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This presentation will examine the production of Aboriginality by the European Enlightenment as a means of creating an origin for the Western emancipated visual subject. Following Marcia Langton’s definition of Aboriginality as the product of “intercultural dialogue”, I take the exchange of gestural signs between explorer/colonizers and indigenous peoples in Australia as a metonym for its production.
The European Enlightenment was a self-conscious exercise in beginning that needed to be seen and was itself figured in visual terms. This paradox was disrupted, confirmed, enhanced and confused by the viewing in the active and passive senses of the Aboriginals, whether the deaf in Europe or the indigenous in the South Pacific.
Tracing this path requires moving beyond the familiar study of theories of perception in the Enlightenment to the terra incognita of exploration and philanthrophy. As philosophers like Rousseau mused over the origins of language in gesture, educators started to perceive the signs made by the deaf as a version of that original language. Explorers in the South Pacific of the same period used gestural signs to mediate their encounter with the indigenous peoples they named Aboriginals. Deaf sign language was then directly pressed into service as a language for European exploration. Deaf Australians later staged their own gestural encounter with Aboriginals, while anthropologists classified Aboriginality as Masonic signs.
This intersection between Aboriginality and sign language arrives ultimately at its own origin: that of visual culture and art history in the gestural theory of Aby Warburg. An archive emerges from among many other archives of that which the print archive cannot wholly contain: the pattern and sense of gesture, the affect of the body, the spectres of vision. This virtual archive of visual culture is not the antithesis of art history but its spectral other that might suggest, by being in dialogue, what is yet to come.
KünstlerInnen / AutorInnen
- Nicholas Mirzoeff, Professor, State University of New York, Stony Brook › Biografie
- 7. November 2003
Haus der Kulturen der Welt
Haus der Kulturen der Welt, John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10, 10557 Berlin, Deutschland
Eingabe des Beitrags
Redaktion netzspannung.org, 27.01.2004
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