Time of the Ghost
by Nicholas Mirzoeff
Professor of Art and Comparative Studies at SUNY Stony Brook

It is the time of the ghost, the revenant and the specter. The ghost is somewhere between the visible and the invisible, appearing clearly to some but not to others. Some hear it speak, for others it is silent.

For a long time, let us say since the Renaissance, the West has looked on its world through one eye, making the synaesthetic, multidimensional experience of sight into vision. It is what Donna Haraway calls a "god trick."

Elahe Massumi opens both eyes and sees the ghost.

In her work, which is not one, there are no singulars. On two screens, words, images and colours flicker and fade. The Western eye cannot absorb it. She relents and offers us the chance to see screen by screen. Yet, as in a Mandelbrot set, descending one level does not simplify but adds further complexity even as there is understanding.

In the fire that is the love of God, there is no difference. But that fire is nothingness, it is love. On earth, it is not as it is in heaven. The fire burns and consumes. It is fueled by those that seek to reduce difference to the one. No matter how many fires you set, there will never be one. There will be ashes and ghosts and they will return. Elahe Massumi is their medium. She keeps coming back and in the voice of the ghost, which is not a voice, she demands justice. Let it be said again that justice is not the Law. The Law is to be read, justice is to be seen and to be seen to be done.

* * *

Nicholas Mirzoeff
once Mirzaieff
Babylon | Bukhara | London | New York

Nicholas Mirzoeff is Professor of Art and Comparative Studies at SUNY Stony Brook. His publications include: An Introduction to Visual Culture(1999) and, as editor,Diaspora and Visual Culture: Representing Africans and Jews (2000).

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