An Aesthetics of Disruption: Unsettling the Diasporic Subject
In her writings and video works, Hito Steyerl presents a disruptive tension between the pervading sense of being under constant surveillance and the desire not to be seen or to be invisible. In observing the omnipresence of the camera, Ariella Azoulay also considers photography’s capacity for inscription and surveillance. This withdrawal from representation disrupts our expectations of the photographic process, in which a contract is made between the sitter and the photographer, that their likeness will be captured on the photographic emulsion or digital pixels, a likeness that can be observed, critiqued, printed or shared. Disrupting the political and social ontologies of photography undoes and unsettles what photography is and what it should do; hence Azoulay and others ask, What is a photograph? This essay takes these concepts as a point from which to consider an aesthetics of disruption and the conditions that cause a subject or an image to withdraw, to hide, or to disappear, in the work of three artists from the Arab diaspora: Cherine Fahd, Joana Hadjithomas, and Khalil Joreige.
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