One Take: Luke Willis Thompson ‘_Human’ – 一个拍摄:Luke Willis Thompson的《人类》

The final line of Frantz Fanon’s impassioned anti-colonial book, Peau noire, masques blancs (Black Skin, White Masks, 1952), is rendered, in English, as follows: ‘O my body, make of me always a man who questions!’ 1 Published in the same year that the term Third World was coined by anthropologist Alfred Sauvy, Fanon’s closing prayer forged a new link between anatomy and the destiny of those that Europe colonized, whose bodies were trafficked into bondage. Routing a sense of corporeal novelty through his own vexed identification with manhood, Fanon’s prayer undermines any attempt to privilege normative masculinity. In asking his body to make of him ‘a man who questions’, Fanon sets himself in opposition to the colonial father who expects a body to mutely follow. As we continue to reckon with the malignant colour-coded hierarchies that we have inherited from slavery and colonialism, so Fanon’s declaration echoes. His term for this legacy’s lingering presence upon the body, ‘a racial epidermal schema’ 2, remains a crucial theoretical phrase for working through our own era, one in which, as cultural theorist Paul Gilroy notes: ‘screens rather than lenses now mediate the pursuit of bodily truths.’ 3

In reckoning with the manner by which postmodern screens picked up where colonial-era lenses left off, Gilroy brings Fanon’s doctorly focus on the body into our present media ecology – an environment in which proliferating digitized pathologies do the work of reifying race. How does one compose a black corporeal schema in a world of omnipresent video surveillance and ubiquitous snapshot photography? Every day, the impulse grows stronger to beat a retreat from the modern frenzy, for the sake of a body whose finitude cannot bear up to the speed or intensity of all that is demanded of it.

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One Take: Luke Willis Thompson ‘_Human’ - 一个拍摄:Luke Willis Thompson的《人类》

Luke Willis Thompson, _Human, 2018, installation view, Kunsthalle Basel. Courtesy: the artist, Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland/Wellington, and Galerie Nagel Draxler, Cologne/Berlin. Commissioned and produced by Kunsthalle Basel; photograph: Philipp Hänger/Kunsthalle Basel

For racialized and colonized people, those targeted for arbitrary and structural violence, the search for such respite could be mistaken for a retreat into humanism of an old-fashioned sort. No such humanism guides the careful and painstaking thinking behind Luke Willis Thompson’s new single-screen film, _Human (2018). In recent years, Thompson has developed a reputation for formally minimal, hauntingly precise and incandescently rageful artistic gestures that offer a deep gaze into the eyes of us who, in the artist’s words, are ‘readymade for violence’. 4 He has taken as his subject matter the racism faced by Pasifika communities in New Zealand, the police murder of black people in the US and UK, ‘stop and frisk’ street harassment in New York and the multiple displacements of racialized subjects in the Pacific Islands and beyond. Like Andy Warhol, Thompson has no alibi as to why it is his camera that should be the one capturing violence and its aftermath. But, unlike Warhol, Thompson works in close consultation with his subjects or their estates, to secure their informed consent. In this era, such scruples around consent and participation might seem quaint – are not each and every one of us continuously being captured by human-operated and automated cameras? But such a slowing down and rarefaction of the image-producing machine is critical to an artistic process that results in images of such luminosity.

With a run-time of nine minutes and 30 seconds and a complete absence of sound, _Human depicts another work of impossible fragility: Donald Rodney’s sculpture My Mother, My Father, My Sister, My Brother (1997). But we don’t know this at first. Close-up images of an illuminated surface stitched together with pins fade, slowly, in and out of view, only to stutter into life. A camera rotates – slowly, again – as it peers up at what seems to be a cathedral ceiling held together with tape. Only after we become immersed in the sedate texture of this object does the camera pull back to reveal what we are seeing: a tiny house floating in black space.

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One Take: Luke Willis Thompson ‘_Human’ - 一个拍摄:Luke Willis Thompson的《人类》

Luke Willis Thompson, _Human, 2018, film still depicting Donald Rodney, My Mother, My Father, My Sister, My Brother, 1997. Courtesy: the artist, Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland/Wellington, and Galerie Nagel Draxler, Cologne/Berlin. Commissioned and produced by Kunsthalle Basel

It feels intimate, painfully so, and it should. Rodney’s sculpture was made from his own skin, skin that he shed during multiple hospitalizations for sickle-cell anaemia, the condition that would claim his life, in 1998, shortly before his 37th birthday. Born in the UK to black Caribbean parents, Rodney was a prominent member of the BLK Art Group, which formed in Wolverhampton in 1979. Along with artists such as Eddie Chambers, Keith Piper and Marlene Smith, Rodney participated in a vibrant, collaborative effort to bring the black art movement to the British midlands and beyond. His notebooks, held in the Tate Archive in London, document an intense creativity that persisted in spite of his illness. With the form of the house a recurring motif and topos of investigation, his ‘double-voiced’ work has received ongoing attention, as art historian Kobena Mercer puts it, ‘both as a son’s loving testimony to the migrant journey by which his father uprooted himself from one place to make a home in another and as one individual’s fearless confrontation with his own mortality’. 5

The title of Rodney’s work alludes to hereditary biological inheritance: a shared set of genetic traits that makes a person’s skin not entirely their own. It thus evokes the moment when, as Édouard Glissant notes, ‘one consents not to be a single being and attempts to be many beings at the same time.’ 6 I see such an attempt in Thompson’s cinematic weaving of his own family’s genetic code into the cuts and edits of _Human. Thompson, like Rodney, has a hereditary illness, Huntington’s disease, and has transposed his own genetic map into a sort of score. Sickle-cell anaemia is often thought of as a black or African disease, insofar as the genetic trait that causes the anaemia is predominantly present in those who, like me, are descended from sub-Saharan Africa. By contrast, Huntington’s primarily affects those of European descent. In _Human, these genetic destinies become entangled, as Thompson attempts to be many beings at the same time.

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One Take: Luke Willis Thompson ‘_Human’ - 一个拍摄:Luke Willis Thompson的《人类》

Luke Willis Thompson, _Human, 2018, film still depicting Donald Rodney, My Mother, My Father, My Sister, My Brother, 1997. Courtesy: the artist, Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland/Wellington, and Galerie Nagel Draxler, Cologne/Berlin. Commissioned and produced by Kunsthalle Basel

With its haunting aerial and close-up shots of Rodney’s sculpture, some of which formally mimic surveillance footage of police violence, _Human is a subtle work about the morbidity and mortality of the colonial modern. And given the fragility, age and size of the sculpture, Thompson constructed a shooting rig that was capable of what he tellingly describes as ‘surgical precision’. 7 But the work is anything but clinical: this conservationist effort only magnifies the human tremor in the final result, one that is arrestingly, achingly alive. Stolen life is of deep interest to Thompson, a New Zealand artist of Fijian and European descent, whose work has long investigated the corporeal consequences of colonial and neo-colonial racism. He is eclectic in his influences, voracious in his research habits and deeply imprinted by the impact of planetary blackness as a counter-culture to modernity. _Human is the first of his recent films to diverge from the appropriation aesthetics of his previous work, which drew upon the technical constraints that Warhol employed in his ‘Screen Tests’ (1964–66). Abandoning neutrality, Thompson’s camera now takes a more active and mobile stance.

My father was a pathologist. Growing up, I could see race, but I couldn’t see it in his Nairobi lab. Lenses and screens dispersed the fact of blackness along a thousand cellular plateaux; the myth of visible race dissolved into the frantic and spooky complexity of morbid tissue biopsies. I think about his slides when I view _Human, with its titular reference to the ‘tag’ that marks DNA as human in the computer databases that Thompson works with. And I think about how Fanon sought to complete a ‘lysis’ of the morbid body of colonial racism. As a young doctor, Fanon imagined he could extract samples from the social body of colonial rule and dissolve them in his laboratory for analysis. He wanted to understand why colonialism was dying, and what life after its death could be for decolonized people. But his emphasis on the ‘racial epidermal schema’ of those subjected to racism was not an essentialism. He wasn’t interested in finding the cause of our distress in the epidermal cells or seeking to fix blackness in the degree of melanin or traceable African genetic heritage, as many still do. Rather, he sought to counter biological racism by zooming in on the very grounds – science and medicine – that had established it.

Fanon died young, at just 36, of leukaemia, and a glance at his extensive publication history makes clear the classic signs of ‘a young man in a hurry’. Rodney, too, worked furiously up until his very last moment. (Too ill to attend his only solo show, he sent an automated wheelchair to the opening in absentia.) He maintained his fascination with the form of the house, drawing it repeatedly and, in the case of the installation The House That Jack Built (1987), raising it as something that resembles an altar. Rodney’s work has never disappeared, but it can now be rediscovered through an homage that is almost, but not quite, an appropriation of a photo the artist took of his own sculpture: In the House of My Father (1996–97), in which the skin structure nestles in the palm of his hand. Looking at it, I am drawn to a fragment of Saeed Jones’s 2014 poem, ‘Boy Found Inside a Wolf’:
      
I’m climbing
out of my father. His love a wet shine
all over me. 8

Where Rodney’s photographic setting grants his sculpture an intimate scale, _Human restores to it an intensity that echoes throughout this poem, with its enigmatic fantasy of male birth. Somehow, the film also restores a wet shine to the sculpture, even though the past two decades have rendered the work ‘more brittle than a dried leaf and [weighing] approximately the same’. 9 The poem spells out the allegory of _Human: here, two works that must necessarily reflect a consideration of posterity – of what lives on.

Pursuing a contrast between these two views – from within and beyond Rodney’s own skin – _Human takes the sculpture out of the hospital room and moves it into that which Gilles Deleuze terms an ‘any-space-whatever’. 10 This dislocation re-imagines the sculpture as pure surface and volume. In the same spirit with which Fanon approached the scientific tools of his medical profession, Thompson experiments with the possibility of making his camera take a stance against itself. That it cannot do this, that it must always bring to the image a set of invisible coordinates nestled within the metadata of the image file, is a terrifying hint of the cameras to come, the ones that do not nestle in our palm, but twine their lenses and shutters into our very skin.

To be determined from within and without by destinies out of our control: this diasporic post-colonial experience is given a particular texture in both Rodney’s stitched house and Thompson’s determination to interlace into its pictorial record the story of his own refusal to exist as a single being. But rather than offer us a glimpse of the artist’s hand, Thompson provides us with access to a genetic heredity and a portentous futurity. For me, this mournful and militant act takes me back to my father’s laboratory, to his many, many plates of slides, and to a question that my young mind asked, which my adult mind still can’t answer: what am I looking at in these images? Death? Or Life? 

Main image:_Human, 2018, film still depicting Donald Rodney, My Mother, My Father, My Sister, My Brother, 1997. Courtesy: the artist, Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland/Wellington, and Galerie Nagel Draxler, Cologne/Berlin. Commissioned and produced by Kunsthalle Basel

1  ‘Ô mon corps, fais de mois toujours un homme qui interroge!’ Frantz Fanon, Oeuvres, trans. Charles Lam Markham, 2011, Découverte, Paris, p. 251
2  Fanon, Oeuvres, p. 154 and passim
3  Paul Gilroy, Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line, 2000, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, p. 37
4  Luke Willis Thompson in conversation with the author, 23 May 2016
5  Kobena Mercer, Travel and See: Black Diaspora Art Practices since the 1980s, 2016, Duke University Press, Durham, p. 30
6  Glissant’s phrase, which is taken from a 2009 conversation between the poet and Manthia Diawara, has recently been adopted and transformed by another poet-theorist, Fred Moten, as the general title of his critical three-volume magnum opus, the first volume of which is published as Black and Blur (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017)
7  Luke Willis Thompson, Turner prize statement, 2018
8  Saeed Jones, Prelude to Bruise, 2014, Coffee House, Minneapolis, p. 13
9  Thompson, Turner prize statement, 2018
10  Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta, 1986, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, p. 109

Tavia Nyong’o

Tavia Nyong’o is professor of American Studies at Yale University. His book, Afro-Fabulations: The Queer Drama of Black Life, will be published by NYU Press in November 2018.

Issue 198

First published in Issue 198

October 2018

Features /

Luke Willis Thompson
One Take
Frantz Fanon
Race
Hopkinson Mossman
Galerie Nagel Draxler
Feature
Artist Film
Édouard Glissant


弗朗茨·法农充满激情的反殖民主义著作《黑色的珠儿,白色的面具》(黑皮肤,白色的面具,1952)的最后一行用英语写道:“我的身体,让我永远成为一个有问题的人!”同年,人类学家阿尔弗雷德·索维(Alfred Sauvy)创造了“第三世界”这个术语,法农的闭幕式祈祷在解剖学与欧洲殖民者的命运之间建立了新的联系,欧洲殖民者的尸体被贩卖成奴隶。范农的祈祷通过自己对男性身份的烦恼认同,消除了肉体上的新奇感,削弱了任何赋予男性规范特权的企图。在要求他的身体使他成为一个“有问题的人”时,法农把自己置于殖民地父亲的对立中,他希望一个身体默默地跟随他。当我们继续考虑我们从奴隶制和殖民主义中继承下来的恶性的颜色编码等级制度时,范农的宣言引起了共鸣。他对这种遗留物在身体上挥之不去的存在“种族表皮图式”2,仍然是贯穿我们这个时代的关键理论用语,正如文化理论家保罗·吉尔罗伊指出的那样,在这个理论用语中,“屏幕,而不是镜头,现在调解了对身体真理的追求。”考虑到后现代电影拍摄殖民时代镜头停止的方式,Gilroy将Fanon博士对身体的关注带入了我们当前的媒体生态——一个不断扩散的数字化病理学做着使种族复活的工作的环境。如何在一个无所不在的视频监控和无处不在的快照摄影的世界中组成一个黑色的有形模式?每一天,这种冲动都会越来越强烈,以打败从现代狂热中撤退的念头,因为这个身体的有限性无法承受它所要求的一切速度和强度。nyongo-..jpg One Take: Luke Willis Thompson ‘_Human’ - 一个拍摄:Luke Willis Thompson的《人类》 Luke Willis Thompson,_.,2018,安装视图,Kunsthalle Basel。礼貌:艺术家,Hopkinson Mossman,奥克兰/惠灵顿,和Galerie Nagel Draxler,Cologne /柏林。昆士塔尔·巴塞尔委托制作;照片:菲利普·亨格尔/昆士塔尔·巴塞尔。对于种族主义者和殖民者,那些以武断和结构性暴力为目标的人,寻求这种缓和可能会被误认为是退回到老式的人道主义。卢克·威利斯·汤普森的新单幕电影《人类》(2018)背后,没有哪种人文主义能够引导人们认真而细致的思考。近年来,汤普森以形式上极简、极其精确、充满怒火的艺术姿态而闻名,这些姿态让我们深深地凝视着我们的眼睛,用艺术家的话说,我们的眼睛是“暴力的准备品”。他把新西兰帕西菲卡人社区面临的种族主义、美国和英国警察谋杀黑人、纽约街头骚扰、太平洋岛屿及其他地区种族化主体的多次流离失所等问题作为自己的主题。像安迪·沃霍尔一样,汤普森没有理由不知道为什么他的相机应该是一个捕捉暴力和后果的人。但是,不像沃霍尔,汤普森与他的臣民或他们的庄园密切磋商,以确保他们的知情同意。在这个时代,围绕着同意和参与的这种顾虑似乎很奇怪——难道我们每个人都不断地被人工操作和自动照相机捕捉吗?但是,图像产生机的这种减速和稀疏对于产生这种亮度的图像的艺术过程是至关重要的。《人类》以9分30秒的运行时间,完全没有声音,描绘了另一件不可思议的脆弱作品:唐纳德·罗德尼的雕塑《我的母亲,我的父亲,我的妹妹,我的兄弟》(1997)。但我们起初并不知道这一点。用针缝在一起的照明表面的特写图像慢慢地淡入淡出,进入和离开视线,只是喋喋不休地进入生活。一架摄影机旋转着——缓慢地,再一次——当它凝视着似乎是带着胶带的教堂天花板时。只有当我们沉浸在这个物体的宁静纹理中时,相机才会拉回镜头,显示我们所看到的:一个漂浮在黑色空间中的小房子。nyongo-.-2.jpg One Take: Luke Willis Thompson ‘_Human’ - 一个拍摄:Luke Willis Thompson的《人类》 Luke Willis Thompson,_.,2018,仍然描绘唐纳德·罗德尼,我的母亲,我的父亲,我的妹妹,我的兄弟的电影,1997。礼貌:艺术家,Hopkinson Mossman,奥克兰/惠灵顿,和Galerie Nagel Draxler,Cologne /柏林。由昆萨勒巴塞尔委托和生产的感觉亲密,痛苦,所以,它应该。罗德尼的雕塑是由他自己的皮肤制成的,他在镰状细胞贫血的多次住院期间脱落的皮肤,这种病症在1998年,就在他37岁生日前不久夺去了他的生命。罗德尼生于英国,父母是加勒比黑人。1979年,罗德尼在伍尔弗汉普顿成立了BLK艺术集团。罗德尼与埃迪·钱伯斯、基思·派珀和玛琳·史密斯等艺术家一起,参加了一项充满活力的合作努力,把黑人艺术运动带到英国中部地区及更远的地方。他的笔记本在伦敦的泰特档案馆里保存着一种强烈的创造力,尽管他生病了。由于房子的形式是一个反复出现的主题和调查主题,他的“双声”作品一直受到关注,正如艺术历史学家科比娜·默瑟所说,“都是儿子对移民之旅的热爱见证,父亲通过移民之旅把自己从一个地方赶出来养活自己。”我在另一个人身上,与一个人无畏地对抗着自己的死亡。罗德尼作品的标题暗示了遗传生物遗传:一组共同的遗传特征,使人的皮肤不完全属于自己。因此,它唤起了这样一个时刻,正如douardGlissant所说,“一个人同意不再是一个个体,同时尝试成为多个个体。”汤普森和罗德尼一样,患有一种遗传性疾病,亨廷顿氏病,并把他自己的基因图谱换成了一个分数。镰状细胞贫血通常被认为是一种黑色或非洲疾病,因为引起贫血的遗传特征主要存在于那些像我一样来自撒哈拉以南非洲的后裔中。相比之下,亨廷顿主要影响欧洲血统。在人类中,这些基因命运纠缠在一起,因为汤普森试图同时成为许多生物。nyongo-.-3.jpg One Take: Luke Willis Thompson ‘_Human’ - 一个拍摄:Luke Willis Thompson的《人类》 Luke Willis Thompson,_.,2018,仍然描绘唐纳德·罗德尼,我的母亲,我的父亲,我的妹妹,我的兄弟的电影,1997。礼貌:艺术家,Hopkinson Mossman,奥克兰/惠灵顿,和Galerie Nagel Draxler,Cologne /柏林。《人类》是昆士塔尔·巴塞尔公司委托制作,拍摄了罗德尼雕塑的令人难以忘怀的空中和特写镜头,其中一些雕塑正式模仿了警察暴力的监视镜头。考虑到雕塑的脆弱性、年代和大小,汤普森建造了一个射击装置,它能够进行他所谓的“精确外科手术”。但这项工作绝非临床:这种环保主义者的努力最终只能放大人类的震颤,一种令人惊讶、痛苦地活着的震颤。汤普森是斐济和欧洲裔的新西兰艺术家,他的作品长期以来一直在研究殖民主义和新殖民主义种族主义的肉体后果。他的影响力是折衷的,他的研究习惯是贪婪的,并且深深地印象在行星的黑暗作为反现代文化的影响下。《人类》是他最近拍摄的第一部偏离他先前作品的占有美学的电影,这部电影借鉴了沃霍尔在《银幕测试》(1964-66)中所采用的技术限制。放弃中立,汤普森的相机现在采取了更积极和机动的立场。我父亲是病理学家。从小我就能看见种族,但在他的内罗毕实验室里却看不见。镜头和屏幕将黑色的事实分散在一千个细胞高原上;可见种族的神话溶解在病态组织活检的疯狂和恐怖的复杂性中。当我查看_Human时,我想到了他的幻灯片,标题上提到了Thompson使用的计算机数据库中标记DNA为人类的“标签”。我想Fanon是如何完成对殖民种族主义病态的“解体”的。作为一名年轻的医生,法农设想他可以从殖民统治的社会团体中提取样本,并把它们溶解在他的实验室进行分析。他想了解为什么殖民主义正在走向灭亡,死后的生活可能是非殖民化的人。但他强调种族主义者的“种族表皮图式”并不是本质主义。他没有兴趣去寻找我们表皮细胞痛苦的原因,也没有兴趣去解决黑色素或可追溯的非洲基因遗传的黑暗程度,就像许多人现在所做的那样。相反,他试图通过扩大其根基——科学和医学——来反击生物种族主义。范农英年早逝,年仅36岁,患有白血病,一瞥他广泛的出版历史,他就清楚了“一个匆忙的年轻人”的经典迹象。罗德尼也疯狂地工作到最后一刻。(他病得不能参加他唯一的独自表演,缺席时送了一把自动轮椅到开幕式。)他保持着对房子形式的迷恋,反复地画它,在安装杰克建造的房子(1987年)的情况下,把它当作类似祭坛的东西抬起。罗德尼的作品从来没有消失过,但是现在可以通过对艺术家自己拍摄的照片的近乎,但并不完全的敬意来重新发现。


FRIZE特稿
ARThing编译




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