5, 1 (2023)
Technology and War
In a passage from Ernste Spiele I: Watson ist in (2010), devoted to the relationship between the usage of long-range intelligent weapons and the galaxy of the production of digital images, the Indian-born German artist Harun Farocki is allowed to attend a Marine Corps class in California, whereby four participants manage tanks deployed in a war simulation in Afghanistan. Farocki’s video installation makes co-present, on the one hand, American soldiers interacting with a console; on the other, we see what they are seeing: either a desertic environment or a typical Middle Eastern city scenario. Soldiers practice war; they prepare for the moment they will use intelligent weapons. They prepare their work, i.e. to drive drones to kill or fight the enemy.
Marines, as filmed by Farocki, are still soldiers? Are they still fighting a war? Do they fight? Located in rooms thousands of kilometres away from the battlefield, they face the typical difficulties we find in a videogame. Their work burns in such a hyper-visibility that puts aside war experience by avoiding the presence of the enemy. American soldiers placidly sit and play war; the enemy is elsewhere and utterly dematerialized. In other words, Farocki draws attention to a condition which should be inconceivable when facing war: the effacing of the body; the absence of death as the ghost in battles.
Envisaged by Farocky, the heterotopic vision of the battlefield “without enemies” begins with the First World War: the absence of the “body” while the bodies are devasted eventuates in the first 20th-century bloodbath on the Western Front. Indeed, during trench warfare, the enemy is unreachable and the soldier becomes familiar with the absence that threatens and embodies him relentlessly, just as the risk of grenades coming out of the blue. However, if it is true that modern wars are different from the 20th-century inter-state conflicts, one cannot assume that an actual ontological revolution regarding the physiognomy of conflicts is fulfilled - for instance by the usage of drones. What we currently call war is not war; it does not generally deal with its traditional juridic state, which is above all defined on a constitutional and international scale. That is a declaration of a sovereign entity that, following given procedures, declares its hostility toward another sovereign subject. War is not war anymore since conflicts rather surface following extra-juridic and post-national grounds. This implies that the clash spreads everywhere: it does not have any borders, normative limits, or forms, and it does not make sense. In the last century, the industrial universe has changed the vision of conflicts: the enemy is not only far away, but it is out of sight.
Thus, our generation has to cope with a hard-to-digest idea for it is tough to realize that war is now an essentially aesthetical phenomenon. That is, it is tied up to the reproduction and manipulation of images, and their diffusion and storage as well. As is clear, aesthetics means something wide and complex, although it may uncover the tendency in which we are living: war is not scandalous since it does not interrupt the normal flow of (our) things. Due to their hypervisibility, the powerful aesthetical charge of modern wars entails a new process: the trajectory that brings us from the witness – the archetypical figure of 20th-century horrors – to the spectator.
The history of war and the history of technological knowledge are interwoven. From the ancient engineering works of fortification and assault to the drones endowed with bombs, passing through Galileo’s ballistic studies and the launch of artificial satellites during the Cold War, war needs have stimulated and driven technological developments. From these evolutions, a constant redefinition of means and strategies has followed over the centuries. By leveraging the two trends sketched above–– to wit, the dematerialization of conflicts and the aestheticization of war––, we invite contributions for the fifth issue of Mechane. In particular, we will welcome submissions on:
- Ontological or historical and philosophical questions concerning the interaction between war and technological knowledge in different historical eras;
- The understanding of war in light of the development of technological and telecommunication systems;
- Sociological, political, and economical effects of the most recent developments in weapons technology;
- The effects of conflicts upon the internal organization of society and the programs of technology policy.
We welcome submissions in English, Italian, German, French, and Spanish. All interested people are pleased to submit a short abstract (up to 500 words) to the e-mail address: email@example.com. Potential authors must declare for which section they are presenting their paper. The deadline for the presentation of the abstracts is 1 March 2023. Final submissions should not overcome 40 000 characters (including spaces) and must be received by 1 June 2022. Manuscripts undergo a double-blind peer review.