Posts Tagged ‘Boris Groys’

The State as Art

January 26, 2013 Comments off

In Fate of Art in the Age of Terror, Boris Groys notes how the contemporary terrorist/warrior exhausts the media possibilities at hand and produces images—of shock and awe— that have “an uncanny aesthetic similarity with alternative, subversive European and American art and filmmaking of the 60-and 70s.” In particular Groys compares the gory photographs of Abu Ghraib for instance to Viennese Actionism, Pasolini etc. Yet, he notes that although there might be a similar subversive underpinnings to both types of imagery they follow two complete different trajectories: while the modern art tendencies to “be radical, daring, taboobreaking, going beyond all the limitations and borders,” is iconoclastic at large, terrorists in contrary want to produce icons. While the former is concerned with critique of the representational qualities of the image and its relationship to the real, the later in turn desires to show the real and to be taken as representation of the real. Groys opens the article by noting how before the age of mechanical reproduction, the warrior was dependent on the artist to be mounumentalized and for his heroic actions to be narrativized and depicted. But now, the fighter is free from this dependency and has full control over the documentation and dissemination of his actions.

Still, these acts of terror, from the most common depictions of atrocities to the most choreographed examples are carried out in battlefields, public urban or rural spaces or terrorist hideouts. As such, while the visual strategies of these actions might share some attributes with the avant-garde, the venues of presentation is essentially different from that of designated space of art. Even public executions, however meticulously planned are—rather strategically—staged in busy public squares and intersections.

Spectators watching the execution in front of Khaneh Honarmandan. Fars News Agency

Spectators watching the execution in front of Khaneh Honarmandan. Photo: Fars News Agency

Yet recently on January 20th 2013, a group of “thugs” or “outlaws,” were executed in front of “Khaneh Honarmandan,” (Artist’s House), an arts and cultural center in downtown Tehran with exhibition and performance spaces. It created an uproar in social media spaces and also the news media. The highly choreographed event was widely documented and photographs of the event from the start to conclusion were distributed over the internet and beyond. To go back to Groy’s analogy, what makes this event significant (not in an ethical and moral point of view, which is obvious and widely discussed on the net) is again this intersection of art and terror or bare power of state in this instance. Here, the exhibition space is appropriated by the state to display its force and as such the state also displays the desire to become art. As such, government and judiciary also become components of the art of the state as performances, exhibitions, and events. If the forces of power, terror and war have the capability to utilize media similar to the artist, they also share the desire to exhibit their aesthetic productions. While of course the spaces of art—for the most part—have far less capacity than mass media, internet, public squares, parks or stadiums, but they do present certain aesthetic and symbolic possibilities that such venues cannot offer. The state as icon finds its last resort in the exhibition space, which nevertheless follows certain ontology and a historical movement as Groys also notes in his essay. By inhabiting the space of art, the state opens itself to critique.

Post-historical now

October 1, 2012 Comments off

Instagram filters make digital images look like photographs from the past. It casts a shroud of forged historicity on the ahistorical immediate digital image with an after life of a few seconds, before buried under more recent posts, tweets, etc. It is the passage of time that bestows authenticity to the photographic image, makes it appear as a relic, gives it the aura that it took away from art in the first place (a la Benjamin). Time obscures the facts, referents become unclear, people forgotten, places varnished with ruinous visage. Descriptions of some of the available filters include:


Effect: Gloria Gaynor-level ’70s flair

Use for: Photos that call for in-your-face nostalgia (particularly useful now that Facebook is Timelined)

Lord Kelvin

Effect: Super-saturated, supremely retro photos with a distinctive scratchy border

Use for: Photos that call for actual nostalgia


Instant digital historization devaluates history, brandizes it, turns it into something attainable, reproducible, available at the touch of a finger. The over abundance of snapshots, the over documentation of life shrinks history between the immediate past and the instant future and thus filters are made available to account for the nostalgia of the immediate past, the remembrance of the day before.

Source: theglobalmovements, Instagram

In Photographer as Sage, Boris Gorys discusses the photographic work of Alexandre Kojève, Russian born French philosopher, statesman and one of the founders of the EU, and photographer. According to Groys, Kojève believed we are living in a post-historical condition. His theory of end of history differed from most other similar concepts, as for Kojève end of history was not located in the future, but rather we have already been living in post-historical conditions since the French Revolution, only “we are not fully aware of this condition yet.” According to this concept of history, photography then is not fixating a moment in the constant flow of time, rather it represents an immobilized, arrested time (thus Kojève only photographed monuments of the past). It is an already historisized condition that is represented via photography. As such, the fascination with instant historisication of the everyday, for the immediate past to look like a distant moment in time, is a symptom of this post-historical condition.

Still, while the everyday post-history begs for appearance of obsolescence, other situations demand an unhistorical urgency in face of humanitarian conditions. The question is how the contemporary visual condition accounts for this post-historical moment and the demands of images that ask for immediate response. How can we respond to a contemporary event, located in the past?