The Visibility and Invisibility of Violence
managing editors: Agata Pietrasik, Dorota Sosnowska
Images showing the violence of war, both still and moving, have become part of the collective experience of everyday life in recent months. Photographs of war crimes and films presenting catastrophic destruction have simply become a part of our social media feed. Although different forms of violence (war, terrorism, closed borders, sexual, racial, and class violence) seem over-represented in the field of visibility, the conditions of their functioning in culture are still equally defined by invisibility. In the next issue of “View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture" we want to ask how the excessive visibility of the above mentioned forms of violence shapes particular representations and what is excluded from this field of visibility.
On the one hand, violence pushed into the margins of privacy or intimacy remains invisible. On the other, public acts of violence present in the media are obscured by historical, political, and aesthetic clichés. Seen as repetition violence can be familiarized as a sign, symbol or representation, concealing its particular reality and even actuality. Violence seen as a return of history offers a chance for expiation, for rewriting the past post-factum. The events of the last two years show how the patterns of representation of the Holocaust and World War II determine the field of representation of violence in the contemporary imagination, posing the question: to what extent can the language of metaphors and symbols developed in the 20th century accommodate contemporary catastrophes and represent today's excluded and oppressed groups?
In the previous century, one response to Nazi crimes was the act of radical representation. Films and photographs from liberated concentration camps showed what remained hidden in the Nazi genocidal plan and, by shocking with images of violence, built the postwar moral imperative expressed in the motto "never again. One reaction to the level of violence contained in these images was radically non-representative, creating an aesthetic centred around a notion of emptiness and the impossibility of representation.
With the disintegration of the post-war geopolitical and aesthetic order, we want to ask whether the shift of violence from the invisible to the visible is a critical strategy, or whether it confirms and installs violence in the field of representation by subjecting it to aesthetization and normalization? How have developments in visual (and social) media affected the relationship between the visibility and invisibility of violence? What artistic strategies are associated with violence and its visualization?