Va Lecture

Marko Stamenkovic

Based in Belgrade, Serbia

Va Lecture
“Worthless Community” Talk
Mani Studio (Isfahan)
June 19, 2015
In Partnership with New Media Society (Tehran)

Global Necrocoloniality and Social Inclusion through Dying in Abandonment
There is no shortage of ugliness in the world. If man closed his eyes to it, there would be even more. But man is a problem solver. — Forugh Farrokhzad (The House is Black, 1962) What is a ‘worthless community’? If there is any social group that can be considered to have no real value or use, who are the worthless human subjects of the world and what kind of order confers this status upon them? Finally, what does it feel like for a human being to be deprived of values so to be treated as ‘life’s leftovers’? In his seminal study “Vita. Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment” (2001), anthropologist João Biehl addresses these questions while pointing out the intricacies of power and citizenship on the darker side of Latin American democracy in the 1990s. He deploys the concept of “abandonados” (the abandoned) to denote a particular community of the outcasts (drug addicts, alcoholics, homeless, mentally ill, and dying persons – “most of them without documents or without names”), all dumped in one place in the South of Brazil. For him, to continue living “unclaimed lives in terminal desolation” means only one thing: to be treated as a kind of subjectivity waiting with death – “when one has been killed but has yet to die, or when one has died but has yet to be killed” (Cazdyn 2012). Starting from Biehl’s paradigmatic case, this presentation exposes the forms of life reduced to the status of  “living dead” (Mbembe 2003), “wasted bodies” (Biehl 2001), or “already dead” (Cazdyn, 2012). Hence, it examines ongoing processes of dehumanization of human beings whose social partitioning, marginalization or ‘animalization’ unfolds “the many ways in which cruelty is rationalized and sanctioned through law, religion, education, and economics” (Martínez Salazar, 2014). To do so means to argue against forced constructions of human worthlesness in order to set ground for some long lasting reflections about the coloniality of death-power, racism, and the underlying logic of exclusion – of the allegedly worthless people – through their dying in abandonement.*
* Text Courtesy of Marko Stamenkovic


Marko Stamenkovic (b. 1977, Vranje, Serbia) is a freelance curator based in Belgrade and a member of IKT – International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art (Luxembourg). He holds his BA in Art History at the University of Belgrade (BA Thesis: “Gaze Theory and Reading Visual Images”, 2003), and MA in Cultural Policy and Cultural Management at the University of Arts in Belgrade (MA Thesis: “Status of Curatorial Practices in Postsocialist Conditions”, 2005). Among his projects and exhibitions curated in Serbia and abroad the most recent are: After a Few Days in Our New Cave (We Found the Perfect Spot), Savremena Galerija, Zrenjanin (2011), Withdrawal Syndrome, Galerija savremene likovne umetnosti, Nis (2011), Josef Nadj – The Spirit of Nature, 14th Biennial of Contemporary Art, Pancevo (2010), Hamam, Old Turkish Bath, Vranje (2010), Zirkus Grau: Préparations pour un miracle, Karlin Studios, Prague (2010), One Little Indian and Then There Were None, La Générale, Paris (2010), and Splav Meduze, Center for Contemporary Art, Celje (2009). He has participated in numerous international curatorial programs and has been lecturing in European Union, Western Balkans, South Caucasus, Northern Africa, and Latin America. His writings on contemporary art have been published internationally. His current interest is centred on the transformation of suicide from an ultimate modernist paradigm to a new, trans-cultural media paradigm of radical withdrawal.