Is it possible, and if so how, to translate knowledge accumulated through a discursive analysis of genocide into the medium of performative art?
The publication Matheme is the result of a year-long construction of axioms through a discursive analysis of the results of working on Mathemes of Re-association. This construction and the discussion surrounding arose from an invitation to participate in the conference Psi 15 in Zagreb in June 2009 and present the work of Grupa Spomenik. We focused on the following questions: Is it possible, and if so how, to translate knowledge accumulated through a discursive analysis of genocide into the medium of performative art? How could the translation and transfer of knowledge on genocide be mediated in such a way that the relationship between representation and the politics of terror of inequality which led to genocide can be examined? Can performative and visual arts exist after genocide and, if so, in what context? In other words, the important condition of art after genocide is that the genocide should be the very topos of art, questioning art institutions and their involvement in the ideologies that perpetuate genocide in actuality.
Grupa Spomenik has conceptualised its previous visual art interventions in such a way as to question the exhibiting institutions themselves, by placing in the exhibition site a distributive object — a publication which communicated in public space a critique of topical scientific, artistic, administrative, cultural, and religious ideologies, all of which have perpetuated the politics of genocide by other means. In other words, Grupa Spomenik has introduced the topic of genocide in the exhibition space through a discursive critique.
Faced with the challenges of performative setting, in its performance at Psi conference, Grupa Spomenik once again used the concept of presence without representation. The conveyer of the axioms of politics of the critique of ideology was the acousmatic voice — as the only object and medium that can communicate the axioms of the critique of all ideologies that perpetuate genocide in actuality, without getting entangled in the paradoxes of presentation and representation which are regulated by those who carry out identifications and enumerations of mortal remains.
The idea of the acousmatic voice was constructed by Grupa Spomenik in dialogue with the form of the Pythagorean lecture. Grupa Spomenik strategically repeated the effects of the acousmatic voice in the Pythagorean lecture, in which the voice comes from behind a curtain. This way, the field of representation and all mechanisms that comprise such a field are reduced to a minimum.
The acousmatic voice, which is insistent but without a visible source for its production, introduces, in the visual field of representation, a distance in relation to the representational field of a performance, thereby creating a minimal space for a critique of the mechanisms of identification and enumeration of mortal remains as major factors in the normalization and perpetuation of genocide by other means.
In this case, performative art, freed from the machinery of representation, positions itself in a sound without source that comes from behind a curtain, transferring the axioms of genocide without any identification with the human world and with all existing common knowledge.
In order for art to exist after genocide, it is necessary to suspend all mechanisms of identification and enumeration regulating and managing the field of representation. In other words, through art and by artistic means, art itself should be made ethically responsible in such a way as to construct art as a site of political struggle over the question — what is genocide? The politics of art should be recognized on all occasions when art participates in and share mechanisms with the politics that perpetuates genocide in actuality.
Before the production of the script for Mathemes of Re-association, and prior to the Zagreb performance, the Grupa Spomenik had an extensive discussion about how to avoid structuring the relationship between voices without source and axioms conveyed by these voices by using narration. We concluded that narration would repeat mechanisms of representation by other means. Therefore, we organized acousmatic voices that transfer axioms around the enumeration of objects, which appear in the process of the re-association of mortal remains of those, executed in genocide. The enumeration of objects forms the axis, which in a non-narrative and non-representational manner performs a ‘matter of fact’ of the reproduction of ideology of genocide transforming it, as it does so, into a ‘matter of concern’. The interventions of the voices without source that transfer the axioms are organized as interventions that interrupt a continuous enumeration of objects and respond to topoi activated by the enumerated objects.
After performing the script in the form of the Pythagorean lecture, which contained the names of the people who lent their voices to transfer the axioms about the object ‘genocide in Srebrenica’, it was decided to depersonalize the script by removing any trace of the source of sound and the authorship of the axioms.
The publication Matheme, in its final version, is an attempt to excise any trace of representation from the text, to bring the acousmatic voice to the matheme, a pure record that erases that ultimate object of human world — the voice.
Grupa Spomenik (Damir Arsenijević, Ana Bezić, Branimir Stojanović, Milica Tomić); guest participants: Jelena Petrović, Branislav Jakovljević)
15 January, 2010