Institutional Attitudes, Irit Rogoff: On Being Serious in the Art World

(Source: youtube.com)

In ‘criticality’ we have that double occupation in which we are both fully armed with the knowledges of critique, able to analyse and unveil while at the same time sharing and living out the very conditions which we are able to see through. As such we live out a duality that requires at the same time both an analytical mode and a demand to produce new subjectivities that acknowledge that we are what Hannah Arendt has termed ‘fellow sufferers’ of the very conditions we are critically examining.
America employs more private security guards than high-school teachers. States and countries with high inequality tend to hire proportionally more guard labour. If you’ve ever spent time in a radically unequal city in South Africa, you’ll see that both the rich and the poor live surrounded by private security contractors, barbed wire and electrified fencing. Some people have nice prison cages, and others have not so nice ones
Hanna wanted and needed to command attention in the courtroom. To learn how, she decided to work with a speech-language pathologist, Christie Block. Block is one of very few voice therapists who specialize in working with transgender people. Some of Block’s clients are transitioning to life as men; others are starting to live as women. But all of them share a common goal — they’re trying to change deeply ingrained vocal patterns. Block helps each client find a voice that matches his or her physical appearance and personality. To work with Hanna, Block borrowed some of the same techniques she uses to work with transgender men to help them have more presence and sound more assertive.
Facial Weaponization Suite protests against biometric facial recognition–and the inequalities these technologies propagate–by making “collective masks” in community-based workshops that are modeled from the aggregated facial data of participants, resulting in amorphous masks that cannot be detected as human faces by biometric facial recognition technologies. (via Facial Weaponization Suite | zach blas)

Facial Weaponization Suite protests against biometric facial recognition–and the inequalities these technologies propagate–by making “collective masks” in community-based workshops that are modeled from the aggregated facial data of participants, resulting in amorphous masks that cannot be detected as human faces by biometric facial recognition technologies. (via Facial Weaponization Suite | zach blas)

There’s the “left-to-die boat”, where 63 migrants died in adrift in the Mediterranean in 2011, within an area under the observation of Nato as part of the then-revolution in Libya. Satellite images of the area were used to establish boat movement patterns, and commercial boating data was used to remove the boats with known identities from the picture. Mobile phone signals were used to triangulate the migrant boat’s drift, establishing its presence near many other boats – and therefore providing evidence for the charge that the crews of those boats committed a crime by failing to aid a vessel in distress. (via New Statesman | Returning the gaze: everyone’s a war reporter in an always-connected world)

There’s the “left-to-die boat”, where 63 migrants died in adrift in the Mediterranean in 2011, within an area under the observation of Nato as part of the then-revolution in Libya. Satellite images of the area were used to establish boat movement patterns, and commercial boating data was used to remove the boats with known identities from the picture. Mobile phone signals were used to triangulate the migrant boat’s drift, establishing its presence near many other boats – and therefore providing evidence for the charge that the crews of those boats committed a crime by failing to aid a vessel in distress. (via New Statesman | Returning the gaze: everyone’s a war reporter in an always-connected world)

He points to drone strikes as an example, where targets are chosen with cameras which have resolution of perhaps a few centimetres, or even millimetres, per pixel. By comparison, commercial satellite imagery has a metre (or maybe only half a metre) per pixel. For anyone trying to use satellites to keep tabs on war zones – be it an individual with Google Maps, or even the UN – the evidence is unavailable because of technological limitations. “What you see is that unlike cases in Darfur, or Gaza, where you can take before and after [images], the UN can take before and after images and see what has been destroyed, [but] in drone strikes the rocket goes through the roof, and leaves a hole in the roof which is smaller than the size of the pixel,” Weizman said. “A before and after would not show you any difference. That is an example of an epistemological visual inferiority that you have to invert – you have to think, what access do we have? What information do we have? What new modes of thinking allows us to undo that space of denial between the few millimetre pixel and half-millimetre pixel? That’s the space of denial. This is why the state can say it cannot see it – they can say, we neither confirm or deny.”
We also learn: an atmosphere can be how a body is stopped, how some are barred from entry or stopped from staying. Atmospheres can be an institutional wall, a way in which some are stopped without being formally stopped; a way in which some are stopped even when they appear to be welcomed. In The Holy Family, Marx and Engels acknowledge how social exclusion often works through atmospheres, as a polite way of excluding or eliminating some bodies. They write: “Society behaves just as exclusively as the state, only in a more polite form: it does not throw you out, but it makes it so uncomfortable for you that you go out of your own will” ([1845] 1956: 129). I used this quote in the first chapter of Willful Subjects (2014) as it has much to teach us about the intimacy of force and will: how you can force someone to leave by making things unbearable for them to stay. Discomfort becomes a polite strategy or technique of power (the capacity to carry out will without resistance, or with the will of others). Take the example of employment: the relation of employer to employee. Power can work through incentives: you might be given an incentive to leave your job (in the form of voluntary redundancy) which basically amounts to a choice between leaving with an incentive and leaving without one. You might leave “voluntarily” or “willingly” as it would be worse to lose the incentive. When willing is a way of avoiding the consequences of being forced, willing is a consequence of force. Willing might be a way of “coming off less badly” given that force.
Today, an activist art needs to have an ambitious agenda. It must assimilate a critique of capitalism’s impact on human possibilities. It must challenge capitalism’s restriction of the scope of who initiates and purchases artistic production. And it must work to broaden the audience of people who have been trained in the skills needed to appreciate art. When art refuses to be a shill for the status quo and thereby opens spaces to go beyond what exists, it takes on its crucial political role. Such art makes the invisible visible, the implicit explicit. It reveals the individual as social by showing or suggesting common hopes and frustrations. It explores – without shying away from complexities – the relationship between the local and the international, the particular and the universal, the static and the dynamic. It questions everything and engages in constant exploration.

(Source: youtube.com)

Luke Willis Thompson
Untitled, 2012
spray paint, garage doors from Mahia rd, Manurewa

"My last work was a set of three garage doors that were tagged by a Maori youth who was chased down and stabbed to death by the property owner, a white middle-aged vigilante. The doors were monuments and mute witnesses to an episode that many people in New Zealand really wanted to forget, but the details of the killing were achingly familiar in their design, almost to the point of being prototypical. So the project intentionally asked moral questions, though the only answer it offered was that the museums that exhibited the work helped to conserve the material evidence, so maybe the question could continue to be examined."

Luke Willis Thompson
Untitled, 2012
spray paint, garage doors from Mahia rd, Manurewa

"My last work was a set of three garage doors that were tagged by a Maori youth who was chased down and stabbed to death by the property owner, a white middle-aged vigilante. The doors were monuments and mute witnesses to an episode that many people in New Zealand really wanted to forget, but the details of the killing were achingly familiar in their design, almost to the point of being prototypical. So the project intentionally asked moral questions, though the only answer it offered was that the museums that exhibited the work helped to conserve the material evidence, so maybe the question could continue to be examined."