Essays, reviews, and interviews on art, culture, technology, and the environment

Privileged Vision and the Violence of Watching Death, Degree Critical

I don’t often watch the process of death. I watch the living, and I see images of the dead in the news with increasing frequency, but I rarely see a last breath. For me to witness this most intimate moment would mean that whomever recorded the event did nothing to stop it. Unlike the person controlling the camera, though, I am incapable of stopping the impending death due to the separation of time and space. In this way, images of death can paralyze viewers, implicating us in the acts frozen in time. Bystanders, but not entirely innocent. Two videos that situate viewers inside this complex space are O peixe [The fish] (2016) by Brazilian artist Jonathas de Andrade, and Real Violence (2017) by North American artist Jordan Wolfson. Each artist sensationalizes the act of watching something die, though through entirely different sociopolitical lenses: while de Andrade subtly reveals the narrative of privilege embedded in anthropological and ethnographic studies, Wolfson further ensnares himself in white male privilege by abstracting a brutal act.

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Amelia Rina