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‘With or Without You’: Naturalising Migrants and the Never-Ending Tragedy of Liberalism | Salvage
"To be homeless is to be nameless. He. The existence of a migrant worker.

John Berger

*

The One Day Without Us campaign was launched in the UK in October 2016 ‘in reaction to the rising tide of post-Brexit street- level racism and xenophobia’ and, according to its website, ‘the divisive and stridently anti-migrant rhetoric emanating from too many politicians that has accompanied it.’ It held its target protest day on Monday 20 February 2017. ‘At a time when the political discussion about migration too often depicts a false narrative of “us versus them”, and when migrants are too often excluded from a debate that is supposedly about them, we wanted to provide an opportunity for migrants and British nationals to come together and celebrate the vital role that migrants play within their own communities.’ The campaign thus aimed to showcase a variety of pro-migrant sentiment and action across the UK. At my workplace, students and staff were encouraged to write on Post-its pinned to a map of the world their messages of support and solidarity, and what migrants meant to them. In other workplaces, one particularly striking message passing on social media emerged from a series of pictures of people contrasting what their work cohort looked like with and without migrants.

Emphasising how many migrants constitute our workforce and everyday life is a helpful way to create a contrast between the rhetoric of anti-immigration politics and the reality of migrant integration. Yet numbers are also threatening to some when imagined through The Sun-fuelled metaphors of hordes, swarms, and floods of monsters, coming here, taking our jobs. In its more extreme forms, the vocabulary of anti-immigration rhetoric shifts between the registers of environmental disaster to war and crusade. Against this, the One Day Without Us actions send out a powerful message of solidarity by numerically performing the sudden disappearance of the migrants amongst us to conjure up a bond that feels increasingly unbound."



"Specifically, it seems logical to this ideology that where and to whom one is born should determine what resources and conditions one should survive in – justified legally by the respective principles of ius solis and ius sanguinis for determining nationality rights. The anti-immigrant rhetoric in most European countries today reinforces and restricts these principles. However, in other contexts such as North America, as Jessica Evans reminds us, indigenous peoples are ‘internal outsiders with a prior claim to both jus solis and jus sanguinis’ and yet ‘access to the state and to the right for a state of their own’ remains denied to them. In both contexts, however, xenophobic and exclusionary rhetoric finds refuge in the cataclysmic sense of emergency where everybody is meant to accept that the world is dying, resources are limited and cannot be shared, and, crucially, (European) Christian culture is threatened. Thus, people should stay where they are and deal with the lot they were given, whether this means war, famine, persecution, discrimination, colonial theft and trauma, unemployment, lack of healthcare, and more. What this implies is the erosion of the principle of solidarity. Although this principle, when coupled to Western liberal ideals, has often led to the worst of liberal interventionism’s civilising missions, it remains a cornerstone of basic human decency and co- existence, and of socialist politics. It therefore must be protected from European liberalism’s securitisation, retrenchment and paranoia.

Thus, the ‘with and without us’ message signals the challenge of this tragic yet never-ending liberalism, which, like the narrator character in the U2 song ‘With or Without You’, threatens to die but remains loudly and infuriatingly alive and dominant. Liberalism is currently deemed at risk by the advance of the far right; as critics of liberalism, should we not be rejoicing? No, because what is really at risk is not liberalism, but the principle of solidarity that some liberalism contains. Instead of dying, liberalism is merely becoming more and more securitised and economically ‘rational’. The principle of solidarity is trapped in the farcical tragedy of liberalism’s never-ending schizophrenic dance-off to two different songs; trying to cleave to its ideal of harmonious economic migration and human- rights discourse on one hand, and its need for retaining and cajoling the interests of state and capital through cheap labour and border controls on the other.

In ‘With or Without You’, Bono is wailing, taunting us with despair and the threat of death because the subject of his love brings him both joy and pain. He personifies today’s dominant ideology, asking migrants to stay and save liberalism’s soul, while complaining of how they threaten it, justifying the need to exploit them, detain them or kick them back into the equivalent of outer- space. Economic liberalism maintains and reproduces a moral discourse of righteousness and an institutional façade of human rights. Nevertheless, it must be rejected in toto because it necessarily also furthers a policy agenda of fear and social hierarchy that fills up the pockets of employers and fuels the growing migration security agenda and industry. Sonja Buckel captures this relation well when explaining that ‘managing migration’ means that ‘neoliberal open-border politics has been interwoven with a left- liberal humanitarian and human rights strategy, while also needing to make concessions to the conservative project’. Thus, she writes, ‘what is currently happening with the immigration crisis is not a crisis of neoliberalism. Instead, “managing migration” remains effective’.

The left can of course be co-opted into this management of migration, and this calls for vigilance towards instances when we see these categories and subjectivities being invoked and performed. To teach migration from a more critical perspective is to acknowledge and disturb our role as ‘educators’ or conductors of these categories and subjectivities. This means, firstly, to teach the origins of migration as a process tied to the commodification and value theory of labour, where workers are necessarily ‘moving- workers’ but have been alienated to only identify as national citizens or ‘bordered-workers’; and secondly, to rethink on a basic level how we are all necessarily migrants under capitalism.[2]"



"Specifically, it seems logical to this ideology that where and to whom one is born should determine what resources and conditions one should survive in – justified legally by the respective principles of ius solis and ius sanguinis for determining nationality rights. The anti-immigrant rhetoric in most European countries today reinforces and restricts these principles. However, in other contexts such as North America, as Jessica Evans reminds us, indigenous peoples are ‘internal outsiders with a prior claim to both jus solis and jus sanguinis’ and yet ‘access to the state and to the right for a state of their own’ remains denied to them. In both contexts, however, xenophobic and exclusionary rhetoric finds refuge in the cataclysmic sense of emergency where everybody is meant to accept that the world is dying, resources are limited and cannot be shared, and, crucially, (European) Christian culture is threatened. Thus, people should stay where they are and deal with the lot they were given, whether this means war, famine, persecution, discrimination, colonial theft and trauma, unemployment, lack of healthcare, and more. What this implies is the erosion of the principle of solidarity. Although this principle, when coupled to Western liberal ideals, has often led to the worst of liberal interventionism’s civilising missions, it remains a cornerstone of basic human decency and co- existence, and of socialist politics. It therefore must be protected from European liberalism’s securitisation, retrenchment and paranoia.

Thus, the ‘with and without us’ message signals the challenge of this tragic yet never-ending liberalism, which, like the narrator character in the U2 song ‘With or Without You’, threatens to die but remains loudly and infuriatingly alive and dominant. Liberalism is currently deemed at risk by the advance of the far right; as critics of liberalism, should we not be rejoicing? No, because what is really at risk is not liberalism, but the principle of solidarity that some liberalism contains. Instead of dying, liberalism is merely becoming more and more securitised and economically ‘rational’. The principle of solidarity is trapped in the farcical tragedy of liberalism’s never-ending schizophrenic dance-off to two different songs; trying to cleave to its ideal of harmonious economic migration and human- rights discourse on one hand, and its need for retaining and cajoling the interests of state and capital through cheap labour and border controls on the other.

In ‘With or Without You’, Bono is wailing, taunting us with despair and the threat of death because the subject of his love brings him both joy and pain. He personifies today’s dominant ideology, asking migrants to stay and save liberalism’s soul, while complaining of how they threaten it, justifying the need to exploit them, detain them or kick them back into the equivalent of outer- space. Economic liberalism maintains and reproduces a moral discourse of righteousness and an institutional façade of human rights. Nevertheless, it must be rejected in toto because it necessarily also furthers a policy agenda of fear and social hierarchy that fills up the pockets of employers and fuels the growing migration security agenda and industry. Sonja Buckel captures this relation well when explaining that ‘managing migration’ means that ‘neoliberal open-border politics has been interwoven with a left- liberal humanitarian and human rights strategy, while also needing to make concessions to the … [more]
capitalism  migration  border  borders  citizenship  2017  maïapal  nationalism  race  racism  immigration  canon  liberalism  frédériclordon  johnberger  onedaywithoutus  neoliberalism  sandromezzadra  policy  politics  economics  identity  division  marxism  subjectivity  mobility  containment  society  migrants  immigrants  jessicaevans  indigenous  indigeneity  outsiders  accumulation  materialism  consumerism  jeffreywilliamson  sonjabuckel  security  industry  humanrights  humanitarianism  ideology  labor  work  territory  territorialism  colonization  west  xenophobia  naturalization  sovereignty  globalization  globalism  slavery  servitude  war  environment  climatechange  climate  globalwarming  colinmooers  supremacy  backwardness  davidharvey  jasonmoore  dereksayer  structure  agency  whitesupremacy  criticalpedagogy 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Are.na / Arrangement Collage
[also here:
https://github.com/dark-industries/dark-zine/blob/master/lukas_collage.md ]

[See also:
https://www.are.na/lukas-w/arrangement-collage ]

[via:
https://urcad.es/writing/new-american-outline/ ]

"In 2015, Frank Chimero wrote on the “Grain” of the Web, focusing on a web-native media that doesn’t try to fight the inherently rectangle-based HTML Document Object Model (DOM)—also shared with XML and XHTML. This remains true: any site that does not look rectilinear is usually just fooling you; strip the CSS and it’s just a pile of blocks. Perhaps tilted and stretched, or with the corners shaved off, but just a pile of blocks.

As McLuhan would have anticipated, this blocky model has substantial effects toward what web-native media looks like. Chimero documents this well. I’d like to add a psychological component, though, in that as an online culture, we’ve grown accustomed to block-based interfaces. We joke at Web 2.0’s desire to round over corners and balk at clunky Flash plugins; nonlinear, non-blocky interfaces are either salient or sore thumbs.

Native internet users consume media through HTML interfaces at an astounding pace; simple rectangles frame a continuous deluge of multimedia updates. In an age of both physical and digital abundance in the Western world, creation of new media from scratch requires ample justification. Acts of synthesis, archiving, compression, and remix are valuable tools for leveraging information otherwise lost to the unsorted heap. These verbs are ways to construct something new from pre-existing media objects, or at least finding some narrative or meaning within them.

A curator, classically, acts as composer and manager of (typically static) objects so as to convey narrative to a willing audience. The internet audience, however, expects more autonomy in the dynamic content they see. Self-selected content is simply a necessary tactic for navigating nearly limitless information. An explosion of digital “curation” caters to the desire, whether by user directly, tuned algorithms, or third-party human. This manifests when you select topics of interest on Quora and construct a twitter feed of only exactly the people you want. Going to a curated museum is now a relinquishing of control compared to typical digital art consumption, which comes mashed-up through various media platforms.

Even with stream moderation, the modern media viewer is accustomed to lack of coherence between adjacent content blocks. In your tumblr dashboard, a peer-reviewed journal article can sit immediately above an anonymously submitted shitpost. We don’t blink. In an arrangement of DOM blocks, each bit of media similarly carries its own context, history, and qualia. I posit we can effectively navigate our feeds not because we can rapidly jump between the context captured by each DOM block, but rather because we interpolate narrative and construct cohesion. Adjacency implies connection and synthesis, or, in the words of John Berger:
[An image reproduction] becomes itself the reference point for other images. The meaning of an image is changed according to what one sees immediately beside it or what comes immediately after it. (Ways Of Seeing)

Marius Watz, in a response on the New Aesthetic, writes on tumblr image culture: “Its art is juxtaposition: If we put this next to that and this other thing, surely a new understanding will emerge.” To be fair, there are uncountably many combinations that may be devoid of meaning—all I mean to point out is that a diptych is a third object, beyond the original two, with the possibility of value. Some find artistic practice in the form of a relentless stream of rectangles. People go nuts over releases of image dumps from Moodmail and JJJJound, and the Lost Image Desk is making professional practice of it.

(A scan of contemporary sculpture demonstrates that selection and arrangement of objects—often found or folk objects—is an ongoing trend. The viewer is trusted with finding meaning in the arrangement, selection, formal qualities, cultural context, and more in a relational tradition.)

HTML is perfectly built for image adjacency—a blank and infinite canvas, empowered by right-click “Copy Image Address.” Our expansive tumblrs and pinterest boards act as collected and performed narratives, collages of found digital media.
[Traditional] collages, […] were probably laid out carefully, aided by facsimiles, white-out, and tape, existed alongside the book, rather than being subsumed or created through the process of publishing and distribution, as is often the case with internet ‘collage’. Computers conceal distance; their collage move consists of juxtaposing elements that might be stored hundreds or thousands of miles apart, giving an illusion of spatial continuity. (Seth Price, Teen Image)

Traditional art collage used the intrigue and power in composing elements pulled from diverse sources. Meaning constructed by selection, editing, and combination. The HTML collage, however, is copy-pasted. What is the HTML-native collage?

I call it the “Arrangement Collage”—rectangular, transcontextual compositions of, ostensibly, found media. The arrangement collage does less work for the viewer than traditional collage: elements are kept fully intact rather than trimmed for blended. The composition often mitigates interaction between elements and instead celebrates raw adjacency.
When the historical avant-garde used valorized cultural objects such as the Mona Lisa or a violin, it profaned, overpowered, and destroyed them before going on to aestheticize them. In contrast, contemporary art uses mass-cultural things virtually intact. (Boris Groys, On The New)

The arrangement collage, while easy to construct in print, is truly native to the web, in which all objects are, by default, level rectangles, context-switching is the norm, and media to compose with is bountiful.

Our feeds, plentiful in the digital landscape, help populate the arrangement collage. Tumblr, ostensibly a micro-blogging site, is largely used for image collection; FFFFound is legendary for its contextless stream of collected imagery (and as birthing the name for JJJJound, when Justin Saunders couldn’t get an account); and Buzzfeed publishes “articles” that are frankly just stacks of image macros. A proliferation of mindless image consumption concerns Bob Gill.
There’s nothing original. ‘The Culture’ is the great mass of images and ideas which bombard us every day, and therefore shape the way we think visually. Only by recognising The Culture’s presence and its power, can designers move away from the clichés it promotes.

Irrefutably, the images we consume affect how we think, and what we can imagine. Gill’s words should be considered, and the internet-native should stay aware of “the clichés” promoted. Gill encourages “first-hand” research, but this points at a cultural gap—there is no line between reality and the internet; “first-hand” research takes place on the social web. In-person discussion and close examination of physical objects can be romanticized, but it should not detract from the fact that meaningful discussion and critical consumption can happen in a digital landscape as well.

Of deeper concern is the stripping of value from imagery in overabundance. Edition MK’s 2010 DDDDoomed (the name, I assume, another reference to FFFFound) gets at the kernel of this problem: Image Aggregators (“IAs”—such as JJJJound and other blogs), which typically present images contextless alongside hundreds of others, can strip imagery of its power. IAs do work that is weaker, semiotically, than traditional collage, and less organized than archiving (which is often a process of attaching or generating metadata, whereas IAs frequently remove it). Images that find political power within a context are reduced to purely aesthetic objects in the stream. If you are a tumblr fiend, this very likely rings true: the multitude of streams filled with gorgeous scenery, motivational quotes, and supermodel women quickly reduce this imagery to banality and objectification.
We [distance ourselves] from our critical faculties as we slide into models of passive spectatorship that reinforce our passivity by promoting a one-way mode of cultural consumption. […] Continuous over-stimulation leads to desensitisation. (Peter Buwert, “Defamiliarization, Brecht and Criticality in Graphic Design” in Modes of Criticism 2: Critique of Method)

The arrangement collage might serve as a tool in this battle against desensitization. In Buwert’s essay, referenced above, he describes how Brecht’s famous defamiliarization of the theater encouraged “a condition of active critical spectatorship within the audience.” DDDDoomed is lamenting the supposed death of this critical spectator, replaced with the numb and passive viewer. Buwert is less concerned with context/lessness than Edition MK, and instead focuses on familiarity.

There are valiant efforts towards an inclusion of context and metadata with online imagery, but it is not built into the structure of the internet. Flickr and twitter use image covers to dissuade copy-pasting (circumnavigable by screen-shotting) and Mediachain attempts to inextricably tie media to metadata using blockchain methods. As of writing, however, the JPG is not going anywhere, and the ease of downloading and re-uploading an image far surpasses digging to find its source. Entropy is not on our side, and Google’s reverse image search will never be quite fast or comprehensive enough to keep up.

Walter Benjamin might lament the loss of contextual sensitivity, as it comes intertwined with a loss of “aura.” The authenticity that drives Benjamin’s aura is dependent on the idea of an original—which, in internet ecosystems, simply isn’t a relevant concept, as the original and reproduction can be… [more]
lukaswinklerprins  2016  frankchimero  arrangementcollage  web  online  feeds  juxtaposition  canon  curation  collections  tumblr  html  webdev  form  imagery  images  webnative  decomposition  composition  peterbuwert  aggregation  ffffound  justinsaunders  bobgill  sethprice  moodmail  lostimagedesk  waysofseeing  johnberger  dom  xml  xhtml  marshallmcluhan 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
“I think the dead are with us”: John Berger at 88
“I was, in a way, alone in the world,” he says as we settle down at the dining room table. “I don’t say that very pathetically. I just took it as a fact of life. But being like that means you listen to others, because you are seeking landmarks to orient yourself in relation to – and, unlike what most people think, storytelling does not begin with inventing, it begins with listening.”
JohnBerger  PhilipMaughan  NewStatesman  WriterInterview  profile  LiteraryCriticism 
january 2019 by briansholis
Rebecca Solnit on Skipping High School and California Culture | Literary Hub
"Paul Holdengraber: I had the pleasure, a bittersweet pleasure, of speaking with John Berger two years ago (about two months before he died) and I was so amazed by his extraordinary freedom of thinking. I was wondering, though I was never able to ask him, how much of it came to him from not having been forced into a certain school, or not having gone to all the schools people feel they need to go to in order to think.

It strikes me that you have that same appetite, that same appetite that comes from not having had to follow a certain regime, but rather following what really interests you, what really fills you with passion. I wonder how much of that is true, and how much of that is true to the place you’ve committed yourself to live in.

Rebecca Solnit: I didn’t go to high school and I feel that was one of the great strategic victories of my life. In the 1970s everything was very nebulous and wide open, and I just managed by going to an alternative junior high school through tenth grade, which was a very kind place compared to the place I went to for seventh and eighth grade. Then I took the GED test and started college at 16, to avoid high school altogether.

I remember thinking the GED—which is supposed to test you on everything you’re supposed to know when you graduate from high school—and thinking, “I’ve basically goofed off for two years. I’m 15 and I’m apparently able to acquire all the knowledge you need to get out of high school—what are you doing for those other three or four years?” I’ve always felt that a lot of what people are taught to do is conform and obey a set of instructions about hierarchy. It’s really destructive of the people who succeed in that system, as well as the ones who fail. I know you didn’t grow up in this country—

PH: I’m not sure I grew up. I’m still trying.

RS: Well that too. There’s the people who feel damaged by being unpopular in high school, but there’s a different kind of tragedy of people who were so popular in high school—the homecoming queens, the football captains—who feel as though they’ve arrived at the end of the journey without ever having set out for it, who feel like now they can rest on the laurels, which aren’t the laurels that will matter for the next 50 or 60 years.

It’s a very destructive system of values. You look at schools in other countries and they don’t have proms and homecoming queens and team spirit—this kind of elaborate sports culture that is very heteronormative as well as hierarchical. It also creates monsters out of the boys who are able to get away with bullying and sexual assault because they’re good at sports.

PH: You were mentioning my own upbringing. I grew up, in part, in many different countries in Europe, but one of the countries I lived was Belgium. In the mid-70s they introduced something they called Le Test Américain, “the American test.” You know what that was: multiple choice. I was terrible at it because I always felt ambivalent. I always felt, if you look at it from this perspective, that would be the answer; but if you look at it from that perspective, this would be the answer. And of course that didn’t bode well for school.

I know now that teaching has become so much that—so much about getting the supposed right answer to a question, which really means the right answer to a question if you look at it only from one vantage point. Which is exactly the contrary of what literature teaches, or for that matter, what life teaches us to think and do.

RS: When I was young, in the 80s, I read a wonderful report on why we should teach art in schools, and one of the arguments was that there is no right answer in art. There might be good ways to do things, but there’s no simple one right answer. Two plus two might be four, but the way a bird flies can be represented in innumerable ways.

PH: I wonder also, in your escape from high school, how much California and your interest in California has had to do with the way you think.

RS: One of the things about being deinstitutionalized—because not only did I not go to high school, I did sort of sprint through college and then get a journalism degree that was training to be a writer in a practical sense rather than becoming an academic—was the freedom to be synthetic, to move through what’s considered to be many fields. In fact in Wanderlust, early on, I said that if the fields of study could be considered real fields, then the the history of walking trespasses through many of them on its trajectory. And my life has been kind of like that. There’s a curious thing in academia in which authority is demonstrated by specialization and that you have to color within the lines and stick within the lines of your discipline, which I know a lot of people feel fretful about.

California wasn’t inherently an interest in mine. It was just where my father was born and where I grew up and have lived most of my life. When I was young and working at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and going to the journalism school at UC Berkeley, I did my thesis on the artist Wallace Berman and I began the process of writing the history that wasn’t available to me to read. When I was growing up in California we were regarded, almost universally, as almost a barbarian hinterland that had gone, as I often say, from wilderness to shopping mall in a single bound. And there was a lot of sneering on the East Coast about us as a place without culture, as a place of yahoos and bimbos and babes and surfer dudes, as lacking the high seriousness.

I have a friend whose East Coast cousin once said to him, “people in California don’t read.” And it was just amazing having someone dismiss the state with the UC system and Stanford and some remarkable intellectuals, from Angela Davis to Garry Snyder.

So I really didn’t grow up here with it being treated as an interesting place, though I loved the landscape, wondered about the Native history, and actually went to Europe because of that yearning for a sense of deep past and time in history. And then came back and had to find a way to locate it in this landscape.

Of course a lot of things have changed. A lot of California history has been written by Mike Davis and many other people since then. But it really was treated as a blank and trivial place when I was younger. There were some California historians, but the public mainstream attitude was very dismissive.

PH: I remember a conversation I had with Werner Herzog who said that in New York they consume culture, and in Los Angeles they actually make it. And it struck me as very interesting because there is such an assumption in New York that everything emanates from here.

RS: I’ve noticed.

PH: That’s a fantastic response, Rebecca. We’ll leave it at that for now."
rebeccasolnit  unschooling  deschooling  2018  interviews  education  california  history  culture  nyc  johnberger  paulholdengraber  values  hierarchy  teaching  art  arteducation  pedagogy  mikedavis  journalism  wallaceberman  eastcoast  angeladavis  garysnyder  conformity 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Teju Cole en Instagram: “A memory I cherish is of being backstage with John Berger and how he leaned forward and began to tell me about how beautiful, how dear, is…” • Instagram
"A memory I cherish is of being backstage with John Berger and how he leaned forward and began to tell me about how beautiful, how dear, is the moment of being backstage, the moment before the main event. In that moment, John said, everything is still and full of potential. In a way, there’s more to it than the main event, this sitting together in the dark waiting for something to happen.

Today I noted an even earlier moment. The shirt I intend to wear is just out of the dryer, draped across a chair in my kitchen, not yet ironed, caught just so by the afternoon light as though attended by one of the great painters."
tejucole  johnberger  2017  potential  anticipation  waiting  before 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Blind Spot | Blog—Jarrett Fuller
"Blind Spot, the writer and photographer Teju Cole’s new book, feels like a culmination of his intellectual work of the last few years. A master of shifting forms, Cole previously published two novels (Open City and Everyday is for a Thief) and an essay collection (Known and Strange Things), is the photography critic for The New York Times, and is prolific on Instagram where he showcases his photography. Blind Spot, a book that mixes text with his original photography, at once feels like a continuation of his previous work while also something completely new. How does one define Blind Spot? Is it a photo book or a novel? A travelogue or a poem? A memoir or a lyric essay? The answer, I think, is ‘yes’.

The photos — all shot on color film from Cole’s travels across the globe — blend seamlessly from Brooklyn to Berlin, Omaha to Africa. The images are quiet and largely devoid of humans, aside from a final striking portrait, recalling great street photographers like Stephen Shore and Louis Ghirri. The text — which shifts between narrative, memoir, criticism, poetry — sometimes refers to these photos while at other times remain independent. All of Cole’s familiar influences — Sebald, Berger, Calvino — are on display here.

The text reads less as captions as they do a voiceover — he’s said in interviews he sees the book as a documentary in book form — where another set of influences emerge. “I pray to Tarvoksy, Marker, Hitchcock” he writes in the middle of the book. Sure enough, the flipping between Cole’s text and image, one could see the book as homage to Chris Marker’s Sans Soliel. And as the photos start to reference each other, and fragments begin to connect, Marker’s more famous La Jetee comes to mind. There’s a playful reflexivity throughout — his writing reflects on his own writing process for the book, how he selected particular images, and what he hopes the book will be. In one passage he writes:
She asked, though these were not her exact words: Isn’t all the work part of a single piece? She asked, like someone patiently unlocking, with a pin, a pair of handcuffs: Aren’t all the photographs and texts, the fragments and experiments, even the things you say into a microphone, even the things you don’t say, aren’t they all installments toward a unified project? She said, though these are not her exact words: I have always felt that Open City was one way you approached the problem. You’re still circling the problem now, she said, obsessed, she said, and approaching it in other ways. You will probably always be returning to it, she said, making herself comfortable within the folds of my brain.

In a later passage, Cole invokes Calvino’s continuous city and his search of the threads that connect the places he visits. But he’s also looking for the threads that connect the images and the text. Calvino suggests that there is simply one big, continuous city that does not begin or end: ‘Only the name of the airport changes,’ he writes in Invisible Cities. The same can be said of Cole’s work — it’s simply one big, continuous journey — his intellectual interests and preoccupations recur — he finds new ways to display them, new ways to talk about them. Only the name of the book changes.

I read Open City, Cole’s first novel in 2015 during my last week in San Francisco, before moving to Baltimore for graduate school. My belongings were packed up and I’d lay on the floor in the middle of a nearly empty apartment reading. In the book, largely devoid of an obvious plot, we follow the narrator, Julius, as he walks through Manhattan. I started doing the same thing — after a period of reading, I’d put the book down, put classical music on in my headphones, and walk the San Francisco streets. This had been my neighborhood for the last three years but that week, with that music, and Cole’s prose rattling around in my head, I saw the city differently. That, I think, is the thread that ties Cole’s work together. He changes your pace, forces you to slow down. His writing is patient, his photography reserved. He makes you look, really look. This world moves fast. There’s always something new to read, new tweets, new emails, new books, new music. Last month’s news feels like a decade ago.

Blind Spot is a book about looking; about seeing what’s in the frame, about reflecting on what we see. Teju Cole asks us to slow down so we can understand our own blind spots. I saw San Francisco differently that last week, and as I finished Blind Spot this week, I started to see New York differently too. He taught me to see."
tejucole  jarrettfuller  2017  writing  photography  italocalvino  johnberger  wgsebald  chrismarker  film  walking  cities  urban  ubanism  place  landscape  noticing  looking  seeing  sansoleil  lajetée  blindspot 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Twitter
RT : evening on 23 July from 8.30pm. Interview with & our radio play To The Weddin…
JohnBerger  from twitter
july 2017 by bowbrick
Teju Cole: ‘My camera is like an invisibility cloak. It makes me more free’ | Books | The Guardian
"The final piece in Cole’s 2016 essay collection, Known and Strange Things, is a description of that traumatic occurrence. It is called Blind Spot. Next month, his first book of photographs is published. It is also called Blind Spot. Why, I ask him, did he reprise that title for a book that is, in essence, about a sustained way of seeing? “Well, there is some dark humour in the title that people who have read the essay will hopefully pick up on,” he says, “but, as I write in the afterword, there is also the fact that the act of looking is limited. We only see a small part of what we are looking at, so there is a constant blind spot even with the kind of attentive looking that photography entails. There are many resonances in that title – how difficult it is to see clearly, how difficult it is to tell a dream, how difficult it is to make pictures that are new in some way.”

How well Cole succeeds in all of this is difficult to say, not because his images aren’t strong – they are in a detached and rigorously formal-to-the-point-of-deadpan way that was pioneered by the likes of Stephen Shore in the 1970s – but because Blind Spot is not simply a book of photographs. Instead, each image is accompanied by a corresponding passage of prose. The book unfolds – and succeeds – as a deftly choreographed dance of words and pictures, with Cole’s characteristically allusive style of writing here condensed to what he calls “fragments”. Sometimes, but not often, the words refer directly to what is in the picture, but more often the photographs are conceptual starting points for musings on his now-familiar obsessions: memory, myth, culture, politics, race and dreams.

The associations, though, are often not entirely clear. A photograph of a telegraph pole on a deserted street in Selma, Alabama prompts a memory of a dream Cole had about crossing a street but never arriving at the other side, which, in turn, calls up a quotation on consciousness and time by the French phenomenological philosopher, Maurice Merleau-Ponty. A street portrait of the back of a blond woman in New York City (see below), redolent of the work of Joel Meyerowitz, is matched with a fragment from Greek mythology concerning the painter Timanthes’s mysterious portrait of the grieving, veiled Agamemnon. This is, for want of a better phrase, quintessentially Cole-ian.

“I see it as a unified story,” he explains, “but one in which each fragment of prose is dense in the way that a poem is dense. There are thematic breadcrumbs scattered throughout the text, but, yes, it is oblique. It’s not meant to be obvious, but a more psychologically resonant series of fragments that detonate on some deeper level.”"



"Taken alongside his fiction and his essays, which range from the reflective to the polemical, as well as the photography column he writes for the New York Times, Blind Spot further enhances Cole’s already burnished reputation. He is a writer for our times, prodigious, wide-ranging and supremely confident in his reach. In Known and Strange Things, to give just a few examples, he discourses passionately on race in America, explores the poetics of Saul Leiter’s pioneering colour photographs and, in two consecutive essays, lauds VS Naipaul, the elegant writer, and nails VS Naipaul, the dreadful old reactionary.

If there is a personal touchstone for this kind of cross-fertilisation, it is surely the late John Berger, one of his heroes, though Berger, as I remind him, never took photographs. “I actually asked John why photography was not part of his practice,” Cole says, “In his case, to photograph a subject was to foreclose some part of what he could write about it. He saw it as an interference in his writing faculties. I don’t think like that about it. In fact, for me, taking a photograph of something often induces further thoughts on it.”

In the flesh, Cole is both charming and intense. When I met him briefly last summer at a party in Manhattan thrown in his honour by his editors at the New York Times, he was warm and inclusive, but, even in casual conversation, there is a palpable alertness about him that intrigues. He seems acutely conscious, too, of his own place in the intellectual firmament. In Known and Strange Things, he revealed that his antidote to insomnia was to “rise from my bed and watch Jacques Derrida talk”. In his deftly elegant takedown of Naipaul, there is also the distinct suggestion that a literary baton is being passed from the older master to the heir apparent.

Cole’s precocious literary talent must surely have been honed in childhood. Born in Michigan, he was taken back to Nigeria as a child by his parents when they had completed their studies. His upbringing, he says, was solidly middle-class and aspirational. His father worked in middle management and his mother was a school teacher; both instilled in him the notion that “the child had to do better in education than their peers”. When he travelled to America in the early 90s to commence his own college education, he felt he was returning home. “For sure, I had conflict and a certain nervousness, but not the kind that comes from thinking of oneself as an immigrant. I had a sense of my rights as an American. There was a period of adjustment – there still is – but the feeling I have sometimes of being lost in the world is more to do with my own personality than America.”

Cole studied art and art history at Kalamazoo College, Michigan – “a good liberal college with the kind of leafy campus you get in American campus novels” – and later tried and failed to apply himself to a degree in medicine, in part to appease his parents. That failure haunted him for a while and, he says, he suffered from a bout of depression around that time. “I had no money, no time to read or go to concerts and I felt starved of that. Plus, I was very cold in Michigan and isolated. For two years, I was struggling to do well when I was used to doing well. I do not want to dwell on it but, for a time, I was phenomenally not myself. All the things you hear about depression were there.”"



"
In Open City, his descriptions of his New York evince a keen, roving attentiveness reminiscent of the city’s great street photographers: Garry Winogrand, Meyerowitz and Leiter are presences in his prose alongside the more often cited Berger and WG Sebald. Cole, as he is keen to point out, has been taking photographs longer than he has been writing fiction. In Every Day Is for the Thief, the text is punctuated by Cole’s black-and-white photographs evoking the swaggering, chaotic thrust of Lagos, his childhood home.

In both novels, Cole’s writing style recalls Christopher Isherwood’s celebrated description of his own prose: “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Some day, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed.”

Cole cites the great experimental film-maker Chris Marker as perhaps the crucial influence in his novels. “In his great film, Sans Soleil, Marker moves between zooming out and watching the flow of life and zooming in to look at the pattern of the details of everyday experience. He is not telling you one thing about a place, but allowing it all to come in and making the connections visible. He is a major influence on Open City and even more on Blind Spot, where the subject itself is that kind of interconnectedness.”

In many ways, then, Blind Spot continues in the vein of Teju Cole’s fiction. This time around, though, he is the peripatetic narrator on an altogether more epic global journey through cities in which he is often a lone stranger. The experience of travel – by air as well as wandering alone on land – is central here. Since the success of Open City, Cole has travelled extensively – to literary festivals, teaching programmes, writer’s residencies and promotional events. As the novelist Siri Hustvedt puts it in her introduction: “Teju Cole really gets around.” Thus, each photograph and fragment of prose is grounded in a specific location: Auckland, Basel, Chicago, Lagos, Nairobi, New York, Paris and so forth. “In each place I have travelled,” he writes, “I have used my camera as an extension of my memory.”

The images, and the reflections that follow from them, are also a way of fixing moments that might otherwise be lost in the sheer overload of global memories he has stored in his head in a relatively short time. “Certain experiences became more vivid as I was walking around and thinking about what I was photographing,” he elaborates. “In central Bali, for instance, there was an afternoon that has survived very clearly and vividly in my memory but also in the false memory of the photographs I took that day. They are stilled moments, fragments from a much bigger experience, a film that could only have been captured with a camera attached to my head.”

Given that he takes his camera with him wherever he goes, how visible a presence is he when he shoots on the street? He laughs, anticipating the underlying thrust of my question. “Well, a solitary black tourist is not a common sight in Switzerland or Kathmandu or northern Italy or even in upstate New York,” he says, ruefully, “so, I am already a little strange. But, there is a way in which having the camera makes me more free. It is a kind of invisibility cloak, especially when you are on a strange street far from home. But, oddly enough, I was more free in Kathmandu than in Lagos. The first assumption everywhere is, ‘there is a black tourist’ – but, in Nigeria, that question becomes more complex. There is more suspicion.”"



"“One of the responses to all that is to do the work I do. My essays are not political in the main, but they are trying to advance a humanist argument. Likewise, my photographs are complex, but I hope, … [more]
tejucole  2017  johnberger  blindspot  photography  writing  howwewrite  opencity  chrismarker  fiction  experience  invisibility  sanssoleil  christopherisherwood  garrywinogand  wgsebald  depression 
june 2017 by robertogreco
On losing John Berger | 226 Autumn 2017 | Alison Croggon | Overland literary journal
"Today I read that you had died.

I can’t stop the ache in my throat, the breaking pressure in my chest, even though you are no more absent to me now than you have ever been. I only knew you through your writing: novels, essays, poems – and once a letter, written in blue biro on the back of a bill, in response to one of mine.

I wish I had met you. In a way, I did: I met you through the particular intimacy you offer every reader. It’s an intimacy that always holds the necessary space. You write words with air around them, words in which another might find herself and thus find the world. Your writing always turns us outwards, to our own worlds and to the worlds in which others live.

When I think of you, I think of water. Your work wells out of broken ground and flows with increasing vigour towards an uncertain horizon; a deepening confluence of clear energies, gathering into itself all the colours of the skies it runs beneath. It’s your reticence, your fierce honesty, your humour, your courteous attention to all things. The transparencies of the self you lay down on paper. For you, everything holds the same unending miracle of being. You listen to stones and to children; you are as fascinated by the making of soup as by the complexities of art. Every thing is holy.

So often you surprise me with tears. Not because you manipulate emotions, but because you do the opposite: you invite a recognition of feeling that rises innocently through layers of scars, illuminating the present beauties that surround us always – even in the darker times, even in the darker places. Some people say you are sentimental because you are so unafraid of the naked expression of feeling, but they are wrong. You know there is no division between intellect and feeling. You understand that, just as feeling without intelligence is a reduction of human capacity, intellect without feeling is warped and truncated, a damaged and damaging thing.

For a Marxist, you are an exemplary Christian. I think the only human hierarchy you respect is from Corinthians: So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Your work is always, in the most unillusioned of ways, about love. It is love stripped of the sentimental glaze that transforms it into a lie, love that embraces without possession, love that knows how to let go, how to suffer, how to leave, how to celebrate, how to laugh. You know laughter is a resistance against the worst things.

That is why we, your readers, love you.

You are never above anything. You always insist on holding open the space of beauty, unembarrassed by its extravagance or humility, attentive to all its motley and various hues, its grandeurs, its minutiae. You understand the eye’s desire to colonise and possess, the rapacious claim the gaze makes over everything it sees, and you resist everything that means. You show instead how the eye might become a generous organ, how perception might be a conduit of quiet attention, a witness to a relationship that is always transient and mortal, a space in which everything is permitted to exist in its own time, for its own reasons.

You obey every human imperative except power. Perhaps that is what I most admire. So few of us are able to extricate ourselves from that spiritual criminality; so few of us can see the world freed from that distorting lens. Without ever claiming a lack of complicity – something that is available to none of us – you say no. Your denunciation is absolute. You chronicle the murderous, soul-killing ideologies of our time. You turn and listen to those who have no power, and you never judge them. But for those who have power, for those whose greed is closing its fist over our planet, for those whose only measure of worth is money, your judgment is pitiless.

I am so sad today, but it is a selfish mourning. It is me I mourn – the me who lived in a world where you too were breathing. You lived generously and lovingly, awake to the end. I wish we may all live so well. Now you will always exist in the present tense. Your gifts remain, not to be mourned, but to be taken and used. The world is not darker because you have died. It is brighter because you were alive."
2017  johnberger  alisoncroggon  listening  writing  marxism  christianity  resistance  learning  humility  grace  power 
april 2017 by robertogreco

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