LCC’s current showcase exhibition Staging Disorder runs until Thursday 12 March 2015, and features work by high-profile photographers and sound artists responding to ideas of modern conflict and the ‘real’.
We asked Beate Geissler of exhibiting duo Geissler/Sann to tell us more about the pair’s project ‘Personal Kill’.
Tell us a bit about the work you’re showing as part of Staging Disorder.
‘Personal Kill’ depicts interiors of so-called MOUT sites – training installations for Military Operations on Urban Terrain, used to teach close-range combat. The work references a book entitled ‘On Killing’ by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman.
He writes, “In Vietnam the term ‘personal kill’ was used to distinguish the act of killing a specific individual with a direct-fire weapon and being absolutely sure of having done it oneself. The vast majority of personal kills and the resultant trauma occur at this range.”
The resulting trauma of a ‘personal kill’ is more severe than, for example, witnessing comrades or even family getting killed, since it is within the self that we find the source of the horror and not in the other. Something nobody can train an individual for.
What drew you to tackle the subject of staged conflict?
We were very interested in the simulating qualities of those training sites, their relation to reality and virtuality. The gamification and zombiefication that takes place, which is extending, bending and creating reality, was the focus of our research. It is a feeling like walking in a movie.
When we entered those tunnel systems, it felt like descending into the collective unconscious of western society. These are sites where soldiers are trained to pull the trigger on their opposite.
Friedrich Hegel describes the transition from natural being to social and cultural subject as a violent and traumatic one. He coined the term ‘night of the world’, which he defined as an irreducible dimension of the finitude of subjectivity.
It is the abyss of negativity, the night of the eye, glimpsed in the uncanny gaze of the Other. This is a form of imagination which is the radical negativity of arbitrary freedom.
What are you currently working on outside the College?
We just published a new book ‘Volatile Smile’, which investigates the impact of technology on systems of global commerce. We were interested in the mutual impact of real and cybernetic architecture, with Chicago as its archetype.
What made Chicago a centre of speculative culture — a culture which so rapidly emerged as the ‘non-place’ where cybernetic logic bears its strangest and perhaps most powerful fruits?
What do you think is the effect of holding an exhibition like this at LCC?
Maybe students get inspired, start to raise more questions and become aware that this culture of fear which was created in the last decades is something we need to change.
What advice would you give to current LCC students?
Don’t do shiny art for glossy people.
Beate Geissler is Associate Professor and Area Coordinator Photography, University of Illinois at Chicago.