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We have to evoke a situation, a truth. This is the poetry of life’s reality.

“We often photograph events that are called ‘news’,” Cartier-Bresson told Byron Dobell of “Popular Photography” magazine in 1957, “but some tell the news step by step in detail as if making an accountant’s statement. Such news and magazine photographers, unfortunately, approach an event in a most pedestrian way. It’s like reading the details of the Battle of Waterloo by some historian: so many guns were there, so many men were wounded – you read the account as if it were an itemization. But on the other hand, if you read Stendhal’s Charterhouse of Parma, you’re inside the battle and you live the small, significant details… Life isn’t made of stories that you cut into slices like an apple pie. There’s no standard way of approaching a story. We have to evoke a situation, a truth. This is the poetry of life’s reality.”

History of Magnum | Magnum In Motion

Despising agency

This means that we decline to answer the general question of whether entities like trees have ‘agency’ and are capable of normative or political action ‘in and of themselves’. Instead, we consider material participation as a specific mode of engagement, which can be distinguished by the fact that it deliberately deploys its surroundings, however widely these must be defined, and entails a particular division of roles among the entities involved – things, people, issues, settings, technologies, institutions and so on. Rather than concentrating on a secular version of the metaphysical question about causality – do non-humans have agency? – we then consider material participation as a specific phenomenon, in the enactment of which a range of entities all have roles to play.” Noortje Marres in Material Participation: Technology, the Environment and Everyday Publics.

…But this enactment is the materialization/actualization of a certain configuration of potentials, of agencies. If we despise that fact, if we decide not to go into that, we are turning a constant process of reconfiguration into a frozen final state. Reifying what is essentially processual.

#HacerPlaza — #GatherThePavement

The image shows 12 children playing in Prospect Place, Brooklyn. With chalk they have multiplied the pavement, they have turned it into a multidimensional field of relations and possibilities. The pavement, through its coarse but receptive horizontality, becomes fundamental actor in their game. Also temporal organizer, for we can imagine the rhythm of the game set by the use of the street by moving cars. Meanwhile, the parked ones create temporal boundaries, limits that become also in-between spaces for regaining one’s breath, for one-to-one exchanges. A boundary that becomes post of observation of the world unfolding within… Non-human bodies, cars, pavement, also the buildings, though not visible on the picture, we know the architecture of those Brooklyn streets. Not too tall houses and large windows that connect inside and outside in a constant dialogue that breaks any regulatory division between the private and the public. And of course, the children’s bodies, in this precise instant they are set in almost a perfect circle, but each of their positions implies an arrow of movement they are about to trace: flying with the arms opened, bent down, hands in the pavement, ready to start running, turning over oneself as a spinning top while following the movements around… And what about the nomos, the habits, the uses, the norms ruling this setting? They are inscribed into their movement as well. Into the rhythms of their game , both given by the negotiated nature of their pavement-board, but also by the time of day. Their activity is part of a background temporality, an everyday continuity. And we have Schmitt’s exception as well, for they have created a sphere of sovereignty in game. They are masters of this bounded space. They control its possible movements and rules through the constant renegotiation of their action. And so on… Just as Georges Perec did with his Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, we need to exhaust these situations. Perform their anatomic study through a kind of spatial forensics in which bodies’ agency, common disposition and constant materialization unfold.

Extract from the paper presented at the
Law&Boundaries Conference at SciencesPo.

Vilhelm Hammershøi: Inner Court


The Political Struggle on the Wall (Brassai)


“Here, chance has worked to magically reveal the symbol of Free France, the double-barred cross of Lorraine, at precisely the moment of the country’s liberation at the end of World War II. Adopted as a countersymbol to the Nazi swastika, the cross had been painted out, presumably during the German occupation of France. The symbolic meaning was perfectly evident to Brassaï, who captioned the photograph, “The political struggle on the wall. General de Gaulle’s Cross of Lorraine, covered over with black paint, begins to reemerge.” — The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Becoming animal…


Graffiti de la Série V, Animaux: Chimère — Brassaï 1933–1956

Die Zwitschre Maschine (Twittering Machine) - Paul Klee 1922

Die Zwitschre Maschine (Twittering Machine) – Paul Klee 1922


Graffiti de la Série V, Animaux — Brassaï 1933–1956

[Thanks to Covadonga Blasco for
the discovery of Klee's Twittering Machine]

Brassai: wall, body, action… space

Brassai Graffiti

L’espace commun est la trace de l’un dans l’autre

Les tentatives de Deligny, celles des Cévennes après celle d’Armentières, de la Grande Cordée, de La Borde, montrent que l’être-ensemble n’est pas le résultat d’une négociation, un objectif à poursuivre, par rapport auquel on va toujours trouver l’autre en défaut, et dans les derniers choix de Deligny dans un défaut radical, mais un être-là qu’on organise, qu’on constitue comme hypothèse de tous les petits outillages qu’on se donne pour le mettre en œuvre. Dans cet être-là, être-ensemble, il n’y a aucune réciprocité exigible a priori de l’autre seulement, aucune condition. L’être-là humain est une inconditionnalité, sans appartenance, mais capable d’alliance au sein du réseau. L’espace est fait de tourbillons pour l’un et de technologies de vision pour l’autre, et l’espace commun est la trace de l’un dans l’autre, la condition de l’accueil de l’un par l’autre, de la vie en commun, de la constitution du réseau. Leur société n’est pas transparente, ni à eux, ni aux autres ; les visions, les pratiques communes sont partielles, au sein du nous dans lequel évolue le réseau.

via Fernand Deligny, imager le commun
Anne Querrien dans multitudes

Maidan and Beyond, Part I: On February 20, 2014, I was standing on the fourteenth floor of the Ukraine Hotel overlooking Maidan square, watching the sniper massacre that was unfolding down in Instytutska Street…

On February 20, 2014, I was standing on the fourteenth floor of the Ukraine Hotel overlooking Maidan square, watching the sniper massacre that was unfolding down in Instytutska Street. The preceding days and weeks had seen a tremendous escalation in violence both by the government and protesters. After the Ukrainian parliament passed a number of laws that severely restricted civic freedoms—rendering the Maidan movement largely illegal and threatening its participants with long-term prison sentences—the protest entered a decidedly violent stage. An attempted blockade of the government quarter, which was supposed to force the authorities to repeal the new draconian laws, resulted in a monthlong street war with the police, centered on a piece of land adjacent to the National Museum of Ukraine. The Maidan movement had acquired a “radical” iteration in addition to its “moderate” one, which found its physical form in the tent camp and protester-occupied buildings.

Autonomous and self-sufficient, most of the different protest mini-camps in Maidan square and the surrounding area became grassroots laboratories for ideas and practices of all stripes. In the Ukrainian House, a neomodernist palace that had previously housed the Museum of Lenin, a leftist student assembly tried to implement consensus decision-making and horizontal democracy among the frustrated, increasingly violent crowd. At the same time, the occupied city hall of Kyiv, several hundred meters away, became a breeding ground for the most bizarre kinds of far right ideologies. Between the two, in the encampment of tents that hardly protected their dwellers from the freezing temperatures outside, a hodgepodge of various resistance and partisan groups was boiling over.

After the first protesters died in clashes with Berkut forces outside the National Museum, a peaceful resolution seemed highly unlikely. The National Museum itself was taken hostage by the street war: the building, strategically crucial for access to the government quarter, was blocked by riot police. Berkut fighters made themselves at home under the museum’s neoclassical porticus, taking a rest between its columns or observing the raging crowd from its stairs. The National Museum was living through a state of emergency, with the artworks hastily removed from the walls in preparation for the worst-case scenario. This worst-case scenario did finally arrive elsewhere, in the form of a sniper assault that killed up to a hundred desperate protesters as they tried to make their way to the government quarter through neighboring Instytutska Street. Ultimately, however, the regime was unable to pit the army against the people—it collapsed the next day.

The protesters refused to remove their encampment and their barricades after the regime fell, claiming that its collapse was merely the start, and not the end, of a genuine revolution. The government buildings remained occupied, and some militias, claiming they needed more space for their activities, even took over numerous boutiques next to Maidan, which had  previously been left untouched. Even the McDonalds at Maidan was shut down and turned into a clinic for protesters suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Only the luxurious shopping mall underneath Maidan remained completely intact during the uprising.

Days after the regime’s collapse, masked gunmen from right-wing militias began arriving at the National Museum, still shut down and deserted. The gunmen brought artworks discovered at the private suburban residence of the toppled president, who was notorious for kleptocracy and bad taste. The artifacts were to be stored in the museum halls, still empty after a monthlong siege. Meanwhile, some of the protest tools invented by the Maidan demonstrators (like the famous catapult used in clashes with riot police) were claimed by museum workers as artworks and acquired for the collection. If classical revolutions turned royal palaces into museums, the Maidan uprising started to become a museum object before it was even over. Its second phase—the counterrevolution—was yet to come.

via Maidan and Beyond, Part I | e-flux.

The Space between Languages – Herta Müller

It is from the space between languages that images emerge. Each sentence is a way of looking at things, crafted by its speakers in a very particular way. Each language sees the world differently, inventing its entire vocabulary from its own perspective and weaving it into the web of its grammar in its own way. Each language has different eyes sitting inside its words.

(…) That is why I am mistrustful of language. I know from my own experience that to be accurate, language must always usurp something that doesnt belong to it. I keep asking myself what makes verbal images such thieves, why the most apt comparison appropriates qualities that dont belong to it. To get closer to reality we need to catch the imagination unawares. Only when one perception plunders another, when an object snatches material that belongs to another and starts to exploit it—only when things that in reality are mutually exclusive become plausible in a sentence can the sentence hold its own against reality.

via The Space between Languages – Herta Müller at Asymptote.

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