The Aesthetics of Terror

Harun Farocki. War at a Distance (2003)

This is an online exhibition that keeps adding entries.  The image here is from a video by Harun Farocki, War at a Distance.  In it he looks at the photographic ways that targets are tracked from surveillance cameras to guided smart bombs: complete abstraction where war is conducted entirely through images. See the whole exhibition here.

When I started to put together the issue on war, all of a sudden all sorts of references started to come to the fore, mostly from Europe.   We are at war: Canada, the USA, Germany, Denmark – ISAF is a multilateral coalition, plus there are wars all over the planet.  Yet never here do we hear the phrase, 'there's a war on' telling us to conserve, to be careful, to be patient.  Is it because in World Wars 1 and 2, the forces were volunteers, rather than the professional forces we have today? Rather than all the men in each family, all the boys in each Grade 12 class going off to war, the Canadian Forces are some sort of distant organisation. Does this contribute to our abrogation of interest in the war we are currently fighting? 

I found the Aesthetics of Terror while looking for an image of the shooting of a Viet Cong prisoner by the chief of police in Saigon and up came Claude Moller's image:

Claude Moller. If Vietnam Were Now (2004)Moller's piece refers to the sanitisation of images presented to us in the media.  So edited are they, we hardly know what is happening.  Perhaps this is the source of our current disinterest in the war in which we are involved.

Stephanie Whitewar