Impotent Images

Narratives of violence, but void of bodies

This installation challenges the representative power of photographic images as conveyors of factual violent events in crisis and conflict areas. By presenting the socio-political context of crises in text, and then introducing a soundscape that resonates with this context but decouples it from its graphic representation, the image is deprived of its descriptive powers. The viewer is left factually stranded, while not being able to penetrate the image surface into the verbal-aural world that is curtailed. Hence, the image is impotent, powerless, in not depicting the expected, while viewers remain blind in front of a visual narrative.

The project engages in societal criticism in general, and (visual) media criticism in particular in that it challenges the rules of a media landscape saturated by visual representations that are available real-time or near realtime. It challenges the potentialities of depictions of graphic violence brought by new technologies (cf. continuous censoring of social media platforms) and the ensuing voyeuristic aspects of human plight.

Furthermore, it underscores the impotence of images also in questioning the relationship between the viewer and the distant mediated sufferer (cf. Borer 2012, Chouliaraki 2006), be it a fellow human, entire communities, the environment or other bodies. These images do not necessarily bring about action and change; instead, depictions of violence on these bodies have a potentially traumatising effect (cf. Broderick & Traverso 2010). This project explores whether the ‘the wounds of the world’ can be made visible by conveying narratives of violence and relating to traumatised bodies in a more constructive and empathetic way.

The project is a contribution to the Study circle Narrative and violence of the Nordic Summer University and its Summer session 2020, held online and in micro meet-ups in the Nordic and Baltic countries. The funding from the Study circle/Nordic Summer University is gratefully acknowledged.