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