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Posts Tagged ‘Avital Ronell’

The interior image?

July 19, 2012 Comments off

In Trauma TV, her complex analysis of the Rodney King video, Avital Ronell notes how the image’s flatness and lack of interiority was compensated by witness testimony in the courtroom. It is this position of interiority that is sought for in the works of Dziga Vertov Group, and other films by Jean Luc-Godard. If the exteriority of the image, purported by the position of the lens and consequently the figure looking through it, could be transformed into its opposite, then the positions of the activist and filmmaker could potentially align. This interior position is supported theoretically by a mode of Marxist self-reflexivity, constantly conscious of the producers position within the conditions of production.

British Sounds, Dziga Vertov Group, 1969, vimeo still frame

In the final section of British Sounds – a film that intersperses chronicles of the worker’s struggles, together with separate Marxist and Feminist voice-overs, mixed with footage from Marxist workers discussions, activist students, etc – we see a bloody hand gripping a red flag, this is followed by a set of shots that show a fist penetrating the British flag, and each time the flag is torn by the fist, the voice over names another solidarity front e.g. the squatters, the artists’ offensive, the Workers New Daily, etc. This scene is then followed by a shot of a red flag waving in the cloudy grey sky by the branches of a leafless tree. Watched closely, it becomes clear that rather that the camera shooting the flag from a fixed position, the camera itself is waving together with the flag, the flag is not moving within the fixed frame of the film, the film is framed by the movement of the flag. The camera suddenly reveals its own position vis-a-vis the action that it is set to capture, and represent, and exposes how it is in fact captured by it. This scene is an instant of the mentioned interiority sought by the filmmaker, an interior image that is not propelled by an exterior positioning, ideologically, aesthetically or otherwise. This is also the position that possibly the Rodney King video lacks and thus is reduced to evidence. It aspires to be a witness, but it is caught by its own flatness, it becomes its own gag.

Could it be that the contemporary modes of digital image production, with its unprecedented immediacy, economy of access and mobility, allows for a visual interiority, previously unavailable? While, the video incursion into television that Ronlell talks about still holds, and this form of image making has been recuperated by the news media, nevertheless an outstanding number of indigenous footage is disseminated over the web daily. However, it could be argued that this footage is nonetheless defined by the technological restrains and possibilities that give rise to it and potentially follows pre-defined modes of visual articulation. Yet, one wonders if the Flusserian shift from linear/textual articulation to the visual dimension is gradually taking shape.

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Caring from distance

July 18, 2012 Comments off

Ethics has been largely confined to the domains of doing, which include performative acts of a linguistic nature. While we have understood that there is no decision which has not passed through the crucible of undesirability, ethics still engages, in the largest possible terms, a reflection on doing. Now what about the wasted, condemned bodies that crumble before a television? Avital Ronell

Could there be a surveillance rooted in a desire to communicate, to care, to love? And if such for of observation could be called surveillance? The online etymology dictionary suggests that the word comes from the Latin vigil, that in early 13c implied “eve of a religious festival” (an occasion for devotional watching or observance), and “occasion of keeping awake for some purpose” is recorded from 1711. What we call surveillance is “keeping awake for some purpose” devoid of devotion, it is watching without caring, it is looking at the enemy at all times. The same technological devices, the same lenses and screens, once looking at a loved one potentially become instruments of care. But yet, this implies a delegation of care, a form of displacement that allows one to go about everyday tasks, while caring from a distance. Watching over a sleeping baby, while filling-in excel sheets, caring for an ailing parent, form another country in another continent. A form of micro managing compatible with work regime of global market place (I don’t call the enemy by name, as naming it is its deferral). An unresolved, unfinished, work-in-progress of an artist (who thus is left unnamed), incorporated footage of an IP Camera, installed at the artist’s grandparent’s residence in Tehran, for her mother to watch her parent’s house from California. The ailing parents on a bed at the end of the living room, are under 24 hour surveillance. The camera is controlled via computer and can survey the room, scanning over the furniture, photographs on the buffet table, AC duck on the roof and the cracks on the wall. The household, for most part, is oblivious to the camera, or maybe has completely internalized it. The old ailing parents do not register it and the nurse is probably unaware, but could be at times caught by surprise. This camera chronicles the withering away of cared ones and registers their ultimate death, while the observer on the other end of the line is washing the dishes. And as the presence of the camera cannot postpone the moment of death, the live footage of the sleeping baby on a smartphone cannot prevent her from falling off the crib. But is this desire nothing more a mere internalization of the news media and the dramatization of everyday life? While acknowledging the care for ailing parents or a mother for a baby, with or without video cameras, the notion of caring from distance that purported by such lens based instruments only function within the logics of global commerce where a number is attributed to a contribution to a cause, child in Africa $20, victims of tsunami $10, sexual assaults against women in Afghanistan $25, etc, while one encounters the surprisingly shocking inefficiency of such contributions in the live demise of a loved one on CCTV.

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