vista nº 5 | Imperial Views: colonial visualities and processes of visual decolonization
In recent years, there has been an increased access and interest in the archives produced by the European colonizing countries and those provided from the archives of the countries that have become independent. This interest is partly due to the end of the legal barriers that prevented access to or dissemination to these archives. Moreover, after several decades of decolonization processes, which caused traumas and misunderstandings between the actors of both factions, a new generation of academics and non-academics aims to better understand these stories. On the other hand, the work of digitizing some of these assets has made it possible to reveal the very existence of the archives, facilitating their visibility and contributing to their reception outside the restricted group of political and social historians. Thus, in literature, journalism, cinema, anthropology, the history of science, photography and the arts, between theorists, as well as between artists and other protagonists of the world of culture, a critical work is being produced concerning these objects of the contemporary history of the twentieth century, whose effects are still felt.
The number 5 of the journal VISTA uses the notion of "sight", in its diversity of meanings, to propose a debate on the colonial and postcolonial regimes of visuality and their contemporary relevance.
The idea of "Imperial Views" is based on the famous article by W. J. T. Mitchell entitled “Imperial Landscapes”, published originally in the Landscape and Power (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2002). In this article, the American researcher disputed the interpretation that the landscape genre was specifically a genre of painting, as well as a modern and Western genre (Clark, 1979). To dethrone the two arguments, the author pointed out to the Chinese painting and to the earlier Greco-Roman mural paintings, to come up with another interpretation: landscape genre flourishes in imperial regimes and uses all available media. In these contexts, images of the whole, which characterize the idea of landscape – a wide, distant view of a large part of a terrain or geography (the general shot in cinema) – become a means to affirm identity, a policy of identity between self and others, both located in space and time. Mitchell contested, therefore, that landscape genre was a mere affirmation of the aesthetics (Gombrich, 1950) to defend the alternative version that landscape (both the representation and the object represented, site and sight) is a (more or less) powerful form of political struggle, which always conceals a "dark side" (Barrell,1983), which is always a "social formation" (Cosgrove, 1984 ) and which has its field forces, its distributions of subjects and powers: "landscape circulates as a medium of exchange, a site of visual appropriation, a focus for the formation of identity “(Mitchell, 1994: 2).
In this edition of VISTA, we use the motto of "landscape" to interrogate the production of images that can directly reflect on these imperial regimes, but we are not limited exclusively to landscapes, in their strictest sense, or exclusively to images. Although, it is a requirement for the acceptance of paper proposals, their relation to the themes and approaches of Visual Culture.
In the field of Visual Culture, we are interested in turning the images deposited in colonial archives into the central objects of reflection and interpretation, as performative media that were constructed and construct the stories they also testify. In this edition, we intend to highlight the visual production, hidden in the archives (photographs, films, engravings and drawings, maps, paintings, videos, objects, etc) and their various modes of use related to the colonial topic – whether the archives are institutional or personal, public or private, national or international. We are also interested in bringing to this issue of VISTA, reflections about the invisible, what was left out of the field, the interdicts, the codes of visuality that transcend the practice of images but organize it, the ethics of the visible and of the invisible. We also call for propositions on the role played by Digital Humanities within the contemporary framework of network communication, not only concerning online archives and museums, but also on the dissemination of these " imperial sights” in the internet, and of their eventual images of resistance.
In short, we welcome contributions to debate the politics of images and views in colonial and post colonial contexts and their contemporary implications.
Barrell, J. (1983). The Dark Side of the Landscape: The Rural Poor in English Painting 1730-1840. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Clark, K. (1979). Landscape into Art. New York, Hagerstown, San Francisco and London: Harper&Row Publishers.
Cosgrove, D. (1984). Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Gombrich, E. (1950). The Renaissance Theory of Art and The Rise of Landscape. In Norm and Form. Studies in the Art of the Renaissance (pp. 107–122). London: Phaidon Press.
Mitchell, W. J. T. (1994/2002). Imperial landscape. In W. J. T. Mitchell (Ed.), Landscape and power (2nd ed., pp. 5–34). Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.