Voiding Effects and Terrorized Language

Video & The Unreality of ISIS

4-part slide presentation
Parts 1+2 - Discipline lecture delivered at The Wheeler Centre, Melbourne & Westspace Gallery, Melbourne, 2015
Parts 3+4 - Discipline lecture continued at Westspace Gallery, Melbourne, 2015
Parts 1+2 - Keynote for the Artspace Finissage, Artspace, Sydney, 2015
Part 2 - published in Kill Your Darlings No.23, Melbourne, 2015

The clutch of late 2013/early-2014 ISIS videos have been near-unanimously accepted as being real—mostly out of fear that they might be real. Yet the videos employ multi-camera set-ups, pixel-tracking, void-compositing, particle effects and diffusion plug-ins which are utilised in Hollywood, television advertising and video art production—all of whom ape cinematic effects for various purposes.

The contemporary dilemma is not whether one believes the videos to be real or unreal, but how one distinguishes their divination from the consternation of Zero Dark Thirty, the hysterics of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, or the rhetoric of Harun Farocki’s Serious Games. Each voids the others’ effects through mimicking, adopting and transplanting each other’s desperate drive to evidence reality, and thereby transform the world in its image.

‘Institutional critique’ thus runs rampant, supplying an endless demand for symbolic intervention. Lo-fi terrorist tracts, ethical Hollywood movies, and large-scale museographic commissions all subvert and re-route language codes from one channel of cultural address to then re-broadcast it as liminal or oppositional information. All effectively terrorise their language of address. For the intelligentsia, this involves acts of ‘decoding’ and ‘exposing’. For ISIS, it involves recoding and posting. The question to be begged: if it is socially acceptable for the intelligentsia to mount critiques of ‘the State’ deemed responsible for inducing terrorist acts, why is it ethically unacceptable for a terrorist cell to engage in identical critiques by using identical artistic and linguistic operations?

  • Prologue

    Modes of Politicised Image-making

    Part 1

    Voided Effects
    Terrorized Language
    Narratives of the ISIS Phenomenon
    Narratives of Political Art

  • The ISIS Videos

    Acts of Semiotic Discernment

    Part 2

    Pre-HD Prelude
    Islamic Non-Image Semiotics
    Orientalism & Counter-Terrorism
    Structural Analysis

  • The ISIS Artefacts

    Sites of Cultural Image-Making

    Part 3

    Institutional Fiction
    Institutional Fantasy
    Institutional Effects
    Institutional Critique

  • Epilogue

    Notions of Opacity

    Part 4

    Post-Internet Society
    Global/Social/Political Art
    Bomb Disneyland
    Invisible Petrol