top of page

Professor Enrique Leal and artist Barbara Benish present a series of monoprints, to be published soon by Manchester University Press, (2024) in collaboration with political philosophers Michael J. Shapiro and Sam Okoth Opondo. Created in the Print Media studios at UCSC and Benish’s studio in Czech Republic, this unique collaboration, was exhibited in it's first edition in Prague at Bubec studio (2022) and then at the University of California, Santa Cruz Print Media Department gallery, spring 2024.

Poster CPMRC exhibitionV2.jpeg

From the Preface

Collaborations: A Note on Productive Reception


In our collaboration with the artists Barbara Benish and Enrique Leal, we heed Rancière’s conception of images as active and treat their woodcuts and prints as imagistic inhabitations that short circuit the desire for operative images that represent reality as it is or attempts to  faithfully illustrate our essays. Through blades, black ink, sweat, and blocks, they have created sometimes clear, sometimes blurred composite ghost images that tell their own story while interrupting or supplementing our own. It was our intention to have our collaboration with Benish and Leal encourage their productive reception of our texts. And crucially, the texts reciprocal with productive reception of the woodcuts and prints that rearrange, distort, or amplify rather than merely illustrate what our essay says. Accordingly, their image responses to the lexical texts in the chapters, Subalterns Speak, Precarious Breaks, and Ruminations on Apocalyptic Sublimes have resulted for example in composite prints where Sembene’s images (of Diouna’s mask), xxx the ball (from Abderrahmane Sissako’s film Timbuktu and Matthieu Donck’s Netflix series The Break /La Trêve) are juxtaposed with images from Ingmar Bergman The Seventh Seal.


The juxtaposition of passages and images of precarity in the book are also gestural allegories of survival. They disclose the contingencies of visibility that intervene and tmake it difficult to be attuned to the ethical weight of other presences. Again, Rancière provides a way of re-reading these images when he reminds us that there are images other than those of the “uniform light of the market-oriented world where human activity is transformed into spectacle and all differences are blurred.”[5]


In addition to thinking of images as “ the subversion of the sensible order” such that “ the people who are uncounted make themselves count”, Rancière also encourages a re-reading of images where “ the emergence of a people is less an indication of subversion than precarity, the precarity in number.”[6]  In our reflection on blindness, shadows, and justice in the chapter on Legal Precarities, we have found Rancière’s cautionary note on the dialectic of overexposure and underexposure to be partciularly instructive. It alerts us to the way listening to images, re-reading them, and juxtaposing them with passages from texts in multiple genres can also blur, underexpose, or even overexpose the very subjects we are writing about. According to Rancière:

[…] The image and the people connect only on the verge of disappearance, constantly exposed to a double peril of in differentiating underexposure and blinding overexposure. They connect there as survivors, living in spite of it all, between the perils of disappearing into the night and of being blinded by the light. That is what separates this overexposed humanity. What creates a rupture in the image is therefore not the conflict over the distribution of the sensible. It is survival [survivance], the way in which the famous notion of “naked life” is divided [se de d́ouble] by living on[survivance], like the beating of a tempo opposite to that which leads to disappearance.[7]

Beyond the content of its analyses, the form in which this book is composed and arranged is central to the way we articulate the aesthetics of precarity. That is, the shadows, blurred or ghost images and blurred lines that appear throughout the text are meant to disrupt certitudes by reflecting the tension between the said and the seen. These intermediations of the visual, the lexical, and the compositional, are central to our engagement with those vulnerable to the extractive forces of capital, colonial oppression, the immunity logics of nation-states, as well as new forms of precarity such that their lives, stories, knowledges, and images are “threatened with disappearance” or increased surveillance.[8]



[1] For more on affective proximity, see John Akomfrah and Ekow Eshun Lisson Gallery Weekend Talk, ­ 223January ­ 2016 ­available on the web at

[2] For more on affective proximity, see John Akomfrah and Ekow Eshun Lisson Gallery Weekend Talk, ­ 22nd January, ­ 2016 ­available on the web at

[3] Campt Tina. Listening to Images. Duke University Press 2017 p.8

[4] See John Akomfrah, Signs of Empire, Exhibition at the New Museum June 20th, 2018 – September 2nd, 2018. Available on the web at

[5] Rancière Jacques et al. “Images Re-Read.” p.12

[6] Rancière Jacques et al. “Images Re-Read.” p.12

[7] Rancière Jacques et al. “Images Re-Read.” p.13

[8] Rancière Jacques et al. “Images Re-Read.” p.13

bottom of page