In the afternoon hours of May 1, 2011, president Obama and his national security team were watching the livestream of operation Neptune Spear. The Situation Room, a photograph of the group of insiders who had direct, immediate access to this footage, shows the VIPs gathered around a table covered with laptops, paper cups and files staring at some kind of display unit, as football fans would be watching the super bowl. Instead they are watching the live broadcast of the execution of the top most wanted man in the world. At the time of this elite group’s gathering in one of the conference rooms of the Situation Room of the White House, the rest of the world is unaware of the hunt of the top most wanted man in the world in the city of Abbottabad in Pakistan. In other words, at the moment that this highly mediated event of near future was livestreamed and documented, outside of a certain security clearance, the present had not yet arrived. The people in this photograph were posing for the future, they were living in the near future.
The total fragmentation of presence, provided/facilitated by the mediatization of life and distributed according accessibility creates a new temporal topography. As such the presence can be managed and future designed. Bin Laden was executed in the future and dumped on the present and thus its not surprising that his body was never recovered. Its recovery requires an archeology of the future. Had the operation failed, the event had never taken place.
In Fate of Art in the Age of Terror, Boris Groys notes how the contemporary terrorist/warrior exhausts the media possibilities at hand and produces images—of shock and awe— that have “an uncanny aesthetic similarity with alternative, subversive European and American art and filmmaking of the 60-and 70s.” In particular Groys compares the gory photographs of Abu Ghraib for instance to Viennese Actionism, Pasolini etc. Yet, he notes that although there might be a similar subversive underpinnings to both types of imagery they follow two complete different trajectories: while the modern art tendencies to “be radical, daring, taboobreaking, going beyond all the limitations and borders,” is iconoclastic at large, terrorists in contrary want to produce icons. While the former is concerned with critique of the representational qualities of the image and its relationship to the real, the later in turn desires to show the real and to be taken as representation of the real. Groys opens the article by noting how before the age of mechanical reproduction, the warrior was dependent on the artist to be mounumentalized and for his heroic actions to be narrativized and depicted. But now, the fighter is free from this dependency and has full control over the documentation and dissemination of his actions.
Still, these acts of terror, from the most common depictions of atrocities to the most choreographed examples are carried out in battlefields, public urban or rural spaces or terrorist hideouts. As such, while the visual strategies of these actions might share some attributes with the avant-garde, the venues of presentation is essentially different from that of designated space of art. Even public executions, however meticulously planned are—rather strategically—staged in busy public squares and intersections.
Yet recently on January 20th 2013, a group of “thugs” or “outlaws,” were executed in front of “Khaneh Honarmandan,” (Artist’s House), an arts and cultural center in downtown Tehran with exhibition and performance spaces. It created an uproar in social media spaces and also the news media. The highly choreographed event was widely documented and photographs of the event from the start to conclusion were distributed over the internet and beyond. To go back to Groy’s analogy, what makes this event significant (not in an ethical and moral point of view, which is obvious and widely discussed on the net) is again this intersection of art and terror or bare power of state in this instance. Here, the exhibition space is appropriated by the state to display its force and as such the state also displays the desire to become art. As such, government and judiciary also become components of the art of the state as performances, exhibitions, and events. If the forces of power, terror and war have the capability to utilize media similar to the artist, they also share the desire to exhibit their aesthetic productions. While of course the spaces of art—for the most part—have far less capacity than mass media, internet, public squares, parks or stadiums, but they do present certain aesthetic and symbolic possibilities that such venues cannot offer. The state as icon finds its last resort in the exhibition space, which nevertheless follows certain ontology and a historical movement as Groys also notes in his essay. By inhabiting the space of art, the state opens itself to critique.
We did what many others were doing. We made images and we turned the volume up too high. With any image: Vietnam. Always the same sound, always too loud, Prague, Montevideo, May ’68 in France, Italy, Chinese Cultural Revolution, strikes in Poland, torture in Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Chile, Palestine, the sound so loud that it ended up drowning out the voice that it wanted to get out of the image. Here and Elsewhere, 1976, Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville
Eyal Weizman differentiates between pedagogical violence and total or absolute violence. While the former functions linguistically where in addition to eliminating the intended targets it communicates with the survivors, the latter is exercised to wipe out the subject completely, and/or to produce a new subject—and as such introduce a new language. Yet, the pedagogical violence functions as long as a gap between the actual and possible violence is maintained and thus it is a discursive form that manages this space that it first defines and then opens it for negotiations. The form of violence exercised by the Israeli military in Gaza belongs to the first order of violence but it is to achieve the results of the second order (one can of course imagine any form of pedagogical violence an absolute form if it is exercised systematically in a large-scale to produce new subjects. As for instance penal violence is expected to transform the subject).
The total elimination of the subject, in this case the Palestinians, is not solely a military job, but rather it is a media operation that manages and supports the military to achieve its goals. It functions on two separate layers: the image and the voice. The media simultaneously presents and distributes the mute images of Palestinian dead and wounded and the voice of Israeli officials and pundits who frame the invasion as retaliation, a response to a rocket strike by Hamas militants. The Palestinians, the victims of the mortars are revictimized in the image—the mute dead, traumatized or severely injured subject. We see dead Palestinians and hear living Israelis. The words belong to the living and the images to the dead, and as we know the dead cannot talk unless summoned from the underworld.
(This essay brings together one of the main threads of this blog so far. It primarily looks at the attempt to defy representation via historical examples and a few clips from Syria)
All what I want from you is that you shoot a small video and put it on YouTube, stating your name and your unit, and saying we are part of the Aleppo military council…then you can do whatever you want. I just need to show the Americans that units are joining the council.[i]
A chronicler who recites everything without distinguishing between major and minor ones acts in accordance with the following truth: nothing that has ever happened should be regarded as a lost for history.[ii]
Instant historicization (product of ubiquity of digital means of representation) does two things at the same time, one, the perpetuation of the present in the visual flow, and, two the immortalization of the past as an eternal relic. While seemingly moving in two disparate directions, the two present a singular image. In the face of contemporary machinery of destruction, the location of history has shifted to the instant past and immediate future collapsing on the present. While before one could look back at history from the vista point of the present, that vista point now looks at its visual echo, with the delay of broadcast time. The historicization of presence responds to an impulse to secure a spot outside of history. This is achieved by removing the self from the site of the event, turning the event into the subject of visual investigation, by recounting it not as the affected subject, but as a narrator, and as a historian. The eternity that was assigned to the represented subject, is conferred to the producer of the image; it is the absence from representation that is immortal. But the fate of image that is emptied from eternity remains obscure. To have no agency in determining one’s position vis-à-vis the viewfinder, is the position of the victim. A hero commands the representation of his annihilation, a victim who defines the conditions of representation.
It is almost a cliché to highlight how the advent of digital technologies of representation has transformed the landscape of photojournalism—and visual production at large. The gap between the production and reception of the image has shortened into a livestreaming of life. The technological shift has been gradual, but effects indisputable as today not much can evade camera viewfinders. The 2009 protests in Iran and later the Arab Spring, represented apropos the landslide in photojournalism and the convergence of the figure of reporter and civilian/demonstrator. Yet, it is in Syria that in the absence of international media correspondences, indigenous media has incessantly captured the war since the early days of a civil protest turned civil war.
From July 18, 2011, the youtube channel SyrianDaysOfRage has uploaded more than ten thousand videos from the Syrian conflict. Up dated hourly, it is only one of several online platforms hosting video documentation from Syria, mostly provided by civilians and the opposition fronts in the country. Watching the war online, there is no shortage of documentary evidence shedding light on the humanitarian crisis at hand and the increasing violence as the death toll rises above 30,000 (according to the UN) under the gaze of digital cameras. The footage include detailed documentation of wounded civilians and casualties, men and women from infants to elderly. It is a horrifically rich visual repository for forensic experts to investigate the impact of various types of weaponry on the human body and human creations. Buildings, machines and people are shattered into a mesh of destruction of the machinery of war. The cameras in the hands of civilians—at once the target and reporters of the war—have meticulously recorded the battle from all sides and angles, covering all the possible tropes of photojournalism, an industry dedicated to representing the victims. Ever since Mathew Brady photographed the human detritus of the Antietam battle, bodies started to pile up before the cameras, in battlefields, on sidewalks, in mass graves, and turned into evidence of atrocities of war. In the increasingly ambulant and mechanized war zones, only those who could no longer move posed before the wet plates of early photography. Now, while the lo-fi phone cameras of citizens in Syrian cities barely capture the bomber planes, they promptly capture and represent what remains of the bombings. Stationary and/or traumatized, the victims have no command over their condition of representation. They can only represent the extent of the violence, and the more horrifying the visualized violence, the greater the truth-value within the global network of big and small media. Violence demands representation.
In the Ground of the Image, Jean-Luc Nancy describes how the image is the battleground between the violence of truth and the truth of violence. Violence wants to leave a mark, wants to erupt into the field of vision and reveal itself in form of an image. Similarly, truth also wants to become visible, it also wants to display itself on the picture plane, it wants to unfold into an image. “The difference is that the true truth is violent because it is true, whereas the other type, its thick double, is ‘‘true’’ only insofar as it is violent. In the second case, truth is reduced to the mode of violence and exhausted in that mode, whereas in the first case, violence is unleashed in truth itself, and thus contained in it.[iii]” This violence has a communicative, or pedagogical dimension to it, sustained, as Eyal Weizman describes, by the gap between the actual destruction inflicted by an army and the possible destruction that an army is able to apply. “It is through the constant demonstration of the existence and size of this gap that the military communicates with the people it fights and occupies,” writes Weizman, “restraint is what allows for the possibility of further escalation.[iv]” How much the documentary apparatus that is capturing the violence in Syria can define and act as a measure of the aforementioned gap, and whether the production and consumption of the visual material can also develop a capacity for resistance and a threshold for intensification of violence. That is, in each phase of this conflict, the visual material surpassed what was considered or believed as tolerable, and yet the receivers of the violence have managed to document and distribute the atrocities. It is important to reemphasize that unlike many previous contemporary conflicts, it is the receivers of the violence who are also acting as documentarians instead of the professional journalist. Thus an analysis of the visual material can help the military to adjust the forces of destruction according to the degree of tolerance exercised in the act of documentation. Yet, it does not end here. There is another dimension to the war and that is total destruction, and here the gap between possible and actual violence is closed, and war becomes a “total war… stripped from semiotics.[v]” At this level, war is not about conviction of the subjects of violence, but rather about the reconstruction of the desired subject or the total annihilation of the surplus.
On July 3, 2012, based on more than 200 interviews with former detainees, including women and children, and defectors from the Syrian military and intelligence agencies, Human Rights Watch released “Torture Archipelago,” a report on torture and ill-treatment of Syrian dissidents by the ruling army.[vi] In one of the featured interviews, after recounting the case of a captured rebel who was beaten to death with batons, a former soldier noted how his face was completely different before he was taken away. “No one looks the same after we have arrested them,” states the interviewee. In everyday conversations, ‘to look differently’ implies an implicit change in one’s personality; it is a symptom of a change, however insignificant or ephemeral. We are used to deduce from the way one looks if s/he is tired, happy, excited, sad, anxious etc. Ultimately, the changes in the dead body and its gradual disintegration into nature, is the final transformation of the human figure: it becomes non-human.
Torture, divorced from its religious and spiritual functions, is the attempt to dehumanize the subject by use of force, turning him/her into something that does not have the same features and thus the same rights as a human being. This is achieved by disfiguring the subjects and in its absolute iteration, annihilating them. Once the subject looks visually different before the torturer, s/he becomes unrecognizable as a member of the same species. The transformation of the physical features of a person takes place in the surface of the image, it is there that violence visualizes itself, as Nancy suggests. Torture is thus used to proclaim the enemy non-human and as such exempt it from humane treatment as it “looks totally different,” according to the defected soldier.
The visualization of violence, on the one hand creates a public arena that acts as a vessel that communicates the extent of inflicted violence while at the same time opens up the possibility of further escalation by defining a degree of tolerance in production and viewership. The image however, constantly reconstitutes the subject that the violence attempts to obliterate. But yet through this dialectical relationship between violence and the image, a different subject is created. This subject is different from one of representational politics where the constitution or existence of the subject is contingent upon its representation. This visualized undefined subject is no longer completely the subject that it used to be (before reception of violence), and neither is the new subject that the perpetrators intend to construct. This subject is an a-historical one, existing as an image that defines the limits of representation.
There is an overabundance of images of Syrian war atrocities piled over internet websites and printed in magazines and newspapers worldwide. These images depict the transformed torsos, mutilated children, disfigured victims of the war. Sontag noted that images cover as much as they reveal; here when buildings are diminished into rubble and city blocks into gravel, the image effaces everything that used to be and replaces history with its two-dimensional surface, blocking the access to what once was. The documentation defines and redefines the aforementioned gap between actual and possible violence. The quantity of images does not increase what is known of a given situation, rather reroutes the situation into a quest for additional evidence, into the obscure impossibility of the panoramic view. But a mass grave documented from all angles remains a mass grave, “photography transforms reality into tautology.[vii]”
Ever since Capa (allegedly) captured the fall of a loyalist militiaman in the Spanish Civil War at the moment of death in 1936, photojournalism has been accused of beautifying violence, of turning it into a subject of aesthetic pleasure, commodifying it for the news media, sacrificing the evidential proof for sentimental effect. Photographers have been charged with apathy, giving up basic humanitarian values to capture the most definitive image of the event. These allegations for the most part remain cogent, as questioning politics of representation, ethics of photojournalism and the position of the photographer vis-à-vis the event remain essential questions of the discipline, one that every professional in the field has to inexorably raise. Yet, the advent of affordable digital technologies of representation and their global omnipresence promised a new possibility of visual justice, one that is unchained from the economy of professional photojournalism.
However, following the civil-protest-turned-civil-war that is Syria, where videos of half burned torsos of children stacked side by side are hoarded on web archives, updated daily, one wonders how the so-called professional photographer would have treated the subject. Moral questions of professional journalism aside, the repletion of the web with images of dismembered human beings, brutally tortured and killed or blown into pieces by mortars calls for a broader question of representational ethics. Here, the decapitated human bodies decomposing on sidewalks, equal to the ruble before the lens, are reduced to evidence. Evidence that (for the most part, unless meeting certain requirements) is hardly adjudicated in the war tribunals. One wonders if they call for aestheticization.
This immense repository of war images at times contains more than instant historization of events. In between the mountains of evidentiary material, there are clips and images that function differently, or have additional layers on top of the evidentiary one.
In youtube video The video Over Rubble, The Brave Continue to Stand for Freedom, we see a group of civilians staging a performance over rubble from a recent shelling in Talbiseh near the city of Holms. Holding placards with slogans and information, the group chants La Ilaha Illa Allah, and “Assad is God’s enemy.” The person on the top right in what used to be the kitchen holds a sign that reads “home of martyr Jalal aldin Latoof,” others signs are either asking for God’s mercy, or include messages to Assad. In the middle of the image someone is waving the Free Syrian flag. In the group of four on the left one is holding a sign, another a flag and the two children are each holding a smaller placard. Upon closer scrutiny it becomes clear that the two children are both masked.
The video at once shows the destruction of the city, it includes information about its location, but also by turning the site of destruction into a stage it implies a consciousness with regards to the spectacle of the war and directly points to it. It shows that not only the rebels are using the media to disseminate information and as a documentary tool, but are also aware of the medium and its possibilities and complexities. The video is showing not the dead, but the survivors, it commemorates the dead, but does not turn them into evidentiary material, it acknowledges their presence, or rather absence, but not by victimizing them through the image. Inserted in the vast visual online database of the conflict, the video is similar to the songs in epic theater. It is made to go on the flow of clips and appear on the side bar, and momentarily disrupt the stream of violence, by addressing the theater of war.
In Child taping what remains of his house available via SyrianDaysOfRage, we see a boy filming a pile of rubble, which, according to the title, used to be his house. While difficult to corroborate if the house belongs to the child and his family, but for the moment we take the title for what it suggests. The camera/man who is filming the child filming the house approaches the boy as a traditional news media reporter approaches a subject of interview in a war zone. As he walks toward the boy he asks: can you tell me what you see? Which also could be read as “can you tell me what you are filming?” The child responds to the question and other questions posed by the man. Both the boy and the man filming him are clearly acting a premeditated, or internalized scenario. Further, the footage implies a spoof on official/traditional television reportage (they even laugh at some point to a joke that the child makes).
Before the era of citizen journalism, the coverage of a similar scenario in the news media would show the child in front of the rubble talking to the camera, recounting the events, while being questioned by a professional war correspondent. Responding to his mistrust of news media outlets’ coverage of the conflict in Kosovo, artist Phil Collins traveled to the war zone to investigate their practice in close proximity. In How to Make a Refugee (1999), Collins follows a group of journalists around Kosovo, covering them covering the war. The piece shows how the group choreographed a family displaced and wounded by the war to produce a news reportage. Capturing the subject’s unease with the process, Collins meticulously documents how the journalists examined a wound on the boy’s stomach, made him take off his shirt and covered him with flashes. In the video from Syria, both the child and the other camera are filming. The child reflects on the destruction of his house via the camera, similar to a tourist in front of an ancient a ruin. Here, in the words of Adorno, one can witness the triumph of representation over what is represented. The boy does not want to be the represented, but rather the one who represents. Not unlike the journalist, the child is interested in dissecting the site of destruction with a camera, to show the extent of the damage, describe what he can see and highlight the economy of access (as he is as close to the event as one can be), but this time to his own rubble.
Friedrich Kittler mentions a 1902 German Reich law that gave every man and woman the “right to one’s own image,” here the camera gives the child the right to his own rubble. This video shows the rise of a new figure of victim, one that is distanciated from his own destruction by his/her digital camera. A victim who removes himself from the ruin, whose “rejection of experience can provisionally embody a legitimate defense,” in words of Agamben. [viii] A generation that grew up looking at monitors from the point of view of first-person shooter games can now experience its own habitat as the game zone.
Beyond recent examples such as these clips from Syria, evading visual victimization and camera exposure at large has a history as old as photography itself. Signifying “to leave without shelter or defense,” from Middle French exposer “lay open, set forth,” expose-ing oneself to the camera was cautiously refused. “The same Balzac who claimed to have drawn up all of his fictional figures like daguerreotypes” writes Kittler, “also said to his friend Nadar, France’s first and most famous portrait photographer, that the himself would dread being photographed. Balzac’s mystical tendencies led him to conclude that every person consists of many optical layers – like an onion peel – and every daguerreotype captures and stores the outermost layer, thus removing it from the person being photographed. With the next photograph, the next layer is lost, and so on and so on until the subject disappears of becomes a disembodied ghost (see Nadar, 1899). Edgar Allen Poe, who also wrote about photography as one of the wonders of the world, made this phantasm universal by positing the thesis that images in general are deadly for their object. Poe’s painter creates a portrait of his beloved without noticing that she grows increasingly pale the more that her oil painting acquires the color of human flesh. Painting, with its extensively discussed handicap of aging pigment, thus uses a photochemical effect against people as if it had become photography. As soon as Poe’s fictional painting is completed, the painter’s beloved drips dead.[ix]” Therefore, Collin Powel’s infamously fraud presentation before the UN Security Council—representing an epistemological transformation of the photographic index to military target– that eventually lead to eight years of war and over 100,000 casualties, merely confirmed a historical suspicion: images can kill.
A decade after his work in Kosovo, Collins traveled to Palestine where he stages a disco dance marathon in Ramallah for the making of the piece They Shoot Horses. After a series of auditions, Collins chose nine dancers and divided them into two groups, filmed them separately in two days. Both groups danced to the same soundtrack for eight hours without breaks, from 10am to 6pm, and received a day’s wage per hour. The camera, for the most part, is a full frame shot that holds all of the dancers, who dance against a pink wall. About it Collins writes: “In the finished film they do aerobics, they do folk dancing to Gina X. Someone starts dry-retching at Aretha Franklin. They do belly dancing to The Smiths. Later on, they fall asleep to ‘Fame’. They’ve almost had it, stumbling about like drunks, bags under their eyes as Irene Cara rattles on in the background.[x]” In a place under constant gaze of cameras—from news media to aerial surveillance to citizen journalists—the piece exhausts the possibilities of human motions before a camera. For the dancers, the presence of the camera is part of living under the limelight of the occupation. In the age of live televised war, the victims are those who cannot choose not to be on camera, while the perpetrators, invite it in, wave at it, and expel it as they see fit. The victims have to keep dancing until the music is over.
In The Spam of the Earth, Hito Steyerl writes how the immaculate, horny anorexic omnipresent beauties of hyper-capitalism, are bearing the cross of representation for the rest of us, so we can live a life camera free.[xi] They supply the industry with the required flesh to anthropomorphize the commodities that we are applied to later on. This visual tabloid-lumpenproletariat divide lens-attention with the other over-represented but invisible crowd who are condemned to dance before the cameras until they stop rolling. Together they divide our emotion spam between pity and envy, empathy and stimulation, charity and over-consumption.
Instagram filters make digital images look like photographs from the past. It casts a shroud of forged historicity on the ahistorical immediate digital image with an after life of a few seconds, before buried under more recent posts, tweets, etc. It is the passage of time that bestows authenticity to the photographic image, makes it appear as a relic, gives it the aura that it took away from art in the first place (a la Benjamin). Time obscures the facts, referents become unclear, people forgotten, places varnished with ruinous visage. Descriptions of some of the available filters include:
Effect: Gloria Gaynor-level ’70s flair
Use for: Photos that call for in-your-face nostalgia (particularly useful now that Facebook is Timelined)
Effect: Super-saturated, supremely retro photos with a distinctive scratchy border
Use for: Photos that call for actual nostalgia
Instant digital historization devaluates history, brandizes it, turns it into something attainable, reproducible, available at the touch of a finger. The over abundance of snapshots, the over documentation of life shrinks history between the immediate past and the instant future and thus filters are made available to account for the nostalgia of the immediate past, the remembrance of the day before.
In Photographer as Sage, Boris Gorys discusses the photographic work of Alexandre Kojève, Russian born French philosopher, statesman and one of the founders of the EU, and photographer. According to Groys, Kojève believed we are living in a post-historical condition. His theory of end of history differed from most other similar concepts, as for Kojève end of history was not located in the future, but rather we have already been living in post-historical conditions since the French Revolution, only “we are not fully aware of this condition yet.” According to this concept of history, photography then is not fixating a moment in the constant flow of time, rather it represents an immobilized, arrested time (thus Kojève only photographed monuments of the past). It is an already historisized condition that is represented via photography. As such, the fascination with instant historisication of the everyday, for the immediate past to look like a distant moment in time, is a symptom of this post-historical condition.
Still, while the everyday post-history begs for appearance of obsolescence, other situations demand an unhistorical urgency in face of humanitarian conditions. The question is how the contemporary visual condition accounts for this post-historical moment and the demands of images that ask for immediate response. How can we respond to a contemporary event, located in the past?
The opposition in Syria is documenting the war from all angles and sides, creating an immense online repository of images of destruction, updated by the hour on the internet. A survey of the images from the start of the uprising in March 2011 to date show the changes in the landscape of violence and its intensification. Thomas Keenan and Eyal Weizman (see Weizman, The Least of All Possible Evils)note about the communicative, or pedagogical dimension of violence, sustained by the gap between the actual destruction inflicted by an army and the possible destruction that an army is able to apply. “It is through the constant demonstration of the existence and size of this gap that the military communicates with the people it fights and occupies,” writes Weizman, “restraint is what allows for the possibility of further escalation.” Now with this in mind, the question is how much the documentary apparatus that is capturing the violence in Syria can define and act as a measure of the aforementioned gap, and whether the production and consumption of the visual material can also develop a capacity for resistance and a threshold for intensification of violence. That is, in each phase of this conflict, the visual material have surpassed what was considered or believed as tolerable, and yet the receivers of the violence have managed to document and distribute the atrocities. It is important to note that unlike many previous contemporary conflicts, it is the receivers of the violence who are also acting as documentarians instead of the professional journalist. Thus an analysis of the visual material can help the military to adjust the forces of destruction according to the degree of tolerance exercised in the act of documentation. But yet, there is another dimension to the war and that is total destruction, and here the gap between possible and actual violence is closed, and war becomes a “total war… stripped from semiotics.” At this level, war is not about conviction of the subjects of violence, but rather about the reconstruction of the desired subject or the total annihilation of the surplus.
The visualization of violence, on the one hand creates a public arena that acts as a vessel that communicates the representation of the actual inflicted violence and thus also opens the possibility of further violence by defining a degree of tolerance in production and viewership. The image constantly reconstitutes the subject that the violence attempts to erase. But yet through this dialectical relationship between violence and the image, a different subject is created. This subject is different from one of representational politics where the constitution or existence of the subject is contingent upon its representation. This visualized [undefined] subject is no longer completely the subject that it used to be (before reception of violence), and neither is the new subject that the inflictors of violence intend to construct. This subject is an a-historical one, existing as an image that defines the limits of representation.
In artist Mark Leckey’s Pearl Vision, the drum stick penetrates the snare drum’s vent whole, the player’s crouch reflects onto the silver side of the drum, the beats in sync with the music that defines all the movements of the image, an image that is so pristine that only the digital depth of the beats match the density of its pixel rates. In the piece desire, image and reality infuse, the image defies the desired reality, desire is soaked in the high density of the pixels.
HD is the retinal critique of the real, it is what the real attains to be. It proclaims that unless you (or the event) have the condition to be represented high-def then your reality will remain limited to the pixels of your phone camera. The lo-fi image is a mere representation without transcendence to the ultra-real. Here the conditions of the image define the reality on display. The pop icon whose drop of sweat sliding down her skin is more water like than the river running down the creek. The commodity that is transcended to the image of the represented commodity, applying living beings to attain to its image, while always countering them with their incapability.
The indigenous journalists’ videos interspersed in the newscast showing the atrocities of the army shelling civilian quarters or of a hurricane hitting land, show the immediate real, the poor image, while the newscast’s high-definition is that which reality aspires to be. The pixel rates of the image correspond to the quality of the event, that if only could be produced under certain circumstances posing before the hi-def camera, it could then transcend into the ultra-real.