2017 PAMLA Conference Special Address Luncheons

We will be having a number of very special events at the upcoming PAMLA conference at Chaminade University of Honolulu, including two terrific luncheons and addresses, and a Forum that is sure to be fascinating. The two luncheons do involve an extra fee ($22 for each), but the addresses are sure to be fascinating, and the buffets delicious. If you wish to join us for one or both of the lunches, go here to make reservations: https://www.pamla.org/2017/registration-info

On Friday, November 10, we would love you to join us for the 2017 PAMLA Presidential Address and Luncheon. The luncheon does involve an extra fee, but is entirely worth it. This year, our Presidential Address will be delivered by 2017 PAMLA President Andrea Gogröf, of Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. Professor Gogröf’s address is titled Visibility is a Trap? Dimensions of Surveillance and its Effects on Culture Today.” Professor Gogröf will explore the activity of surveilling (watching over, overseeing, observing), which is as old as culture itself. Always at least twofold, done either out of control or out of care, surveillance has been practiced and has fueled cultural production for centuries. As an impulse, a strategy, as a concept and umbrella term for activities and things pertaining to watching, observing, collecting evidence or data, knowing, and controlling, surveillance has played, and increasingly plays today, a key role in the critique of what Zygmunt Bauman terms “liquid modernity.”

While surveillance has become a critical concern particularly since the event of 9/11, its history is indeed tied to the larger context of modernity. Organized and systematic surveillance is a modern phenomenon, an Enlightenment product growing with an increasingly sophisticated technology that, while promising the world all the imagined benefits of predictability and manageability, also presents tangible threats such as the loss of “true” freedom, autonomy, democracy, and ethical engagement.

Within the context of today’s fluid, unsettling culture, Professor Gogröf’s paper traces the connection between modernity and surveillance as articulated by Foucault, Deleuze, and Baudrillard and reflected in the literary works of George Orwell, Dave Eggers, and Michel Houellebecq. Delineating the shift from a solid, disciplinary but still overseeable stage of the panoptic kind of surveillance to a fluid, all pervasive and thus more insidious and liquid kind, Gogröf seeks for glimpses of lightness in what Jonathan Crary calls “the unsparing weight of our global present.”

Andrea Gogröf, in addition to serving as PAMLA’s 2017 President, is professor in the interdisciplinary department of Liberal Studies at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. Her book is entitled Defining Modernism: Baudelaire and Nietzsche on Romanticism, Modernity, and Richard Wagner. The relationship between Romanticism and Modernity continues to inform her present research in philosophy, literature and film. She has published articles on Charles Baudelaire, Friedrich Nietzsche, Peter Handke, Emile Zola and Michael Haneke. Other focal points are aesthetic representations and cultural expressions of concerns with hygiene, surveillance and voyeurism understood in their widest manifestations: the encroachment of public and state promoted standards of hygiene and the practice of surveillance onto the personal, the private-sphere, (self-) supervision and control, shifting modes of self-invention and the ritualized presentation of self in contemporary culture. Currently she is working on aesthetic reflections of the latest surveillance methods in contemporary American, German and French cultures with a special interest in literary texts, films and blogs that reflect generational differences of attitudes and actions concerning media control, its push for absolute transparency and the ensuing debates on rights, needs and possible indifference to privacy.

To join us for the 2017 PAMLA Presidential Address and Luncheon, go here to make a reservation and pay: https://www.pamla.org/2017/registration-info

On Saturday, November 11, we would love for you to join us for our 2017 PAMLA Plenary Address and Luncheon. PAMLA President Andrea Gogröf has arranged for us to hear a wonderful Plenary Speaker, Professor Martin Blumenthal-Barby, of Rice University. Professor Blumenthal-Barby’s Plenary Address is titled ‘Uncalculated Beauty’: Harun Farocki’s Theory of Surveillance Imagery.” To join us for the 2017 PAMLA Plenary Address and Luncheon, go here to make a reservation and pay: https://www.pamla.org/2017/registration-info

Professor Martin Blumenthal-Barby, of Rice University, will discuss the visual economy of surveillance images by way of a close reading of Farocki’s recent installation Counter-Music. In an essay accompanying his contribution to the 2001 CTRL Space exhibit, filmmaker Harun Farocki elaborates on his fascination with the idiosyncratic nature of surveillance images. Farocki characterizes these images as “not cropped and framed in order to compress space and time.… Images that appear so inconsequential that they are not stored—the tapes are erased and are used again. Generally the images are stored and archived only in exceptional cases, but exceptional cases one is sure to encounter. Such images challenge the artist who is interested in a meaning that is not authorial and intentional, an artist interested in a sort of beauty that is not calculated.” This quote lays out the pivotal coordinates of what one might call, in Farocki’s vein, a theory of surveillance imagery: devoid of the most common means of condensation and hence, of kairos (“supreme moments”)and telos (“purpose,” “end”), made to be deleted, by no author, no intention.

The proposed paper will tackle the peculiar visual economy of surveillance images by way of a close reading of Farocki’s recent installation Counter-Music (2004). It will attempt to understand the mysterious efficacy of these images, which have no human producer, are devoid of human intention, and are, in most cases and increasingly so, not viewed by human beings but analyzed by automatic recognition software. The central question of this paper is how the issue of this gradual abolition of human beings relates to the poetic fabric of Farocki’s installation, especially his intricate split-screen aesthetics (“soft montage”) that emphatically engages its viewer. What are we to make of the paradox of, on the one hand, Farocki’s “found footage” surveillance images doomed to underwhelm viewers in light of their undramatic nature, and, on the other hand, his complex ways of arranging that very footage? What is the promise of this aesthetics that neither edifies nor entertains but instead strains our ability to make sense and our willingness to contemplate?

Martin Blumenthal-Barby is Associate Professor of German and Film Studies at Rice University. He received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 2008. He is author of two monographs, Inconceivable Effects: Ethics through Twentieth-Century German Literature, Thought, and Film, published by Cornell University Press in 2013, and The Asymmetric Gaze: Cinema and Surveillance, published by Wilhelm Fink in 2016. His work has appeared in such journals as New German Critique, Modern Language Notes, German Studies Review, Germanic Review, German Quarterly, Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture and October. Blumenthal-Barby was an External Faculty Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center during the 2011/12 academic year.

Please consider joining us for the 2017 PAMLA Presidential Address and Luncheon and the 2017 PAMLA Plenary Address and Luncheon. Go here to make a reservation and pay: https://www.pamla.org/2017/registration-info