(and crikey, babel fish does a bad job of rendering the Chinese title – calling it “Separate and promiscuous” ?? – but I expect babel hasn’t really got a good grip on Kanji – I know I haven’t – trying to learn some for my Japanese lessons each thursday)
Anyway, I presume a better job has been done by translator: Chen Yixin (more below)
何謂「離散」與「混雜」？它們在有關種族、文化和社會的當代論辯中，有哪些軸心概念？本書針對離散與混雜的主要論辯，提出了詳盡無疑的政治評估，並在現代社會抗爭與文化脈絡中探討「離散」與「混雜」課題， … more
The translator, Chen Yixin, is:
(MA in Women’s Studies with distinction, University of York, UK)。在英期間研究後殖民女性文學與文化；論文書寫南非後隔離女性英語文學，比較了三位不同族裔之南非女作家的作品。喜歡寫詩、寫小說，從事英語教學與編輯相關工作多年。
pdfs of articles by John Hutnyk here:
– an article on Asian Communists in the UK from Social Identities ;
a piece on Fun*Da*Mental from South Asian Popular Culture;
The Chapatti Story from Contemporary South Asia;
The Politics of Cats from Stimulus Respond;
Culture from Theory Culture Society New Encyclopedia Project
Bataille’s Wars from Critique of Anthropology;
Jungle Studies from Futures;
Photogenic Poverty: Souvenirs and Infancy from the Journal of Visual Culture;
Hybridity from Ethnic and Racial Studies;
also Hybridity as ‘Contact Zones’ in shorter form at Transversal here.
The reasons I am writing this might not make perfect sense without the full responses, which are on the empyre list and comments on the previous post here, but my return post was an attempt to clarify where questioned and engage where challenged. Was useful for me if no-one else:
Hi All, Apologies for being slow at responding, some family difficulties have taken precedence, and the never ending routines of.. well, no need to whine on about it.
Many many thanks for the responses and comments. I was planning a post that would take us elsewhere, but time already achieved that. Let’s say I am happy to stick with the productivity of going ‘off topic’ in good directions, of even being out of sync – and of later attempting difficult crossings and even slightly impatient and breathless connection making (which I really liked, thanks Micha).
The thing about audio in cinema/movies is that while lip-service is paid to the ‘silence … action on set’ its exactly that priority – silence because the action will start that has sound continually relegated to the status of a second class citizen. Sound recording is fraught, often forgotten – and we have become very much accustomed to images, they seem easy (sure, they are not, but…), well, sound is not of equal import in the discourse on film, and that’s just the problem. When I was teaching documentary film (in my first ten years at Goldsmiths) there was one clear consequence of the limited resources we had. Picture image was pretty good on the various cheap-ish cameras available, such as TVR 900 and so on, but the sound was terrible. And when it came to editing, if the sound was terrible, that was about as good as things got. Great images, crap sound, often meant disaster. Some great films were made (you can see them on Daily Motion) but oftentimes they could have been a whole lot better.
“Except in music videos and cartoons, the soundtrack seems always to exist in function of the image” – Menotti
But even in music videos the sound seemed to be relegated – as Andrew Goodwin long ago argued in “Dancing in the Distraction Factory”, critics had become deaf. I don’t think he was just bemoaning the fact that New Romantic music was dominated by rubbish fashion. That he includes factory in the title of his book did not align him with Adorno or the autonomists, but it would have been nice if it had – I think there is something to be explored in the way the visual – surveillance, coding, presence – belongs to the realm of production under capital. The grooves of the record industry riff on this over and over, a culture industry, a distraction factory, a machine for value extraction. In the cinema no-one lets you scream.
I am happy to hear talk of mediation (Menotti), as without mediation, or rather without theorising mediation, I think we remain unable to comprehend what is going on. To the extent the cinema escapes its older factory conditions, it escapes via a mediation into new conditions, new circuits of occupying the city-space/our lives. Without mediation between the image and the production apparatus, there are only reified fixations – on the image, on the auteur, on the screen mechanics, even on the circuit. I like to call this trinketization – a limiting fascination with abstracted and isolated components of a system that cannot be grasped without a theory of mediation. The trinketization syndrome is very strong in cultural studies (objects, things, the fetish of commodities) and also in cinema (close ups, Kane’s Rosebud). Here Adorno chastised Benjamin writing his Arcades project wanting to have the things (all those bits and pieces of Paris etc he collected for so long, snowdomes and the like) communicate with each other in some kind of auto-dialectical arrangement. Adorno insisted this could not stand without a theory of relation, of mediation. I’ve long been a fan of juxtaposition, but agree that mere montage, revolutionary once, has so readily been co-opted by the culture industry that its no longer even raising eyebrows. The famous picture of Sergei Eisenstien shaking hands with Mickey Mouse is a trinket to ironize exactly this.
I’ve a slowly gestating piece on Citizen Kane (oh no, not again) along these lines, developed slowly as the opening to my lecture course on Marx’s “Capital” (lecture one – ‘The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails presents itself as an immense collection of commodities’ – Kane collects… Without Kane, without the mediation that is Kane as capital, Kane in Xanadu, Kane and politics, newspapers, media (without Kane as William Randolph Hearst…) there are only trinkets, only Rosebuds. For the record, the gist is in these posts:https://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2007/10/05/welles-hearst-capital/ https://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2006/09/03/quoting-marx-for-the-slums-–-zizek’s-parallax-viewpoint/ https://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2007/10/02/kanes-snow-globe/ https://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2005/10/13/why-film-students-babble-on-about-orsen-welles/
What I meant when I suggested – just threw it out there really – that “the city, and the border, is an audio-visual enclosure” is that the border is not just at the airport or the seaport, or the passport control check. The border extends, like sound, into every register of our lives. I have to refer to the back catalogue again here. A post on trinketization from the anniversary of Sputnik, in honour of Leika:
The border is not only geography and vision – though a line on the map and the sign at immigration control are our most immediate experiences of control – the border is also a process, an order, an iteration, uneven, performative and aural. The border is not just at the edge or boundary, it is also in the street, in the post, in the pub. The border operates between people. The hand raised to silence the offer of the migrant DVD salesperson who interrupts your quiet enjoyment of a beer – that too is a brutal moment of border control. Although of course we can insist that state boundaries are also porous, continually bypassed, more and less easily, in so many different ways; immigration control still stands as a block to movement and mediation.
The resonance of the war and power is strong here – echoing with the sounds of silence, dispossession and death to which our eyes become deaf, our ears have become blind.
Is our boundary prejudice built into the structure of the border control? A logic of presence, geography and vision govern the strong sense of truth that belongs to knowledge. We say knowledge is divided into fields (geography) and seem most often to designate knowing through a confident designation. We indicate truths by pointing (vision), there is presence in understanding. Now perhaps there is an alternative in the metaphoric code with which we name movement and sound. It may be possible to hear a more critical tone, to raise questions about the assertions of certitude – when critical we say we are not sure we agree, we doubt, we say we do not like the tone. Can thinking through travel and sound suggest new ways of linking across the borders between us all – as sound crosses the border in ways that tamper with visual and geographic blocks (pirate radio, music, language, the sound of falling bombs…). But we also say, when critical, that we cannot see the point. Ahh, with this last the too easy divide of metaphor into those that point and assert knowledge through vision and those that question and challenge through sound does finally break down. But perhaps there is something in sound that can suggest more, that allows us at least to listen to another possibility, temporarily opening up ears and minds.
It is often thought, but we could be more precise – that movement across borders of all kinds is a good thing, breaking taboos and genre rules is an unmitigated good. Of course, cross disciplinarity is claimed as a boon (in cultural studies for sure), but clearly other crossings – of capital, of weapons, of imperial power – are not so welcome. Capital moves one way, surplus value extraction another. Cross-border global movement (music distribution, television news, democracy) might not always be a boon. No doubt pirate radio enjoys much approval, but communications media also have a less favourable heritage (radio as used, say, by the National Socialists in Germany) and present (the contemporary normative narrations of ‘democracy’ by the Voice of America, the BBC, or with the televisual uniformity of CNN). A more careful thinking that notes the metaphors of critique, distinguishes movement and sonic registers that affirm or disavow, works to undo that which destroys and divides, fosters that which unites, organises capacity to live otherwise with others…
Crossing the border, a great achievement, pushing the boundaries, also sometimes caught and fraught in contradictions. For cross-disciplinarity and border transgression, against control by Capital – we need to sublate movement out of, under and around control. No simple task. The sound of a dog barking in space might caution against uncritical celebrations. Lest we forget Laika, dead on Sputnik 2 these 51 years ago today.
And earlier, an attempt to suggest we could start working against a geographical model of the Border or the Boundary. If we recognize the border is not just the port, but the entire city, as in “everywhere, in everything we do”, in each interaction between people related, somehow somewhere to belonging – how violent this is – if we recognize the border as a wall between us all, then we might see reason to have to reconfigure the very idea of nation, boundary and movement that so distracts us. Secondly, the border is not just at the edge, but at any port, at the immigration office, in the postal service that delivers the visa, in the police checks, the detention procedure – in the everyday reactions of people to each other even as they stand and stare. Thirdly, if we think of the way sound and meaning travels across the border, might we start to develop ways of thinking critically against this geographic boundary – and the old models of nation, culture, race that the border secures? What would it be to ask critically about, and so reject, the way we have fixed the border through property, maps, geography – and so leave that space that has been deaf to other movements, transmissions, resonances. Would this work things differently, otherwise?
Which might be what I might – maybe – could – possibly have meant by “filming your way across”? The ‘second life’ of theoretical language (thanks Johannes, I like that) is pretty useless if it does not provoke suggestions that might lead us to actions more effective, more capable, more able to win (against Capital, which has tanks and theory… there is so much more to do here… but I must run elsewhere).
Thanks so much for the time, if you read this far. I will lurk on…
I’ve been invited to participate in the Emyre mailing list discussion this week, so will cross post here. Already gone off piste I guess, but hey:
Empyre is here.
Thanks for the invitation to guest here. I wanted to start with two quotes from the rubric for this discussion:
“From the Depth of Projection to the Extension of the City The performances with projection rescue the tri-dimensionality of the place and set the image back to human proportions. This allows us to jump from closed to open spaces, from private to public domain. The city is not only a setting: every wall can be a screen; every window, a projection booth”
“The borders between public and private spaces are essential for the existence of cinema as such”
Thinking about this, I went back and looked up the early comment that: “cinema is a collection of techniques to make the light lay on a surface” – my trouble with this definition, perhaps, is mainly that it leaves out the audio – the surround sound of the cinema space. In so many ways the city, and the border, is an audio-visual enclosure. The audio cannot be ignored in cinema, even when it moves away from the proscenium screen. I think it is productive to think of the city as cinema (this is not new) but also to think the border this way. Audio-visual passports? Even our dialogue on the border is scripted. Sure, the border begins as a line in the sand, and cinema too has a silent pre-history, but even this spatiality was never totally mute.
So, ‘media as architecture’ sure, but this includes sound, and we need a way to talk of this without relegating the metaphors to secondary status behind the screen (where the speakers are?) – I am deeply dissatisfied with the term soundscape and all this talk of distance. The way metaphors of vision and geography dominate the audio-visual. The whole thing about writing on the screen gets stuck here too – though that would take an excursus into Derrida (and perhaps Stiegler) to unpack, and cost us years and lives.
So, to cut to the main theme – all this comes up in our [Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, AHRC Beyond Text] project on Borders, which I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce here. This may seem opportunistic, but my habit is to think in reverse, or against my first expectation. See what I did above – started thinking about the screen only to insist on talking about audio. The idea behind the borders project stems from this kind of wayward/dissonant process.
So, I want to think in the opposite direction from film studies, not with a view to understanding film, or screens or media, though of course film studies helps us understand what we see (and hear), but to suggest that we ask what can our understanding of film (I’d rather say, the telematic) can bring to our understanding of other pressing questions.
For me, the ‘pressing’ questions have to do with issues such as migration, racism (profiling, the war of terror, security hysteria) and capital (economic restructuring, cultural economy etc). Also perhaps climate/environment, and of course resistance to capital (what is required to ‘win’?).
One part of this – backwards thinking process – is to ask how an understanding from one field – eg., cinema/telematics, screens, the audio-visual etc., – might offer ways of rethinking things in another – such as terror, or racism, or migration/borders – and reconfigure the activities and activisms that stem therefrom. A series of our Border workshops have explored this, following a trajectory from the audio, through performativity and now, next, to cinema. How do these areas of interest provoke new modes, sites, registers of activism and action? I hope you can read between the lines here and we can set up a relay between this project and the current one on “Extension of the City” (my next post on cities I promise, though here I am already engaging with the suggestion that ‘This division [of cinema space] reflects not only the organizational logic of the cinematographic industry, but that of society as well’ ).
Anyway, here is the Border Documentary call, recently sent out, for the workshop to be held in Copenhagen in November (mentioning the earlier workshops too):
In “Sonic Border” (London Nov 2008) we explored the way sound crosses the border differently, provoking a rethink of the border’s location – not just in ports, and the authoritarian boot boys of the nation state, but between us all, in conversations, in ideas – an oppressive structure of language, meaning, representation, and in the cry of protest and in the music of solidarity across divides. The border echoes everywhere, it resonates and shouts from every station location, wherever you listen look. Sound problematized the geographic and visual location of the border regime.
In “Theatre Border” (Berlin April 2009) the performative, tactile and ritualistic force of the border as staged power suggests we rethink connection, touch, proximity and co-responsibility. The theatrical exclusion of others manufactures a charade populated by demons, caricatures and monstrosity. We don’t want to be cast in such dramas.
In “Border Documents” (Copenhagen Nov 2009) we will join the CPH.DOX documentary film festival to consider the border as it unfolds in time/screen based media – what does thinking about border activism and the telematic offer us? Possible topics include the border in television news, the in-focus out of focus role of CCTV in detention centres, the scanning screens of the immigration check, the civilian phone-cam exposé of deportation and ‘Torture Taxi’ (special rendition) flights, and more.
We are interested in new perspectives on the status and function of the documentary forms today, as they cross the ontological divide between fiction and truth, art and reality (objective/subjective, social, political, ethical etc) and frame alternative ways of seeing, witnessing, representing, archiving and experiencing ‘the elements of truth’ (Steyerl, 2003). Can we understand documentation not as paper passports or mere representation but as docketing the (re)construction of (new) social and political realities – we are interested in time and screen formats that offer access to critical recontextualization of the reproduction of borders, and of unfolding new agents of social and political (ex)change. On a more formalistic note, how does the documentary form carry a politic, an ethics or epistemology and how can the documentary film help us see and act differently? Does the time of the border transform its place, or its performative character? Does border activism lend itself to the cinematic? Can we film another way across?
Border Documents (here)
I am off to Brussels soon to speak about cities….
This one is really from the Vault. It was printed in the Melbourne art magazine Agenda, in about 1989 or so. The totally irrelevant picture I have chosen to illustrate this is not of Weary’s art, but since Man City beat the Gunners 4-1 yesterday I thought it amusing that when I searched ‘weary’ this picture turned up, with the caption ‘a weary Arsenal…’ Apologies, but the image that illustrated this piece in its original form will be retrieved when I’ve dug still further down into the swamp…
‘Visiting Faraway: an installation by Geoff Weary at the Art Gallery of NSW’
– by John Hutnyk
There is no way that the ‘main event’ could be ignored in this tale.
In a room tucked away beneath the Guggenheim collection, which dominates attendances at the NSW Gallery this summer, Geoff Weary’s video installation waits for an audience. Weary had been artist-in-residence at the time when Emperor Hirohito was slowly dying, in hospital and in the national press, an event which had its significances in all parts of Japan. Now Weary is located down under the visiting treasures of American Art collection, and Japan is somehow again made ephemeral in the process. Given a basement-like room in which to set up his elaborate commentary upon his ‘residence’, Weary’s video rolls over and over, and while it doesn’t immediately offer an easy set of linkages, it is nevertheless not too strange to attribute a narrative intentionality to the arrangements. People want to tell stories about Japan – making meaning of the enigma. Yet how we construct the ’empire of signs’, as Barthes called it, raises questions about storytelling and fidelity of representation that deserve more attention. In Weary’s room a few people enter – the door is hard to find – and sit before his ‘Faraway’ – a Sony large-screen video projector, two Bose hi-fidelity speakers and some twenty-three black and white images arranged upon the walls. At various times across the last month three videos have been shown over: ‘From Occupied Japan’, ‘Faraway’ and ‘House of Whispers’. I saw the third of these, secreting its messages from a Japan that seemed so much more distant than the masculanist European glories haphazardly collected upstairs. The Emperor and wartime Imperial Nippon is remote in place and time, and yet the economics of ‘whispers’ – a suggestive piece of video set in the Tokyo stock exchange – could, perhaps should, be so much closer to us than the ‘valuable’ art of Mondrian, Modigliani and so on – for all the influences of the ‘east’ that might be traced in those works. Slamming the American Imperialism of the Guggenheim, however, is another project.
Weary tells us a story. There are seven photographs of world war two airmen, there are seven photographs of coins, and there are seven civilian faces, five of these quite obviously evocative of ‘youth’, or perhaps the ‘future’ of Japan. There is a larger photograph of the Emperor, and another large piece which is the front page of the newspaper which announced his death: ‘The Emperor died at 6.33 am today and the 55 year old Crown Prince succeeded immediately to the Chrysanthemum throne’. In the catalogue essay, Spivak’s comment that money resembles writing as a ‘sign of a sign’ resonates further here in the context of the empire of signs. All but one of the coins in the photographs are caught spinning, over and over; the seventh, in the centre, is one of those coins with its centre chopped out – a device of old mints to extend coinage without producing further coins – as if the centre of value has been removed and spent elsewhere, and yet there remains a currency in Japan. The Emperor is important even at the stock exchange, site of the economic ascendancy of the nation, even as the coin is clipped in this way. Clipped coins are of a different, more convoluted order, but they are still money. Why then have they become so strange, so exotic, in this context?
Weary has the exchangists tell a story. In the video we watch accountants accounting, inscribing value upon small sheets, scribbled wealth. Money in its most abstracted and international form in the stock exchange – yet still strange, mysterious. Hands gesture signals to the stock board – to buy so many units, to sell so many others, to wave goodbye, to wipe away a tear – the hands dance in their language of value. The writers inscribe. And each interlude away from the exchange – to the landfilled area of Tokyo bay, to the world of T.V. advertising – ends with a staggered frame effect which resembles flicking through the pages of a book (wasn’t this the form of the most originary animations?). Figures of exchange value are superimposed over a shouting face. The camera presumes to read for us, making its images into text, through writing, through pages, and alongside the text of the death of the Emperor, the text of the war and the text of value in ‘faraway’ Japan. The contradiction of the money form which can make equivalences of everything all over the globe appears in its strangest manifestation in the very forum of international money. The stock exchange should be the most familiar of places for us, the point at which we can calculate equivalences, since money allows us to do so – but here we cannot.
Then Weary tells us a fishing story. Amidst the stock exchange scenes the editing has included a coloured sequence shot on the reclaimed lands of Tokyo bay. Many people are fishing, a small fish is caught, the city is ‘faraway’ in the background. What is value here? Across this sequence the music is ‘traditional’, everything else had been Bach violins (Partita in D Minor). Is fishing valuable? As a pastime or as commodity, another coin has been clipped, on land reclaimed, as if at some point Tokyo reclaimed this as its centre, not yet constructed, developed, not yet part of the city, and still resonant with the music of an older Japan. The huge wealthy urbanity of the metropolis, with which cinematography so likes to conjure up images of our own future, is presented from afar, from a reverent distance perhaps, so as not to succumb to the imperialism of icon building where the building of Tokyo as Empire becomes the sign of world value. Yet if Weary does want to avoid, as it says in the catalogue, ‘the Western postmodernist definition of Japan as an archetypical cultural other’ and not enter into ‘a mindless unproblematised celebration of Japan’ as the exemplary sign-scape, then his city has to be built from some other position than that of the seduced voyeur of the traditional value of the gesture. Fishing rods and close-ups of hands may entail a fidelity with ‘what is’, but the cliché of the Tokyo-proto-metropolis remains. And this is what can feed Tokyo into the gluttonous exchange machine of the money-for-cultural-difference relation – even the strange can be calculated and commodified finally – coins can be found to represent its enigma. As we so often find, stereotypes work precisely because they are stereotypes, reductively meaningful, and capable of working their effects even at a distance, even under criticism. For all Weary’s ‘other’ Japan, it is Japan as other that is presented in very conventional ways. Mysterious again, the place cannot be demystified under Weary’s signs of money, or of Emperor, nor of fishing.
There is a story here that is difficult to tell. The camera – both video and photographic – begins to read for us, but we are also drawn over to ‘faraway’ Japan. Voyeurs of our own impressions and failures of comprehension – Japan becomes a story since it is difficult to tell, because it resists our conventional narrations. Yet we can gain a purchase on this, since our stereotypes of the war, our iconic image of an Emperor, the all-transmutable value of coins and the whispered values of the stock exchange only become stories through our sitting before these images across time. Wandering around the Guggenheim is not very different from this, but the time-based arts of Weary tell in so many different ways than the paintings in the main exhibition that it is inappropriate to compare, and yet unavoidable, because to visit Weary is, usually, to have already visited the Guggenheim. Value asserts its priorities again, the Emperor is dead but Weary’s Japan story remains faraway buried beneath the grand history of ART upstairs, and buried beneath the gestures of avoiding clichés, avoiding our constructions by making an object of construction – Japan as a sign of a sign of value – even as it might allow us to speak of more than this. It is always important, I think, to look at context and its conditioning effects, and ask where value is to be found, who has put together the collection, and how. The Emperor is dead, the coin is clipped, a hand inscribes the exchange, yet the same old imperialisms abound. Upstairs the punters pay money to see the booty of American collectors, and value is left in a spin.