IN SEARCH OF VANISHED BLOOD, INDIA

Region/Concept: South Asia, Violence
Sub-Concepts: Pain, Catastrophe, Partition, Mutilation, Supplication
Description: Indian artist Nalini Malani creates video assemblages projected onto spinning Mylar cylinders casting shadows on walls.

Theory: Tails, claws, racing limbs, wagging fingers—pulsing, flickering, slow revolution, spinning, cutting, differential speeds. Fingerprints float past, unfathomable maps of a sensual cosmos out of reach, suffocatingly so. Overcome by the splitting of land, women’s bodies an incision point—again, yet again, we learn only at the end, far past the end, that there are no people here; always “the people are missing.” Revolutions of translucencies, hollow bodies of light, what silent supplication arises from the vapor of vanished blood? May the wrathful deities yet protect passage through realms of defeat and separation. Organs riven apart, what remains to follow the voice of Faiz Ahmed Faiz—“This blood which has disappeared without leaving a trace/isn’t part of written history: who will guide me to it?”—but empty, endless, phantom longing. Cassandra does not speak, merely spins, in painful compassion…or could it be an enormous, billowing rage?

Link: http://www.galerielelong.com/exhibition_works/1892
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uK9iRoPds8

Posted by: Una Chung

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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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ALL-WOMEN FIGHTING SQUAD 2, IRAN

Region/Concept: Middle East, Violence
Sub-Concepts: Isolation, Worship, Autonomy, Darkness, Conspiracy
Description: A group of Iranian women train in Ninjutsu at the foothills of the Alborz mountains.

The operational logic of paganism is such that when a certain local god fails to deliver its graces, one can always switch to an alternative deity (of the river, the tree, the grove). This exchange is harder in monotheistic orders, requiring more subtlety, yet it can be done just the same. Here in the ancient Persian city of Karaj, we find this very kind of transition happening: a ruling sacred system has failed these women fighters; for decades, its religious leaders have situated them at the useless outskirts of its inner circles, denying them access to the powers of apotheosis and worship, and so now they turn their eyes elsewhere in search of other spirit-forms. They take to an isolated location and begin training in a martial art-form not of their immediate world, with no reason other than to attempt an experimental substitution of idols. Most importantly, however, one must note the two strands of devious irony at work in this conversion: (1) that they have chosen for their new tradition something that exists far outside the folds of their own cultural history and monotheistic paradigms (i.e. there is virtually no meeting ground between the concepts of Ninjutsu and an Islamic theocracy); (2) that they have chosen for their new tradition something which demands that they veil themselves even more extensively than their last theology. In essence, they have selected the braver counterintuitive path of intensifying the law brought down upon their bodies; to do so, they will drape and cloak themselves at even more severe levels than imagined before, entering into a state of hyper-concealment that spites their former overlords. The headscarf is taken further along the axis of its own intention, becoming a ninja’s mask (autonomous in their darkness). This is how one surpasses oppression (through the storm). Consequently, are we not to perceive a complex subversive trace among this camp of anomalous women, something amounting to more than just reverence, discipline, or a new trend or diversion? Should we not take seriously the fact that they have fastened themselves to a martial art-form which privileges (above all else) stealth, secrecy, anti-social codes, conspiracy, and assassination?

Link: http://www.majalla.com/eng/2013/11/article55246675

Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh

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ALL-WOMEN FIGHTING SQUAD 1, KURDISH REGION

Region/Concept: Middle East, Violence
Sub-Concepts: Identity, War, Exteriority, Trespass, Immensity, The Foreigner
Description: All-women Kurdish squad—the 2nd Peshmerga Batallion, whose name means “those who face death”—sets out to fight radical jihadist group ISIS.

The structures of identity tend to disappear whenever individuals are flung to the radical outside of the world (beyond the social, the political, the cultural). Moreover, this evisceration of self (where the old “I” burns away) is only magnified when one adds the variable of fatal struggle to the realm of experience. Thus an all-women unit leaves behind its insular community in order to challenge a rising enemy far beyond their midst. Their lives have been threatened; a mercenary formation to the East has already condemned their people to certain death, and marches nearer with each day; thus stationed at the crossroads of emergency, they find that they must kill or perish now. This part is simple enough—i.e. the nature of their immediate task—but the more complex question that remains is: Will they still be themselves once having traversed the Uneven and the Open on the way to battle? Or is their departure from home the first step to a dramatic trespass and reinvention? These women fighters cannot help but be transformed at such a distance from their memories and city walls; rather, this new terrain of exteriority—that of the desert, hills, or jungle—is an experience of immensity and borderlessness for which no prior subjectivity can remain. The old self will not survive the extreme temperatures of this remoteness, and so they will begin to formulate new definitions, profiles, appearances, and even names as they sit together in the dark and bleed together by the light. They will compose new anthems and initiate a poetic language that only they understand; this is the basic right of their lethal intimacy. Hence even those who return will never fully return, and the better for it (an existential revolution to match their practical revolution). They will come back irreversibly transfigured and evolved, wounded and altered, powerful in unforeseen ways, more expansive in their vision, more dangerous and capable for what they have endured in the places no one goes. They will come back as a band of strangers/foreigners to the very ones who they were sent out to protect. War is pure metamorphosis, nothing less.

Link 1: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2680820/The-women-trained-fight-ISIS-Elite-Kurdish-unit-prepare-imminent-threat-Islamic-militants-Iraq.html

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

TROPHIES OF BUTCHERY, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

Region/Concept: Africa, Violence

Sub-Concepts: Camouflage, Fragmentation, Disappearance, War, The Gaze
Description: Art photographer uses infrared film—Kodak Aerochrome film, designed by the US military in the 1940s—to capture militias, “makes the invisible, visible.”

Theory: Here, the artist-turned-sniper fashions an ocular standoff, where the mechanized line of sight functions as the ammunition of the armed eye. In this operation, the militarized gaze programs the prepossessed perception of the enemy and his fugitive encampment. Where the eye labors to function anatomically, it functions only as weapon. Where it attempts to wrench the camouflaged rebel, with his slurred allegiance and war-drunk smile, from insignificant darkness and into object of reflective horror and awe, it succeeds only in stimulating his flamboyant swaggering. Treating this posturing to the masses in production after exhibition where, with every other ‘act of taking aim,’ every interpretation, the object and his habitat are fractured, disjointed, fragmented, until they have dissolved into nothing—absolute disappearance of the authentic target. In effect, this resplendently phantasmagoric mass presentation of exposure serves not to illuminate the invisible (now just a superficial, paralyzed [a]trophy of defeat), nor even to let it linger in triviality, but rather—and with absolute synthetic precision—to utterly obliterate it.

Link: http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/05/world/africa/congo-richard-mosse-the-enclave/

Posted by: RLS

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CANNIBAL REBEL, SYRIA

Region/Concept: Middle East, Violence
Sub-Concepts: Mutilation, Devouring, the Enemy
Description: Video Interview with Abu Sakkar (Syrian militia fighter captured on video while eating the heart or liver of a dead soldier).

Theory: This episode compels one to reflect on the relationship between violence and consumption. It thereby raises the following questions: What are the tremulous repercussions of the one who ingests/internalizes the enemy? How does this intense proximity with the body of the fallen (feeding upon the wound, swallowing the corpse) and the eventual shift towards vampirism reveal an alternative framework of anger or atrocity that deviates from modernity’s increasing strategies of detached, imperceptible, and technologically-mediated killing? What does this cannibalistic performance suggest about the existential contrast between the figure of the militant and the ideology of the state?

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JUt7-iesfc

Posted by: Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh

A Free Syrian Army fighter sits on a sofa inside a house in Deir al-Zor