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?
Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh
Region/Concept: Europe, Time
Sub-concepts: Surfacing, Suspension, Climate, War, Decay
Description: Mummified corpses of World War I soldiers emerge from melting glacier battlefield turned ski resort.
Theory: A love letter appears on the melting surface of an Italian ski resort; the frozen cry of a condemned soldier of the Habsburg Empire, inscribed from the depths of his agony. And the glacier, it seems, generates its own inscription from the depths, written across its surface, of the sunken remnants of a multitude of bodies and weapons rising from a block of suspension. On the currents of a warming climate, the landscape secretes its secret. Death emerges among the picturesque Alps, as tourists pose before a jagged array of peaks slowly eroded by weather and the occasional barrage of mortar blasts, silent for almost a century, and remaining in silence, only to reveal the mutilated army that once traversed these peaks and crevasses. Where now, amidst fresh alpine air, skiers and hikers cannot help but “smell the war” and encounter the contorted bodies, mummified as if they had died on this same resplendent day. On some immemorial day or eternal night on the outskirts of the highest village of the Habsburg Empire; the highest and therefore an example for all. The chalet may have replaced the outpost for now, but the smell lingers, the smell of an ineradicable decay, the immanence of destruction that permeates yet another empire, beneath a glossy surface, as permanent and as transient as the glacial ice; a depth that is already emerging with the turning of a breeze. And so, in the poetic tradition of an unmarked grave, the letter, emblazoned forever across the melting slopes, terminates with the signature, “your abandoned lover”.
Posted by: Will Scarlett
Region/Concept: Middle East, Time
Sub-Concepts: Innocence, Necessity, Unnatural Aging
Description: Photo series of young Syrian boy working in weapons factory.
Theory: This episode showcases the involvement of the child in elevated conditions of war: cradle-to-grave fatality. It thereby raises the following questions: How does the state of emergency (revolution, war, famine) thrust the child into a process of unnatural aging, as a still-formless consciousness is told to confront thresholds of mortality far ahead of its years? In what sense is innocence obsolesced by more vicious principles of necessity, velocity, and struggle? How does this accelerated timescape (trapped within the hyper-reality of civil conflict) impact the child’s relation to the surrounding atmosphere and the world of objects and appearances? Is the exhausted face of the boy weapon-maker, one who bathes in the metallic craft of missiles and ammunition, whose face is blackened by the smoke and furnaces of this lethal factory, the ultimate banner of the apocalyptic?
Posted by: Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh