Brandon LaBelle

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The Invisible Seminar

The seminar seeks to investigate the operations of visibility by highlighting the unseen, the camouflaged, the immaterial and the erased as particular aesthetic strategies. If the visual arts historically have relied upon the seeing subject as its partner, functioning to give representation to the imagination or world events, what forms of critique, protest and poetics have been developed by occupying the space of the invisible? How has media culture, and what Camiel van Winkel terms the "regime of visibility", contributed to the contemporary imperative to visualize and expose? Can notions of the invisible be used to deepen perspectives on the power dynamics of the gaze and image production? And importantly, how might invisibility contribute to rethinking modes of collectivity and political agency?

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Sixth edition

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Sixth edition: Bergen Academy
October 28 - 30, 2014

Workshop on the topic of Infrastructure led by Alena Alexandrova and Brandon LaBelle

The course sets out to explore the topic of invisibility and how this relates to artistic expression. Through readings and group discussion, as well as material work, we will aim to expose how invisibility is often central to the powers of looking. Invisibility may be understood to disrupt the field of appearances by introducing a phantasmic element – a body or presence whose features are difficult to grasp and that may haunt the sphere of the visible. In this regard, the invisible produces an important friction against the belief in being seen central to our social order. Yet invisibility may also be used to act as a cover to mask what we should not see or know.

We will develop these ideas by specifically focusing on the field of infrastructure – those hidden forces or elements often masked by the surfaces of appearance and yet which give significant support to what we see. We will consider the invisible infrastructures that function within the realm of art and representation, investigating how images, found in painting, photography and film, for example, rely upon our ability to "overlook" or to look through the surface or object, to see in the image another world. In this way, images often operate by hiding, masking or creating an illusion, producing visibilities as well as invisibilities.

What do we not see when we look? What are the blindspots that allow artworks to function? In exploring these questions, we will look again at images and artworks, trying to glimpse their invisible infrastructures. This will lead to questions of camouflage, a politics of visibility, and the link between belief and power, surfaces and secrets.