anthropovisuality

Translating Visuality to Textuality

Lost and Found: Bird’s way

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Everything is falling apart. The communal sense of guilt is mixed with the deterioration of the village which is getting smaller and smaller as old ones die and new generation migrate to the city. Desperate villagers are witnessing the evaporation of their tradition and losing their sense of belonging. Faithful people are left with no priest who is to be chosen by the community. The new priest is not accepted and the boy that the community has capitalized on is unmarried because girls do not like to marry an old-fashioned bearded man. Above all is the threat of new investors who are trying to appropriate the village and are seen as the harbingers of the doom.

Bird’s way is an excellent example of observational cinema where the communal waiting for the priest, rain and absolution meets the patience of filmmakers crafted their movie piece by piece over three years. The movie betrays the ingrained assumption in visual anthropology that an ethnographic movie is usually aesthetically impaired. A mixture of the richly ethnographical account and cinematic scenes, Bird’s way reaches the level of completion.

Materiality of religion

Focusing on the religious dynamics of these people, the movie tries to contextualize the mechanisms of reproduction and change in tradition in this community. The absence of the priest gives an opportunity to contemplate the interplay between religious practices, the institution of church and the materiality of religion. The everydayness of religion is depicted along with the changes reshaping the local tradition. The contrast between the spirituality seen in the church and the mundane practices gives a sense of faithfulness and loss in this movie.

Putting religion and film side by side is not new and can be traced in an assumption that religion, like film, is in part an aesthetic discourse about the human need to articulate thoughts and feelings in metaphorical and symbolic forms. “In other words, religion is (amongst other things) a narrative producing mechanism, and in this respect can be likened to both literature and the cinema. Reading the discourses of religion and film against each other can, therefore, be fruitful, given that both seek in differing ways to make manifest the unrepresentable. “ (Wright, 2007).

The missing shot

The missing shot is a shot that obliterates the integrity of the movie and stands on its own. It, however, redefines the consistency of the scenes and offers a different perspective to the movie. Bird’s way stays faithful to the observational cinema but a shot where the children carry the tripods on their shoulder. It is the only scene that the audience notices the shadow of filmmakers. The shot follows the sentences of a woman explaining that tomorrow is the feast day and they are going to bury Jesus Christ. I would like to read this shot and the scene of burial as a revealing moment when religiosity and the abstract conception of movie intermingles. Is it not the ultimate goal of the movie that there is a need for resurrection, a new saviour to guide the lost community? Cinema fulfills the same desire. Seeing cinema in Benjaminian way, the secularized rituals in cinema offers a messianic hope that although the aura of art is lost, the masses can seek their articulation in this medium. This wishful thinking is close to the hopeful ending of the movie that new generation is to come.

……………….

What I struggled the most with in the visual anthropology course was Vlad’s insistence on having a good argument makes a movie ethnographic. Watching his movie, I finally realized what he was trying to say. I believe he needs to add his movie to the syllabus in the following years to visually proves his position-taking in defining ethnographic movie.

reference

Wright,Melanie J. 2007. I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd, New York

 

Final Project: Inside/ Outside the Whale

blue whale

 

It is the link to the final project.

http://zeega.com/109863

This project originally is made to be presented as video installation. However, this project is now in the multimedia format and inevitably is presented differently. The multimedia is made in such a way that the viewer has the choice between two stories. The provided option draws on a duality between inside and outside that symbolically leads to the uselessness of this binary. Violence and magic respectively constitutes the core content of the stories. Drawing on the archival material, I deployed a myriad of images and made a collage that is in the end as elusive as the reality is.

The relation between violence and magic is not new and the prominent anthropologist, Michael Taussig wrote extensively on this topic. In his books, He tries to show the ambivalent relationship between the individual and the state, and between the state as imaginary community and the self as sentient and reflective being. In short, the state is the magic of its own invention, and for Taussig, the “strategic formlessness” of state violence, the emotive yet illusive qualities inherent in the contemporary state is crucial. As such, its magic “is to be flung in horror. As in so many other places … it is too familiar, yet beyond belief” (Taussig 1980: 87). The stories in this project are related in this manner and I agree with Taussig that violence and magic provide gateway shrines with which we are exposed to the belief systems, as wounds that leak holiness and which ultimately allow the transcendence of abjection (p. 39).

I believe I explained enough in the multimedia about the context in which each story happens and I do not feel the need to elaborate more about that. What I need to explain though, is the technical difficulties that I faced to create the project. Because I only relied on the downloaded materials from YouTube, I was unable to use Final Cut Pro and I was unable in the end to correct the sound as I wanted.  Ultimately, what I learned the most was the fact that format mostly determines the content of the visual project and the method of presentation gives you a different set of tools with which one can present his own ideas.

Although, you all are very busy to watch it, you will make me more than happy to give me feedback because it is an ongoing project and the video installation is supposed to be held in May.

Viva Observational Cinema

DVD 000209 Forest of bliss

This post intends to explore the materiality of death that imbues everyday living in the holy city, Benares, presented to the viewer through the Gardner’s ethnographic inquiry and visual narrative. The materiality of the movie, I believe, is achieved with the no-intervening and purely observational camera of the director.  Gardner chose a rich visual vocabulary to comprehend and present reality. The meaningful use of sound and visual helps Gardner convey his film’s messages without any need for voice-over or text. In the first section of this I will show how this pure observational movie functions and in the second part I will compare Forest of Bliss with the movie Children Underground (2001) shot in the subways and squats of Bucharest, Romania. I like to question to what extent an observational can inform the viewer and does it have any any implications?

This 90 minute film shows the entanglement of profanity and sacredness of a much-studied city, Benares, in the span of a day from sunrise to sunset through pictorial representation, without subtitles and voice-over narration. Gardner’s refusal to interpret individuals as anything but visual motifs is the most provocative aspect of his movie in which  no translations, explanations, or context are given to the audience to comprehend the floating sequences before their eyes. Gardner’s non-interfering camera turns the spirituality of death burials to a flattened materiality which challenges any transcendence. This pure observational camera is how Gardner “subscribes” himself to the “truth”. It seems as if the only intention of the director is to visually capture in great detail the sequence of life as it ebbs away to give way to eternal bliss by recording the anticipation of death among the inmates of the hospice, subsequent preparation of the corpse for cremation, and its final journey to the last rites.

Not giving explanation to the viewer provoked a series of cities of the movie. Moore insists that despite the pictorial richness of the movie, the lack of narration perplexes the audience. Parry sympathizes with Moore and other viewers of the film who cannot possibly ‘‘know’’ the significance of these visual presentations from the narrative without deep ethnographic knowledge of Indian rituals, coming out horrified or confused instead of being more informed about the anthropology of the city’s activities. However, within the first few minutes of the film, Gardner captures some metaphoric elements such as the boat, river, flower and stairs that play crucial roles in unfolding the whole story. The non-linear narrative and a supposedly random montage of, bodies and cremation in the beginning of the movie leads the viewer  through the camera’s eye to uncover answers, piece together a puzzle, and evolve a story.

I believe what Moore ignores in his analysis is not taking into consideration the auditory aspect of the movie. the sound accompanying the imagery plays both an unconventional and contentious role in the film, for it does not occur in the expected fashion to explain through dialogue or voice-over narration any words or actions on the screen. At first instance, it seems that Gardner, in his commitment to observational cinema, has not undertaken any directorial initiative to explore the possibilities of sound, yet closer examination reveals his sensitivity to a naturally originating score and indeed a carefully selected rhythm. Almost every scene has a repetitive sound that paces the visuals, for instance sounds of a squeaking oar, clanging bells, and footsteps on stairs, repetitive barking or the chanting of prayers by priests. Repetition of both sound and vision in fact provides this rhythm, establishes connections, and reasserts truth in the narrative through constant verification in similar scenes. Gardner’s method seeks to coordinate recurrent sights with sounds in the course of a day. The splitting of wood and rowing of boats are also captured in multiple scenes with the same evenly paced sounds reverberating for the listening viewers. Gardner’s film educates the audience to receive and understand filmic narrative through a novel, cyclical method of presentation that integrates vision and sound both rich enough to not require verbal or textual explanation.

children underground

What makes me wonder is to what extent we can use an observant in an ethnographic film. On one hand, not giving any explanation and context to the viewer may open up different interpretations which might not have any ground in reality. On the other hand, the viewer does not feel any burden of an authoritative voice or text leading him step by step throughout the movie. Watching children underground, I faced with another important question. The camera in both forest of bliss and children underground is indifferent toward the agony that captures. In the latter movie, the camera intimately, unsentimentally captures the dire situation of nihilistic street kids, some as young as 8, as they starve, fight, sniff paint and eke out a chaotic existence. The observational style in this case allows the film to make a potent social and political statement about the consequences of the despotic Ceaucescu regime, without being polemical. Although this movie was criticized on the ethical ground, I believe it did what it wanted to do. What the viewer faces in this movie is the starkness of reality which is neither mitigated by any poetic frills nor even music.

What I understood and felt watching these two films is that reality in the movie is more realizable when it is not accompanied with any kind of interference of the director, text or authoritative voice. And viva observational cinema.

Between a Torture Chamber and a Throne Room*

Following the discussion we had in the class about Barthes and the applicability of memory study based on his way of reading photos , I intend to extrapolate a different reading of photography and cinema in particular, that Deleuze put forward in his important two-volume book: Cinema 1&2. In the second part of this text, I will explain how still images in a film can differ from photography based on Deleuze’s theory of cinema. It will perhaps be a belated post on the discussion we had about the transition from painting to photography and then cinema and a short critical description of Sergei Loznitsa’s movie Portrait.

 

[1] Memory vs. Becoming

It is commonplace among the most eloquent theorists of the photographic, from Benjamin and Barthes to Sontag, to tend toward melancholy analyses which connect the photograph to the lost moment, to an image of mortality. However, Deleuzian concept of time inspired few critiques to go beyond the memory and see, as Sutton did in the book Photography, Cinema, Memory: The Crystal Image of Time, photos detached from “moribund intellectual debate” (Sutton:93).

In this sense, the memorialising function of the photograph is rejected, in favour of an active embodied participation in the production, and disruption, of its meaning, and narrativity rather than narration, the indeterminacy, uncertainty and enigma of the image are celebrated. For instance, Sutton employs a Deleuzean reading of Bergson on time and proposes that Deleuze’s work on cinema will enable him to produce a taxonomy of time in the photograph.

The photographic (the moment, the image) and the cinematographic (the present-passing of immediate memory, image and movement) are central metaphors for Bergson in his analysis of time and the perception of time. “We take snapshots, as it were, of the passing reality, and, as these are characteristic of reality, we have only to string them on a becoming… Perception, intellection, language so proceed in general. Whether we would think becoming, or express it, or even perceive it, we hardly do anything else that set going a kind of cinematograph inside us” (Bergson, Sutton:70).

Inspired by Bergson, while Deleuze highly values other visual artistic forms, he seemingly presents photographic texts as stagnate documents or tools that produce certainty, organize bodies and desires. He even uses photography as something of a foil to demonstrate the innovation of the cinema and the originality of modern painters. In Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (Deleuze 1981), he notes how “photography has taken over the illustrative and documentary role, so that modern painting no longer needs to fulfill this function, which still burdened earlier painters” (10). He later explains that “photographs are ways of seeing, and as such, they are illustrative and narrative reproductions or representations … . they are what is seen, until finally one sees nothing else.” He treats the photo as an instrument for reproducing representations of reality—a device that iterates images until they are ossified as established stories, icons, or even stagnant perceptions. Indeed, like Bergson before him, Deleuze compares photography to what he identifies as a reductionist model of perception: “what we see, what we perceive, are photographs” (74). The photo is, in effect, an always-already passé sensational experience that numbs our sensitivity to the ongoing vitality of life and provides us with an efficient understanding of the dynamism of our world. But it is compelling that Deleuze theorizes both the quotidian nature and the liberatory potential of photography; he treats it as a common, everyday visual experience that, despite its aesthetic and technological limitations, emancipates the modern painter to explore new artistic opportunities. This special issue of rhizomes repeatedly provides artistic examples and critical strategies that invite us to see photography as replete with the power to unburden and emancipate that Deleuze associates with both film and painting.

 

[2] Still Images in cinema

Deleuze views stillness within a film as a confrontation with photography. This confrontation, however, is not seen as the moment when film becomes photography but when it becomes most distinct from it. The moment where the film becomes most cinematic is the very point when it appears to break down, where it pauses. Perhaps coincidentally, this may also mark the point where the viewer suddenly becomes conscious of the film’s existence as film, i.e. as animated and moving. For Deleuze, the still life is a time image: ‘The still life is time, for everything that changes is time, but time itself does not change’ (Cinema 2 :16).

The films of the Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu are singled out by Deleuze as exemplary in their presentation of stasis and still-life. In Ozu’s still-lifes we perceive change alongside stasis. The coexistence of change and endurance conveys duration: ‘Ozu’s still-lifes endure, have a duration, over ten seconds of the vase: this representation of the vase is precisely the representation of that which endures, through the succession of changing states’ (C2:16). This analysis posits the still-life as a symbol of endurance – of the preservation of the past amidst the ever changing present. In Ozu’s Late Spring and Autumn Afternoon, stillness can symbolise an emotional transition point or the moment when a character has become resigned to their fate. Although it appears as static, the still-life symbolises change, it evokes duration rather than pure stasis. For Deleuze, the vase scene embodies ‘becoming, change, passage’ while demonstrating that ‘the form of what changes does not itself change, does not pass on’ (C2: 16). In this sense it presents a direct time-image.

Ozu’s still-life scenes embody the Bergsonian concept of duration; the stillness and lack of action paradoxically symbolises transition. For Bergson duration is ‘the continuous progress of the past which gnaws into the future’ (C2 :4). Duration then can be understood simplistically as the persistence of the past. Duration unfolds through the persistence of memory in the perceiver. Ozu’s still-life serves as a pause for reflection amid the unstoppable duration of change in the lives of the characters. This experience of waiting reveals the pure fragment of time.

In the film Portrait  the experience of waiting is central to the narration of the movie. The duration of that waiting is condensed into a single frame. Deleuze’s account of stillness within Ozu’s films (as representing the moment when film confronts photography) may be compared to the movement within the still image that we find in Loznitsa’s Portraits. Durational Portraits are a confrontation with the duration of film and with its continuity. Photography may be restricted in terms of stillness; the photograph can only present an image of what-has-been, but cinematic still images can present a simultaneity of time in one image: a time-image.

References:

-Deleuze. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. 1981. Trans. Daniel W. Smith. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003

-Sutton, Damian. Photography, Cinema, Memory: The Crystal Image of Time. University  of Minnesota Press, 2009

-Deleuze. Cinema 2: The Time-Image tr. by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. London: Continuum, 2005

* the title inspired by Walter Benjamin in A Childhood Photograph (excerpt), from Franz Kafka: On the Tenth Anniversary of His Death, in Judaische Rundschau, December 1934, translated by Harry Zohn in Selected Writings: Volume Two, 1927-1934, 1999

What Color is Black-and-White?

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Looking at Daniel’s photos, we were convinced that if they were black-and-white, it would change the underlying meaning of them. In this week, I came across a book ‘What Color is the Sacred?’ in which Michael Taussing discusses about Malinowski’s photos in the Trobriand Islands.

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In reading this photograph, Taussig wants us to pay attention to the contrast between native sorcerer and the ethnographer which is a contrast between dark and naked versus white and clothed. “All of which that can be seen is as culminating in the fact that this is a picture celebrating the aura of the man in white, glowing like a star in depths of the darkness of the sorcerer, whose enchantment ignites a flame, erotic and magical, that is the fabulous whiteness of the man in white” (Taussing 2009: 82).

He is so exasperated with the photo that he calls it fake and then follows that fake is too harsh and he should call it staged or theatricalized. He is shocked by the whiteness of Malinowski’s clothes or better whiter-than-white images of him. He is curious to see if Malinowski really clothed in this quintessential colonial attire while wandering around the island doing ‘ethnography’.

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In another picture, Malinowski dazzles sitting on a platform ensconced with a group of Trobriand men.  “once the suspicion crosses your mind that this image like other photographers of Malinowski blazing white are staged, and as such are wildly untrue to his ethnographizing life, and once you start to look at them with this in mind, focusing on the gestures, the facial expressions, the choreography, and the mise en scene- then you wonder how you could ever have been so silly as to have thought otherwise” (2009: 123).

To explicate our common misreading of his photographs as true ethnographical and epitome of ‘participant observation’, he draws on Young’s biography of Malinowski in which it is mentioned that one of the nicknames given him by Trobrianders, Topwegiglier, means “the man with loose shorts”. However what is striking is his attitude to hide his true ethnographic personality and to transform it to a whiter-than-white figure among dark-skinned island dwellers. That is all because he is not at the back of camera shooting natives and this is the only instance that he is the object of study and a being photographed.

It is not color which can be deceptive but black-and-white photographs also bear misleading elements and portray whiter-than-white subjects.

Taussing, Michael (2009). What Color is the Sacred?. The University of Chicago Press.

Shut Up Barthes*

Following the discussion we had in class about Rolan Barthes’ reading of photographs, I found it useful to choose the ideas of contemporary French thinker, Jacques Rancière, to criticize Barthes’ approach toward photography. It is a well-known distinction that critiques make to categorize Barthes’ shift in his later life. They distinguish between early Barthes who was preoccupied with unmasking myths and decoding signs and later Barthes who acknowledged precisely those elements of the image that “elude signification—the punctum of the photograph, the “obtuse meaning” of the film—dimensions of the image that can be seen but not described, sensed but not linguistically signified regressed to a naïve, quasi-phenomenology” ( Oxman 2010, 10).

The contrast between these two phases of his writing is nowhere more evident than in La Chambre Claire where he made his famous distinction between the ‘studium’ (that is, the encoded message that the critic deciphers in order to show how the image can ideologically reproduce the values of the dominant) and the ‘punctum’ (that is, the pre-reflective, pre-ideological and affective power of the image) as a reactionary gesture.

Surprisingly, Barthes’s book La Chmabre Claire shows his naïve grappling with images to find those “touching” points in the images that cannot be described since they extend outside “culture, knowledge, information”. To justify this profound shift he mentioned “I undertook to let myself be borne on by the force of any living life: Forgetting. Unlearning, yielding to the unforeseeable modifications that forgetting imposes on the sedimented knowledge, culture, and beliefs one has traversed” (Barthes 1983,  478).

In ‘the Future of the Image’, Rancière detects a worrying trend toward what he considers to be a reactionary reverence for art, one clouded in religion and mysticism. In chapter one of the book, Rancière engages the work of Roland Barthes by foregrounding the idea of a punctum. Barthes, argues Rancière, runs the risk of shrouding the image in mystery, of relegating the important work of political or ideological critique to the banal. The photograph’s naked, senseless, wordless, immediate effect is the subject of the Camera Lucida, in which the punctum,  non-signifying presence,  is contrasted with the stadium, the hieroglyph, or the indexical relationship of the photograph to reality (Barthes 1983). Here Rancière references a simplistic Barthes who fetishizes an aesthetic image that gravitates solely between hieroglyph and senseless presence.

lewis-h-hine

In another article “the pensive Image”, Rancière excoriates Barthes’s view of photography as a medium which “embodies an idea of the image as a unique reality resisting art and thought” (Rancière 2009,110). Rancière thinks Barthes reduces the photographic act and viewing of the photograph to a single process. He calls this single process ‘transport’. What it does is the “transport of the unique sensible quality of the thing or the being photographed to the viewing subject”. For instance, in reading of Lewis Hine’s photo, two retarded children, Barthes claims to dismiss any knowledge or any culture and subsequently not to take into consideration that it is the work of a photographer investigating the exploited and rejected of American society. Another seemingly obvious point that he tries to elude is the disproportion. Instead, he wants us to see the girl’s finger bondage and the little boy’s huge Danton collar. But what he tells us he sees by way of the punctum pertains to the same logic as that of Studium, which he tells us not to see: features of disproportion- an enormous collar in the case of midget boy; and, in case of the little girl with a huge head, a bandage which is so tiny.

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The other famous example is the photograph of Alexander Gardner. Surprisingly, in terms of punctum, Barthes says “the punctum is: he is going to die”. However, nothing in the photo signals that he is about to die. To be affected by his death, we need to know that the photograph represents Lewis Payne, condemned to death in 1865 for trying to assassinate the US secretary of state. And we also need to know that it was the first time a photographer had been allowed in to photograph an execution.

The artistic singularity of this photo is derived, Rancière believes, from three forms of indeterminacy. First is the visual composition because we do not know if the position of the subject seating in the dark zone and having a light zone on top was on purpose or it was arranged with no intervention of the photographer. The second indeterminacy concerns the work of time. While the photo bears the time past, the posture and the intensity of his gaze is present. And the third and most important one is the imminent death and his nonchalant attitude of the young man which confuses us from determining his feeling and reason he committed assassination. Rancière concludes that contrary to what Barthes does to discover punctum of the image and thus reducing the image to unique reading, the importance of this photo is lied in “impossibility of making two images coincide- socially determined image of the condemned man and the image of a young man characterized by a rather nonchalant curiosity, focusing on a point we cannot see.” (Rancière 2009 115).

In the end, I believe we have had enough of depoliticized and mystified reading of images which try to reduce the underlying messages of images to banality shrouded in mystery.

 

* Title is inspired by Balibar’s Article “Shut Up Althusser”

 

References

-Barthes, Roland (1985) Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang.

-Rancière, Jacque (2007) The Future of the Image. Trans. Gregory Elliot. London: Verso.

– Rancière, Jacque (2009) Emancipated Spectator. Trans. Gregory Elliott. New York: Verso, 2009.

-Sontag, Susan ed. (1983) “Inaugural Lecture,” A Barthes Reader,. New York: Hill and Wang, (IL)

-Oxman, Elena (2010) Sensing the Image: Roland Barthes and the Affect of the Visual, SubStance, Volume 39, Number 2, 2010 (Issue 122), pp. 71-90 (Article), University of Wisconsin Press

The Festival of Flesh*

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This post tries to reverse Susan Sontag’s interpretation of Reni Riefenstahl’s photos discussing the pictures of Hooligans in Tehran. If beautification of real bodies is denounced as distorted and unauthentic, setting stage to publicly represent ugliness of criminal bodies should be refuted anthropologically as well.  The difficulty is that in the former, the manipulation of bodies is obvious because it is the photographer herself who directs the bodies and makes them pose, however in the latter, the reality is staged by the police and the photographer is recording the distorted bodies of criminals. The question is that is there any real difference between the staged reality that photographer tends to set up and the staged reality that the photographer is invited to capture?

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In the article “Fascinating Fascism”, Susan Sontag accuses Leni Riefenstahl of continuing Nazi ideology in her work The Last of the Nuba. She believes “Riefenstahl’s portrait of them is consistent with some of the larger themes of Nazi ideology: the contrast between the clean and the impure, the incorruptible and the defiled, the physical and the mental, the joyful and the critical.” In the class discussion, we came up with the reason why we do not see her photos ethnographical enough. Transforming the real dynamics of bodies and putting them outside the way they function, distorting the reality and not committing to accuracy of what is recorded preclude them from falling into the category of ethnographic photos. As Susan Sontag says about the Triumph of the Will, it seems that everything is staged and “the document (the image) is no longer simply the record of reality; “reality” has been constructed to serve the image.

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This picture was on the front page of Shargh Newspaper (one of the leading newspapers in Iran). Police arrested so-called hooligans and publicly displayed them in order first to humiliate them and also send the message to others thinking of wrong-doing. The news is shocking: “With the beginning of the seventh phase of fighting hooligans and bandits in Tehran, more than 100 arrested hooligans were displayed in streets of the capital of Iran by the police.”

the series of pictures taken from this event shows how tormented and humiliated bodies are far from the real dynamics that they possess. Police has distorted the bodies and they do not belong to this context. They have been taken forcefully to where the reality is staged and prepared for the photographer to document. Are we allowed to denounce these pictures as not authentic and ethnographic? Can we say they are aesthetically associated with politics of ugliness that the Islamic Republic advocates?

The main character of this photo is the man with the half-naked torso giving the picture its dynamics. However, the crucial point for me is how the second cover-faced man from the right is making a gesture with his hand. I was tempted to combine the hand with the gesture of the half-naked man. The result would be something like the sculpture Thinking Man.  This picture depicts how the body of criminal is an extension of the body of police.

the-thinking-man

The status of a criminal who is declared unprotected by the law and can consequently be harmed and humiliated by anyone with impunity, is defined by Agamben under the concept “Homo sacer”. Agamben sees the relation between the sovereign and homo sacer as one of symmetry: ‘The novelty of modern biopolitics lies in the fact that the biological given is as such immediately political, and the political is as such immediately the biological given…The life that, with the declarations of rights, became the ground of sovereignty now becomes the subject-object of state politics (which therefore appears more and more in the form of “police”).” (p.148)

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Whatever reasons the police in Iran have for public disgrace of criminals, I cannot ignore the erotic sense that one may get from these predetermined ugly scenes.  That is what connects this case with the second half of Susan Sontag’s article where she talks about pornographic reproduction of Nazi fashion in a book called “SS Regalia”. It is aligned with promotion of beauty in Nazi Ideology.  If she recognizes the trend of fetishistic fascination with Nazi, I would like to see the reverse side and come up with the term BDSM that is connected to Sadomasochistic top and dominant sex relation which is ugly. It is striking how police in Iran uses the exact word that people practicing a form of BDSM use: Public Disgrace. If one searches this term Google will come up with ugly and distorted bodies that enjoy being publicly humiliated. the same term with adding Iran will get you to the scenes of night raid scenes and disgraced bodies of criminals.

If we perceive the fascination with Nazi clothes a sort of mimicry of reality, what can we say about the police kinky attitude towards these criminals. This time, those in power are mimicking the mimicry of torture and enjoyment practiced by Gay in Fulsome Street Fair in San Francisco?

* The title is inspired by Louis-Ferdinand Celin 

Locating Anthropological Photography between Surreal and Mundane Imagery

nanook-of-the-north from web

The history of ethnographic movies is closely interwoven with the history of ethnography and cinema, and these histories have oddly been in correspondence. Cinema and ethnography appeared almost in the same year but they were sometimes closely tied and some other time ignorant. Social scientists first imagined ethnographic film as a scientific tool. Early anthropologists, […]

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