The Revolution Is A Civil Language
When I started my research on the revolutions of the eighteenth century a few years ago, I was guided by the intuition that revolution is not an event but a special type of language – replete with its own syllables, sentences, sounds, images, movements, gestures, silences, intervals, etc. This intuition was based on my reading of images from the late eighteenth century to the present – images of people interacting in public space. From the moment in 2010 when people took to the streets in Egypt, Lybia, Syria, Palestine, Yemen, Mexico, the United States, Spain, Israel and elsewhere, it became clear that their language was a continuation of a language used in other places at other times.
The recurrence of the same gestures over a long period of time and under various regimes – monarchy, communism, democracy, fascism, dictatorship – raises the question of what those regimes have in common that gives rise to this often unavailable language whose inspiring traces nevertheless fill the archives. The repetition of similar idioms and gestures across time and space require the re-conceptualization of revolution as a language, and in today’s context, a consideration of this language’s universal and regional features that both transcend and undermine contemporary geo-political borders. Through this archive in formation the revolution is re-conceptualized.
Ariella Azoulay, Revolution is a language, Archive in formation (screen shot)
The Community Of Citizens - Toward A Visual Declaration Of Human Rights
The point of departure of this project is a study of the monumental photography exhibition The Family of Man, which opened at the MOMA in 1955. In this exhibition I am seeking a first visual parallel to the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man (signed seven years earlier by the member-states of the UN); in nearly every one of all five hundred photographs shown in this exhibition one might reconstruct that which should not be violated. Researching The Family of Man, the combined and comparative reading of the photographs and the textual corpus of human rights, my aim is not only to document the historic moment, in which the exhibition was created, but also to rethink the concept of universal-rights and expand its repertoire. In my work I’m trying to turn this exhibition into the first layer of a new visual declaration of rights that should be protected universally, while enhancing the concrete geographical, historical, gender and comparative contexts of the photographs’ different provenances. I see such an archive as the basis for re-writing a new, post-liberal civil contract.
My interest in The Family of Man grew as I constructed two photography archives – one dedicated to forty years of the Israeli Regime of Occupation in the Palestinian Territories (1967-2007), and the other dedicated to the four constitutive years that shaped the Israeli regime (1947-1950). These archives have consolidated a new platform for organizing historical knowledge and intellectual interference under conditions of “regime-made disaster”. Here, as in my other archival projects, the archive is conceptualized and designed (materially, spatially and visually) not only as a form of documentation and organization of knowledge, but as an apparatus for producing new knowledge that could not have been conceived without the archival template. More specifically, the archive serves as a basis for writing “potential history”.
Edward Steichen editing the Family of Man exhibition, 1954, New York