Ambient Fears

Nikos Papastergiadis
Taipei, October 24th 2008, 10:40 - 11:10

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Ever since September 11th not only has the perception of risk escalated but the meaning of fear has changed. At a personal level people have been speculating over their exposure to danger and institutions revising their security measures. Their capacity to cope with threats has been undermined by a loss of trust and morale. Fear has saturated every aspect of life. The American government has had to measure their ambition for global domination against the simmering prospects of revenge and sabotage occurring in their own locale. This level of anxiety is different to earlier forms of fear. It was easier to gain a sense of ironic distance from the earlier renditions of an invasion. Who can you trust? The enemy could be anyone or anywhere. The colonizer’s greatest fear is not the confrontation of the otherness in the enemy but the unexpected risks in intimacy. The intimate enemy can not only do greater harm than the visible foe but also sustain a state of perpetual anxiety that undermines any relief found in conquest. Ultimately, this state of being – when even silence is pregnant with danger, and where every stranger is also a potential enemy – is precisely the goal of the avenging colonized. Their aim is to disperse fear into the whole environment: to make anxiety ubiquitous and unlocatable. In this lecture I will examine a number of individual artistic and collective collaborative responses to the new politics of ambient fear.