Tuesday, December 4, 2007

All three articles and even the podcast seemed to be dealing with the importance of media and its influence on the actor, the viewer, the artist, etc. Abu Ghraib began as a moment of torture. In a room full of people, prisoners were forced into pain and suffering. Then Abu Ghraib became the images produced in that moment. People all around the world began to understand the torture in terms of a few still images, filling in the blanks as each individual saw fit. The Bush administration carefully chose their words as they reinforced the [art] object as the moment instead of the representation of the moment. A discussion was formed and the image became an idea or a symbol of the war and U.S. occupation in Iraq. People contemplated the role of the military officials and (as Laqueur pointed out) whether or not the acts of torture were systemic. And finally, the discussion transformed into the painting, where the imagery is far removed from what it actually was. This snowball effect is the product of a situation where people were so shocked and bothered, that a continued large scale response occurs.

Susan Sontag brought up many interesting points about the photo objects themselves. The important point that, "the horror of what is shown in the photographs cannot be separated from the horror that the photographs were taken-- with the perpetrators posing, gloating, over their helpless captives." And that it becomes a much more common phenomenon when one considers the amount of digital pictures in circulation through email from soldier to soldier. Her citing of the Bush administration's outrage over the matter (mirrored in the panel discussion when the host quotes Rumsfeld as having said that the worst moment in his six year run was when the Abu Ghraib pictures became public) is so telling of the government's understanding of what is really going on vs. what we all should know.

I felt that Slavoj Zizek's writing about 9/11 and the government's utilization of our Hollywood induced paranoia was a very refreshing take on the played out and over dramatized event that occurred years ago. It border-lined on a conspiracy theory with its references to the Truman Show- where we realize late in life that our whole perception of reality was some sick pervert's way of getting ratings... or keeping us in a blissful naivete. He was brilliant for exposing the culture of fear that 9/11 so easily reinforced.

And the Falling Man article, in this context, gives insight into the power of editing (like the power of the US government to open all the letters that came home from WWII and delete any unwanted information as Sontag brought up). The power of the choice between each little negative or pdf file, that can change the world (or divide it). The exploit of the ridiculous search for who the falling man was exactly, and how knowing does not change the image at all.

The point is that it is the existence of the photographs in the public sphere that can change a public perception. They do not have to be around for long and they can be ripped to shreds by public speakers, but once they have been seen they are not forgotten. As Sontag wrote in On Photography, one does not exist until they have been photographed. In our culture, we allow ourselves to live happily unknowing, despite what people say. But once we have seen something in a photograph, it enters our media history, that we care so deeply about.

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