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Single image of two

May 21, 2012

On Monday, May 21, 2012, a bomber blew himself in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, killing more than 90 people and leaving 222 injured, says Yemen’s defense ministry, according to the BBC.

On youtube, there is a one minute video with the title 21/05/12 – Yemen Suicide Bomb Kills At Least 96 Soldiers. The video, does not show footage of the bombing or the security, paramedic or media responses to the event. It does not show images of blood-covered dead bodies on the asphalt, burning cars, crying witnesses, frantic policemen. Rather, following a Corona Light commercial, it is a silent, still image of a bomb going off in what appears to be a village on the edge of the desert. Half through the video, the image disappears and a text takes its place over a black screen: at least 40 soldiers have been killed in Yemen following a terrorist bombing. The discrepancy between the image and the title, might be due to the difference between the total casualties and the military casualties, leaving a total of 50 civilian deaths. What is significant about this video, is not the information that it is sharing, but rather the way that it is relaying this information. It recalls conceptual art strategies of media displacements, using one medium to address the other, here a photograph as video, a text as a still image and video. A picture of a bombing, here becomes a symbol for bombing, no matter what is the source and the context of the image. One image of explosion, the video suggests, can be used to visualize other explosions. Curiously, through google image search, it appears to be that the image of the explosion used in the video, is in fact not from Yemen. Rather, its related to the use of cluster bombs in Afghanistan by US forces, and among other articles, it accompanies a BBC report on developments towards a new treaty to ban the use of cluster bombs in combat. A treaty that “[t]he US has rejected …, saying the weapons have a place in its arsenal,” according to the BBC, adding that “The charity Handicap International estimates that 98% of those killed and injured by the weapons are non-combatants,” while “27 percent are children,” according to New York Times. While the predator and the victims differ, a single image of explosion encompasses the horror of modern warfare. The video also shows how photograph transfigures from an image to symbol.

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