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Arousing Images in Avant-Garde(s): Precarious Bodies and Frames of Representation

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Organizer: Julia Listengarten

Co-Organizer: Yana Meerzon

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In Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence and Frames of War: When is Life Grievable?, Judith Butler discusses the power of images to capture the precariousness of human condition and the danger of arousal these images may invoke.  Drawing on this complicated relationship between arousing images and the frames of their representability, we would like to consider arousal as a mode of inquiry to encourage new ways of examining avant-garde(s) both historically and conceptually and recognizing the plurality of its cultural contexts from an interdisciplinary perspective. We aim to explore what constitutes arousal in avant-garde writing as well as performance and visual arts practices, and how arousing images in avant-garde(s) as well as our perception of them have transformed over the century. In addressing the question of “what arouses” in avant-garde practices in relation to the ethics of representation and mediatization of precarious bodies, we ask: how do context and frame of representation change from images of war and destruction, as depicted in the early avant-garde, to mediatized images of violence in contemporary culture? What are the connections between arousal and pleasures of voyeurism in looking at disfigured, racialized or over-sexualized body? And how does arousal contribute to the process of turning this body into a mediated object?  The proposed topics may include: images of arousal in avant-garde literature, performance, and visual arts practices; ethics of representation — body/object/art/media; semiotic materiality of the body — sexualized, racialized, and social body; singularity and multiplicity – doubles, distortions, estrangement, and uncanny; collective bodies and u/dys/topia as a site of arousal and bio-technical experiments; paradigms of totalitarianism: avant-garde(s) and arousal of fear, negation of free thinking, censorship, and manipulation of the state.

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