The Performative Narrativity of Biopictures in the Context of Biopower, Biopolitics and a “War of Images” as the examples of Contemporary Clonophobia and Iconophobia

Keywords: performativity, narrativity, biopictures, biopolitics, biopower, a War of Images, a War on Terror, iconophobia, clonophobia


The essay attempts to outline the main aspects of visual culture studies as the emergent theoretical formation of the performative narrativity of biopictures in the context of biopower, biopolitics and the “War of Images” as the examples of iconophobia and clonophobia. The subject of the performative narrativity of biopictures has been taken up in a discussion on some main ideas that seem to have been fundamental both for the negative and positive aspects of W.J.T. Mitchell’s agency concept of “visual subjects” in the context of meaning reproduction and iterability. The concept of biopictures also includes notions such as the very idea of an analogy to living forms of organisms, which is a metaphorical relationship, similar in the nature of things to the relation be­tween biological and social bodies. The narrative issues of biopictures are addressed in the scenes where we see the velociraptor with the letters of the DNA code projected onto its skin, in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993), and the anonymous storm troopers who march off to their deaths, in George Lucas’s Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002). Performative biopictures can be considered as living organisms, thematically referring to visual digital techniques and genetic en­gineering. Writing on biopictures as the tools of biopower and biopolitics, Mitchell recalls Michel Foucault’s and Giorgio Agamben’s concepts in which biopower and biopolitics have participated in the fundamental process of neoliberal power and creating living beings while exercising control over them. In the paper, the narrative and performative features of image as a “visual subject” have been described in feminist theory, cultural studies (Jacques Lacan, Stuart Hall) and visual culture studies (Nicholas Mirzoeff). The paper contains descriptions of the photo-collage From Dust to DNA by Kevin Clarke and Mikey Flowers, and a mural on the viaduct on the road to Tikrit, depicting Saddam’s clone army. These artworks have been discussed in the context of the “War on Terror,” in which all contemporary terrorism is bioterrorism based on the “suicide metaphor” of an “autoimmune disease” used by Jacques Derrida. The essay concludes with a reference to Mieke Bal’s “close reading” concept, in which performativity is combined with narrativity, as narrators can assign agency to the subject of narration and they embody anxiety over the processes of image making and destroying (iconoclasm).

Author Biography

Konrad Chmielecki, The Strzemiński Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź, Poland

Ph.D., a researcher with habilitation in the field of cultural studies. His research interests include an interdisciplinary approach to visual culture studies, picture theory, visual studies, audiovisual media culture studies, media aesthe­tics, intermediality theory, film studies and new media studies. His doctoral disserta­tion won a distinction in the 2nd edition of a competition of the National Centre of Culture and the 3rd edition of the competition of the Polish Society of Aesthetics for Stefan Morawski Prize, for the best doctoral dissertation in the field of cultural studies and aesthetics. He is the author of two reviewed monographs: Estetyka intermedialności [The Aesthetics of Intermediality] (2008) and Widzenie przez kulturę. Wprowadzenie do teorii kultury wizualnej [Seeing Through Culture: An Introduction to the Theory of Visual Culture] (2018), as well as the editor of the collection of research papers: Teoria obrazu w naukach humanistycznych [Picture Theory in the Humanities] (2015). He is a member of the Polish Association of Cultural Studies, the Polish Society of Aesthetics and the Polish Society for Film and Media Studies. Between 2009 and 2012, he was the head of a research project in the field of art studies, implemented at the University of Humani­ties and Economics in Łódź, funded by the habilitation grant of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, whose subject was visual culture studies. He participated in a habilitation research project involving research visits at New York University (2012), the University of Chicago (2012), the University of California at San Diego (2012), Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften [the International Research Center for Cultural Studies] in Vienna (2011), and Zentrum für Kunst und Medien [the Center for Art and Media] in Karlsruhe (2011). He is currently working on his third scientific monograph, Kultura wizualna mediów społecznościowych [Visual Social Media Culture] and an anthology of English research papers: Kultura wizualna w erze mediów społecznościowych [Visual Culture in the Age of Social Media]. He has been collaborating with the Władysław Strzemiński Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź since 2016.


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