Friday, November 18, 2011

Where Life Imitates Art

I. On today's "Sign and Sight" I read this:

"Sociologist Maria Vasarhelyi calls to mind French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard's comment that "tracking shots are a question of morality." This comments applies not only to filmmaking but also to the visual politics of mass media reporting. "Where and how a cameraman puts his camera and what he tells his audience about an event with his images is absolutely a question of morality. The overwhelming majority of Hungarian mass media has broken with this the most important moral imperative of their profession, by keeping quiet about, belittling or consciously distorting everything that happened at the demonstration. These media channels which deliver the news to 90 percent of the population and which stand directly or indirectly under the influence of political power, manipulated the images to prevent their audiences from gaining a proper sense of what sort of people and how many of them had come out to protest against a system they dislike."

II. Now watch this, via Harry's Place

III. The painting here is "Las Meninas" by Diego Velazquez. The painting drew Michel Foucault's attention because it was an honest artistic attempt to describe the paradoxical relationship between reality and representation.The short version of Foucault's analysis boils down to this:

"Las Meninas" is self-aware in the sense that:

1. The painter paints himself;

2. The paints his own act of painting.

3. The object of the represented painter's gaze (the subject of his painting) is the invisible authority that makes his painting possible, indeed, that authorizes all activity, including representation, in Spain: the king and queen of Spain who can be seen in the mirror behind the painter.

B. The self-awareness in "Las Meninas" reinforces the code of signs that grounds representation in 17th C. Spain. It does not put this code of representation into question.

C. More rigorously, however, one must say that the painting in fact constructs the fiction of a hidden king who stands behind all representations and authorizes them.

D. The philosopher Michel Foucault gives an excellent analysis of "Las Meninas" at the beginning of his text, The Order of Things (Les Mots et les choses)."


I'm not going to chew this for you. By now people, aware people, wakeful people, ought to know that the images we see coming from Palestinian Media rarely represent reality as it took place. There is always the decision from which second on the film a certain image will be shown to the public. Examples are plentiful, most important of which was the Al-Durra fiasco, credited with the triggering of the second murderous Intifada. There is even a term for this phenomenon "Pallywood".

But what's the point? Is anybody going to take the trouble of deliberately reducing their much cherished ignorance?

""To most of us nothing is so invisible as an unpleasant truth. Though it is held before our eyes, pushed under our noses, rammed down our throats- we know it not."(Eric Hoffer)


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