Wednesday November 20 2019
Opening Statement from the Scientific Committee
Thinking, Doubting : casting shadows
Opening Keynote : André Habib
This talk will provide various examples that allow to address the question : what does thinking about doubt make us think about ?
Panel 1 : (Re)building a Collective Memory through the Archive
Chair: André Habib
WARchive : This should not have happened
WARchive is a project part of a research-creation PhD at UQAM’s Faculty of Arts and Homo Ludens laboratory, that focuses on aesthetic and behavioral failures in the video game world. Through a collection of low quality images (retrieved from search engines and social networks), reconstructions are realized by photogrammetry of sculptures, architectures, degraded or destroyed monuments before their renovations linked with events. The non-optimization of these documents, by the diversity of their capture or simply their amateurism, tends towards corrupt archives. The collection, of impossible and improbable architectural models, is integrated into a 3D video game engine, becoming the familiar but strange setting for a virtual wander in which the users are invited to immerse themselves. An alternative to the certainty of a glorious archive of heritage.
“I remember” differently
This presentation of the promotion of indigenous heritage phenomenon in Quebec society is situated within a socio-cultural and museum context. It adopts the ideals of collaborative projects with shared authority, the necessary self-representation of the communities concerned, repatriation participating in healing, and support for a indigenous museology. I present my field work with the mixed team of the multi-nation museum La Maison amérindienne in Wigwomadensis / Mont Saint-Hilaire according to an indigenous epistemology, identifying the representations and alternative narratives that it operates to promote First Nations. These stories provoke doubt, the shaking of identity or the actualization of knowledge among a Quebec public while allowing nevertheless a globally empowering intercultural mode of meeting in a strategic space, so that a form of intellectual repatriation is simultaneously done. This dynamic of knowledge of the Other has the potential to be transposed into the global society.
Queering Quotidian Futures : Image Bank’s Performance Photography and the Morris/Trasov Archive
The Morris/Trasov Archive has holdings of 80 linear meters of art, ephemera, postcards, photography, and correspondence from 1969 to the present. Of special interest is the representation of major Canadian Fluxus performance events. By focusing on the photographic performance documentation produced by Image Bank in 1974 – a pivotal year for the network as participants embraced an international Fluxus ethos of art merged with life – this paper engages with Image Bank’s performance photography as Fluxus performativity. Image Bank’s performativity created an archival narrative via documentation of The Decca Dance (1974) and the Mr. Peanut Mayoralty Campaign (1974), both of which fill in the gap of Vancouver’s emerging Fluxus history. Morris and Trasov's photographic documentation inserts itself within the previously underdeveloped record of Canadian queer art scenes in Vancouver and Toronto during the 1970s, where futurity was imbued into the fabric of quotidian experience by way of Image Bank's performance events.
Video installation, C-3001
Thursday November 21 2019
Panel 2 : Making the Invisible Visible : Towards New Perceptual Modalities
Chair: Charlotte Dronier
Doubting to Reinvent Oneself : Activism in a Museum Environment
Like Art History itself, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec’s collection is not very inclusive. Whether it is the under-representation of women artists, Indigenous people, and people from a diverse background in museum collections ; or even the stereotypicalization of their representation as the subject of artworks : it all comes to the same conclusion. The look and the typical trajectory of the white man remain a standard for judging the value of Others. This paper will present some of the exhibiting and editorial strategies of the exhibition “350 Years of Art Practice” in Québec, borrowing from curatorial activism and transparent museum, two notions which are used to question historical and social position of our museum and our relationship to our audience.
Getting Out of “oculocentrism” and Practicing Thought as a Bodily Activity
Inspired by animism as a way of being in the world, we will explore the possibility for the audio-visual medium to come out of its “oculocentrism” in order to access a modality of the gaze that give rise to the doubts proper to hearing rather than to the certainties of seeing. For Amazonian shamans, abstaining for as long as possible from naming what appears to them in the form of visions avoids being blinded by prior understanding ; rather, to gain access to knowledge, it is a question of maintaining and inhabiting the gap between oneself and the unknown. Echoing this singular experience of otherness, certain films by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand) and Djibril Diop Mambety (Senegal) create a form of listening that challenges the nature of what is perceived, opening up space transformation where thought and corporeality are intimately linked.
Precarious Body : De/Formation in the Symbol of Innsbruck
In 1620, the Tyrolean engraver Andreas Spängler portrayed Wolfgang Gschaidter, a craftsman who had been severely paralyzed and impoverished by a sudden mysterious disease. The resulting broadsheet names him as the “Symbol of Innsbruck,” a seat of the Holy Roman Empire rocked by plague and religious reform. Yet the broadsheet offers conflicting possibilities of what Gschaidter’s body, and indeed the object itself, should ultimately represent. This paper will uncover textual and visual strategies engineered to produce shifting affects and uncertainties in the beholder. As Catholic propaganda, the print links Gschaidter’s suffering with Christ’s ; however, its mimetic detail and medial authority suggest an authentic rendering of unpredictable human misfortune and need. Here, our encounter with the disabled body is not only tethered to the unstable conditions of social precarity, but also to art’s changing status during the Counter-Reformation.
A movement-based inquiry into 'trans-corporeality' and environmental (de)construction/destruction
What does it mean to be a (particular) body in this space, on this land, at this time ? Our social and ecological environments are currently undergoing a rapid transformation - the future of which is steeped in profound uncertainty. While minds seeking to make sense of projected futures, bodies are already responding in myriad ways. Taking Stacey Alaimo’s concept of “transcorporeality” as a guide, this workshop unfolds as a series of research-creation exercises designed to attune to place. What if the categories of thought that shape our knowledge of this body and this place are cast into doubt ? We invite somatically-based destabilization of binaries and implicit hierarchies, exploring the relationship between perceptible bodies, micro-biomes, institutional practices and the environments with which we move and learn.
Panel 3 : Image Manipulation : between Actuality and Virtuality
Chair: Carlos Solano
"Walter, You're Dreaming Again" : Herzog, Ecstatic Truth, and the Image
Werner Herzog has long had an obsession with something he calls “ecstatic truth,” as Tom Bissell notes in his Harper’s profile of the director. This truth is distinctly separate from the truth of the image, which Herzog constantly undercuts. In so doing, he puts forward an idea of truth as somehow ineffable yet material, something that cannot be captured except for in the work of art. It springs from the contradictions within the work, leaving the viewer uncertain of the truth of the image yet convinced of the truth of the work.
Doubting the image : digital experimentation and aesthetic reappropriation ?
This symposium represents an opportunity to question our contemporary relationship to doubt : in increasingly knowledgeable and "controlling" societies, what place can doubt occupy ? Focusing on the field of images, more particularly digital or symptomatic images from our calculable reality, quantifiable and mathematical, the tools at the origin of these are also creators of indefinite representations, vague and doubtful. Is the image anything other than a reconstruction of what we already apprehend in our reality ? What we can be sure, in this space given to doubt, is that these images create thought.
From Doubt to Faith : The Computer-generated Image in Jeff Nichols' Cinema
In "Take Shelter" (Jeff Nichols, 2011), a father, Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon), is beset by visions of an upcoming apocalyptic storm. To represent this stormy sky, the filmmaker Jeff Nichols uses digital special effects, the CGI (computer-generated image) integrated into images in real shots. However, the CGI is often used in Hollywood as a kind of "false" that wants to pretend to be "true", an artifice imitating reality to the point of being confused.
Between hope and ordeal : « ce qu’il faut redouter… »
Keynote: Michèle Garneau
For this conference, we propose to focus on three Wapikoni Mobile documentary videos that are exemplary of doubt or, in other words, of the phenomenon of uncertainty in action. We will see, first, how much the context of the Aboriginal reserves’ historical and existential fragility forces young filmmakers to confront a disturbing sense of doubt (which must be feared), one that is tied to affectivity and insecurity. The three films will then allow us clarify how this disturbing sense of doubt is exposed, but also and especially how it is likely to be overcome through poetic inventiveness and audiovisual mediation.
A collection of short films made by Indigenous and Inuit people.
Friday November 22 2019
Out of All Doubt. The Mechanics of Visual Evidence
Keynote : Vincent Lavoie
Piece of evidence, vehicle of beliefs, visual argument, divine incarnation or simple illustration, photography has become the privileged auxiliary of the arts, sciences, pseudosciences, quackery or conspiracy, as many spheres where a certificate visual is required. However, the authenticity of technical images is more than ever subject to suspicion. Sign of the times, press images are now under surveillance and subject to technical protocols for verifying their authenticity. However, photography remains a powerful instrument of conviction, as evidenced, even today, its legal uses. It is upon examination of this veritable ambivalence of photography that this communication is consecrated.
Panel 4 : Authenticity and the Test of Time
Chair: Marie-Odile Demay-Desgoustine
"It looks funny to me" : Authenticity and the Restoration of Michelangelo’s Paintings in the Sistine Chapel
Art restoration is an encounter between matter and meaning where the boundaries of ‘the authentic’ appear to be objectively discernible and undoubtedly contained within the boundaries of the object itself. When restoring an artwork, the conservator has to give meaning to matter constantly, discern true from false, original from historical transformations, and act upon these significations. New materialist perspectives in philosophy have destabilized the notion that objects are fixed entities. Objects are being re-thought as dynamic phenomena that materialize through the intra-action of several agencies in a constant process of becoming. These new ontological frameworks have implications on the way authenticity is understood in Cartesian epistemologies. This paper aims to study the controversial 1980-94 restoration of the Sistine Chapel frescoes by Michelangelo Buonarroti in order to explore how the limits of authenticity are enacted within sets of material-discursive conditions specific to historical moments in search for the ‘true’ work of art.
Recognition and Ruse : Painting North and South in 1865
At the close of the Civil War, the French painter Constant Mayer undertook an ambitious project : an expansive painting representing the conclusion of the conflict that had divided the United States. At 68 1/8 by 93 1/2 inches, the over-life-size work depicts two soldiers from opposing sides of the conflict. Finished in 1865, just months after the conclusion of the war, "Recognition: North and South" is an allegorical reflection on the devastation wrought by a nation (envisioned by Mayer as a fraternal bond) turned against itself in armed conflict. As the title asserts, the work grapples with the problem of re-cognition – knowing again. This act of recognition implies a lapse in knowledge. During the war, the unthinkable happened: Brothers were estranged, divided on opposing sides. America no longer knew itself. The instability of these seemingly intrinsic, even familial, relations casts an ominous cloud of doubt over the work, which asks what it really means to know. In particular, the threat of ruse and deception, which permeated the war, and moreover, the means of representing it, loom large. By situating "Recognition: North and South" within the broader visual culture of the Civil War era – including the deceptive wartime tactic known as the ruse de guerre, the exponential rise of counterfeit currency, the popularity of trompe l’oeil painting, the practice of photographic manipulation, and the history of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral and the extraordinary measures taken to control the late president’s image – this paper examines the instabilities that attended representation during this precarious historical moment and the way these invariably surface in Mayer’s painting.
The Notion of Authenticity in the Art of Indigenous Tattooing
Doubt ; a hesitation that makes us question our choices and our knowledge. To call something into question is to challenge its authenticity. The field of Indigenous Studies offers a territory where doubt and authenticity come together. Linked with the notion of traditions, authenticity is constantly used as an argument to glorify or discriminate certain works or certain Indigenous artists. Yet, what is the place of this term in indigenous arts research ? In this paper, I try to demystify the use of “authenticity” and its derivatives by setting the own contradictions of this term out in relation to the indigenous cultures. To do so, I will look at contemporary movements of Indigenous tattoos’ revitalization in Canada.
Questioning Identities through Photographic mise-en-scène : Examples of Yasmina Bouziana's "Inhabited by Imaginings we did not choose" series and Shadi Ghadirian's "Qajar" series
The notions of identity and representations are two issues that contemporary artists often raise. To discuss those problematics, some artists reuse, rethink and mock the visual patterns that shape our way of conceptualizing otherness. This speech aims to question the way that art contributes to the construction of our representations, and how the clash between different imaginaries produces new images. We will focus here on two photographic installations that attempt to deconstruct our representations : a series of self-portraits named “Inhabited by imaginings we did not choose” by Yasmina Bouziane and the series “Qajar” by Shadi Ghadiran. Through these photographic apparatuses, these artists tackle the dominance of mainstream visual representations and create a new iconography, that is essentially inspired by vintage pictures. They appropriate their codes and divert their meaning to offer a new reading and, in this way, suggest to doubt representations that shape our imaginations.
Panel 5 : Disruptions and Narrative Continuities
Chair: Diane Rossi et Ouennassa Khiari
The Matrix of a TV Series : the Germ of Doubt
Is a TV series a form of knowledge ? A narrative, aesthetic and commercially scheduled project, articulating several possible worlds, the TV series is hardly ever a stable undertaking (Boni and Berton 2019). It could be argued that it is based on the constant management of a series of doubts, of variations from a fundamental uncertainty. Far from resolving itself into an experiment with clearly identifiable boundaries, and because of its content’s nature, with continuous renewal and marked by intervals, the series grows, expands, rises after its death. Mobilizing the concept of matrix (Soulez 2011), this proceeding aims to highlight certain moments of doubt within Russian Doll (Netflix 2018), object which, over the episodes, thematizes the seriality where the pair "variation and repetition" (Eco 1985) is central, as a form of knowledge.
In the Fix : Affects of Suspense and Uncertainty in Professional Wrestling
Professional wrestling is site of dynamic tension between competitive, unpredictable sport and scripted, theatrical performance, between the contingencies of competition and the predetermined fix. Among professional wrestling’s moments of real/fictive tension is the “three-count”, in which a wrestler pins their opponent to achieve “a fall” and the win. A match contains many “near-falls” or “false finishes”, where a wrestler breaks the count by kicking out of the pin and forces the match to continue. When the pin begins, the crowd does not know whether or not it will be successful. However, fans often have a sense of which way a pin might go, and understand that the match’s winner is already fixed. Yet, the work wrestling audiences do goes beyond suspending disbelief. Wrestling fans also know that a match means far more than its scripted end, and they play a key role in producing that excess. The fix may be in, but as Warden, Chow and Laine (2018) write, the match “can still be worked.” I suggest that pro wrestling procedures and practices provide a productive site for investigating the cultural and political entanglements of belief and doubt, and the fixed and unfixed. Examining the coordinated, embodied, and affective labour and performance practices of wrestling (Chow 2014; Smith 2014; Reinhard 2019), I consider the ways in which the fix is “worked” beyond its predetermined end in order to speculate on the political potential produced in wrestling’s “spectacle of excess” (Barthes 2012) and, particularly, through the uncertainty of the three-count.
Doubt, Awareness and Remorse : Playing with the Limits of Ludonarrative “actantiality” in the Video Game Undertale.
Well known in theatrical and cinematographic milieu, the expression "breaking the fourth wall" refers to the idea of removing the imaginary wall separating the audience from the stage or the screen. Whether in tutorials or to add a humorous effect, the occurrences where the fourth wall is broken are not rare in a video game context. However, some games cleverly exploit this phenomenon to plant seeds of doubt in the mind of the player - that is to say, playing on the boundaries between the fictional world and the real world and on what distinguishes the avatar from the player. This is particularly the case of the game Undertale which, through its unique gameplay, challenges the individual on the consequences of his/her actions and his/her power on the game system. The purpose of this communication is to highlight the ludonarrative processes implemented in the game to create a sense of uncertainty within the player about the choices available to him/her and to have regrets towards his/her decisions.
Panel 6 : Rethinking Normativity through Alternative Narratives
Chair: Samy Benammar
Auto-suggestive + 1 : noise, immediacy and “deepfakes”
In a culture both wireless and on demand, audiovisual mediation spawns a new objectivity that is nothing more than its transparent disappearance. Trending now : Mediation abolishes the design problem of distance via telecommunications, while concurrently installing an uncanny proximity of the interface to smooth, stainless and immediate communication. A world on a wi-fi connection, queued by each willing human, at a decadent speed. Yet, media technologies are not unique to the current period, nor to humans at large - but susceptible to “occult qualities” (Schopenhauer, 1813) and a “demon of noise” (Michel Serres, 1980). But the haunting aspect of contemporary media is perhaps less preoccupied with its transparent disappearance, than its virality. In a world held hostage by fake news, the potential of false media to mask, while accruing, reality seems untimely. “Deepfakes” are a subsequent iteration of algorithmic reason, following the advent of generative adversarial networks (GANs) - the latest index of machinic learning and artificial intelligence. Deepfakes are high resolution renderings of false media, human-audiovisual proxied simulations of corollary realities, and auto-suggestive + 1. As Luciana Parisi asserts, GANs mark an algorithmic shift from a merely predictive task to a generative function. While auto-suggestive technologies can only forecast what has already taken place, the recent work of Yuk Hui points to how recursive rhythms inscribe a near future reality through self-legitimizing feedback loops, which “return to itself in order to determine itself.” As such, the semiotics of the deepfake are necessarily tied to its previous serial mediation, motivated by ‘myth’ (Barthes, 1957) through a sequential contagion in the amassed audience. Because deepfakes are distorted images of reality, they are the inverse of doubt: they profoundly become-true as an occupational hazard of becoming-visible. The correspondence to a pre-inscribed reality is only afterwards authenticated by human comprehension in the convenience of one’s own (oftentimes malicious) ideological and/or political fantasy. In the presence of deepfakes, the correlation between true and false is a thin wire suspended in the approximate image of the real. This project theorizes deepfakes as another instance of noise that corrodes the channel of communication, intervening while interfering in reality. As Hito Steyerl, succinctly posits, “noise is not nothing” - instead, noise is a host to symptoms - fake yet deep.
The Dissensual Good : Utopian Delusion and the Embodied Present
This paper situates utopia within the framework of Jacques Rancière’s consensus/dissensus model, arguing for a conceptualization of utopia that resists materialization yet remains impactful as a mode of enacting dissensual good. The word ‘utopia’ is derived from the Greek ou ‘not’ and topos ‘place’. Etymologically, it is a ‘not-place’. Unattainability, or imagination, are implied in this placelessness. Its association with the potential for achieving a ‘good life’ is thus limited to non-spatiality, resulting in a split in utopic theorization pinning the ideal against the applied. On the one hand, utopian thinking is bound to the realm of the imagined; on the other, it falls prey to stagnant reinstatement of current structures. Within consensus, utopia can exist only in these two realms. Instead, we will conceptualize of the utopic as a relational, embodied practice rather than as either pure fantasy or realistic structure. We propose a leveraging of utopia’s necessary non-spatiality as a mode of dissensus rather than a hindrance. Its unattainability is thus productive, manifesting in everyday thought and action. To think of utopia is to imagine the present as needing improvement: as lacking in good, and thus as bad. Within the oppositional relationship between utopia and dystopia, to think of utopia aligns the present more closely with the dystopic. Though, Heidegger has argued that at the core of every truth is its own untruth, which opens the possibility that one might find a core of utopia within dystopia. Must we necessarily live in a dystopia in order for utopias to be imagined ? Can utopic dreaming be aligned with political dissensus ? How can the present contain both utopia and dystopia, and too, how can the idea of a not-place be turned into an inhabitable, good, now ? This paper will examine methods of enacting utopia as a present reality in practice rather than place. We propose that an embracing of delusion as productive may be a source of world-building within the very constraints that deem it impossible.
Same, Same but Different : Candice Breitz’s "Factum : Tremblay"
My paper explores binary categories not in terms of opposition but in terms of the collective sense that those constructions create. I use Candice Breitz’s "Factum : Tremblay" (2009), a two-channel video installation that challenges common modes of binary thinking while demonstrating the centrality of binaries to identity formation. This work argues that the breaking down of binary structures often relies on first recognizing and identifying within those structures. This is evident in Factum: Tremblay through the subjects’ inability to identify themselves as individuals without their twin, or other. The work does not illustrate a single binary but multiple, suggesting that human identity is formed as components and intersections of many binaries. This mode of thinking is often considered to be based in difference, yet sameness plays just as significant of a role.