Region/Concept: East Asia, Space
Sub-Concepts: Mapping, Urbanization, Dislocation, Geoscape, Ancient, Phantom
Description: Chinese artist Yang Yongliang creates industrial dystopias in shan shui landscapes.

Theory: Stitching innumerable series of electric pylons and half-built/half-demolished high-rises, for the eye yearns to see graceful contours of a mountainous landscape. The wrecking force of a developmental power that only knows creating, building, making, raising, multiplying—a menacing positivity threatening the natural environment with its own relentlessly reproductive nature. The micro-twitchings of an eye compiling. Algorithms thriving on indeterminacy. Computational landscapes fecund with affect. Natural perception nothing more than primal projection of reality—“there are only relinkages subject to the cut”—Taoism’s pure perception sees through contrast and past juxtaposition to pierce the emptiness of what is—“instead of cuts subject to the linkage.”

Link: https://medium.com/vantage/visions-of-a-future-that-draw-on-the-past-b9d36e02a7e7

Posted by: Una Chung



Region/Concept: East Asia, Myth
Sub-Concepts: Movement, Play, Abandonment, Flight
Description: Secretive graffiti artist DALeast leaves massive spray-painted images (mostly of animals) across the walls of global cities.

The Dream of Animality: one of the most ancient obsessions of human consciousness (the first gods were beasts). Myths of flight, of synchronous movement, muscular symmetry, the mastery of horizontal and vertical surfaces, predatory instinct, playfulness and lethal ability. And yet this perfect unity (of intention, design, action, and desire) is attained through an ability to become fragmented (to abandon, shatter, molecularize, decompose, and leave oneself). This is why every child’s tale of entrance into the liberated territories of animality (the forest, the jungle, wonderland) first requires a self-forgetting that breaks apart identity. Only then are the gifts of untamed beings seen in totems and cave paintings—realms of consumption, sensation, roaming, sleep, violence, and endless motion—made available to the human mind/touch. This art-form of postmodern vandalism thus ironically serves to resuscitate a primordial tradition of image-making: visions of flight, curvature, aeriality, and the unbound.

Link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2392721/DALeast-Breathtaking-work-secretive-Chinese-graffiti-artist-world.html

Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh



Region/Concept: East Asia, Myth
Sub-Concepts: The Collector, Summoning, Abuse, Penalty, Infinitesimal Perishing
Description: Samurai stuntman Seizo Fukumoto has acted out approximately 50,000 deaths on screen.

The ultimate process; the undefeated process. One cannot pretend to die so many times without eventually incurring a mortal debt. Death is a ruthless collector; it would not allow its name to be called over and again in false offering. And so it is that this abusive summoning does not go unpunished (the hook remains). Rather, someone must pay the fair price for these playful cinematic depictions of the last breath. This actor knows better than to believe himself unscathed; he realizes (however distant the intuition) that some buried chamber of his being endures the penalty for each terminal scene before the camera. A field within him is burned; a voice within him is strangled; a man within him (a foreigner, stranger, or other, though still most intimate) is executed. No, the theater is not immune to consequence; he was never quite safe there, among the plastic weapons, nor did he make it out uncut or intact. The forces of radical negativity always ensure a certain taxation: each facial grimace, each feigned writhing or manufactured blood-spray, each final groan or pang or exhale, comes with its proper cost. The result: that our stuntman is overtaken by a kind of invisible leprosy—entire regions of Being, housed beneath the organs and the limbs, have been sold into decay and obliteration without notice (fallen away quietly). For his craft demanded that he perish in some silent, infinitesimal place every time he lost his life on screen. Something always weeps, grieves, cries out, goes under (though we never speak of it). The condemned sliver; the harmed particle; the unforgiven actor.

Link: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/aug/12/japan-most-killed-samurai-stuntman-seizo-fukumoto-prize

Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh



Region/Concept: East Asia, Desire
Sub-Concepts: Collapse, Disgrace, Extinction
Description: Individuals meet online to arrange and plan acts of collective self-destruction.

Theory: What dark concerns. Four men, three women perish of carbon monoxide inhalation in cars parked along a remote mountain highway; four others seal themselves within a room to meet a similar end at the hands of a disconnected gas stove. Are these supposed to be “uprisings” (a movement-above) or “transpirings” (a breathing-across)? More than this, what desire rests behind such recurring displays of suffocation and aerial poisoning, organized by strangers bound together only by a virtual pact (to leave the world one night)? No, they cannot be reduced to mere suicidal gestures: the phantasmatic factor of the screen/the image, alongside the medieval factor of the oath/the vow, make this an otherwise distinct orchestration of a calling-unto-death. If not suicides, then, are these well-choreographed acts based in still-broader categories of harm: “malicide” (the killing of evil), “chronocide” (the killing of time), or “famacide” (the killing of one’s reputation)? Are they agitated yet careful attempts to remove the structures of control and coercion within oneself, thus becoming an internal act of “dominicide” (the killing of a master), “regicide” (the killing of a king), “tyrannicide” (the killing of a tyrant), or “deicide” (the killing of a god)? Does the impulse extend even further than this? Could we conceive of these simultaneous self-slayings, these evacuations of the earth, with their odd mixture of loneliness and intimate alignment, as larger symbolic efforts in search of a final expiration-register: i.e. “omnicide” (the killing of the entire human race)? More clearly, are these ceremonies really just subjective enterprises, or is their mark of collectivity a sign that they are drawn forward by a yet-grander dream for the species itself: that is to say, the dream of extinction?

Link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/4071805.stm

Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh



Region/Concept: East Asia, Space
Sub-Concepts: Withdrawal, Isolation, Refusal, Neo-Misanthropy
Description: Two recent phenomena of aloneness: 1) hikikomori (literally, “pulling inward”)—legions of Japanese youth who have become shut-ins and total recluses, withdrawing entirely from society, within their high-rise apartments; 2) kodokushi (literally, “lonely death”)—legions of Japanese elderly who die within their homes and go undiscovered for months or even years.

Theory: What kind of bizarre hermeticism emerges from within such hyper-metropolitan centers, a product of their intense alienation and compartmentalization of human activity? Here we come across a kind of postmodern solitude: both young and old receding into the air-tight enclosures of private apartments throughout the cosmopolis, as if reeling from the accelerated velocity and theatricality of the futuristic cityscape in order to adopt some new version of ascetic tranquility. But what kind of solace or esoteric wisdom can one find in a small room on the nineteenth floor? Can one even attain an authentic or sufficient level of hiddenness when protected (from an age of excessive light, noise, and movement) by only the fine border of a window? And, more importantly, what are they after in this sheltering-act? Is this increasing pattern of self-extraction just an attempt to recover a more ancient principle of self-annihilation? Perhaps, but entirely misguided and anachronistic; it is not the same brand of thoughtlessness or painlessness of the past; they are no monks with their acute despair. And so one experiences in those four walls only the very same numbness that circulates across the despised outside (now just disguised as insularity). From the accounts given, this retreat-tactic offers no sanctuary or refuge: rather, it is a dead-end that brings only a futile recognition of the very obsolescence of such older quests for enlightenment, distance, serenity, meditative concentration. These are no longer attainable categories; the havens are gone, and with them the potential descent into void (this neo-emptiness teaches nothing, allows nothing). For sure, there is only a mimicry of aloneness here: to live alone (without meaning, ritual, or reward) and to die alone (without consecration, prayer, or transcendence). No longer the problem of “no way out,” but rather the problem of “no way in.”

Link 1: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-23182523
Link 2: http://invisiblephotographer.asia/2014/03/24/kodokushi-soichirokoriyama/

Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh



Region/Concept: East Asia, Time
Sub-Concepts: Condemnation, Waiting, Vicariousness, Desperate Replication
Description: North Korean prison camps invoke “three-generational punishment”: i.e. life sentences handed down to three generations of the same family (only the offspring of the fourth generation to come is granted freedom).

Theory: Cumulative agony; genealogical retribution; the corpsed multitude. What does it mean to transmit damnation across several generational channels? There is common knowledge of authoritarian regimes that have constructed special cemeteries for traitors to the state, with executed bodies thrown in impersonal rows beneath unmarked graves, and that even the bare soil on the surface is ordered to be overturned from time to time so as to allow no solace, no rest, for the treasonous dead. But this other phenomenon—three-generational punishment—is a technique like none before. A man/woman is accused and sentenced (condemned for life), and that accusation sends a convulsion down the spine of their child’s forthcoming nights (condemned for life), and the grandchild (condemned for life), at least one never having even seen the outside, until a fourth successor breaks open a door beyond the camp (if they ever get that far). A triumvirate of starvation, torture, enslavement, and waiting…until the lapse. What happens here, across three axes of tormented descendants? What kind of burden does the original violator (the guilty ancestor) carry in the face of an entire lineage now entrapped, incriminated, and starved of horizon for his actions? Does he see the imprint of his own awful insignia on their foreheads at every turn? And how does he envision the still-unborn face of the redeemer child who will someday be let go, in some distant time most likely beyond his own death? Does he contemplate this ethereal figure as a kind of vicarious deliverance? How do the middle generations, without even the luxury of self-willed wrongdoing to account for their condition, perceive their existential function in the world? Are they mere transitional or instrumental beings, intermediaries who must survive (not for themselves) but for the one who will come to end the cycle? And what of the one who is the warehouse of half a century’s anticipation (the unchained), and yet immediately orphaned upon arrival?

Link: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/horrors-revealed-at-north-korean-prison-camp/

Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh



Region/Concept: East Asia, Movement
Sub-Concepts: Confinement, Stillness, Silence, Horror, Incarnation
Description: Artist Liu Xia arranges dolls in telling positions of interrogation, torture, and constraint.

Theory: There is a unique kind of horror that resides within pure stillness — an affect of negative awe that belongs to the unmoving/the unbreathing alone. The nerves run colder here, before the dreadful image of the automaton (the doll, the statue, the puppet, the scarecrow). Frozenness, paralysis, immutability: one cannot tell whether they are incarnations of absolute surrender (that they have abandoned themselves to some half-existence) or whether they embody a far more grave and perilous concept of inevitability (that within them lies the inescapable potential to someday begin moving). At night we fear these dormant forms, these figurines and effigies that dwell in our fields, our windows, our cellars and bedroom chairs. We fear the fragility of their hovering and strandedness; we fear the unreadability of their psychology (or lack thereof); we fear that the fixed, spellbound gaze is only momentary, and serves a greater final purpose (concealed for the time being); we fear that soon enough they will break loose and sway toward us (with restlessness and thirst), for they already live where we live. In truth, have we not always suspected some sinister volition being held in store, an alternative version of animus to be released at the right hour? Are these motionless ones not perhaps the rightful heirs of futurity…temporarily suspended, in waiting, half-wakeful, with stares like premonitions…and ever-positioned for an eventual overthrow of the world?

Link: http://untappedcities.com/2012/02/13/underground-chinese-artist-liu-xia-on-exhibit-at-the-italian-academy/

Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh