Monthly Archives: December 2016

Skrunda-1, Latvia: Soviet Ghost Town

Inside Skrunda-1: Latvia’s secret Soviet city turned ghost town

The Baltic Times visits the secret defence settlement reclaimed by the government after 20 years of neglect and decay

 

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Collective Trauma

“The concept of collective trauma was rooted in the thought of Émile Durkheim, a turn-of-the-20th-century French sociologist and an architect of the field. Durkheim argued that norms, values and rituals were the linchpins of social order; they provided the basis for solidarity and social cohesion. Collective trauma occurs when an unexpected event severs the ties that bind community members to one another.”screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-11-38-20

“In recent decades, Democrats and Republicans rarely agreed on substance, but all candidates for major office were expected to adhere to fundamental ethical norms, like “don’t threaten to jail your opponent” and “don’t celebrate sexual assault.” Mr. Trump’s victory signals that that world, with the assurances it offered that there were some lines those seeking power wouldn’t cross (or that the American electorate wouldn’t let them cross), is no longer. Rightly or wrongly, memories have been activated of historical traumas linked with anti-democratic politics, such as the emergence of fascism in interwar Europe and the rise of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.”

“War memorials have failed–we have forgotten the chaos of fascism..”

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the Guardian, Jonathan Jones.

“Architect Peter Eisenman has said he couldn’t build his Berlin Holocaust memorial today, as Europe has become too antisemitic. But the very way culture has framed the Holocaust has allowed right-wing populism to flourish”

Excerpt

“I believe my Holocaust memorial in Berlin could no longer be built today,” the architect Peter Eisenman has told Die Zeit. Eisenman says that Europe is now “afraid of strangers”, and he fears that the rise of xenophobia and antisemitism in Europe would make it impossible to build monuments like the vast field of grey sepulchres that he designed as Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, inaugurated in 2005 close to the site of Adolf Hitler’s bunker.

He may well be right – yet surely this is the wrong end of the book to start at. The real question is why Holocaust memorials have done so little to prevent the return of Europe’s far-right demons.

…..

“The monolithic bleakness of Eisenman’s Berlin memorial implies an innacurate vision of nazism. He makes the Holocaust look like a state bureaucrat’s calculus of death. It was worse. It was a chaos of hatred, bigotry and unreason. When unleashed in a modern technological society, these demonic passions can quickly create a hell on earth. We would be utter fools to think it can’t happen again, or that the world will never have any more reason to build memorials.”

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Invisible Images (Your Pictures Are Looking at You)

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this is one of the most prescient articles dealing with how digital technologies –really artificial intelligence– is the most consuming body of visual data in existence: thinking well beyond the now ancient 35 mm film pictures of the baby and the spouse… PTL

IN the New Inquiry, By TREVOR PAGLEN

Excerpt:

“I.

OUR eyes are fleshy things, and for most of human history our visual culture has also been made of fleshy things. The history of images is a history of pigments and dyes, oils, acrylics, silver nitrate and gelatin–materials that one could use to paint a cave, a church, or a canvas. One could use them to make a photograph, or to print pictures on the pages of a magazine. The advent of screen-based media in the latter half of the 20th century wasn’t so different: cathode ray tubes and liquid crystal displays emitted light at frequencies our eyes perceive as color, and densities we perceive as shape.

We’ve gotten pretty good at understanding the vagaries of human vision; the serpentine ways in which images infiltrate and influence culture, their tenuous relationships to everyday life and truth, the means by which they’re harnessed to serve–and resist–power. The theoretical concepts we use to analyze classical visual culture are robust: representation, meaning, spectacle, semiosis, mimesis, and all the rest. For centuries these concepts have helped us to navigate the workings of classical visual culture.

But over the last decade or so, something dramatic has happened. Visual culture has changed form. It has become detached from human eyes and has largely become invisible. Human visual culture has become a special case of vision, an exception to the rule. The overwhelming majority of images are now made by machines for other machines, with humans rarely in the loop. The advent of machine-to-machine seeing has been barely noticed at large, and poorly understood by those of us who’ve begun to notice the tectonic shift invisibly taking place before our very eyes.

The landscape of invisible images and machine vision is becoming evermore active. Its continued expansion is starting to have profound effects on human life, eclipsing even the rise of mass culture in the mid 20th century. Images have begun to intervene in everyday life, their functions changing from representation and mediation, to activations, operations, and enforcement. Invisible images are actively watching us, poking and prodding, guiding our movements, inflicting pain and inducing pleasure. But all of this is hard to see.

Cultural theorists have long suspected there was something different about digital images than the visual media of yesteryear, but have had trouble putting their finger on it. In the 1990s, for example, there was much to do about the fact that digital images lack an “original.” More recently, the proliferation of images on social media and its implications for inter-subjectivity has been a topic of much discussion among cultural theorists and critics. But these concerns still fail to articulate exactly what’s at stake.

One problem is that these concerns still assume that humans are looking at images, and that the relationship between human viewers and images is the most important moment to analyze–but it’s exactly this assumption of a human subject that I want to question.

What’s truly revolutionary about the advent of digital images is the fact that they are fundamentally machine-readable: they can only be seen by humans in special circumstances and for short periods of time. A photograph shot on a phone creates a machine-readable file that does not reflect light in such a way as to be perceptible to a human eye. A secondary application, like a software-based photo viewer paired with a liquid crystal display and backlight may create something that a human can look at, but the image only appears to human eyes temporarily before reverting back to its immaterial machine form when the phone is put away or the display is turned off. However, the image doesn’t need to be turned into human-readable form in order for a machine to do something with it. This is fundamentally different than a roll of undeveloped film. Although film, too, must be coaxed by a chemical process into a form visible by human eyes, the undeveloped film negative isn’t readable by a human or machine.

The fact that digital images are fundamentally machine-readable regardless of a human subject has enormous implications. It allows for the automation of vision on an enormous scale and, along with it, the exercise of power on dramatically larger and smaller scales than have ever been possible.

No Building a Cult of Personality for Castro

Is building no cult of personality for Castro more insinuating by his absence?

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There is no cult of personality in Cuba, said Fidel Castro. No monuments or streets were to be named after him. “The men and women who lead this country are people, not gods,” he said in his biography.

And yet as Santiago’s fervent Fidelistas gathered on Saturday for a final farewell, the constant refrain was immortality, invincibility, eternity.

King Bibi: Netanyahu statue attacked..

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A gilded statue of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, erected in a Tel Aviv square and dubbed “King Bibi” by its guerrilla-artist creator, has caused bemusement from passersby and condemnation from the country’s culture minister.

Sculptor Itay Zaliet told reporters on Tuesday he placed the 13ft effigy on a white pedestal in Rabin Square, adjacent to the city hall, to test the limits of freedom of expression in Israel.

The Israeli government and artists have been locked in a so-called “culture war” over steps by the culture minister, Miri Regev, to withhold state funds from institutions that do not express loyalty to the state.

In a Facebook post after the sculpture was erected, Regev called it an “expression of hatred towards Netanyahu” that represented an elite class “whose only golden calf is the hatred of Netanyahu”.

Tel Aviv municipal officials ordered Zaliet to remove the statue and said they would take it away and fine him if he refused.

Morning commuters quickly gathered to take photographs and debate whether the statue should be seen as mockery of Netanyahu or homage to the rightwing prime minister, now in his fourth term and known by his childhood nickname “Bibi”…. SEE LINK

One woman bowed down in jest in front of the statue, which Zaliet said took him three months to sculpt.

Concrete Clickbait

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“How have these places transformed from monuments to atrocity and resistance into concrete clickbait?

How have these places managed to transform from monuments to atrocity and resistance into concrete clickbait? The story told by Spomenik is that these strange structures must have just been dropped onto these rural areas, most likely by the Big Man, the dictator, Tito himself. According to Gal Kirn, who has written several articles on “partisan art” and whose book Partisan Ruptures was recently published in Slovenia, the opposite is true. “For these, let’s call them modernist monuments, you would be surprised to see that the financing many times came as a combination of republican (Yugoslavia was heavily decentralised into its six constituent Republics) and regional funds, and also self-managed funding, meaning also that enterprises and factories contributed — while much less was given from the federal-state level.” There were competitions and “some public calls which had juries — but the existence of these progressive sculptural objects tells us that more conventional representations-resolutions were not favoured.” That is, in many cases these “UFOs” were commissioned, funded and chosen locally. “