Accepted Paper:

What is in a hole? Failure's work in Georgia  


Francisco Martínez (Tallinn University)

Paper short abstract:

Based on a material and discursive analysis of urban holes (de Boeck and Baloji 2016), the paper accounts of the kinds of affective responses that infrastructural failures generate in the everyday life of Tbilisi.

Paper long abstract:

Infrastructural failures can be taken far-reaching entanglements, showing a complex relationship between material aesthetics and political affect, the tragic and the ironic, and the individual and the collective. The transdisciplinary method of the research combines episodes of ethnographic fieldwork with a typology of holes, an exhibition, a workshop, and 12 semi-structured interviews with contemporary artists and curators. Oscillating from the aesthetic to the social, this paper considers how brokenness is experienced, governed, and materialised in Georgia and the way failure does not simply make statecraft appear contingent, fragile, and contestable, but also reinforces its power and prevents local people to think critically about the present (Frederiksen 2014).

In the study of how infrastructural failures can be socially operative, we can correlate the different degrees of brokenness with state projects of legibility (Scott 1998; Chu 2014) and how political sensibilities are articulated (Rancière 2006). Attempts to create order might appear to produce the disorder they proclaimed to contain (Weszkalnys 2013), and failure can be a way of occupying the present, triggering various kinds of official activities (Ssorin-Chaikov 2003). The paper sets up to contribute to the understanding of the relationship between states, persons and the built environment, and how the elements of statecraft are experienced and reflected aesthetically. Holes are an under-theorised part of urban infrastructures, despite their relation to both political discourses and the experience of cities; they convey not a lack of situated knowledge, but the 'gaps' and 'voids' in the relationship between state and society.

Panel P065
The state of the art: the anthropology of art and the anthropology of the state