Electric Chair by Andy Warhol (1964)
There is still an existing political debate about whether of not a given society should adopt (perpetuate) death penalty as its ultimate judicial sentence. It is surprising to often hear people say that they are against death penalty “except for… (place here the most horrifying crime),” not realizing that this “except for” validates by definition their acceptation for this sentence. Beyond the strictly emotional (or even religious) aspects of the arguments given by its opponents, I would like to ask whether we actually fathom what death penalty really means in a given society.
In the context of premodern society that Michel Foucault describes as following a paradigm of sovereignty based on the right of the sovereign to dispose of its subjects’ life (to go to war for example) in exchange of protection against the various antagonisms coming ‘from the outside,’ the act to give death to one of these subjects can be integrated within the logic of such social tacit contract. On the other hand, the modern era is characterized by a biopolitical (quoting Foucault again) administration of society, i.e. an organization of life in its very mechanisms (health, sexuality, reproduction etc.) to optimize the function of society. In order to describe how death penalty integrates within this scheme, I need to briefly explain the idea of thanatopolitics (politics administrating death) that I introduced in a previous article. This notion emerges from the observation that death is “at work” and that there are therefore only two possible ways of dealing with it: acceleration or deceleration of the death process. Biopolitics therefore involves by definition its counterpart (one might say that there are the same), thanatopolitics. The administration of toxicity in the context of food production (an important part of biopolitics) or society’s infrastructure (pollution) or its risk factor (nuclear accidents), is what I include in this thanatopolitics that a given society has to organize to either administrate the acceleration or the deceleration of the death process.
Olive Harvest / Where Law Stands on the Wall – Visualizing Palestine 2013
The collective Visualizing Palestine is finishing a crowdfunding campaign for their operative budget (only five days left!). This gives us a good opportunity to look again at the work produced by this talented team a year and half after I published one of their first visuals on this blog.
The principle of Visualizing Palestine is to create posters expressing in an expressive manner, the conditions in which the occupation of the Palestinian territories unfolds itself on a daily basis. In order to do so, they articulate a metaphoric or diagrammatic visualizing one of the many dimensions of the occupation, with an inventory of sourced facts that informs this data. The two examples above are illustrative for that matter. The powerful imagery of Central Park being “uprooted” allows the information of the massive uprooting of Palestinian trees since the beginning of the occupation in 1967 to be understood both at a rational and at an emotional level. Similarly, the second poster provides a clear information about the various decisions of justice given by the International Court of Justice regarding the separation barrier built by the state of Israel since 2002. This information is crucial when we see that Benjamin Netanyahu now projects to build a new wall in the West Bank (once again on Palestinian ground) along the border with Jordan.
Following is four more visuals (more on VP’s website) created in this last year: Continue reading
Still from the film Naked Lunch by David Cronenberg (1991)
I am now at the end of my European trip for Archipelago and a few talks and will soon go back to my desk to write articles more regularly. I am now at the University of Sussex near Brighton where I recorded a podcast this morning with friend Lucy Finchett-Maddock (it will be released in January) that articulated a few of the idea that we had explored together in the past in the context of our epistolary exchange about architecture and the law, her contribution to the Funambulist Papers, as well as her contribution to the Disobedience workshop at Birbeck school of law (London) in 2011 that I published here in the past. The latter was about the notion of naughtiness in the literary work of William Burroughs and that is the object of this not-so-synthetic synthesis of our conversation here.
In the epistolary conversation to which I was referring above, Lucy and I had spoken about the collusion in Indian cities of eminent domain that reclaims an important amount of land to accommodate the conditions of life of the new Indian bourgeoisie, and what we then called “immanent” domain in the presence of the numerous informal settlements that claim land for the bare urban survival of the lowest social classes of the country. While the eminent domain constitutes a strategical modification of the legal system in a spirit that we could define as reminiscence of the colonial spirit, the immanent domain unfolds itself through the practice of the city and within an ambiguous interpretation of property within the legal framework. This immanent domain is what brought us back to Burroughs, and through him, the description of the Interzone that he does in Naked Lunch (1959) and Interzone (1989). The Interzone, as we discussed with Lucy, is both an international zone and a zone in which the law has been suspended. It was inspired to Burroughs by his life as a fugitive in Tangiers, as well as his consumption of heroin that has been one of the objects of his literary work. Burroughs’s descriptions of the Interzone reach a visual richness that even David Cronenberg was not fully able to introduce in his cinematographic adaptation of Naked Lunch in 1991 (longer excerpt at the end of this article):
Funambulism, Utopias, Backyards, Open Stacks, Architectures of In/security, Sonic Landscapes, Apian Semantics, Meta-Virtual Solipsism, Transcendent Delusions, Fibrous Assemblages, Circuses, Old Media, Pet Architecture, Persian Folds, DIY Biopolitics, and MORE (Eileen Joy describing The Funambulist Papers)
The Funambulist Papers Volume 1 that gathers thirty four essays of the first series of guest writer essays (plus an essay by Bryan Finoki) is now published, like for the Funambulist Pamphlets, by Punctum Books in association with the Center for Transformative Media at Parsons The New School for Design. I would like to insist on the variety of approaches and background of these authors whether we speak about their disciplines (architecture, law, cinema theory, art, history etc.) or their origins (23 nationalities) in order for this series to bring a fresh discourse in the middle of my articles that can be sometimes (often ?!) redundant. As for the Pamphlets, Punctum Books and I are keen to think of our work as part of an open access strategy and the book can be therefore downloaded for free as pdf. It is also available in its printed version on Punctum Book’s website for $15 (€13.00/£11.00). The book is also part of the “perks” of the crowdfunding campaign for Archipelago!
Thank you to Eileen Joy, Anna Kłosowska, Ed Keller, Peter Hudson, Petal Samuel, Liduam Pong, Mina Rafiee, and to Seher Shah for accepting that I use her painting “City Unknown” for the cover. Thank you very much to all the contributors as well for accepting to write pieces specifically for The Funambulist. This series will continue in the future and there should be a second volume at some point.
The book is organized in two parts, “The Power of the Line,” and “Architectural Narratives” as follows:
Posted in Architectural Theories, Books, Cinema, Essays, Fine Arts, History, Law, Literature, Philosophy, Politics, The Funambulist Papers
In Antic Rome, no General had the right to bring his army in the city, beyond the Rubicon that Julius Caesar dared crossing in 49 B.C. against the Roman legislation. In his new book La barricade: Histoire d’un objet révolutionnaire (Autrement, 2013), Eric Hazan, director of the publisher La Fabrique about which I wrote many times, establishes the first generalized construction of barricades to May 1588 in Paris. What triggered the insurrection led by the Duc de Guise and the Catholic League against King Henri III back then was the entrance of the King with his army (composed for half of it by Swiss guards) inside Paris.
Even nowadays, it is understood that an important amount of soldiers within a city involves if not a state of war, at least a state of emergency (sometimes a mix of both). The order of a city is supposed to be kept by the various forces of the police that have evolved during history (in Japan during the Meiji Era for example) with various degrees of bureaucracy for instance. However, one clear tendency that can be observed in Western countries, and more specifically in the United States, consists in the militarization of the city police, transforming the latter in something that look and act more and more like a regular army.
In November 2011, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg declared to the Press that he was proud to count on the seventh army in the world in the presence of the New York Police Department (NYPD). It has been proven that this figure is actually inaccurate and does not correspond to anything in terms of budget or equipment; nevertheless, the fact that a mayor of a major world city is able to make such a claim — even if the NYPD is the thirtieth army in the world, it is still something — is highly illustrative of this evolution of the police of the world. The NYPD owns indeed an impressive set of equipment, some of which is designed for its own specificity like the mobile observation towers (see past article) that one can see in various neighborhoods of New York. This equipment also counts various armored vehicles as well as six small submarine drones. This does not include by definition what is kept secret in the defense against terrorism but that often escape from Bloomberg’s and Ray Kelly’s (the New York Police Commissioner) satisfied speeches.
David Hammons, “Fresh Hell” (1993) via threadbared
The recent series about fashion design and politics continues today in the form of a synthesis of the conversation I had with Mimi Thi Nguyen, co-editor of Threadbared and associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. This conversation is one of the two sample podcasts available on The Funambulist’s podcast platform Archipelago that will veritably begin in January 2014. As you can see, this project will also fuel the written feed of The Funambulist in what I believe is an interesting dialogue between two mediums (conversations+written synthesis). In this present case, I will introduce this text in two parts as they occurred more or less deliberately in our conversation (Oct. 10, 2013).
Part 1: The Clothe as an Object Crystallizing the Power of the Norm(s)
I often write that no architecture can possibly be politically neutral; Mimi is convinced of the same thing as far as clothing is concerned. We started our conversation by evoking an article she wrote four years ago when she first started to teach. Untitled “Brief Notes on the Unreliable Stories Clothes Tell,” this text simply introduces a question that many of us are familiar with: what to wear, to say what, to whom? In this regard, one of the first assignment that Mimi asks her students to do is to write a text about why they decided to wear what they are wearing this given day. The politics of appearance of the public body are indeed complex as they involve many levels of individual and cultural weight within a piece of fabric (or any other material for that matter). When I decide to wear a piece of clothe (or not to wear one), I act on the following levels:
- The relationship that I want for me vis-a-vis the norm.
- The expectation that the norm establishes vis-a-vis this piece of clothe.
- The degree of ‘misunderstanding’ relatively to these expectations (for example, Mimi and I talked about students who wear sweatpants in class, and how there is something much more complex than the simple conclusion that they are “lazy”).
- The uncompleteness of my own understanding of these mechanisms of norm (this usually increases as my location does not correspond to the milieu to which I belong).
I am very happy to announce the future launch of a project on which I already spent many hours of work: Archipelago is a podcast platform created in parallel of The Funambulist and sharing the same editorial line:
Nothing of what we design is politically innocent. Architecture, furniture, clothing, art, books, but also laws and policies constitute artifacts that are important to critically question at a political level. This is what proposes the Archipelago platform: conceived as a different medium than the traditional means of knowledge transmission like the university, it proposes four podcasts every week of conversations with various thinkers of the world about this question. (brief of Archipelago)
I already recorded eight of these podcasts and two of them are already available (one with Mimi Thi Nguyen and one with David Garcia) to listen on the ‘sample’ website created for a crowdfunding campaign that just started. This is an ambitious project and it could not happen in this format without a big starting help from people who are willing to follow it. The campaign is aiming at supplying an operative budget to the project for its first six months (January-July 2014). Certain of the thinkers I will talk to are people who already collaborated with The Funambulist (for the guest writers series for example) and you might recognize some of them on the website. I hope that you will be interested in it and I would like to thank in advance those of you who will contribute to the effort. Thank you very much!
CROWFUNDING CAMPAIGN FOR ARCHIPELAGO >>>