“Not Quite Bare Life: Ruins of Representation”

Suzana Milevska

The main question of my presentation is what are the political implications of the political regimes of representation on the cultural realm and how the visual representation that once stemmed out of the political translates back into this realm. I am particularly concerned with this entangled process of establishing reciprocal relations between the political and visual representation because this processes often happen exactly in order to conflate and blur the vectors of different power movements. This problematic is especially routed within delicate landscapes of multicultural environments such as the Balkans. Moreover, it should be taken into account that the visual representation in such environments can produce certain unexpectedly severe disruptions in contemporary democratic policies, justice and right.

My presentation will particularly revolve around different interpretations of the recently released semi-documentary film “Šutka Book of Records” (2006) by Aleksandar Manić. I will reflect on the way in which Roma people’s lives are represented in the film in which they occur under their real names but their personalities are mostly over-written through the narrator’s voice in off. I will especially focus on the audience’s clearly manifested reaction stressed through an unexpected public “performance” of protests during the Skopje film premier. Roma people from Skopje self-governed commune Šutka protested against the way in which this community was represented in the film and objected to their representations as poor and primitive champions in sensational and absurd skills such as ghost busting, spiritual healers or sexual “enterprises,” while omitting to show any of their “champions” in any intellectual or educational accomplishments.                    

I want to argue that there is an urgent need to expand the discussion of Agamben’s concepts such as “zones of indistinction,” “state of emergency,” “spaces of exception” and “bare life” onto the field of visual representation in contemporary art and media and to re-think the way in which such representations can shape the cultural politics. I suggest that even though the representations of “bare life” in art and film can be interpreted as “not quite bare life” they are of extreme importance for understanding how biopower works.

Suzana Milevska