An introduction to the screening “War at a Distance” and “Serious Games” by Kristin Gissberg
What role do images have in the production, documentation, and understanding of war? How have we become accustomed to war images, and indeed images of war, and to what extent does this familiarity shape our perceptions, including the emotional landscape of warfare’s preparation, reporting, and debriefing?
What is the technology of war today, and from which trajectory has this emerged? In this time of increasingly sophisticated technological iterations, have we lost sight of the thread linking production and destruction? If so, to what extent has the prevalence of images sculpted our myopia, saturated our framing of otherness, influenced our understanding of what’s real and what’s virtual?
Harun Farocki’s investigative politics of images invites us to raise such questions, to sit with them, as it were, via cinematic presentation. Highlighting selections of two of his films – War at a Distance and Serious Games – The Night of Philosophy’s tribute to Farocki’s iconic examination of images of warfare aims to reopen precisely these questions.
Unfolding the link between warfare and images, we will follow Farocki from War at a Distance, beginning with The Gulf War – a war in which, for the first time, as the film claims, warfare and war reporting became one. Transitioning to clips from each of the four installments constituting Serious Games, our discussion will touch upon the ambiguity of image, the stripping away of affectivity in image creation, and the re-production of memory in image production.
Kristin is an independent scholar based in Berlin, specialized in Hegel, gender & feminist thought, and 20th Century Philosophy. After completing two years with Erasmus Mundus Europhilosophie, she went on to finish her doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Memphis. She is passionate about questions of time & temporality as well as art, film, music, & their curation.
The series of twelve bronze Zodiac Heads was created in 2010 as public sculptures. Ai Weiwei first exhibited them around the Pulitzer Fountain in New York’s Central Park and since then one of the series is touring around the world. The other one was generously lent by the artist to the National Gallery in Prague as the first of Ai’s works to be presented in the Czech Republic. A monumental site-specific installation for the Big Hall of the Trade Fair Palace will follow next year.
When working on the Zodiac Heads, the artist was, according to his own words, trying to produce a witty and natural installation, that would enliven the serious and grey reality of an American city with its playfulness and straightforwardness. At the same time, however, the work has deep historical context. The heads are exact copies of the statues that had once been placed around a fountain in the Old Summer Palace in Beijing. This place was designed by Jesuit missionaries commissioned by the Emperors of the last Qing dynasty (1644-1911) of the imperial China. The park and its architecture were, however, destroyed in 1860 in the looting that ensued after the Second Opium War. Many of the heads were smuggled away from China, ending up in a number of art collections around the world. Continue reading Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads by Ai Weiwei→
Adam Budak is the Chief Curator of the National Gallery in Prague. He acted as International Curator for Contemporary Art at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (2012-14). He worked with artists such as Louise Bourgeois, John Baldessari, Pedro Cabrita Reis, Cerith Wyn Evans and Monika Sosnowska, and has curated a large number of international exhibitions. Adam Budak has published extensively, and edited a number of publications, including two-volume anthology of texts “What Is Architecture?” (Krakow, 2002, 2007).
As an art historian and a curator, Tomáš Winter looks into modern art in the 20th century, with special focus on caricatures on the one hand, and on primitivism and non-European art on the other hand, as in his 2013 book investigating the relationship between Czech fine art and non-European cultures in the last century (Palmy na Vltavě. Primitivismus, mimoevropské kultury a české výtvarné umění 1850-1950). He investigates the relationship between art, politics and communication, and is leading a research on Folk art between visual culture and politics in Bohemia and Moravia (1840–1960). He is currently preparing an exhibition and book on sport and fine art. A researcher at the Institute of Art history of the Czech Academy of sciences, he lectures at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice.
A specialist of 20th century European philosophy, on which he edited a volume with T. Ullman (Kontinentális filozófia a XX. században, 2011), and the author of a book on Arendt’s political existentialism (Hannah Arendt politikai egzisztencializmusa, 2008), Csaba Olay investigates the relationships between freedom, mass culture and aesthetics (such as in his 2014 A művészettől a tömegkultúráig, with J. Weiss). He coedited in French and English with Jean-Claude Gens a collective volume on Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor (Interpretation, Modernity and Identity, 2014). He teaches contemporary philosophy at the Loránd Eötvös University in Budapest.
Petr Koťátko works at the Department of Analytic Philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences and teaches at the Department of Logics at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University. His research interests include theory of meaning, reference, speech acts, analytical metaphysics and theory of fictional discourse. His recent work combines philosophy of language and literary theory.
Working in the field of political philosophy, Carole Widmaier confronted Hannah Arendt and Leo Strauss’s approach to the modern crisis in Fin de la philosophie politique ? Hannah Arendt contre Leo Strauss, 2012. She has lately edited and translated Hannah Arendt’s essay on politics (Qu’est-ce que la politique ?, 2014). She also explores the relationship between biological and social fields (the legitimacy of analogies between them), and between time and institutions (the efficiency of the institution and the arising of freedom).
An art historian trained in Prague and Sienna, Italy, Lenka Bydžovská has published extensively on the Czech avant-garde and modernism in international contexts—whether on the dark side of modernity (with Vojtěch Lahoda and Karel Srp, Černá slunce. Odvrácená strana modernity, 2012) or on singular artists (Josef Šíma, in 2006 or Jindřich Štyrský in 2007. She has been the curator of many exhibitions on the Czech avant-garde, as well as on Alfons Mucha: Slovanstvo bratrské (Alfons Mucha: The Fraternal Slavic People, Prague, 2005). She published in 2011 with Karel Srp a book on the Slavonic Epopee (Alfons Mucha. Slovanská epopej). Lenka Bydžovská is the head of the Department of 19th to 21st Centuries Art at the Institute of Art of the Czech Academy of Sciences.
Czech philosopher Miroslav Petřiček is renowned for his work on aesthetics and especially on cinema (Myšlení obrazem, 2009). Banned for political reasons from the university, he worked from 1972 to 1990 at the Hydrometeorological Institute. Thus, he took part in Jan Patočka’s private seminars from 1971 to 1977. He has translated French modern philosophy extensively (Derrida, Barthes, Merleau-Ponty), and is also the translator in Czech of the works of Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard. He currently teaches at the Faculty of Arts of the Charles University in Prague.
Michaela Pejčochová is curator of the Chinese art collections in the National Gallery in Prague. During her studies at the Charles University in Prague, she was concerned mainly with the theory and philosophy of Chinese literature and art. The seeming “emptiness” of Chinese theoretical treatises is compensated in her work with the care of art collections, themselves of a very tangible nature, and curating of exhibitions from these artworks. In this realm, she concentrates mainly on ancient Chinese painting and Chinese art world of the inter-war period. This resulted in 2008 in the exhibition and publication Masters of 20th-Century Chinese Ink Painting from the Collections of the National Gallery in Prague. These topics will also be at the centre of the forthcoming publication The Call of the East – Europe in China, China in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s.
A philosopher and a historian of art, Monika Murawska has dealt with French phenomenology in three books: on Levinas and Merleau-Ponty in Problem innego (The Problem of the Other, 2005), on Michel Henry in Filozofowanie z zamkniętymioczami (Making Philosophy With One’s Eyes Shut, 2011) and on Jean Renoir. Malarz kadrów (Jean Renoir. Painter of movie frames, 2012). She is also a translator from French and Polish. She currently teaches in the Theory Department of the Faculty of Media Art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw.
A specialist of Kant and Ricoeur, Michael Foessel explores the relationship between the political and the private spheres and advocates for a balance between the mystery of the self and the openness of democracy. He is renowned for his 2013 Après la fin du monde, Critique de la raison apocalyptique (After the End of the World. Critique of the Apocalyptical Reason). In his last book, Le Temps de la consolation (The Time of Consolation, 2015), he reinvestigates the power of consolation at the origins of philosophy. A member of the board of French magazine Esprit, he is a regular contributor to French daily Libérationand teaches at École Polytechnique.