An special evening program of film screenings followed by discussions and talks curated by Ali Jaber and running every Tuesday and Thursday from May 18th till June 8th
The series is free and open to the public. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to attend some or all of the sessions. Registration is encouraged but not mandatory; we will send you a reader with essays that reflect on the films and talks that make up the program.
For this series of film screenings and talks, Ali Jaber, in close collaboration with Barzakh, chose to trace the fundamental production of power, biopower, and the sovereign exception in the context of the cinemas of Palestine, Syria, Iran, United States, and Algeria. Drawing from philosophers such as Giorgio Agamben, Julia Kristeva, Gilles Deleuze, and Jacques Derrida as well as literary figures such as Franz Kafka, whose works reflect – or better, deconstruct – notions of sovereignty, segregation, immunitas, “empty law,” spatiality, biopolitics, the state of exception, pastoral power, abjection, and zoē-violence, the series of talks survey and analyze the spatial, temporal, and the ambivalent nature of the being of subjects on biopolitical screens – in the films of Kamal Aljafari, Peter Watkins, Hassen Ferhani, Forugh Farrokhzad, among others. Through analyzing those films, we will come to understand how, on the one hand, cinema as an apparatus and techne is capable of rendering in visual terms the coming-to-presence of spaces of exception, indistinction, and suspension “of the order of normation.” And on the other, we come to see how the cinematic emergence of the exception and biopolitical governance is imperative to the production of extra-legal and lawless subjectivities – deprived of their humanity and political rights – under totalitarian regimes and exceptional regulations.
Spaces in these films expose vacillations between biopolitics and biopower, biological regulation of life and zoē-violence. From in-between these modalities the subject emerges as docile – subjected to dehumanization, to finitude, to spatial confinement, and to exclusion. Life, for its part, and under such exceptional circumstances, remains at once included and excluded from legality and humanity. Without cinema, we might never have witnessed this.
The series of seven film screenings, grouped into two clusters, will be accompanied by two talks, on May 30th and June 8th, each inspired by the respective cluster. The screenings will run every Tuesday and Thursday starting Thursday May 18th. The screenings always start at 7pm and the two lectures immediately after the screening.
Ali Jaber is a PhD researcher in philosophy and film studies and a university professor, and has an M.A in Film Studies from Kingston University London. He specializes in French philosopher Jacques Derrida and focuses on extending Derrida’s deconstruction to the study of Lebanese post-war film. His academic interests also span Heideggerian studies and its french reception, biopolitical theory, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and political philosophy, and has special expertise in the temporal “concepts” of hauntology and kairology. His filmic interests also extend to Palestinian, Syria, Algerian, and Egyptian cinemas.
Cluster I. Spectral law, Biopolitics, and Spatiality of Sovereignty
Thursday May 18, 7pm
Port of Memory. Directed by Kamal Aljafari. Fiction. 63 minutes. Palestine. 2010. English subtitles.
Tuesday May 23, 7pm
5 Broken Cameras. Directed by Emad Burnat & Guy Davidi. Documentary. 94 minutes. Palestine. 2012. English subtitles.
Thursday May 25, 7pm
Punishment Park. Directed by Peter Watkins. Fiction. 88 minutes. USA. 1971. English/Arabic subtitles.
Tuesday May 30
7pm The Roof. Directed by Kamal Aljafari. Documentary. 63 minutes. Palestine. 2006. English subtitles.
8:15pm Talk titled “Before The Spectral Law: Labyrinthines, Biopolitics, and Spatiality of the Exception” by Ali Jaber (scroll down for abstract)
Cluster II: Reflections On Cinematic Chronotopes of Abjection and Finitude
Thursday June 1, 7pm
Roundabout in my Head. Directed by Hassan Ferhani. Documentary. 100 minutes. Algeria/France. 2015. Arabic/English subtitles.
Tuesday June 6, 7pm
Leviathan. Directed by Verena Paravel & Lucien Castaing-Taylor. Documentary. 87 minutes. 2013. USA. English subtitles.
Thursday June 8
7pm Al-Dajaj. Directed by Omar Amiralay. Documentary. 43 minutes. Syria. 1977. English subtitles
The House is Black. Directed by Forugh Farrokhzad. Documentary. 21 minutes. Iran. 1962. English subtitles.
8:15pm Talk titled “Reflections on Cinematic Chronotopes of Abjection and Finitude” by Ali Jaber (scroll down for abstract)
Lecture 1: Tuesday May 30, 8:15pm
Before The Spectral Law: Labyrinthines, Biopolitics, and Spatiality of the Exception
The modality of the law that Kafka’s K.’s deliriously encounters in “Before the Law” and “The Trial,” as White remarks, “is particularly a spatial one.” Another thinker who is an “eminently spatial thinker” of the law is Agamben, who configures the concept “nomos of the earth” as being a spatial order founded on the “state of exception,” For the philosopher, the exception always operates within and through a certain space excluded from the construals of the law and configured as a “juridically empty space.” What is implied here is that those “included within that space,” under the exception, encounter a law emptied of its content, and who, upon its suspension, are at once entrapped to its decision, while being abandoned and “excluded” from its protection. A dialectical reading brings forth the spatiality of the empty law as an “absent site” – and sight – leads to a movement from biopolitics to a spectral construal of authority as a space “indefinitely deferred and delayed from coming-to-presence.” Such encounter unfolds a series of spatio-tempo-visual tensions between visibility and invisibility, presence and absence, and form and content, and invites not only a Derridean deconstruction of the “empty law” and biopolitics, and the spatio-temporal deferral and asymmetrical power relations that they engender, but also reveals how these ‘operative mechanisms of power,’ as White suggests, enact the cannibalistic spatiality’ of a lawless law: deterritorializing and reterritorializing space and apprehending subjects, and consequently rendering topology, akin to the specter’s movement, continuously “coming and going,” or in kinetic terms, mobile and ontologically unstable.Speculatively engaging biopolitical paradigms against kafkaesque ‘lawless cages’ and Derrida’s spectrology in Kamal Aljafari’s Port of Memory (2010), Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s 5 Broken Cameras (2012), and Peter Watkins’ Punishment Park (1971), and connecting the conceptualizations of space, visuality, and power permit us to understand how these films express the differentiating modes of entrapment and judicio-legal arbitrariness when coming face-to-face with absence qua law postponed, deferred, and spaced out. The fluctuation between absence and presence, invisibility and visibility, and the modalities of asymmetrical visuality and temporal spacing, as the talk stipulates, are integral to how the spectral “empty law” (im-)-presences itself to subjects, and apprehends them into abyssal labyrinthines that they can never escape nor win.
Lecture 2: Thursday June 8, 8:15pm
Reflections on Cinematic Chronotopes of Abjection and Finitude
In the films of Ferhani, Farrokhzad, Amiralay, and Paravel & Castaing-Taylor, “bare life” bears the material burden of cinema’s exploration of movement/stillness, life/death, inclusion/exclusion, proper/improper (abject), and humanity/animality under biopolitical conditions. While embodying the sovereign exception and the bareness of homo sacer, human subjects in these films are consequently rendered as “peripheral and disposable subjects” and lives to be expendable – killable – in the service of sovereignty’s will to power, and what these cinemas investigate is the contingency, vulnerability, and finitude that surrounds such life. By enframing the killing of vulnerable life, these films document a series of cinematic chronotopes of indistinction and abjection in which life is either utilized and included in the service of power or exterminated by it upon an exclusion from the politico-human domain. Here, how life becomes regulated, animalized (de-humanized), annihilated, and rendered non-regenerative and abjected undertake a particular kind of narrative, metaphorical, and aesthetic labor. What comes to being, therefore, is the broader contradictory relationships that shape what Nicole Shukin describes as the “the potent annihilatory dimension of biopolitics” and its “undoing of creation.” That is, via biopolitics’ insidious capacity to reorder life/death, humanity/animality, and inside/outside, what is revealed is its thanatological dimension and its capacity to execute zoē-violence on life through the “denying [of] the humanity of the other.”
This talk reflects on the aesthetic frameworks of biopolitical cinema and the ways it visually enframes chronotopes of abjection and finitude. In certain filmic instances, human lives and deaths confirm the documentary frame, functioning as a particularly powerful index of the sovereign exceptional Real, whereas in others, humanity and animality are coupled and entered into a mimetic and metaphorical symbiosis under exceptionally capricious totalitarianism. The politics and poetics of bare life will be engaged through Agamben’s paradigmatic configurations and coupled with Kristeva’s “abject” to investigate the films’ proximal, visceral, embodied, and disembodied engagement with the regulation and annihilation of bare life in both life and art, and to explore how “such life” appears to bear witness to the material and immaterial realities of living under exceptional conditions.