Colonization of the Imagination | Steve Sabella | Contemporary Practices Art Journal

2011

Introduction

The following essay was written few years ago at a time when there was a sense of total frustration and defeat in the Arab World. It seemed back then that people were entrapped and subjected to a new form of colonial power that did not seek to physically occupy the ‘space’ and people, but rather it aimed at conquering their image, leading in effect to a New World Order. In other words, what we were witnessing was the conquering and the colonization of the imagination. This, in my opinion, subjects people to a severe mental and physical paralysis that restricts development and obliterates all notions of personal freedom. Having lived in occupied Jerusalem for the largest part of my life, I suffered from this colonization to the extent that I needed to uproot myself in order to re-conquer my imagination, until I reached my states of Euphoria (2010) and Beyond Euphoria (2011). Yet, in 2010, the Arab World started to witness an awakening, a rebirth, which we all hope will lead to liberation. The power of the change stems from the people’s ability to finally realize that they needed to break free from psychological and mental barriers. I have decided to publish this essay now because it is crucial to understand how political change in today’s world can never be complete without a thorough understanding of image formation or construction. The American election campaigns, in my view, are nothing but a fight of the image. Our understanding of North Korea is mainly based on the images the regime produces there. One cannot forget the theatrical exaggerated scenes of people when they were mourning the death of Kim Jong-il. Many of these images, according to media reports, were staged and there were reports that some people were punished for not adhering to the constructed image the regime wanted to portray to the world and to their own people. Hence, the Arab nations are now fighting for the liberation of their image and the formation of a new one. This is not an easy task and the path is full of visual obstacles that constantly bombard and clash with the newly formed images. We
all watched the Egyptians with anticipation in their eighteen-day fight for their liberation. The real moment of triumph was not when Mubarak left, but when the world saw how the Egyptians changed, in a record time, through their peaceful demonstrations, the distorted image that the ‘system’ had generated for them. It was a fight for their visual liberation. They managed to defy the system and force the world to look at them with different eyes. This essay has two parts, the first dealing with image/photo theory and the second with how this theory influences our daily lives to the extent that one needs to be aware of it to live in today’s world.

Part 1 – God, Art and Walter Benjamin

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