Sinkholes puncture the landscape. Dispersed between the solid desert mountain range above and the oily seawater below, sinkholes slash into the muted representation. They dwell below the two-dimensional image, biting into it, tearing its thin surface to expose the decay that slowly expands beneath. Sinkholes are clearly defined – we see, fear, and fall into them – yet, at the same time, they defy signification, becoming intelligible only as an absence. As animated signatures of lack, sinkholes open up and put into question sealed narratives; they unearth what has been eradicated and buried in time. Developed from the sinkhole, this talk is devoted to defining the assemblage of forces that converge around it and to proposing an adequate political language that might allow us to address the presence of absence. Consolidating multiple temporal scales, sinkholes open up a space to speak of the vacuum at the heart of the image: its very lack and self-negation.
The presentation by Sasha Litvintseva and Daniel Mann also includes their new film Salarium (41 min, 2017). Departing from the etymological derivation of both ‘salary’and ‘soldier’ from ‘salt’, Salarium captures the entanglement of economic, military, and geological forces, which manifests in the figure of the sinkhole. Thousands of sinkholes are today perforating the shores of the Dead Sea in Israel and Palestine. What Zionists once called a ‘natural treasure’ to attract tourism and investment, is today a dilapidating site erected on unstable grounds. The sinkhole appears as both a visible symptom and active cause of a colonial project’s failure to instrumentalise nature.