Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Paul Virilio’

Done to be seen

May 30, 2012 Comments off

A photograph posted by @SyriaTweet on Twitpic.com shows a group of people, from various age groups, one hand flashing victory signs, the other holding a drawing. The drawing is of a UN Observer taking a photograph of a woman under rubble, with a word cloud above his head reading “say cheese.” The UN soldier is documenting instead of saving the victim, thus the drawing implies that camera signifies inaction. Another drawing shows Assad holding a blood stained axe shaking hands with Kofi Annan on a pile of bodies, while posing in front of UN observers cameras. Elsewhere, there is a photograph of group of protestors holding a sign that reads: “UN is killing us.” While the first image suggests that the UN is watching and not doing, the rest imply that not only UN is not “doing” anything, but rather it is responsible for the continued violence in Syria.

The situation recalls the war in Kosovo, where people were killed in numbers in the presence of peacekeeping forces and journalists. It is not that the UN forces are there on the front line marching with Assad forces, but it could be that the drawings suggest that the recent horrific massacre in Houla would not take place in the absence of UN forces. It is the Observers’ media paraphernalia that invites the forces of destruction, it is the camera that visualizes violence, that in words of Jean-Luc Nancy, [violence] wants to leave a mark, wants to erupt into the field of vision and reveal itself in form of an image. While people are murdered in darkness no doubt, but as Virilio notes, there is no war without representation. The massacre in Houla was committed to be mediated, distributed and watched. It is a message to the global community, to the opposition groups and to the regimes allies. It is done to show the extent to which the regime is willing to go to guard its power. (thanks to TK)

Advertisements
Categories: main Tags: , , ,

March 20, 2012 Comments off

[cont]

Today, with the development of digital technologies of representation, the gap between the production and reception of the image has shortened, and image production has become an instantaneous act. Not a “having-been-there,”[1] (as Barthes puts it) but a “being here,” an assurance and reassurance of being present in time. The camera is no longer only a device that would freeze a moment in time for the future, but a device that freezes every passing moment into fragments of now. It is as if we are living and experiencing life with a short delay and the instant image is a visual echo of the present. From dinner tables to mass demonstrations, through this visual echo of the livestreaming of life, we instantaneously review the living moments, or we live through the instantaneous broadcasting of life. While before the kind of absence that the mechanically produced image represented was more similar to that of the text, this livestreaming of life has given the image some of the properties of speech. This is a fleeting moment, and then becomes the “having-been-there”again, but this momentary cohabitation of the image and the image-image maker, as they share a temporal and spatial coordinates between “being-here”and “having-been-there,” opens a new performative space. As such the relationships between participation and spectatorship are redefined as they become parts of a single entity constituting a subject that is the product of the real-time streaming of the event that the very same subject is participating in. It is the product of a new form of self-consciousness constituted by the real-time representation of the self within the event via the means of instantaneous image-making provided by digital technologies. While Roland Barthes talks about the “spatial immediacy and temporal anteriority of the photograph,” today—even if for a brief passing moment—the instantaneity of image making has brought together the space and time of the image with space and time of life.

But it is in response to this acceleration of data transmission and this instantaneous televisual connectivity, that Paul Virilio warns us from the visual crash. The dawn of a planetary panopticon that has put on display “even our most private activities”, and a new “market of vision” that renders visible whatever is “happening in the world in the present instant.” It is along the same lines that he declares the end of politics at the scale of speed of light, where there is no room for reflection. But has this supposedly global tele-surveillance abolished the historical primacy of local time in favor of a global temporality as Virilio claims? If in the age of live television, the event was transmitted to receivers across the planet to supposedly passive observers, now the circle of spectatorship is finally complete, as the subject is also the recipient of the same image. The subject is participating, documenting, transmitting, and watching at the same time, while previously s/he was a subject to a process of mediation and representation, and left out from the circle of live spectators. As such, the global time is now re-synchronized with the local time. In February 2011, in Tahrir Square in Cairo, the protestors set up a screen and watched the projection of Al Jazeera’s live coverage of the Egyptian revolution. The images were broadcasted in real-time from the square to the square and the participants could see themselves as they formed the revolutionary crowd.

Between a global televisual panopticon and an agora of spectators, there seems to be a window, or a revolving door, for the practice of visual parrhesia in the age of planetary live broadcast.


[1] The type of consciousness the photograph involves is indeed truly unprecedented, since it establishes not a consciousness of the being-there of the thing (which any copy could provoke) but an awareness of its having-been-there. What we have is a new space-time category: spatial immediacy and temporal anteriority, the photograph being an illogical conjunction between the here-now and the there-then. (Barthes, Rhetoric of the Image)