[-empyre-] The city as a skin - and griefscapes as social sculptures

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Fri Mar 30 23:48:41 EST 2012

dear all, dear Ana

sorry again, i think you were not reading me entirely; I of course understand your sensitivity; 
and I also did not say that mourning is something to be denied.  I raised questions about performance,
domesticated as well as activist, artistic practice as politics, social sculptures, networks and protocols for making a better social utopia..

I had, over the past weeks, at times raised questions about our euphemistic use of the term performative city, i questioned the OCCUPY movements and their politics but am  
helping them when i can be present or when i can experience the movement to form a view of its policies and agendas and practices, to question myself also as a matter of fact, 
my choreographies  and performance practice which are not social but aesthetic and thus perhaps irrelevant, and to engage in critical dialogue with choreographers, 
such as Per Roar whom I mentioned, who do fieldwork in "territories" where they "exhume" (metaphorically speaking) or work therapeutically and cathartically on griefscapes 
with others whose grief they help to choreograph or transfer; cities and mass graves and ruins here coming together in most unsettling ways, and I question the transference (
as I expressed unease with your typecasting of national or ethnic identities.  It is interesting (if I read Aristide, or Alejandro or Diego), that the question of the "national" or the nation has not really surfaced, but the dialectics
of state and civil society has been addressed).

what is "post-network civility", in this context? and would it relate to the bioregional and the slow space outside the
high tensity cities 
(last night someone lectured here on [statistical] evidence of increasing stress, trauma, schizophrenia
and suicide cases in large conglomerate urban metropoles, in China, Africa, the Americas, and Europe.  At the moment, the lecturer
 Graeme Evans  claims, Mexico D.F. has the highest rates of these symptoms, just ahead of Beijing and Nairobi, and
Buenos Aires).  

Johannes Birringer

Ana schreibt:

Dear Johannes, I apologize if I went too hard on you :( But I and my fellows and friends here are a bit too sensitive with the issue exhumations.
I feel that death and mourning are related and if you deny someone the mourning you are denying this person the grief, the reconciliation with the death and the healing concerned.
The friends of mine who have missing relatives tell me about the infinite despair you feel when you can't see the body or the ashes or the tombstone where you know your relative is resting.
You are restless until the ceremonies of the death and mourning are acomplished.
I remember Homeros, when Priamo goes to the Greek camp to reclaim the body of Hector to mourn him or when Antigona want bury her brother and is ready to die for it.
When I studied Anthropology I read a lot about the transition from the collective death when the dead was accompanied by all the relatives and neighboors to the "burgeois" death, when the death was private and only the nearest kin was present.
It explains also the role of the graveyards or cemeteries in the city, they were "outside" the city grid and they were used as a kind of "free territories" where play, gamble and fornication were performed.
Today's graveyards are empty, serious and silent, the dead are not accompanied by the living kin.

On Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 10:39 PM, Johannes Birringer <Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk<mailto:Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk>> wrote:

dear Ana

sorry for the misunderstanding here;
when i was writing, i was doing so in response to some the concerns we addressed regarding
practices, and i was trying to respond to Alejandro and Aristide, regarding political, communal
and eco/artistic practices, so when i said i would not know how to apply this to exhumation,
i meant it in that sense, not that I had not "heard" of exhumations or was ignorant of
mass graves.

I tried to ask myself how  (when I discussed with Argentinian friends your example of Uruguayans waiting to hear from a government
commission whether someone was/could or would be identified after being ex-humed) one could act upon that process, or
on a grave, or on the ethical and political (and certainly psychological) challenges arising from trauma.

I found no immediate answer, except thinking of the human rights activist processes people engaged in several territories
recently, and then of the legal issues involved (remembering what we discussed here regarding "protocols" or what
Aristide calls for -- reinvestigating "the value of the common legislative force".....

I also tried to think critically, and skeptically of "performance" or performative healing, even if the value of ritual cannot be doubted,
and I picked up, between the lines, a small reference in a footnote, in Alejandro Meitin's essay on "Urbanismo crítico, intervención bioregional y especies emergentes",
to Lucy Lippard criticizing activist art flying into the area, the local territorio, to "ex-hume" or deal with the traumatized:

  Alejandro schreibt:
>>Lucy R. Lippard, cree que es necesario que los artistas colaboren, directa o indirectamente, con los movimientos ciudadanos pero sin intentar dirigir sus acciones ni apropiarse de sus discursos, evitando en todo momento cobrar un protagonismo excesivo o caer en una lectura meramente esteticista de la lucha social.>>

>>Lucy R. Lippard believes that the artists need to collaborate directly or indirectly, with the citizens' movements without attempting to direct their actions or appropriating their speeches, avoiding any excessive charge a role or falling into a purely aesthetic reading of the social struggle...>>

My concern arose remembering a performance practice (addressing trauma) choreographed by Norwegian researcher-artist Per Roar in Szrebenica, as i always felt somehwat ill at ease with the approach and the ethics or politics involved, hard for me here to explain. I published Per Roar's field report in a book on dance and madness last year ("Tanz und WahnSinn/Dance and Choreomania"), and you can find some photographs of the theatrical work Roar and his participants did in an abandoned, partly destroyed building in Vijecnica, Sarajevo (in 2006), if you go to the book's website: http://www.choreomania.org/Roar_abstract.html   &  http://www.choreomania.org/maniavisuals5.html

That work was entitled "An Unfinished Story" and dealt with "griefscapes" and ghostly matters.

Again, I would ask Alejandro, or anyone, what  is a "hemispheric audience" -- ¿ lo que es esto público del hemisférico? --  in this or other cases (and Ana, you mentioned many, and you tend you dwell on notions of a "nation"-identity or you look selectively at ethnic/political perpetrators you seem to have identified, as you thought you identified me. I question such easy identifications), and is there a conceivable audience at all, when you think of the practices Alejandro positioned, or the everyday survival practices of our animalities evoked by Leandro:

Leandro schreibt:
That is why I think that resilience should be seen, observed and considered also in everyday practices of survival in the cities, practices that have nothing to do with broadcasted or spectacular events .... I would like to know how (and which of) these forms of painful resistance actually works out without the control of biopower (if it does) and how animality in all these examples shows and allows a relationship with humanity (if it does) different from all we can know and understand from our comfortable animal lives>>

so, yes, i do not know well how to exhume
and how to come to terms with the constant contradictions of the domesticated art produced; our obvious obscene traceability in the age of "post-civility" (?) locative media networks and, at the same time, the apparent untraceability of some of the disappeared.....

Johannes Birringer


i can assure you I know nothing about exhumations
and would not want to be an expert or lover in forensics.

Ana schreibt:
I am not sure if I grasp the sense of your statement. Are you being ironical or teasing me/us?
Because my point was NOBODY today can be ignorant of the exhumations, they are nowadays as common as jail for dissents or genocide.
We live in the century of genocide, the Turks killing Armenians, the Nazi killingJews, Rwanda, the Japanese killing Koreans, the Serbs killing Bosniaks...
And we have political genocide, our own in Central and South America, in Africa, etc..
And genocides cause massgraves and exhumations...
Yes you can be someone without direct contact or information, but our "memes" pass the stories as part of our common heritage.

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