[-empyre-] creative powerlessness, expressive violence, performance

Christina Spiesel christina.spiesel at yale.edu
Tue Nov 18 01:36:18 EST 2014


Thank you for this discussion! It comes at a time when I am digesting 
two documentary films that take on genocide (Indonesia 1966 ) and 
terrorism in Sierra Leone's civil war (1991-2002). /The Act of Killing/ 
by Joshua Oppenheimer (2012) has perpetrators from one area reenact the 
methodologies of their war crimes and explores their retrospective 
responses to their acts through various styles of film narrative.  From 
one perspective this film is all about performance and challenging, I 
believe,  to its audiences because of that./War Don Don///by Rebecca 
Cohen (2010) covers a Special Court's prosecution of one of the field 
commanders  who participated on the side of Charles Taylor when he 
invaded Sierra Leone.  The court proceeding was a kind of performance as 
well, intended at one level at least to be cathartic for the suffering 
and wounded nation. Both films succeed in making it all more complicated 
for this viewer so rather than let me rest they continue to  push on my 
consciousness.  This is what art can do in the face of the sadness of 
the world.

I am reminded as well of all the scholarship that pointed to the bombing 
of the World Trade Center on 9/11 in the US as terrorism made for 
television screens.  It is at least possible to ask whether the stream 
of recent beheadings doesn't reflect an effort to get mass media 
coverage and offend sensibilities outside the region where they take 
place. Would they stop if they were not reported? Is our question about 
how much the representation of violence and bad acts within the context 
of cultural production might engender more of it? But if it goes 
unacknowledged, how are humans going to learn what we are capable of? 
Don't we need to know so that we can protect ourselves?

I am not suggesting that we all then become documentary film makers. I 
am saying that an answer to our on sense of powerlessness in the face of 
what we see going on in the world  is that we can and should make art of 
whatever kind we want -- to leave traces of other ways of thinking. To 
make records of the wider mind that seeks to connect inner states with 
outer circumstances. As testimony to the importance of feeling and the 
emotions as guides to value -- something very much devalued at the 
moment as humanities and arts budgets are slashed and education is 
increasingly thought of as training.


On 11/16/2014 1:21 AM, simon wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> a note:
> David Byrne in /How Music Works/ reminds us that violence can be a 
> form of expression where there is powerlessness:
> "Roger Graef, who has written about the effectiveness of arts programs 
> in UK prisons, believes that violence, like art, is actually a form of 
> expression." ... "He claims that the remedy for violence is an agency 
> that will defeat feelings of impotence. Historically, religion has 
> successfully done this, and the rise of fundamentalism might be viewed 
> as a reaction to increasing feelings of alienation and 
> inconsequentiality around the world."
> best,
> Simon Taylor
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

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