Memory and Icons
Fate of the photographic icon of war in the age of embedded journalism and the digital camera: why so few images of the conquest of Iraq are recollected, and so many of the fall of the Twin Towers pre-selected? The importance of counter-narratives for fixing meaning to shots of fighting or suffering, and the latent possibilities of the democratization of image-production today.
Spectacle and Terror
After Gopal Balakrishnan’s engagement with Afflicted Powers in NLR 36, Julian Stallabrass turns to the Retort collective’s conception of spectacle and its Islamist antagonists. Does a Debordian optic occlude the oppositional potential of modern technologies?
Julian Stallabrass on Sam Williams, Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman’s Crusade for Free Software. The iconoclastic hacker who is challenging Microsoft’s dominion, using ‘copyleft’ agreements to lock software source codes into public ownership. Cultural and political implications of treating programs like recipes.
Sebastiao Salgado and Fine Art Photojournalism
“Black-and-white photographs of a vast pit, its sides cut into a giant’s stairway and scaled by crude ladders, its surface covered with figures, most bearing large sacks; scanning the space between foreground and distant background, the effect is dizzying—there must be thousands of these figures. The pictures are . . .” read more
“What appear to be a sequence of old snapshots in faded colour have been framed and hung on the gallery wall. They look as if they had been dug from some forgotten trunk in a family home, yet they show only backgrounds—walls, garden lawns, a deserted tea-table, an . . .” read more
In and Out of Love with Damien Hirst
“On weekends at the Tate Gallery, long queues of pretty young, pretty cool people would form before two tall glass cases arranged to make a narrow corridor. Each case contained one half of a cow which had been split lengthways from nose to tail, and the queue was . . .” read more
Empowering Technology: The Exploration of Cyberspace
“The face of Thomas Paine, rendered in yellow and pink, graces the cover of the first British edition of Wired, a successful magazine from the United States devoted to proselytizing the benefits of computer networking. For the technophile devotees of this subject, it is far more than a . . .” read more
Success and Failure of Peter Fuller
“The British have not been well served by their most popular critics of modern art. Their specious prose and philosophical posturing often masked confused, contradictory thought, producing a writing that was both patronizing and mystifying. They tended to be isolated by an atmosphere of philistine hostility which rarely . . .” read more
Just Gaming: Allegory and Economy in Computer Games
“‘We need a leader. We have many missions to complete. We have to assassinate leaders of our aggressors, we have to destroy heavily guarded installations. We have many enemies, and they are not all human. We need to cross alien landscapes, over rocky surfaces, through vast subterranean caverns . . .” read more
Painting Desert Storm
“John Keane’s exhibition of paintings, Gulf, depicting the Desert Storm campaign, aroused controversy because, faced by the righteous exercise of Western military might, it failed to demonstrate the standard mixture of endorsement and high-minded awe, rather making unaccountable suggestions about the operation of financial and media interests in . . .” read more
Autographs and Images: Snapshots of Berlin and Prague
“The changing visual environment of formerly Communist countries, in flux under the pressures of capitalist enterprise and economic chaos, is so provisional, its elements apparently so unwarranted, that it raises many questions in the mind of any visitor from the West. This essay is about some of those . . .” read more
The Idea of the Primitive: British Art and Anthropology 1918-1930
“The idea of the primitive has long been a potent and highly influential current in British thought and history. In particular, the period 1918–30 saw primitivism established as an important theme in writing on art and anthropology. Analysis of the concept may therefore usefully begin there—with a span . . .” read more