Datum, 2016
01.11.–22.12.2016
6. Justice Appears

Justice appears. At Standing Rock, for example. Law represents and negates. In North and South Carolina, for example. Law and justice stand in relation to, in and as the space of appearance. The dialectic of justice is possibility. Law is pure negation. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 08.12.2016
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5. Visual Sovereignty and Standing Rock: Decolonizing Native Spaces of Appearance

When I visited Aotearoa New Zealand in 2005, the conference I attended was opened by a Maori rangatira (leader; chief, if you must). As the visiting rangatira, I had to respond. It was a moving way to begin the event and it reminded everyone of the realities of settler colonialism. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 01.12.2016
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4. Empty the Museum, Decolonize the Curriculum: For the (Roman) General Strike

How does white supremacy make itself normal and the given against which other actions are judged? In Black Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon claimed that cartoons and other forms of popular culture taught (white) people how to be racist. What teaches them/us how to be ‘white’? Whiteness demarcates the boundaries of the space of appearance and makes it a space of representation. To be admitted to this space is to not be, or have been, enslaved. And to be of the imperial group rather than the indigenous. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 25.11.2016
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3. A Broken Hallelujah: Mourning and Militancy for the Age of Authoritarian Nationalism

The clock of the world is showing a new time that we’re struggling to understand. Neo-liberalism became hegemonic in the doubled moment of Thatcher and Reagan coming to power (1979–80). Brexit-Trump heralds a toxic new formation of white supremacy, patriarchy and nationalism. What Stuart Hall called ‘the great moving right show’ in 1977 has become the ‘it’s great to be white show’ in 2016. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 17.11.2016
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2. It's on Us

Like so many others, I misjudged this. I had a draft of a post about how to undo whiteness post-Trump. Today these moves seem shallow, smug, self-righteous. It’s time to reflect. Trump and his followers are all about ‘them’: women, people of color, Mexicans. But what’s happened is on us, those people who are identified as white. We did this – or failed to stop it – and it’s mostly going to be people of color that pay the price. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 10.11.2016
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1. MAGA Masculinity, Scary Clowns and the Souls of White Folk

During the revolutionary upheavals of 2011 from Tahrir Square to Occupy Wall Street, a transformation of real conditions of lived existence seemed at hand. In 1958, philosopher Hannah Arendt coined the phrase ‘the space of appearance’ to convey her sense of where politics takes place. This space, derived from the ancient Greek city-state, was constituted by exclusion of women, children, enslaved human beings and non-Greeks. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 01.11.2016
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5. The Spectre of the Digital

I finished my last post thinking about shifting notions of ‘importance’ and ‘relevance’. This has, in part, been driven by digital technologies and the financial, socio-political and ethical pressures on institutions to give access to their collections, and in ways that connect to contemporary users. Likewise the massive and ever-increasing swirl of images in circulation is, of course, digitally-based, raising very real questions about the very nature of ‘photography’. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 20.10.2016
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4. Exhibiting the New Historiographies

Which history of photography is told in museums? We are familiar with the usual parade of nineteenth-century photography such as Linnaeus Tripe, Roger Fenton and Julia Margaret Cameron, and then that of the great masters of the modernist canon who repeatedly adorn our gallery walls in some shape or other. These of course have their interest and their merits and such exhibitions have done much to raise the public sense that ‘photography is important.’ But what of the social history of photography, the photography that worked within people’s lives – those millions of humble and unremarkable photographs which mattered to people and which constitute the majority of photographs? mehr

Veröffentlicht: 13.10.2016
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3. More on Categories

This week I want to pick up on the question of categories which has resonated through my last two posts on institutions, hierarchies and non-collections. The extent to which the categories of disciplinary landscapes and languages shape research was brought home to me forcibly when last year I contributed to an ‘at the print’ class for art history students. We were in Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, a major and politically savvy anthropology collection. We pulled from the collection Julia Margaret Cameron’s famous portrait of Charles Darwin. Despite having ‘done’ a Cameron class some weeks before, the students seemed unable to recognise it in any way. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 03.10.2016
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2. The Presence of Non-Collections and the Challenge of Photographic Ecosystems

I recently attended a leaving party for a museum photographer of some 30 years service. The usual orations were accompanied by a digital slide show of his work over those last 30 years during which he had excelled in a range of museum demands. He made bundles of sticks look exciting and provided photographs of masks, chests or totem of such technical precision and virtuosic lighting that First Nations carvers in Canada could reconstitute the haptics of their traditional carving practices – retracing chisel marks. It was also a slide show of how a museum sees itself and how it performs its objects. Yet these photographs were, until that moment, invisible as a photographic practice, and above all, they are not understood as part of the photograph collection at that institution. They are non-collections, ‘just there’, everywhere and nowhere. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 23.09.2016
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1. Patterns of Collecting, Institutional Mind-Sets and the Problem of Hierarchies

A few years ago I was talking to a curator of social history in a major British public museum service which I knew held substantial collections of photographs of the local region going back to the 1850s. I asked him how he thought about these photographs in his care, and how they related to the museum’s ethos and activities. To this he responded “well I don’t really – they are just there”. I have been thinking about the ‘just there’ quality of photographic collections ever since. How is it that a body of material, maybe 35,000 glass plates, of substantial importance in regional history can be ‘just there’? How are the tensions of specialness and ubiquity negotiated through institutional practices? mehr

Veröffentlicht: 15.09.2016
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6. The Liberation of Things

I ended my last post with the suggestion that underlying the recent turn to the ‘object’ or ‘thing’ one might glimpse a certain ‘posthumanist’ anxiety – an anxiety occasioned by the degree to which capitalist modernity is a world “ruled by abstractions”, in the words of Marx; abstractions that have come to assume an objective reality which is ‘quasi-independent’ of the things, objects and individuals that constitute them, but which is not ‘material’ in any usual empirical sense. Such abstract social forms – money, the commodity, the value form – do not merely ‘conceal’ the ‘real’ social relations and objective networks constitutive of capitalism, but, on the contrary, actually are the ‘real’ relations that structure capitalist modernity as an increasingly global mode of social life encompassing human and non-human ‘things’ alike. The actual organisation of social and material relations is driven by a real abstraction that, far from being a question of mere faulty thinking or false consciousness, “moves within the object itself”. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 18.07.2016
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5. If Commodities Could Speak

“A commodity appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood”, writes Marx, famously, in the first chapter of Capital. “Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties”. For while, as an ‘ordinary’ object, “the table continues to be that common, everyday thing, wood”, “so soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 09.07.2016
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4. If Images Could Speak

In a recent contribution to the collection Documentary Across Disciplines, based on a series of events held at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin between 2010 and 2014, Christopher Pinney begins his essay, entitled “Bruises and Blushes: Photography ‘Beyond’ Anthropology”, with a quotation from Barthes’ Camera Lucida: “Society is concerned to tame the Photograph, to temper the madness which keeps threatening to explode in the face of whoever looks at it”. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 17.06.2016
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3. If Things Could Speak

“What if things could speak? What would they tell us? Or are they speaking already and we just don’t hear them? And who is going to translate them?” It is such questions that Hito Steyerl suggests, in her 2006 article “The Language of Things”, are posed in an essay written ninety years earlier: Walter Benjamin’s posthumously published “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man”. Here, Steyerl argues, the great German philosopher and critic “develops the concept of a language of things”, where “there is a language of stones, pans and cardboard boxes. Lamps speak as if inhabited by spirits. Mountains and foxes are involved in discourse. High-rise buildings chat with each other. Paintings gossip”. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 13.06.2016
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2. The Return of the Real (Again)

In my previous post I tried to sketch out some of those questions provoked by a contemporary desire, in the words of Hito Steyerl, to side with and affirm the object. While this affirmation has coincided with a more general turn towards the object or thing in recent theoretical writing – and, consequently, away (or so it is said) from earlier concerns with language, text, discourse and sign – it has also been attached, in Steyerl and others, to a more specific call to rethink the character of 'the image', and of 'our' relationship to it, as one framed not by an “identification” with the image “as representation”, but precisely “with the image as thing”. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 27.05.2016
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1. Photography and the Language of Things

In her short 2010 text “A Thing Like You and Me”, Hito Steyerl traces what she describes as a shift from an “emancipatory practice” that would be tied to the “desire to become a subject” (of, say, politics or history) to the emergence, today, of a “different possibility”: “How about siding with the object for a change? Why not affirm it? Why not be a thing?” mehr

Veröffentlicht: 18.05.2016
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4. From the Kino-Eye to the Postimage

In this last post, we want to explore the relation between vision, image and machine. With film, or already with photography, a new age has started: that of machine vision, of machines that see (for us). The logical consequence is that at some point, these machines will no longer need us to function (we’ve already come a long way from hand-cranked cameras to webcams) or to look at their images (think of automated CCTV surveillance or assembly robots). They may still see for us, but will do so without our involvement, as with self-driving cars for instance. What is at stake then in the age of machine vision is not only the status and concept of the image (what does “seeing” mean for a robot equipped with various sensors, among them visual ones?), it is also the status and concept of the human as the producer and consumer of images. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 26.04.2016
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3. Softimage and Hardimage

PS to our previous blog, “On the Invisible (Image and Algorithm)”.  As a friend suggested, we should have imagined Paglen’s photo of a secret military base in the so-called top-secret lab run by Sergey Brin “in an undisclosed Bay Area location”: here is the place for thinking about secrecy. In fact, Google seems intentionally to be creating an atmosphere of mystery around “a pair of otherwise ordinary two-story red-brick buildings about a half-mile from Google’s main campus” 1Brad Stone, “Inside Google’s Secret Lab, Google X’s Silicon Valley Nerd Heaven – America’s Last Great Corporate Research Lab”, Bloomberg.com/news, 29 May 2013, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-05-22/inside-googles-secret-lab. It is impossible to find much information on Google (sic!) apart from two journal articles. In the one published in The New York Times in 2011 we can read: “It’s a place where your refrigerator could be connected to the Internet, so it could order groceries when they ran low. Your dinner plate could post to a social network what you’re eating. Your robot could go to the office while you stay home in your pajamas. And you could, perhaps, take an elevator to outer space.” 2Claire Cain Miller and Nick Biltonnov, “Google’s Lab of Wildest Dreams”, The New York Times, 13 November 2011. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 04.04.2016
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2. On the Invisible (Image and Algorithm)

First we want to specify a point concerning the last sentence of our first post. In his “Postscript on the Societies of Control”, published in French in 1990 (that is, a few years before the launch of the first public web browser), Deleuze opposes the old disciplinary societies as analyzed by Foucault to the present societies of control. He writes:  mehr

Veröffentlicht: 18.03.2016
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1. Image and Programme

As an attentive reader has pointed out to us, the word ‛programme’ appears in our book Softimage within a family of terms: algorithm, software, computation, processing, programming. If these terms, all gravitating around digitalization, seem almost interchangeable, we are in fact using the term ‛programme’ in a larger yet very specific sense, that of the programme of the image, or the image as a programme, which is not a condition that emerged with digitalization, but one that dates back to the Renaissance. Our first blog will explore the way the programme of the image develops in the 15th century in an intricate relation with the political programme of the time and the birth of the humanist episteme. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 04.03.2016
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05.01.–29.02.2016
5. Images in Common

In communicative capitalism, we communicate with words and images – what I’ve been referring to as “secondary visuality.” Communicative utterances that might have once been speech acts – like talking on the phone or sending a letter to the editor – now mix words and images: a text with emojis, an animated gif inserted into a comment thread, a meme. New kinds of visual conversations make stories out of photos and short videos (Snapchat). As interactions that flow across our screens, multiple images envelop us in a montage of humor, horror, the mundane, and the bizarre. Words and images are equivalent. One does not replace or subordinate the other. They intermix, mash, and mingle such that neither alone can be said to be the repository of truth. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 23.02.2016
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4. Images without Viewers: Imitation, Repetition, Circulation

My posts have been exploring secondary visuality as a key attribute of communicative capitalism. Secondary visuality names the primacy of the image in technologically mediated mass personal communication. Rather than the privilege of top-down communication (broadcast media, advertising) or a means of expression confined to artists and professionals, visual communication is part of everyday communication in digital networks. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 10.02.2016
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3. Images without Viewers: Selfie Communism

Selfies are a communist form of expression.

The critical reflex is to dismiss selfies as yet another indication of a pervasive culture of narcissism. I disagree. The narcissism critique approaches the selfie as if it were analyzing a single photograph. It views the person in that photograph as the photograph’s subject. Selfies, though, should be understood as a common form, a form that, insofar as it is inseparable from the practice of sharing selfies, has a collective subject. The subject is the many participating in the common practice, the many imitating each other. The figure in the photo is incidental. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 01.02.2016
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2. Images without Viewers: Emoji

A smiley face streaming tears of joy was the Oxford Dictionaries’ 2015 word of the year. That an emoji is not a word didn’t matter. Or, better, it is what actually did matter. “Face with tears of joy” was chosen to mark the fact that images are taking the place of linguistic expression of feelings and ideas. They are blending into, merging with, and displacing words and sentences in digitized personal communication. Visuals accompany and absorb text just as physical gestures augment oral communication. Multiple, repeatable, and generic images are less “of” than they are “for”– for circulation in the rich media networks of communicative capitalism. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 18.01.2016
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1. Images without Viewers

My seventeen-year-old daughter, Sadie, and her friends use Snapchat, sharing snaps upwards of forty times a day. Sadie tells me that their conversations are “just pics with short captions.” The pic is typically a selfie of a stupid or ugly face (“look at my fucking forehead!”). Receivers respond with another ugly face and a funny retort (“YOU LOOK LIKE A KLINGON”). Sadie and her friends also post “stories,” stitched together photos and videos from their daily lives. Sadie says her stories are mostly “about my sick life” (“sick” apparently means good, fun, cool, or desirable in some inchoate sense). mehr

Veröffentlicht: 06.01.2016
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