Khiam (2000-2007)

Jackson Pollock, Painting, c.1944


A reflection from the documentary Directed by Jean-Marc Sroussi


Six surviving prisoners from the Khiam detention camp, in southern Lebanon and at the time occupied by Israeli troops, report to the cameras of Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige the period of seclusion and torture suffered in tiny cells without the slightest infrastructure.

In the first part of the documentary Khiam (2000-2007), the newly ex-prisoners tell in detail the daily life in the camp and their survival strategies. In the second part, eight years after the withdrawal of Israeli troops in May 2000 and the consequent dismantling of the camp, which would later become a kind of museum for tourist purposes, the authors of the documentary meet again the same six ex-prisoners who feel shocked when realizing the divergence between the images arising from their narrations and those built around the field a posteriori, with its total destruction in 2006 during the Israel-Lebanon conflict.

However, small utilitarian and/or artistic artifacts manufactured by them, in the most precarious conditions, testify to an interesting relationship that disappears in official reports, that is, the relationship between invention, image, life and politics.

This essay intends, from this documentary presented together with the objects in a retrospective of the works of the artists exhibited at the museum Jeu de Paume (Paris) in 2016 and in the light of Simondon's conception of techno-aesthetics, to reflect on this relationship between invention, image, life and politics in contemporary times, in which the imagery-narrative perception of facts seems to be increasingly constructed and induced, becoming a field for resistance.

A mirror-window: images of resistance

From the series of texts collected in Contemplation, by Franz Kafka, one of them entitled The Street Window, starts as follows:

Anyone who lives in isolation and would like to make contact somewhere from time to time, who wants to see just any arm they can lean on, taking into account changes in the time of day, weather conditions, professional relationships and things of that nature – this one won't carry it along for long without a street window (Kafka, 1999, p. 34).

The condition of isolation, one of the recurring themes in the author's writings, calls for, even in this short text, the recognition of the constant hesitation between an inside and an outside of human experience, even if only through a window to the street.

In the extreme isolation of a detention camp, like that of Khiam, in southern Lebanon, sadly known for the atrocities committed there, two former prisoners also resort to a window, peculiar[1]: [Kifah Afifi] - “When you entered the cell, there was a small window, not glass, but plastic. We put a black scarf over it, it was like a mirror, you could do whatever you wanted”. [Sonya Beydoun] – “The girls did their eyebrows with a thread in front of this mirror. We learned to shave eyebrows, legs, with a thread. It was even better than anything else.”

A mirror-window that is formed in an extreme situation and works as an interface, as a connection between the inside and the outside, a being inside the cell and another outside it, as contact with an outside arm on which to lean for a moment , of contact with a minimum of a life that is still possible, that remains, that is attacked in the most intimate, that resists the absence, the total suspension of any right.

It was the need to see one's own image, they report, either through a mirror-window invented by a function deviation, in this case, or simply reflecting in a cup of tea to observe the teeth, in another. It was necessary to see if the image itself survived after years of imprisonment and torture. Nothing narcissistic about this action, but to know if there was possible life in the image, if the image itself had not yet died, if it had survived, if there was correspondence with the memory they had, between bodily matter, memory and spirit.

It is the understanding of the body as a passage, as Bergson (1999) considered, of the body as an “invariably reborn part of our representation”, present at all times, or even better, that part that “ends up passing at all times” (p. 177). A body that is itself an image cannot store the images, since it is part of the images. However, this is a very particular image, considered the French philosopher, “which persists among the others and which I call my body, constitutes at every moment, as we said, a cross-section of the universal becoming” (p. 177). It is in this sense that the body becomes “passing place of received and developed movements, the link between the things that act on me and the things I act on, the seat, in short, of sensory-motor phenomena” (p. 177).

It is understood why the scourge of the body is preferably imposed, inside and out in every way, psychically and physiologically, simultaneously, when the rights are suspended in a detention camp, such as Khiam and so many others. The virtual image of a body capable of choices, of indeterminate actions based on a bundle of tendencies that are politically presented, needs to be humiliated, twisted, deformed, until it is completely erased. Hence the configuration of the state of exception as a general rule, as defined by Walter Benjamin (1994), having the field as a space of excellence to impose this scourge, as "new nomos biopolitical of the planet", as concluded by Giorgio Agamben (2002, p. 183). Deteriorating the body image is ultimately political violence, or even the exercise of biopower, as pointed out by Foucault (1999), of managing life.

But the formula designed by Foucault (1994) established that where there is power, power relations, there is always the possibility of resistance. It is not a question, he said, of resistance as one substance opposed to another, of a state army against a revolutionary guerrilla, for example. It is resistance as a constituent, as co-existing with power relations, nor beforehand nem a posteriori, but contemporary, even if it happens from the smallest detail, from a minor politics, from the creation of a minor literature, for example, as Deleuze and Guattari (1975) entitled their book on Kafka. It means understanding the exercise of power from the inside and creating lines of flight, looking for deviations, creating techniques to escape, to reverse logic, to escape from the programmed scrutiny, to find small loopholes and exploit them as a policy of survival, at the limit as a form of maintenance. of life itself. There is like an aesthetics of resistance.

In order to resist, resistance must behave in a certain way like power, that is, “as inventive, as mobile, as productive as it is. That, like him, she organizes, coagulates, consolidates. That, like him, it comes from below and is strategically distributed” (Foucault, 1994, p. 267).

Inventing, not remaining static, moving and producing are inseparable as a policy of resistance, as a strategy that comes from below, from what can be smaller (not quantitatively).

But what if the movement of this absolute power in an extermination or detention camp is to turn the body into a criminal body, in which the exception is always the rule? What does it mean to make this criminal body and lock it up until its image is completely erased? What's more, would it still be necessary to lock him up like in Khiam? Does the same logic prevail? If not, how to resist?

In the “Notes and Sketches” of Dialectic of Enlightenment, Adorno and Horkheimer (1985) give the clue when the fragment of a theory of the criminal: “The absolute solitude, the forced return to the self, whose being is reduced to the elaboration of a material in the monotonous rhythm of the work, delineate as a spectrum horrible the existence of man in the modern world. Radical isolation and radical reduction to the same hopeless nothingness are identical. The man in the penitentiary is the virtual image of the bourgeois type he must become in reality. […] They [penitentiaries] are the image of the world of bourgeois work taken to the last consequences, an image that men's hatred places in the world as a symbol against the reality into which they are forced to transform themselves”.

Making the body criminal is an eagerness to erase the image of modern man in his exercise of extreme power, his own portrait reflected in a recurring fascism, the image of a certain world of created hegemonic work, of an omnipresent spectral image, which resurfaces insistently in the mirror civilization as a symbol to be eliminated, discarded. It is an attempt to purge any sign of political resistance, to invent other images that escape this logic, moving images that produce and reproduce in another direction, moving, images that provoke and reflect life and work in another possible dimension. than just that of commodity productivity.

Therefore, the body made criminal, a “virtual image of the bourgeois type” that needs to be expurgated, both for the specter of horror it covers and for the possibility of immanent resistance to the power it contains, is not the body of an isolated subject, of an individual only , although it is on him that the pain of all sorts of violent techniques is imposed, as a place of passage, as a vector of this relationship between the inside and the outside, the point of connection of sensory-motor phenomena, of acting and suffering the action in yourself.

Images from an exhibition: Khiam 2000-2007

Right at the entrance, in room 1 of the exhibition Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige: if you remember the lumière, presented between 07/06 and 25/09/2016 at the Jeu de Paume National Gallery, in Paris (Hadjithomas and Joreige, 2016), the Lebanese conflicts and civil wars were presented to the public in all their problematic and violence through the most various image compositions.

Attached to a partition were two parallel monitors showing excerpts from the documentary Khiam 2000-2007 (2008). The videos, in loop, presented testimonials from former prisoners who passed through the Khiam detention camp, in southern Lebanon, under the control of Israeli troops and inaccessible until May 2000. The Khiam camp would become a place to visit, a kind of museum which aimed to show the conditions under which the detainees were incarcerated, as can be seen in the documentary by Jean-Marc Sroussi, from 2006. The Khiam camp was bombed and completely destroyed during the Israel-Lebanon confrontation, precisely in 2006 (Figure 1 ).

Around 2008, there was a project by Hezbollah to rebuild the camp as it was before the bombings, as a memorial site. Panels were placed by Hezbollah, with photographs of the cells, corridors and torture rooms, forming a kind of outdoor exhibition in the space of the ruins (Chouteau, 2008), an artistic installation without an artist. A first question that the artists asked themselves when visiting the place was: “How can we make history, memory, if, in the face of the past, we cover up the ruins of an image by another image, a temporality by another, a reality by another?” (Hadjithomas and Joreige, 2013, sp).

Figure 1 - Khiam field destroyed

Source: Hadjithomas and Joreige (2017)

What remained, on the other hand, were the testimonies of former detainees in opposition to the actual absence of the camp. However, the ex-prisoners themselves were amazed at the divergence between their memories and those that began to be built around the memorial and the parallel stories about the camp. Observing the panels placed outdoors, the question was: “what did you really see: an exhibition of the memory of the place, the countryside, the museum, the ruins?” (Chouteau, 2008, p. 66).

This astonishment and questioning set the tone for part of the video shown in the retrospective exhibition of the artists at Jeu de Paume. The former detainees of Khiam, sitting on a chair, looking straight into the lens, the clean wall behind them, as if only their words-images-memories remained, begin by introducing themselves and saying how long they have been incarcerated (Figure 2).

Figure 2 - Former Khiam prisoners and their length of detention

From 05 / 01 / 1988 to 26 / 06 / 1998 From 24 / 10 / 1988 to 03 / 08 / 1994 From 07 / 11 / 1988 to 01 / 09 / 1998
From 13 / 09 / 1990 to 26 / 06 / 1998 From 25 / 02 / 1991 to 03 / 08 / 1994 From 19 / 09 / 1988 to 26 / 06 / 1998

Source: Elaborated by the author based on Hadjithomas and Joreige (2008; 2013; 2016)

Afif, Kifah, Soha, Rajaé, Sonia and Neeman, tell in detail their lives and survival in cells measuring 1,80m x 80 cm or in small rooms shared by 6 people, measuring 2,25m x 2,25m, where they ate, drank , slept, washed, without any infrastructure, just prisoner clothes, a mattress and a blanket. The tortures in the daily interrogations, which lasted from about a month and a half to four months, ranged from physical scourges such as the “traditional” electric shocks, whips, barbed wire mixed with salt water, to psychological ones, such as humiliation and blackmail with family members. that were brought to the field. It was the whole process of transforming the body into a criminal body, of erasing the body image, the annihilation of a possible life. It is not intended here to extend the descriptions of reported atrocities, but only to draw attention to a peculiarity of Khiam, the use of a technique that demonstrated the extreme situation to which detainees were subjected, a symbol of total suspension of any trace of the right to which they were subjected. could call humanity: the “dungeon”, a crate measuring approximately 80x80cm and 80 cm high (Figure 3).

Figure 3 - Former Khiam detainee shows a “dungeon”

Source: sequel to the film by Jean-Marc Sroussi (2006)

It reminded him of a tomb, the solitude of a tomb, death. These were the terms used by Soha to describe the “dungeon”. “It is one of the worst things a human being can endure,” concluded Afif. It is the condition of total, extreme isolation. There were even slightly larger “dungeons”, intended for long periods of isolation. Neeman, after losing his father and brother due to torture during interrogations, already considering that anything could be done with him, disillusioned with the loss of loved ones, curiously preferred periods of isolation, as he took it as “a court of law of the person, a court of the personality”, court and judgment to which one was not entitled in the countryside. For Afif it was the opportunity to “make a general inventory of the period we had just lived through, it calmed the spirit”.

Under these conditions, there seems to be a different relationship with the passing of time, perhaps more intense, since there wasn't even a sentence and the detainee could stay in the camp for one, two, five, ten, twenty years, I didn't know. “I was in isolation for six years. All my work was on my mind. The hours passed, I had 24 hours, I told myself”, reports Soha.

Over the course of the video shown on the two monitors, there begins to be a certain deviation in the narratives, which in the installation coincides with the monitor switching from left to right, as if there were a kind of stage change, a transition. From descriptions of torture, abject and extreme conditions, to forms of survival, to forms of resistance, which have as one of the inflection points in the video the moment of the window-mirror and when some smiles begin to appear.

Comments on the food, on the rare and quick walks in the sunlight and on the chance encounters that happened with other detainees, on how to exercise in the cell, practice sports: “I considered that the body was like a car engine”, he says. Neeman. Soha, on the other hand, forced himself to regularly “walk” a few steps around his cell, calculated to reach 4,5 km a day.

From physical issues, we moved on to emotional ones, dreams and the perception of the outside. Rajaé loved a girl he had spent three years with before entering the field; sometimes he imagined her in front of him; “they” talked, played, argued, for 8 years. Right now, there's a cut to Afif:

What was new between us were dreams. The night that everyone dreamed of. Telling our dreams was the new thing. We discovered words we didn't know, inspired by the dream, and we told them to our companions [...] And, once we started talking, the subject became vast.

Another cut to Rajaé, who was continuing his case: “We were talking. In dreams, she came in dreams. I let myself be carried away. It was like we lived together.” Another interruption and Kifah remembers that information from outside the cells arrived, at most, with a delay of two to three months, usually when someone arrived. However, they sharpened their ears as much as they could, to hear at least “one word, just one word of the entire news” on the watchmen's radio. After a brief intervention by Soha, saying that this way you could spend the hours, the days, the years, making deductions, Sonia, smiling, recalls that “sometimes, we made up stories: I was at the market, I cooked this dish, I did this and that, took the kids home, enrolled the kids in school; we forgot the field”. Finally, Rajaé ends his story, with the disappointment of meeting again with the loved one, already compromised: “it was as if I had lived all this time on a cloud, … on a cloud”.

In this sequence, the interruptions, the comings and goings in the narratives are, evidently, purposeful. In assembling the documentary, the artists seek connections, points of meeting and disagreement, mediated by perception, sensation, imagination, memory, dreams, inventions. The lenses try to capture the remaining traces of humanity, as potentialities, they look for relationships between the expressions on the faces and the spoken words.

However, minutes before, when the detainees were still talking about torture and the lack of structure for a minimum of life, Kifah disagrees and remembers when three girls arrived and, after a while of socializing, they asked themselves: “what if we interpreted the way they torture us? They started in two groups, imitating how they, the torturers, questioned them, how they interrogated them, how they beat them. “We laughed, we created a good atmosphere,” he said. They exchanged roles, between inquisitor and prisoner, trying to guess how they would be tortured, the methods they would use. Once, at that very moment, says Kifah, the guards opened the door and said: “Come on, we need you. They sealed my eyes and I suffered exactly what I had just interpreted”. If there is a meaning for the tragic in the relationship between theater and life, this can only be one of the most direct and radical ones.

This passage brings the first signs of what most instigated Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige when developing their work on Khiam: the approximation between invention, survival, art and politics.

Techno-aesthetic invention as a survival policy: Khiam's Objects (1999)

In the first series of interviews with the former prisoners of Khiam, what called the most attention were the reports about the objects that the artists had recovered in the camp. Where everything was banned, from talking at the window to handicrafts, passing through the means of having fun, the most diverse artifacts, utilitarian, decorative, artistic, are manufactured with materials obtained clandestinely. Needles, adorned wooden combs, a small chess set, a mini-jar, olive pit necklaces covered and decorated with colored yarn, small baskets, a delicate crocheted flower, amulets, among many other objects (see some images of the objects in Figure 4).

The same room as the exhibition at Jeu de Paume, where the videos in loop, the photographs of these objects were displayed on the wall and in a glass compartment that took up half the room in an L shape, composing another work in dialogue, entitled Khiam's Objects (1999). If the visitor started with videos or photos, in the transition from one support to the other the connection was immediate, almost forcing a return to one of the two. On one side the narrated recorded memories No. body, of the other, memories that subsist in recorded objects by the body, later printed in static close up on paper by the artists.

Figure 4 - Some of Khiam's Objects (1999)

Source: Hadjithomas and Joreige (2017)

The objects impress by themselves, given the conditions under which they were made, but they become more interesting as one listens to the motivation and even the way in which they were conceived. Soha was fully aware of the problem that was compounded from the beginning: [Soha]: “How can man work for himself, to evolve between four walls? From the second day I said: Everything that enters the cell, we must do something”.

It was a form of combat starting from nothing, literally: [Afif]: “No needle, no comb, no pencil, no paper, nothing. The elementary things that allow a man to hold, to turn around, to not forget, like the pencil, did not exist. But, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention…”. [Neeman]: “The things we needed, what did we do? We tried to create them”. [Afif]: “The fight against oneself begins: we have to create a needle, we need it…”.

Observing these objects and the way they were made, it is impossible not to remember the classic by Robert Bresson, A death row inmate escaped (A condemned man escaped) of 1956. There, the criminal body of Fontaine captured by the Gestapo decides to escape from prison before being killed by the Nazis. In Bresson's film there is no spectacularization of the escape, not least because the ending is already explicit in the title. The emphasis is on meticulously, almost silently fighting through the construction of small technical artifacts that will contribute to the prisoner's objective. There is tension throughout the film given the prison control environment. It is fascinating to see the art of sabotage being put into practice in the smallest detail, the small piracy in the prison and the ways that Fontaine uses to circumvent the regulated space, to resist imminent death. There is a whole technical process of thinking, of technical intuition in progress, to use Simondon's terms (1969, 2014), such as defense and survival strategy. There is no climax or a grand finale, it simply escapes, an affirmation, a political positivity that deserves attention.

Now, the criminal bodies of Khiam do not try to escape, their material realities for such an undertaking are different. However, they keep escaping all the time, finding other ways to survive annihilation, articulating technical and aesthetic intuition, or even better, techno-aesthetics as a limiting strategy for maintaining life. This is a central observation for artists: “In this situation of dehumanization, the artistic act emerges, re-emerges as a necessity among those who do not call themselves artists, who do not qualify their productions as works, but who speak of this artistic impulse felt as the only way to keep yourself, to survive and not get lost. Thus, the detainees developed and exchanged surprising fabrication techniques, to communicate with each other, to create, to disobey, to preserve a humanity that this type of field tries to annihilate” (Hadjithomas and Joreige, 2013, p.3).

The artists' interest in this aspect is understandable, based on Soha's key statement: “How to continue? How to last? I don't have a day or two. I have an enemy, how can I fight him in this field?”. Finding ways of not succumbing, inventing other images that allow you not to get lost, that help you to continue, to last, is to fight politically, it is to promote choices that are not programmed, that are not death, but sustaining life.

It is in this sense that Simondon (2008) will say that in situations of urgency and restlessness, or more generally of intense emotion, the images acquire a vital character, a “vital relief” and that they lead the decision to the choices between the trends that arise. feature. These images, continues the philosopher, “are not perceptions, they do not correspond to the pure concrete, because, in order to choose, it is necessary to be at a certain distance from the real” (p. 10). However, they are like a vital sample and, what is more fundamental, they contain “anticipation aspects (projects, visions of the future), cognitive contents (representation of reality, certain details seen and heard), in short, affective contents and emotional”. Thus, the image as a sample of life, which figures between the concrete and the abstract, resists and gains a political character, since it is in the synthesis between the cognitive and affective aspects in which choices are made.

It is understandable why the image gains another status in a state of permanent tension and problem solving, between bundles of trends that demand choices. It is a political fight that, on the one hand, tries to establish a criminal body to eliminate it in the next instant, erasing its most vile image, the reflection in the mirror of the exploitation of work, that which one does not want to see and, on the other, the insistence, as in Khiam's example, on seeing one's own image, what remained beyond that hideous reflected spectrum, what one wants to see as a potentiality of life, even if it is mirrored in technical and aesthetic objects at the same time.

When Hadjithomas and Joreige are attentive to the fact that these objects serve as techniques of communication, creation, disobedience, preservation, resistance, which in the end are composed, as Foucault said, immanent to power relations, in a way nomadic, inventive, productive, solid, coming from below, strategically, means that the collective character of choices is established, as in Kafka's minor literature. If the choice is between surrendering or fighting the enemy within his camp, that is, in a minority situation (being a Jew, Kafka wrote in official German in Prague), it will not be made individually, but collectively in the articulation of the forces inside and outside. Therein lies one of the political meanings of the transindividual in Simondon: “Choice is a collective operation, group foundation, transindividual activity” (Simondon, 1989, p. 204).

To found a group is to provide the genesis of another possible image, of the articulation between imagination and invention. It is not a simple social relationship, a community. The ex-prisoners of Khiam, it can be seen at this point, are not only configured as a community of ex-detainees, they participate in a process of collective individuation that transcends the walls of that prison, mainly through the actions and techno-aesthetic objects that they brought to the fore there as resistance, even if at no time did they see themselves as artists for making such objects.

It is because the aesthetic intention, according to Simondon, establishes a horizontal relationship between different modes of thought (technical, religious, for example), which tends to the totality, understood as the background, which it wishes to express, and holds “the transductive power that leads from one domain to another” (1969, p. 199). For this reason, the meaning of art for Simondon is not to close itself in a certain reality, but to make it transductive in space and time, that is, “giving a localized and effected reality the power to pass to other places and times. . It gives the particular being realized hic and nunc the power of having been himself and yet again being himself and a multitude of others. Art loosens the bonds of haecceity; it multiplies haecceity” (p. 200).

That is, art from this perspective crosses ontological limits, freeing itself from being or not being, as Simondon says, conforming a networked, reticular reality, in collective individuation. It is interesting that Simondon goes so far as to say, when he is writing about technique in its broadest sense, as a process of individuation, that the community accepts the painter or the poet, but rejects invention. It must be understood that Simondon, when speaking of the poet and the painter, is not referring only to the selfish desires that often drive them, not unlike a technical inventor, nor even established art, which becomes aestheticism.

What is refused, refuted, which needs to be under control in some way, is what the philosopher classifies as the fourth phase of the becoming of images, invention: “At its birth, the image is a bundle of driving tendencies, anticipation of long-term experience of the object; in the course of the interaction between the organism and the environment, it becomes a system for receiving incident signals and allows perceptive-motor activity to present itself in a progressive way. Finally, while the subject is again separated from the object, the image enriches the cognitive contributions and, integrating the affective-emotive resonance of the experience, becomes a symbol”. (Simondon, 2008, p. 3).

Invention, for Simondon, arises from there, as the fourth phase of the becoming of the image, which, after happening, restarts its cycle. Transferred to the exhibition by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, with regard to the Khiam (video and photographic reproductions of the objects) seen in the smallest detail of a needle, as reported by the former detainees, I would also not miss a word of the excerpt from Simondon above.

When an ex-prisoner or prisoner is elaborating his mental images, imagining his objects, it is not a question of an “imagining consciousness” alone, the will of an isolated subject according to his isolated forces, but there is something that destabilizes him, “an image that resists free will, which refuses to be guided by the will of a subject, who presents himself according to his own strength, inhabiting the conscious mind as an intruder who comes to mess up the order of the house, in which he is not invited” (Simondon, 2008, p.7).

Imagination and invention are not opposed and the key word that appears in this relationship is “anticipation”, as a political centrality in the relationship between individual and techno-aesthetic object, which conserves human effort in some way, in the expectation of creating a transindividual domain, distinct from the idea of ​​community, in a way that the “notion of freedom acquires a meaning and that transforms the notion of individual destiny, although it does not annihilate it” (Simondon, 1989, p. 268). This is a big difference that brings the thought of a philosopher like Simondon: the technical activity is not separated from the individuation, or the self-creation of the individual, which is permanent. The characteristic of the technical being is concrete temporal integration, in which the body can function as a gateway to this process, as an image that updates “a cross-section of the universal becoming”, to repeat Bergson.

When it comes to techno-aesthetics, in Simondonian terms (Simondon, 1998), it is necessary to avoid all aestheticism and all technicalities. It is the intercategorical relationship that matters in the genesis of object-images. There is a continuous transition between technical object and aesthetic object that allows this conception of techno-aesthetics: “the aesthetic object could then be conceived as not inserted in a universe, and highlighted as a technical object, while a technical object could be considered as an aesthetic object ” (Simondon, 1969, p. 184).

If there is beauty in technical objects, it is due to their insertion in a world, “whether geographic or human”. Considering Khiam's objects as techno-aesthetic means taking Simondon's observation into account, as the aesthetic impression is “relative to insertion; it is like a gesture” (1969, p. 185). The example that the philosopher uses is that it is thanks to the garden that the statue can be beautiful, not the other way around. It is in the encounter between the two, a meaning that is configured “between a real aspect of the world and a human gesture” (p. 191).

The same goes for objects produced in Khiam. It is interesting to remember that it is not the objects effectively, but the images that are exhibited, since, as Omar Berrada (2016) argues in the exhibition catalogue, Khiam's objects are not materially reproducible, re-made, because this “reproduction it would have no meaning outside prison”, since the daily rituals, the risky fabrication of objects are “practices of freedom” (p. 353) that allowed them to survive inserted in that context. These objects, as well captured by Schneider (2016, p. 426), are “moving testimonies of the desire to live, but also a powerful affirmation of 'making an image'”.

There is, therefore, a connection between image, invention and anticipation, which become fundamental for understanding techno-aesthetics as a policy, of survival, in the case of ex-prisoners: “Aesthetic analysis and technical analysis go in the direction of invention , because they operate a rediscovery of the meaning of these image-objects, perceiving them as organisms, and reawakening their imaginal fullness of the invented and produced reality” (Simondon, 2008, p. 14).

The image thus appears as the basis of anticipation, allowing a pre-figuration of a near or distant future. That is, the anticipation is always towards the future, while returning to “the old dreams”, it evokes the past, contains “the echo of ancient aspirations, already materialized in object-images” (Simondon, 2008, p. 16 ).

In this way, artists and writers, for example, can preform a different social state, anticipate another form of life: “For collective life, and precisely insofar as the mental image is materialized not only by processes of cumulative causality, but also according to the paths of invention by creating aesthetic, prosthetic, technical image-objects, the image incorporates the past and can make it available through prospective work” (Simondon, 2008, p.16).

And a little further on, the philosopher completes, saying that pre(ver) is not just a matter of vision, but of inventing and living, that is, to a certain extent it is part of a praxis, in which the image, “a reserve of oriented emotion linked to knowledge” (p. 17), ensures the continuity of the prospective act. It is the relationship between living beings and their environment in solving problems, anticipation that is collective and modifies individual actions, constituting a synergistic, non-hierarchical system. Here is a political power of invention. Capital, for example, realized some time ago that the political struggle lies in anticipation, in controlling the invention process.

And fostering invention in its strict sense can be dangerous without strict control. To this end, it introduced a paraphernalia of artifices, mainly in the world of work, of production, such as: innovation, entrepreneurship, human capital, motivation, etc., to name the most recent ones, and when one escapes these images, when they are insufficient , the detention camp emerges as a viable device of hierarchical power, as one of the models to purge the possibilities of a system of positive coupling between living beings and their environment, in which the objective and subjective world communicate freely, without necessarily passing through only through the sieve of market productivity. There is always the risk that the “horrible specter” of man's existence in the modern world will appear in the mirror, in the image and likeness of the “world of bourgeois work taken to its ultimate consequences”, to recall the quoted passage by Adorno and Horkheimer.

The look of Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige on what happened in Khiam, beyond the atrocities that model this horrible specter, is directed to the peculiarity of the technical and aesthetic analysis that turn to the invention of the object-images that were produced there as a form of resistance, as organisms that bring other perspectives because, as Simondon summarizes, “imagination is not only the activity of producing or evoking images, but also the way of welcoming images materialized in objects, that is, from perspective to perspective. they of a new existence” (2008, p. 14).

The work by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige on the field of Khiam has this virtue. Registering the atrocities, but also trying to perceive and value the lines of flight that were established there, the other perspectives that were created, the individuations that were conformed within an entirely totalitarian space, in which the exception as a rule did not allow a history through techno-aesthetics, from below, the tradition of the oppressed, as Benjamin (1994) said in his famous and very current eighth thesis on the concept of history. Or, as Simondon (2008, p. 8) stated, every strong image is endowed with a certain ghostly power. Faced with a given situation, it imposes itself. Like a ghost, it crosses walls.

*Emerson Freire Professor and researcher at the Master's in Professional Education at the State Center for Technological Education Paula Souza (CEETEPS) and at Fatec Jundiaí, where he coordinates the Technology and Society Studies Center (NETS).


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[1] All quoted lines were taken, with free translation of subtitles in French, from the film Khiam 2000-2007 (Hadjithomas and Joreige, 2008), exhibited in the exhibition “Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige: se souvenir de la lumière”, presented between 07/06 and 25/09/2016 at the Jeu de Paume Museum, in Paris, France.

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