Contour Biennale/DAI Roaming Academy #12: ‘Planetary Records: Performing Justice Between Art and Law’

On March 11 & 12 in Mechelen, Belgium, I will be co-curating the public program of this event in collaboration with the biennale’s exhibition curator, Natasha Ginwala. Here is the Intro to the Opening Weekend:


As a system of rules constructed and enforced through institutions to regulate behaviour, negotiating legacy relations between particularity and general application, while being maintained through textual and oral interpretation, law is a space of great—if denied—aesthetic deliberation. Justice, quite differently, might be figured as an intractable entanglement of relations, intentions, affectabilities and adjustments between ever-moving, never-global, densely articulated bodies.

The law’s modernization in the colonial epoch consolidated limits for possible relations between justice and law, in its ontological set-up of male persons with base units and rights of property in contractual relation. Engendered and ethnocidally arranged through this fractal abstraction, juridical modernism foreclosed the order of land-based life and literacies. Its decrees of ‘right’ expansion continue to be built upon and innovated, while it secures and distinguishes only particular subjects, objects, and things, into investment-worthy relations.

When artists engage procedures of witnessing, testimonial production and the performativity of the trial, allegories of justice and modes of theatricality surface to haunt the past and present. These spectral zones must constantly be inspected and contested, just as ghosts must be evoked in order to deal with their unfinished legacy. Film and performance are vehicles among many that carve out alter-civilizational images and conceive legibility for eroding matters of injustice. Working from Mechelen, this co-curated programme invites artists, theorists and filmmakers to explicitly unpack the technicity and asymmetrical power of European legal infrastructure. Over two days the program examines artists’ role in challenging normative legal foundations while transforming our understanding of response-ability to double-meanings of law/lore, and tracing the inevitably formal dimensions of present day struggles.

How do ongoing planetary rebellions determined through existing value forms and categorizations, including the racial categorization of “no body / no thing” aim at legal rupture when placed before the courts, without falling into mimetic disfigurements within this very same insufficient order? What does it mean to take an eye or ear to scenes of struggle that reverberate well beyond as well as inside legal institutional terrains? How can artists’ own literacy in post-media conditions—very much at play inside the contemporary law court—make sense of possible realisms against and beyond juridical modernism’s reproduction of capitalism and its increasingly death-driven function?

The artists of Contour Biennale 8, Polyphonic Worlds: Justice as Medium, are connected through their attention to aesthetic contestations of the juridical beyond its present coding, their productive dealings with a planetary regime of impermissible evidence, and their ritualistic as well as counter-analytical engagements with an expanding, expropriated archive. The “record” here is often not data that can be positively marked up or collected in advance, but instead, what is lived while being judged to be outside of proper adjudication. To cultivate flexible imagination around these juridical-aesthetic impasses is to work through the persistent constraining of just realisms, where survival is constantly at stake. Here, justice itself becomes the medium through which we cannot avoid moving through, within and around.

For the full program, click here: Contour 8 Public Program

[Image of the artist Rana Hamadeh performing  ‘Can You Make a Pet of Him Like a Bird or Put Him on a Leash For Your Girls?’]

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Feminist Cinemas of Extraction lecture at UCSD

I was invited to the Visual Cultures of Work research group in the Discursive and Curatorial Production Initiative of the Department of Visual Arts at UC San Diego, to present this lecture ‘Feminist Cinemas of Extraction – Reading Divestment through the Historicity of Labor’

Thursday, November 3, 2016
4–6 PM


‘Mining has stood out as an exemplary industry through which labor and labor struggle has been historically imagined, imaged, and understood. Nevertheless, the formal conventions of radical labor film inherited from Soviet cinemas of the 1920s—in placing trope-like emphasis on machinic automation and the patriarchal ‘family’ wage—have tended to contract viewers into materially very limited and highly gendered readings of extractive politics. Feminist practices of art, film, and activism have long since grappled with this problem on an aesthetic level in accordance with the industry’s own revolutions of production. Rachel O’Reilly’s talk will address the intersection of unwaged, feminist sociality and labor cinema’s attention to the theory of value. Focusing on feminist experiments in cinematic form found in Sophie Bissonnette, Martin Duckworth, and Joyce Rock’s 1980 film Une Histoire de Femme—which tracks the work of Franco/Anglophone women in their support and organization of the historic 1978 International Nickel Company of Canada (INCO) strikes that took place in Sudbury, Ontario—O’Reilly will rethink the relationship between aesthetic politics, contractual form, and labor within present day settler colonial conditions with regard to its relevance for our own cultural work’.

The Visual Cultures of Work research group in the DCP Initiative in the Department of Visual Arts at UC San Diego examines cross-disciplinary ideas and influences—ranging from art history, film and media studies, the history of science, literature, feminist theory, and political history—in the economy of work within modern and contemporary visual culture. This event is co-sponsored by Critical Gender Studies at UC San Diego.

Pre-figures of Divestment in Feminist Cinemas of Extraction seminar

On Tuesday May 24, 6-8pm, I will give my seminar: “Pre-figures of Divestment in Feminist Cinemas of Extraction” at the National Institute for Experimental Arts (NIEA)

It is presented for the seminar series “Precarity//Futurity//Aesthetics”, co-convened by Jennifer Biddle, Anna Munster and Veronica Tello, at the Elywn Lynn Conference Centre (near the UNSW A&D library).

Contemporary mine production involves high salaried contractors negotiating ‘unconventional’ extractive regimes via increasingly privatized, post-democratic licensing and labour agreements, at the anthropocenic limits of land use. In the settler-colony especially, the image of mining labour, once key for dramatizing production (and anti-production, in strike) has been mobilized within the New Economy in ways that fundamentally disturb the figure-ground relations of citizenship through which the mine worker dialectically achieved its value in the first place.

Rachel O’Reilly’s visit to NIEA, UNSW A&D, coincides with the presentation of two series of drawings from her larger research project, The Gas Imaginary (2011-) as part of Frontier Imaginaries, currently at IMA/QUT.

Working through the difference of the contemporary mode of primitive accumulation of the mining contract, this talk draws on an earlier generation of feminist filmmakers’ im-proper and clinamen-like engendering of industry forms and formal ‘movement’, between labour and nature, to substantiate a contemporary aesthetic theory of divestment.

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Credits:
1. Sandra Lahaire, Uranium Hex, 1987
2. Susan Wallace-Babb in oxygen mask, Winnsboro, Texas, Sept. 12, 2011. (Erin Trieb for ProPublica)

Gas Imaginary at Encountering Australia: European Australian Studies Conference, Prato 2014

Abstract: The Gas Imaginary is an artistic research project incorporating poetry, photomedia
documentation, archi-poetic diagrams and essayistic labours exploring the aesthetic languages, mechanical ideology, speculative economics, and technocultural patterning surrounding the large-scale install of ‘unconventional’ gas extraction. Through this technology and industry, indebted state and national governments cause disenfranchised rural but increasingly urban populations to speculate on their own health and futures: through compensatory leasing arrangements, temporary industry employment and privatized infrastructure delivery and sponsorship aimed at the social licensing of investment in environmental injustice and dispossessions from common bioheritage.

virtuosity_of_Fracking

In this paper I will work through the main organizing indices and analytics of the project, which also structure the narrativity of the animated script (in-progress) that I will screen for the conference alongside installation images. This artistic research draws on the writer’s own genealogical connection to the industrial harbour town of Gladstone, Central Queensland, and to the eco- and labour politics of a city which has an ongoing and prominent, but critically under-documented role in the export of Queensland’s mineral wealth. To performatively ‘exhibit’ this story is to both concretize and allegorize certain ‘executive’ and psychically distanciated urban/e) investments in a very specific extraction practice, amidst boomtown ethoi and technocratically managed non-encounters with the environmental injustices that this corporate technology in-volves.

cropped-cropped-tara_gas_field2.jpg