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Apr 4, 2019 at 7:30 pm

Speculative Legal Futures and the Poetic Testimony of Violence

With Helene Kazan, Josh Guilford and Toby Lee

UnionDocs welcomes artist and researcher, Helene Kazan to give a lecture performance introducing ‘poetic testimony’ as a speculative legal future, and as a feminist method for breaking asymmetric power structures in international law.

Through an embodied presentation of audio/visual material from different temporal and spatial contexts encountered throughout her work, Kazan draws on contemporary feminist and queer critical legal theory, on culturally ingrained and gendered modes of voicing evidence that often exclude or render the human body invisible. Engaging the proposed speculative legal futures that question necessary modes of reform in international law, Kazan posits poetic testimony amongst such methods for empowering the subject affected by internationally perpetrated violence, experienced through armed conflict and climate disaster. Further, Kazan questions the modes of solidarity that can be engaged through poetic testimony, in connecting communities and contexts dealing with the effects of violence that fall outside of international law’s conceptual frame of accountability.

‘Speculative Legal Futures and the Poetic Testimony of Violence’ is presented at UnionDocs as part of Kazan’s ongoing investigation as 2018-2020 Vera List Center Fellow at The New School, New York. Building on Kazan’s presentation in fall 2018 at the start of the fellowship, the project will culminate in an assembly event organized with the Vera List Center in the spring of 2020. The UnionDocs event is organized by Toby Lee and Josh Guilford in conjunction with World Records, a journal of documentary media published by UnionDocs. Additional support for this event is provided by Amherst College.


Speculative Legal Futures and the Poetic Testimony of Violence

by Helene Kazan

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Helene Kazan is an artist, writer and curator, and a 2018-2020 Vera List Center Fellow. Her interdisciplinary and multi-media practice investigates risk through an analysis of international law, architecture, and the human experience of violence, observed and argued through the frame of ‘poetic testimony’. Kazan received her PhD at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths University of London (2019). She curated ‘Points of Contact’ at Goethe Institute, Lebanon, and the Arab Center for Architecture (2018). Her work’s been shown at Ashkal Alwan/Digital Earth, Beirut (2019), The Serpentine Gallery, London (2017), marra.tein, Beirut, (2016), Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design, Moscow (2016), Ibraaz (2015), Tate Britain, London (2015), Mosaic Rooms, London (2015), The Showroom, London (2014), the House of World Cultures (HKW), Berlin (2014), and the Beirut Art Center (2013). Kazan recently published ‘The Architecture of Slow, Structural and Spectacular Violence and the Poetic Testimony of War’ in a special issue on Gender, War, and Technology (Australian Feminist Law Journal, 2018),  ‘On Shelter and International Law’ (Avery Shorts, 2018), ‘Accident and Design in Aerial Bombardment’ (The Funambulist, 2016) and ‘What the War Will Look Like’ in Forensis (Sternberg, 2014). Kazan is a Visiting Lecturer at the Royal College of Art, London. www.helenekazan.co.uk

Josh Guilford is Assistant Professor of English in Film and Media Studies at Amherst College. His scholarship focuses on histories and theories of experimental film, with an emphasis on the postwar American avant-garde. Essays of his have appeared in such publications as Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980; The Global Sixties in Sound and Vision: Media, Counterculture, Revolt; and the online journal Flow. Since 2009, he has curated experimental film and video, pursuing curating as a means of cultural production and an outlet for research. Programs that he curated or compiled have screened at such venues as Magic Lantern Cinema, Anthology Film Archives, Balagan, Le Petit Versailles, Pacific Film Archive, UnionDocs, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. He makes films as well, working in 16mm. His short film, Rock Roll (2015), screened at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, Light Field, Onion City, the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, and other venues. Most recently, his dual-projection film Circumambulations (Linear) (2017), made collaboratively with Andrew Ranville, screened at Microscope Gallery. He also serves as an editor of Millennium Film Journal.

Toby Lee is an artist, anthropologist, and Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She works across film, video, drawing, and text, and her work has been been exhibited at Locarno, Ann Arbor, Camden, Thessaloniki, Flaherty NYC, Museum of the Moving Image (NYC), and the 2014 Whitney Biennial, among others. Her research interests include visual and media anthropology, the anthropology of cultural institutions, cultural citizenship, expanded documentary, and cultures of surveillance and documentation. She is currently writing a book on the politics of cultural production in contemporary Greece. She has a PhD in Anthropology and Film & Visual Studies from Harvard University, where she was a member of the Sensory Ethnography Lab. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Dan David Foundation, the Film Study Center at Harvard University, and the Flaherty Film Seminar. From 2012 to 2014, she was the Director of the Collaborative Studio program at UnionDocs: Center for Documentary Art in Brooklyn, NY.

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Apr 4, 2019
7:30 pm – 10:30 pm
Free – $10.00


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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