research seminar - history of photography

Hyenas of the Battlefield, Machines in the Garden

Wednesday, 11 June 2014
17.30, Research Forum South Room, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand London WC2R 0RN

Speaker(s): Lisa Barnard (University of South Wales)
Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission
Organised by: Professor Julian Stallabrass (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Hyenas of the Battlefield, Machines in the Garden, is a study into the ‘unholy alliance’ between the military, the entertainment industry and technology. Further, how these alliances increasing coalesce around modern-day warfare. As Fredric Jameson famously observed in Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991), “the underside of culture is blood, torture, death and horror”. What this publication reveals is the complex relationship between these apparently divergent arenas and how the screen is pivotal to the emergence and ongoing development in the relationship between war, media and industry as they relate to the virtual and the real. As Paul Virilio states in his writings about technology’s connection to speed and power, “to be a survivor [in the battlefield] is to remain both actor and spectator of a living cinema, to continue being the target of subliminal audiovisual bombardment…”

It is the screen that is fore grounded in aspects of training and delivery of warfare through, for example, the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (Drones). Furthermore it is this same screen that is utilised as a conduit to the healing effects of images of war in therapy. The Virtual Iraq project examined the use of technologies in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) via the use of exposure therapy. This paradox allows for an exploration of the role of dialectics as a means of revealing the hidden truths embedded in modern day warfare. The work shifts from screen to landscape and incorporates imagery in disparate yet indelibly connected areas from Las Vegas to Pakistan, Waziristan to Hollywood (via Washington). The book questions photojournalism’s ‘truth claims’ and the indecipherable, all-consuming nature of the industrial-military complex. The ‘machines in the garden’ denote the dialectical tension between the American pastoral ideal and machine technology. The ‘hyenas of the battlefield’, the technological-driven corporations, keep the US soldiers ‘in the loop’, but off the ground. For this is the goal – a mode of warfare designed to fulfill the new paradigm of the US administration, where no more American soldiers die on the battlefield.

Lisa Barnard’s photographic and film practice is placed in the genre of contemporary documentary. Her work discusses real events, embracing complex visual strategies that utilise both traditional documentary techniques with more contemporary forms of representation. Barnard connects her interest in aesthetics, current photographic debates around materiality and the existing political climate. Of particular interest to her is the relationship between the military industrial complex, new technology, and the psychological implication of conflict. Barnard receives regular funding, exhibits frequently both nationally and internationally, and has portfolios of her work featured in contemporary photographic publications. She is senior lecturer on documentary photography at The University of South Wales. Chateau Despair was published by GOST in 2013 and Machines in the Garden, Hyenas of the Battlefield will be published by GOST later in 2014.

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