Visuality and World Politics

Frank Gadinger with (among others) Gabi Schlag (University of Tübingen) and Axel Heck (University of Kiel)

This project aims at contributing to recent debates on the visual turn in world politics. IR scholars think about the complex relationship between visibility and invisibility, for instance in fields of security and surveillance, and its consequences for power relations and human liberty.  One first more specific research project analyzes the role of conceptual artists and photographers to tackle the unseen global war on terror as a hidden form of global surveillance regime. It is argued that the critical and creative work of artists provides the opportunity to reclaim one’s voice and reveals emancipatory power. This is shown through an auto-ethnographic and interpretive analysis of the art exhibition ‘Terror Incognitus’ (Mannheim 2017) by the conceptual artist Edmund Clark. Images of deserted sites of the war on terror activate the viewers’ imagination and mobilize the uneasy feeling to be a silent witness in an inhumanly political operation. Moreover, the conceptual art project ‘Negative Publicity’ as major part of the exhibition, in which Clark collaborates with journalist Crofton Black, underlines an additional element of his visual strategy of critique in line with ideas of actor-network theory. By assembling photographs, documents, and other artefacts in a puzzling network, they show that these activities such as ‘extraordinary renditions’ are not hidden, but operate in plain sight. The opacity of images in unremarkable streets, facades, landscapes, furnishings, and expense reports reveal the banal complicity of today’s global war on terror around us.

Keywords Visuality, Images, Art and Photography, Film, Critique, Global Surveillance, War on Terror

Related publications

Gadinger, Frank (2018): "Whatever it takes": 24 und die Normalisierung des Ausnahmezustandes, in: Niko Switek (Hrsg.): Politik in Fernsehserien, Bielefeld: Transcript, 297-317. [Free PDF download at the publisher's website].

Gadinger, Frank (2016): Narrating War: Human Deformation in 'The Hurt Locker', in: Frank Gadinger, Martina Kopf, Aysem Mert, and Christopher Smith (eds.) (2016): Political Storytelling: From Fact to Fiction, Global Dialogues 12, Duisburg: Käte Hamburger Kolleg/Centre for Global Cooperation Research (KHK/GCR21), 70–80.