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David Levine: The Flood of Rights

From Spectatorship, Race, and Citizenship

Artist David Levine takes up questions of understanding the effects of representation explicitly in this talk, examining three filmic examples—The Parallax View (1974), A Clockwork Orange (1971), and The Act of Killing (2012)—that use physical symptoms as an index of spectatorial responses to images not of beauty, as in Mosse’s work, but of violence. Why, his presentation implicitly asks, have both theorists—such as Susan Sontag—and popular culture made nausea into a barometer of ethics in the viewer? And what other, more nuanced or subtle responses are obscured by this assumption that viewers must “vote with their stomachs”?

Levine’s talk concludes with a screening of Douglas Gordon’s Domestic (as long as it lasts) (2002), framing it as a filmic moment in which the technology of filmmaking is itself made the victim of violence as the artists kicks a consumer-grade video camera until it stops functioning. While the lateral move to thinking about image-making technology as having a body, and a vulnerability, is in line with the technophilic paradigm of the science fiction films Levine has been discussing, another reading of Gordon’s film is possible—one that complicates this easy equation between human and machine bodies. Set in a home, with the camera positioned on the floor of a living room and then kitchen, Gordon’s film also offers us the perspective of the victim of domestic violence: a suggestion that is more than implied by the work’s title. Read from this gendered angle, Gordon’s film loops us back to Homi Bhabha’s notion of care for the precarious conditions of the neighbor, and to Claudia Rankine’s comments about the black body that is confined by spectatorship, reminding us that not all bodies are equal in how they are exposed to the gaze of the spectator, and to the powers of the state. 

September 7, 2017

Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College

Curated by

Gabrielle Moser