Posts Tagged ‘thessaloniki’

murder remains

September 14, 2010

The urban distinctiveness of a certain “murder system” requires two answers in reference to whatever links murder to the city. The question testing the first answer is: How does a necessarily monumental event such as murder register in any city? The second answer would draw Thessaloniki’s urban plan, giving shape to the question: What happens in this special city on the occasions it was and continues being the scene of different murders?

A study of the first question advances by distorting a separation: In Badiou there is a distinct separation between “event” and “fact”. The event is defined as action that surpasses (in a—admittedly more or less—transcendent way) the simple fact. A fact is documented in the archives and forgotten in the unique way one forgets a completed archived action. An event contains a certain heroic, shining, necessarily one-dimensional, revolutionary reading. This reading gives the event a distinctive symbolic dynamic and links the event to the political element. Some overflow, which arrives along with the event, immediately presents it in its political subversive dynamic.

In undertaking to represent Thessaloniki through its murders, we seek the mechanisms nullifying precisely this enormous expansion of fact into event described by Badiou. We might say that Thessaloniki in particular is a city created from the stuff of a specific oblivion, from the stilling of the events that constitute a community. It is an interesting example, which has civic value. Every contemporary city is organized as a social structure while it nullifies the importance of the city’s important events, i.e., while concealing or rendering trite the “important” points that marked the city’s timeline. In general, we would say a contemporary city is constructed as an amnestic mechanism in the way it is built as a mechanism to archive and classify criminal activities that occurred within the city space; formed during repetition its specifications requiring a mesmerizing structure. From the beginning, the dynamics of settlement and land distribution require allocation, classification, continuity, uniformity, archives, all nullifying the status of the event as something unique, which might threaten the very commitment to settling in the same place.

Were we to claim that in Badiou’s differentiation between event and fact, the event is represented as a fact with particular symbolic value, then we should consider the city as a typical organizing system for destroying events, as an event nullification mechanism. The contemporary city is, beyond everything else, an allocation, classification, archive imposition mechanism, with the event as its first desired victim.

The naive, situational appeal for an active city, which would become a city of situations, a city of events without any passiveness, a city of active life and not passive representation, did not simply require—if our observation has any foundation—the contemporary city to be activated in some way; one of the main conditions of its configuration also had to be cancelled. The condition harnessing murder. In Thessaloniki, harnessing murder requires a great deal of energy; approaching the issue is not a simple matter. The city—apart from its “everyday murders”—had a series of emblematic murders in its history. As long as it forgets them, it succeeds in being a contemporary city, and was configured as such because it cannot remember them.

In the scene of these observations, the monument’s importance in the city is interpreted in a different way. The common viewpoint says a monument installs some noteworthy event in the city network. We might claim that the urban monuments we are familiar with, long before installing a particular event in a network (which we have already defined as amnesic) also promote civic amnesia by reducing an event to a fact. A monument, tranquil and installed in a city, is an artless and safe way to turn an event into something commemorated. A city monument is the lenient ability to recall each commemorated event through classification. A memorial commemorates in the way it forgets. It wishes to establish acceptance of a certain type of interpretation rather than the memory of the specific event. Some sort of relaxation is at the foundation of every museum. On the other hand, we cannot imagine any morality without memory. In the city: No morality without some sort of remembrance. In politics: No action without submersion in memory.

In murder, we examine the particular way it connects to the event, and the theatrical direction that installs it on the city stage. Murder is presented as a distinct event since it is simultaneously recordable, narratable, and irreversible.

Death already constitutes a singular irreversible event. The city awaits it with its specific death concealment – documentation mechanisms. The death registries are the city’s enchanted, latent, or hidden histories. Murder, however, is presented with a certain immoral particularity: it is a decisive act, which achieves irreversibility through a certain active blow. Murder is the borderline of human action; in a specific way, murder speaks of interpretation. There is something immoral in interpretation, which the interpreter always plays with. The morality of interpretation is based on an awareness of the permanent possibility of distortion. However, in the case of murder, how far can the interpreter’s work reach?

Interpretation may be understood as a step back; interpretation erases “what we see” and organizes it anew. We interpret something and give it new form. Are we perhaps capable of transforming the interpretation of a murder in the same way? Political crime is frequently presented under different façades. Crime, in general, frequently tends to project an external version different from that linked to the murderous impetus. Perpetrators ask for understanding, submit pleas, or find even that unnecessary; they are innocent because they acted in self-defence. A court acquits, or reduces penalties according to the specific interpretation of each specific homicide: Premeditated or negligent; here, already, are two different interpretations of the same fact. Everything that constitutes murder’s interpretive administration, nevertheless, demonstrates that interpretation is incapable of functioning effectively; it is impossible to alter the irreversible fact of murder. Murder is the singular event, because what occurs in murder is ex hypothesi already inescapable. Interpretation can give new life to a dead representation, but it cannot overturn the act of murder.

Interpretation reconstitutes facts. However, interpretation is responsible for their construction in advance. Nevertheless, we must pay attention to the condition of this reconstitution. We accept that no moment of action produces a unique conceptual centre in any event. On the other hand, the possibility for infinite reversions and infinite interpretations of whatsoever fact might threaten any moral configuration. Everything could start up again as if nothing had occurred. A certain course could always be re-invented and search for continuations even among apparent discontinuity. Murder constitutes a specific example for interpretation. Interpretive omnipotence does not suffice to alter the course of facts. Murder constitutes the most resounding example of this axiom. Something appears lost with murder, and along with murder, something is lost for whatever unimportant reason. The uniqueness, which interpretation confronts from the start as a simple instance of multiplicity, appears in murder as the hard substance of fact. The event, in the case of murder, defines the irreversible, failure, and the asymmetry of any reassessment or remorse.

The city’s multiplicity is born through the civic way of parcelling out land, as well as with the way of dividing, categorizing, and archiving wounds of memory. Before it became a deliberate way of imposing authority, during the planet’s most recent Western era, multiplicity was recognized as the way to facilitate common inhabitation of the city. Civil law, morgue certificates, investigating magistrates, courts, medical examiners, information gathering, archiving; all encourage the desired multiplicity that dispels the insupportable one-dimensional composition of the event of murder, dispels the profoundly unalterable, undisputed “nucleus of the fact”. The “first” indication of the fact, i.e., the dead body of the murder victim, makes its appearance with this unalterable nucleus.

The body of the murder victim is the very best testimony. It is simultaneously “the act itself” and its representation. It is what has happened and the testimony of the event. The murder victim’s body condenses the act and its traces into the same paradoxical remains, which demand oblivion be put to work from the moment they appear; to be buried, to disappear, the same way the causal act disappeared. Burying the dead eliminates a body, burying a murder victim eliminates an act.

Historical question: Can we request a history with no events? That would be the history the city’s configuration is organizing for itself. The answer to the historical question would require new terms for archival readings, new narratives from delving through entries. The city’s history is thus presented as a configuration error.

Urban Planning Question: Can we view the city as a mechanism, which kills the event? Then the topicality of the city would come with some specific, imposable operational a-topia.

Aristide Antonas [ *** ]