Buck-Morss on Shock and the Senses in Modern Space

“…In industrial production no less than modern warfare, in street crowds and erotic encounters, in amusement parks and gambling casinos, shock is the very essence of modern experience. The technologically altered environment exposes the human sensorium to physical shocks that have their correspondence in psychic shock”

Susan Buck-Morss “Aesthetics and Anaesthetics: Walter Benjamin’s Artwork Essay Reconsidered” in October, Autumn/Winter 1992

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Butler on the State, Representation, War and Perceptibility

“Currently, the state operates on the field of perception and, more generally, the field of representability, in order to control affect, and in anticipation of the way that affect informs and galvanises political opposition to the war. I refer to a field of ‘representability’ rather than ‘representation’ because this field is structured by state permission; as a result, we cannot understand this field of representability simply by examining its explicit contents, since it is constituted fundamentally by what is cast out and maintained outside the frame within which representations appear. We can think of the frame, then, as active, as jettisoning and presenting, and as doing both at once, in silence, without a visible sign of its operation and yet effectively.”

Judith Butler “Torture and the ethics of photography” in Environment and Planning: Society and Space (2007)

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Virilio on Vision and War

“After the Second World War, it became possible to sketch out a strategy of global vision, thanks to spy-satellites, drones and other video-missiles, and above all to the appearance of a new type of headquarter. The central electronic-warfare administration – such as the so-called ‘3ci’ (control, command, communication, intelligence) in place in each major power – can now attend in real time to the images and data of a planetary conflict.”

Paul Virilio “The Sight Machine” in War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception

Sophie Ristelhueber, “Babylone 2000, 2012″ – 2012

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Buck-Morss on Phantasmagoria

“Phantasmagorias are a technoaesthetics. The perceptions they provide are “real” enough – their impact upon the senses and nerves is still “natural” from a neurophysical point of view. But their social function is in each case compensatory. The goal is manipulation of the synaesthetic system by control of environmental stimuli. It has the effect of anaesthetizing the organism, not through numbing, but through flooding the senses. These simulated sensoria alter consciousness, much like a drug, but they do so through sensory distraction rather than chemical alteration, and – most significantly – their effects are experienced collectively rather than individually. Everyone sees the same altered world, experiences the same total environment. As a result, unlike with drugs, the phantasmagoria assumes the position of objective fact.”

Susan Buck-Morss “Aesthetics and Anaesthetics: Walter Benjamin’s Artwork Essay Reconsidered” in October, Autumn/Winter 1992

Lisa Barnard “New York, Las Vegas Strip” from “Whiplash Transition 2010 – 2013″ in “Hyenas of the Battlefield, Machines in the Garden” [GOST Books, 2014]

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Scheppe on Schulz-Dornburg and Seriality

Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, “Erevan, Sevan” 2001 from “Bus Stops” © Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, courtesy of Gallery Luisotti.

“The first and most universal form in the codified articulation of Ursula Schulz-Dornburg’s work consists of cycles and series based on a dismissal of the individual images’ fetishization. The principle of the sequence found its way into contemporary art via Minimalism and the basic idea of permutative seriality and took hold in photography early on in the motion studies of Edward Muybridge. The construction of the series not only opposed the aura of the individual tableau and its determination of contexlessness and claim of autonomy, but also simultaneously legitimises itself as a procedure of expounded archival knowledge.

This method of recording and storing by means of a taxonomy is exemplified in Ursula Schulz-Dornburg’s cycle of Armenia bus stops, which was compiled over a period of seven years. Built as futuristic structures and structures with a future, these bus shelters are architectural statement from the Stalinist era of the Soviety Union, when monumental infrastructure facilities were erected in five-year plans as a sheer demonstrative gesture, often in the middle of the desert.

Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, “Erevan, Sevan” 2002 from “Bus Stops” © Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, courtesy of Gallery Luisotti.

Her adherence to stringent rules in the process of taking pictures facilitates the comparability of objects. The serial character results from the systematic treatment of photographic variables such as distance, angle, orientation, and alignment of the horizontal lines. This formal discipline is not about cinematic sequentiality with direction and dynamic, but a sober syntactic  interrelation of the sequence that reveals the rule-bound nature of a typology. Through the coexistence of works within the collection, an individual building of this type of vernacular architecture refers to a ‘genus proximum,’ to its universal incidence, and thus becomes recognizable in its universality. (…)

Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, “Erevan, Artashat” 2001 from “Bus Stops” © Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, courtesy of Gallery Luisotti.

The constituents of formal continuity that lend a series the character of interconnection are sometimes latent intimations and sometimes salient characteristics of a sustained formal language. In any case, they are subject to the purpose of identifying a space. They act as measures for the production of relation and comparability, of coherence and context, but are never an aesthetic criterion in and of themselves. Images are justified not by the adherence to formalisms, but by the concept of the object. The prints that are related to one another in the grammatical structure of a series are oriented solely to recognition and explication while dispensing with the suggestion of an interpretation. Serving as material and a lever, the visual document of photography fosters thinking in this process without itself wanting to be a presentation of evidence and judgement.”

— Wolfgang Scheppe “Field Loss” in Some Works by Ursula Schulz-Dornburg.


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Thrift on Violence

“violence is an expanding series of practices in which objects – many of them of a sophisticated kind – have a more than incidental place (…) increasingly, violence works to an agenda driven by the requirements of these objects, and not least the affective landscape being produced by the media.”

Nigel Thrift “Immaculate Warfare? The Spatial Politics of Extreme Violence” in Violent Geographies: Fear, Terror, and Political Violence

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Shinkle on Barnard and the Technological Sublime

“Technology, as Fredric Jameson writes, is a ‘distorted figuration’ of contemporary society’s other: a shorthand for the unimaginably vast global network of power and control that is the present-day system of multinational capital. Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe identifies the contemporary sublime with technology as both self and other, ‘terrifying in the limitless unknowability of its potential, while being entirely a product of knowledge… at once unbounded by the human, and, as knowledge, a trace of the human now out of the latter’s control.’

This ‘othering’ of technology is a commonplace in definitions of the technological sublime. Barnard’s work, however, opens up the term in a more nuanced way. It suggests that the technological sublime is also about new ways of ‘being with’ technologies. In place of the ‘terror and awe’ of earlier forms of sublime experience, we find an affective coupling that draws together the incommensurable and the banal — that which inspires awe, and that which is most essentially human.”

— Eugénie Shinkle “Drone Aesthetics” in Hyenas of the Battlefield, Machines in the Garden by Lisa Barnard.

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Butler on the Invisibility of State Power

“The operation of the frame, where state power exercises its forcible dramaturgy, is not precisely representable or, when it is, it risks becoming insurrectionary and becomes subject to state punishment and control. Prior to the events and actions that are represented within the frame, there is an active, if unmarked, delimitation of the field itself, and so a set of contents and perspectives that are not shown, never shown, impermissable to show. They constitute the nonthematized background of what is represented, one that can only be approached through thematizing the delimitating function itself, one that allows for an exposure of the forcible dramaturgy of the state and the collaboration with it by those who deliver the visual news of the war through complying with permissible perspectives. That delimitation is part of an operation of power that does not appear as a figure of oppression. We might image the state as dramaturg, and so secure our understanding of this operation of state power through an available figure. But it is essential to the continuing operation of this power not to be seen. Rather, it is precisely a nonfigurable operation of power that works to delimit the domain of representability itself.”

— Judith Butler “Torture and the ethics of photography” in Environment and Planning: Society and Space (2007)

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Scheppe on Photography

“Unlike painting, sculpture, music, and (with reservations) poetry, photography employed as an artistic medium does not issue from a genuinely artistic material origin. The material is not itself a reserve for artistic expression, and the means of communication and aesthetic content exhibit no self-evident correlation. Quite the contrary: The power of the lens has become problematic in response to its use for such purposes as the mass media and authoritarian control. The resulting doubts about photography have gone so far as to bring camera applications for advertising, pornography, and surveillance under suspicion of putting the inner substance of photography on par with an oppressive pictorial regime.”

— Wolfgang Scheppe “Field Loss” in Some Works by Ursula Schulz-Dornburg.

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Salvesen on New Topographics

“In an intellectual climate increasingly preoccupied with surveillance, simulacra, and systems, photography could be critiqued as an instrument of the spectacle – relentlessly proliferating the signs of an illusory reality cloaking the abstract forces of consumption and commodification. At the same time, however, following the expansive, out-of-control, psychedelic ethos of the ‘60s, many in the ‘70s preached a return to reality and restraint. From this perspective, photography could be considered powerfully revelatory – providing important access, potentially even protection, to aspects of the world threatened by development, pollution, and poverty. If the medium’s objectivity was socially constructed, it was perhaps socially necessary as well.”

Britt Salvesen “New Topographics” in New Topographics

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