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Image from Chris Marker’s Chats Perchés. Courtesy John Cunningham

Image from Chris Marker’s Chats Perchés. Courtesy John Cunningham

Events - Talks

The Study Sessions: The Politics of Opacity

The Identity of Non-Identity: Antimonies of Clandestinity and Appearance, with John Cunningham

27 Jun 2017

This series of study sessions will explore notions of ‘opacity’, ‘imperceptibility’ and ‘disappearance’ from a number of different perspectives, and in relation to questions of ethics, politics and aesthetics. More>>

In Chris Marker's documentary, Chats Perchés, about the mysterious graffiti of a grinning cat that appears in Paris during the street demonstrations against the Iraq war, the cat signifies, for Marker, an irreducible, irrepressible resistance to the politics of capitalism. The grinning cat escapes, stepping aside from the classic abstract declarations of politics. It reduces itself to the ubiquity of an advertising logo, one which advertises no product but only the appearance of a non-appearance. Might the trace of the grinning cat graffiti be an aspect of the clandestine?

This research seminar will consider what it is that the blurred mirror of clandestinity suggests about politics, resistance and subjectivity, how non-identity might suggest the limitations of those identities cajoled to appear. Clandestinity, the willed or enforced refusal of an easily ascribable identity, has many modes and forms. Modes of clandestinity tend to be tactical. A heterogeneous, incomplete list would include: pseudonymous writing, masking up on a demonstration, web anonymity, sabotage on the job, ID fraud, hiding in public, undocumented labour, phantom organisations that may or may not exist. While tactical these modes embody particular forms of life that share the necessity to hide their true face beneath a mask and diffuse the lines of legally, culturally and politically delineated identity. The seminar will explore the over lapping differences between forms of the clandestine, whether the hiddenness is due to (anti)social, political, legal or even aesthetic necessities, the refusal of identity being very different for political subversives, illegal migrants and writers or artists who refuse a name in favour of collectivity or the pseudonym. Central to this exploration will be how both these traces of clandestinity and what could be termed the desire to be clandestine, to become imperceptible, suggest a critique of the production of subjectivity within contemporary capitalism.

To book please email Merce at


Free, The Studio

John Cunningham is a writer and researcher based in the UK. He is an editor and contributor to the books Anguish Language and Death on the Run as well as an editor for the Sasha Editions series published by Archive Press. His work has also appeared in Mute and other journals as well as the books Communization and Its Discontents and Bad Feeling.



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