Dossier 0: Archive

These are the images you have to see in May 2018

Daniel de Zeeuw is currently completing his PhD at the University of Amsterdam, on the politics and aesthetics of anonymity in contemporary media culture, art and activism. These are the images that, according to him, are worth a closer look.

“This year is Marx’s 200th birth anniversary. This month we also commemorate the events of May ’68, now half a century ago. I came across this poster in Berlin recently. Only when I got closer did I notice that the graffiti is actually part of the advertisement itself. For me this image is exemplary of contemporary visual culture in the way it anticipates, in a tongue-in-cheek way, its own critical reception. The intended viewer of this poster is what Peter Sloterdijk and Slavoj Žižek describe as cynical: a form of enlightened false consciousness that wants to have its own cheekiness confirmed while playing along all the same. This kind of cynicism always appears after an aborted revolution, historical time at a standstill.”

“Here’s Kim Jong-un waving goodbye to visiting US secretary of state and Trump proxy Mike Pompeo (in the black 90s Mercedes limousine sources say was acquired in violation of existing sanctions on Ebay from a bankrupt Saudi prince estate). The two power players have approximately the same body mass index, rumour has it. Before leaving the spacious and well-lit parking garage, Kim hides his left arm behind his back and gives Mike the finger, in defiance of US global imperialist hegemony, as the evening news will proudly recall.”

“In a Dutch safari park, a French family decides to exit their vehicle, only to be snuck up on by a disturbed pack of cheetahs. The event is filmed by a Dutch family in the car behind them. Besides cries of horror and avowals of disbelief, no one in the car acts on what they witness. It is as if they are watching it through the screen of their smartphones, and the scene they are witnessing is happening somewhere else, beyond any reasonable scope of action. This “derealization” of reality is matched by the French family, who seem also to act as if these animals are just for show, as if a protective screen will save them from them if necessary. Could this double loss of a sense of reality be a side-effect of constant immersion in global media networks?”

“Taken in the profane context of a parking lot, the animal-like posture of the girl that accidentally ended up on this group shot contrasts with the artificial posture of the women actually posing for the picture, attempting to show themselves from their best side. What makes us immediately recognize the girl’s stuffing gesture, and what sympathy towards her is transcoded in our laughter? It is what we look like when nobody is watching (including ourselves). The texture of everyday life is woven from such mindless anonymous pleasures.”