Introduction: Trafficking in Five Obstructions
The introduction defines obstruction as a mode of embracing or even clinging to blockage, which distinguishes it from suspending in an impasse (an object of prominent concern in recent affect studies). It also distinguishes this global kind of obstruction, which is durable and durational, from a local obstacle, which is passing and passable. The latter distinction is parsed through an analysis of two recent projects: (1) engineer Hans Monderman’s innovative approach to traffic management, which harnesses the obstruction of traffic, an enduring condition (as distinct from the obstacle of any given traffic jam), to reform the subjects of gridlock; and (2) filmmaker Lars von Trier’s The Five Obstructions, in which the putative obstructions—actually obstacles—through whose devising von Trier tries to best agonist Jørgen Leth provide an alibi for the temporary misrecognition of the film’s real obstruction: von Trier’s obduracy, his own belated acceptance of which moves the film into a more provocative and challenging register. That register is one whose examination invites a further theorization of subjectivity after poststructuralisms and the (non)contemporaneity of the contemporary.