States of Exception


States of Exception, a performance of spatial labour playing out across the façade of the Cité Internationale des Arts, seeks to expose entanglements of the architectural, political and (in)visible. 

As part of a larger body of work, titled Intern[ed] (2016-), in States of Exception Beth Weinstein draws relations between F.D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order #9066, which authorized military “exclusion zones,” and #9102, which authorized the forming of a War Relocation Authority (WRA), the construction of Relocation Centers (today referred to as internment camps) and the forms of labour that interned US citizens performed in these camps for the benefit of the US Army and Navy. As seen Dorothea Lange’s striking photograph, these forms of labour included the weaving of camouflage nets—devices of obfuscation—by populations who themselves had been rendered invisible. The physical traces of the ten WRA-built Relocation Centers in the western USA, in which over 110,000 persons of Japanese descent were to live  between 1942 and 1945, have been nearly entirely erased. 

States of Exception seeks to make such matters of concern visible, palpable, exploring the entanglement of the architectural, political and (in)visible on three levels. The live labour entails filling the glass window wall with the repetitive geometric pattern of the internment camps—standard military blocks of barracks in which 350 people were “warehoused.” The repetition of this pattern suggests wall paper or stencils found in domestic interiors: harmless, familiar, and surrounding. In performing the labour of drawing and erasing, States of Exception calls to our attention the problematic erasure of traces of shameful histories that are woven into the fabric of society (Agamben), but also the potential to act otherwise, to author other ways of governing and constructing community in our future. 

On a second level, States of Exception seeks to call attention to ubiquitous but unseen labour. As is common practice when renovating storefronts, windows are whited-out with blanc de Meudon to hide the construction process. From the interior of the Cité lobby, labouring bodies are perceived through the haze, at first decorating the surface of the glass and, at the end of the day, wiping it clean of all traces. The labour does not disturb the lobby functions, as it is spatially separate,“outsourced,” yet it is clearly present. 

At a third level, the work explores politics of viewing and documenting. As the action takes place on the exterior glass wall, the performed labour is “watched” by a surveillance camera mounted to the building exterior, calling attention to the security and surveillance mechanisms in our places or work, communities and public space. A second vantage point documents the drawing and erasing of the pattern, similar to the production of architectural drawings. A third camera is mounted to a laboring body, filming the unfolding and disappearing drawing and the gestures that produce and erase. 

States of Exception was realized at the Cité Internationale des Arts in partnership with the Jeu de Paume Museum in relation to their exhibition “Dorothea Lange. Politiques du visible.” Additional support was provided by The University of Tasmania School of Creative Arts and the UTAS Rosamund McColluch Residency. Additional thanks to Marta Ponsa, Bénédicte Alliot, Corinne Loisel, Denis Mercier, Emma Finn, Onur Ceritoğlu, Alice Weinstein, and the staff of the Cité Internationale des Arts.

Project team: 

  • Production Assistant : Rana Taha
  • AV Assistant: Blaise Vasquez Sardin
  • Performer Assistants (in order of appearance): Anna McGrath, Helin Kahraman, Kai Stoeger, Lola Daels, Luis Carlos Tovar

Concurrent to the live performance, Weinstein’s video Unbecoming, #1 (2018) was screened within the Cité lobby.

States of Exception and Unbecoming, #1 are components of the doctoral research being conducted by Beth Weinstein through the University of Tasmania.

See project testing and development and performance documentation here.