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violence as quotation

March 26, 2012

Watching the videos coming out of Syria is to say the least, extremely disturbing. It is not that the regime is only wiping out the opposition, but rather it is wiping out the opposition in forms of most gruesome imagery of violence. Rather than images creating a “ghastly distanciation”, these images block any possibility of reflection, they are messages that the perpetrators are sending out to the world, both the local audience and those who watch these videos online. One cannot dispute these images on the basis of the violent acts that were conducted, there is no discretion, no concern for accusations of human rights violations by the international community.

In the Ground of the Image, Jean-Luc Nancy describes how the image is the battle ground 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.”

Following this description what if we consider violence as a quotation, as a direct enactment of language where the message needs no further translation, the closure of all possibilities for interpretation. Violence as the “ground zero of language, the complete erasure of misunderstanding in form of total domination. That is in order to fully and completely make ourselves understood, for there to be no more “in other words” but “no words” or rather “one word”, no need for translation, no delay or postponement of meaning into the future we wipe out the addressee. Here we reach out for the other pure language, where there is only us and no more of them and all the avenues of misunderstanding are blocked and there’s nothing left to talk about. Silent. Dead. Kaput (SM, That’s The Way We Do It exhibition catalogue, Kunsthaus Bregenz).”

After Reformation, in some Catholic churches, the “image” became a quotation. The church found the need to reinterpret the role of images in the faith, thus in some instances, instead of commissioning new images, painters were called to ornament around images that were considered holy by the believers throughout centuries. The image carried its meaning with itself, while its presentation changed shape. Similarly in Syria the images are true only insofar as they are violent, as visual quotations of a message that does not carry the burden of [mis]understanding. Here violence becomes the form of the photographic index.

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