New Release, Oct. 2023

Performative Images

A Philosophy of Video Art Technology in France

Performative Images draws upon the work of video artists and activists in France between the 1970s and the early 2020s and focuses on significant practices with technology. Video art and video activism are analysed together in the book to revaluate key concepts in media studies and foreground a performative approach to the theory of image technology. The book engages works in visual culture, performance studies, digital studies, critical race theory, and feminist methodologies to account for the changes brought about by video technology in social and psychic life. Performative Images is about art and activists’ engagement in video technology—an engagement that unsettles the hegemonic narrative of dominant media, as well as the apparently politically neutral dimension of communication technology. In this book, the author explores how video-image technology shapes our psychic and social environments from an art historiographical perspective. We know media technology is dramatically shaping our political and epistemological landscape: this book foregrounds the emergence of performative video images as a key factor in the revaluation of culture and politics.
table of content performative images

Chapter 1

Volume-Image of Video Technology

Abstract: In this chapter, which thinks in great detail about the techno- logical models of storage, processing, and information transmission, I discuss the work of video pioneer Thierry Kuntzel. I argue that Kuntzel’s video work provides alternatives to the entrenched theory of memory in relation to technology. I show how Kuntzel’s notion of the videogram along with Bernard Stiegler’s notion of idiotext can be productively adapted to the task of addressing performative imagery in relation to memory in the digital present. I discuss Kuntzel’s video works as offering multidimensional modalities of writing with light and time. I examine the concept of the “volume-image” to tackle the shift from a prosthetic to an aphaeretic understanding of memory in relation to video technology.

Keywords: memory, technology, time, video, Thierry Kuntzel, Bernard Stiegler (find my interview with him here)


Video: Between Technology and Performance

In the introduction, I engage video art and activist practices to understand how they confront and modulate the effects of image technologies on contemporary life. By means of the concept of the “performative image,” I present a new regime of the image with the qualities of operation. I define the performative dimension of video technology as its capacity to act as an agent of reality. This introduction presents a methodology founded in performance studies and the philosophy of technology to show how video technologies are shaping psychic and social life due to the various operations they perform on cultural practices and historical realities.

Keywords: activism, art, installation, performance, technology, video

Chapter 2

Zones of Modulation: Video as a Space- Critical Medium

Abstract: The second chapter considers the subversive images manifest in the work of Fiona Tan, Nil Yalter, and Zineb Sedira. In their respective works, these artists present video images as performing narratives to question the imperial gaze. In this chapter, I build on Gayatri Spivak’s concept of the native informant and Chela Sandoval’s notion of topography to argue that the performative image of video technology can be unruly in relation to the dominant structure of representation. Placing Tan, Yalter, and Sedira in conversation, I also ponder how performative technology as methodology remembers or forgets history and undoes or scrolls through colonization and the coloniality of visual culture often transmitted by media technology.

Keywords: video, space, modulation, Fiona Tan, Nil Yalter, Zineb Sedira


Chapter 3

Programmed Life and Racialized Technesis

Abstract: In chapter 3, I revaluate the models of interpellation (Fanon, Althusser) from the point of view of Big Data ideology (Rouvroy) to consider the implementation of programmed life and “premature death” (Gilmore) in today’s digital society. The chapter engages debates in surveillance studies and questions the making of racialized bodies by telling the story of Thierry Kuntzel’s work of art Hiver, la mort de Robert Walser presented at the MoMA in 1991, which focuses on the themes of terror, death, eroticism, and sexuality. In this chapter, I engage the pre-emptive models of data extraction to question the racialized technology of societies of incarceration and control. Kuntzel’s piece usefully addresses the subjects of history that are written upon by technology and the wider consequences of technologically driven narratives of survival and resistance. I argue that race in relation to video technology is a problem of discerning the cause from the conditions of implementation of racist politics in societies.

Keywords: racism, surveillance, technology, video, Thierry Kuntzel

Chapitre 4

Video and the Technological Milieu of Desire

Abstract: This chapter foregrounds the presence of video technology in shap- ing the milieu where desire emerges. I interrogate the milieu we share with video technology to foreground an ecology of desiring, desired, and desirable relations to performative technology. Moving beyond the psychological model applied to video and its aesthetics of narcissism, this chapter looks at both dispersive and penetrating video images to account for the flesh in subversive ways. I do so by looking at an historical moment: the demolition of the last women’s jail in Paris portrayed in Nicole Croiset, Judy Blum, and Nil Yalter’s collective work La Roquette, prison de femmes from 1974, and by comparatively approaching two video installations: Mona Hatoum’s Corps étranger from 1994 and Thierry Kuntzel’s La Peau from 2007. Dispersive and penetrating modes of video existence foreground the necessity to think about desire in relation to the milieu where images, objects, and subjects cohabit.

Keywords: desire, video, technology, Mona Hatoum, Nil Yalter, Thierry Kuntzel