Why Visual Culture?

A random wall in Berlin

In 2012, I moved to the UK to pursue a Master’s degree in Visual Culture, a program that combines two of my favourite fields, Art History and Cultural Studies, and to explore the different ways we use art to express our cultural identity. But before embarking on that academic journey, I did a short stop in Berlin for inspiration.

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What is Visual Culture?

Visual Culture, The Indiscipline

14 January 2013

‘Interdisciplinarity’ has become an academic and intellectual trend evoking challenge and adventure.1 But that’s not what gives Visual Culture all the hype it has acquired. In Interdisciplinarity and Visual Culture, W.J.T. Mitchell suggests an ‘inside-out’ form of interdisciplinarity: the indiscipline, which refers to an anarchist moment producing forms of circumferential disciplinary chaos. An anarchy only caused by the fact that Visual Culture is still trying to come to terms with a clear pedagogy, and until it does, it will feed upon its complementarity to other fields and disciplines, from Art History and Cultural Studies to Anthropology and Philosophy.

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Voyage of a Symbol

A Visual Analysis of Religious Symbols in a Sectarian Public Space

Excerpt from BFA Graphic Design Dissertation, The American University of Beirut, January 2010
Full Paper available on Academia.edu

The dissertation paper provides an analysis of the use of religious symbols in a sectarian public space, exposing how they are used as signs of collective identity and political affiliation in post-war Lebanon.

Religious symbols are prominent in the public space, and they are worn and used not only by devout believers but also by non-religious people alike, who might practice little or nothing of religion privately. They fall under the commonly accepted aegis of religion, so they are most likely to pass unchallenged as a religious manifestation in the public space. Through this research, I aim to investigate religious symbols at the level of interaction among individuals and communities, not at a private and personal level because religious symbols, I argue, cannot be understood independently of their articulations in the social life.

As much as it is essential to analyze how a believer relates to and uses a symbol, which at one level may seem fixed, the more laborious and more challenging task is to identify the role this symbol plays in the unstable sectarian space formed by the collision of the various religious communities in Lebanon. Then, we could discover other aspects of religious symbols that could be created by the devious and subtle manner in which social actors use symbols.

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Mediated Presence

Performance, Technology, & Presence

Excerpt from MA Visual Culture Final Dissertation, The University of Nottingham, September 2013
Full Paper available on Academia.edu

The performance is really about presence. If you escape presence, your performance is gone. It is always you, the mind, and the body. You have to be in the here and now.1

Marina Abramovic

The whole tendency of modern communication whether in the press, in advertising or in the high arts is towards participation in a process, rather than the apprehension of concepts. And this major revolution, intimately linked to technology, is one whose consequences have not begun to be studied although they have begun to be felt.”2

Recalling Marshall McLuhan’s words, this paper is an attempt to study the effects and consequences of technology and how it allowed performance artists greater flexibility in experimenting with space, time and representation, engaging in a social and institutional critique. The pertinent questions here are: how are performance artists reflecting upon our social and political structures today, and what would the role of technology be in such critique? If performance art, which is a time-based art that emphasizes interaction between artist and audience, is still concerned with keeping ‘art’ close to people, it will need to take into account the new spaces and times engendered by technology. Furthermore, it will need to devise its own space and time, fashioning its own modes engagement and perception, by questioning how the artist can still be present today in a world where we interact with screens more than people, where we broadcast our lives instead of living them.

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Photographers’ Soliloquy In The Digital Age

Reinventing Photography in the Digital Age

30 May 2013

On my last holiday, I took the conscious decision not to use my camera. Instead, I preferred to just sit back and enjoy an unmediated experience of the city, as crowds of tourists walked past the Plaça de Catalunya, while children and elderly ate their ice cream on the sidewalk. But it was fascinating the sort of landscape I ended up contemplating: walking cameras. Everyone seemed to be content to look at the city through a lens, whether a phone or an SLR lens, postponing the actual experience until the moment of encounter with the photographic representation. It was a scene I wish I had photographed! But I was thinking how the flaneur in us, today, is not content with only observing and documenting, but is now equally burdened with disseminating this documentation, especially with the presence of social-networking websites and all the newly developed apps – from Facebook and Tumblr to Flickr and Instagram. Continue reading “Photographers’ Soliloquy In The Digital Age”

Negating the Medium

Photography’s Evolution from Duchamp to Ruscha

19 March 2013

“You know exactly how I feel about photography. I would like to see it make people despise painting until something else will make photography unbearable.”1 __ Marcel Duchamp

“If Marcel Duchamp hadn’t come along, we would have needed to invent him.”2 __ Ed Ruscha

In The Photographic Idea: Reconsidering Conceptual Photography, Lucy Soutter argues that Conceptual artists’ lack of investment in photography allowed for “a transformation of the medium, fueling a rise in the prominence of photography that attracted critical attention in the “Pictures” generation of the late 1970s and early 1980s.”3 Most critics such as Benjamin Buchloh and Rosalind Krauss agree, as well as artists such as Jeff Wall, who acknowledged the role Conceptual art played in “the transformation of the terms and conditions within which established photography defined itself and its relationship to other arts.”4 This transformation, however, had been instigated at the turn of the 20th century, and Duchamp’s plan to negate painting by photography was the starting point. When the art world was ready for a revolution, Avant-garde art ignited the spark.

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