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‘The Vein, the Fingerprint Machine and the Automatic Speed Detector’: A Performance by Dr Catherine Charrett 5.12.2018

25 February 2019

On the 5th of December the ISRU welcomed Dr Catherine Charrett to perform her work ‘The Vein, the Fingerprint Machine and the Automatic Speed Detector’. Dr. Catherine Charrett is an Early Career Research Fellow for the Independent Social Research Foundation and is currently based at Queen Mary University of London in the School of Politics and International Relations. Dr Charrett’s work interrogates the ritualised practices and language of security and diplomacy in the Occupation of Palestine. 

Dr Charrett uses interdisciplinary methods to disseminate her research and is the producer of a political performance on EU-Hamas relations entitled, “Politics in Drag: Sipping Toffee with Hamas in Brussels’. A video of this performance has been published by the Review of International Studies, alongside an article on her methodology. This is available here.

‘The Vein, the Fingerprint Machine and the Automatic Speed Detector’ is a project based on the performer’s ethnographic observations of the technologies of Occupation, as well as interviews with Israeli start-up firms who imagine the future through their technologies, and interviews with Palestinian police who try to manoeuvre around the limitations imposed by these technologies. Through drag performance, and melancholia and satire she presents weapons fairs in Europe and in Israel where new technologies are put on display and passed around. This use of performance seeks to discuss the restrictions Israel imposes on the equipment and movement of European police working in the West Bank. Technologies act as windows into the inconsistencies, but also trends that compose this international order of occupation.

Dr Charrett started her performance with a brief introduction to the issues, engaging with the EU’s security technologies and how they are used in the occupation of Palestine and act to maintain the oppression of Palestinians. Dr Charrett wishes to explore the way in which these technologies expose the permission for violence and the failure of attempts to account for the responsibility of that violence. 

In order to do this Dr Charrett has decided, via the medium of drag performance, to speak to us from the position of the objects of occupation. Through the stories of Palestine that these objects have to tell, Dr Charrett aims to reveal the types of violence that these objects, ‘ 

During part of the performance Dr Charrett, dressed as the Gaza-Jericho Agreement 1994 and articulating the documents ‘voice’ engages in a dialogue with what she calls the ‘gaps’ in the document. These ‘gaps’ are the aspects of the agreement that act to consolidate and structure the oppression of the Palestinian people. In her performative style the ‘gaps’ are articulated as questions from an imaginary audience such as the question from ‘the little boy from Gaza with no legs’ who asks if there is any restriction on the number, size or quantity of Israeli weaponry to be used in the West Bank of the Gaza Strip. To which she replies, channelling the voice of the Gaza–Jericho Agreement, ‘no sweetheart, that’s not how this works’.  

Dr Charrett goes on to speak from the position of several different objects and embodying their design, circulation and intervention into life aiming to dislocate the appearance of order that permits the waging and witnessing of the continued violence against the Palestinian.

Following the performance, the floor was opened up to members of the ISRU to ask questions. 

Dr Catherine Charrett was asked where she sees this performance going in terms of the venues or the potential audiences. She replied that there is, in fact, a variety of different potential avenues for this performance. One of these would be potentially screening the performance at a theatre festival. 

One of the areas raised in this discussion was the interpretive dimension of performance, whether performance as a research method lays in the way in which different audiences will interpret the performance differently. It was suggested it is, potentially, impossible to control people’s interpretations of performance and thus, performance emerges as a space for us to rethink our knowledge of an issue. 

Dr Charrett was then asked whether she had considered taking the show to Israel or Palestine. She replied she was unsure as to whether she would do this. One of the potential spaces for the performance that had been suggested was a Palestinian museum. She said that she had hesitations about taking something so ugly, a show about technologies of war and occupation, to such a beautiful space. 

Dr Charrett uses projections at various stages of the performance. Dr Charrett was asked about difficulties of using technology during a performance which seems to be so critical of technology. Dr Charrett explained the performance is less of a critique of technology but more of a critique of the European/colonialist idealisation of technological violence and industry of security technology, where extreme vulnerability is seen as an economic opportunity. 

The ISRU would like to thank Dr Catherine Charrett for her incredibly interesting and engaging performance and for taking the time to come and perform at Cardiff University.   

For more information on Dr Catherine Charrett’s research you can follow her on twitter