APPEARANCES ARE AGAINST US

Window Installation Gimpel Fils 1987

Art in Ruins. Oversite Talbot Rice Art Centre Edinburgh 1988

 
 

APPEARANCES ARE AGAINST US

 

ALWAYS A BLOW IN ADVANCE.

We are constantly at war with representation (on behalf of … the Real?). Sometimes we are fascinated with our half-life as living dead zombies; sometimes using brute force we attempt to destroy the reality representation has made of / for us; and sometimes we commit theoretical suicide – we turn ourselves into representation (designer versions of ourselves) to take our living death, at least into our own hands, and deny the dead (power) the vampire-value of both resistance and fascination that it so desperately needs. One way or another we are the ruin of representation but constantly allow representation to be the ruin of us.
»If a crisis exists today, it is first and foremost a crisis of references (ethical, aesthetic), an incapacity to take stock of events in an environment where appearances are against us. «1

POSTMODERNISM IN RUINS

»Symptoms of fragmentation are everywhere. Many reasons are put forward for this fragmentation and resultant ‘crisis of legitimation’ but it can certainly be said that today we live amongst the ruins of the Modern present.
‘This Modem era was dependant on the notion of progress in knowledge, in the arts and technology, and in human freedom, all of which was thought of as leading to a society emancipated of poverty, despotism and ignorance. But all of us can see that development continues to take place without leading to these dreams of emancipation.’ (Lyotard)« 2
A few years ago it was fashionable to ask the question »Has Modernism Failed?« Today it might be appropriate to ask »Has Postmodernism Succeeded?« How is activism possible in a culture where it appears that all signs are reversible, and where critique has also become part of the culture industries?
»In every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it (…). Only the historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he (sic) wins.« 3
»The politics of interpretation demand a dialectical response from a critical consciousness worthy of its name. Instead of non-interference and specialisation, there must be interference, crossing of borders (…).« 4
»We have written that ‘Critical art today can only be made by those with no loyalty whatsoever to the Tradition of art, nor to its Professionalisation, nor to its efficient Administration (or Marketing)’.« 5
»It is precisely a principle of contamination, a law of impurity, a parasitical economy. In the code of set theories, if I may use it at least figuratively, I would speak of a sort of participation without belonging – a taking part in without being part of, without having membership in a set.« (Emphasis by the authors). 6
To quote from Harold Rosenberg’s 1967 essay Spectators and Recruiters: »Criticism is related to scholarship, but it is also joined to action. Scholarship is valuable for its own sake, criticism for what it effects. The blandest book review ends in inducing someone to read the book or ignore it. Criticism, as Baudelaire suggested, is by its very nature polemical – as a phase of action it looks to the future as well as to the past.« (Emphasis by the authors).
We have always considered our activities as Art in Ruins as a kind of cultural activism – from insisting upon collaboration as the basis of all cultural production; to aggressively pursuing negative strategies; to the question »if art is dead, what is the re-use value of art?« and to conceiving of allegory as activism.


References:
1 Paul Virilio, The Overexposed City in: Zone 1/2, UrZone Inc., New York.
2 Art in Ruins, The Site of Ruined Intentions unpublished review of Les Immateriaux and the Nouvelle Biennale de Paris 1985.
See also Glorious Failure in: Building Design. no. 742, June 7, 1985; The Site of Ruined Intentions: Les Immateriaux in: Studio International, vol. 198. no. 1009, July 1985; and Zone of Anxiety; A Question of Post-Modernity in: Studio International, vol. 98, no. 1010, Oct/ Nov. 1985.
3 Gary Smith (ed.). On Walter Benjamin MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass..1991. Dt.: Walter Benjamin: Über den Begriff der Geschichte in: ders., Gesammelte Schriften, Bd. 1.2. Suhrkamp. Frankfurt/M 1991.
4 Edward W. Said, Opponents, Audiences, Constituencies and Community in: Hal Foster (ed.). The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Post-Modern Culture Bay Press, Seattle 1983.
5 Art in Ruins, Art in Ruins interview Art in Ruins in: Paolo Bianchi (ed.) Künstlerpaare vol. l, Kunstforum International, no. 106: March/April 1990.
6 Jacques Derrida The Law of the Genre Glyph. no. 7. 1981), quoted by Gregory L Ulmer in: The Anti-Aesthetic ibid.

 

Art in Ruins. 'ROAD TO RUIN' City Museum and Art Gallery  Stoke on Trent 1986 Installation View

Art in Ruins. 'LIES IN RUINS' Institute of Contemporary Arts  London 1986 Installation View

 
 

Art in Ruins. 'OVERSITE' Talbot Rice Art Centre  Edinburgh 1988

Art in Ruins. Grand Opera 1988

 
 

ALLEGORY AS ACTIVISM: The Ruin as a Site of Resistance.

»In former times the organisation of productivist industrial society was considered by many to be rational, scientific, and utilitarian. Increasingly, International Modernisation, with its suppression of
cultural and political ‘difference’ came under attack by new social movements based on gender, race, class and ecology.« 7
»As the hero of George Romero’s (low budget) horror film Zombies – Dawn of the Dead warns us: ‘When there is no room left in Hell, the dead will rise up and walk the earth ‘. A grim reminder, when authority ceases to be representative, to beware the dispossessed lest they rise up in revolt against everything held sacred to the prevailing order and inherit the ruins of a shattered ideology.« 8
»At the same time however, late-capitalism has undergone a fundamental change and entered its ‘aesthetic phase’; signs are detached from a referent in the ‘real ‘ world and enter the free market of the consumable and disposable, and Postmodernism becomes its cultural expression – where the repressed of Modernism return as designer ruins« 9
»’Every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably’ (Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History).
Benjamin’s theory of allegory, which proceeds from the perception that ‘any person, any object, any relationship can mean absolutely anything else’, defies summary. Within his œuvre, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, composed in 1924/25 and published in 1928, stands as a seminal work; in it are assembled the themes that will preoccupy him throughout his career: progress as the eternal return of the catastrophe; criticism as redemptive intervention into the past; the theoretical value of the concrete, the disparate, the discontinuous; his treatment of phenomena as script to be deciphered (…). ‘His writing forces us to think in correspondences, to proceed through allegorical images rather than through expository prose’ (…). For Benjamin, interpretation is disinterment (…). Allegory is an attitude as well as a procedure (…) Allegory occurs whenever one text is doubled by another.
In allegorical structure, then, one text is read through another, however fragmentary, intermittent, or chaotic their relationship may be (…).
Conceived in this way, allegory becomes the model of all commentary, all critique (…).
Allegorical imagery is appropriated imagery; the allegorist does not invent images but confiscates them. He (sic) lays claim to the culturally significant, poses as its interpreter. And in his hands the image becomes something other (…) He does not restore an original meaning that may have been lost or obscured (…). Rather he adds another meaning to the image (…). Allegory is consistently attracted to the fragmentary, the imperfect, the incomplete – an affinity which finds its most comprehensive expression in the ruin, which Benjamin identified as the allegorical emblem par excellence:
‘Allegories are in the realm of thought and knowledge what ruins are in the realm of things: no longer alive, yet possessed of a continuing power by virtue of their very fixity, a salutary or cautionary symbol.’
With the allegorical cult of the ruin, a second link between allegory and contemporary art emerges: in site-specificity, the work which appears to have merged physically into its setting, to be embedded in
the place where we encounter it (…).
We should therefore also be prepared to encounter an allegorical motive in photomontage, for it is the ‘common practice’ of allegory ‘to pile up fragments ceaselessly’ (…).
This confusion of the verbal and the visual is however but one aspect of allegory’s hopeless confusion of all aesthetic mediums and stylistic categories (hopeless, that is, according to any partitioning of
the aesthetic field on essentialist grounds
).
The allegorical work is synthetic; it crosses aesthetic boundaries. This confusion of genres, anticipated by Duchamp, reappears today in hybridization, in eclectic works which ostentatiously combine previously distinct art mediums.
Appropriation, site-specificity, impermanence, accumulation, discursivity, hybridization – these diverse strategies characterize much of the art of the present.« 10
»In our wonderful culture where the illusion of a designer world free of repression and exploitation ‘masks’ the anxiety of resistant bodies, we wander from fragment to fragment moving from object to objection through the cities of the dead of our great museum of ruined intentions. We live a life of ruins in the new realism of our postmodern social condition.
With the grand opera of the upheaval of the market economy we begin to recognize monuments as ruins even before they have crumbled. ‘For what appears at first to be a work of bizarre fancy turns out in fact to be a work of sombre and only slightly allegorical realism’.« 11

 
 
 

Art in Ruins. Vampire Value 3
Art in Ruins. Vampire Value 2

 

Art in Ruins. 'Vampire Value' 1988

 

DOMESTIC ARRANGEMENT: Pornography begins at Home.

» The (Constructivist) red of the (Russian) Revolution (the blood of the martyrs) used to signify (the) Liberation (of the Working Class); now today (at La Villette) it signifies (their final) (Deconstruction)
disappearance (into Abstraction … the Mass) (?).
The postmodern world continues the Modem Tango (the dynamic and exploitative exchange) between Truth and Beauty, between Production and Consumption (Rationalism and Romanticism) and between Representation and Simulation – as (the conquered Space of) the Twilight World of Dead Power seeks revenge against Time (the decay of the body) in the name of freedom (emancipation) (from responsibility). « 12
»Both the nostalgic pursuit of the permanent value referents as regulators and the nihilistic refusals of value discourse altogether, may be perhaps characterisable as mimetic replications, incarnations and effects of the vampirical postmodern displacement of creatively orientated value-life. « 13
»In these postmodern days of ‘hyper-real simulation’ the only resistance to the image seems to lie in making arrangements – of ruins (of signs of dead power and mastery) which give to the ‘object’ an anxiety and to the ‘subject’ (victim) a dignity which can be ‘experienced’ but not fully ‘represented’. « 14
»Avant-garde art and architecture as well as uplifting monuments and prestige technology are implicated in a general entropy of significant value. The so-called ‘Domestic Arrangements’ (of Art in Ruins) make triads out of Modernism, monuments, and kitsch, showing each feeding off the others in a circuit they call ‘vampire value’.
A typical piece arrays three items in a slick Minimalist installation, but the array also resembles a window dressing, a museum display, or a domestic wall arrangement. This elision of categories is repeated in the items comprising each triad: a cheap ornament, a popular symbol which doubles as a ‘pure form’ and a painting in black on black of an architectural monument. Each of these fails in some way that, taken together, suggests an all-round collapse of confidence in value distinctions. The effect is more tendentious and allegorical than in Warhol, but that is possibly because Art in Ruins seem more interested in history than fame, and more interested in the end of public meaning in ‘tourism’ than in the end of the individual subject in ‘stardom’: ‘In the city of the future ‘, they might say, ‘everything will be historical for 15 minutes’. 15
» There is no document of civilisation that is not at the same time a document of barbarism. « 16

 
 

Art in Ruins. 'Domestic Arrangement' 1986

Art in Ruins. Colour Bar 1989

 
 

Art in Ruins. 'Equivalent' 1989

Art in Ruins. 'On Line' 1989

 
 

SANS FRONTIERES: Simulation and Contamination.

»As we wander from fragment to fragment through the Cities of the Dead of our museum culture, a designer world of ruined intentions, we recognize that we ‘are living through the disintegration of a whole social system which threatens to survive its own death by entombing us for decades in its own lifeless structures. The weight of reality is dragging us towards a living-dead capitalism where the means of social production and social control can no longer be distinguished, where a normalising technocracy continues to glorify an already extinct order in the name of values which have long lost all meaning’.« 17
»In our era of postmodernisation, post-industrialisation is validated by the critical interaction of the concepts of the Global and the Local (that is, the Ultramodern – the world of telecommunications, which like most advances made in communications is the result of military research and development; and the Ruin – ‘second-order’ culture, rooted but more or less contaminated by modernisation). An era where, as Paul Virilio says (in The Overexposed City), ‘the metropolis is no longer anything but a ghostly Landscape, the fossil of past societies for which technology was still closely associated with the visible transformation of substance, a visibility from which science has gradually turned us away’« 18
»In our wonderful culture everyday Life has become nothing more than a form of window shopping and as we wander (as Baudelaire’s flâneur) as detached and aristocratic ‘free individuals’ from object to object (fragment to fragment) through the Cities of the Dead of our great museum of ruined intentions searching for signs of Life, we are at the same time afraid that our sentimental attachments may turn into Fatal Attractions (‘Liaisons Dangereuses’).
When attitudes become sales we live a life of ruins in the new realism of our postmodern social condition where we buy time as tourists in our cultural supermarket, awaiting the ‘catastrophe’ which will liberate us from the twilight zone of corporate bodies and designer subjectivities.« 19

Sans Frontières. Unlimited Edition Global Issue Rucksack. 1991

»On the eve of April 26, I986, the directors of the Chernobyl atomic power plant commenced a long-waited experiment: Reactor block 4 should apparently, by means of an abrupt drop in the power draw, be made able to run itself – a gigantic perpetual motion machine.
Going against all safety regulations, they shut down all the automatic emergency safety systems. Suddenly, at about midnight, the power draw drops dramatically. The operators notice nothing. The reactor poisons itself and goes out of control. At 1:22, all dials indicate that the experiment should be immediately stopped. But they continue.
Shortly after, the core begins to melt. Pressurized steam blows the reactor building apart, a pillar of fire spits nuclear death kilometres high into the atmosphere. 50 tons of burning core substances – 10 times the amount sent out at Hiroshima.
‘1986 was an awful year for nuclear power, especially here in Cumbria’, he says, ‘Sellafield was never out of the headlines, what with all the leaks and accidents. Then came the terrible disaster in Russia. Banning the sale of sheep was a straight forward political decision aimed at restoring the industry’s credibility.
Our sheep had to be marked with blue paint in order to sell them. This indicated that they were in a restricted area and couldn’t be slaughtered for human consumption until the area had been cleared by the Ministry.’
Chernobyl fallout continues to defy official predictions. After more than two years it is still presenting contamination problems for upland sheep farmers. Worse, it is behaving in ways not foreseen in the radiation protection models used to assess and calculate fallout food chain hazards.
Soviet artists are planning a museum to recreate the atmosphere of the abandoned villages around the Chernobyl nuclear power station after the accident there last year. The artists have entered the thirty mile ‘exclusion zone’ around the plant to take household articles from homes empty since the disaster. ‘It will be a unique museum’, Tass quoted the artist and restorer, Mr. Georgy Bessonov, as saying (…).« 20

 
 

Art in Ruins. 'Sellafield - Plage Blanc' 1989

Art in Ruins. 'Contaminated Colour Field' 1988

 

»The exploitation of ‘history’ as a consumer growth area has become one of the most significant features of our ‘post-industrial society’, where the illusion is created that all cultural difference can be contained by the ‘museumisation’ of ‘everyday life’ (as opposed to its ‘professionalisation’ under modernism) – accounting for the museum boom; and at the same time that the whole of ‘history’ can be reduced to ‘signs’ and enter the marketplace of interchangeability and ‘free choice’. Social and cultural ‘difference’ then is either fixed as spectacle on the one hand, or released as style on the other; both to be consumed by ‘tourism’. Today the ‘new realism’ of our postmodern social condition with the contemporary restructuring of capital and class is based on the unification of the contradictory forces of modernisation and traditionalism.« 21
»Tourism (with the great art and museum boom of the 80’s) seeks to abolish labour through signs of emancipation (every high street becomes an exotic land, and life a continuous holiday, where even at work surfing-gear sustains the illusion that ‘life’s a beach’).
Postmodernism as style, rather than critical practice, appropriates differences as signs (of exoticism) to create the illusion that power (and labour) have disappeared, and that ‘we do not have to feel guilty any more’. Shopping becomes a time-travelling activity, with the ‘Next’ catalogue a journey through history as clothes are bought for their sign value. High-Tech architecture and information technology ‘save time’ (hide labour), and even a nuclear power station can become part of the leisure industries – as a museum.« 22
»According to Umberto Eco in ‘Travels in Hyperreality’ the origin of the museum can be traced back to the motivation of religious men, wishing to gather together as much ‘cultural treasure ‘ as possible; to store and thus save it from approaching ‘inevitable’ apocalypse. This fear of certain doom has occurred periodically throughout Europe and if there is anything apocalyptic concerning the present it is both the almost total domination and exploitation of ‘nature ‘ – to the point where nuclear power threatens everything; and the almost complete penetration and colonization of the ‘individual’ by consumerism – where experience, history, memory and imagination are all abstracted from ‘resistant bodies’ and specific contexts, and re-presented as spectacle.« 23
»With these installations the spectator is turned into a voyeur of the pornography of their own disappearance as ‘subjects’ into (objects of) the promotional and technological industries along with the corresponding disappearance of art and architecture into administration, advertising and fashion (into simulation: a general economy of signs exchanged with no referent but to each other). The ‘real’ and the ‘self’ (the object and the subject) have also disappeared. Having always been unknowable in themselves – rather they are fictions of language – they have now, in postmodern consumer society, become functions of a technological imperative (systems of exploitation, administration and control: the unlimited growth of ‘the mastery and power over Nature’ in the name of ’emancipation’) on the one hand; and a consumer ethic of designer subjectivity (the body invaded by those systems to produce the desiring and consuming subject) on the other. The actual body itself becomes a ruin stranded between the corporate identity of a technological imperative and a designer subjectivity.« 24
»The Sahara had aided France’s nuclear programme. France had aided Israel ‘s nuclear design, and Israel had in tum aided South Africa ‘s nuclear ambitions. Kwame Nkrumah ‘s earlier fear of a linkage between nuclear tests in the Sahara and racism in South Africa had found astonishing vindication nearly two decades later. It was in April 1960 that Nkrumah had addressed an international
meeting in Accra in the following terms:
‘Fellow Africans and friends: there are two threatening swords of Damocles over the continent, and we must remove them. These are the nuclear tests in the Sahara by the French Government and the apartheid policy of the Government of South Africa (…). It would be a great mistake to imagine that the achievement of political independence by certain areas in Africa will automatically mean the end of the struggle. It is merely the beginning of the struggle.’
The old nuclear fall-out in the Sahara in the 1960’s involved a linkage between racism and nuclear weapons that is only just beginning to reveal itself.« 25

 
 

Art in Ruins. 'Buying Time II' 1991

Buying Time, 1989

 

PROPAGANDA AS READYMADE | POLITICAL LANDSCAPE:
The Re-Use Value of Art.

»Now that it is clear that rationalism and productivism were always the alibis of fashion, consumerism and waste, the well-promoted lack of use-value in art becomes perfectly complicit with the disappearance of use-value in consumer society, and therefore becomes its best advertising. Postmodem art then, as propaganda for the pornographic aesthetics of waste.« 26
»Saatchi and Saatchi promotes the idea of global marketing, i. e. the use of a single strategy, brand name, and advertising campaign throughout the world. In its 1985 Annual Report, the company argues for its global approach with a quote from Lenin, ‘Everything is connected to everything else.’« 27
»When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.« 28
»Western civilisation is a culture founded on apartheid. With a view of nature as not only separate from ‘man’ but also in need of exploitation, a fundamental disrespect for the body because it decays over time and a mistrust of Language as a shared social phenomenon which necessarily entails distortion; it is a culture where narrative becomes ‘objective science’ rather than collective myth. Technoscience and Speed, Growth and Exploitation, are twin operating concepts of modem Western society. A society where quite simply nature is shameful and bodies are disposable.
»The founding act of apartheid was an act of violence which has produced a wound in Western society which can never be healed. The drive to abstraction as a sign of modernity is nothing more than an advertisement for the vampire -value of the model over the actual, where culture cannot be political because politics is of struggling forces in the present. Modernity abolishes politics through abstraction and apartheid.
»The wound that is apartheid is a black hole where Western concepts reach their limit of explanation and mastery and stare bleakly into an abyss. Recent history is littered with the ruins of failed utopias where it was dreamt that apartheid had been abolished and human beings could live both in a state of nature and a State of culture. But technoscience and capital have no morality, expansion being their only aim. Sentimentality and cynicism are today’s twin panic response to techno-economic apartheid; where once again, neither sentimentality nor cynicism are concerned with actual bodies.« 29
»If it is true that the ‘value of the art-critical system, which includes the whole network of curators, gallerists, critics and associated cultural functionaries, is to distinguish the Charlatan from the Professional’, then we would say that it is one of the duties of the artist (and artwork) to make that act of segregation as difficult as possible. To return to the question of making visible ‘hidden Labour’, we would restate the idea that ‘professionalisation is the first form of apartheid.’ As Antoni Negri has written: ‘Behind the racist society it is possible to perceive that of the dual society, one of the most recent and ferocious products of the capitalist modes of domination. The dual society constitutes the end point towards which the racist society tends; it is an extension of the racist model. In each of the countries of advanced capitalism (…) a South Africa is taking root (…). The idea of modem-day capitalism is Apartheid.’ The project of Art in Ruins would seek to resist and deconstruct apartheid in all its forms« 30
»South Africa (today) stinks of death, poverty and dirty dealing. The black majority does not feature; the harsh statistics of 10,000 dead in three and a half years since Mandela’s release, 50 per cent black unemployment, 7 million living in squatter camps, 10 million black schoolchildren with little chance of education, do not fit happily with the democratic miracle« 31
»Critically and anarchically colonizing the high ground of postmodernism, Art in Ruins strives to become one with the world of social affairs. This current group of installations was organized around the fight against apartheid in South Africa waged by the African National Congress (ANC).
»Thus, two types of icon – the post-modern, politically conscious work of art, and the popular fund-raising token – were contrasted and arrayed throughout the catalogue, in apparent disregard for their differences. The danger, of course, was that the whole project might collapse into a familiar post -modern pastiche. The official ANC tricolour – black, green and gold – that dominated throughout, however, rescued the catalogue which became a kind of rake’s progress of the political sign.
»In the gallery itself. the ANC colours were reduced to interior décor; yet the actual political struggle was not mocked. Art in Ruins suggests that all such icons are the unstable products of human practice in search of empowerment, if not justice. The fact that reification and fragmentation are endemic to the workings of culture under capitalism for revolutionary and aesthete alike, was constantly on view. Art in Ruins mischievously incorporates ‘artefacts’ of their prior history into these works, in the form of references to the architecture of earlier exhibition locations, barely visible within seemingly monochromatic panels. These and other self-inflicted reifications function like a bizarre form of homeopathy, produced in advance of, and hopefully outflanking, the symptom of the inevitable art-world event.
In their role as shadow ministers of post-modernism, (…) Art in Ruins’ relationship to current art practice is iconoclastic.« 32

 
 

Art in Ruins. 'Appearances are Against Us'. John Hansard Gallery Southampton 1999

Art in Ruins. 'My Homeland is not a Suitcase' 1997
Postcard Bizarr Verlag Munich

 

Art in Ruins. 'Untitled' 1991

 

»This is where we would say that we are interested in the (critical) re-use value of art, both as a foil to individuality, authenticity and originality, (offering no new blood to this vampiric culture except that which is already contaminated); and as a way of introducing the problem of a (localised) critical agenda into the life-world of the necrophiliac voyeur of the pornographic spectacle of the disappearance of art.« 33
»What counts in activist art is its propaganda effect; stealing the procedures of other artists is part of the plan – if it works, we use it.« 34
»Question: Perhaps it is difficult for people to accept that you have no positive programme of reform?
Answer: We use ‘negative strategies’. ‘Negativity’, like the decay of the body, has been displaced almost completely in modern society through (productivist) technology on the one hand (where the repressed returns as ‘catastrophe’ – giving rise to Paul Virilio’s call for a ‘Museum of Accidents’ to be attached to each museum of New Technology and Science), and through consumerism on the other (where domination returns under the guise of signs of emancipation, and where it becomes one’s duty to have fun).
This is the tyranny of positivity, a dominating power which forces us to be optimistic.« 35
»We adopt a critical and ‘ecological’ attitude of recycling for the purpose of contamination. We believe that just as we do not need new technological solutions for the effects of new technology, we do not need any more avant-garde art. It is now, and in fact has always been, a moral and political question of how existing materials, forms, strategies and technologies are used, by whom and/or what purpose – that is the essential issue. At the same time we realise that Western civilisation has been ‘recycling’ the minerals, labour power and resources, in the same way that it has the inventions, art, music and culture, of the so-called Third World for centuries. Our strategy is vampiric on the vampire, parasitical on the parasite.
We also recognise that contamination is at the same time both the source of creativity and the destructive result of an industrial society which believes in purification through techno-economic apartheid. Life in the ruins is living with contamination. Life in the suburbs, a fantasy of autonomy, is a short-lived holiday.
In offering nothing new we aim to disappoint in the name of discourse. We, too, are morbid symptoms.« 36

AFTER THE FACT.
The indexing of the »sufferings of the victims« is not a political nor cultural activism. It merely overwhelms us with »evidence« concerning our silence. »Victims« all look the »same« … it is only photographers that make the »difference«.
It is not the »effect« of the image but its »legitimation«. This is the »power of the image«.
»As long as it was historically threatened by the real, power risked deterrence and simulation (the liberation of all ‘signs’ from their embodiment in the real), disintegrating every contradiction by the production of equivalent signs. When it is threatened today by simulation (the threat of vanishing into the play of ‘signs’) power risks the real, risks crisis, it gambles on remanufacturing artificial, social, economic, political stakes. This is a question of life or death for it.« 37
Sincerity neither guarantees the effectiveness of the »action« (or representation) nor the reality of its source.
The »politics of indifference« cannot be defeated with (by asserting) »difference«.
»Faulty conceptions in the ‘surveillance of the desperate’ might be a resource to the very people observed and analyzed.« 38
Images do not represent us …


 

Art in Ruins. Three Untitled 1991

 

The cover feature and symposium text Appearances are Against Us was published in Camera Austria No. 47/48 1994 to accompany the Symposium on Photography XIV and Krieg: First Austrian Triennale on Photography at Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz