All _Perspectives

07/15/2022 _Perspective

Hijacking the Patriarchy

Pussy Riot’s and LASTESIS’ Networked Performances

-- TRIGGER AND FLASH WARNING: video contributions depict violent and flashing content [1] 1_From Witnessing to Acting Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic at the latest, most of us have been hooked on portable, networked devices 24/7 and are one swipe away from photographing, recording and live-streaming human-rights abuses, and state violations. Canadian computer engineer Steve Mann labels such actions as “sousveillance,” a combination of the French words “sous,” below, and “veiller,” to watch, highlighting the subversive potential of inverse surveillance as a tool of social and political resistance. [2] The rise of smartphone and social media users from the mid-2000s onwards, and with it the extended possibilities of processing and distribution of content, have resulted in an unprecedented, civilian agency and visibility. [3] German media scholars Winfried Gerling, Susanne Holschbach, and Petra Löffler point out that with the interactive and collaborative nature of Web 2.0., new digital and networking technologies have catalyzed the faltering position of journalistic gatekeepers and the greater say of civilians. [4] In addition to contributions by journalistic professionals, online content created by amateurs, influencers, and activists is increasingly channeled into media coverage and political opinion-making. The lowered thresholds of media agency and knowledge production resulted in a state of “distributed testimony,” in which the authenticity, credibility, and motivation of online content must be constantly assessed, all too often at the discretion of the viewers. [5] Networked visibility is not only about bearing witness to historical events and societal grievances, but also about creating an affective visual language and a participatory formula to activate decentralized, online communities. Tailoring content for the benefit of its viral performativity is, however, highly ambivalent: while operating against hegemonic structures and those in power, one simultaneously must obey their codes, which reinforces the mechanisms of communicative capitalism such as big data control, digital labor, and online voyeurism. [6] Activists have cleverly adapted to the shifting media landscape and its dynamics to spread their causes and mobilize international audiences. By intentionally producing or appropriating viral content and targeting online communities, they profit from so-called clicktivism, the act of liking, commenting, and sharing activist posts. [7] Once pushed online, it is almost impossible to track or fully remove activist content, as feeds are constantly updated and remixed on multiverse online platforms. This paradigm shift—from being represented (journalism before Web 2.0.), to being seen (“sousveillance,” “distributed testimony”) and ultimately, to acting (platform hijacking,…

07/15/2022 _Perspective

Women Artists—Still Invisible Today?

A Critical Approach to Strategies of Making Women Artists Visible

1_Women Artists’ In_Visibility—The Omnipresence of a Rather Old Phenomenon When it comes to the representation of women artists either in art historical research, in the media, or in exhibitions, the viewer and reader cannot avoid observing the inflationary use of the terms visibility and invisibility. This fact is most certainly owed to the great and seemingly growing number of projects, especially exhibitions, which are specifically dedicated to women artists, and which consider themselves to be contributing to raising awareness thereof. In 2019, for example, the National Gallery in Berlin organized the exhibition Kampf um Sichtbarkeit. Künstlerinnen der Nationalgalerie vor 1919 (English title: Fighting for Visibility: Women Artists in the Nationalgalerie before 1919), which represented “the first extensive study dedicated to all the works in the Nationalgalerie produced by women painters and sculptors before 1919.” [14] Moreover, a special issue of the French cultural magazine Télérama, published in 2021 and entitled Femmes artistes–ni vues ni connues (Women Artists—Neither Visible nor Known), presented more than 20 international women artists from the 16th century until today. The issue featured their short biographies and discussed their professional situation and in_visibility in numerous essays, informing the reader about current exhibitions focusing on women artists, like Elle font l’abstraction (Centre Pompidou, Paris, English title: Women in Abstraction), Peintres femmes 1780–1830: Naissance d’un combat (Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, English title: Women Painters, 1780–1830: The Birth of a Battle), and She-Bam Pow Pop Wizz! Les Amazones du pop (MAMAC, Nice, English title: She-Bam Pow POP Wizz! The Amazons of Pop). [15] In 2021, Karl der Grosse—Das Debattierhaus, an institution in Zurich that organizes debates on current political and social issues, held a panel about Die Unsichtbarkeit der Künstlerinnen—Ein Podium zur Unterrepräsentation der Frauen in der Kunstwelt (The Invisibility of Women Artists—A Panel on the Under-Representation of Women in the Art World). [16] These examples—drawn from exhibitions, magazines, and panels in Germany, France, and Switzerland—are only a few amongst numerous others that illustrate the recent international presence of the topic in public debate. However, the question of in_visibility of women artists is not a recent one but a central issue in feminist art history since its formation in the 1970s. In the following discussion, I will contextualize the question of women artists’ in_visibility within the discourse of art history and analyze some of the problems in the process of making women artists visible today. It becomes apparent that this…

07/15/2022 _Perspective

Negotiating Sculptures through In_Visibilities

The Case of Anti-Semitic Reliefs in German Churches

1_Setting the Scene   Fig. 1: City Church of the Holy Trinity in Bayreuth. The sculpture of the Judensau on the outer wall of the church, removed in November 2004, and the memorial plaque (2005). [41]This conversation takes place in Cologne, the city where we both live. Its landmark is the Cologne Cathedral. Like many other churches throughout Germany, the Cathedral is considered an important landmark and tourist spot, and the Cologne one is certainly among the most famous German monuments. Perhaps you have been to one? If you have, you might have been confronted with an anti-Semitic sculpture depicting people, marked as Jews by caricature, lifting a sow’s tail and suckling on its teats. There were a total of 48 so-called Judensäue in Western Europe and there are still 30 in Germany. [42] They can be found on churches’ facades (the most prominent instances include Roman Catholic as well as Protestant churches), at different heights, as well as in their interior, and some in areas closed to the public. A few of these sculptures have been removed. Next to some of those that remain, commemorative plaques or explanatory signs have been put up. Some remain uncommented upon. Others have decayed, while others yet have been renovated in recent decades. The best-known case is the relief at the Stadtkirche in Wittenberg, a UNESCO world-heritage site and the church where the German priest and theologian Martin Luther (1483–1546) preached, referring to the relief in his anti-Semitic writings. [43] Charlotte remembers first becoming aware of these kinds of invective sculptures on churches during a visit to Magdeburg. In the Magdeburg Cathedral, a leaflet referred to the sculpture, located it historically, and explained that the church congregation critically distanced itself from the sculpture. During her visit at the time, there was no plaque or a similar informative sign, or a critical commentary directly next to the sculpture. Sarah-Lea learned about these sculptures through her work for the German Commission for UNESCO, and found processes of dealing with this difficult heritage to be hesitant at the time. Given that we also both live in Cologne, where such anti-Semitic sculptures can also be found at the landmark of the city, Cologne Cathedral, we wondered what allowed us—or how we allowed ourselves—to remain ignorant of them for so long. Taking diverse routes, from the legal to the activist-artistic, Jewish citizens have demanded an end to this…

07/15/2022 _Perspective

Making the ‘Other’ Visible in Ethnographic Research

Reflections through the Lens of Caste and Gender, from a Non-Metropolitan City in West Bengal, India

1_ Introduction This paper is an attempt to find some possible contextual answers to the ethico-political concerns that surround the question of methodology in feminist ethnography. My larger research project sought to understand the forced migration induced by the Partition of British India (1947) in my hometown, Asansol in West Bengal, India. [75] In doing so, I took as my protagonists women from the Dalit/Bahujan families, [76] who had hitherto been invisibilized in the narrativization of the Partition. I understand invisibilization as a political act through which dominant groups reduce heterogenous experiences of an event, such as that of the Partition, to a homogenous ‘master narrative.’ This master narrative in the case of the Partition in India, and in West Bengal specifically, was told largely from an upper-caste point of view and comprised of multiple cultural productions—films, autobiographies, memoirs—and was crucial for the ways in which the upper-caste population negotiated with state in seeking and achieving rehabilitation. In the process, the differential experiences of the Partition and rehabilitation as well as the caste-based injustices therein were erased. Consequently, both in its academic and popular culture versions, Dalit/Bahujan women and their specific experiences were not thematized. Even the feminist counter-narratives had erased the specificities of caste and its impact on the experiences of refugeehood. [77] In contrast, my doctoral research aimed to understand through an ethnographic approach how Dalit/Bahujan women experienced the Partition and its aftermath, especially in the long-durée, in the context of Asansol, a non-metropolitan city in West Bengal, where the refugees from government camps, largely from Dalit/Bahujan backgrounds had been rehabilitated to provide cheap labor for the industrial development in the area. I began my doctoral research in 2017, seeking to rethink the Partition-migration in West Bengal India, through the intersecting frameworks of caste, gender and region. In the process of this ethnographic research, as a cis-het, upper-caste woman and a third-generation member of a Partition-migrant family, my established notions of ‘feminist’ ethics and politics were continuously put to test. I constantly battled the insider and outsider status throughout the course of my research: Being part of a migrant family on my mother’s side, I had been exposed to milieus similar to the research context since my birth. [78] In fact, some of the respondents of the study were acquaintances of my mother’s whom she had lived and grown up with. Her class background was similar to that…

07/11/2022 _Perspective

Decolonization and In_Visibilities in Colonial Archives: The FCO 141 Series and the (Redemptive?) Power of Placement

April 2018. The National Archive’s Reading Room, Kew, England (TNA). Sitting in a Bentham-perfect panopticon, where visibility avails surveillance, I silently leaf through ‘FCO 141’ (Foreign and Commonwealth Office). Released to THE National Archives in 2012, this is a stolen series. Pinched by British colonial officers and their accomplices starting in the early 1960s, FCO 141 is comprised of records which “may embarrass Her Majesty’s Government” and were thus semi-covertly removed from over thirty-seven “former dependencies” as anticolonial struggle brought about constitutional independence from Britain’s empire. [124] The UK government ordered these records, in the thousands, to be locked away in steel cages in cooperation with the Public Record Office (TNA’s predecessor) outside the regular requirements of access laid out by the UK Public Records Act. To delay moral judgement of empire, these documents formed an archival limbo, wherein they were neither destroyed nor made available.   “It is assumed that, in order to claim specific needs, rights, and interests, subjects (or collectives) suffering from the experience of discrimination and marginalization need to ‘become visible.’” [125] I am at TNA to look at files that describe the processes of record removal in the land now known as Kenya. [126] Survivors of a brutal war, 1952–1960, took the UK government to court in a lawsuit against the use of torture in wartime. [127] Their efforts resulted in the release of FCO 141 starting in 2011, ending the fifty-year period of illegal archival concealment. Access to the removed documents corroborated individual testimonies of torture, which clarified the British design of structural violence in Kenya. FCO 141 made visible not only the plaintiff’s suffering but the official participation of the UK Colonial Office in creating the conditions for that suffering. In other words, plaintiffs made not only themselves visible to the court and reporting media through sharing their experience of abuse, corroborated by administrative documentation held by FCO 141, but in doing so also the actions of those who had carried out and condoned it. While those who had survived, participated in, and bore witness to the brutality of Britain’s war in Kenya were well aware of their own experiences, FCO 141 lent credibility to the assertation that this brutality was neither incidental nor ad-hoc, but the result of systematic authorization from the metropolitan government down to the colonial Governor’s office. FCO 141 transformed testimony of individual experience into evidence of structural violence…