Restaging the anxiety of the image

Adrian Kear

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Abstract

This essay on Black Smoke Rising (Tim Shaw, 2014), returns to some of the core political and ethical questions concerning the inter-relationship between representation and repetition in the aesthetic experience of images of suffering: What's at stake in looking at images of suffering, and how is the spectator - and the cultural politics of spectatorship - implicated in the image as integral to its construction and operation? What's the relationship between the content of the image, its material tracing of historical presence, and its mode of representation? What's at stake in representation as a making present again of historical trauma and social suffering? Why do we keep on looking, long after the passing of the event represented, as if looking keeps open the wound of suffering through its repetition and circulation in the form of the image?

These questions, prompted by Shaw's return to the images of torture emanating from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq as resources for further image-making, 10 years after the event, are investigated through a double-handed reading of both Black Smoke Rising as a performative/scenographic event, and a staged return to the author's own writing on the Abu Ghraib image-event, 'The Anxiety of the Image', ten years after its publication in Parallax’s special issue ‘Visceral Reason’ (Vol. 10, No. 1). The essay thereby aims to question the aesthetic-politics of repetition - and the cultural anxiety about repetition - integral to the theatrical temporality of the logic of representation. It examines how the continuous circulation of the iconic image – the image of ‘The Hooded Man’ most especially -- reinforces the ideologically anticipatory mode of anxiety and explores the extent to which Shaw's aesthetic event re-deploys and re-stages the spectatorial experience of anxiety in a politically critical visual economy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-62
Number of pages12
JournalPerformance Research
Volume20
Issue number5
Early online date21 Oct 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2015

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