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大流行病、無人狀態、影像流行

已更新:5月 21

作者:彼得‧尚迪(布朗大學)



當新冠病毒Covid-19在2020年爆發的時候,世界各個首都荒廢無人的街道,像極了雷內.克萊爾(René Clair)第一部電影《沉睡的巴黎》(Paris qui dort)一開始的影像。這部電影製作於西班牙大流感之後不久的1924年:主角艾伯特(Albert)是艾菲爾鐵塔的管理人,某天他醒來,發現這個城市中居民都已清空。

《沉睡的巴黎》電影開頭。

在這部電影裡,中斷人群與物資間瘋狂交流的不是瘟疫,而是科學家發明的神祕光線(因此這部電影的英文名稱是《瘋狂的光線》〔The Crazy Ray〕)。這部電影的劇情很快就變成探索電影本身各種可能性的託辭:依紀(Ixe)教授——他的名字令人想起X光——透過操作機器的把手,不但讓整個城市定格,也以各種不同速度製造快轉與慢動作。在開場荒蕪的街道之後,這些影像的鬆動與變化變成電影的主要焦點。

如果我們把異時性(heterochrony)理解成各種速度與時間性的共存(而不是傅柯〈關於其他各種空間〉〔Michel Foucault, “On Other Spaces”〕中所說的「脫離傳統時間」[註1]),那麼,在這部電影裡上演的即是異時共存。而在新冠疫情蔓延期間,世界的質地正是基進的異時性。


在我疫情爆發後立刻書寫的上則貼文中,我提出疫情引起的危機(如果只是一個危機),是超高速與靜止前所未見的共存,彷彿世界已經在加速中凍結、在完全靜止中猛然落下。[註2]而同時發生的是過去、現在、未來模糊不分。這不只是因為一次又一次的封鎖讓我們很多人都失去了時間中的參照點(已經過了超過一年,而有時候彷彿才過一個月,或已持續十幾年);不只是因為我們看不到疫情的盡頭(新的突變會持續出現,而新的疫苗會試圖追上它們的速度);不只是因為這只是未來其他病毒爆發的序曲(我們的環境危機無可避免地造成人畜共通的傳染病不斷增加);也是因為新冠似乎合併而改變了我們之前以為僅屬於某些特定時代或典範的病理—政治統治(nosologico-political regime)。


傅柯在他1977-78年間的系列講座《安全、疆域、人口》(Security, Territory, Population)中對與治療痲瘋、鼠疫與天花共同發生的典範轉移有著名的描述:對付這三種疾病分別訴諸排除、隔離與疫苗,而傅柯認為,這三種方法分別代表三個時代不同的權力的技術,分別是:主權、規訓、生命政治[註3]。在他更早(1975-76年)的系列講座《「社會必須被捍衛」》(“Society Must Be Defended”)中,傅柯區別了兩種不同形式的疾病:流行病(epidemics)與地方病(endemics),好讓它們分別合於主權(或規訓)與生命政治。[註4]新冠疫情則似乎超載或滿溢過這些傅柯式的區分,因為我們正在經歷的不簡單是一個「暫時的全面性災難」(epidemics)或「永久的地方性因素」(endemics)。新冠肺炎看來是賴著不走了,但表現為一次又一次的案例衝高,就像持續的暴衝。的確,如傅柯的分析,天花已經兼具這兩種不同的特性:「廣泛的區域性傳播」與「強烈而威力十足的流行爆發」。[註5]但新冠更以前所未見的形式,將三種不同的時間性——排除(邊境多次關閉)、隔離(封城),以及疫苗——層層疊加在一起。這些病理—政治統治在看來仍然不斷加劇的震盪中變化:這是我企圖用我新創的詞「全面流行性地方病(panendemics)捕捉的,這個詞在一個全球而分離的尺度上合併了流行病的突然性與地方病的持續性。


世界各地看起來無人居住的城市,是充滿異時性的「全面流行性地方病」(panendemic)的縮影。我們都記得在2020年初那些駭人的影像,而我們傾向把它們看成例外,或者「非常態」,似乎他們屬於很多電影已經預見的末日場景戲碼。[註6]總之,我們把這些荒蕪的城市景觀當成空虛的突然爆發,當成虛空或空洞的疫情流行(epidemic)。但它們會不會其實也體現了一種區域性的地方因素(endemic)?


除了把它們視作前所未見危機的症狀(如中世紀鼠疫的流行或西班牙大流感的隔離時期),我們也可以記憶起空無的街道是西方思想中關於統治技術或政治代現的其中一個重要的影像與象徵:霍布斯《利維坦》(Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651)曾被多次討論的卷首圖畫。[註7]阿甘本(Gorgio Agamben)在《停滯》(Stasis)中引用一些先前對於這個圖示(icon)的研究,強調在利維坦眼前的這座城市裡,群眾/人民很驚人地消失了。[註8]的確,如阿甘本所說,城市中的「居民完全消失」,除了一些守衛或士兵,以及「兩個非常特別的人物」(37)。阿岡本給了這個空無一個聽起來很像某種疾病的名字:無人狀態(ademia),意指群眾/人民([the] people; demos)的消失。

《利維坦》卷首圖畫

根據阿甘本的論述,如果無人狀態,亦即ademia,是一個影響到國家(the State)的疾病,那麼,它是地方病,不是流行病:「霍布斯式的國家——正如每一個國家——處於持續的無人狀態」(51)。這是因為,無人狀態是代現人民結構上的不可能:一旦人民(the people)被代現、被給予一個政治上的形狀,他們就不再是原先無形無狀的群體(換言之,群眾,無冠詞的people),故曰消失。阿甘本論述中這個誘人的弔詭邏輯可以約略如此說明:如果群眾是一個沒有組織的群體,則人民唯有群眾消失的時候,才能夠被合法地代現為一股政治力量。


為了思考無人狀態所具有的屬於地方病或結構性的特性,讓我們來好好看看「緊鄰大教堂旁邊非常特別的兩個人物」(37)。

這兩個醫生(阿甘本與其他註釋者一樣把他們解讀為「戴著瘟疫時期醫生典型的長嘴面具」)跟那些看來正在空蕩蕩的城市中巡邏的守衛一同被視作無人狀態的跡象或症狀:「就像瘟疫的眾多受難者,不可代現的群體只能被監控他們是否服從的守衛與治療他們的醫生代現」(48)。但如果我們聽從阿甘本令人信服的論述,以為無人狀態作為群眾的政治不可代現性,是國家的地方病,那麼,為什麼無人狀態本身要由這些不屬於地方病,而是屬於流行病(疫情爆發)歷史的人物(守衛與醫生)所代現?


阿甘本似乎理所當然地覺得那兩個戴著面具的醫生與那些守衛共存於同樣的空間:在城市之內,在影像之內:他有提到「那些武裝守衛與教堂旁邊的兩個人物在空蕩蕩的城市(nella città vuota)中令人好奇的存在」,而且他清楚地將它們的位置描述為「在圖像之內」(nell’emblema; 47-48)。如果我們看得更仔細,可以看見這兩個人物看起來同樣可能(或更可能)不是站在圖像與圖像描繪的空蕩城市之內,而是站在它的邊界上、在畫框上。這意謂著,我們很難——甚至不可能——決定他們是否屬於在這個畫框之內所代現的無人狀態的情景中。他們是這個政治力量寓言故事的一部分嗎?抑或它們正從外部觀看這一切?


如果說他們在畫框之內(他們的確看起來直接在畫框後方),那麼表示這些醫生因為描繪的情境中某些正在發生的事情而被召喚,它們與畫框內發生的事直接相關:他們在這幅卷首圖畫所描繪的故事中的存在,可能暗指了城市中的無人狀態(ademia)是流行病的暫時效果,就像在1592-93年衝擊倫敦的瘟疫爆發(那是在霍布斯出生之後幾年),當時酒吧與戲院維持關閉。而如果說醫生在畫框之外或者在畫框的邊緣上(他們的確像是站在畫框的內側邊緣上),那麼表示他們與城市的無人狀況不是畫內的連結:他們從所佔據的視角觀察城市,但與我們為國家診斷屬於地方病的疾病沒有因果關係。


總而言之,根據我們放置這兩個人物的不同位置,城市的無人狀態(ademia)有兩種解讀方式:若視為流行病,城市可能很快就會再次充滿群眾(在新冠疫情中,因為感染的幾波攀升與跌落,城市幾度暫時的清空與充滿);又或者,這個無人狀況可能是地方病,但只有從疫情流行的制高點觀察才如此顯現。而如果這些戴面具的醫生沒有適切的位置,如果在我們見證國家出現的政治舞台上,他們在又不在,那麼他們不穩定、無法確定的位置則可以解讀為,使得各種病理統治與權力的技術,在穩定的各種典範中不可能重疊、合併的差分張力(differential tension)。在新冠疫情中浮現的即是這兩方之間的震盪。


有沒有可能,在這個震盪中,我們「全面流行性地方病」(panendemic)的時代正在走向慢性或猛爆的無人狀態,而人民與群眾的消失肯定會前所未見地嚴重?越來越多決定是透過螢幕達成的。國際首腦(例如最近的氣候高峰會)或者政治集會都在網路平台上進行。聳立於荒廢城市的偉大利維坦,軀幹是由幾百個頭組成,這像極了Zoom螢幕上充滿的小四方形中的臉。

但是,那些被關在家裡的人呢?那些不被看見卻繼續為了保證重要基礎設施持續運作而工作、無法在國家政治被篩選過的/螢幕的(screened)身體中,找到屬於他們的小小四方形空間的人呢?


現今的無人狀態——「全面流行性地方病」時代的無人街道——更令人驚異的是它與影像增殖前所未見的急升一同出現。在新冠之前的數據顯示,每天有超過三十億幅影像在社交媒體上流傳。也就是說,在你讀完這句話所需要的時間裡,就有幾十萬張影像正在流傳。[註9] 2019年,Youtube在它的官方部落格上誇耀每一分鐘都有超過五百小時的影片被上傳,也就是每天七十二萬小時,相當於超過八十年:每天有超過一生長度的影像。影像的氾濫大約成指數式的增加:雖然準確的數字尚待計算,但新冠很可能已經造成了可以稱為影像流行(iconodemic)的現象,而它如何從「全面流行性地方病」的無人狀態生長出來以及參與其中,還有待觀察。


那麼,尚待回答的一個問題是:人民越來越稀薄的影像與增殖的大量影像之間,會產生什麼樣的關聯?


註釋 [註1] Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” trans. Jay Miskowiec, Diacritics 16, no. 1 (1986), 26. [註2] Peter Szendy, “Viral Times,” Critical Inquiry 47, no. 2 (2021). [註3] Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 9-10.

[註4] Michel Foucault, “Society Must Be Defended”, trans. David Macey (New York: Picador, 2003), 243-4. [註5] Security, Territory, Population, 58. [註6] 我曾為此寫了一本小書:Apocalypse-Cinema: 2012 and Other Ends of the World (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015). [註7] 可見 Horst Bredekamp, Thomas Hobbes – Der Leviathan: das Urbild des modernen Staates und seine Gegenbilder, 1651–2001 (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 2003)。我也曾從另一個角度分析過這張卷首圖,可見Peter Szendy, “The Image of Power and the Power of Reading (Leviathan, In Sum),” trans. Brigitte Stepanov, La Deleuziana, no. 7 (2018). [註8] Giorgio Agamben, Stasis: Civil War as a Political Paradigm, trans. Nicholas Heron (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015). [註9] 可見Peter Szendy, “Shadow Iconomics and Road Networks of the Visible,” trans. Jeremy Harrison, in The Supermarket of Images, ed. Peter Szendy with Emmanuel Alloa and Marta Ponsa (Paris: Gallimard / Jeu de Paume, 2020), 18.



彼得‧尚迪

布朗大學的大衛赫利希(David Herlihy)人文與比較文學教授,也是巴黎愛樂廳(Paris Philharmony)叢書的音樂學顧問。他著有《可見者的超市:朝向影像的普通經濟學》(The Supermarket of the Visible: Toward a General Economy of Images)(2019)、《論汙名學:標點符號作為經驗》(Of Stigmatology: Punctuation as Experience)(2018)、《豎起耳朵:間諜的美學》(All Ears: The Aesthetics of Espionage)(2016)、《末世電影:《2012》與其他世界的終結》(Apocalypse-Cinema: 2012 and Other Ends of the World)(2015)、《在地球外陸地上的康德:星際政治哲學虛構》(Kant in the Land of Extraterrestrials: Cosmopolitical Philosofictions)(2013)。他在巴黎的國立網球場現代美術館(Jeu de Paume)策畫過展覽「影像的超市」(Le supermarché des images)。


翻譯:蔡善妮

校對:陳定甫

編輯:黃山耘


Pandemia, Ademia, Iconodemia


Peter Szendy


When the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in 2020, the images of deserted streets in many capitals around the world looked like the beginning of Paris qui dort, René Clair’s first film, directed in 1924 (a few years after the Spanish flu): Albert, the caretaker of the Eiffel Tower, wakes up one morning and discovers that the city has been emptied of its inhabitants.

In the film, it is not a pandemic that interrupts the frantic circulation of people and things, but a mysterious ray invented by a scientist (hence the English title: The Crazy Ray). And the plot quickly turns out to be the pretext for exploring the possibilities of cinema itself: by manipulating the handle of his machine, Professor Ixe (whose name evokes X-rays) produces not only city-wide freeze-frames but also fast-forwards or slow motions along a graded scale of speeds. These variations in the unreeling of images soon become the main focus of the film, after the deserted streets of the opening scenes.


What the film stages, then, is heterochrony, if we understand by it the coexistence of different speeds or temporalities (rather than the “absolute break with . . . traditional time” described by Michel Foucault in “Of Other Spaces”[1]). And radical heterochrony is also what came to the fore, during the Covid-19 pandemic, as the very texture of our world.


In a previous blog post, written in the immediate aftermath of the outbreak, I suggested that the crisis (if it is simply a crisis) triggered by the pandemic brought about an unheard-of coexistence of hypervelocity and standstill, as if the world had frozen in acceleration, as if it had precipitated in immobility.[2] At the same time, what happened was also a blurring of past, present, and future. Not only because from one lockdown to the next many of us have lost their temporal points of reference (more than a year has gone by and sometimes I don’t know if it lasted a month or a decade); not only because we cannot see the end of the pandemic (new variants will continue to appear while new vaccines will try to keep up with their pace), or because it preludes to other viral outbreaks to come (the increase in zoonoses is an ineluctable consequence of our environmental crisis), but also because Covid-19 seems to conflate or alternate different nosologico-political regimes that we believed belonged to distinct eras or paradigms.


In Security, Territory, Population, his lecture series from 1977-78, Foucault famously described the paradigm shifts that took place with the treatments of leprosy, plague, and smallpox: the successive recourse to exclusion, quarantine, and vaccination was characteristic, in his view, of technologies of power that could be periodized as sovereignty, discipline, and biopolitics.[3] In his earlier lecture series from 1975-76, “Society Must Be Defended”, Foucault was distinguishing between two forms of illness, “epidemics” and “endemics,” in order to make them overlap respectively with sovereignty (or discipline) and biopolitics.[4] With Covid-19, these Foucauldian distinctions seem to be overwhelmed or overflowed, since what we are experiencing is neither simply a “temporary disaster” (“epidemics”), nor simply a “permanent factor” (“endemics”). Covid-19 is probably here to stay, but in the form of cases spiking again and again, like constant upsurges. It is true that smallpox, in Foucault’s analysis, already combined the characteristics of “a widely endemic phenomenon” and “very strong and intense epidemic outbursts.”[5] But Covid-19 superimposes in an unheard-of way the temporalities of exclusion (borders are repeatedly closed), quarantine (lockdowns), and vaccination. These three nosologico-political regimes alternate in what appears like an accelerating oscillation: this is what I tried to capture with the notion of panendemics, which combines the suddenness of epidemics and the continuity of endemics on a global though disjointed scale.


The heterochronic times of the panendemic, then, have been epitomized by the vision of seemingly uninhabited cities around the world. We all remember these striking images from early 2020 and we tend to think of them as exceptional, as literally extra-ordinary, as if they belonged to the repertoire of apocalyptic scenarios that many cinematic productions have anticipated.[6] In sum, we consider these views of deserted urban landscapes as a sudden outburst of emptiness, as an epidemic of void or vacancy. But what if they were an endemic condition too?


Instead of seeing them only as symptoms of unprecedented crises (like the epidemics of plague during the Middle Ages or the quarantined times of the Spanish flu), we could also remember that empty streets belong to one of the foundational images or symbols of governmental technology and political representation in Western thought: Hobbes’s frontispiece for his Leviathan (1651), which has been commented upon so many times.[7] Drawing on a number of previous studies dedicated to this icon of power, Giorgio Agamben has emphasized, in Stasis, the striking absence of (the) people in the city that lies in front of the Leviathan’s eyes.[8] Indeed, the city is “completely devoid of its inhabitants,” Agamben notes, except for a few guards or soldiers and “two very special figures” (37). To this emptiness, Agamben gives a name that sounds like an illness too: “ademia,” i.e. the absence of (the) people, of demos.

Now, if ademia is an illness that affects the State, it is, according to Agamben’s argument, endemic rather than epidemic: “the Hobbesian State—like every State—lives in a condition of perennial ademia” (51). For ademia is the structural impossibility of representing the people, of giving it a political shape, without immediately making it vanish as the shapeless multitude that it was (as people rather than the people). The compellingly aporetic logic of Agamben’s argument is more or less the following: if people are an inorganized crowd, the people can become a legitimately represented political force only by disappearing as people.


Considering the endemic or structural character of ademia, then, let us take a better look at the “two very special figures situated close to the cathedral” (37).

Along with the guards who can also be seen patrolling in the empty city, these two doctors (like other commentators, Agamben sees them as “wearing the characteristic beaked mask of plague doctors”) are the sign or symptom of ademia: “Like the mass of plague victims, the unrepresentable multitude can be represented only through the guards who monitor its obedience and the doctors who treat it” (48). But, if we follow Agamben’s convincing demonstration that ademia as political irrepresentability is endemic to the State, why should ademia itself be represented by these figures who belong to the history of epidemics (of plague outbreaks) rather than endemics?


Agamben seems to take for granted that the two masked doctors share the same space as the guards, within the city and within the image: he refers to “the curious presence, in the empty city (nella città vuota), of the armed guards and of . . . the two figures standing near the cathedral;” and he clearly locates their presence “in the emblem (nell’emblema)” (47-8). If one looks closer, though, it seems equally (if not more) likely that the two figures in question stand not inside the emblem and the empty city it depicts, but on its very border, on its frame. Which means that it is difficult—maybe impossible—to decide if they belong or not to the ademic scene that is represented within this frame. Are they part of the story that this allegory of political power narrates? Are they watching it from the outside?


Were they inside the frame (indeed, they seem to stand immediately behind it), it would mean that these doctors are somehow called for by what is going on within the depicted scene, that they are directly tied to what happens in it: their presence within the story told by the frontispiece could imply that ademia in the city is the temporary effect of an epidemic, like the plague outbreak that shook London in 1592-93 (a few years after Hobbes was born), with public houses and theaters remaining closed. Were the doctors outside the frame or on its very limit (indeed, they seem to stand on its inner border), it would mean that they are not diegetically connected to the ademia of the city: they observe it, they occupy the point of view from which it can be seen as such but they have no causal connection to what we can diagnose with them as the endemic disease of the State.


In sum, according to where one places these two figures, ademia could be epidemic and the city could soon be full of people again (under Covid-19, cities are being temporarily depopulated and repopulated as the successive waves of infection surge or decrease); or ademia could be endemic while appearing as such only from the vantage point of an epidemic. If the masked doctors do not have a proper place, if they are both on and off the political stage where we witness the erection of the State, their unstable, undecidable position might be read as the differential tension that makes it impossible for nosological regimes and technologies of power to coincide, to coalesce in stable paradigms. What came to the fore with Covid-19 is the very oscillation between them.


Could it be that, through this oscillation, our panendemic times are heading towards a chronic or rampant ademia, a disappearance of (the) people that promises to be more drastic than ever? Decisions are increasingly made on or through screens. International summits (like the recent climate summit) or political assemblies have been taking place on online platforms. The hundreds of heads that compose the torso of the great Leviathan looming over the deserted city look strikingly similar to the zoom screens filled with faces in small rectangles. But what about those who are locked in their homes or invisibly working to guarantee the continuity of critical infrastructures without finding their rectangled space in or on the screened body politic of the State?


This contemporary ademia—the empty streets of panendemic times—is all the more striking since it goes hand in hand with an unprecedented upsurge in the proliferation of images. Statistics prior to Covid-19 indicated that there were more than three billion images circulating each day on social media, i.e. hundreds of thousands of images during the time it took you to read this sentence.[9] In 2019, YouTube boasted on its official blog (blog.youtube/press) that there were more than 500 hours of video uploaded every minute, which means 720,000 hours a day, i.e. the equivalent of more than 80 years: more than a lifetime of images every day. This overflow of images has probably increased exponentially: though precise figures are yet to come, it is more than likely that Covid-19 also generated what we could call an iconodemic, of which it remains to be seen how it grows out of, and partakes in, panendemic ademia.

One of the questions that awaits us, then, is: how do the rarefying images of the people relate to the proliferating multitude of images?

Notes [1] Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” trans. Jay Miskowiec, Diacritics 16, no. 1 (1986), 26.

[2] Peter Szendy, “Viral Times,” Critical Inquiry 47, no. 2 (2021).

[3] Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 9-10. [4] Michel Foucault, “Society Must Be Defended”, trans. David Macey (New York: Picador, 2003), 243-4. [5] Security, Territory, Population, 58.

[6] I have dedicated a short book to them: Apocalypse-Cinema: 2012 and Other Ends of the World (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015). [7] See Horst Bredekamp, Thomas Hobbes Der Leviathan: das Urbild des modernen Staates und seine Gegenbilder, 1651–2001 (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 2003). I have analyzed this frontispiece myself, though from a different perspective: see Peter Szendy, “The Image of Power and the Power of Reading (Leviathan, In Sum),” trans. Brigitte Stepanov, La Deleuziana, no. 7 (2018). [8] Giorgio Agamben, Stasis: Civil War as a Political Paradigm, trans. Nicholas Heron (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015).

[9] See Peter Szendy, “Shadow Iconomics and Road Networks of the Visible,” trans. Jeremy Harrison, in The Supermarket of Images, ed. Peter Szendy with Emmanuel Alloa and Marta Ponsa (Paris: Gallimard / Jeu de Paume, 2020), 18.



Peter Szendy is David Herlihy Professor of Humanities and Comparative Literature at Brown University and musicological advisor for the book series published by the Paris Philharmony. He is the author of The Supermarket of the Visible: Toward a General Economy of Images (2019), Of Stigmatology: Punctuation as Experience (2018), All Ears: The Aesthetics of Espionage (2016), Apocalypse-Cinema: 2012 and Other Ends of the World (2015), and Kant in the Land of Extraterrestrials: Cosmopolitical Philosofictions (2013). He curated the exhibition The Supermarket of Images at the museum of the Jeu de Paume in Paris.

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