Visualising Violence in Homicidios

Having discovered that Telecinco’s website features an on-demand viewing service, I recently watched the TV series Homicidios (2011), which stars Eduardo Noriega as Tomás Sóller, a psychologist turned university lecturer, who becomes an associate consultant in a police investigation into a serial killer.  Over thirteen episodes, the series follows Sóller and the team as they attempt to track down the man responsible for the various murders they are investigating.  Things become increasingly personal, as the killer’s contempt for Sóller in particular is revealed, as the team and their loved ones are specifically targeted by the killer, and as Sóller becomes more and more involved with head of the team, and ex-lover, Eva Hernández (Celia Freijerio).  The series’ conclusion is simultaneously satisfying and frustrating.  While the mystery man behind the killings is revealed and brought to justice, the characters and their lives have been completely upturned by their experiences investigating these crimes.  Watching the series’ closing images, the viewer is uncertain whether Sóller and Hernández will be able to rekindle their romantic relationship, a narrative thread which has pulsed throughout the series.

I found the series entertaining, gripping, and thrilling.  I didn’t watch it with the intention of blogging about it, or of thinking/writing about it in any way.  However, as the series went on, I found myself thinking specifically about the way in which violence was visualised.  (This is perhaps in part because I have been thinking about violence more recently in relation to my PhD research (and beyond) – see here and here for examples of how I’ve been dealing with this theme).  As a series centred on serial killing, it is unsurprising that violent events are frequently depicted in each episode.  What interests me about this series’ representation of violence is the ways in which these events are replayed throughout the episode.  This often happens in the form of audiovisual playback, in a meta-televisual/-filmic gesture that draws attention specifically to the ethics of visualising violence.  For example, the perpetrator frequently records the violent acts he commits and sends the footage to the police unit, or leaves it for them to find, so that they can re-watch the footage, as is the case with Helena (Esmerelda Moya)’s murder, or when the perpetrator films Helena’s killer, tied up and beaten, before sending the video to Sóller.

Homicidios_1
The recording of violent acts in Homicidios
Homicidios_2
The re-watching of violent acts in Homicidios

The recording and re-watching of violent acts and events imbues the series with a meta-narrative/microcosmic dimension.  Just as we, the spectators, are watching the representation of violence through the audiovisual medium of television (or through an on-demand viewing service, in my case), the police officers investigating the serial killings vicariously experience the violence enacted through these audiovisual recordings.  As I near the end of my doctoral project, I am beginning to think about the possible directions my research might take beyond the horizons of the PhD.  I think the reason Homicidios grabbed my attention in this way is because I am becoming more and more interested in questions of ethics and aesthetics in representations of violence.  These issues are most certainly at stake in Homicidios.

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Reflection on New Forms of Transmission and Performing Independence Workshop

On Thursday I attended a one-day workshop at the University of Aberdeen entitled New Forms of Transmission and Performing Independence.  This was the third in a series of workshops organised and co-ordinated by Nerea Arruti (University of Aberdeen), Gustavo San Román (University of St Andrews), and Kathryn Crameri (University of Glasgow).

The workshop was inspired by a series of key questions:

  • Are the new media and speedier platforms of communication creating new transnational networks that impact on new formations of mobilization and new social creativity?
  • Does the media create new artistic expression?
  • Does the speed of exchange create a new way of performing politics and art?
  • What is the role of the arts and cultural policy makers in such differing contexts?

The day began with an informal introduction by Nerea, who conjoined the ideas of conflict, emotion, performance, and the body as crucial themes for discussion.  Nerea spoke in particular about the Basque situation and about the role of the witness in relation to both Rikardo Arregi (who visited the University of Aberdeen to perform a poetry reading in November 2013) and his collection of poems It Must Be Said Twice and the 2010 ETA ceasefire, which was announced twice because the first was barely acknowledged.  She also called upon Jacques Derrida’s essay on forgiveness as an act of performance.

This was followed by a presentation from Mari José Olaziregi – Cultural Co-ordinator for the Etxepare Basque Cultural Institute in which she foregrounded the work that Etxepare do in terms of the promotion of the Basque language and Basque culture in Spain and beyond.  In particular, Mari José discussed the difficulty of promoting Basque language and culture within the Spanish culture, and the usefulness of programmes such as Hispanic Studies (UK) and Iberian Studies (US) as means of integrating Basque into existing formats.  The paper’s respondent was Neil Curtis (Head of Museums, University of Aberdeen), who offered a reflection on Mari José’s presentation with reference to the role of the museum in terms of a culture’s promotion.

 

Etxeparelogoa
Image from http://www.euskalkultura.com/news/the-etxepare-basque-institute-will-be-at-midem-in-cannes-and-at-the-expolangues-fair-in-paris?language_sync=1

After a lively discussion among the participants and attendants, journalist and writer Iñigo Astiz offered a presentation entitled ‘Writing the Reader: Literature and Press Reception in the Basque Context’.  Iñigo argued that while the focus of the last decade or so has been the production of Basque culture, our attention should now switch to the phenomenon of reception, with particular consideration of the demographics of Basque readership in terms of age.  The key question of his paper: who reads what we produce?  The discussion that followed addressed many topics, including the instability of bilingualism, the notion of preservation in relation to language and culture, and the role of digital publishing.

A quick lunch break ensued, and we returned to a paper from Josep-Anton Fernàndez (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) on the topic of ‘Constructing Identities, Mobilising Emotions: New Forms of Political and Cultural Activism in Catalonia’.  Josep-Anton addressed the dynamics of Catalanism and independence in the contemporary context, discussing the various movements and activities that have been organised in recent years, including the Via Catalana.  Respondent Kathryn Crameri offered a comparison with the current situation in Scotland, with particular reference to the differing role of emotion in this context.

 

Via_Catalana
Image from http://www.lavanguardia.com/participacion/20130911/54381300106/via-catalana-lectores.html

The day was rounded off with a poetry reading of a selection of Iñigo’s poems in Basque, with myself reading the poems in English translation.  Iñigo’s poetry addresses some of the themes we had been discussing throughout the day, such as bodies and viscerality, the importance of place and the relationship of the local and the global, and intergenerational transfer and emotional bonds between people.  The poetry reading provided an example of the crucial role that art and culture plays within the sphere of academic and intellectual debate.  All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable and informative day.