Miracle Marathon Blog

The Divinity of Violence

October 9, 2016

I want to fish out this poetic turn of phrase — one piece of the densely populated narrative included in a curious and engaging multimedia apparition screened by The Otolith Group today — and examine it a bit. Gazing backward and borrowing a note from Bridle’s examination of “cloud seeding” as tool of biological warfare, it becomes a challenge to remain wholly optimistic about the potential of miracle as a purely positive force. The history of magic has always had its dark side, and miracles, often illusive and shadowy in substance, seem no different. The existence of “good” as a construct is carved out of and set apart from a construct of “evil”; each notion exists because of, and defines, the other.

Philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Liebniz famously addressed the paradox of morality saying, ‘’As a lesser evil is relatively good, so a lesser good is relatively evil.” Eyal Weizman calls on these same words of Liebniz in his 2012 publication The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza; in these pages Weizman discusses the neutralisation of brutality, the transformation of atrocity from the unnatural, shocking, strange, into the banal. Today at Second Home Weizman comments, “Miracles are a matter of thresholds[, and] more specifically, the crossing of thresholds.” If miracles cross thresholds, they render boundaries permeable; in making permeable divides, miracles also open up opportunity to violate limits.

Let’s consider here as well Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain, wherein Scarry extrapolates on how bodies are violated via the act of “unmaking worlds”, part of which becomes about repositioning the quotidian (a chair, a table) into a realm of trauma: a chair surges with electricity, a table a perfect tool for waterboarding. Transforming objects of leisure, of comfort, of security, into potential for pain production is a war of witchcraft, what Scarry calls “the inexpressibility of pain” being a savage extension of its occupation of the corporeal.

In conversation with Mark Cousins, Weizman calls out “crimes against humanity”, asking Cousins: “Where do you draw the border? What is the ‘it’? Where does it ‘it’ end?” The “violence of the new miracle” then is perhaps the inconceivable act, the sadistic brutality enacted by one body unto another, one that so defies imagination it suggests the supernatural, mutating marvel altogether.