The Unbearable Lightness of the Image

Unfinished Thoughts on Filming in Contemporary Syria

in Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication
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In this essay, I reflect on the aesthetic, political and material implications of filming as a continuous life activity since the beginning of the 2011 uprising in Syria. I argue that the blurry, shaky and pixelated aesthetics of Syrian user-generated videos serve to construct an ethical discourse (Ranciére 2009a; 2013) to address the genesis and the goal of the images produced, and to shape a political commitment to the evidence-image (Didi-Huberman 2008). However, while the unstable visuals of the handheld camera powerfully reconnect, both at a symbolic and aesthetic level, to the truthfulness of the moment of crisis in which they are generated, they fail to produce a clearer understanding of the situation and a counter-hegemonic narrative. In this article, I explore how new technologies have impacted this process of bearing witness and documenting events in real time, and how they have shaped a new understanding of the image as a networked, multiple object connected with the living archive of history, in a permanent dialogue with the seemingly endless flow of data nurtured by the web 2.0.

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    Personal communication Damascus April 2011. For security reasons (some of these activists and their families still live in Syria) my sources must remain anonymous.

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