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Posts Tagged ‘Adorno’

June 14, 2012 Comments off

There is a series of photographs on AmnestySE Flickr page showing smiling middle class, pretty people holding a sign that simply reads Syria. These pictures are taken in various locations, from streets to offices to bedrooms, some digitally modified, a few show couples, some are more artistic than others, but all share the simple sign-plus-portrait setting. One assumes that what these photographs mean is that these people unite over the Syrian cause (whatever that is), they know that something is happening there which is not “right,” they are conscious about it. The pictures could also imply that the person in the picture is a supporter of Syria. These pictures are also quite similar to mug shots, so they could also imply that the person in the picture is Syria. The pictures could also imply that “we,” people holding the sign that reads Syria, are complicit and acknowledge that we are responsible for what is happening in Syria, it is our lifestyle or our elected government, or the politics that we benefit from, etc, is somehow by some degree responsible for the mass murder of civilians in Syria.

In an inverted way, these images bring to mind a photo collages by artist Martha Rosler that put together interiors of American middle class houses with images from Vietnam war (in the first series) and the war in Iraq in the 2004 series. These images imply that the lifestyle of the American middle class is maintained by a machinery of war and imperial interventions that pave the way for the circulation of goods and resources that support and sustain that given way of life. The images are collected from lifestyle magazines and the war images are inserted into windows and TV screens, juxtaposing these two seemingly unrelated pictures in a single image. But what do these images say and who are they intended for. These so-called “subversive” strategies take existing imagery, usually mass-produced and insert into them a different and often contradictory images and/or messages with the aim to detourn these images/messages and deliver them to their original receivers. But to paraphrase Rancière’s discussion of these kind of strategies, the problem lies in the fact that the intended message is only received by those who already in agreement with the sender, and those who are not conscious of the interrelated nature of the juxtaposed seeming opposition e.g. the reliance of a certain lifestyle on expansionist politics, will miss the message all together. Thus, what these kind of works at best achieve is the affirmative chuckle of the gallery goer and what these gestures lack is a degree of self-reflexivity that acknowledges the position of the producer within the conditions of production and not vis-à-vis such conditions. These images are immediately consumed by those portrayed in the AmnsetySE’s Flickr page, but unlike the work of a distant supporter of a cause, the work of the artist, in the words of Adorno pay “tribute to a hideous affirmation.”

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Child taping what remains of his house

May 8, 2012 Comments off

In the youtube video Child taping what remains of his house, we see a boy filming a pile of rubble which used to be a house. It is of course difficult to confirm if the house belongs to the child and his family, but nevertheless, that is what the title suggests. The man who is filming the child first approaches him as a news reporter approaches a subject of interview in a war zone, and as he gets closer he apparently 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 of them are clearly acting a scenario and the footage also implies a spoof on official/traditional television reportage (they even laugh at some point to a joke that the child makes).

Child taping what remains of his house, youtube still frame

The same video a few years ago would show the child in front of the rubble talking to the camera, now both the child and the other camera are filming. The child delegates the task of experiencing the destruction of his house to the camera, similar to a tourist in front of an ancient a ruin. He does not want to be the represented, but rather the one who represents. Here, in the words of Adorno, one can witness the triumph of representation over what is represented. Not unlike the journalist, the child is also interested in dissecting the site of destruction with a camera, to describe what he can see and highlight the economy of access, 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 gives rise to a new figure of victim, one that is detached from his own destruction by a digital camera. A victim who removes himself from the ruin and whose “rejection of experience can provisionally embody a legitimate defense,” in words of Agamben. 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.