Doreen Mende / Reading Group

Participants: Toeh Meisami, Mariana Zamarbide, Maja Hodoscek, Mercedes Azpilicueta, Isabel Marcos Solórzano, Katja van Driel, Susan van Hengstum, Abner Preis, Aziza Harmel, Hanan Benammar, Sarah Jones



Doreen Mende's reading group will focus on the notion of violence. It does not address the visual representation of violence in arts and mass media. Instead, Mende will bring into discussion violence not as a negative force per se but rather as a double-bind that indicates a relation between the means of resistance and the system of governance. Violence itself is a double-bind. This duplication is a tricky condition. It shall help to work out a possible approach to the act of making public / public utterance / protest / refusal that moves away from an exhibition of pure means and away from the concept of transparency as a moral instance. This approach entangles with the practice of an artist and an exhibition maker in which Mende sees a violence in exhibiting that is enacted upon that which is exposed; this violence arrives from a systemic structure in exhibiting through its faculties of making public. And then there is a potential of violence through the act of exposure that attempts to find means of articulation which may be not possessed by the regimes of governance but acting from within. In order to unfold a thinking around violence and the space of exposure, we will engage in readings that relate to image production, architecture, anthropology, philosophy, and writing. Texts will be read by Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Judith Butler, Pierre Clastres, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jean Genet, Éduard Glissant, Maria-José Mondzain, Bernhard Tschumi, among others.


May 27, Monday: 2 PM - 5.30 PM

In recent years, the discussion on photography has changed from taking an image to looking at it. In the early 1970s, Susan Sontag saw in the camera an instrument that violates people, and thus, she considered the camera as a gun by other means. Her argument focuses on an analysis of the image taking apparatus as a given, a definite power relation and inexplicable structures. Today, in an era of an excess of images, digital mass circulation, and civil journalism when everyone is able to take a picture with her iPhone, digital camera, or mobile phone, the violence did not disappear. But each person, who has taken a picture herself, i.e., almost everyone in the globalized parts of the world understood through practice that image production links up with dissemination and (public) presentation. One of the most relevant voices in the recent debate is Ariella Azoulay who proposed to consider the photograph as a space in which citizenship is able to take place: looking at an image, sharing the view, discussing it, copying and photoshopping it, doubting its authenticity, and so on inquires in the image's potential for sociability. In this reading group, we will anaylize the 'civil contrat of photography' as suggested by Azoulay, and see what does it do today with the violence of which Sontag talked about fourty years ago.

The session comes with a screening of the rare film "Si J'avais Quatre Dromadaires" (If I had four dromedaries), directed by Chris Marker, 1966, 42 min. Readings: Azoulay, A. "The Civil Contract of photographs: Terms and Conditions," in: The Civil Contract of Photography, 2009, pp. 100–127 Sontag, S. "Plato's Cave," in: On Photography, 1973/, pp.

Further Readings: Mulvey, L., "The Possessive Spectator," in: Death 24x a Second. Stillness and the Moving Image, London: Reaktion Books, 2006, pp. 161–180

Tutorials May 28, 9.30AM to 4.30PM Please send your writings in advance.


April 22, Monday: 2 PM - 5.30 PM

This month's Reading Group will depart from a text by Marie-José Mondzain who asks the simple question: "Can Images Kill?" Mondzain states: "Images appear as objects that can be examined. These objects may provoke speech and may be confirmed by knowledge. Even if their status as objects is fundamentally problematic, images appear as a physical reality that can simultaneously be seen and known. But violence — defined as an excessive sign of force — itself is not an object. Violence designates an excess, so much so that the discourse about it is constituted more by judgment than through knowledge and supposes a constitutional state organized by laws that allow for the evaluation of the norm and its transgression." In correspondence with a screening of Harun Farocki's Serious Games (2009/10), we are going to discuss a series of questions that Mondzain proposes further in her reflections on the blurring lines between images as an object and a becoming subject (in the double-sense): "Do images make us killers? Can we go so far as to attribute to them the guilt or responsibility of crimes and offenses that as objects they couldn't actually have committed? What act is an image capable of? We are thus going to take an interest in the movements communicated by the image and not in its figurative content. But then how do we distinguish between those visual productions that speak to destructive and fusional drives and those that are responsible for freeing spectators from a deadly tension, as much for themselves as for the community?" The Reading Group will provide a resonating space for the evening's lecture by Adania Shibli, who proposes a feminist approach to discuss the troubling confusion of the real, imaginary and symbolic spaces of the visual in relation to concepts of violence.

Mondzain, M.‐J., "Can Images Kill?," in: Critical Inquiry, Vol. 36, No. 1, The University of Chicago Press, Autumn 2009, pp. 20-51

Further Readings:
Mulvey, L., "The Possessive Spectator," in: Death 24x a Second. Stillness and the Moving Image, London: Reaktion Books, 2006, pp. 161–180
Steyerl, H., "Missing People: Entanglement, Superposition, and Exhumation as Sites of Indeterminacy", in: The Wretched of the Screen, Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2012, pp. 138–159

Please also see the Further Reading list in relation to Adania Shibli's evening lecture.

March 18, Monday: 2 PM - 5.30 PM

This reading session draws upon Katja's research on pirates. A possible point of entry is following reflection: The pirate appears as a threat to existing hierarchical structures; s/he disturbs laws that secure private property; s/he intervenes in a capitalist logic of the distribution of wealth; s/he disturbs seemingly seemless chains of transactions within global economic trade circuits; s/he gives a face to a rift between technologies of economic mobility and local off-shore infrastructures; s/he points towards the geopolitical history of colonialism and slavery. Finally, s/he might help us to address the pirate as a double-figure who is made of power and resistance. Can the maritime space, the ship, the ship's crew and pirates form a point of departure to unfold the complexity of violence after all through the lens of hydrarchy (Linebaught/Rediker)? We will read an excerpt from Peter Linebaugh's and Marcus Rediker's explanation of the genesis and meanings of the concept 'hydrarchy from below' in its seventeenth-century origins and its redefinitions. Katja proposed to cross-read the pirate-figure by two texts, one refers to Gilles Deleuze' and Félix Guattari's concept of the 'war machine' and its spatiogeographic dimension in the figure of the nomad (in difference to the migrant, for example); the other one is a short text by Keller Easterling that helps to expand further reflections on piracy.

We are going to watch Polly II A Plan for Revolution in Docklands (2006, 30min) by Anja Kirschner. Please inform yourself about her practice and work by taking an insight in her reader and an interview:

Rediker, M. "The Ship" and "The Sailor's Hydrarchy," in The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic, 2000, pp.149-162. (Pages according to page numbers in the PDF attached)
Deleuze, G.; Guattari, F., Nomadology: The War Machine, 2010 (originally published in A Thousand Plateaus), trans. B. Massumi, pp. 43-53. (Pages according to page numbers in the download text:
Easterling, K., "Disposition/Resistance," in Enduring Innocence: Global Architecture and Its Political Masquerades, 2005, pp. 190-196 (Pages according to page numbers in the PDF attached)

A sonic preparation for the reading group is Nina Simone's version (1990's) and the classic by Lotte Lenya's (1931) of "Pirate Jenny," which is the famous song by Bert Brecht and Kurt Weill in Brecht's The Threepenny Opera.

Tutorials March 19, 9.30AM to 4.30PM
Please send me in advance your writings.

February 18, Monday: 2PM to 5.30PM

Frantz Fanon is the most important writer on the organizations of emancipatory politics of the 20th century. Based on his work as a revolutionary and a psychatrist during the Algerian liberation anti-colonial movement, his writings disect and describe the ruthless dependencies between psycho-affective conditions, the mechanisms of a colonial consciousness and structures of governance. Fanon clearly widens the spectrum of reflection into economics, and more concretely into capitalism vs. socialism, including the role of the intellectual who sits between the powers of the people and being a political agent. The Letter to American Intellectuals by Jean Genet contributes to the dilemma, of 'the double struggle, both poetic and revolutionary.' Reading Fanon makes clear that theory can be an effective liberating force if it departed from/arrived in the urgencies, struggles, needs and desires from the concrete situation in the everyday on the ground. His bookThe Wretched of the Earth, for example, influenced the foundations of the Black Panther Movement in the U.S. during the mid 1960's. Theory does not offer a ready-made model for social and political change, but it marries with essential investigations into the particularity of the means of production and how to relate to 'the desire to be conform' (as Francoise Vergès put it in relation to the museum without objects, or Maison des civilisations et de l'unité réunionnaise). Fanon's elaborations on 'violence' have been widely debated. We will read excerpts from The Wretched of the Earth, and we will look at a Hannah Arendt's critical response to Fanon as well as Homi Bhabha's thoughts how to 'frame' Fanon today. The reading will start by watching the short film Les Mains Négatives (1979) byMarguerite Duras to which we will return after the reading session.

F. Fanon: "On Violence," in: The Wretched of the Earth (1961), trans. by C. Farrington, 1990 (excerpts)
H. Arendt: On Violence, 1969 (excerpts)
H. Bhabha: "Foreword: Framing Fanon," (2004) in: The Wretched of the Earth, trans. by R. Philcox, 2004 (excerpts)
Extra: J. Genet: "Letter to American Intellectuals," (1970) in: A. Dichy (ed.), The Declared Enemy, trans. by J. Fort, 2004, pp. 30-33

January 14 Monday:

2 PM to 5.30 PM  After reading the notion of 'violence' through political theory, strategic reflections and current social struggles during the last sessions, we will turn our attention now to architecture and its potential threshold to art. Isabel contributed profoundly to shaping this session's reading group.
More concretely, a text by Bernard Tschumi will allow us to address the ineluctable relation between space and action, or on other words the inter-/dependecies between architecture, spatial usage and the human body. Tschumi is an architect himself; his text departs from a certain scope of practice-related research. It contains quite a few debatable points which we might unfold through a reading of 'discrete violation' as proposed by Gordon Matta-Clark in the late 1970's. Furthermore, the discussion of violence in relation to the economies of the urban space, for example in London or Venice during the end 1950's, needs to touch also upon the thoughts and reflections by the Situationists International who developed concepts such as dérive, psychogeography and unitary urbanism. We will see whether the situationist dimension provides a different approach, and maybe vocabulary, to 'violence' and how this may have an active relevance today still.

Tschumi, B., "Violence of Architecture," in: Architecture and disjunction, MIT Press, 1996
Walker, St., "Discrete Violation," in: Gordon Matta-Clark. Art, Architecture and the attack on modernism, I.B. Tauris, 2009
Debord, G., Psychogeographical Venice, 1957

December 1 Saturday:

2 PM to 5.30 PM  Which role does 'violence' play today in social struggles and what are the means in artistic production to deal with it? What are the means in artistic production that may counter illustrations, moralisms, and seemingly doing-good-positions when it comes to 'violence'? How do we – artists, exhibition makers, filmmakers, theorists, students, educators, historians – relate to violence in a globalized world? It is needed to complicate the notion of 'violence' as a double-sided condition that constitutes the grounds of both realpolitik and of militant potency. Therefore, we are going to read a text by Étienne Balibar who wrote about the topicality of historical approaches to 'violence' and 'non-violence' through the life and writings of Lenin and Ghandi. Balibar wrote this text in reflection on the huge transformations in economics and politics that the world goes through since the beginning of the new century and added a profound Afterword in 2012 that resonates in recent events in the Arab world, Spain, Great Britain and elsewhere. Furthermore, a text by Chantal Mouffe explicitly asks about the limits and potentials in artistic practice in relation to life in capitalism; her text opened the recent edition of Steierischer Herbst in Graz/Austria. --- Please prepare a short overview about Étienne Balibar and Chantal Mouffe: their life dates, what their major research interests are, what their major positions might be and how they might relate to the domain of art to a very general extent. --- The reading group will also support our preparation for the evening lecture "After the Event: Leaving Behind Impotent Violence So We Can Win the War of Position" by British theorist and blogger Mark Fisher.

Readings: Balibar, É., "Lenin and Gandhi. A missed encounter?," in: Radical Philosophy, 172, March/April 2012, pp. 9–17 (text as PDF attached) Mouffe, Ch., "Strategies of radical politics and aesthetic resistance," in: (accessed October 2012) Further readings: Zizek, S., Violence: Six Sideways Reflections, 2008 Fisher, M., "Postcapitalist Desire" in: Campagna and Campiglio (eds.), What Are We Fighting For? A New Radical Manifesto, 2012 Hallward, P., "People and Power: Four Notes on Democracy and Dictatorship", in: Campagna and Campiglio (eds.), What Are We Fighting For? A New Radical Manifesto, 2012  

October 29 Monday:

Readings / Session October 2012 :
Derrida, J., Ferraris, M., A Taste for the Secret, Polity Press, Cambridge 2001, pp. 3 - 18
Glissant, E., "For Opacity," in: Poetics of Relation, The University of Michigan Press 1997, p. 189 - 194