MICRO-TWITCHINGS, CHINA

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

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WOODEN ELSEWHERE, BRAZIL

Region/Concept: Latin America, Myth
Sub-Concepts: Disorientation, Immensity, The Labyrinth, The Elsewhere
Description: Brazilian artist Henrique Oliveira creates installation of wooden caverns.

Theory: Artificial primordialism; hypothetical exodus; prophetic wilderness. An artist-sculptor takes the debris from splintered wood and restructures its pieces into a vast sequence of coils and turning lairs, the pseudo-site of an uprooted forest. Once wasted particles have now become a continuous network of excess and immensity, the catacomb of some child or savage’s dream (terrifying innocence). The consequence: an assembled geography of enclosures and subterranean halls (the tunnel, the labyrinth, the corridor, the cylinder, the cave); appearance of an untouched world; manipulated sublimity. These arteries are but the collective lie of an origin (only their hollowness is universal). Such is the experience of the radical elsewhere: traveling beneath, within the underpass and the curvature. Such is the experience of spatial bewilderment: where one goes to join the lost, the aimless, and the disoriented.

Link: http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/05/henrique-oliveira-wood-tunnels/

Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh

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DEATH AS WORKSHOP, MEXICO

Region/Concept: Latin America, Violence (Death)
Sub-concepts: Borders, Permeability, Necropolitics
Description: Artist Teresa Margolles employs traces of violent death to create artifacts and immersive environments.

Theory: Our lives are permeable to flows of capital and violence. Borders are militarized but porous. Life is disciplined but flexible. Mexico is an exemplary site of these contradictions. An art made of remnants becoming minor monuments. Quiet, subtle expressions of rage. Dispersion of fluids around and into the visitor as a mirror of the immersive nature of neoliberal capitalism. The remains of violence become cloudlike, ubiquitous.

Link: http://archiv2.fridericianum-kassel.de/margolles.html?&L=1

Posted by: Craig Epplin

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WITCH-HUNTING BRIGADE, SAUDI ARABIA

Region/Concept: Middle East, Myth
Sub-Concepts: Discipline, Inquisition, Magic, Evil, Otherworldliness
Description: Saudi Arabian police force creates special unit for tracking witches.

Theory: If every codification of a law gives rise to the temptation and transgressive possibility of breaking that same law, then it should be no surprise that every totalitarian structure will give rise to a magical underground. The disciplinary severity of the surface always necessitates the opening of a subterranean world of non-conformism, heresy, and criminal superstition. Moreover, those who would hold the reins of power are aware of this inevitable outcome: thus the paranoiac urgency with which they stalk down and raid any semblance of witches, sorcerers, fortune-tellers, and subversive healers. Let them take the capital cities of empires; the others will take to the remote provinces, the forest hideouts, the jungles, the chasms, and the sand dunes. Let them take the official language of the center; the others will take the illegitimate counter-language of rumor, legend, fairy-tale, and occult whisper. Inquisitions are never the intended suppression but rather the breeding-ground of evil formulations (to forbid is to invite proliferation). If anything, this is the logical motion of enchantment itself: accusation, judgment, sentencing (some burned, stoned, or beheaded), followed by an inescapable supernatural backlash. Those who would build finite worlds will be met increasingly by those who desire nothing more than otherworldliness.

Link: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/08/saudi-arabias-war-on-witchcraft/278701/

Posted by: Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh

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MICRO-IMPALEMENT, UNITED KINGDOM

Region/Concept: Europe, Space
Sub-Concepts: Idleness, Stabbing, Treason, Soullessness
Description: Urban planners in London install spikes along luxury buildings, stores, and bridge underpasses in order to deter the homeless.

Theory: How will the neo-aristocratic quadrants of today’s urban space accommodate the figure of the vagrant, the drifter, and the unproductive? Micro-impalement. And so the threat of idleness is met by the modern restoration of a medieval tactic: the spectacular violence of old kings who once lined their courtyards with stabbed-through bodies has now returned in minorized form (one-inch metal spears rising upward from city benches) as a trend to ward off the rootless and the deprived. This notwithstanding, the old kings reserved such punishment exclusively for the traitor, for the worst conspirators and enemies against their dominion, thus leading one to ask: in what specific way has the beggar betrayed the modern age; in what way do these piercing instruments reveal an accusation of full treason against power? Why does their loitering offend to the extent of pre-emptive torture? Perhaps the architects of such discomfort, the ones who nervously usher in an era of needles and thorns, who spitefully steal sleep from the sunken, who discipline sloth with puncture wounds, detect a kind of mastery at work within the slouched or sprawled body of the homeless person: that is, a will to fallenness. Their lack of need to ascend, their lack of need to generate a living or join the crowd, to prove oneself in the continuum of social value, is also the lack of need to exist. They may in fact occupy some vantage of Being, in a manner foreign to our definitions, but they do not require its attainment (non-striving). And no doubt one should fear the man or woman who does not need to exist, for this seemingly impoverished subject is also the one who cannot be intimidated, persuaded, forced, manipulated, seduced-unto-unity, bought or sold (beyond the torment of the others). The waiting-for-no-one; waiting-for-nothing. They have chosen a certain soullessness, and are the richer for it (the spikes do not reach far enough).

Link: http://mashable.com/2014/06/12/anti-homeless-spikes-london/

Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh

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THE SUMMONING WOMEN, AFGHANISTAN

Region/Concept: Middle East, Violence
Sub-Concepts: Taunting, Provocation, Intimacy, Lyricism, Immortalization
Description: New book titled “I Am the Beggar of the World” collects the pieces of Afghani wives, mothers, and daughters of Taliban fighters and anti-Taliban rebels who compose poetry for the battle.
Selection: “Be black with gunpowder or be bloodred
But don’t come home whole and disgrace my bed.” (107)

Theory: The poetics of the taunt, the challenge, the boast, and the provocation. This feminine textuality supersedes its masculine counterparts at the level of sacrifice, vehemence, and brave loss, for it is nothing less than a direct inviting of the enemy to come kill their most intimate relations. Battle-lyricism. A speech-act of mockery and contempt that masochistically dares its opponent to come closer (angered by hostile language games) and confiscate their adored fighters; in this way, it is also a poetics of summoning and vitriolic calling-forward, one which attains its height only in the incensement/temptation of the foreigner to annihilate the woman’s lineage. There is no traumatic consciousness here (emotion is traded for tribal conviction); instead, we find a becoming-unprotected (vulnerability as armament); we find a mode of incendiary war-romanticism that bares its chest and begs the most distasteful ones to penetrate and set afire the ties of kinship. Their most prized possessions placed at risk upon the scales of combat (as they emblazon). The father; the son; the brother. All are fair game and ventured in a campaign at once cheered onward and mourned by the women who stay back in the tents, awaiting the results of the arena, and who ready their hands to wash, bury, and immortalize the torn bodies of their men as a final gift to the struggle. Do not fear the rebels; fear the reciters.

Link: http://www.slate.com/blogs/behold/2014/03/05/eliza_griswold_and_seamus_murphy_document_afghanistan_s_landays_in_i_am.html

Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh

Kabul. Afghanistan. November 2012A young girl pouring tea in an