Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Living in a politic of aesthetic value

Lauren Neal
random blog post


"The camera metaphorizes the becoming-public of the event, because we who watch and listen are also caught in the intersection of the sniper's and the cameraman's viewfinders - not as potential victims exactly, but in some other sense as targets of those vectors."

Various media and, in general, forms of (over)exposure, triangulate, and therefore grossly complicate, the eons old battle of sides, war of wills. The victor was blessed with the agency to scribe history, with the 'loser' left silent, invisible, annihilated.

What happens when the same battle, the same violence, the same wars and genocides and ethnic cleansings transpire, but the rest of the world, connected/linked as it is, watches? How might this complicate the historical tradition of cultural narratives left incomplete and unwritten because of an absence: an annihilation (or assimilation to the point of annihilation) of a people? Because, with media -- with cameras, photographs, etc. -- there can be no complete disavowal of the existence of those left unspoken for, those killed off and erased. What we are left with is some 'proof,' 'relics,' 'residual effects,' and/or referent by which our desire to fill in the holes is partly satiated, or rather, placated. Indeed, in regard to documenting violence, "the surveillance [is] as complete as the abandonment" (Keenan, Publicity and Indifference, 547), with the almost-panoptic surveillance in place to completely document the reckless abandon taken with the lives of individuals. The documentation, rather than inciting action or much perceivable outcry, seems to encourage more apathy (complacency) than activism.

Keenan suggests:

"We need to attend to these sounds and images not just as accounts of war but as actions and weapons in that war, as operations in the public field which today constitutes an immense field of opportunity for doing battle, as weapons in what we too easily call 'image contests or 'publicity battles'" (Keenan, Publicity...551)

Again, we must treat media and representational forms as additional, and major/KEY players now in any war, not simply as the spectator, or the lens by which we are even aware that a battle ensues in some (not-so) far-off place.

It is arguable whether or not "the aesthetics of mechanized warfare, which [Benjamin] says is discerned more clearly or best 'captured by camera and sound recording' and not the naked eye" -- but it is clear that these forms have not been fully investigated and understood as TOOLS and WEAPONS themselves.

"Film, and today television, not only collapse and annihilate, as is so often said, time and distance -- they also make unprecedented times and spaces available for action, real virtualities that are marked by the affirmation of possibilities of engagement, 'action,' as well as by the negativity of this 'dynamite.' Field of action, yes, but what kind of action?" (Keenan, Publicity..., 550)


"Reason must be employed in public, says Kant, if there is to be any possibility of progress or social transformation; beliefs and institutions have no hope of survival if they are not exposed to reason, to judgments sparked by its critical force in public. Reason works when it exposes, reveals, and argues" (Keenan, Shame, 436).


A politics of emotion? A politics of aesthetic value?

A politics of reason?


I believe in the internet. I believe in cinema. I believe in television. I believe in new media.

I believe in the media and its power, but only if we begin to move it from the realm of surreality and imaginations to that of reality and action, from political potential to a true, potent ideology posited on behalf of progress. Still, it is that same surreality and those same imaginations which make possible the dream and hope of tangible political improvements; as well as that which make possible the dream and hope of violence enacted against others in service of an alternative dystopic vision.

Currently, I find the 'power' of the media existing in addition to the apparatuses of power at work in daily life (including the power at work in the violent, martialized daily lives of many), rather than redistributing it in a (re)constructive way. The eye of the camera is displaced, removed from that which it perceives; and, also, it feeds said information directly to the brain, seeming detached entirely from the stomach, the gut: the central hub for receiving and activating visceral responses to the pain of others.

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