Category Archives: visibility

Still from Harun Farocki : Computer Animation Rules, Lecture at IKKM, 25 June 2014, available at https://vimeo.com/100092938

Vertical Vision and Atmocultural Navigation. Notes on emerging Urban Scopic Regimes (with Andrea Pavoni)

Still from Harun Farocki : Computer Animation Rules, Lecture at IKKM, 25 June 2014, available at https://vimeo.com/100092938

 

Forthcoming in Visual Studies

 

Abstract. This paper analyses vertical vision by tracing its possible genealogy and exploring the forms it takes in the contemporary city. In the first section, vertical vision is situated in the context of its cosmographic tenets. In the second section, the critique of verticality is complemented by a topological approach where vertical vision can be seen folding into a novel visual grammar. The lineaments of this grammar can be retrieved by attending specifically to algorithms and their role in contemporary urban perception, which we discuss in the third section. The fourth section implements the suggestions of two artists: Harun Farocki’s notion of navigation, and Hito Steyerl’s notion of bubble vision. Exposing the central role played by digital platforms in ushering in this novel paradigm, bubble vision can be reconstructed as the logical end-point of classical vertical vision. This comes in conjunction with the rise of peculiar visual-cultural configuration, which could be called ‘atmoculture’. Section five submits that atmoculture represents the cultural milieu of bubble vision. In conclusion, the paper invites visual scholars interested in the study of verticality to recognise bubble vision, together with its atmocultural background, as a new expression, and a reconfiguration, of vertical vision: similarly centred and disembodied, exhilarating, and dangerously de-responsibilising.

 

 

The social life of measures

Now published in Theory, Culture & Society 35(1) http://journals.sagepub.com/toc/tcsa/35/1

Burroughs-noMetrics

Abstract

Issues of measure and measurement, and their relation to value and values, are of concern in several major threads in contemporary social theory and social research. In this paper, the notion of ‘measure-value environments’ is introduced as a theoretical lens through which the life of measures can be better understood. A number of points are made which represent both a continuation and a slight change in emphasis vis-à-vis the existing scholarship. First, it is argued that the relation between measure and value is necessarily circular – better, entangled. Second, a conceptualisation of measures as territorialising devices is advanced. Third, importance is given to the fact that measures are not simply tools in our hands, they are also environments in which we live. Fourth, attention is drawn to the fact that the unit (n=1) is not just a quantitative happening among others, but is qualitatively distinct.

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0263276416689028

The Social Life of Measures (pre-print version)

 

The Visible: Element of the Social

Now Published in Frontiers in Sociology | Sociological Theory

water

Abstract. In the context of a social-theoretical take on the link between social life and visibility, this paper invites to shift the focus from visibility phenomena to “the visible”. A theory of visibility, it is submitted, must be constructed as a theory of the medium. In opposition to visibility as a set of formal relations, what the visible brings to the fore is the existence of a mid-term, a connective tissue. Also, if a theory is a prelude to a science, then a theory is needed that makes possible to measure the visible in itself. The development of an “intrinsic” theory of the visible, one capable of generating its own variables and constants, along with the conceptual space for their articulation, is retrieved through the joint contributions of surface theories (Simmel, Goffman, Portmann) and intensity theories (Deleuze, Thom). The piece presents a set of notions that could be of use to analyze the fiber of the visible and the trajectories occurring in the visible, in view of laying out a series of laws of the visible.

Available at : https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsoc.2017.00017/full

& a Related Lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtK0nfA5r50&t=1s

Social Camouflage: Functions, Logic, Paradoxes (with Alessandro Castelli)

Now published in Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory

Fixing the Shadow / Beyond the Law (1992)
Fixing the Shadow / Beyond the Law (1992)

Abstract. Camouflage is usually understood as a type of deceitful communication
strategy in the animal and human domains. In this piece, we invite scholars to consider how the phenomenon of camouflage, while certainly grounded in antagonism and selection, might exceed its strategic meaning. Using the case of undercover agents movies, we attempt to flesh out the inner logic of camouflage and the type of social-existential situations it gives shape to. Exploring the mundane practical problem of ‘infiltration’ into a social group or social milieu, the article zooms in onto the experience of camouflage and highlights its relatedness to and distinction from imitation. Camouflage is here used not as an overarching interpretive category, rather, as an instance that reveals something about the problems inherent in the constitution of inter-subjective life. The article seeks to contribute to a theoretical development in the study of social logic and social teleology, stressing the curious entanglement of deliberate strategic action and irrational desire that contradistinguishes what could be called the ‘aberrant conjunction’ of the camoufleur and its target. Camouflage, we conclude, is not only about make-believe but also, crucially, about desiring and learning to desire.

Keywords: Mimicry, Camouflage, Undercover movies, Infiltration, Social logic, Social phenomenology, Inter-Subjectivity

TOC
Introduction
The Functions of Camouflage
The Logic of Camouflage
The Existential Phenomenology of Camouflage
The Paradoxes of Camouflage, or, Learning to Desire
Conclusions

Social Camouflage-FIN+pics

http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/PNcAa3KNVDYUT3yZ6jhR/full  (50 free downloads)

Urban Interstices: exploring the folds of the city – Workshop

P1000348
photo | mubi

To be held at the International Summer School on Cultural Sociology – Memory, Culture & Identity 2014 – Brno University, June 18-19
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Presentation. What are urban interstices? What does it mean to explore the city through its folds? What sort of skills and sensibilities does the enterprise call for? This workshop is an attempt to tackle conceptually as well as ethnographically these questions. It unfolds in three moves: first, there will be a lecture where a number of urban topics and puzzles will be presented. Hopefully, an epistemic and methodological discussion will follow; second, we will do some fieldwork, albeit a necessarily crushed one. An urban walk or drift will function as invitation to ethnographic observation and data collection. At time 2, our aim is to appreciate the city as a Wunderkammer, a chambre des merveilles, or a Room of Wonders. To do so, we will disperse into the territory equipped with our probes and captors, and see what happens. Third, we will meet for a final round of discussion, collectively reviewing, discussing and interpreting collected data, in a joint effort to reflect on the experience/experiment, and look for further insights into the larger cultural meaning of the city.
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Format
– day 1  (morning): introduction: lecture + some general methodological instructions
– day 1 (afternoon) & day 2 (morning): fieldwork, urban walk
– day 2 (afternoon): feedback: collectively reviewing, discussing and interpreting collected data

Graffiti and Place Value

A speech I’m delivering at: Street Art in the Changing City: Theoretical Perspectives – Moscow, June 7–8, 2013 – http://igiti.hse.ru/en/hsestreetart/announcements/74150089.html

In a sense, both graffiti and street art share humble origins. While the first emerged as an essential expressive form of disadvantaged inner city youth in the late 1960s, the second originated from a more heterogeneous cohort of underground artists who, however, for quite a lapse since the 1970s through the 1990s, remained marginalized in the official art system. Such humble origins were clearly mirrored in the fact that, seen from the outside, early street art entertained only a parasitic relationship to the official cityscape, while graffiti was mostly stigmatized as seen as negatively affecting places (a sign of ‘urban decay’).

Over the last decade, a major counter-trend has made its appearance, whereby street art has moved much closer to the core of the contemporary art system, whereas graffiti has received unprecedented attention from mainstream cultural institutions. Albeit to different extents and not without contradictory or even paradoxical outcomes, both graffiti and street art have been increasingly associated with thrilling lifestyles, urban creativity, fashionable outfits, and hip neighborhoods. A radical transformation has followed concerning the impact these practices have on the value attributed to certain urban places. Rather than value-neutral (invisible) or value-detracting (supravisible) as before, now graffiti and even more pronouncedly street art seem to be value-bestowing (visible). Visibility means they have turned into recognizable and much sought-for items in the urban landscape.

In this context, my aim is to look at recent graffiti and street art events in the context of recent urban transformation. Although such events have popped up almost everywhere in the world, and in the Western countries in particular, I will refer to the case of Italy, where in the last five years I have been collecting a series of detailed field observations. I am puzzling about the social and cultural significance of graffiti and street art in the changing cityscape and the unfolding urban process. By doing so, I am also inquiring into the economic process of place valorization in the current transformations of capitalism. Finally, I am placing these concerns in the framework of the new political processes of disciplination and urban governance.

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Here is the audio record (mp3 version)

Here is also a short interview I’ve released : http://www.hse.ru/en/news/85034010.html