In 1966, Michelangelo Antonioni released his first English-language film, Blow Up, in which he introduces a photographer played by David Hemmings, who realizes in his dark room that he may have captured the evidence of a crime on one of his photographs. Intrigued by a detail in the background of the picture he took, he undertakes to ‘blow up’ this detail (something proper to film photography) to a point where he is able to confirm his suspicion. Similarly, a few days ago, I realized that the most updated Google Earth data for Gaza consisted in photographs taken on July 29, 2014, the day when the Israeli army bombed the single power plant of the Strip (see this July 2014 map to understand the electric power supply in Gaza). The photographs show a large cloud of smoke spread over the land of Gaza as an evidence of the dreadful action of the Israeli army against the 1.8 millions inhabitants of the Strip, since those of them who were not directly suffering from the destruction of their homes had nonetheless to face shortage of electricity, clean water and sewage because of the power plant bombing (see past article). Google uses a mix of satellite and aircraft photography in order to compose their representation of the Earth and, just like in Antonioni’s movie, we could think of a coincidence for the satellite to be present a few moments after the bombing, and it has been suggested to me that Google deliberately kept this imagery as a form of geopolitical positioning. However, the last murderous siege on Gaza (July-August 2014) cannot be compared with the crime depicted in Blow Up: there is no coincidence or, rather, the coincidence is continuous.Read more
The Hospital as a Laboratory: The Production of Medical Knowledge Through the Bodies, originally written for L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui 405 Therapeutic Architecture (March 2015)
In one of the lectures he gave in Rio de Janeiro in 1974, Michel Foucault describes how the paradigm of the hospital as an institution radically shifted in the 18th century. During the centuries preceding this change, the hospital was “a place where one comes to die,” or, to be more precise, an internment place where the poors comes to die and from where the diseases that killed them could escape. For Foucault, the 18th century is the time of all changes since all institutions (hospital, prison, government, education, etc.) start to base themselves on a mode of sovereignty no longer centered on the binary opposition of life and death, but, rather, on the management of life and its attributes. This new mode of sovereignty that is applied onto its subjects’ lives is what Foucault named “biopolitics.”
As institutions change, their architecture also does. The hospital thus becomes a place where one comes to be cared and cured and the architectural environment of bodies participates to such an endeavor. This place is now considered as “a mechanism to cure, and of which the pathological affects it causes must be corrected.” This implies an hygienist architecture within which sick bodies can be easily administered.Read more
The eleventh volume of The Funambulist Pamphlets that gathers and edits past articles of the blog about cinema is now officially published by Punctum Books in collaboration with the Center for Transformative Media at Parsons The New School. You can either download the book as a PDF for free or order it online for the price of $7.00 or €6.00. Next volume to be published will constitute an appendix to the book Weaponized Architecture. Click here to see the other volumes of The Funambulist Pamphlets.
Thank you to Eileen Joy, Anna Kłosowska, Ed Keller, Gastón Gordillo, Philippe Theophanidis, Felicia Yong, and Hiroko Nakatani
Index of the Book:
Introduction: The Cinema Papers
01/ La Haine: Banlieue and Police
02/ Paris Is Burning: Gender, Sexuality and Race’s Performativity
03/ Coriolanus: State of Exception
04/ World War Z: The Zombie Is a Human You Have the Right to Kill
05/ The Act of Killing: What Constitutes the Act of Killing?
06/ Hunger: The Body at War
07/ The Diary of an Unknown Soldier & The Forgotten Faces: Two Films by Peter Watkins
08/ La Commune (Paris, 1871): Democratic Cinematographic Construction
09/ Sleep Dealer: Separating the Body and its Labor Production
10/ Even the Rain: What Kind of Leftist Do We Want to Be?
11/ Dogtooth: Emancipation from a Sadian Patriarchal World
12/ The Exterminating Angel: We Must Become Claustrophobic Architects
13/ Un Chien Andalou: Dream as True Horror
14/ The Trial: The Kafkaian Immanent Labyrinth as Postmortem Dream
15/ Enter the Void: Post-Mortem Wandering
16/ Holy Motors: Phenomenological Introspection
17/ The Turin Horse: Entropy of Mind and Matter
18/ Red Desert: Corrupted Materials
19/ Gravity: An Ode to Gravity
20/ Pina: The Weight of the Body Dancing
21/ Wings of Desire: Der Erzähler (the Storyteller)
22/ Akira Kurosawa: Applied Spinozism
23/ Spike Lee: The Dolly Shot as Inexorability of Immanence
This article intends to give a personal critique of the usual interpretation of violence in the work of Frantz Fanon, in particular in light of the recent film Concerning Violence by Swedish director Göran Olsson. However, I highly recommend to read friend Bhakti Shringarpure’s own article about the same topic on Warscapes (June 17, 2014) since I could not possibly pretend to articulate these ideas better than she did back then. My approach will nevertheless be slightly different, insofar that it will attempt to link this notion of violence with the various corporeal references made by Fanon in both L’an V de la revolution algérienne (A Dying Colonialism, 1959) and Les damnés de la terre (The Wretched of the Earth, 1961), and noted by David Macey in Frantz Fanon: A Biography (Picador, 2000).
Fanon is well known to have stated numerous times that violence constitutes a necessary phase of decolonization. The interpretation made of such a statement is often systematized through an imaginary of guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and targeted assassinations. Olsson’s movie does not escape from the rule and provides us with fascinating footage of decolonizing combats in several colonized countries such as Angola, Congo, Guinea Bissau, Liberia or Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). This systematized interpretation does not go against Fanon’s understanding of violence; however, it takes its complexity away from it, in a similar manner than Jean-Paul Sartre did in his preface to The Wretched of the Earth, where he writes “killing a European is killing two birds with one stone, eliminating in one go oppressor and oppressed: leaving one man dead and the other man free.” Accusing Sartre to write from a position of absolute comfort is too simplistic; after all he received several death threats for his position regarding the decolonization of Algeria; yet, the absoluteness of statements made by a metropolitan European reveals the theoretical position (s)he occupies, when a situation on the field like Fanon’s forces to develop a discourse adapted to each situation’s complexity. If we were to oppose Fanon’s decolonizing violence and Gandhi’s decolonizing non violence, we would fall into the trap of an exclusively semantic contradiction. The Indian National Congress Party’s non violence consisted in the strategic refusal to use arms in the independence struggle; yet, the numerous blows at the colonial economy orchestrated in the 1930s and 1940s through the salt march, the local manufacturing of clothes (see past article) and other various forms of disobedience against the colonial legislation incarnated a violence in the radical disruption of the colonial mechanisms. This strategy of violent “non-violence” was not chosen because the population of India had more friendly feelings towards the British colonizers, than the Algerian did towards the French, or the Guinean towards the Portuguese; it was chosen because it was the most effective decolonizing method — of course this is easy to state retrospectively.Read more
I am currently reading To Our Friends (La Fabrique, Semiotext(e), 2014) (by that I mean that I started it yesterday evening and will finish it today!), the ‘sequel’ of The Coming Insurrection (see 2009 article). Even though I was expecting no less from the Invisible Committee, I remain mesmerized by the sharp precision that it uses in its description of today’s political situation; but I will write more about that soon in a forthcoming article. In the meantime, I wanted to dedicate a text about a point spotted in the first chapter of the book. It indicated that, in 2012, the American Federal Health Institute, also known as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — note the precautionary plural of “centers,” already telling in its speculative emergency strategy — released a short comic book foreseeing a ‘zombie virus’ in the United States. Entitled Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic, this comic claims to consider zombies as an entertaining excuse to a generalized prevention program for (all?) the American population. We could ponder a moment on the necessity that Western governments seems to currently have to produce graphic novels in order to distillate their violent policies through an apparently benign medium (see the graphic novel developed by the Australian secretary of immigration to prevent Pakistani migrants to attempt moving into the country), and we could balance them with others, conceived against these very same policies like the one created by friend Tings Chak about Canadian migrant detention centers (see past article).
The argument I would like to make is however different here. As explained in a previous article entitled “The Zombie Is a Human You Have the Right to Kill” (July 2013), I was reflecting upon an article written by friend Gastón Gordillo (December 2012) about the imaginary provided by the film World War Z (Marc Forster, 2013) that was depicting such a ‘zombie pandemic.’ The argument that both Gastón for World War Z and the Invisible Committee for Preparedness 101 are making — and others have made in the past — is that beyond the biological contamination that the zombie carries, what is really at stake in this figure is political contamination, and the revolution that comes with it. In this regard, it cannot be innocent that the zombie is the Haitian creole figure of a dead slave whose soul never went back to Africa; the fear of the insurgent black body is still operative. Similarly, it cannot be innocent that in both World War Z, and Preparedness 101, the protagonists are middle class heteronormative white couples with kids (WWZ) or a dog (P101). By “cannot be innocent,” I do not mean these ‘creative’ decisions were necessarily made consciously, but rather that the imaginary that was used to produce these works is one that corresponds to the dominant normative narrative.Read more
The Funambulist Papers series — the second volume will be published in the first part of 2015 — continues today. I am happy to supply some ‘fresh air’ in the middle of my obsessive writing! This fresh air is brought to us by Ina Karkani who is a film and literature scholar at Stockholm University. Her text, “Framing the Weird Body in Contemporary European Cinema,” brings a cinematographic approach to this series dedicated to the question of the body. Through the three recent Greek films, Dogtooth (see past article), Alps by Yorgos Lanthimos and Attenberg by Athina Rachel Tsangaris, she attempts to examine the notion of “weird body” as a new form of cinematographic corporeal representation. The very notion of weirdness when it comes to the body is, of course, a jest insofar that no body could possibly be anything else than weird, i.e. in more or less strong discrepancy with the norm.
If, like me, you were a French teenager in the 1990s, you probably have a powerful remembrance of Mathieu Kasovitz’s La Haine (1995), in particular of the tracking shot that starts from the back of DJ Cut Killer mixing Assassin and NTM’s (the historical reference of Parisian hip-hop) “Nique la Police” (Fuck the Police) and Edith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien” (I do not regret anything) and slowly flies over the Cité des Muguets in the suburbs of Paris (see the successive stills assembled below). This film remains a narrative reference to the situation of the Parisian banlieues (suburbs) where the most precarious populations, which include an important part of the North and West African first and second generations of immigration from French former colonies. It is in my plans to expose how technocratic urbanism has lead to the systematic spatial exclusion that we know now in a more detailed manner in the near future (in the meantime, one can read the past articles about “Fortress Paris”); however, for the purposes of this article, I would like to concentrate on La Haine.
The film’s plot is set to happen on the next day of massive demonstrations following the arrest of a young man of the cité — cités refer to this particular urban typology of separated groups of buildings that were thought to be used in a quasi-autarkic way — by the police, which brutalized him to a state of coma. The first minutes of the film (see below) show documentary footage of similar historical protests following Makome M’Bowole’s murder by the police after his arrest in 1993, and Malik Oussekine’s murder by the riot police during a demonstration in 1986. In La Haine, the police is the clear antagonist. This is not always true in the persons of the police officers themselves: persons deal with the power they exercise in various ways (from the comprehensive version to the most violent one); however, the police beyond the persons, that is the institution that the police embodies, is to be understood as part of the systematic exclusion that the banlieues incarnate (hence the film’s soundtrack!).Read more
In 1976, the British government withdrew the status of political prisoner to every detainees who had been imprisoned for having taken part in the Northern Irish conflict. On March 5, 1981, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher delivered a speech in Belfast stating the following:
There is no such thing as political murder, political bombing or political violence. There is only criminal murder, criminal bombing and criminal violence. We will not compromise on this. There will be no political status.
The refusal to attribute this status to prisoners forces them to wear a uniform, do some prison work, and prevent them from association with other prisoners but more importantly, it denies the very essence of each convict’s action accomplished within the frame of an ethical collective narrative, and not for individual opportunist purpose. The point of the following article is to show how the Republican prisoners’ bodies constituted the unique site of both resistance in torture in the actions that were undertook following this governmental decision. In order to do so, I will use screenshots that I made from Steve McQueen’s film, Hunger (2008), about which it is not question here to make a critique. Some of the following images, although recounting historical events are fictitious but are quite graphic for some of them; I therefore recommend cautiousness to sensitive persons. I add to this film, two more references: the well-documented website Prisons Memory Archive, as well as the three radio broadcasts that “La Fabrique de l’Histoire” released last week about Northern Ireland (France Culture).Read more
The ninth volume of The Funambulist Pamphlets that gathers and edits past articles of the blog about Science Fiction is now officially published by Punctum Books in collaboration with the Center for Transformative Media at Parsons The New School. You can either download the book as a PDF for free or order it online for the price of $7.00 or €6.00. Next volume to be published will be dedicated to literature. Click here to see the other volumes of The Funambulist Pamphlets.
I have to say that science fiction is a domain that I have not address for a relatively long time and when looking at the index, I cannot help but notice the strong influence of a specific type of science fiction written by Western male authors. I will try to diversify this vision in my future writings and, in the meantime, offer the Archipelago conversation I had with Sophia Azeb about the power of imagination — that includes a science fiction literature — for the Palestinian struggle. (see also this list on tor.com)
Thank you to Eileen Joy, Anna Kłosowska, Ed Keller, Martin Byrne, Marc-Antoine Mathieu, Raja Shehadeh, Iker Gil, and Koldo Lus Arana.
Index of the Book
Introduction: When James Graham Ballard meets Philip K. Dick, what do they talk about?
01/ Science Fiction as an Inventor of Dilemmas: From Utopia to Apocalypse by Peter Paik
02/ 2037 by Raja Shehadeh
03/ Collision, Sexuality and Resistance
04/ Ballardian Landscapes: Desacralizing Thaumaturgic Modernity
05/ The Fouled Beauty of James Graham Ballard
06/ Letter to James Graham Ballard / April 14th 2009
07/ Psychotropic Houses by James Graham Ballard
08/ The Brutal Art of Enki Bilal
09/ The work of Philip K. Dick: Between Paranoia and Schizophrenia
10/ The Funambulist Papers 03 / Transcendent Delusion or; The Dangerous Free Spaces of Phillip K. Dick by Martin Byrne
11/ Untitled Narrative #002 (Feral Garage) by Martin Byrne
12/ Labyrinths and Other Metaphysical Constructions: Interview with Marc-Antoine Mathieu
13/ Overpopulated Cities / The Concentration City, Billennium, L’Origine & Soylent Green
14/ Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
15/ Never Let Me Go by Mark Romanek
16/ The Declamatory Porcelain Architectures of Serge Brussolo
Today is the annual day to commemorate the 1948 Nakba that led to the displacement of about 750,000 Palestinians from the land seized for the state of Israel. In the following text, Hanna Baumann describes the action of Palestinian people who do not have access to the land West of the separation barrier (see the newest infographic of Visualizing Palestine to understand who has access and who has not) and who transgress the physicality of the obstacles to “infiltrate” a territory on which they are considered as illegals by the Israeli authorities. The reasons for such a transgression appear to the outsider as trivial compared to the risks to which they are exposed. Because of this disproportion however, these acts of passage are truly resisting to the apartheid legislation since the essence of this legislation is to affect the aspects of daily lives. Hanna compares these “infiltrations” to the ones of “Urban Exploration” that usually populate the analyses of the city and its unknown spaces. Unknown to whom? is the question that Hanna asks. Exploration understood as we usually do is often a privileged activity that claim the discovery of sites that are lived by urban indigenous populations that do not seem to enter their narratives.