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Live Coverage: "Planetary Records: Performing Justice Between Art and Law" at Contour Biennale 8

Some important questions were asked by audience members during the opening session. Someone asked Denise Ferreira da Silva to elaborate on her idea of global justice and how it differs/relates to Deleuze’s work on jurisprudence, especially his argument against universal rights and for immanent rights. Ferreira da Silva responded by arguing that for her it is not possible to assume that there is a subjectivity which is yet to be liberated from its actual condition of existence. There is no subject who is already free and needs protection.

Someone else asked another question regarding possible alternatives to the idea of justice which implies the existence of a free subject. Da Silva said that there is a need to dissolve existing forms such as the idea of the freedom of the subject, and that > we need to know the world anew. We must engage with existence in a way that is different from how European philosophers have addressed it in terms of separability of men and other entities.

A couple of behind the scenes shots from the tarot reading Denise Ferreira da Silva did for the Dutch Art Institute class during her guest tutorial on Friday, 10 March 2017. Images courtesy Clementine Edwards.

Notes in the margins of Denise Ferreira da Silva’s ‘On Difference without Separability’, written for the catalogue of the 32a São Paulo Art Biennial, “Incerteza viva” (Living Uncertainty).
Our reflection on how her keynote address complements the essay to follow later. Read the full text in the meantime: https://issuu.com/amilcarpacker/docs/denise_ferreira_da_silva

Silva writes against the subjectivity that is defined by liberty. She sees the global political context as one organised by racial difference. That difference is a tool used to produce the white European subject entitled to liberty, and its Other who have traits that mark them as intrinsically violent and as non-free subjects. So of course understandings of liberty play into this.

‘Humanity has a racial aspect, and so we need to dissolve the forms of the subject as conveyed in the principle of liberty. They’re so inherent to what we do that it’s almost impossible to come up with examples that operate outside of the paradigm. We need to know the world anew. We need to begin our engagement with existence in a way that is completely different to how the European philosophers did. We need to begin without the concept of separability.’

We start again after the lunch break with the screening of the video The Reproduction of Personhood, by inhabitans. Can online video constitute a source of evidence in court cases? The video brilliantly looks at video-recording technologies, social justice and human right activism.

Co-curator of the Contour Biennale 8 Public Programme, writer Rachel O’Reilly introduces the afternoon session Deceptive Authoritarianisms:Between Artificial and Discredited Personhood, followed by a brief introduction by Pedro Neves Marques from the inhabitants.

Now Mariana Silva from the inhabitants is discussing the case of Hobby Lobby a corporation which has been granted personhood and religious rights.
From wiki:

In September 2012, Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit against the United States over new regulations requiring health insurance provided by employers to cover emergency contraceptives, stating: “(t)he Green family’s religious beliefs forbid them from participating in, providing access to, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting abortion-causing drugs and devices”. Hobby Lobby argued that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act serve to protect their religious beliefs, and accordingly bars the application of the contraceptive mandate to them. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the company’s application for an injunction, prompting the firm to sue the federal government. On July 19, 2013, US District Judge Joe Heaton granted the company a temporary exemption from the contraceptive-providing mandate.

In contrast, on January 28, 2014, the Centre for Inquiry filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court arguing that were the court to grant Hobby Lobby an exclusion which permitted the company to exclude any specific healthcare service from its provision to employees on the basis of the owners’ religious beliefs, the firm would violate the Establishment Clause, also part of the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”.
Oral arguments in the case, then known as Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, were heard on March 25, 2014.

Some videostill from Hobby Lobby vs.The Allegory of Justice
by inhabitants

In their talk, inhabitants highlighted how the 13th Amendment abolished slavery and the 14th was established to protect the rights of freed slaves and to protect the liberty and equality of all Americans. In actual fact, of the 14th Amendment cases brought before the Supreme Court between 1890 and 1910, where 19 dealt with African Americans, a whopping 288 dealt with corporations.

Michel Feher during his talk Trumped Assumptions

French cultural theorist and funding editor of Zone Books, Michel Feher gives a thorough and accessible account of the changes in the functioning of global capitalism in its transition from the post-war economy, to the stagnation crisis of the 70s and the current neoliberal model. We might be witnessing a moment of transition to a new era and, as he suggests, not for the best! While the left has constructed its agenda against the free-trade neoliberal agreements, some anti-global positions of Trump, for example, are coming to resemble those of the radical left. (Side note: ‘by left I mean “left” not the social democrats’, score for Michel Feher) His analysis departs from the simple question: How did we get here? Is it still pertinent to see our work as critique of neoliberalism? What happened to the left which has constructed itself against free-floating neoliberalism?

A possible question for the left then, to what extent must it reconstruct its position to face its foes, given the shift form Merkel’s liberalism in 2015 to Trump’s emergent brand of politics that adopts antiglobalisation rhetoric. The switch erodes the arguments of the radical left.

‘The neoliberal promise is already far gone.’

Here’s a link to Michel Feher’s lectures on the Neoliberal condition: https://vimeo.com/80882516

Up next! A screening by Wendelien van Oldenborgh, introduced by Natasha Ginwala, and followed by a conversation with van Oldenborgh and Ferreira da Silva. Joy. :smile:

We are now watching a screening of Wendelien van Oldenborgh’s film From Left to Night. The film was commissioned by The Showroom, London - this fact is integral to the film, which weaves an experimental narrative through the interactions of seemingly unconnected individuals surrounding The Showroom itself.

Still from From Left to Night, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, 2015.

The opening line of the film went something like this: ‘They filmed me, they filmed me, they filmed, and I’m charged! They make up a story and they charge me! And now you film me, you film me, you film me! And for what? You make a story of me.’

The film follows the story of two rappers who wrote a piece of music following the London Riots of 2011. Yet it has a number of additional protagonists, who all bring with them varying contexts and knowledges. The film appears to operate within a similar logic to other works of van Oldenborgh, where an exchange between real life encounters and scripted performance become increasingly intertwined and blurred. Yet the strength of this process is one that operates around questions of representation. What is the place of duration and framing in the process of scripting real life encounters and re-performing them? How does improvisation operate under such circumstances?

These questions are also more overtly taken up in the film, when one individual asks another how they are to manage situations within which their ‘presence as a black woman’ is instantly measured, located and subsequently viewed as symbolic. Here, we see a film that historicises and politicises the various racial uprisings existing within British rap music juxtaposed with a background of resistance and revolutionary vocabulary such as ‘DISRUPT’, ‘RIOTS’ and ‘REVOLT’ - which appear taped to the walls of a London subway station.

Moreover, the film activates various aspects regarding security, authority and movement at the convergence of private and public spaces like one of the filming locations — the subway. This is made possible through the varying characters, their backgrounds, and a filmic device of decentralising the role of a single main character. In this way, questions of race and visibility in public space become the main rigour, through which the medium of film contributes a particular inference on surveillance. This is also brought up in the film, and mirrored again in van Oldenborgh’s process of cutting, editing and scripting actual events. Yet, this notion of publicness has an optimistic strength in a scene where one of the rappers talks about how he wants to write something instructional for future use rather than to write a thesis that simply sits on the shelf. He differentiates between self-realisation and music that inspires revolution instead of just thinking about revolution.

The music accompanying the film is by Owls, produced by Reveal.

Wendelein Van Oldenborgh From Left to Night, film still, 2015

There’s a panel discussion after the film between van Oldenborgh, Ferreira da Silva (who plays a central role in the film) and Natasha Ginwala. da Silva talks about the limits of the critique of visibility, returning to the idea that there’s more work to be done. Simply naming the fact that we (in everyday life, for instance) are apprehended in a particular way is not enough.

van Oldenborgh picks up on this thread by quoting something da Silva said during the filming itself: ‘We must reimagine the world anew’. WvO cut the quote from the film for narrative purposes, an act that she herself says is violent.

So we’re thinking here about that violence of this omission, the cut of an explicitly hopeful quote and what that means to the way in which da Silva’s thesis is represented by WvO. But then, in this film we actually see van Oldenborgh trying out the ‘what ifs’ for which da Silva advocates. Inspired by da Silva’s text ‘To be Announced’, van Oldenborgh says: ‘I’m not going to give you the affect. I’m not going to analyse why. I’m not going to dig for the reasons and understand, but instead try to have different readings through making. An articulation of sorts of the ‘what if’ poethics for which Denise advocates.

Full Ferreira da Silva bibliography here: https://deniseferreiradasilva.squarespace.com/writing/

Question time with Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Denise Ferreira da Silva and Natasha Ginwala.

Rana Hamedeh, Can You Make a Pet of Him Like a Bird or Put Him on a Leash For Your Girls?, 2015

Woah, we just came out of Rana Hamadeh’s Can You Make a Pet of Him Like a Bird or Put Him on a Leash For Your Girls? The performance was structured through the oratorical tradition of the Shiite ceremony of Ashura, but, well, words are hard right now after the very bodily experience of being within the performance space. The digital sound configurations were pretty rich and Hamadeh was performing live before us (as you can see from the pics above). The setting, the mood, the situation itself, was very dark. It was theatrical in every sense of the word. Dramatically loud, sometimes jarringly so. The audience moved around the space because it almost hurt at points to stay still. But it was taxing on the senses. We heard weeping, glitches, musical moments of reprieve and assault, and half-muted conversations. And then Hamadeh.

In her conversation with Natasha Ginwala following the performance, Hamedeh spoke of the testimonial subject, which is not to be confused with the testimony and not necessarily to be regarded in opposition to the unjust.

The question she is asking is, How to constitute ourselves as testimonial subjects not only outside the court of law, but also in place of the legal subject? The testimonial, she claims, is a space or condition that is unspeakable or unutterable.

Here’s a video-interview with Hamadeh:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EEyz04hnGI

More documentation from Rana Hamedeh’s performance Can You Make a Pet of Him Like a Bird or Put Him on a Leash for Your Girls?

And that’s a wrap. Bonsoir and cheers :beer: