Experimental Voices

Editorial HIVE Volume 2, The State of the Object

This second issue of Hive  – The State of the Object, specifically constructs an ‘object’ as an image, a document or an archive, so that not only is the term ‘object’ recaptured or reconstituted, but every other attribute – location, dispersal, collection and organization, utility, context, referents, and historical precedence – and the state of being of these objects comes into the forefront, along with formal aspects of use, representation and presentation, and, ownership and authorship and access.

This issue frames a second construct; the state of these objects and the consequent changes in those states, and lays these out as, latent, active, passive, and asks what happens to these changes in state and the underlying object when a catalyst is applied, such a reconstitution or reuse. Keeping in mind that these objects are physically present in some cases, and that they are digital in others, the state of the object could also be said to be the state of the catalyst, and so open to change. There is an open loop that crosses with and flows through the various attributes that form the object, and a certain legacy or marks are carried around by these objects even as they are subjected to change. The issue examines the state of these objects, their changes, and the process of change incurred by catalysts as well as the object and its previous but co-existing iterations.

While the state of the object changes, the context of each subsequent iteration – defined here as a change in the state of the object or the object – also changes. In the case of Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s text, Ok I’ll Show You My Work, first published in 2002, any consequent publication (as is the case here) of the text is also a reexamination of the two moments – the past and the present – with an understanding of how the contexts of these two moments have changed. As Joreige suggests, the two moments are not from the same imaginary and consequently have different effects on the past and the present, on memory and meanings. This publishing of the text, therefore also constitutes a change in the state of the object (the text) as well as a change in the return to the photographic installations, Beirut: Urban Fictions, and Wonder Beirut, 1998. While the text is unchanged from the original, it is published along with an introduction, that examines this re-visitation.

Mirroring the framework on this issue is an essay on Joana Hadjithomas’ and Khalil Joreige’s 2008 film, Je Veux Voir. The essay examines the frame of the film, which uses fiction and documentary as it moves through its narrative and it attempts to discern the viewer’s position vis-à-vis the filmmakers’ positions and posits a position from which both the frame and the breaks in a linear frame can be seen.

Early drafts of the concept note for this issue included the term nation state as an oppositional and enveloping system – both within and without the object and their states, or rather as systems affected by the changing states of the object. Subsequent conversations with Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige and Julian Honkasalo, clarified the issues surrounding the use and meanings of the term, nation state. My first intention in including this term was to propose and destabilize the three fold construct – state of the object, the nation state, and the global digital system, represented by its system of distribution and the consequent and various peculiarity and constraints of each of these three constructs. While this construction still forms a grounding for this issue, the weightage and distribution of each, in the framework is left fluid. Central to this concept is the state of the object – narrowly and specifically defined as image, document and archive – from which stem the attributes and the scope of each object and its subsequent iterations, to affect their frame of reference and that of the other, to constructs, themselves undefined – left undefined for the purposes of this concept note, although several definitions are implied within the texts in the issue.

Julian Honkasalo’s essay, Rethinking Citizenship and Human Rights: Arendt and Butler on the Right to Belong, frames the nation state, citizenship and human rights by adhering to, and expanding the arguments put forth by Hannah Arendt and Judith Butler, along side his experiences working at the Bourj-al-Barajneh camp in Beirut.

Quoting Butler, ‘A polity requires the capacity to live with others precisely when there is no obvious mode of belonging. This is the vanquishing of self-love – the movement away from narcissism and nationalism – which forms the basis for a just politics that would oppose both nationalism and those forms of state violence that reproduce statelessness and its sufferings. Arendt’s idea of a federated polity is not the same as prevailing pluralist modes of multiculturalism, but it does posit a political way of life that is not merely a fractious collection of sovereign cultural identities, but disperses sovereignty, nationalism and individualism alike into new forms of social and political co-existence.

Honkasalo dislodges various meanings of the term, nation state, while disrupting the formation of meaning. Honkasalo, through Butler and Arendt, shifts the construction of meaning to a different but related register – human rights and belonging.

Complementary to Honkasalo’s essay, Emily Jacir contributes an interview with Eva Scharrer, Abandoned Property, that examines and charts Jacir’s ex-libris (2010-2012) project. Jacir says, ‘...despite international law, United Nations resolutions and legal obligations, the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled in favor of construction of the museum. The right to protection of cultural heritage and cultural property as guaranteed by international human rights instruments such as the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the Inter- national Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) et al is never implemented when it comes to the case of Palestinian objects, books, religious sites, cemeteries. On the other hand, the books are sitting in the National Library of Israel, a readymade memorial, polluting and perhaps haunting the system.’  In contrast to Honkasao’s essay which takes on the right to return and the nature of the nation-state, Jacir’s essay demonstrates underlying personal narratives to anchor the possessive, passive and often unseen perspectives to contrast the often abstracted and academic discussions of  Palestinian rights.

In Afghanistan: In Search of an Independence Day, Mariam Ghani examines the changing traditions of Jeshns (annual national celebration) in its several iterations, reflecting the changing political climate. As Afghanistan evolved from a monarchy to a repeatedly reshaped, contested or occupied republic, through the archives of country’s national film institute, Afghan Films. She writes, ‘The history of the Jeshn is not a long march of fixed anniversaries, but rather a shifting set of commemorations that reflect the constant reconstructions of the twentieth century Afghan Nation-state.’. Ghani not only uses the archive and examines its uses in forming representations of a particular state (nation and socio-political) but also suggests that reconstructions of several states leaves residues embedded in the archives that form residue themselves, making perhaps a priori state difficult to return to. Ghani writes, ‘Since 2007, however, neither jeshn has been publicly celebrated, apparently because security concerns preclude gathering the people en masse before the politicians meant to represent them. One day, perhaps some time after the withdrawal of foreign troops in 2014, it may again be possible to commemorate Afghan independence with a military parade that feels like a purely formal display. We can only hope that when that moment arrives, people will feel like celebrating.

Of particular note are the videos embedded into this essay, which are linked from – short for Public Access Digital Media Archive – which is an online archive of densely text-annotated video material, primarily footage and unfinished films. is a way of opening up a set of images, intentions and effects present in video footage, resources that conventions of video-making, editing and spectatorship have tended to suppress, or leave behind.[1] The use of video archives from combined with the shifting natures of Jeshns and its representation/implications of the changing political environment of a nation-state, suggest an answer to the central question that this issue examines; Can the change in state ( in this case the link and the publishing of the videos) leave accumulated traces of the change in shift and if recorded/captured what can these accumulated shifts be re – constituted into or what and how can these accumulated states construct?

Each text in this issue has been previously published elsewhere. As such the mandate of this issue – the state of the object – is mirrored in this process. Each text is republished here and changes the state of the previous iteration by its subsequent visitation. While contexts surrounding these texts have changed since their original publication, this issue asks whether an activation and re-contextualization of these texts, constitutes a change in the state of the object and its accumulated states, archived here as well as in their previous iterations. As can be seen through this introduction as well as the fluidity of meanings examined in and through these texts that no frame, or context is inflexible, or unable to change – however temporal, or momentary – and therefore no state incurred by previous construction remains fixed. This has several implications for the position from which any state is entered into or instigated, making any resultant state contingent momentarily on the catalyst applied to it, suggesting a fluidity in form and process while embedding iterations of meanings into the object itself, as traces or markings, as an implied and sometimes explicit absence, or a historical reconstitution.

Renuka Sawhney


April 2014



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