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Invisibility Studies

Surveillance, Transparency and the Hidden in Contemporary Culture

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Edited By Henriette Steiner and Kristin Veel

Invisibility Studies explores current changes in the relationship between what we consider visible and what invisible in different areas of contemporary culture. Contributions trace how these changes make their marks on various cultural fields and investigate the cultural significance of these developments, such as transparency and privacy in urban architecture and the silent invasion of surveillance technologies into everyday life. The book contends that when it comes to the changing relationship of the visible and the invisible, the connection between seeing and not being seen is an exchange conditioned by physical and social settings that create certain possibilities for visibility and visuality, yet exclude others. The richness and complexity of this cultural framework means that no single discipline or interdisciplinary approach could capture it single-handedly. Invisibility Studies begins this conversation by bringing together scholars across the fields of architectural history and theory, art, film and literature, philosophy, cultural theory and contemporary anthropology as well as featuring work by a collective of artists.
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11 Cool Critique Versus Hot Spectatorship: Jelinek/Haneke’s Voyeur around Vienna, a Return

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Some months after Elfriede Jelinek won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004, a member of the Swedish Academy that awards the prize resigned. The quality for which the prize was granted, Jelinek’s skill in ‘revealing the absurdity of society’s clichés and their subjugating power’,1 was also the criterion upon which Knut Ahnlund resigned, writing to the Svenska Dagbladet that Jelinek’s uncompromisingly explicit prose represented no less than ‘violent pornography’.2 As inaccurate as Ahnlund’s comment was, his reference to pornography – that most notorious medium of ‘making-visible’ – nonetheless earns it a critical return in this chapter, which is concerned with the representation of voyeurism in Jelinek’s novel of 1983, Die Klavierspielerin (The Piano Teacher), and in Michael Haneke’s prize-winning movie adaptation of the novel, La Pianiste (The Piano Teacher) of 2001. Taking my lead from episodes where pornography proper features as an object of the attention of their shared protagonist, Erika Kohut, I revisit these core works of recent Austrian literary and visual culture in the company of some of the most respected scholarship on pornography from the 1980s to the present day. My aim here is to demonstrate how pornography’s powerful visuals – and the range of responses, both hot and cool, they can elicit – offer a challenging resource for reflection on broader contemporary practices of spectatorship, and of critique.

← 223 | 224 → In Angela Carter’s definition, pornography is ‘art with work to do’.3 One of the most instrumental visual genres, pornography is pornography when it...

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