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21.05 | BACK OF MY HAND: Programa paralelo/Side program

— Hand Made Films
Philippe-Alain Michaud (Centre Pompidou)

— Behind One's Back: On Visible and Invisible Hands
Sami Khatib (HfG/Beirut Institute for Critical Analysis and Research)

Convener: Jorge Leandro Rosa

+ The session includes a presentation of films by Richard Serra and Yvonne Rainer.

— Hand Made Films – Philipe-Alain Michaud

This conference will approach the series ‘hand films’ created by the artist Richard Serra at the beginning of the 1970s in which he seeks to reconstruct, "with bare hands" if one can say so, the experience of film independently of the system of recording and projection. ‘Hand films’ evokes – beyond the references that associate them with the history of cinema (in particular to Robert Bresson) – practices of sculpture, dance and drawing.

— Behind One's Back: On Visible and Invisible Hands – Sami Khatib

Relying on Karl Marx, Walter Benjamin and Alfred Sohn-Rethel, this talk explores the dialectics of “intellectual and manual labor,” focusing on a zone of indifference where virtuosity and exploitation, mastery and servitude, playfulness and heteronomy lose their exclusiveness. In “Capital” (1867/72), Marx demonstrated how labor creates value and capital while being exploited as labor power. The intentional results of this exploitation, revenues and profits, while entertaining a self-valorizing relation, however, initiate an uncanny, almost automatic process, which ultimately operates beyond the realm of capitalist intentionality. Marx speaks of an unconscious historical process “beyond the backs” of capitalist “character masks,” which indirectly determines the vicissitudes of capital accumulation. This process has cut itself loose from specific skills of the workers while enthroning capitalist machinery as its real “virtuoso,” which, in turn, treats workers as its replaceable limbs. In the 1930s, while recounting an orientalist tale about a virtuous juggler, Benjamin also refers to an unconscious process “behind the back.” In the latter case, however, play and virtuosity are not relegated to an alienated machinery but refer to an economy of the body and its limbs. Undermining the capitalist separation of intellectual and manual labor, in the magical interplay of the juggler’s soma and psyche the “the will abdicates its power once and for all in favor of the organs – the hand, for instance” (Benjamin). Such a hand does not act as the liberal “invisible hand” of the market but as the agent of an unconscious economy of liberating interplay, where labor and instrumentality are suspended.


— Philippe-Alain Michaud is curator at the Musée National d’Art Moderne – Centre Pompidou in charge of the collection of films. He is the author of Aby Warburg and the Image in Motion (Zone Books, 2002 and Macula 2012), Le peuple des images (Desclée de Brouwer, 2004), Sur le film (Macula, 2016), Âmes primitives. Figures de film, de peluche et de papier (Macula, 2019) and has written extensively on the relations between film and visual arts. He has curated a number of exhibitions among which: Comme le rêve le dessin (Musée du Louvre/Centre Pompidou, 2004), Le mouvement des images (Centre Pompidou, 2006), Nuits électriques (Musée de la photographie, Moscow/Laboral (Gijón, Spain) 2007, Tapis volants (Villa Medici, Rome/Les Abattoirs, Toulouse) 2010, Images sans fin, Brancusi photographie, film (Centre Pompidou, 2012), Beat Generation (Centre Pompidou, 2016), L’œil extatique – Serguei Eisenstein à la croisée des arts (Centre Pompidou-Metz, 2019) and as associate curator: Scarabocchi (Villa Medici, Rome et Ecole nationale des beaux arts, Paris), 2022.

​— Sami Khatib is an interim professor at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design (HfG) and a founding member of the Beirut Institute for Critical Analysis and Research (BICAR). His publications include a co-editorship of the volume Critique: The Stakes of Form (Zürich, Berlin: Diaphanes, 2020) and authorship of the book Teleologie ohne Endzweck: Walter Benjamins Ent-stellung des Messianischen [“Teleology without End.” Walter Benjamin’s Dislocation of the Messianic], (Marburg: Tectum, 2013). His ongoing research project on the “Aesthetics of Real Abstraction" examines the aesthetic scope and political relevance of Marx’s discovery of the commodity form.

— Jorge Leandro Rosa Jorge Leandro Rosa holds a PhD in Communication Sciences and a degree in Comparative Literature from Universidade Nova de Lisboa. He’s an author and lecturer in the fields of ecological thinking, as well as in the relations between Ecology and Contemporary Arts in the context of the Anthropocene. He’s also the author of studies and essays in the fields of History of Thought, Ontology and Aesthetics. He was a university professor, having also taught in the polytechnic higher education and in secondary and basic education. He works as a translator, including authors such as Jean-Luc Nancy, with whom he has collaborated on several editorial projects, Emanuel Coccia, John Berger, Jacques Rancière, Georges Didi-Huberman, among others. He has organized several international symposia dedicated to the thought of catastrophes (Universidade do Porto, 2017) or geopoetics (Universidade Clássica de Lisboa, 2019). Since 2020, he has ensured the literary selection of Livraria Gato Vadio, in Porto. He was a literary critic for the newspapers Público and O Independente. He was a member of the Friends of the Earth board, a position he currently holds at the Campo Aberto Association. He was Portuguese representative with War Resisters International, in London.

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