This article considers racism not as an unfortunate encrustation on the body of liberal democracy but rather as an essential component in the realisation and exercise of its biopolitics. Rendering historically explicit the racialising biopowers disseminated in the formation of Occidental modernity, the unsuspected political and cultural centrality of racism, not simply as a colonial phenomenon, but rather as a metropolitan institution central to the making of the modern public sphere, is considered in its contemporary ramifications.
In the 1920s, the term ‘factography’ was coined by Russian revolutionary artists and theorists (such as Tret'iakov, Chuzhak, Brik and Vertov). This was a utopian dream, pursued by very talented and idealistic people, who failed to understand that there should have been two kinds of factography – positive and negative, affirmative and non-affirmative: a factography of de jure legitimate actions (promulgated by the State) and a factography of ‘illegal legitimacies’ that challenge the status quo. A paradigm shift discussed in ‘Margins of Error’ is Moscow conceptualism. In the 1970s and 1980s, unable to compete with the mass media and societal spectacles, these artists created their own ‘low-tech’ factographic discourse, aimed at registering their performances and other manifestations of ‘cultural insurgency’ that took place in parks and forests beyond the city. This brings to mind Carl Schmitt's theory of the partisan, especially when one can extend this political category to aesthetic practices.
This article uses a recent event – disruptions to tourism by 2009's Icelandic volcanic ash cloud – as a cultural pause within which to reflect on the nature of history and modernity. It asks how we look at history and what we look for in history. It compares today's tourists with those of the eighteenth-century ‘Grand Tour’ with an emphasis on Rome. It refers to the historical methods of Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer, and also to Sigmund Freud's ‘screen memories’. Films by Michelangelo Antonioni and Peter Bogdanovich appear before the probing meditations turn up a historic catastrophe in Modane, France; an event that then becomes symbolic of our plight as dependent ‘passengers’ in a modernity, which we have falsely presumed to know and direct.
Recorded in Havana in June 2009, this conversation addresses a series of works by the Cuban artist Manuel Piña. Moving between Piña's recent video work, his earlier photographic practices and the tradition of photojournalism in Cuba, we investigate the continued and dynamic intersection between documentary work and revolutionary politics. This conversation reminds us that debates about the ‘end of Communism’ and the rise of the global art market must also contend with art production still confronting the realities of a socialist revolution.
Boris Mikhailov's optics is attuned to gaps, to sliding along the sharp edges of ruptures. At the moment of shooting this photographer resembles a terrorist who is pulling the ‘trigger’ of the camera to blow up himself and those around him. Many of his snapshots are accompanied by texts written on the margins, above or below the image. His Red Series (1975–1982) deals with ‘unauthorised’ recollection of public events: jubilant demonstrations, law-abiding citizens at the voting booth, military training routines and so forth. By toning and hand-colouring these slightly anaemic photographs, Mikhailov re-energises them to the degree that they become (almost) acceptable to the mainstream of State Mythology. The Red Series can be seen at Tate Modern (from 18 April 2011).
This article, in the form of the literary fiction of the travel diary, is an investigation into the relationships between the concept of travel, the concept of history and the image of humankind beginning with some of the so-called ‘classical’ texts of European culture – in particular: Ovid's Metamorphoses, Aristotle's Poetics, Quintilianus’ Institutio oratoria, Cicero's De legibus, Hegel's Lectures on Aesthetics, Sterne's A Sentimental Journey, Heidegger's Being and Time. A concept of (a form of) humankind and a concept of history that can be drawn by these texts are related to the analysis of a frame of a video, A Space Exodus, by the Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour. The ‘reaction’ that results from this approach interacts with an ethical vision of the history(ography) that keeps in mind the experience of writing by authors such as Antonio Artaud (une écriture pour les analphabètes) and Deleuze (a foreign language inside our own language).
This article discusses the concept of truth that emerges in Walid Raad's Hostage: The Bachar Tapes (2001). The mediation of images in the construction of historical knowledge is foregrounded by Raad through a variety of representational strategies such as the use of video noise, theatrical re-enactment and digital manipulations. Importantly, in the artist's practice representation is not seen as an obstacle to the achievement of truthful historical knowledge as images are viewed as part and parcel of the real itself and as an essential means by which to reconstruct the past. The article argues that Raad's work articulates a post-Freudian concept of truth that challenges the empiricism of conventional documentary as well as the postmodern relativism of writers such as Baudrillard. The article also investigates the genesis of Raad's work, its precedents and the importance of Jalal Toufic's writings for understanding the artist's practice.
This article will relate the photographs of tortured prisoners from Iraq's Abu Ghraib gaol to the work of the Iraqi painter, Ayad Alkadhi. Whilst the images from Abu Ghraib have had an enormous impact around the world, it is argued that our ability to empathise with the suffering of Iraq's war victims is nonetheless undermined by popular Orientalist misconceptions regarding the ‘Arab mind’, the way such images are treated within the commercial media, and by the official self-exculpations of the former Bush administration. By comparison, Alkadhi's ‘Father of No One's Son’ series seeks to contextualise themes relevant to the Iraq war, so combating simplistic generalisations about Arab culture. In doing so, it is argued that Alkadhi's images indicate the proper conditions for empathy. Only when we have first contextualised the suffering of another people may we then place that suffering within the universal categories of human experience.
Tahmineh Milani's 2006 film Cease Fire was the highest grossing film of all time in Iran. This article suggests that the study of popular cinema from Iran, formerly dismissed by scholars as unworthy of academic study, can help Western critics and scholars to better understand both Iran and its cinema. This is because popular Iranian cinema in general, and Cease Fire in particular, can offer up alternative views of Iranian society, particularly of Iran's middle classes. All too often, Iran's middle classes do not appear in the Iranian ‘art house’ cinema that typically receives most coverage in the West. And yet, given Cease Fire's popularity, the film obviously appeals to a significant (affluent and/or aspirant) section of Iranian society. Furthermore, the article presents evidence that Cease Fire is not a piece of ‘mere’ generic film-making, but that it involves an intelligent (and intertextual) mise-en-scène, reaffirming Iran's mainstream cinema as worthy of greater academic consideration.
Third Text is published in print and online by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.