Joaquin Barriendos is a full-time Associated Researcher at the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas (UNAM-Mexico) and the author of Geoaesthetics and Transculturality (2007) and Art Geography and the Global Challenge of Critical Thinking (2011). His research examines the interplay between art archives, human rights, museums and visual culture. With the support of the Latin American Studies Association, in 2014 he organized the conference Displaying Human Rights and launched the Permanent Seminar on Museums and Human Rights in Latin America. Before UNAM, he was Assistant Professor at Columbia University and Research Fellow at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (Paris), New York University (Program in Museum Studies) and University of Barcelona (Art, Globalization and Interculturality). As an archivist/activist he is the Chief Curator of the Juan Acha Archive. His exhibition Revolutionary Awakening is currently on view at MUAC (Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo de México).
Spectral Topographies: Fosses, Aesthetics and the Politics of Truth in Mexico
In the last decade, hundreds of clandestine graves have been found across Mexican territory, reshaping the topography of violence derived from the so-called “war on drugs.” However, human remains and forensic excavations are the visible tip of an iceberg composed of thousands of absent bodies, nonexistent juridical instruments and evasive governmental accountability. Combined, these ingredients produce a sort of spectral violence against civil society, in which the lack of traces activates in the social body a permanent state of terror, turning violence into a somatic dispositive of systemic massive fear. In my talk, I will discuss the role of social memories, spontaneous artistic demonstrations and visual culture in the articulation of what I call the performative dimension of human rights, that is, the “de-somatization” of spectral violence by means of politico-aesthetic machines. By confronting antagonistic case studies, during my presentation I will make sense of the politics of truth in post-Ayotzinapa Mexico.
Nuria Carton de Grammont is an art historian, curator and lecturer at Concordia University in contemporary Latin American art. She has a doctorate in Art History from Concordia University and has completed her post-doctoral studies at both the University of Montreal’s Centre for International Studies and Research (CÉRIUM) and the University of Montreal Geography Department, where she also coordinated the Latin American Research Network (RÉAL). She has published many articles on Latin American art in publications such as Les Cahiers ALHIM, Fractal, ESSE arts + opinions, Inter-Art Actuel and Archée and co-edited Politics, Culture and Economy in Popular Practices in the Americas (Peter Lang, 2016). As curator, she presented Narcotraffic and the Art of Violence (2014) at the Centre for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence and is currently preparing an exhibition on Mexican artist Gilberto Esparza at the Galerie de l’UQAM for Spring 2017.
Violence, Narco Culture and the Geography of Fear
The study of the culture of violence associated with the war on drug trafficking in Mexico has basically analyzed the drug culture as a cultural expression of the lower classes. Various manifestations, such as the narco-corridos (drug ballads) have been interpreted as forms of resistance “from below,” denouncing a State corrupted by the drug trade. But narco-culture as counter power has also been absorbed into a powerful and profitable transnational industry that markets narco-telenovelas (narco soap operas), narco-films and even “narco-literature.” Big capital, organized crime and the State are thus complicit in the neo-conservative reproduction of stereotypes that naturalize daily violence as intrinsic to the masses, an ideology that cultivates insecurity and motivates a geopolitics of fear, violence and control of both physical and social space.
Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel is Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk – Turtle Clan) from Kanehsatà:ke. She began her public activism during the 1990 Siege of Kanehsatà:ke (1990 “Oka” Crisis) and was chosen by the People of the Longhouse and her community of Kanehsatà:ke to be their spokesperson. Since 1990, she has worked as a human rights and environmental advocate for the collective and individual rights of Indigenous peoples, in order to sensitize the public and their institutions on the impacts of colonization upon Indigenous peoples, Canada’s colonial history and the richness of Indigenous peoples’ culture and identity as well as their human rights. She was elected president of the Quebec Native Women’s Association from 2004 to 2010 and participated in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues as well as the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She currently works as a cultural consultant for the Kanehsatà:ke Onkwawén:na – Niión:kwarihoten (Language and Cultural Center) and is a board member of Kontinonhstats – the Mohawk Language Custodians Association.
The Art of Propaganda, “Real Facts”, and the Erosion of Indigenous Human Rights
Mariam Ghani is an artist, writer and filmmaker. Her work looks at places and moments where social, political and cultural structures take on visible forms. Solo exhibitions include the Queens Museum of Art, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Rogaland Kunstsenter and the Gatchina Museum. Notable group exhibitions and screenings include the Rotterdam Film Festival, the Liverpool Biennial, the Sharjah Biennial, the Dhaka Art Summit, dOCUMENTA 13, the National Gallery, Washington, DC, the Secession, Vienna, CCCB, Barcelona, and the Met Breuer, MoMA and Guggenheim in New York. Recent texts have been published in Cultural Politics, Frieze, Ibraaz, Triple Canopy and the readers Critical Writing Ensembles, Dissonant Archives, The Gulf: High Culture, Hard Labor and Social Medium: Artists Writing 2000–2015. Ghani has collaborated with artist Chitra Ganesh since 2004 in Index of the Disappeared, an experimental archive of post-9/11 detentions, deportations, renditions and redactions; and with choreographer Erin Kelly and composer Qasim Naqvi since 2006 on the video series Performed Places. Ghani holds a BA in comparative literature from NYU and an MFA from the School of Visual Arts, and has received a number of awards, grants and fellowships, most recently from Creative Capital and the International Human Rights Center at Yale Law School. She teaches at the Cooper Union School of Art and in the MFA Social Practice program at Queens College, CUNY.
The Seen Unseen: Black Sites and Contractual Invisibility
The term “black site” is currently understood to refer to a secret prison operated by the CIA as part of their extrajudicial rendition, interrogation and torture program, active between 2001 and 2009. However, any place that has been temporarily made invisible by (tacit or explicit) agreement to not see something that clearly exists can also be understood as a black site including “temporary holding” zones used for extrajudicial interrogation, from Homan Square in Chicago to the Forward Operating Bases deployed by the US military. When a site becomes a black site, a place becomes a non-place. Real buildings, people and territories are rendered invisible through a sort of consensual hallucination. What happens when this process is reversed? When a place begins to insist on its reality, despite the contracts that mandate its existence as nothing more than a rumour, how do those buildings, people and territories emerge from the black? Is it ever possible to look at a former black site without seeing it through the veil of its previous life in the unseen? And how can an image faithfully depict both a place and its past as a non-place, or a place and its position in a web of social and political contracts that make it impossible to know, speak or see the full history of that place? Mariam Ghani will discuss these questions through the project The Seen Unseen, produced in Afghanistan in 2015 as part of her ongoing collaboration with Chitra Ganesh on the experimental archive Index of the Disappeared.
Derek Gregory is Peter Wall Distinguished Professor at the University of British Columbia. The author of Geographical Imaginations and The Colonial Present: Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, he focuses his research on the trajectories of modern war. He is currently completing two major books: Reach from the Sky: Aerial Violence and The Everywhere War, which is a study of the genealogy and geography of bombing from the First World War to today’s remote operations (the subject of his Tanner Lectures in Cambridge in 2016), and Bodies and War, which explores the corporeality of modern war, with a focus on medical care and evacuation chains, and the targeting of hospitals and doctors. He was awarded the Founder’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 2006, and is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Society of Canada.
The Death of the Clinic: Surgical Strikes and Spaces of Exception
A space of exception is one in which people are knowingly and deliberately exposed to death through the suspension of legal provisions that would ordinarily protect them from violence. The modern battlefield is such a space, where military violence is regulated by the activation of international law (“the laws of war”). It also contains an exception to the exception⎯the hospitals that care for the sick and wounded who are hors de combat and who may not be attacked⎯and yet the wars in Afghanistan, Gaza, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere have shown that this immunity is being systematically undermined. This presentation traces the longer history of the weaponization of medical care, and through a close analysis of air strikes and the geographies of trauma care in Afghanistan and Syria shows what is at stake in these new attempts to weaken and even dissolve international humanitarian law’s capacity to limit episodes of mass violence.
Andrew Herscher (Stanford University/University of Michigan). Trained as an architect and historian of architecture, Andrew Herscher works on the spatial politics of humanitarian and human rights issues, displacement and migration, race and identity, and contemporary art and architecture. He has also worked in a number of collaborative public projects including the We the People of Detroit Community Research Collective, Detroit Resists, and the San Francisco-based Commune Research Commune. Among his publications are Violence Taking Place: The Architecture of the Kosovo Conflict (Stanford University Press, 2010); The Unreal Estate Guide to Detroit (University of Michigan Press, 2012); Spatial Violence, co-edited with Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi (Routledge, 2016), and Displacements: Architecture and Refugee (Sternberg Press, forthcoming). He is currently Creative Cities Fellow at the Stanford Arts Institute at Stanford University and Associate Professor at the University of Michigan.
Necropolitics of the Architectural Imagination
Entitled “The Architectural Imagination,” the U.S. Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale of Architecture exhibited “new speculative architectural projects commissioned for specific sites in Detroit but with far-reaching application for cities around the world.” According to the curators of the Pavilion, these projects demonstrated “the power of architecture to construct culture and catalyze cities.” “The Architectural Imagination” was itself imagined during Detroit’s post-emergency management restructuring in which Detroit was “catalyzed” by urban austerity policies yielding large-scale displacements of working-class and disadvantaged communities of color. How does the architectural imagination as staged in the U.S. Pavilion relate to the architectural imagination that produced those displacements? How do these imaginations of architecture relate to the necropolitics of austerity urbanism in Detroit? What right to the city is formulated in these architectural imaginations? And how could this right be understood otherwise.
Marie Lamensch is Project Coordinator, Researcher and Communications Manager at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) at Concordia University, where she manages numerous projects. She has a B.A. in History (Genocide studies) from that university and an M.A. in Conflict, Security and Development from King’s College London. After spending several months in Ghana, her research on the politics of reconciliation and the commemoration of genocide took her to Rwanda. Lamensch is also interested in the role women play in conflicts and mass atrocities. Her current work is on violent extremism, hate speech and radicalization, and women’s role in non-state groups linked to such violence. Lamensch also writes for the Huffington Post Québec and is Foreign Affairs Editor at The Mantle. She is a board member of the Montreal branch of the Canadian International Council.
Kyle Matthews is the Executive Director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) at Concordia University. He joined MIGS as Lead Researcher of the Will to Intervene Project in 2008 and was appointed Senior Deputy Director in 2011. At Concordia he founded the Raoul Wallenberg Legacy of Leadership project as well as the Digital Mass Atrocity Preventing Lab, which works to counter online extremism. His work focuses on human rights, international security, the Responsibility to Protect, global threats, and social media and technology, and global cities.
Matthews previously worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, where he was posted to the Southern Caucasus (Tbilisi), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa) and Switzerland (Geneva). Prior to that he worked for CARE Canada in Albania and later at its headquarters in Ottawa, where he managed various humanitarian response initiatives and peace-building projects in Afghanistan, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.
Conceptualizing Mass Violence
How can the destruction of human lives, this violence that seems to us impossible to understand, be thought about? How can we conceptualize the transmission and impact of such acts? Mass violence has changed significantly since World War II. Today, most conflicts take place within a single State. Furthermore, the perpetrators and victims of mass violence have also changed. Massacres of civilians by non-state groups such as gangs and terrorists are becoming more and more frequent. To study the topography of mass violence, it is important to define and even classify its manifestations. Focusing on the victims targeted and the perpetrators’ intentions, we will discuss forms of mass violence, including genocide, feminicide, war, police violence and terrorism. Using a few examples, we will also briefly discuss the growing role of images of such violence and their short- and long-term impacts.
(in French and English)
Vincent Lavoie is full professor in the Art History Department of the University of Québec at Montreal. His work addresses the history and contemporary forms of photographic evidence. In addition to investigating amateur and vernacular modes, his work has focused on the links between photojournalism and violence, and photography as forensic evidence. He is the author of L’instant-monument. Du fait divers à l’humanitaire (2001); Photojournalismes. Revoir les canons de l’image de presse (Hazan, 2010); and L’affaire Capa ou le procès d’une icône (Éditions Textuels, May 2017). Director of the publication La preuve par l’image, anthologie (PUQ, 2017) and of the scholarly journal Captures. Figures, théories et pratiques de l’imaginaire, Lavoie has also held the positions of research curator at the McCord Museum of Canadian history (2003-2005), assistant curator at the National Gallery of Canada (2000-2001), and general curator of Montreal’s Mois de la Photo (2003).
Visualizing Mass Exodus
The migratory crisis of the Syrian and Iraqi refugees has not escaped the attention of picture makers. World Press Photo, Pulitzer, Pictures of the Year and the National Press Photographers Association all depict the exodus. But along with these “masterpieces” of photojournalism are “amateur” photos taken by the refugees themselves, pictures that reflect complex itineraries and itinerancies, producing a moving map of the migration (Exodus : Our Journey to Europe, BBC, 2016). Artworks using military cameras for thermal mapping migration flows and patterns are to be considered as well (Richard Mosse, Incoming, 2016). What topography of migration do these three modes of visuality – journalistic and canonical, amateur et diasporic, military and artistic – establish? What global representation of this crisis stems from these visual tropes? Would mass exodus be a source of visual conflict?
Krista Geneviève Lynes is Canada Research Chair in Feminist Media Studies and Associate Professor in Communication Studies at Concordia University. Her research examines the mediation of political subjects and social life under conditions of political struggle. Her monograph Prismatic Media, Transnational Circuits: Feminism in a Globalized Present (2012) examined how heterogeneous visual media produce feminist visibility across global sites of conflict. Her work has appeared in Postmodern Culture, Theory & Event, Third Text and Signs. She has also curated several exhibits, including World of Matter: Exposing Resource Ecologies (2015) and Stubborn Objects: Counter-Surveillance in a Posthuman Landscape (2016). She is Director and Founder of the Feminist Media Studio, which seeks to devise aesthetic strategies for making visible persistent forms of gender-based oppression and exploitation. Her current research project, Grounded: Media Art and the Reinvention of ‘Grassroots’ Perspectives, seeks to understand contemporary social movement media in its capacity to make political struggle visible and organizing new forms of collective identity.
Sites of Upheaval and Transgression: The Material Politics of Grounded Media
The irruption of protests in disparate parts of the globe in the 21st century has invited questions about the role that mediation plays in circulating powerful symbols of struggle. New visual documents by cultural producers and activists have shifted the vantage points of such political struggles from the heights of aerial campaigns to the more grounded perspective of the street, border, or square; material objects have circulated alongside images to constitute the visual repertoire of scenes of crisis; further new forms of witnessing and intimacy have accompanied the circulation of iconic images, prompting also aesthetic strategies for addressing the spaces of violence and struggle. This paper examines the role ‘grounded’ media play in figuring the social terrains of struggle through a reexamination of the role of indexicality and materiality as key strategies of representation. It explores how the work of artists and activists mediate new social relationships and forms of resistant collectivity.
Caroline Monnet is a multidisciplinary artist, filmmaker and founder of the Indigenous digital art collective ITWÉ. Her visual productions have been shown in many solo and group exhibitions, including P.I.S.S. (Plug In ICA, 2009), Les contemporains (Arsenal and Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, 2015), and Dans l’ombre de l’évidence (Axenéo7, 2016). Monnet’s films have been screened at many festivals and institutions, including the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin (Les Rencontres Internationales, 2012), the Sundance Film Festival (Park City, 2015) and TIFF (Toronto, 2015). In 2016, she was nominated for Best Live Action Short Drama at the Canadian Screen Awards and won the Golden Sheaf Award for the best experimental film at the Yorkton Film Festival. Caroline Monnet is currently working on her first feature-length film, selected for the Cannes festival Cinéfondation residence in Paris.
Territories of Dispossessed Identity
When the collective memory of a people is erased and their own place names are taken away from them, they are also deprived of their social, political, cultural and spiritual references. This presentation addresses contemporary Indigenous issues through a personal topography that is based on the intrinsic need for self-affirmation and positions itself in opposition to the cultural and physical genocide of Indigenous women. It is a sharp critique of the colonial and industrial powers that have stripped Canada’s First Nations of their ancestral lands and continue to relentlessly persecute them through ghettoization to this very day. Cultural privilege is a concept that shifts between loss of the past and construction of the future, becoming a source of dichotomous identity. Sculptural and pictorial monuments then take on the aspect of archaeological sites that bear witness to feminicide, but also to resilience, supporting an approach that moves beyond the consequences of the past.
Dr. Julie Nagam is the University of Winnipeg/Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) Research Chair in History of Indigenous Arts in North America. Her current SSHRC projects include “The Transactive Memory Keepers: Indigenous Public Engagement in Digital and New Media Labs and Exhibitions”. She is a co-applicant in a partnership grant for Initiative for Indigenous Futures and will be hosting the first public symposium “Radically Shifting Our Indigenous Future(s): Through Art, Scholarship and Technology” at the WAG. Recently she has co-edited “Indigenous Art: New Media and the Digital” as a special issue of Public: Art/Culture/Ideas. Currently she is curating a public art installation for a Reconciliation Walk at the Forks in Winnipeg and leading a team to create an Indigenous app for Winnipeg’s art, architectural and place-based history. She is also co-curating the inaugural Indigenous contemporary art triennial exhibition at the WAG in fall 2017. Nagam’s research and artwork has been shown nationally and internationally.
Revealing the Ontology of Land through Indigenous Visual Narratives of Memory, Knowledge and Living Histories
In this talk, Julie Nagam will reflect on contemporary Indigenous artists such as Rebecca Belmore, Robert Houle and Jeff Thomas who reveal concealed geographies in the spaces of Toronto and other major urban centres in Canada, through interventions that draw upon Indigenous stories of place and concepts of Native Space. Nagam is interested in dialogical aesthetics and its ability to transform the narratives of history, heritage, culture, archaeology and geography to imagine the possibility of space. Her research and practice are grounded in the principal idea that art can create the epistemological, critical and phenomenological conditions to analyze and challenge officially constructed linear histories with stories of place by directly engaging in a dialogue with the archaeology and geography of the space.
Susan Schuppli is an artist and researcher based in the UK, whose work examines material evidence from war and conflict to environmental disasters. Current work explores the ways in which toxic ecologies from nuclear accidents and oil spills to the dark snow of the arctic are producing an “extreme image” archive of material wrongs. Creative projects have been exhibited throughout Europe, Asia, Canada, and the US. Recent projects include Trace Evidence, a video trilogy commissioned by Arts Catalyst UK & Bildmuseet, Sweden and Atmospheric Feedback Loops, a Vertical Cinema commission for Sonic Acts, Amsterdam. She has published widely within the context of media and politics and is author of the forthcoming book, Material Witness (MIT Press). Schuppli is Senior Lecturer and Acting Director of the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths University of London and was previously Senior Research Fellow on the Forensic Architecture project. In 2016 she received the ICP Infinity Award for Critical Writing and Research.
Media as Conflict Zones
As the frontlines increasingly move into the covert spaces of computation and digital abstraction, well beyond the thresholds of human perception and their attendant regimes of publicity, we can no longer rely upon traditional forms of journalism to provide critical vantage points into conditions of conflict. Screen space has multiplied and refracted the “frames of war” into a complex field of sensors, software, and servers that track their targets—combatants, capital, and consumers—across the electromagnetic spectrum. Investigating digitized and automated forms of contemporary violence requires a conceptual realignment in which we learn to attend to the specificity of struggles that are also working themselves out at the level of processing: from translations between file formats, signal latency, compression artefacts, and data remanence to disclosures of metadata. While cameras and media have long ventured into conflict zones, exposing injustice and documenting violations, the expansion of these zones into powerful computational arrangements must bring about new decoding practices if we are to intervene politically in the electronic fields of weaponized data, where algorithms execute and pixels cover up a crime.
Previously an Assistant Professor at the Gender Studies Department, Utrecht University, the Netherlands, Dr Marta Zarzycka is currently Visiting Scholar at the Center of Women and Gender Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. She teaches and publishes in the field of photography and feminist theory. She has received numerous international fellowships, among others at The Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona; The Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas; The Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto, and The Wolfsonian Museum in Miami, Florida. In addition to book chapters, articles, and reviews, Marta Zarzycka is a co-editor and an essayist for Carnal Aesthetics: Transgressive Imagery and Feminist Politics (I.B. Tauris, 2012). Her current book-length project, entitled Gendered Tropes in War Photography: Mothers, Mourners, Soldiers was recently published from Routledge and is supported by The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.
Cartographies of Violence
Violence and space are intertwined: Lefebvre (1991) reminds us that both sovereign spaces and the territories outside of the sovereign are produced, maintained, and regulated by violence. Violence, however, is not only an action exercised upon the body and the aftermath of that action. It also involves feelings, emotions, and affects; hatred, fear, or anger take place in space, and mark that space accordingly, becoming a key site of geographical inquiry within contemporary geopolitical context. Looking at the selected photographic practices, I will inquire how citizens and non-citizens are denied (but can potentially reclaim) the space regulated by violence. Relying on gender and postcolonial theory, my talk will address the material aspects of affective/spatial relationships: regulations upon bodies, mobility or gesture, state boundaries, security discourses and border anxiety, spatial planning of refugee camps, as well as emotional cartographies of departure and destination in the condition of forced migration.