We Hybrids which consists of a series of collaborative workshops. Since 2013 she has co-organised various exhibitions such as Faces & Spaces in Box. Freiraum, Berlin in January 2017.
Catherine Smiles Catherine Smiles is an artist and writer based in London. Catherine is the co-founder of PaperWork Magazine, an art writing magazine publishing work that uses writing and fiction as art practice. www.paperworkmagazine.com
Colophon Thank you: David Martin for your patience, Catherine Smiles for both your patience and your keen eye, Sinazo Chiya (Stevenson gallery, Cape Town) for image permissions, Sarah and Enclave for hosting us, and to everyone who took the time to submit to this issue of Archipelago. Design: pssss.co Print: calverts.coop Typeset in: Harbour Crimson and Work Sans Kindly Supported By: Goldsmiths Politics Department + Goldsmiths Annual Fund Contact: archipelagojournal.org
Supported by the
Sara Ahmed, Kiran (Kiz) Bangerh, Sean Burn, Ezgi Duman, Gitan Djeli, Carl Gent, Christina Harles, Golschan Ahmad Haschemi, Sophie Hoyle, Michal Huss, Shona Illingworth, Jane Jin Kaisen, Haeryun Kang, Hae Seo Kim, Legacy Russell, Leonara Manyangadze, Taylor Le Melle, Rowan Powell, Johanna Schmidt, Catherine Smiles, Rosanna Thompson, Ioli Tzanetaki.