jcrandall on Mon, 27 Mar 2006 11:12:54 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Under Fire

Under Fire is an ongoing art and research project that explores
contemporary militarization and political violence.   It delves into the
structural, symbolic, and affective dimensions of contemporary armed
conflicts:  the organization, representation, and materialization of war.

At the first level, Under Fire foregrounds the structural conditions of
violence.  It addresses issues of economic production, territory, and
operations of power.  It looks to the history of the western
military-industrial complex and its expanding network of extraterritorial
enclaves and infrastructures.  It looks at the rise of the privatized
military industry and the global commercialization of arms, espionage,
security, and military force.  It looks at the production of militant or
militarized space and its geometries of conflict.  Understanding acts of
violence not as isolated phenomena but as symptoms or effects, it situates
cycles of conflict within the modalities of a global system.  In this way
it probes the nature of contemporary power and its resistance.  Yet it
also understands the intersection of space, system, and power in terms of
realist ontologies -- incorporating recent theories of emergent
organization and ontogenetic form drawn from the physical sciences,
philosophy, and science studies.

At the second level, Under Fire looks at the representation of violence
and the role that images play as complex registers of symbolic meaning. 
It seeks to decode media using the tools of semiotic analysis, focusing on
the social and cultural construction of knowledge.  In this way it
furthers the development of a critical spectatorship.  Yet at the same
time, it explores non-linguistic networks of interpretation, where
representation is understood less in terms of a discrete visual artifact
and more in terms of a dynamic, processual assembly:  an increasingly
malleable, reproducible, and reframeable event, generated by a
multiplicity of human and technological actors, which operates at the
symbolic, imaginative, and affective levels.  Such a media ecology
involves not only perception but sensation.  It necessarily incorporates
material, affective realities that resist symbolization, but which
nonetheless play a powerful role in shaping consciousness and the belief
systems that motivate action.

Following from this, at the third level, Under Fire does not simply focus
on meaning but on the affective and motivational realms of human
experience.  These include the embodied qualities, sensations, magnitudes,
and textures that form the substrata of communication, argument, and
judgment.  In other words, on par with the content of a particular
message, equal attention is given to the quality of embodied resonance it
engenders.  Under Fire explores the ways that affects are harnessed and
molded -- through drill, routine, and symbolic ritual -- in the training
technologies of war, marketing, and religion, and therefore the role they
play in the determination of collective identifications, aggressions, and
"militarized subjectivities."  It therefore explores the politics of
affect -- whether in terms of the politics of fear, desire, or otherwise
-- and positions the affective realm as a biopolitical frontier.  It seeks
to understand how power operates at the level of the affective, and, in
turn, how the affective becomes political.

This leads to important questions regarding the way that politics is
constituted in this space between affect and discourse -- or in other
words, between ineffable states of embodied expression and larger
rhetorical strategies.  This session of Under Fire asks:  When is
expression or action rendered intelligible as a political force, instead
of just turning around itself?  What are the operations of power that
determine its legitimacy?  When does violence become political?  How are
new political spaces opened or invented?  And in turn, how is subjectivity
constituted therein -- in terms of self-affectivity or discursive
construction?  Embodied enaction, "individuality," or insertions into the
field of the social?

Addressing these and other related questions, Under Fire explores the
possibilities of a performative politics that can incorporate a
multiplicity of somatic and symbolic registers:  a performative politics
not simply based on ideology alone but filtered through the lens of
cultural fictions, rituals, imaginaries, intensities, and arts of the
self.  A performative politics that has the potential of inventing a new
form of public speech and existence.

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