After seeing pictures on TV—real, fake and hard-to-tell-and-does-it-really-matter (how can I know if the picture I include below is “real”? There are currently very few images of the damage from Trump’s missile strikes available online outside of those produced and shared by Russian journalism. Meanwhile the American military and press are releasing embedded images of the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air. How are our images being produced, controlled, circulated? What are the larger forces that influence virality and visibility? We need time to understand these and all images. We need to think through what to do with what we see. We need time and context and care) …

After he and we saw a picture on TV, Trump, the traditional and social media all moved fast. Too fast. Internet quick. With algorithmic speed. This is the dangerous cycle and logic of virality—one that moves with barely human (what I have called proto-being) momentum from images and tweets to missiles, directives, policing, travel bans all with long-term lived consequences for human beings and nations.

In #100hardtruths #80 I suggested we need strategies to “outlast virality.” “Outlast virility,” I suggest, in relation to a cycle of news, #fakenews, and related actions that have accelerated to a dangerous pitch where rational, legal and ethical care and consideration can no longer be exacted before we act. “Outlast virility” in connection to said speed and the virile weaponized powers of patriarchal aggression it authorizes.

The aftermath of a US air strike on a Syrian military base Instagram/Evegeny Poddubny

In 5 #hardtruths and 2 new pledges @#50 I worried that:

the delightful ambiguities of the fake/real binary are being played by this administration, and the sectors of the media and internet that are built upon and refract them, in ways that are at once confusing, entertaining, distracting and also deadly real for actual people and communities. Understanding and not simply producing contradiction; naming and not evading complexity; breaking through the digital hall of mirrors allow us to breaking through the digital hall of mirrors allow us to focus our attention and action upon the real-world applications of #fakenews, a critical project of this time.

See More:

Advertisements

#62, don’t look

March 25, 2017

In “How Do I (Not) Look? Live Feed Video and Viral Black Death,” July 20, 2016, after the viral visibility of the Diamond Reynold’s live feed video of Philando Castile’s brutal death at the hands of the police, I wrote some #100hardtruths that must still figure:

“We come to this cultural, political and media onslaught as individuals but, it is my contention that each of us must take responsibility for our own acts of looking. When we look (or write) we engage in the regimes of visibility—complex networks of power, ownership, and access that frame our viewing and knowing—that surround and inform violence. Accounting for our place, our needs, our actions in the face of viral videos of murder is one within a constellation of necessary ethical and political acts. This is particularly true because it may feel like our current media conditions of onslaught and abundance allow us no choices at all. When we have the choice to look, we are bound ethically and politically to what we witness and what we do with all we have seen. Below is a brief primer of ways to understand how or why we might (not) look.”

Image adapted from Diamond Reynolds’ video

In that article, I share these principled positions: Don’t Look, Look Askance, Look at Death, and Look at Death’s Platforms and connect these to deeper traditions of thinking about practices of looking.

See More:

 

“Evidentiary Realism focuses on artworks that prioritize formal aspects of visual language and mediums; diverging from journalism and reportage, they strive to provoke visual pleasure and emotional responses. In particular, these artists also theoretically articulate the aesthetic, social, and documentary functions of their mediums in relation to the subject matter they investigate.”
"I Thought I Was Seeing Convicts," 2000, Harun Farocki

“I Thought I Was Seeing Convicts,” 2000, Harun Farocki

“Some of the evidentiary realist works break down visibility to abstraction to underline the limits of seeing, while others use figuration or synthesis to enhance insight. The encoded information and nuanced details behind the works point to large, highly complex realities that come into focus through the factual evidence shown. Yet these enigmatic and seductive works serve as evidence of the opaque and intricate apparatus of our reality.”
See More #100hardtruths-#fakenews:

I recently received an unexpected but timely invitation (from editor Catherine Halley) to write an article for JSTOR Daily.  Her email request arrived when indeed I had something pressing I wanted to say. I was not sure I could say it, or that the time was right, or what the ramifications of my writing it would be, but I did very much want to think critically (and in public) about why I wasn’t watching the viral live feed videos of black death that began circulating and multiplying last week.

With Halley’s close help, and that of many friends and colleagues, that article was published today: How Do I (Not) Look: Live Feed Video and Viral Black Death. My writing, and thinking, occurred in conversation, actual and in my head, with a great many friends and scholars who I’d like to point to here, in no particular order and most likely forgetting some, less for reasons of intellectual property and more to name that my/our understanding of momentous social, technological, personal mayhem and change occurs in communities of care and practice and thought: Natalie Bookchin, Gabrielle Foreman, Robert Reid-Pharr, Cheryl Dunye, Kemi Ilenanmi, Alisa Lebow, Jenny Terry, Roopali Mukherjee, Marta Zarzycka, Jen Malkowski, Lisa Cartwright, Marita Sturken, Nick Mirzoeff, Patty Zimmermann, Sam Gregory,  Deirdre Boyle, Safiya Noble, LaCharles Ward, Ellen Scott, bell hooks, Paola Bacchetta, Tina Campt,  Inderpal Grewal,  Caren Kaplan, Minoo Moallem, Susan Sontag, Henry Jenkins, Sherri Williams, Jodi Dean, Michael Gillespie, Stephen Winter, Theodore Kerr and Diamond Reynolds.

I write in honor of Reynold’s work and in the name of our shared witnessing of the death of Philando Castile and so many others.

I am sure my friends and colleagues above will not agree with all of my thoughts on this volatile and horrible matter, nor would I want them to, but I do hope they will understand how critical their voices (and long term work on issues of violence, visibility, video and racial injustice) have been for me during this time.

Last Friday night, I attended a screening of nearly twenty-year old AIDS activist videos (the scenes of my youth; the research topic of my juvenalia) which were part of the ACT UP NY: Activism, Art and the AIDS Crisis Show at the Harvard Art Museum. My friends Sarah Schulman and Jim Hubbard’s ACT UP Oral History Project took up teems of monitors in the main gallery space, unrolling uncountable hours of testimony to community, counter-cultural outrage, loss, and art-making. It was overwhelming. An impressive configuration for their massive media archive.

At the screening, I was pleased to see the humor,  joy, and sexual delight in the videos on display, as well as the way that we spoke in every genre (documentary, music video, art film, advertisement, cable access) we already knew (and some we invented) because we were compelled to be heard.

Mostly, I was moved by the role of feminism in our work and movement. How we brought self-health, community-based, and pro-sex theories and organizing to gay men, and how they shared with us their cultural capital, camp, and joy in sexual defiance. It was so clear from the work on display that AIDS activist video led to queer cinema in large part because, through the movement, women and gay men stretched our lives, causes, and love to demand new ways of living and working together and fresh modes of representation complex enough to hold our radical unions. For example, I was pleased to see my old friend, Zoe Leonard there (she was representing Fierce Pussy). We worked on The Watermelon Woman together literally making the move from AIDS to queer cinema, as did Maria Magenti, Rose Troche, Alisa Lebow, Ellen Spiro, Carol Leigh and so many others.