Opposite nr 3

Polityka wymazywania. Pamięć, etos, reprezentacja oraz tyrania idei i widzialności.

Michał Zawada / Imagining Iconoclasm

Almost from the dawn of humanity the acts of creating images were accompanied by the iconoclast movements which rejected representation – from the religious symbols to contemporary legal protection of image or fear of photography. Iconoclasm is inseparably united with the imaging in a dialectical way that cannot be interrupted and which creates great tensions and inevitable rends.

In my paper I would like to investigate the strategies that make these oppositions reveal themselves in the European art, and, above all, how they influence the condition of contemporary artistic production.

I am therefore interested in the paradoxical moment, in which the process of destruction of an image becomes a subject or an impulse for representation, the process that not only makes the iconoclasm depend on the visual but also alters its shape. Is it possible to make an assertion that this potential instability of the image – its insecure fate, the fluidity of its definitions – enhances the power of its impact?

In the endeavor of confronting with this issue I would like to base on the theories of Georges Didi-Huberman, Victor Stoichita, Hans Belting, and particularly W.J.T. Mitchell. His concept of “animism” of images seems to be especially helpful in analyzing representation threatened by the vision of its disintegration, undermined legitimacy of its functions or a subversive power of autodestruction. Is contemporary discourse of the image capable of overpowering it, delimiting the borders of its possibilities? Are we, as scholars or beholders, free of superstitious fear of the representation and free of a constant desire to animate it? We are still afraid of images, those ambiguous objects that evade textual discourse, we still project our own fears onto them. Feeling insecure in the confrontation with them and being afraid of their tyranny, we start to fight them.

That is why I want to focus both on the examples representing iconoclasm (byzantine, protestant, nazi), contemporary methods of fighting “bad images”, and on indicating those aspects of contemporary culture, which uncover the ability of the images to participate in their own distortions or destructions (e.g. The Relics series by Susan Hiller, Wrong Works by Rafał Bujnowski or artworks by Roman Siwulak or Bartosz Kokosiński) – to investigate what makes the images offend and what makes them, even today, become vulnerable objects of real assaults.