Virilio conference: The Squared Horizon: 6. June 2014 Nottingham Trent.

The Squared Horizon: The Frames and Trajectories of Paul Virilio

6 June 2014. Nottingham Trent University


In Desert Screen, Paul Virilio suggests the notion of a ‘squared horizon’ as a way of envisioning the interposition of the screen, multiple screens, in matters of war, conflict and international relations. Yet, the ‘squared horizon’ might also function as a starting point for bringing together the various frames and trajectories which make up Virilio’s oeuvre. The ‘squared horizon’ evokes the fragmented, pixelated existence of late capitalism, the perpetual dividing up of time into ever smaller units, the deferred, bracketed out future, put aside in favour of the instantaneous and immediate, the impact of urbanization with its grid systems and blocks on our experience of space, time and identity.

We are pleased to present a one-day conference focusing on the work of Paul Virilio organized around theme of the squared horizon.

Attendance to the conference is free but please reserve your place here so we have an idea of numbers.

Conference Schedule (room tbc)

9.30 Registration and Coffee

10.00 Welcome


The Big Night: Into the Ultracity – John Armitage, University of Southampton

11.00 Coffee


The secret underground bunkers do exist!!! – Michael Mulvihill, Artist.

The Negative Abyss – Mark Featherstone, Keele University

Topological Variations in Virilio’s Le Futurisme de l’instant – Enda Mccaffrey, Nottingham Trent University

13.00 LUNCH


War and Post-War: Memory and European Identity in Paul Virilio’s Phenomenology of Modern Technology – Neil Turnbull, Nottingham Trent University

Concepts and Catrastophes: Jean Baudrillard and Paul Virilio – Gerry Coulter, Bishop’s University, Canada

15.00 Coffee


Framing the Criminal – Sophie Fuggle, Nottingham Trent University

The digi-child and dromospheric sensibility – Felicity Coleman, Manchester Metropolitan University

Inner screens and cybernetic battlefields: Paul Virilio and Robocop – Brian Sudlow, Aston University

5pm Close of Conference followed by Conference dinner in Nottingham (details tbc)


For further information about the event please contact:

ENIG-MAS Rich Mix – Sat 17 May 2014 at 1pm Free / Main Space / Unreserved Seating

The play Enig-Mas asks: What is woman? What is man? Where does love lie when you’re on a political quest? What does it take to be a revolutionary? Set in 1930s India and Bengal and modern Britain in 2000s, Professor Raminder Kaur of University of Sussex, has written a new play inspired partly by the 1931 novel, Kuhelika (Enigma) by the renowned Indian writer and poet/ national poet of Bangladesh Kazi Nazrul Islam. This play puts a searing lens on relations between men and women in times of political turbulence. It is one of the plays in the new season from Mukul and Ghetto Tigers directed by Mukul Ahmed.

The story covers a period of 7 decades through generational and geographical connections, characters that are vastly separated by time and space, but intimately connected through blood and passion. It is partly set in 1930s pre-independent India and Bengal, and 2000s Britain. Jahangeer, an impressionable young man, is gradually turned into a protagonist of revolution against British colonial rule. His high-class Muslim background proves to be an asset in circumventing British surveillance when the main ‘trouble-makers’ are identified as Hindus, making a marked contrast to the present era. Through the play we witness with the characters, the joy and horrors of revolutionary struggle, the sacrifices and dangers as well games and dilemma of loyalties and personal pain and loss.

The play relates a series of incidents inextricably interlinked through sorrow, grief, humour and happiness. Love, hatred and extreme emotions are laid out in multiple scenarios and deeply moving music and dramatic style. It makes for a memorable theatre experience through a story that reaches out from the past and embraces the present with echoes and meaningful questions that probe who we were, what we have become and suggest possibilities for all our futures.

Uneasy Inhabitants


One night two summers ago, I was in a car speeding across the border into the eastern Indian state of Bihar. The unlit, pitch-black freeway didn’t deter traffic from barreling forward at breakneck speeds. In the inevitable accident, a young man was shredded by a truck. A politician showed up, but instead of taking charge, he distracted the police with laughter and gossip.

Preventable death or official callousness is not unique to Bihar, but this particular incident seemed, to me, typical. Bihar is a state that until recently took the troubles that bedevil all of India and amplified them to levels that were unbearable even by Indian standards. In Bihar, an accident was carnage and apathy was criminal neglect. Although matters have since improved, to survive, the poor still traffick their children and the rich still get out.

Few writers are better placed to examine this near-dystopian state of affairs than the novelist Amitava Kumar, a native son, although now a professor of English at Vassar College.

“A Matter of Rats” calls itself “a short biography of Patna,” the capital city of Bihar, but like Kumar’s other books, it is many (perhaps too many) things at once. A memoiristic essay that strives to reconcile his feelings for his hometown — despair on the one hand and concern on the other, for it is where his elderly parents still live. “There is no way to avoid it,” he admits. “When I step on Patna’s soil, I only want to see how much older my parents look.” It is an insider’s alternative to the scornful narratives of Patna made popular by Western writers, and which the author, with even greater scorn, calls “hysteria as travel writing.” It is also an adventure in pursuit of witnesses to stories both real and apocryphal — a 1967 visit by Marlon Brando, the rumor that Napoleon’s bed lies in a decrepit old Patna mansion. (There is a bed in Patna that belonged to a Napoleon, just not that Napoleon.)

It is, in all, an intimate and whimsical book, but one that truly shines when the author turns his gaze to the ordinary people who still live in Patna — the rat catchers of the lowly Musahar caste, the tutor who helps poor children crack the entrance tests to India’s exalted institutes of technology.

The chapter on the rat catchers is the book’s finest, skillfully evoking the circumstances of chaos, filth and absurdity in which even the city’s middle-class professionals are forced to live.

Patna’s vast number of rats, the author tells us in a marvelous bit of anthropomorphizing, appear like “stout ladies on tiny heels, on their way to the market.” Nurses at a city hospital play the radio at night in the hope of keeping the rats from nibbling their toes. The rats haven’t escaped the attention of a local bureaucrat. But instead of trying to get rid of them, he sets himself the loftier ambition of ending anti-rat prejudice. If middle-class people would only appreciate rats, he rationalizes, they would also appreciate the Musahars, who are condemned to catch the rats. A Musahar whom the author accompanies on a rat-catching expedition isn’t holding his breath for change. “High-minded abstractions weren’t among his pressing concerns,” Kumar tells us. “His worry was finding food for that day and the next.”

That food was rats.


A Short Biography of Patna

By Amitava Kumar

116 pp. Duke University Press. $19.95.