Introduction to State of Disappearance project
Concerning Disappearance

Disappearance is at the extreme ends of human denial. There is perhaps no greater terror to be subjected than to vanish without a trace. Still what do we actually mean by the term disappearance? And how might it expose the limits of our political, philosophical and aesthetic understanding? We know individual peoples and entire groups can be forcibly removed from the planet. And we also know human lives are sometimes rendered so absent from any universe of obligation they are denied any right to a dignified existence. But do we need to rethink the terms of engagement? How, for instance, might we better respond to such a terrifying state of denial – the absence of presence, not only to overcome the manipulation of a truth and the denial of justice, but to raise serious questions about the hidden order of violence and its effective normalization. 


While disappearance is undoubtedly terrifying for its victims and families, there is a need to reimagine the term disappearance itself within a more considered and intimate frame – accounting for terror which lives on in the minds of everybody it touches, not only to focus attention on the absence of bodies, but to also consider broader issues on the roles between perpetrators, victims and witnesses, onto the ways it forces a fundamental rupture in the logics of space and time. It is only by addressing it on these terms that we might be able to ask serious questions about what role art and critical thinking have when confronting this devastating problem, which by its very definition, exceeds the limits of aesthetic and philosophical engagement on account of its very absence and denials.


STATE OF DISAPPEARANCE is a collaborative response to the problem of human denial. Bringing together critical theory with contemporary art, the project will bring attention to the many ways disappearance occurs, and in the process ask about the importance or limits of the arts, humanities and critical enquiry when in comes to responding to the problem of violence in the world today. In doing so, the project offers an original and pressing intervention, which takes us into the heart of any meaningful discussion on what it means to be human and will encourage us to confront more critically what freedom in the face of its total annihilation means.