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NOWISWERE

Contemporary Art Magazine


Issue Nr. 4 May 2009

NOWISWERE invites personalities to talk about


their creativity with a subjective involvement.
The passing of the ‘nows’ and the accumulation
of the recent ‘nows’ does not only produce an
urge to grasp and evaluate and understand but
also to feel the unexpectability of the future.

NOWISWERE aims to actively involve in the


production of the ‘now’ through taking each now
and then into account.
NOWISWERE
Contemporary Art Magazine
Issue Nr. 4 May 2009

Cover comissioned by
Tanja Widmann 2003/2009

Cover Layout Design by Johannes Porsch

NOWISWERE is open for submissions.


Please contact nowiswere@gmail.com

Impressum:

Co-Editors: Veronika Hauer, Fatos Üstek


Contributors: Mara Ferreri, Nicole Miltner, Claire Louise
Staunton, Tobias Hering, Gernot Wieland, Margit Neuhold,
Oona Peyrer-Heimstätt, Jurga Daubaraite, Martina Steck-
holzer,Veronika Hauer and Fatos Ustek.
Thanks: Adeena Mey
Layout: Luca Hauer

Contact: nowiswere@gmail.com
www.nowiswere.blogspot.com
TH Image Contribution.............................................................3, 4
Rudolf Steckholzer

EF Black Box...................................................................................6
Julius Pasteiner

SF A Leopard, Some Monkeys, Numerous Butterflies,


Dozens of Peacocks and a Sublime Vista*....................................8
Edward Clydesdale Thomson

CC ‘I’m Thinking of You’


Franko B .......................................................................................14
Lisa Skuret

TH POST-PROPAGANDA
An introduction by Jonas Staal......................................................16
Jonas Staal

TH EMPTINESS IN THE POST-COMMUNIST


CONDITION : Struggles of Self-Definition..................................22
Jurga Daubaraite

TH P(r)océder..............................................................................26
Jelena Martinovic

CC Gulliver’s Travel into an Art Installation:


On History, Identity and Difference
Yinka Shonibare, MBE – Egg Fight.............................................30
Rana Ozturk

Editors: Veronika Hauer & Fatos Ustek CC Hurvin Anderson


Layout: Luca Hauer Peter’s Series 2007 – 2009 ........................................................33
Proofreaders: Marianne Mulvey, Ola Wlusek Marianne Mulvey

AS Tu Zeng..................................................................................35
Fatos Ustek

TH Image Contribution...............................................................39
THematics: hosting texts up to 1000 words or image ma- Martijn in’t Veld
terial of up to four pages focusing on a single theme.
TH Looking at digital pictures:
EF Expecting Future: Is a sub section of THematics, hosting The image as part of an epistemological system.......................40
texts pointing out possibilities of future and positioning the Claus Gunti
potentials of the to-come-true. As expecting future re-
quires awareness of present, the section will be the gather- CC Leap into Imagination
ing of the today’s variety of practices, attitutes, tendencies... The Islanders: An Introduction by Charles Avery......................43
Rieke Vos
AS Artist Specials: hosting evaluations on or interviews
with artists. CC Smadar Dreyfus
Mother’s Day ................................................................................46
CC Critics’ Corner: hosting reviews on current exhibitions, Fatos Ustek
performances, events, happenings...
TH Image Contribution........................................................49, 51
SF Special Feature Rudolf Steckholzer
Julius Pasteiner

Black Box It could have been the booze withdrawing but the walls
were moving into the sound of my heartbeat. Inching; imper-
At some point after the line up in a Patpong brothel, the ceptibly. I was trapped. My clothes lay on the dresser outside,
exotic thoughts, and her request for me to shower, the urge and there was no clean conduit to hand. How it had come to
to be up there, above it all, flying over the world struck this? I was thinking that the trip would have to be cut short.
hard. I remember her saying “don’t be scaredy boy, take it I was also making a mental note never to shut doors when
off; clean”, rubbing her triangular muff with a small caramel naked. To carry soap at all times: essential. But first to get
hand. And for an instant things were clear; I saw myself, eyes out; to pass through a solid wall, ghostlike, without touching
hungry, standing with one hand poised on my belt buckle. Is a thing.
he really going through with this? I thought. Taking the toilet roll I run it under the shower for several
To see yourself from above, looking down upon yourself is minutes until it resembled a well-sucked Polo. Then I layer it
a queer thing, no doubt. Wholly incredible if you think about over my hands to form a pair of mittens. I catch my naked
the physical impossibility of it. But for an instant there I was, self in the mirror: I’m just under 6ft, pale, except for my
watching myself standing next to the bed, caught between forearms and bellow my knees which have a sandy glow to
desire and some weird ethical questioning. I just know he’s them. I think I’m basically plain looking though people say I
thinking this girl is probably poor; that this is her only way have boyish good looks that I’ll mature into. My eyes have
to earn a decent wage; that the slippery man with gold rings an ephemeral glint that I’m slightly proud of. A teacher once
who asked him to “take your pick” receives the biggest cut told me they were beguiling, another said they had the shifti-
and no doubt exploits, even abuses her; that this action will ness of a thief; I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective. I’m
only continue her misery; that she has experienced hundreds eyeballing myself: I am ready.Yet the nagging thought of what
of vile western men probing her with an entire kaleidoscope the sweet girl would think was prodding my confidence. Al-
of cocks: small, long, stubby, bent, knobbled, STD infected; ready at the hostess bar the sight of so many girls wincing
that she has lost all sense of what it is to be anything but a at the surgical gloves I had misguidedly chosen to cover my
sexual object; perhaps this is all she has ever known? Per- hands with - the hideous thoughts I could see they con-
haps, he thought - his mind swinging to another tact - in this jured - had been a lot to bear. Could I go through with this?
city she is doing well for herself, considering her starting If I waited she may just go, content with the thought I had
point; that to please a man is a skilled trade; that this will put passed out like so many other Western travellers before me
her in good stead for a life of social climbing; that the money in an alcoholic, drugged torpor. But I couldn’t stay here; I
will put her through college; that she’s a Buddhist and sex could feel the blood trickling, soaking into the recently con-
has none of the sinful connotations of Christianity; that this structed mitts and soon it would butcher them; and butcher
will be the best sex of his life; and what would that mean? my chances. I had to be brave, take on my psychology.
Maybe she even enjoys what she does - gets off on it in some A doorknob is just a doorknob, my hands are clean - every-
way. But the act with all those vile cocks must be abhor- thing is in its right place. I took hold of it and twisted. There
rent, it must be; that at some point just prior to ejaculation was no grip, my mitts slipped round the polished chrome
she’s going to chop his cock off - she’s right to, who would helplessly. Flippers; I had constructed a pair of flippers to
blame her? And that maddening squeaky voice is saying, ‘I’m do an intricate task. I’m a moron, I can’t think clearly. I must
all yours, anything you want’ throughout. And I’m thinking get out. So I wipe the sweat from my brow, rip off the soggy
this boy knows nothing, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes. towelling, throw it to the ground and with a burst of des-
He’s turning inside out. I’m witnessing it happen, but there’s peration grab the handle, twist, and hurl myself through and
nothing you can do. into the bedroom. I land face down on the carpet (it has an
Before I can slap him out of it, I’m sucked from my vantage, aggravating scratchy texture to it, like wool on teeth). The
dragged into the harsh white light of a cheap hotel toilet, and lights are off so I get to my feet and pad around the walls
I’m doing exactly what she said… for a switch to bring light to the situation. As soon as it
My hands are cracked and bloody. I have evaporated all comes on it’s obvious that the girl is gone; the bed’s made,
the complementary bars with my furious scrubbing, and my her clothes are nowhere to be seen, my clothes are piled
emergency supply was on the other side, past the doorknob, neatly by the dresser. Checking the mini-bar, several drinks
in the front pocket of my duffle bag beside the bed. And the are missing. It was probably me sobering, trying to keep my
girl waiting dutifully beneath the sheets, probably eyeing the obsessions at bay, but Coke’s a strange choice to maintain
ceiling with dazed boredom, is completely unaware of my alcoholic sedation. It must have been the girl?
predicament. She hadn’t made a sound. She knocked an hour Not to see her lying in the bed, the sheets tucked up to her
ago. I think it was her? The knock was so gentle, hardly audi- head, waiting for me, was a surprise. A surprise tinged with
ble, as you would imagine it would be. Completely immersed relief, regret and a wearisome embarrassment. It crosses my
in removing all this filth, all the residue that had collected on mind that maybe she was never there at all. I try to recollect
my body I had ignored it. The soap is constantly diminishing what she looked like but I can’t. I mean, she was Thai and she
and the dirt, well, it’s the very basis on which I stand; how had characteristics you would ascribe to a Thai girl, there’s
can I compete? just this otherness, a kind of arousing difference that flirts

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with me. Trying to invoke a clear image of the girl I see a if the surgical gloves are necessary but decide against them,
note on the top of my clothes so I read it: littleblueeyes112@ put on my favourite Nike Cortez and leave.
gmail.com. Bizarre! I thought. The hotel reception is quiet. The walls are white, carpet
I retrieve the Khao San Palace soap from the duffle and brown with beige box patterns. It all looks very familiar but
disappear into the bathroom to clean up. It’s a cheap soap expanded, bigger than previously. I’m sure this is the way I
coloured like white fat that crumbles like chalk. So dry look- came in? The boy at the desk hands over the bill. It’s as I ar-
ing it precipitates an icy shiver down my spine (I think this ranged but the extras are nearly double the room. Whisky,
initial shivering has been inscribed into the ritual now). I turn rum, two Cokes and bottle of champagne all tallied up. How
the tap to a warm dribble and place my hands palm down they managed to check my mini-bar and get the message
underneath. At first glance they appear like an elephant’s down to reception is beyond me; I had just left my room. He
arse; wrinkled, creviced, pinched with a dusty dry skin cov- waits for me to pay up slouching casually, one hand flat on
ering. To my mind, the more I look at them, they resemble the desktop. His eyes have this knowing glint, like my face is
an upheaval, as if my skin were the earth’s crust being dis- ironic, like I’m a joke who doesn’t know he’s a joke. I’ve no-
rupted by volatile fires beneath, splitting open the surface ticed this look before; it’s common to all Bangkok hotel staff
along weak fault lines. As though it were the aftermath of when dealing with Western men. We’re all the same in their
an eruption, my skin helplessly floats on the currents of a eyes: one big fucking cliché. Not to be insulted I think of the
bloody lava. Letting the water trickle down from the tips of surgical gloves and the 23 bars of Khao San Palace in my bag,
my fingers I watch it gradually fill the crevices and spill over and my once embarrassing secret has shifted, morphed into
into the next, like irrigation, channelling through the cracks reassured self loathing. I know I’m a fucking joke, you just
until the entire network is overflowed from section to sec- don’t know I know…
tion. I then crack the soap in half, run one half under hot
water until it becomes a paste, rub it all over my hands and
scrub vigorously, feeding it into all the joints and gaps. This
can take anything up to thirty minutes, usually I stop when
all the soap has evaporated. Sometimes I repeat this with the
second half, but today I must really want to leave this Hotel
room. I wash away the remaining soapy residue with cold
water. I can’t see any dirt being removed, but I know it is, I
know these hands are now clean, safe; my own. Carefully I
dry them with a fresh towel or tissue, which I carry with me.
It is an arduous bitter-sweet procedure that, embarrassingly,
is the central part of my life at the moment. It keeps me, in a
strange way that I don’t thoroughly understand, more myself,
in touch with Stanley Ventris.
After the event the pain of the lesions start to kick in, and
I am utterly frustrated with myself for giving in so easily to
these ridiculous compulsions. Blood oozes out of the deep
cracks on my knuckles and I can barely move my fingers
because of the pain. Sudden actions can rip the skin and
open up new wounds, causing further bleeding. The cycle is
continual, squared: the more you wash the more you dam-
age your skin, causing it to appear contaminated, increasing
the chance of infection and the more you feel the urge to
wash again… The source of these debilitating compulsions
is obvious: it’s the dirt and grime that accumulates on every-
thing. I have a heightened awareness to it like a Aborigine to
animal tracks. Nothing escapes, I see it on the screen of your
mobile-phone, on the underside of a jowl, in the dullness of
unpolished silver, but mostly on these dumb hands of mine:
the grimiest hands on earth. There’s nothing you can do.You
can’t run from it, or hide. Stand still and dead skin, hair, dust
encroaches like the inevitable clarity of dawn.
I let the tap drip twelve times then turn it off. I check my
watch, 7:15. I must have been in there hours; no wonder she
left. I layer my joints with a light emollient stored in my bag,
put on my clothes, stuff the note into my pocket, weigh up

EF + 7
Edward Clydesdale Thomson

*A Leopard, Some Monkeys, Numerous Butterflies, Dozens of Pea-


cocks and a Sublime Vista*

Part One
*Tails from the Zoo*

In the spring of 2007, I visited Rotterdam Zoo, expecting to find animals in cages presented for me to stare at. Assembled
from every corner of the globe, they would be confined in small, bare, barred cages and pointed at by wide-eyed children
armed with ice-cream and candy apples. I found that the animals, cages, children and ice-cream had a very different effect on
me than I’d anticipated. I was intrigued, and to my surprise wholly enjoyed walking around, captivated by the experience.
There were no bars on the cages, no sawdust on the floor, the enclosures appeared spacious, suggesting the natural habitat
I would have imagined for each animal. The enclosures were not lined up in a row along a path, nor integrated into the land-
scape, but together they formed the landscape.

During the subsequent weeks I returned time and again, observing, trying to understand the illusion and extract what I found
so fascinating about it. The physical structure of the illusion became quickly visible, but knowing how the architecture that
created the illusion was built, is not the same as knowing how the illusion works.

I continued to visit and observe the way visitors reacted to each situation. Some behaved in the most unsympathetic manner,
banging on the glass boundary of an enclosure to attract an animal’s attention. Others meandered along talking with friends,
seemingly oblivious to the zoo. Some looked immersed in the experience, mesmerised. Patterns of behaviour became vis-
ible and it seemed certain locations attracted particular reactions, even conditioned particular modes of behaviour.

Over the course of this essay I want to examine architectural tableaus as the material embodiment of political discourse.
The seemingly perceivable effect, of the differing enclosures architecture, on the zoo’s visitors, compelled me to journey
from one architectural tableau to another, in search of an answer as to how these constructions possessed such control
over their users. Beginning with observing the manipulation of the observer in the zoo, I soon became attracted by a po-
tential promise of equality of power, between the architecture and its user, I sensed in the English landscape garden. There
the effect of the architecture on me became both the subject and object of study. This shift of focus led me in search of an
architectural tableau where I thought the effect of its construction would determine the relation of power between me and
its other occupants.

Foucault’s general understanding of discourse as having a material effect on the technologies of power and discourse as a
set of material practices that shape reality and the subject, affordes me a starting point to begin to deconstruct the power
structures at play in these tableaus and compare their effect on the spectator. As Foucault starkly concludes in “The Means
of Correct Training”, a key chapter of Discipline and Punish: “The individual is no doubt the fictitious atom of an ideological
representation of society; but he is also a reality fabricated by this specific technology of power that I call ‘discipline’. […] In
fact power produces; it produces reality, it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth. The individual and the knowl-
edge that may be gained of him belong to this production.” (Foucault,1995[1975] p.194)

*Order In the Leopard Den*

A winding path leads around the leopard den. Along the entire length of the path it is possible to see inside the enclosure,
though not very clearly due to the dense vegetation, in which the fence is hidden. There are two points where the vegeta-
tion is cleared and the fence replaced with a large pane of glass. From these points the enclosure is designed to be seen, its
typography rising in a semi-circular form that creates a spectacular landscape, the end of which cannot be seen. You hold
the position from outside looking in – from an impossible, all encompassing, viewpoint. Despite this vantage point, I did not
feel in any position of control or mastery; the staging required nothing of me. I felt disconnected from what was happening
on the other side of the screen, though everything was laid out in front of me.

I often sat at a bench, adjacent to the viewpoint, and almost half of the spectators I observed stood with their noses to glass,
banging and waving their hands, in a futile attempt to provoke a reaction from the leopard. The glass was smeared with
blotches and stains of greasy hands.

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In “Techniques of the Observer” Jonathan Crary theorises a fundamental change that occurred during the 19th century,
in the construction of the viewer, whereby the “modern observer” incorporated his own subjectivity into viewing: the in-
dividual’s physicality became part of perception. “Modernity, in this case, coincides with the collapse of classical models of
vision and their stable space of representations. Instead observation is increasingly a question of equivalent sensations and
stimuli that have no reference to a spatial location.”(Crary, 1992 p.24) This could be compared to the previous modal of
the construction of observer, the era of ‘classical observer’. The Camera Obscurer, by isolating the viewer’s senses from the
subject, in a space of only visual projection, is the characteristic technology of the ‘classical observer’ because it denies the
subjectivity of the body, in favour of a monocular Cartesian certainty of absolutes where truth can be measured. In terms of
the way the observer is positioned there are certain parallels between this ‘classical’ mode of attention and the technology
of display in the leopard den.

Manipulating its viewer, the den first builds up intrigue by shrouding its mysteries behind a line of trees, before delivering a
sense of wonder within the careful choreographed landscape that unfolds as you address the window into the den. Look-
ing through this window provides a spectacular diorama like cinema-scope image. It’s here that the den begins to mislead
you, supplying you with an all-seeing vantage point, the position of Olympian-eye, and at the same time disconnecting all
other senses than the visual, from the dens interior.Your are made to feel in a position of power and control over the den,
yet nothing you do will change anything on the other side of the glass. I did not feel engaged nor enchanted by the image I
saw through the screen despite its attempts at seduction. Perhaps this dissatisfaction came because the relation between
observer and object was constructed in such an artificially ‘classic’ manner that I felt an attack on my ‘modern’ sensibilities.
I too felt like the visitors who feel the need to bang on the screen in order to provoke a reaction on the other side. The
den in control of its reading because it controls not only what, but how you will see in the moment of encounter, provoking
discontent and a sense of powerlessness in the zoo’s audience.

*Mutiny On the Monkey Island*

Something different appeared to be happening at the Monkey Island. The visitors did not attack the enclosure, nor were they
even compelled to look at it; more often they seemed content to continue chatting as they passed by. A narrow strip of wa-
ter separates it from the land, with a path leading around the island. Looking away from the island the ground slopes steeply
up in rocky, sparsely vegetated outcrops, becoming dense as they rise. There is an open view onto the island along almost
the entire length of the path.There is nowhere what you could call a ‘viewpoint’, rather there is an open view spanning three
hundred and sixty degrees of the island’s perimeter. I mostly observed people meandering around, stopping intermittently
and looking toward the island. What was it that made the difference - surely the same people visited both attractions?

Obviously the danger associated with leopards heightens the excitement of looking at the animal; the technology of ob-
servation embedded in the architecture exaggerates this, acting as a catalyst. The primary difference between the two is in
the mode of looking that each architectural configuration demands. The leopard garden requires a spectacular form of vision
where the event unfolds before you through the frame provided by the screen. The monkey island is a social form of vision
where one chooses the point from which to observe, and viewing involves moving, walking around the island, hearing the
noises, smelling, feeling the same breeze as the monkeys, mirroring Crary’s description of the ‘modern observer.’ There is
no vertical barrier between you and the island, no desire to permeate the boundaries because they are invisible. It is social
because neither the display nor viewer exerts a subjugating force over the other. In this way the monkey island allows the
visitor to experience it within their sovereign subjectivity: at one’s own pace. In constrast, the leopard den subjects the
viewer to a predetermined visual experience.

*Bewilderment In the Butterfly House*

The third location, the butterfly house, seems to have elements of both the active spectatorship around the leopard den and
the rather melancholy passive viewing of the monkey island. It is a large traditionally constructed glasshouse. The planting
is so dense it practically obscures the glass walls. The fleeting butterflies are the space’s attraction, innumerable yet almost
invisible their presence fills the enclosure.

I first visited the butterfly house on a quiet day. A young boy, about eight years old, stood in the middle of a path just inside
the entrance. He held his arms out in a manner that looked a little like he was sleep walking. He looked happy, immersed
in the space, enjoying the experience of letting the butterflies flutter around him. I found some kind of relief in this, and
frequently returned looking for others so immersed in this experience; it wasn’t hard to find them. But this was not the only
repetitive behaviour I noticed: there were many who would stalk the butterflies, sneaking up on them to get as close a look

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as possible, without the butterfly flying off. How does this relate to the previous locations?

The fundamental difference between the butterfly house and the leopard den or monkey island, is that here one is inside
the enclosure. The creatures ‘on display’ are so numerous and distributed so diffusely, there is no scopic hierarchy. Percep-
tion is fully immersive. The hierarchy of display, the relation between viewer and object, is broken so completely that it is
impossible to know where to look. Everywhere you look flickers with activity, yet as soon as you focus on one point that
activity has moved. The architecture neither determines from where you will look, nor onto what. The breaking down of a
fixed visual positioning allows for various reactions: with immersive vision the viewer determines the activity or passivity of
their spectatorship, entirely on their own terms. Some attempt to take control by using their camera to fix a viewer subject
hierarchy. Others refrain from trying to master the space and stand mesmerised by the eerie stillness of the constant activ-
ity around them.

Part Two
*Island Discoveries*

My experiences at the zoo made clear to me the manipulative powers an architectural construction holds over its users,
and pointed out the possibilities in manipulating the hierarchies of power from one space to another.The spaces in-between
displays at the zoo seemed, somewhat like the monkey island, not to subject any controlling force over me. They reminded
me of an English landscape garden with their winding paths and distant follies.

In “Suspensions of Perception” Jonathan Crary shows that material discursive practice has shaped successive scopic regimes
through the construction of various modes of observation. One’s mode of attention is constructed by a particular discourse
of looking. Modern “Attention implied that cognition could no longer be conceived around the unmediated given-ness of
sense data. […] it made a previously dyadic system of subject-object into a triadic one, with the third element constituted
by a ‘community of interpretations’: a shifting and intervening space of socially articulated physiological functions, institu-
tional imperatives, and a wide range of techniques, practices, and discourses”. (Crary, 2001 p.45/46)

The English landscape garden’s end as a contemporary style coincides with Crary’s proposed shift to a modern mode of at-
tention. Visiting the Pfaueninsel, the epitome of an isolated ‘English’ landscape garden (though situated in Germany), a 19th
Century Xanado located on an island in the river Havel, I meandered freely along its many paths. I tried briefly to take
pictures on the way, but somehow it did not seem right. Initially unimportant, this inability to stop and make a photograph
began to puzzle me.

As I wandered along winding paths happening upon events, my journey around the island felt like a real adventure. The land-
scape was clearly completely artificial: the follies, especially the castle, were so crudely built they looked almost amateurish.
This type of illusionary architecture I usually find utterly contrived. Yet the further I moved into the island the more ‘real’ it
became. Had I become more willing to suspend my disbelief? Had the setting become more convincing? Had the durational
experience of being on the island created a new logic in my perception of reality?

Although the buildings looked out of place at first, the way one approached them, like a new discovery each time, seemed
entirely natural. How did these proscribed paths that are perhaps more contrived than the follies, make the experience of
wandering around the island appear so natural and enjoyable? I did not feel in any way subject to any form of power from
the garden, it felt more like I was being encouraged to collaborate with it in a game of interpretations.

*The French Formal Garden*

If the English landscape garden embodied a ‘modern’ attention then what of its predecessors. The French formal garden is
the direct predecessor to the English landscape garden. On a trip to Paris I visited the gardens of Versailles, the paradigmatic
French formal garden. Despite the vastness of its scale, the formal patterning of the garden is repeated into the tiniest de-
tails.

Walking around it was quite bewildering: the control over nature deployed over such a vast area was awe-inspiring. Yet
the experience was often exceptionally boring, with every path straight and usually lined by dense borders. It was never
a surprise to reach something after twenty minutes walking towards it; still, there were moments of amazement. Sublime
vistas, overwhelming by their scale and the power in cultivating such an enormous area. Sublime in order, so regular, neat
and formal that it even felt soothing to gaze upon them. Subjected to this sublimity, it was almost as if the park controlled

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the very experience of it. Walking around in the garden was merely to become part of it. It could not to be experienced
as a subjective eye exploring and discovering what it found. My experience of the garden was twofold: both soothing and
imposing. Leaving the park felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and yet it was mentally more strenuous.
Perhaps this dual response, of being both subject to and pleased by the garden, was connected to a feeling of being under
its control, or the one who sat in the castle above the park, presiding over it.

*The Photographic Need*

When I walked around the grounds of Versailles I instantly felt the need to photograph. I had taken my camera but had not
expected to use it after the unwillingness to photograph I had experienced at ‘Pfaueninsel’. This need began as I was walked
through one of the maze like areas to the left of the central axis. I took about sixty images, though I knew at the time I
would not use them. It is not the images that are interesting, but the need to photograph as apposed to the unwillingness I
experienced on ‘Pfaueninsel’.

Why did one of the gardens produce a need, and the other an unwillingness to photograph? Is it related to the garden’s
political construction and specific positioning of the viewer? In Versailles I somehow needed to mediate my viewing with the
camera. The act of photographing establishes a new power relation between subject and maker, giving the subject a degree
of ownership over his surroundings. My reaction to the imposing force of the sublime grandeur experienced in the gardens
of Versailles was to photograph them, to create a new relation between myself and my surroundings through the camera.

Certain objects and situations expect to be photographed. ‘Pfaueninsel’ is one of these situations. Its design begs to be
photographed, even staging the images for you. As an artist working within photography I also feel an expectation to pho-
tograph, an expectation coming both from within, and from a cultural presumption that I should photograph. But despite
these imperatives, I did not photograph on ‘Pfaueninsel’. The landscape felt incomplete, its illusion was not hermetic and I
was deeply engaged there. In fact the degree of open-endedness allowed me to use my imagination as I wandered around. I
even tried to photograph but it did not feel necessary. I had lost myself within the garden, it had annulled this imperative, I
felt satisfied by just experiencing the garden.There was no need for me to negotiate my position in relation to the landscape
through a camera, no need to assert my position in the landscape by taking photographs?

Part Three
*Peepshows and Panopticons*

The landscape gardens shifted my attention away from abstractly observing the reaction of spectators to varying architec-
tural constructs. The experience led me to perceive my own attention as historically constituted and as a material practice.
My attention and its reactions to my changing environments had become my subject of study. In search of a concrete loca-
tion in which to examine the effect of a given situation I became attracted to the idea of visiting a peepshow, as there the
construction of power would not only relate to me and my environment, but also to directly to other people. In terms of
the politics and architectural construction of visuality and visual pleasure, the peepshow is exemplar of the most extreme
contrivance of power relations.

The peep show consisted of a large central cylinder formed by multiple narrow doors, each numbered with a small cubical
behind it. One third of the far wall was covered in a sheet of opaque glass, below which was a slot to insert money. A two-
euro coin turns the light off and the glass becomes transparent, revealing the center of the cylinder.This room is larger than
the cubicles, and contains a circular rotating bed, lit by spotlights. The artist performs on the rotating bed, allowing them
to address each spectator individually.

The similarity between Bentham’s Panopticon and the peepshow is striking and fascinating, particularly in their subtle differ-
ences. In the peepshow it is clearly possible to see the performer at the center of the cylinder, they are spotlit for specta-
tors lurking in the shadows. This construction performs a reversal of the panopticon, where the surrounding rooms are lit
so that the person in the center may see in to them, without being seen themselves.

As a spectator I was physically disconnected from the event happening before me. This separation of the visual stimuli
and the body of the observer is reminiscent of the division the camera Obscurer makes. I looked from a darkened room
through a void onto an object of desire, a super display, the performer. The performer absorbed my gaze yet when I took
my eyes off them, I could make out, secluded in darkness, other spectators like myself. I found the reflection of my position
as spectator startling. Suddenly it is possible to see myself from outside. This double separation of the visual and the visceral

SF + 11
reminds me of Zizek’s description of the real. The moment I saw myself from outside, the thing I had been looking at, the
performer, itself became a void. According to Zizek “the Real is not the pre-reflexive reality of our immediate immersion
into our life-world but, precisely, that which gets lost, that which the subject has to renounce, in order to become immersed
into its life-world – and, consequently, that which then returns in the guise of spectral apparitions”.(Zizek,2008 p.17) And
he, reading Hegel, describes “a split which cleaves the One from within, not into two parts - but between Something and
Nothing, between One and the Void of its Place.- And it is in this gap that the Real emerges: the Real is the “almost noth-
ing” which sustains the gap that separates a thing from itself.”(Zizek, 2008 p.26) Looking away from the performer of the
peepshow, the object of my gaze began oscillating “between One and the Void of its Place”.

The performer occupies the position of the panopticon guard, yet by being on display, the power they relinquish in becoming
visible is recuperated through their visual attraction demanding the spectator’s attention. The rotating performer looks at
each spectator, using their gaze to compel each one to keep watching. One reading of the situation, would put power firmly
in the hand of the performer who is able to see everyone and control their view. Yet Zizek illuminates the mechanisms at
play in this complex viewing situation, when the object of the spectator’s gaze becomes a void, and the rotating body on
display is overlooked. This reading puts power in the individual choice of where to look, and is not tied to the positions
defined by the apparatus. It challenges my earlier analysis of the zoo’s power structure, presenting the possibility that there
can be ‘an outside’ to the constructions determinism.

In the peep show I felt the controlling gaze from the performer, and was confronted with an uncomfortable feeling where
I had to choose between a whole host of socially accepted gazes in return, none of them adequate. This inadequacy made
me look away and in doing so I saw the other spectators, at this moment the performer now inhabited a spot at which I
could not look. Here in this apparatus of display where I had imagined the architectures subjecting force to be the most
controlling of all the tableaus I had investigated, the relation of power rather than being produced by the architecture, as
in the zoo, was now a negotiation between the performer and me. Could an understanding of ones gaze as a political tool
provide a key in subverting architectures determinism?

Bibliography
Crary, J 1992 Techniques of the Observer, Cambridge, Massachusetts,The MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-53107-0
Crary, J 2001 Suspensions of Perception, Cambridge, Massachusetts,The MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-53199-2
Foucault, M 1995 [1977] Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, New York:Vintage, ISBN 0-679-75255-2
Tagg, J 2007 [1988] The Burden of Representation, Essays on Photographies and Histories, New York: Palgrave MacMillan, ISBN 0-333-41824-7
Zizek, S 2008 For they know not what they do: Enjoyment as a political factor, London:Verso ISBN 1-844-67212-3

References
Barthes, R 2000 [1980] Camera Lucida, London:Vintage, ISBN 0-09-922541-7
Deluze, G 1992 Postscript on the Societies of Control, essay in October 59, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-75209-0
Grundberg, A 2004 [1990] The crisis of the real: Photography and the Postmodern, one of a collection of essays in, The Photography Reader, London:
Routledge, ISBN 0-415-24661-X
Lutz, Collins 2004 [1994] The photograph as an Intersection of Gases: The Example of National Geographic, one of a collection of essays in, The Photog-
raphy Reader, London: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-24661-X
Foster, H 1996 The Return of the Real, Cambridge, Massachusetts,The MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-56107-7
Solomon-Godeau, A 2004 [1983] Winning the game when the rules have been changed, one of a collection of essays in, The Photography Reader, London:
Routledge, ISBN 0-415-24661-X
Sontag, S 2002 [1977] On Photography, London: Penguin Classics, ISBN 0-141-18716-6
Sween, M 2002 Inventing the Victorians, London: Faber and Fabe, ISBN 0-571-20663-8

SF + 12
Lisa Skuret

‘I’m Thinking of You’


Franko B
Visions of Excess at SHUNT Vaults, London
as part of Spill Festival of Performance
12. 04. 2009

I found Franko B illuminated (awash in gold spotlight, naked


and smiling) on a converted gilt playground swing in one of
the archways opening onto the dank corridors of Shunt. Ac-
companied only by the tinklings of a simple piano tune, the
seemingly endless loop of swinging and sound carried with it
the nostalgia of music boxes and lullabies. Occasionally mak-
ing eye contact, Franko glanced as if in invitation to those
watching him while enjoying a chat and a drink. Perhaps an
attempt to welcome us into the fantasy, the invitation was an
extension of one that Franko had made earlier in his open
call for participants to inhabit the installation at hourly in-
tervals. And as time unfolded, another ‘performer’ assumed
his place on the swing, extending the image in cycles over a
period of twelve hours.

The multiple levels of repetition in ‘I’m Thinking of You’


seemed to echo like the persistent refrains in Franko’s past
work.These have revolved around love (and the beloved) and
around ideas of home (the place where love lives).‘Oh Lover
Boy’... ‘I Miss you’ ... ‘Blinded by Love’ .........................blinded
by love, I wonder what he can see in front of him? Can he
see beyond a persistent image from the past? And if his per-
formances are a type of re-enactment, what compels him
to go back for more? Doing. Re-doing. Doing again. Magical
undoing. A child hostage appealing from a state of abjection?
When asked about this piece, Franko responded that it was
not about him. (Indeed, he also reminded a few performers
who may have been drawing attention to themselves, that it
was not about them either.) Perhaps now, working with light
instead of blood, performances which might previously be
read as melancholic (re)enactment, circling around a central
loss, act more as revelation coming in a blinding flash of love,
or a blinding flash of love coming in revelation…

In his most recent performance work, ‘Don’t Leave Me


This Way’, the audience, temporarily blinded by light, was Franko B, ‘I’m Thinking of You’, 2009 Photo: Richard J. Andersen
left with a perceptual afterglow. An image, similar to that
created after looking at the sun for too long, temporarily
persists. By contrast, in ‘I’m Thinking of You’, Franko, seem-
ingly bathed in the light of romance, was the lived afterglow.
The re-occurrence of this flickering image over an extended
period of time invited us (some, literally) to enter into it
while, at the same time, the twelve hour duration seemed to
collapse into an extended residual image. Indeed, the partici-
pants and audience members that I spoke to remarked that
the performance stayed with them, manifesting in feelings of
“happiness”. An activating, affective takeaway?

CC + 14
‘I’m Thinking of You’, was brought to life in the context of Vi-
sions of Excess, a live art event co-curated by Ron Athey and
Lee Adams as part of the Spill Festival in London. Billed in
the supporting publicity as a “12 hour communion with the
ragged spirit of Georges Bataille”, from 9pm until 9am Vi-
sions of Excess occupied its time with work from a number
of international artists including Bruce LaBruce, Ron Athey
and Kiera O’Reilly. In the main stage areas, David Hoyle act-
ed as compère/health & safety, rep/sideshow host(ess) and
tour guide for the performances. Tragicomic experiments in
personal transformation were explored in works such as in
‘Til Death Do You Part - Marry Yourself!’ a one to one per-
formance with an “encouraging priestess” where the partici-
pant had an opportunity to devise and enact a ceremonial
commitment to themselves. In Zackary Drucker’s ‘work in
progress’, the audience, encouraged by an acousamatic voice
(reminiscent to that of a guide from a self-help audio tape),
was invited to collectively build-up and channel negative en-
ergy (derived from personal failure) into the hair follicles of
the artist dressed only in a blond wig, stilettos and panties.
As a finale, in a futile collective act of gender re-assignment,
the participants, now armed with tweezers, were encour-
aged to pluck hair from the artist’s body to the accompani-
ment of the disembodied voice’s chants of “you will never
be a woman”.

Albeit it in different ways, the work in Visions, responds to


alienation from societal ideals ingested and then enforced by
our ‘selves’. Captured by ‘images’ of perfection we are forced
into repetitive patterns of behaviour. Our vision thus guided
and media-driven, we get caught in the productivity of sterile
cycles of consumption. And try as we might, steered by a
hunger for completion never satisfied, we never quite man-
age to shoehorn into the confines of the ideal. In this way,
happily ever after, we are destined to fail in the pursuit of
Franko B, ‘I’m Thinking of You’, 2009 Photo: Richard J. Andersen
an ideal romance modelled after an ideal childhood. And in
these closed and enclosed economies, the excess produced
Looking back at Franko B’s past, and following from Deleuze by, while at the same time, excluded from the system, is neat-
and Guattari’s work on ‘refrain’, one might say that the re- ly kept out of sight.
frains in his body of work act together to create a territory
or a terrain. But maybe this ‘home’ does not function merely Working with his own blood in previous live performances,
as domestic refuge, but has the potential to become a more Franko B’s wound was open to be interpreted in a variety of
enduring act of production. By continually invoking an ‘im- ways.The skin acted as a landscape to the visible surfacing of
age’ of home, home is brought into being. By externalising an individual psychological conflict (as in historical readings
and actualising a need (to have a home and the love and of persistent skin disorders such as eczema), marked him
security that, ideally, it contains), he has potential to inte- out as the bearer of stigma, and represented a collective
grate his creation and to carry it with him. A mobile home? vulnerability, and disgrace. A scarlet letter radiating a burn-
In a similar way, by playing with a clichéd image, as he does ing heat.
in ‘I’m Thinking of You’, Franko B does not return to the
nostalgia of personal memory only to repeat it in the future. As Erving Goffman examines in Stigma: Notes on the Manage-
By using a fictionalised image of ‘the past’, he opens up new ment of Spoiled Identity, stigma is something that marks the
possibilities for the future of that image. A processional self? bearer out as different from existing, desirable, social norms.
By returning to a fictive time that has been ‘lost’, actualis- It is a mark, however small, of some defect in presentation
ing a time which never, and possibly could never, exist (an of or deviation from the identity categories that form us and
ideal), something new is created in the slippage of that im- which we reiterate our self in relation to. Stigma, therefore,
age’s boundaries. has to be ‘managed’ to a greater or lesser extent. Informa-

CC + 15
tion needs to be controlled, so that the individual is not la- ing at me”, and loss in what he described as ‘non-personal’
belled as different and then marginalized, or excluded. Since reverie...Blinded by love is he having a romance with himself?
identities are relational, stigmatization may precipitate a cri- Has he, escaping capture, ‘returned’ home? And as an audi-
sis in self-perception that would require a readjustment of ence participant, over time, I can’t help but feel the image’s
personal schema. For these reasons, the visibility of stigma is eidetic affect.
controlled wherever possible and concealed. When it does
surface, so does a feeling of shame. And this shame may lead
to anxiety and avoidance of social contact. 1 Goffman, Erving. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, Pen-
guin Books, 1968, (163).
Goffman goes on to explain that the stigmatized and the
‘normal’ are not so different from each other, in fact, he says
that they run in parallel to each other and that “every in-
dividual participates in both roles”.1 As both a part and a
product of a shared framework and system of rules, they
are reciprocal and dependant upon one another. Even the
so-called normal shares some, however small, stigma, as they
desire but can never fully achieve an unattainable social ideal.
In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari, in a concern with how
to proceed in a war fought against what they recognise as a
sick (neurotic) society, explore how a feeling of lack is creat-
ed, maintained, and exploited by society and it’s mechanisms
of power through repression (for example, in capitalism’s
exploitation of the free floating desire created by repres-
sion). Similarly, this constant striving for, but never achieving
a state of completion in an idealised and stable identity (itself
an unattainable social ideal), creates a feeling of lack in the
subject.

As I see it, it is this lack, maintained in the self-perpetuating


closed system of the ‘I’, which can be made manifest through
stigma as excess. In this way, stigma performs as a symptom
(as a positive symptom, perhaps), as a defect in the cultural
machine, surfacing repressed desire and alterity. Surfacing
what is kept out of conscious awareness has the potential
to remind us of our ultimate alienation from the ideal, and
by extension, society (and ourselves created in relation to
it) - the alterity internal to ourselves. It also has a role to play
in escaping the system.

While some of the work at Visions of Excess was literally


playing with systemic waste (think auto-fisting, blow-jobs,
blood-letting), Franko B played with an ideal by bringing it to
life.........and invited others to join in. In ‘I’m Thinking of You’,
I see Franko B bringing a fantasy to light. This is not just a
personal/reparative phantasy, or an idealised and fetishised
image, but extends to include that of social ideal. There did
seem to be some catharsis to be had in having the opportu-
nity to temporarily embody (and in the process reconfigure
the shape of) an ideal childhood/romance. In this piece, it is
not the scars left by his past performances, nor the tattoos
that capture my attention. Is it the face of an image with no
fixed identity, collectively owned? Strangely, I noticed that
once performers took to the driving seat, that they, although
altogether physically different, shared a similar look. As one
participant explained to me, his experience on the swing os-
cillated between self-awareness, “it’s cold”, “people are look-
Jonas Staal

“Art is seen as one of democracy’s most essential pillars: it is Stating that every form of ideology is per definition a rejec-
the space par excellence for the free expression of ideas, the tion of a world that consists of a multiplicity of truths and
experimentation with new models of society. However, when an realities is of course an ideologically driven proposition in
artist takes this role too seriously and becomes too straightfor- itself. There is even a clear system of consensus that repre-
wardly political, s/he is accused of demagogy or simply discarded sents exactly these ideals: I claim that this is what we call the
as bad art” 1 democratic project, to which I refer to as democratism.

Contemporary art constitutes the perfect face of democrat-


POST-PROPAGANDA ism when it is self-critical, inquisitive, open, tolerant, continu-
ally under development and full of interest in others. And it
An introduction by Jonas Staal is from this perspective only logical that our politics speak
about how much it wants to leave art ‘free’ and ‘independent’.
For this ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’ are exactly among the
I.
core values of democratism and we as artists have become
Since modern art has seemingly successfully obtained its sta-
to constitute the perfect representatives of these values.
tus as a sovereign métier, the concept of propaganda has pos-
sibly become the greatest taboo for all cultural producers
For me the crucial question is the following: what does this
in the field. The trauma of the 20th century ‘state-art’ – art
specific notion of criticism mean in a society in which con-
made in favour or under pressure of totalitarian regimes2 –
temporary art is expected to be critical as such?
has had a huge impact on our thinking on the relationship
between art and politics.
I do not think we can speak of real criticism at all once these
expectations are met. I state that real criticism is to be found
Contemporary art when concerned with socio-political is-
at the moment when the profound entanglement between
sues is generally perceived as an arena of criticality, which
art and politics takes its place at the heart of the artist’s
‘reveals’ to us the dangers of ideology. An arena that coun-
work. Or at least: when this entanglement forms the basis of
ters populist strategies and which instead of pleasing the
operations performed in artistic practice.
spectator, challenges him to see the world around us as an
area of multiple truths. The fear of propaganda is the fear of
II.
the unambiguous (political) positioning of the artist. Today
The first of my projects that I wish to introduce within
it is expected from artists to show to us the world as an
this line of thinking was realized in direct cooperation with
ambiguous place. To show us the world as a place which ex-
politician Ronald Sørensen, leader of the Rotterdam-based
ists by a variety of truths. To show us a world that is in need
right-wing populist party Leefbaar Rotterdam. 3
of a continuous interest in others. This doctrine is based on
the fear of stigmatizing (again) those who have suffered from
In 2007 PvdA left-wing labour party member Zeki Baran
totalitarian regimes in the past.
proposed to realize a ‘Monument for the immigrant worker’
in the Afrikaanderwijk in Rotterdam. The Afrikaanderwijk is
To affiliate with those conservatives that represent the con-
a neighbourhood built in the 1920-30s and is named after
trary, the ‘dangerous’ and inevitably ‘violent’ nature of truth
farmers of Dutch decent in South Africa. On August 10th
seeking, is to affiliate with propagandists. For every claim on
1972 severe confrontations took place when native citizens
the truth or on the framework of reality as such would mean
of Rotterdam invaded into immigrant workers’ homes and
that other truths and realities would be rejected. Ideology
forced them to leave their houses with all their possessions.
within contemporary art is continuously discussed as a doc-
The reason of this violent intrusion was the amount of il-
trine: as an inevitable first step to mass-murder and violent
legal housing that was offered to immigrants, which gave the
repression, even though the claim on ‘true’ art as a field of
impression that they were treated better then the native
multiplicity and ambiguity is not any less dogmatic at all.
citizens, who also suffered from a shortage of affordable liv-
ing spaces.
In my essay ‘Post-propaganda’ I claim that placing the art-
ist in this role as a ‘questioner’, as someone who merely
The ‘Monument for the immigrant worker’ was meant to
‘shows a mirror’ to society, is just as much – and even more
honour those immigrants who after the ending of WWII
– representing the current state of ideology as those art-
helped to rebuild, and settled in, the city of Rotterdam, which
ists whom we have learned to reject for their unambiguous
had been severely bombed by the Nazis. And of course, the
bond with ideologically driven organisations. For the ideal of
monuments would also function as a plaster for the treat-
multiplicity, the ideal of the artists showing ‘mirrors’ to the
ment the immigrants received when violently forced out of
world around us, the ideal of the artist ‘revealing’ the secret
their houses.This monument was supposed to be realized by
mechanisms of ideology and the ideal of the artist to exer-
asking families of this first generation of immigrant workers
cise continuous tolerance are values that are obviously not
to each donate one euro.
at all free of an ideological basis.

TH + 17
Monument for the chased-off citizens of Rotterdam - Interview still, 2008; Interview by Vincent van Gerven Oei and Jonas Staal
Politician Sørensen reacted furiously when hearing of Baran’s place.
statement and immediatly proposed to realize a counter- It is in this line that other comments from him are inter-
monument: a monument that he called the ‘Monument for esting as well. For example when in the beginning of the
the Chased-Off Citizens of Rotterdam’. interview he states that “I have no background in art. And as
a politician, I don’t want to be involved with it.”7 This statement
The sketching phase for this monument was executed after sounds highly familiar when thinking of the artist or the art
several statements made by Sørensen in the media,4 and institution which does reflect upon subjects of a sociopoliti-
through a series of telephone conversations, to picture ex- cal nature, but when asked further, will always deny direct
actly what Sørensen had in mind. I presented a 3D model political involvement. As of course, consensus demands from
to Sørensen and the arts and culture representative of the contemporary art to always question, but never to acknowl-
party Anton Molenaar, while interviewing both of them. This edge a direct ideological bond with what is being questioned,
conversation was conducted together with writer Vincent or the way in which this model of questioning functions. For
van Gerven Oei. this would make him a propagandist or at least a politician.
Certainly not an artist.
In this interview Sørensen, in strong opposition of Baran’s
suggestion of a monument for the immigrant worker, said One could say that in the case of my production for Sø-
the following on the issue: rensen, my role is that of a propagandist: the role of a state
artist in the most traditional sense of the word. But I claim
“A statue so as to express gratitude to and commemorate the that a great difference lies in the element of choice: my con-
hard-working immigrant, which would have given us our prosper- scious choice to be involved with the representatives of the
ity. Again, you don’t do such a thing, that’s nonsense. [...] Because Leefbaar Rotterdam party. It is this element of choice that
that would entail that we owe our wealth and prosperity to these shows a difference in the balance of power when comparing
so-called guest-workers and that is absolute nonsense. It’s untrue. my position with that of the classic propagandist. For it could
It’s only a hyper correct manipulation of history which always just as well be stated that I am an instrument of the Leefbaar
intensely annoys me and which is used time after time again. So, Rotterdam party for the representation of their political
when Baran said “We need to erect a monument for all those program, as that they are an instrument in my attempt to
people to which we owe all of this,” I said “Get real, this a lie insis- analyse and dissect the meaning and ideological structuring
tently kept alive by the multicultural Mafia.” If you really want to of democratism.
honour someone in this city, to whom we owe our prosperity and
wealth, it should be those people that worked their ass off for this I will try to specify this position by introducing a second ex-
city after the war. [...] But those people don’t feel themselves at ample of a work that I realized for a local Rotterdam repre-
home anymore in the Afrikaanderwijk, they have all left, or have sentative of the PvdA left-wing labour party named Robert
been chased-off. So if you want to honour someone, honour the Baruch.
chased-off citizens of Rotterdam.” 5
In 2006 Baruch proposed to start an investigation concern-
When the model of the desired monument was presented ing the history of the street names in, again, the Afrikaander-
to them for the first time during the interview, their re- wijk in Rotterdam. Baruch’s proposal was based on a peti-
sponse was as follows: tion that a group of African actors had sent to him. These
actors had been shocked to find out that the street names in
“Ronald Sørensen: I think it’s beautiful. It’s a total surprise for me, Afrikaanderwijk referred directly to the former Apartheid-
but I think it’s beautiful. regiment. These were names that found their origins around
Anton Molenaar: Yes, I think so too. I’m not sure whether it’s on the year 1900, when the people of The Netherlands were
purpose, but it’s not really provoca¬tive. It’s just objective, there highly engaged with the Dutch-speaking ‘Afrikaanders’ who,
are many possibilities, so... led by Paul Kruger – also known as ‘Oom Paul’ (Uncle Paul)
RS:Yes, I think it’s beautiful.” 6 – fought in the ‘Boerenoorlog’ (The ‘Farmer’s war’) against
English oppressors.
Obviously Sørensen’s statements concerning the realisation
of this monument were, in first intention, only meant as a In an interview Baruch stated that he was thinking to change
polemical strategy. His proposition was meant to force me- the street names into names that would symbolize a ‘new
dia attention to Baran’s – yet unrealized – ‘Monument for Africa’.8 Among others he proposed to change the Paul Kru-
the immigrant worker’. It is therefore that he states that gerstraat in the ‘Shaka Zoeloestraat’, named after the former
“It’s a total surprise for me” when he is confronted with the leader of the Zulu’s, Shaka.
sketch that can be used to create the actual monument.This
does not keep him from wanting to have it realized: it is just After having initiated a public intervention in which I had
for the first time that he is actually considering its realization, the street sign changed according to Baruch’s wishes, I gave
as he himself never took his own proposition seriously in the first the assignment to Sign & Traffic – the organisation in the

TH + 19
Monument for the chased-off citizens of Rotterdam - Model, 2008
3d model by Sjoerd Oudman

TH + 20
Netherlands who produces all official public street signs – for the system, but the system itself does not have to be held
to realize an actual street sign that could replace the Paul responsible for this. We constitute a face for democratism
Krugerstraat. Together with a letter signed by me on March that nobody dares to wear publicly. Politicians will always
17th, these were shown in two art shows before being send claim that the art made today is a ‘free’ art: free of the to-
to Baruch.9 In the letter I stated that I hoped to have been talitarian influences of the past. But I find this concept of
“at his service”10 in the continuation of his initiative: “Ik hoop ‘freedom’ ridiculous when exercising and representing it is
u hiermee voldoende van dienst te zijn in het voorzetten van uw exactly the task given to us.
initiatief.”
My claim is that today the role of the state artist is not only
III. to redefine democratism, but also to educate politicians. To
In both works, the ‘Monument for the Chased-Off Citizens educate them in the powers that they themselves represent,
of Rotterdam’ as well as the Shaka Zoeloestraat, political but do not acknowledge as such. To renegotiate the slogan
representatives state to represent the voice of the people: in ‘Power to the people!’ into a public questioning of the bal-
the first case the voice of the male native worker, and in the ance of powers by asking: ‘Power?... To which people?!’ And
second case the voice of the immigrant worker. Even though as artists, we should also allow ourselves to be educated and
the goals of both propositions are seemingly different, both directed by politicians. Our inevitable position as state art-
cases claim to give a voice to those whom are not heard at ists should be acknowledged both ways for “I would say that
this moment. This is in line with the ideological framework we are all always already serving”.11 The first objective is the
that both Leefbaar Rotterdam and the Pvda claim to repre- following: to re-design politics as an artistic domain, and to
sent, namely that of democratism. redesign art as a domain of the political.

At the same time both propositions function based on un- And is it not interesting in this line of thinking to see how a
democratic grounds. For Sørensen and Baruch’s proposals right-wing political party such as Leefbaar Rotterdam, which
are propositions by two individuals that are obviously in in classical populist terminology claims to represent ‘the
power: at least in power to make such propositions and cre- voice of the people’, a party which represents the ideal of
ate public attention by it to strengthen their political stances. direct democracy and rejects all forms of ‘totalitarian’ ideol-
But so far nobody controlled or forced neither Sørensen ogy from the past, from communism to socialism and fas-
nor Baruch to make a concrete proposition for the realisa- cism, when describing their wish for a ‘Monument for the
tion of their monuments (I consider the street sign to be Chased-Off Citizens of Rotterdam’ to basically describe an
a monument as well). Until I took both Sørensen and Baruch image based on the most representative aspects of social-
seriously, both propositions were dying a silent death in the realism? And is it not interesting to see how a left-wing la-
realm of rhetoric strategies. bour party such as the PvdA, in this case represented by a
non-African politician, decide themselves who ‘new African
I state that we should put the concept of the state artist heroes’ should be? And to choose an African warlord that
to discussion once again. We should not be fooled by the most westerners only know from a 1987 Hollywood film
current consensus ruling contemporary art production that that romanticized his existence?
there is always some kind of ‘independent’ role or function
for artists, within which the concept of ‘propaganda’ – simi- Is it not fascinating how the image, much more then the spo-
lar to populism – has become a dirty word par excellence. ken vocabulary of politicians, is able to dissect the ideological
Especially in The Netherlands, where a large part of contem- grounds on which these proposals are truly based on? Not
porary art production is subsidized by the government the by means of an ‘outsiders’ critique, but from a fully embed-
question of who is in power is in need of an urgent answer. ded point of view. An embedment in which art and power
For as artists we, by our mere existence, form the face of are no longer falsely separated, but share one and the same
democratism, representing its values of tolerance, freedom spectre and objective: namely to redesign the meaning and
and the capacity of being (self)critical. If indeed we are the the means of implementation of democratism today.
conscious or unconscious propagandists of the system, how
then to address our actual hosts, politicians, who assign us
this task to represent the values of democratism? How do 1 ‘Always Choose the Worst Option – Artistic Resistance and the Strategy
we address them when they state that contemporary art of Over-Identification’ by BAVO, Episode Publishers, Rotterdam, 2007, p19.
has its own sovereignty of which they do not wish to com- 2 ‘Did someone say totalitarianism?’ by Slavoj Zizek, Verso, London-New
York, 2001.
ment or make any judgements when at the same time they
3 Leefbaar Rotterdam – translated as ‘Live-able’ or ‘Endurable Rotterdam’
are laying down the exact framework that we continue to – is a local political party that came to being in 2001. During the elections of
represent? March 6th the former leader of the party, politician Pim Fortuyn, won 34.7%
of the votes and thereby at once became the largest party in Rotterdam.
Fortuyn was murdered two months later by an animal rights activist.
And think of how perfect this form of propaganda is in com-
4 ‘LR wil beeld voor ‘verjaagde Rotterdammer’’ by Antti Liuku, AD Rot-
parison to the propaganda of the past. For we as artists work terdams Dagblad, 2007.

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Jurga Daubaraite

5 ‘Monument for the chased-off citizens of Rotterdam - interview’ con-


ducted by Vincent van Gerven Oei and Jonas Staal in 2008 and exhibited at
EMPTINESS IN THE
Stroom,The Hague. Published in ‘Monumental Research’ by van Gerven Oei
and Staal, Stroom, The Hague, 2009, p.14-17.
POST-COMMUNIST
6 Ibid. CONDITION
7 Ibid.
8 ‘Apartheid-straten weg’ door Antti Liukku, gepubliceerd op 4 juli 2006 STRUGGLES OF SELF-DEFINITION
in het AD Rotterdam
9 These exhibitions were subsequently ‘Body-Double’ at the Nieuwe Vide
in Haarlem (NL), curated by Emilie Oursel and ‘ACTIVISM DOUBT’ at De
Veemvloer in Amsterdam (NL), curated by Radek Vana. Both exhibitions “Future
took place in March and April 2009. I saw a field full of sunflowers.They were all looking wrong way.”
10 This brings to mind the political slogan ‘At your service!’ with which Dan Perjovschi
populist politician Pim Fortuyn entered the 2002 Dutch elections before
being murdered by an animal rights activist.
11 Andrea Fraser, How to Provide an Artistic Service: An Introduction, 1994. Continuous displacements that operate discursively on the
http://i1.exhibit-e.com/petzel/b82e289c.pdf post-communist subject, result in a collective unconscious
fear for the ‘new’ and the ‘other’. And in a paradoxical way it
prevents a critical historical inquiry - nostalgia and a rather
glorified historical victimisation become more reasonable
ways of dealing with the complex aftermath of the com-
munism.
A certain psychological comfort was lost during the first
decade of independence due to lack of promise of a com-
fortable stability that was previously a safety catch for the
communist system. Therefore today in the times of capi-
talist market economy and democratic rule one can freely
purchase nostalgically branded Soviet bread and mending
tools etc. in a supermarket. “The post-soviet subject is long-
ing for unified ideology and total order, according to which
he would construct his life.The easiness and irresponsibility
of everyday life supplied by accommodation are more im-
portant values for him than independence and freedom to
decide for oneself.”1 Amorphous and unsettled times of still
something else to come, are on an individual basis perceived
with confused fear and disbelief so, as theorist Putinaite sug-
gests, “reality released from ideological control reveals the
‘abnormality’ and doubtful reliability of those past everyday
traditions. For instance, now a business relation based upon
friendship is being called corruption.”2 Since the past is to
be declined, terms and traditions revised, the self-percep-
tion of the post-communist subject becomes incomplete,
dazzled and lacking a point of reference.

It is relevant to compare these identification struggles with


contemporary Lithuanian artist Arturas Raila’s work: Forever
Lacking and Never Quite Enough, is a video cut of newsreels
and short propaganda features from the 1940s.When it was
shown for the first time in the Contemporary Art Center in
Vilnius (2001) the artist invited dissident Genius Strazdas to
read his patriotic-nationalist poetry alongside the screening
of edited archive material. It is important to point out that
the video material was provided by Lithuanian Image and
Sound Archive, which as the curator of the show explains,
is: “a state-run and chronically under-financed institution,
over 30.000 films are kept in precarious conditions, but all
those reels contain very few frames that we today would
call ‘documentary’. Like its counterparts in other formerly
totalitarian countries, the Lithuanian archive is a museum
of the manipulated and manipulative moving image”. 3 In a

TH + 22
Jurga Daubaraite

Lithuanian Song and Dance Celebration; Nemunas Magazine

sense Raila’s piece is a distanced creation of a critical situ- wards the Western system just melting away, in turn it shapes
ation, where one ‘truth’ of ideological material is combined ‘our own’ nationalist solution for the unanswered questions.
with another; resistance ‘truth’. Here the artist’s personal Theorist Marius Babias’ article The Euro-self And The Europe-
position is partly invisible, as voided, all there is represented anism explains the way, in his opinion, ideology of Europe-
is documentary archives and witness of the struggles during anism reconciles socialism with capitalism and constructs a
occupation. The focus is on their relation, between differ- specific national discourse:
ent history narratives of two perceptions of nationalism and
resistance. As the edited footage continues rolling and the “The preferred model, interpreting communism as a wrong way
poet reads his poetry no “right questions” are being asked. or a dead end is too limited.The contemporary process of restruc-
Allowing both sides to perform, Raila approaches the ma- turing the postcommunist society, as well as the self, as “Europe-
nipulative silencing issue of post-communist discourse.Thus an”, in the conditions offered by the dissolution of the communist
the artist says he dedicates this work to the stereotypical past and by its profound cultural impregnations is not based on a
“older-generation” viewer in Lithuania - “this means some- critical approach to history, but tends to present a continuity of its
one who is an involuntary product of totalitarian world- national history, myths, traditions and cultural self-appreciations;
order and who does not have any of the conceptual tools but this heterogeneous presentation, offered by the new elites,
to deal with recent history (or current world affairs) that represents the product of the “national discourse” of communism,
are taken for granted by those brought up in some of the dressed up as liberalism, which is dominant now.” 6
liberal, post-modern communities further to the west.”4
The screened images provide supportive conclusions about Although a positive EU identity policy aims to construct a
the paradigmatic self-image of an ethnically defined ‘self’ and pan-European community, where cultures and values would
latter modes of restructuring it after the fall of soviet state. be shared, and diversity celebrated, in reality one can see
Raila’s film could also be approached as a simplification and creation of a new kind of hierarchy in the regions of East-
blurring of the current inquiries of history and memory, ern Europe – according to the obtained level of European-
as he edits out the actual manifestations of events during ism. Concerned with the integration processes a subject
occupation and leaves the spectator to encounter his (?) is struck by the double necessity to embody amnesia and
– our (Lithuanian) imaginary. “His idea is rather to visually become equal. Therefore authenticity issues are approached
re-create people’s unreflected, ingrained and indeed almost as a modern act of self-identification.
“automatic” reactions to the accounts of war and occupa-
tion that are traded in situations where there is little ideo- This simulated reality of a numbed collective memory was
logical control.”5 lauded during the nationalist rally, if taking the Song and
In addition to an un-questioning relation with the recent Dance Celebration as an example, which has a tradition of
past it is important to point out the regional reception of a hundred years in Lithuania, and was also accredited by the
these transition period’s processes, and the specific con- soviet system.Annual celebrations were the biggest and most
struction of a national identity as demonising attitude to- prosperous cultural events organised, and were unavoidable

TH + 23
for everyone living in the capital cities. To participate and tion today and its according current official rhetoric vaguely
wear a ‘national’ costume gave the possibility to demarcate different from soviet propaganda. Therefore representa-
one’s identity collectively – to celebrate it – on a basis of tion of national identity attributes to myths and appropri-
emotional national euphoria. Folk type songs and dances, ate re-interpretations of history. In 2008 an official website
that had been rewritten, harmonised by soviet composers for Song and Dance Celebration hosts an article analysing
and choreographers were a numb comfort for the occu- the “tradition and symbolism” of this event. Here are some
pied nation. (Putinaite names one of the many examples of parts quoted from it:
invented abstract identification symbols during soviet times
as the Baltic Sea; somehow entrenched as symbol of Lith- “From the cultural point of view the national song and dance
uanian-ness and pureness, it was carolled in the songs and celebration tradition is an expression of cultural-national identity
poetry of the period.) This kind of nationalist stream was a based on a mass art lover movement of choir singers, dancers,
societal process, encouraging euphoria and solidarity within and musicians.The artistic product they create as well as their ex-
community. And again, after the decline of the communist istence per se performs the function of an intermediary between
system, these rooted traditions of self-articulation embarked archaic cultural layers and modern professional creation. From
on struggles within the search for some kind of ‘new’ au- the cultural historical point of view, the national song and dance
thenticity, being able to avoid the right-wing nationalist wave celebration tradition largely contributed to the cultural develop-
of slogans. The locations of the so-called ‘Lithuanian-ness’ or ment of Lithuania at the end of the 19th century and the first
other similarly defined identities still reflect the communist half of the 20th. It proved to be the most important manifestation
promoted salvation. The poet and academic Tomas Venclova, of Lithuanian national-cultural identity and a form of its preser-
who has been living and working in the West since 1977, as- vation. It continuously emphasised the most significant part of
serts such a position: traditional cultural heritage (especially singing that has been uni-
versally acknowledged to be the most valuable aspect of the song
“Eastern Europe is lagging behind from the viewpoint of civi- and dance celebration) as well as the most noteworthy treasures
lization – partly for historical reasons formed over the course of professional contemporary and historical art. At present, the
of centuries, and partly because of the unsuccessful “socialist” song and dance celebration tradition is well balanced. /…/
experiment that lasted fifty years. One should not worship this From the civic and political points of view, the song and dance cel-
civilization lag and treat it as a sign of nobility or inner depth. Far ebration tradition has always been, especially during occupation
more often, it testifies only to obscurity, sluggishness, and submis- periods, a means to maintain the national identity and a secret
sion to cruel and limited patriarchal norms, which we tend to weapon to protect aspirations for independence.The fact that the
think of as national values or primeval goodness lost in modern independence in all the three Baltic countries was restored with
society.” 7 the help of a ‘singing revolution’ in 1990 is largely a result of the
mentality nurtured by the song and dance celebration tradition.”8
The ambiguous and ambivalent situation of today’s post-
communist subjects’ self-definition could be traced in con- On the other hand Venclova, during the international confer-
tinuation of this National Song and Dance Celebration tradi- ence in Vilnius (2008) Fall of the Berlin Wall: From Budapest to
  

Arturas Raila, Forever Lacking and Never Quite Enough, 2002-03; Installation view
www.mke.hu/news/index.php?func=showarticle&art=14781d9e3e0f57

TH + 24
Vilnius profoundly expressed concerns related to such na- 1 Nerija Putinaite (2007). Nenutrukusi styga.[Unbroken String. Accommodation
tionalist spirit tradition. and Resistance in Soviet Lithuania], trans. J.D (p.205).
2 Ibid, (p.206).
“One of the weaknesses that Lithuanian dissent nurtured was 3 Anders Kreuger (2008), Muted Realities seminar paper
quite often exaggerated fight for Lithuanian national identity. 4 Ibid.
Communist rule was not erasing, but castrating the nations – for- 5 Ibid.
bidding ideas about independence and democracy, therefore after 6 Marius Babias (2006), “The Euro-self And The Europeanism”. IDEA, 24.
Stalin’s death there wasn’t much emphasis on ethnical decline. So 7 Tomas Venclova (1997). “Berlyno sienos paunksmeje” [In the Shadow of
called “nationalist self-protection”/…/ sadly quite often was inter- the Berlin Wall]. Kulturos barai, 10 (394)/1997.
woven with anti-modernist position, provincial isolationist attitude, 8 Dalia Rasteniene, “Tradition and Symbolism of the Song and Dance
chauvinist, xenophobic, and even racist elements. The Lithuanian Celebration Process in Lithuania”. http://www.dainusvente.lt/index.
identity itself was understood narrowly, confused with “blood and php?1686180731.
soil” categories, peasant mentality and psychology.” 9 9 Tomas Venclova (2008). “Etninis nacionalizmas padejo totalitarinei siste-
mai pratesti valdyma” [Ethnic nationalism tradition supported the power of
Thus I wonder what could be the authenticity definition for totalitarian system]. http://www.lrytas.lt/print.asp?data=&k=news&id=1212
a generation that did not experience occupation and is not 7553891212719115.
that easily manipulated by myths of the past. How could one 10 Vytautas Landzbergis (2008). From talk given in a conference Fall of
re-articulate identity without ready-made and inherited pat- the Berlin Wall: From Budapest to Vilnius, trans. J.D, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter/
terns affirming the cultural and political designations “Lithu- konferencija?p_r=5887&p_k=1&p_d=77674.
anian”, “European”, “communist”, etc.?

Observing the current interpretations of experiences of


daily life, political agenda and cultural definitions one could
see an oppressive shift – a certain lamenting for a despairing
dream. A prominent figure in the movement for indepen-
dence V. Landzbergis uses H. Balzac’s “lost illusions” analogy
of “inheritance always behind” to describe how a meaningful
way of being is struggling in Lithuania today, and why there
are so many lost illusions. “A previous regime in its new
shape persists within its ruled territories, much wider than
Lithuania. It is not gone, but strives to be, establish, fixate
itself, and where possible – to avenge. Is it failing really? We
have to answer it for ourselves.” And this situation scarcely
repeats the concerns and hopes of the generation that lived
during communism- that insecure lamenting over historical
and cultural memory, when a possible real touch upon au-
thenticity has been voided of its recognition.

The post-communist self deals with inherited uncertainties


arriving from the dualistic soviet reality, consisting of two
parallel experiences: an ideological, representational one -
with prescribed ideals, feelings and values - and a personal,
‘real’ reality - experienced through everyday, where authentic
lack of meaning and belief dominates over simulated utopia.
The effect produced by this inability to be(come) authentic
is a disrupted self-perception and deceitful representation of
the (post)communist identity.

“Democracy
All the democratic and economic achievements of Romania in
recent years resemble the success of the Romanian world boxing
champion Leonard Doroftei: After the victory we are taken to the
hospital.”
Dan Perjovschi
Jelena Martinovic
P(r)océder
2008

Inkjet print. Plate of glass (20.9 x 29.7 cm),


bichromated ammonium, arabic gum, sugar, water, pigment powder.
Ink on paper (20.9 x 29.7 cm)

TH + 26
Rana Ozturk

Gulliver’s Travel into an Art In-


stallation: On History, Identity
and Difference
Yinka Shonibare, MBE – Egg Fight
Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane

Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Egg Fight, 2009


Courtesy of the artist, Stephen Friedman Gallery (London) and James Cohan Gallery (New York). Photo: Eugene Langan

In Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, the first voyage of adven- The installation is set up on a stage resembling a theatrical
turous, travel loving Gulliver brings him to Lilliput, the land set in the first hall of the gallery space. Standing on the stage
of little people, where in time he changes from a dreadful are two headless human figures wearing clothes made of
giant, to a friend of the country who is granted the highest African fabric cut in the style of European aristocrats’ cloth-
title of honour and to a traitor that needs to be captured ing. They are pointing their guns at each other with a wall of
and blinded. In all these positions the relationship between eggs in between them. It is a tense moment; the battle has
Gulliver and the Lilliputians is one defined by the difference already started as it is evident with the hole in the wall and
between them. The physical difference is actually an embodi- broken eggs on the floor, but the figures appear to be wait-
ment of Gulliver as an outsider, an observant of the coun- ing to find the right position and timing for the next deadly
try with all its absurdities and differences as they appear to blow against one another. The viewer encounters the work
Gulliver. Yet, the issue of difference is also manifested in the as soon as they enter the gallery. The position of the instal-
battles between Lilliputians and their neighbours, the Blefus- lation in the middle of the space forces the viewer to walk
cidians, which have been going on for “six and thirty moons” around the platform to see the work in the round, which
over the dispute about whether eggs should be broken from also enables the position of the each figure to be seen from
the larger end or the smaller end before eating. Seemingly a the other’s point of view. As the viewer, our bodily move-
minor argument for Gulliver, the issue has actually become a ments also participate in the moves that the two figures
display of power and authority for the two enemy countries might be making and we are left in a position to determine
that are seemingly identical to each other. This fight over which party we would like to side with. However, it is also
eggs is the inspiration for Yinka Shonibare’s commissioned obvious that whoever wins the battle, the result will be the
installation Egg Fight at Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane. same: the eggs that are the cause of this fight will be de-

CC + 30
stroyed and wasted, regardless from whichever side they are presumed foreign or different. African fabric, exotica if you
broken. So delicate the eggs are, and so futile the fight is. like is a colonial construction.To the Western eye this exces-
With the possible death of one or both of the parties, the sive patterning (difference) carries with it codes of African
fight becomes a lose-lose situation. nationalism; that has become its contemporary use, a kind of
modern African exoticism.”1
This particular story found in Gulliver’s Travels provides a
solid ground for Yinka Shonibare to go into the territory However, the story of how the fabric ends up being a na-
that is constant in his work, which targets issues about iden- tional symbol of Africa demonstrates that it is far from being
tity, race, class, exoticism, questioning of the British history an original ethnical product, but rather an ambiguous by-
and colonialism. Published in 1726, Gulliver’s Travels is a satire product of colonial transactions. These textiles have actually
of human conditions as observed by Jonathan Swift. In the been produced in the Netherlands to imitate the Indonesian
book, Swift also criticizes the politics of England at the time fabric and taste in order to be sold to Indonesia, another
of George 1st, as well as imperialism and the thirst for find- Dutch colony, at the time. However, upon unexpected fail-
ing new land with colonialist ambitions, which had made Eng- ure in the Indonesian market, the textiles were started to
land a great centre of power at the time. The war between be sold to the West African merchants around the end of
the Lilliputians and the Blefuscidians that is parodied in this the 19th century with several new design patterns that the
installation is a critique of the prolonged war with France, people of Africa would identify with. The popularity of the
and the triviality of the battle between Catholics and Prot- textiles increases gradually to the point that they become a
estants and their constant fight for power. signifier of the African modernization and politics. Especially
after the gain of African independence in 1950s, wax printed
As an artist coming from a Nigerian family and living in fabric became a sign of authenticity, nationalism and a break
England, Shonibare produces works that deal with his own from the European standards of fashion. It has also been
mixed identity, extending towards a critical look at the for- used as a way to express one’s political affiliations through
mation of cultural identities and otherness as fictional con- the designs printed on the fabric. Nevertheless, after all the
structs formed in the clash of different historical engage- transformation the fabric has undergone, it just stands as one
ments with the other. Against the preconceived notions of of the products of global transactions, even while it is worn
specific national identities, this fictional identity is actually a as a way to subvert global consumption of fashion market
hybrid one that appropriates and entwines different inputs with its assumed authenticity. The more powerfully it rep-
through cultural, economic and political interactions to the resents the national identity for Africans, the more exotic it
point that what is original and authentic becomes question- becomes for the Westerner. By dressing the western body in
able. As in many of his other works, in Egg Fight, Shonibare a fabric identified with the Africans, Yinka Shonibare makes
has dressed the two mannequins in traditional Dutch wax the complexity of these relationships visible. The satire and
printed fabric, associated with the African culture. The para- humour both in the story of Lilliputians and the artist’s own
dox comes from the fact that these two figures actually pos- approach, as well as the beauty and delicacy of the whole
ses the posture and the dress style of European noble men, installation scene work well in dealing with all the profound
with their guns completing their image. The beautifully made historical issues that still resonate in the culture and politics
cloths suit them well, despite the fact that the fabric they are of today.
made of does not belong to the general clothing codes of
western men. With this combination, however, a whole his- Today, what is considered to be exotic is even closer to the
tory of colonialism, international trade, European wealth and western eye, through migrant and Diasporic communities
culture as opposed to slavery, formation of African identity, living in the West. It is more about a look within rather than
exoticism and all that is excluded from the western identity a look from the outside. The distances and relationships be-
are intertwined. tween cultures are much closer, therefore harder to ignore.
It has become even more difficult to make a straightforward
The artist often uses African fabric as a critical tool to indi- definition of ethnicity and cultural identity in a cosmopolitan
cate the entire relationships between different cultures. In city.There is no pure identity, but all identities exist in a mul-
the words of the artist himself: tiplicity that is in constant change and interaction with oth-
ers. As subtly manifested in Shonibare’s work, Englishness,
“African fabric: signifies African identity, rather like Ameri- Europeanness, Africanness, etc. are all shaped by centuries of
can jeans (Levi’s) are an indicator of trendy youth culture. contact through wars, slavery, colonialism, trade, migrations,
In Brixton, African fabric is worn with pride amongst radical which appear to continue in similar but transformed inter-
or cool youth. It manifests itself as a fashion accessory with actions in the so-called global market nowadays. It is also
black British women in the head wrap form and it can also significant that this installation takes place in Ireland, with its
be found worn by Africans away from the home country. colonial past and turbulent history with England, as well as
It becomes an aesthetics of defiance, an aesthetics of reas- its current position as a home for a large number of immi-
surance, a way of holding on to one’s identity in a culture grants coming from many different cultures and nationalities.

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Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Egg Fight, 2009
Courtesy of the artist, Stephen Friedman Gallery (London) and James Cohan Gallery (New York). Photo: Eugene Langan

While Irishness has a complex history in its interaction with


the English, now it is also being permeated by other identi-
ties. This is even complicated with the notion of European-
ness as opposed to being non-European, and construction
of new identities through political formations. What is Irish,
what is European, what is foreign, what is exotic, what is
local and native, what is it that makes it ‘from here’… How
do we deal with the assumed commonality and difference
between people and communities? Besides its historical im-
plications, the installation also gives food for thought on our
own identities, as well as our daily interactions and experi-
ences with each other.

1 Quoted in by Okwui Enwezor, in Yinka Shonibare, Dressing Down, Ikon


Gallery and Henie Onstad Art Centre, February 1998.

Apart from Egg Fight, a new series of collages entitled Climate


Shit Drawings by the artist are also exhibited at Dublin City
Gallery, The Hugh Lane. Currently on show until 30 August
2009.
http://www.hughlane.ie

CC + 32
Marianne Mulvey

Hurvin Anderson, Peter’s Sitters 3, 2009 (Oil on canvas 187 x 147 cm / 73.6 x 57.9 in)
Courtesy Saatchi Collection, London

Hurvin Anderson at the attic’s hidden corners. Seen through a blue-green lens,
the room at the top of the house appears to have been
Peter’s Series 2007 – 2009 flooded with seawater. This watery view bordering on ab-
Tate Britain Art Now space straction reflects Anderson’s conscious method of repre-
Tuesday 3 February – Sunday 19 April 2009 senting it, which is only ever half-remembered, and partially
revealed. The artist’s protectiveness of Peter’s intimate his-
tory is (paradoxically) made clear through his simplification
A white, white ceiling lifts off into nothingness. Hurvin Ander- and obscuring of the space. For migrant communities such
son’s paintings of a small attic barbershop are unexpectedly as those arriving in Britain from the Caribbean in the 1950s,
vibrant and full of light – without being cheerful. Old gloss who created their own services and entertainment centres,
skirting-board, wood veneer and an assortment of mirrors the barbershop was, and still is, a sacred social space. Thus
and picture frames all reflect light, but do not give anything Anderson, who was born to Jamaican parents in Birmingham,
of their location away. Just how much of this intimate space carefully negotiates the barbershop’s privacy, which his own
to reveal is a question that haunts Peter’s Series, 2007 - 2009 father visits.
in Tate Britain’s Art Now gallery. The regularity of trips to the barber’s – at least fortnightly
Hung with eight of Anderson’s elegant paintings, a sense of to get one’s cut or shave “sharpened” – makes it familiar
coolness pervades the room. Turquoise hues dominate the as a friend’s kitchen, a place to sit and talk freely with fel-
central portion of each: the walls of the attic-space we are low customers whilst waiting in line. For many of Tate’s visi-
peering into. Three relatively empty canvases washed with tors, the black barbershop is an “other” space they would
simple blocks of white, green and a burnt orange begin the not normally be given access to. The poignancy of precious
series, variously punctuated with objects from the barber- memory in Peter’s Series brought me back to a sunny after-
shop set-up coming into view. The direction of Anderson’s noon in 2006 when artist Faisal Abduh’Allah set up his Live
washes give the small attic room a verticality that opens up Salon in the Hayward Gallery, affording a handful of visitors
what we might think of as an intrinsically closed, cramped privileged access to the barbershop.
and dim space. It appears quite open to our presence, and The artist set out a red leather barber’s chair and a low table
yet we are unable to locate the room and it’s operation with few utensils: comb, clippers, brush. Shaving an intricate
within our sphere of reference. looping pattern into the back of his son’s head, he spoke
Peter’s III has “pared back the space” to its bare structural about the history of barbering, his beginnings in the trade
elements, musing only on the configuration of walls that hint and how his shop both supports and informs, his artistic

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Hurvin Anderson, Peter’s Sitters 2, 2009 (Oil on canvas 187 x 147 cm / 73.6 x 57.9 in)
Courtesy Zabludowicz Collection, London

practice. Faisal Barbers in Harlesden functions as meeting in. In this way Peter’s Series hints at the marginalisation of mi-
place for the local black community: both a vital forum for grant communities, the struggle to find space for their own
discussion and breeding ground for juicy gossip, snippets of practices within a dominant culture, of a barbershop pushed
which Abdu’Allah shared. Not only is shaving akin to draw- into the attic, but will never tell the whole story.
ing for Abdu’Allah, but his barbering and artistic practice are
intrinsically linked: “if I gave up the barber shop, my work
would die… There’s no end to the experiences and stories 1 Michael Edmands, The Guardian, 30 June, 2001
that I inhale in the shop.”1 Speaking and shaving with equal
finesse, the artist opened up what is typically an “other” cul-
tural and often gendered space, revealing it as discursive and
performative.
The performance of intricate skill and entertaining talk of
Abdu’Allah’s Live Salon is only implicitly present in Ander-
son’s paintings of the tiny attic barbershop. The final three
works in the series depict a customer seated in the barber’s
chair. His upper body is covered in a delicately rendered
pinstripe towel, and only the back of the head and nape of
his neck are revealed to the viewer. Negotiating between
the revelation and obscuring of Peter’s interior, Anderson
also controls our encounter with the subject of his paintings.
The art gallery is itself an increasingly performative and dis-
cursive space, hosting numerous discussions, performances
and events such as the Live Salon I have remembered above.
Anderson offers a view of a different social space, but in this
most public of places – the art gallery – we are not met by
the barber’s chatter, only the silence of his customer’s back.
Thus the paintings in Peter’s Series, with their luscious tur-
quoise and reflective surfaces invite us only part of the way
Fatos Ustek

Tu Zeng
Untitled Dawn, Winter/Spring 2008
(Selection of 5 from a series of 12 photographs)

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“Life is made up of contents that are increasingly impersonal and that tend to alter our personalities. In order to face up to these
conditions, man adopts a patina of indifference in his search for commitments for survival”
Georg Simmel

In the picturesque views of a town, one wanders around looking for liveliness. Colours are sought for: colours to associate,
to feel, to imagine… Tu Zeng displays a series of photographs from the town he is from, where smog is more present than
anything else, except rain. He photographs from above, in detail. The town is haunted by the details of silences. Like the
shrimps in the aquarium, waiting their turn to be consumed, sitting on top of each other. Their aimless swimming in a tank
is like wandering through the town. The time spent waiting in silence, in a density of calmness intrigues me, occasionally. On
the occasion of viewing his photographs, one after another, I try to form a prologue for a city. I imagine the city through
these images by Zeng. The skyscrapers appear to contain nothing but their concrete. The ducks in the faint garden are as if
surprised by ‘a’ gaze through a pointed camera. Another image from the series is marked by the pattern of continuity from
trees to car bonnets. The nature within the built, and the built within nature exposes a mystery: a mystery of nothingness
within people’s conditioned lives.

The series is comprised of twelve photographs, Untitled Dawn, which picture Zeng’s hometown ChongQing in winter and
spring, 2008. As a viewer of Zeng’s imagery I am intrigued. I recall Camus, especially the starting sentence of his short story
‘Summer in Algiers’ where he says: ‘The loves we often share with a city are secret loves’. I try to excavate the love of Zeng
from the different tones and colours of his hometown. I try to decipher the secrecy of the images through my gaze. I take
one and then another and then go back to the start. I wonder about the dilemma of impersonal and personal in the secrecy
of love. How one crosses the zones of both, and how one can survive in the intersection. The image as once captured no
longer there, causes a challenge, to visit, interpret and associate the town and an artist’s uncovering of its presence. I wonder
about the love and the agony and joy that come from within. Where the state one is in, is the state one is…

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Martijn in’t Veld

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Claus Gunti

Looking at digital pictures: had entered a “post-photographic era”3, in which this inde-
finable bond was broken.4
the image as part of an
epistemological system During the same time-frame, roughly from the early to the
late 1990’s, a growing number of photographers made use of
the newly available capturing and postproduction tools. Ac-
cording to the aforementioned theories, their images should
thus be considered “post-photographic”, because of the in-
herent differences they are supposed to bear. But interest-
ingly, only a small amount of those images has been tagged
as such. Early academic and institutional projects, but also
more recent ones, have established a body of images5, whose
central feature is not their digital “nature” – many of them
do not even involve digital tools – but the fact that they
look digital. Mainly concerned with the representation of an
altered and manipulated state of the human body, those im-
ages are reminiscent of an era where technological develop-
ments in science (such as plastic surgery, genetic manipula-
tions and cloning, etc.) as well as graphic design (morphing,
3D models, and Photoshop, etc.) have changed our concep-
tion of corporality.

This brief reminder of the developments of digital photogra-


phy shows two things; the history of photography has always,
until very recently, tried to define photography, rather than
photographic practice. Furthermore, it also shows that the
relationship between the image and the subject it represents
is often invoked to try to define the medium, disregarding
the image itself, its formal features, the way it is perceived
or the discourse it produces. Nowadays, if this rhetoric of
radical rupture tends to fade, so does the interest for the
digital as category. Even so, it seems legitimate to argue that
computing did alter contemporary imagery and it seems
therefore necessary to try to understand how it has done
so.While technical differences between analogical and digital
photography do not seem to be that important anymore –
primarily because the spectator has grown familiar with the
Thomas Ruff, Jpeg bd01, 2007 (C-Print with Diasec 266.1 x 185.1 cm) new aesthetics and uses of digital photography – a whole
Copyright Thomas Ruff /David Zwirner array of features directly linked to computer technologies,
never systematically studied, seem to play an important role
in photography. The first, maybe the most obvious, is the
When in the beginning of the 1990’s digital photography be- digital as subject. Image compression algorithms developed
came growingly popular, a wide spectrum of scholars claimed mainly for the needs of the Internet and consumer electron-
that photography had undergone an irrevocable shift. Pho- ics, are probably the most apparent feature of the digital in
tography as such, historically defined by the bond between photography. Widely used despite their relatively poor qual-
image and the depicted subject Walter Benjamin or Roland ity compared to lossless digital images, they do not seem to
Barthes had tirelessly tried to define, was now gone, under- evolve much despite the exponential evolution of computing
mined by the digital nature of the new capturing apparatus. power and transfer bandwidths. As if they were accepted be-
The claim that the medium had undergone a radical change cause they were recognizable, they seem to embody the par-
was dominantly based on an ontological approach, whose adigmatic digital aesthetics. Many artists have thus made use
legitimacy relied primarily on a technical understanding of of this feature, directly addressing the digital in photography.
the medium: the fact that the digital image could be broken The most famous example of this approach, Thomas Ruff’s
down into “precise and definite”1 units and that there was .jpeg series, embracing not only the aesthetics but also the
no original – a claim which paradoxically2 had already been name of the most commonly used compression algorithm,
used to question the legitimacy of photography as art in the consists of a selection of images found on the Internet, ed-
early 20th century – was argument enough to argue that we ited and printed as large scale photographs, thus triggering a

  
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dialogue between the virtual image and the object, between 4 Even though a critical historiography of those theoretical developments
the low definition image and the artistic photograph or be- has yet to be established, some scholars have
noted their inherent discrepancies and incoherencies. See for example
tween the internet and the museum or gallery. Bernd Stiegler, Theoriegeschichte der Photographie,
München,Wilhelm Fink, 2007 or Martin Lister, op.cit., chapter “Photography
A second implication of the digital in photography, also pres- in the age of electronic imaging”.
ent in Ruff’s .jpegs, is the digital as apparatus, a system based 5 Nancy Burson, Keith Cottingham, Aziz & Cucher, Orlan or Inez van Lams-
veerde are some of the commonly quoted artists of this “movement”.
on computing and exchange of information. While explicitly 6 According to Crary, this shift is primarily based on the development of
addressing formal issues in the .jpegs series, Ruff also engages the status of sight in its relationship to knowledge.
the media itself, as a vector of exchange of data, recycling See Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer: on Vision and Modernity in the
images that are very commonly consumed: using generic im- Nineteenth Century, Cambridge (Mass.),
MIT Press, 1992
ages (such as pornographic iconography) or documentary 7 Biopolitics probably being the most eminent.
images everybody is familiar with (such as the burning World
Trade Center), Ruff appeals to our relationship to images,
addressing a new kind of spectatorship, focusing primarily
on the image as part of a system, rather than reflecting on
the image as archive.

Building on this discourse on the way digital technologies


influence our relationship to pictures, one could draw a
third level of the digital in photography. Taking into account
the omnipresence of computers, the role the internet plays
in daily communication and the impact it might have on vi-
sion and perception, we could argue that such development
must – at this stage of our research this is a mere hypoth-
esis – not only find an echo in artistic production, but that
such a phenomenon necessarily implies a whole new system
of producing knowledge, which unavoidably interacts with
artistic production. If we examine the way Jonathan Crary
has unearthed an epistemological break during the 19th
century, which implies fundamental transformations in vi-
sion and perception mechanisms6, it seems appropriate to
suggest that digital technologies, and in particular the role
of the photographic image as a vector of transmission of in-
formation, play a fundamental role in this hypothetical devel-
opment. While investigating those transformations, we have
to take into consideration that in recent days, the theoreti-
cal framework of numerous disciplines (and not only those
primarily concerned with images), seems to undergo a shift
towards epistemological considerations and, more gener-
ally, be responsive to issues addressing the mechanisms of
knowledge production7. Our hypothesis thus derives, not
only from the mere observation of a phenomenon, but also
from the fact that many disciplines try to understand the
way discourse is produced. Nevertheless, despite the meth-
odological problems this coexistence presupposes – is epis-
temology a necessity to understand digital imagery or is it
merely a trend ? – the question of whether contemporary
technologies impacts on our habits of seeing is definitely
worth considering.

1 Martin Lister, in Liz Wells (ed.), Photography. A Critical Introduction,


London, Routledge, 2008, p. 334.
2 The very idea of the original in photography is extremely ambivalent.
3 William J. Mitchell’s book, The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post-
photographic Era, Cambridge (Mass.), MIT Press,
2001 (1992), is one of the first to assert such a shift.

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Rieke Vos

Leap into Imagination


The Islanders:
An Introduction by Charles Avery
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Charles Avery, Untitled (Stone-Mouse Sellers), 2008 (96cm x 132.5cm (framed), pencil and gouache on card & brass plate)
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Charles Avery is an explorer of his imagination. His art drawings show them hanging around in bars or on the local
evolves from the ‘anthropologic’ journeys he undertakes to market. They spend their days debating and arguing on vari-
an imaginary world. In 2004, he ‘discovered’ an island, which ous philosophic issues; particularly about the issue of the
remains nameless until today. Since then, he has been pro- existence of the Noumenoun. This is a mythical beast that
foundly exploring it, collecting many souvenirs that enlighten noone has ever seen and that lives in the inaccessible Eternal
its curious features and inhabitants. Forest. Its name is not coincidental, as it refers to Immanuel
The extensive show The Islanders: An Introduction at The Boi- Kant’s concept of the unobservable thing-in-itself (ding an
jmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam presents these artefacts sich).
and engages its visitors in the complex absurdity of Avery’s Other curious objects at the exhibition are samples of the
discovery. The artist’s lyrical descriptions and detailed epic Stone-Mouse, a creature that lives on the island, “part ani-
drawings inform about the rituals of daily life, while maps, mal, part mineral, whose heart beats only once every thou-
models of the landscape and sculptures of different crea- sand years and for whom even the slightest movement is
tures shape an encyclopaedic imagery of the island.The body an agonising contortion” (wall text). The jars of Hendersons
of work – as presented in the show – is most reminiscent of Eggs, are another one of Avery’s souvenirs.This local delicacy
a natural history museum, whereas Avery’s attitude is simi- consists of eggs pickled in gin, to which most of the island
lar to that of an 18th century collector of anthropological dwellers are addicted.
curiosities. The drawings, sculptures and objects are appealing because
The island, nameless as said above, is inhabited by different of their formalistic craftsmanship, while their story allows
communities, some of them are natives (Avery names them for many layers to unravel. By inventing an island, Avery cre-
Gods and If’en) and others are stranded pioneers and re- ated a place, a ‘topography of land’, where he can ‘play’ with
searchers, who live together in tense harmony. Large-scale mythologies, philosophical theories, and mathematical con-

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Charles Avery, Ridable, 2008 (156cm x 51cm x 150cm, taxidermy)
cepts, without having to connect them in systematic logic
or conclusion. Discrepancies, obscurities and misinterpreta-
tions that may sneak into his explorative research will not
challenge the credibility of the project, but rather provide
unexpected turns and openings for the audience to dis-
entangle. This facet, again, is emphasised by the setting of
a natural history museum, in which the visitor is not being
transported into another world, but rather challenged to
educate himself on the subject through the artefacts handed
to him/her.
Naturally, Avery is the dominator of his world and his imagi-
nation, and he fully determines both the appearance and the
content of ‘his’ island.Yet, his position is that of a discoverer,
rather than that of an all-seeing God. In a way, his creation
thus parallels the natural biases that occur in actual science
and philosophy.
In this show, it is not about the ‘real’, in fact it is not even
about the actual artworks that Avery produces. It is about
the creativity of the thinking-process. Avery himself under-
lines this aspect by his proposition to consider art as a qual-
ity, ‘artiness’ as a feature of artworks and artefacts.1 The
source of the artiness, in this case, lays off course in the
mind-frame of the overarching, on-going project and the ad- Charles Avery, Untitled (Traveller) 2008
opted procedure by which the artist is working on it. Avery (Pencil and gouache on paper, 59.4 x 42 cm)
Image courtesy of the artist and Photographer Andy Keate.
says he is planning to spend many more years on his island Copyright courtesy of the artist
and is even hoping to go back there after his retirement.2

So now, can we talk about a new approach, a new interest


that characterises this work? According to Nicholas Bour-
riaud we can. In the Tate Triennial 2009, held recently in Lon-
don, Bourriaud presented Avery as one of the models for
his newest art historical catchphrase ‘Altermodernism’. This
rather hollow-sounding terminology is clarified in a mani-
festo by a number of theoretical notions, one of them being:
“a new type of form is appearing, the journey-form, made of
lines drawn both in space and time, materialising trajectories
rather than destinations”. 3
This description seems to apply very well to Avery’s work.
Indeed, The Islanders articulates an itinerary, through a place
that is too big to convey as a whole, without putting a defi-
nite ending to it. But, as explained earlier, in the context of
Avery’s work, the logic of such theories is given an unex-
pected turn. This becomes literal in a drawing, Untitled (Trav-
eller), 2008. The drawing is part of The Islanders-project. It
depicts Nicholas Bourriaud closely inspecting a table with
Island-souvenirs. So, while Bourriaud is attempting to include
Avery in his over-arching story of art, Avery appears to be
much more successful in including Bourriaud in his story
of the island. It is within this gesture that we can begin to
understand the logic of Avery’s practice, deprived from the
inexhaustible source that is called imagination.

1 Morton,Tom. “Cosmopolity of an Island. Charles Avery on The Islanders”


in: Metropolis M, #5 October/November, 2007.
2 Morton,Tom. “Cosmopolity of an Island. Charles Avery on The Islanders” Charles Avery’s The Islanders: An Introduction is showing at
in: Metropolis M, #5 October/November, 2007. Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, The Neth-
3 http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/altermodern/manifesto.shtm erlands, until June 7 2009.

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Fatos Ustek

Smadar Dreyfus
Mother’s Day,
Extra City Antwerp
September 2008

It was past three, in the morning. I was staying at a friends


place in Dalston, in her room where the large windows face
the street. It was past three and I was in between being
awake and asleep. From the street I heard someone cry out.
A cry, which I struggled to decipher as whether it was joy-
ful, or full of pain. A person was screaming out loud: was he/
she crying because of some violation, or was he drunk and
celebratory? There was another person he was addressing
his screams, who did not make a sound, who is possibly the
cause of his indecipherable state. I could not make out the
gender of the screams. When I convinced myself it was a
woman who was violated, the voice shifted towards mascu-
line. But I could only be sure of the fact that the source of
the voice was singular. I turned in bed and was too afraid to
get up and look out of the window. I could not understand
what was being said. Except for the cursing words, the lan-
guage was unclear.

My memory tends to construct a narrative associated with


the situation, to clear the smog in my head. Though there
are gaps that cause me to remain unconvinced. The image in
my head comes purely from the voice I heard. I try to recall
details, and am haunted only by the strength of the image I
produced during the event rather than the sounds, the tone
and the words.


My first experience of Mother’s Day took place in the studio
of Smadar Dreyfus in London. I did not know much about
her work, except her piece Lifeguards, which was premiered
in 9th Istanbul Biennial in 2005. I first saw the film Mother’s
Day on a computer screen and was impressed by its strength
in revealing such a condition in a delicate way. I was im-
pressed and saddened by the separated state of youngsters
from their mothers due to a political consequence. Seeing
the piece was an encounter that Deleuze would possibly
define as ‘affective’. The piece produces a double imagery:
the viewer’s imagination as to the sources of the voices in
the film, and the image of the place where they encounter
them. Beyond the narrative that lies implicit in the piece, its
aesthetics of producing subjectivity and correlation with the
geographical aspect has a high impact.

Mother’s Day was filmed at the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire line in


the Golan Heights, across which the local Druze community
has been geographically separated for several decades, in the
absence of a peace agreement. The Israeli government does
not recognize the Druze community, and does not provide
education for their youth. However, the Syrian Government

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Smadar Dreyfus, Mother’s Day 2006-08, a three channel HD video and 5.1 channel audio installation, 15 min. stills from video.

offers an opportunity to be educated on the condition that critic, and author of the book ‘A Voice and Nothing More’,
the students will be resident in the Syrian schools for eleven entitled ‘What’s in a voice?’ under the framework of Drey-
months of the year, with a one month holiday to visit their fus’ solo exhibition. His speech on acousmatic sound was ‘an
families across the border. Boarding schools provide these experience’ almost like a performance. The combination of
children with an education based on the Syrian politics and listening to his talk, delivered in his mesmerizing voice en-
values. On mother’s day, the first Sunday of May, the students abled one to experience the concept he was explaining. The
are allowed to travel to the hill across their village to greet fact that the subject’s states of joy, agony, pleasure, and inse-
their mothers through megaphones. Named Shouting Hill, curity are present in his/her voice was demonstably audible
the place is separated by the ceasefire line where Israeli and in Dolar’s own calm voice sharing his thoughts.
Syrian governments are in control, and where an American
control unit is also positioned at the top. A sound system The voice as object of study did not come to major impor-
of megaphones is set up for the occasion of the greetings, tance until the 1960’s when Derrida and Lacan, simultane-
where mothers and children communicate with each other ously proposed it as a central theoretical concern. Dolar
one by one, without being able to see one another clearly. in his book on voice takes the Derridian idea of phonocen-
Mothers recognize daughters and sons through their voices. trism further and positions the voice as an embodiment of
As a result of this controlled occasion, the greetings are the psychoanalytic object (objet a). Moreover, quoting Dolar:
generic rather than specific. The voice becomes the only ‘I will try to argue that apart from those two widespread
bearer of deeper content: a longing for togetherness that uses of the voice—the voice as the vehicle of meaning; the
accumulated throughout the long nights of solitude. voice as the source of aesthetic admiration—there is a third
level: an object voice which does not go up in smoke in the
In Extra City, Antwerp, the work is installed in an elegant conveyance of meaning, and does not solidify in an object
way. The audience entering the platform is immediately sur- of fetish reverence, but an object which functions as a blind
rounded by the piece as if they are included in the actual spot in the call and as a disturbance of aesthetic apprecia-
moment and place of the encounter between mothers and tion.’ Hence, Dolar proposes a third way of understanding
their children on this day.The exhibition space had been spe- the voice, besides the two common receptions, that is, voice
cially constructed so as to embody the installation. In other as an object that can be seen as a lever of thought.
words, it is less exhibition space and more extended loca- Dolar investigates the object voice on many levels such as:
tion of the event itself. As a viewer entering the installation, the linguistics of the voice, the metaphysics of the voice,
one blends into this challenging space of accumulated emo- the ethics of the voice (with the voice of conscience), the
tion and imagery. A balcony with bars where the audience paradoxical relation between the voice and the body, the
stood acts like the viewing point for a sublime landscape, politics of the voice. Within these investigations, one wan-
where clouds are floating over the hills. However, the sounds ders through intersecting zones of meaning, aesthetic plea-
heard shift the pleasurable experience into a political en- sure and psychology of the voice-source in its socio-political
counter, the association of feelings in the viewer reproduces spheres. That is to question, when one hears the meaning,
the socio-political condition of the original event. The piece does one overhear the voice? Does the source communi-
is composed of two videos, one displaying the hills the other cating meaning overcome its aesthetics? Or is it rather a
the voices of students and their mothers, in turn, where blended state of layered causalities?
meaning conveys the medium.
What do we come up with when we think of Dolar’s ar-
On a visit to Extra City in Antwerp, I attended a talk by gument that aesthetic pleasure obfuscates the object voice,
Mladen Dolar, Slovenian philosopher, cultural theorist, film turning it into a fetish object when the concentration on the
Smadar Dreyfus, Mother’s Day 2006-08, a three channel HD video with 5.1 channel audio installation, 15 min.
Installation view at Extra City Center for Contemporary Art, Antwerp, 2008

voice is only on aesthetic reception, and the voices of the and absence.
protagonists of Dreyfus’ piece. Like the students greeting Mother’s Day in its scale makes a significant impact as Drey-
their mothers in cracked voices, which are accumulated with fus’s first solo exhibition in Antwerp. Not only through the
sadness of not actually embracing their mothers and joy of installation of the piece and its inclusion of the venue as the
hearing their voices thus their well-being. In this relation, place of itself but also through the presence of its artist as
how can we articulate the voices we hear as the audience she positions herself in-between the two sides, where she
of the piece? Since the voices we witness are actually voices becomes a participant and observer through recording the
that are decoded by its recipients over familiarity. That is to sounds and the landscape. Hence Dreyfus’ sensitive choice to
say, mothers and children are familiar to each other’s voices, focus on the voice, which is the medium of communication in
their separated state increases the longing for overhearing Golan Heights, as the object and subject of her work Mother’s
the voice, as well. Hence, once the voice of the beloved one Day is the main line of strength in her work.
is heard, in Golan Heights, it is an intermingled state of aes-
thetic pleasure and object voice. As the audience, we lack …
this familiarity but we fulfil with imagining a similar condition While I am finishing this text, another mother’s day is due.
where the alike sensations rise. Therefore, my question fol-
lows: Is it possible to only concentrate on the aesthetics of
the voices, and not what they convey in conditions marked
by socio-political decisions? For instance, one of the sons
starts singing a song to his mother, a song that bears the
intimacy of longing in its tone, but not in its lyrics. Can we,
besides this double state of conveyance only receive the au-
ral presence?
In Dreyfus’ piece, the longing for being together is marked
by the longing of hearing the other’s voice. The voice is the
point of entry into complex relationships between individual
and society, between social and political, between what is
said, what we select to hear, and what we make this selection
from.Voice immediately resonates the self-presence, where-
as in Mother’s Day it becomes the intersection of presence

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Contributors

Edward Clydesdale Thomson Lisa Skuret


is a Scottish/Danish artist based in Rotterdam. He is a gradu- is an independent writer and artist writing in the intersec-
ate of the MFA program at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rot- tions of contemporary art, politics, and life. Lisa received an
terdam and the BArch architectural program at the Glasgow AHRC supported MA in Contemporary Art Theory from
School of Art. Notable shows include ‘Observing Construc- Goldsmiths College and she has produced art projects for
tion’, Netherlands Architectuurinstituut (NAi) Rotterdam. live performance and online intervention. Her installation
‘My Travels with Barry’, Tent, Rotterdamt. ‘JUST WHAT IS IT and moving image work has been programmed as part of
THAT MAKES THAT THING SO DIFFERENT, SO APPEAL- the National Review of Live Art (NRLA), and the Dance on
ING?’ Expodium, Utrecht. ‘tracing changes’, Schloßmuseum, Screen Film Festival and she has collaborated for live perfor-
Quedlinburg, Germany. ‘Edward Clydesdale Thomson’ SEC- mance including at the ICA and ROH2. Lisa’s forthcoming
ONDroom, Brussels. ‘cells st. peter’s seminary Permuta- writing projects include publication essays on Sharif Waked,
tionen’ Superhorst, Berlin. His practice revolves around the and Lara Baladi and she is currently writing a series of pieces
politics of representation. on ‘optimism’. www.lisaskuret.com

Jurga Daubaraite Jonas Staal


118salon@gmail.com studied monumental art in Enschede, The Netherlands and-
Boston MA, USA. His work functions in the domain of pub-
Claus Gunti lic interventions: installations, performances and Aktionen,
is research and teaching assistant at the Film Studies Depart- executed (illegally) in public space. His artistic research an-
ment of the University of Lausanne (UNIL). He teaches in ticipates and deals with the political developments in con-
the Humanities program of the Federal Polytechnic School temporary society in form of lectures, essays, pamphlets and
of Lausanne (EPFL) and is lecturer at the University of Art exhibitions in the public domain as well as institutional con-
and Design Lausanne (ECAL). He is currently writing a thesis texts. Staal works and lives as a visual artist in Rotterdam,
on the impact of digital technologies in the photography of The Netherlands. http://www.jonasstaal.nl/
the Düsseldorf School.
Rudolf Steckholzer
Jelena Martinovic Artist - lives and works in Vienna and London
* 1981 (CH), lives in Lausanne, Artist and Researcher. She
currently holds a fellowship in the Ph.D. program Pro*Doc Fatos Ustek
Art & Science, supported by The Swiss National Science Independent art critic & curator, lives and works in London.
Foundation (SNSF).
Martijn in’t Veld
Marianne Mulvey * 1979, studied in Rotterdam, Berlin and Bergen. Lives and
is a freelance writer and curator. Marianne completed her works.
MA in Contemporary Art Theory at Goldsmiths 2007-2008
and curated performance programmes for the Hayward Rieke Vos
Gallery and Gasworks, London. In September 2009 she will *1981 is an art historian currently based in Rotterdam. Her
begin a PhD in Performance Studies at Goldsmiths, provi- fields of interest range from site-specific art and curating
sionally titled Hollow words, failed relationships. to urbanism and architecture. She is now working as a re-
searcher, editor and exhibitionmaker for the architectural
Rana Ozturk office Powerhouse Company.
currently lives and studies in Dublin. She is originally from
Istanbul, where she completed her BA in Management at Tanja Widmann
Bogazici University and MA in Art History at the Istanbul works as an artist, author, curator. Lives in Vienna. Recent-
Technical University. Until now she took on various roles in ly: Group exhibitions: Miete Gas Strom (INSTITUT [for
the art field including writer, curator, translator and coordi- contmporary art] at Quartier21, Wien 2009), Empfindung.
nator for different art events and organizations. Oder in der Nähe der Fehler liegen die Wirkungen. (Au-
garten Comtemporary, Wien 2009). Curated shows: Nichts
Julius Pasteiner ist aufregend. Nichts ist sexy. Nichts ist nicht peinlich. (Per-
spent most of his time thinking anthropologically, writing formanceseries at Mumok, Vienna 2008). Co-editorial (with
commercially and wishing for that dream job. Recently he Emily Pethick, Marina Vishmidt) of An Ambiguous Case. Cas-
scrapped it all to write fiction under the pseudonym Julius coIssues XI. Utrecht/Rotterdam (2008). Regular contribu-
Pasteiner: he’s a well staring at the stars. tions for Texte zur Kunst, springerin.