3P: Porn, Paranoia, Politics

#18
Merve Ünsal
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In his essay "In Defense of the Poor Image," what Hito Steyerl means by the word "poor" is images that are bad in quality and substandard in resolution. Also, because the word "poor" literally means needy and destitute, Steyerl's text can be read as a definition of the "miserable image" as well.

Steyerl argues that these "poor" images coexist with other images in the internet, and he explains that it contains incredible amounts of porn and paranoia.

This reduplication makes me think (Apart from both words are beginning with the letter "p" in a magnificent coincidence...) I have been thinking for a while about the relationship between image and pornography with a reference to Zeynep Sayın's "İmgenin Pornografisi" (1). I will try to explain myself through my visual experience:

Some images or the idea of being the one to produce, frame, reveal these images give me pleasure and this pleasure is sometimes mixed with a feeling of guilt. For example, in Beirut (Lebanon) where I have been living for the last 8 months, there are many abandoned buildings due to the civil war which has been going on for 20 years. Here, it is quite inviting and easy to take photos of abandoned buildings. Facades damaged with bullets or bombs, various plants springing out from the buildings, flowers and ugly cats, jasmines enveloping and blocking the front doors, lots of surfaces covered with different graffiti and posters which inspires in one to do some kind of a post-modern archeological excavation. Here, there is not much difference between thinking, documenting, framing and the need to show others what was lived and experienced, and voyeurism. Even though they don't arouse me directly, in a sensual way, there is an association between these moments and fragments, in other words these potential imagery, and superficial and easy pleasure which is related to pornography. The desire to see more, know more. If we are the ones to define our places and vice versa, these abandoned places are the great constituent of the temporal and the spatial: they are defined by some things, but because these things are not around anymore "I" can please my eyes with what I see at my own will.

So, what is the relationship between imagination and photography? Does photography provoke desire? Does photography resolve what we are about to desire? Can photography replace desire? Do we desire after or before we see a photograph? What is the real relationship between the erotic and the provoking, and what we see in a photograph? How does photography record the desire?

I can continue my search for what I define as pornographic. The photos of the lives and places (Nan Goldin's documentation of the post-punk scene in New York in the 80's, Emmet Gowin and Harry Callahan's presentation of their family lives, especially their wives, Robert Polidori's photos right after Katrina are examples first come to mind) can exist forever; we also should indicate the changes in what we would like to see depending on the period and circumstances. What we desire changes according to where we sit and stand, and what we know.

 

I would like to do a long leap to the third "P": that is, politics. That reminds me of Ahmad Ghossein's movie "The Fourth Stage," more precisely I always think about it when I ponder upon my thoughts on these "p"s. (One should take it naturally that obsession becomes a part of the thinking process when one writes about pornography). In Ghossein's 30-minute film, there are 3 different narratives. The whole movie takes place in South Lebanon, in the Hezbollah" area. The first one, Ghossein's dialogues with the magician who he was the assistant of in his childhood, chasing his present working conditions, what he is doing and his illusions. The second one, is a visualization of Shia mythology and the concepts like martyrdom and commemoration, that which baking a cake is included as well. And the third and the most problematic one for me, is Ghossein's amazing landscapes which praises South Lebanon. Green hills that one (so, I) cannot keep one's eyes off, the sun shining as if it is only indigenous to the south, cause one to forget the fact that Ghossein did this shootings via drones. Even if we ignore the  fact that Ghossein who tries to adopt the state's perspective looking down on military (and similar entities), is doing this by courtesy of Hezbollah in the Hezbollah area, do these images transcend the images taken by ministry of tourism and culture? Is it acceptable that South Lebanon is shown as a beautiful region? What I am trying to say is, the photos of the places in which the politics are problematic should not necessarily be "poor" images. But only that, if Ghossein managed to put away the seductiveness of these green hills, the technological sex appeal of the drone when he is doing the film. In fact, shouldn't he? Or the arena of politics is after all pornographic? Do we, the image-makers, have to capture a deep slit instead of a mini skirt?

Will be continued in the next update.

 

(1) Pornography of the Image