In this quote from Esther Jones appears a notion of empathy as an action, rather than something that just happens to you involuntarily because you are human. So it becomes also a question of agency.
JM: I think the question of agency is key. Sometimes I have the feeling that empathy is mistaken as compassion. Feeling compassion towards someone can be an experience of lacking agency – sympathizing, but often feeling helpless at the same time. To think empathy as an active tool in the sense that it translates back into your actions, how you relate, frame, and justify them is profoundly different, yet by no means less problematic.
»The Young-Girl does not want history.«
– from »Preliminary Materials for the Theory of the Young-Girl« by Tiqqun
AW: I am then thinking also of a disposition: a stance or even a figure, that embodying it allows this agency. I keep going back to a figure of »the Young-Girl.« It appeared in »Aleph« and it is on my mind while I am developing new work.
The mythological Young-Girl is for me the embodiment of defiance towards authority, power, and the past. The Young-Girl is the underdog and a feminist by default. She is also a subversion of perceived weakness. I work a lot with dispositions; a really important moment for me in the conception of every work or research is the understanding of the disposition. It’s different from a character. I don’t do characters, but it does set the tone of the work.
JM: For me, the disposition of the Young-Girl is the place where those conflicted ideologies compete. On the one hand you acknowledge the weakness and status of a young girl by identifying with it, on the other this identification is used as a tool to transgress and subvert it. It is not about neglecting or overcoming what the image of the Young-Girl reverberates – power relations between genders and generations – by erasing is, but you put yourself right in her shoes and thereby let her speak and act. Can you elaborate on the term »disposition« by naming a few dispositions that you are currently working on?
AW: The disposition is a way to place myself in relation to knowledge. It defined my attitude toward it, in terms of how I read and study it; as well as how I bring it to my work; its capturing the flavor of the piece, its temperament. Another disposition I have on my mind at the moment is of a »graceful punk.« It’s still containing some youth of the Young-Girl, it’s also a dropout, marginal and anti-establishment, loud and fun-loving, while being graceful, precise and articulated. I want to channel punk heroes who are graceful and intelligent like Patty Smith and Cosey Funni Tutti.
In my current work, I think a lot about the future. The future as a site of narratives just like the past is; as a colonized territory; and the futurity as a device for nonlinear being in time. There’s this recurrent image in Afrofuturism, of describing the Middle Passage as alien abduction. Thinking from there, black bodies of people who were abducted for slavery, and their offsprings, are in a sense sites of a science fiction narrative.
I find this to be a really inspiring image, in how it thinks the past and destabilizes the imaginary of the future. How it subverts the narrative of a victimized body and its future potentials. There’s a notion of subversion and of active participation, of rewriting history not in order to make peace with it, but in order to rewrite futures.
I am working now on two installations derived from the term Canaan-Futurism.
The term is deliberately ambiguous and antithetical, striving to destabilize and subvert the perceived linearity of Israeli identity and of its past, present and future.
Canaan-Futurism is an index of thoughts, sounds and images of Levantine, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, sweaty, radical, feminist, transgressive, poetic, refusing closure, non-western, non-Jewish, non-holy, fresh, understanding history, looking at archeology, engaging with technology, fragmented, embodied, hopeful, angry, sci-fi, punk, pop, Israeli future[s].