I’m lecturing at SUNY Buffalo, Monday October 24, at 6 P.M.
If you’re in the area, feel free to crash the show. Or if you have friends in Buffalo, you might shoot them a heads-up about this event.
I’ll be speaking on:
“Skinners of the Visible World*: Images of the Unspeakable and the Unthinkable in Contemporary Culture.”
When Oliver Wendell Holmes decreed, in his seminal essay on photography, that the daguerreotype enabled us to skin the surfaces of things and leave their substance to rot, in the Desert of the Real, he didn’t know the half of it.
Early in the 21st century, we live amid a whirl of disembodied images, and the frenzy of media imagery is only accelerating. More and more, we find ourselves face to face with the unspeakable, and even the unspeakable: videotaped beheadings, apocalyptic weather, “war porn”—it’s a livingroom Atrocity Exhibition.
I’ll explore the far fringes of visual culture, from the torture porn of Abu Ghraib to the cultural collateral damage of videotaped beheadings; from the growing traffick in Victorian post-mortem photographs, on eBay, to the posthuman fantasies—Photoshopped images of half-human/half-animal chimera—dreamed up by online fetishists; from homemade videos of wartime atrocities to the increasingly Xtreme nature of the X-rated Web. What are the politics of “just looking”? What are the moral limits of the aesthetic gaze? As (unwitting?) spectators at the carnival of postmodern pathologies staged by modern media, we must make sense of these images, and of our role as consumers of them.
(*Props to Stuart Ewen for the title, shamelessly lifted from his magisterial All Consuming Images.)