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Horit Herman and Yoav Peled

PeledPeled2Join us for an evening with Tel Aviv media artist and peace activist Horit Herman Peled and political scientist Yoav Peled discussing digital cultural production and civil rights.

Wednesday, July 21, 7pm

THE THING
601 West 26th Street
New York, New York 10001
Tel: 212-937 0443
Email: info@thing.net

Horit Herman Peled is a net  artist and PhD student in media philosophy at the European Graduate School. She teaches digital art and theory of digital culture at the Art Institute at Oranim College in Israel. Her work deals with Israeli colonialism and the ways in which it renders an artistic terrain that makes it imperative for artists to choose to engage their work as responsible citizens.

Yoav Peled is professor of political science at Tel Aviv University. His work deals with issues of citizenship and identity, primarily in the Israeli-Palestinian context. His book, co-authored with Gershon Shafir, Being Israeli, received the Albert Hourani award of the Middle East Studies Association in 2002.

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Response/ Ability in the Age of Digital Terror
Horit Herman Peled

Advanced technological means of industrial production render a shift in the traditional relationship between art/cultural producers and the social means of production.  This paradigm shift endows cultural producers with a non-alienated working perspective: creating within the means of production, abolishing the artistic speculative exchange value and producing works with a social use value tag.  Engaging in such an endeavor calls for a commitment to human/political involvement, in contrast to the prevalent commercial engagement in non-social or seemingly social digital works, whether individual or collaborative.

Peled conceives of her work to be a cultural production in search of use value folded in the social/political domain.  Her work can be viewed at:

Homo Sacer in Globalization http://www.horit.com/hosacer.html

Chained displacements -- ground zero for terror
http://www.horit.com/displacements.htm

Gaza Checkpoint  http://www.horit.com/chkpoint.htm

Checkpoint Watch http://www.horit.com//machsomwatch.htm

Checkpoint Watch is her latest work, to be discussed at The Thing.

The land of the occupied West Bank is injured by hundreds of checkpoints. The system of intervention in the Palestinian public space is all-pervasive. It is designed to harass and humiliate the Palestinians in order to make them relent on their struggle against the occupation. Rather than fighting terror, this network of checkpoints actually encourages it, in that it turns human beings into helpless objects of oppression and drives them to the point of total despair. These military transit barriers are transparent, non-existent, for Jewish Israeli settlers living in the same territories.
The inhuman intervention in the daily, routine, life existence of the Palestinians impelled the formation of a non-hierarchical collaborative group of Israeli women from all walks of life and all ages.   While the majority of Israeli citizens are complacent, the MachsomWatch (checkpoint watch) group monitors and intervenes on behalf of the Palestinians at the checkpoints, at regular time intervals.  Devoid of any specific political association, the women write reports describing in detail their witnessing accounts and post them on a collaborative online list, thus creating an archive for the future.

What is the bodily, material witnessing function of this collaboration?

Each woman in the collaboration carries her own personal views and their collaboration as a group is based on the principle of unanimous consent. Therefore, the group is not committed to any specific political ideology.  Thus, while clearly opposing the oppressive Israeli government with its cruel treatment of the Palestinians, the group has not committed itself to any political position with regard to Israel‚s occupation of the Palestinian territories.  However, as events unfold, the women's intervention at the checkpoints on behalf of the Palestinians intensify, in negotiations with the Israeli soldiers. In numerous cases attempts are made at preventing live bullets from shooting Palestinians kids who are throwing stones on Israeli soldiers, at the Qalandia Checkpoint near Jerusalem, as an example. The bodily risky and brave engagement at the checkpoints, and the active live collaboration in the virtual, form a model that may proliferate to other stressed public spaces as well.

What's Exceptional About the State of Exception?
Reflections on Citizenship Rights in the Post-Liberal Era

Yoav Peled

The post-war era was characterized, at least in the West, by profound optimism regarding the trajectory of both economic prosperity and the expansion of freedom. This optimism was captured in T.H. Marshall‚s famous 1949 essay on citizenship and social class. In that essay Marshall analyzed the development of civil, political and social rights in the course of three centuries, and confidently predicted that the antagonism of social relations under capitalism would be transcended by the further expansion and consolidation of these rights in social institutions. This optimism was transformed into triumphalism after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, leading even to declarations of the end of history. Today, fifteen years after the end of the Cold War, history, appearing as the slaughterhouse of nations, seems to have made a grand comeback.

In this presentation Yoav Peled will argue that the fall of the Soviet Union, far from signifying the triumph of liberal freedom, actually heralded its demise. There are at least three main reasons for that:

--     Deadly violence has struck not only on the periphery of the Soviet block ˆ Yugoslavia, Chechnya, Afghanistan ˆ but also at the very heart of the liberal West ˆ New York City. This burst of violence was not only an inevitable geo-political consequence of the collapse of a great power. It also stemmed, in large measure, directly from the very efforts to undermine the Soviet Union. This can be seen most vividly in the career of one person ˆ Osama bin-Laden ˆ who transformed himself from a recruiter of Jihadi warriors to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan to a dispatcher of suicide bombers to the US. Reaction to this violence was swift and predictable, if
not always rational, and resulted in a permanent state of exception being imposed, in different forms and to different degrees, in many parts of the world.

--     The opening up of the entire globe to capitalist exploitation has made the movement of capital practically free, while the movement of labor remains tightly controlled. The lack of an alternative economic model to capitalism has eroded the welfare state and labor unions. All of this has resulted in the diminution of social rights at the center of the world system, and in greater misery in its periphery.

--      If the old dictum that all power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, is true within the confines of one society, it is all the more true in the international system, where no enforceable norms for regulating the use of power exist.

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