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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Visual Argument Revision

 In my visual argument I claim that the current and on-going Airstrike campaign by coalition forces in Libya causes an immense amount of devastation that largely remains mystified. I substantiate this argument by showing the forms of destruction, suffering, and backlash evoked as a result of the violence. The presentation intends to instill feelings of compassion, guilt, shock and uneasiness as a result of seeing the same violent act from multiple vantage points. My argument functions in reverse order. It will take the audience through a change in perspective by starting with what is most foreign and then progressively moving to a perspective that sees the reader from a 3rd person’s point of view. The presentation mimics the process of concealing but through a complete reversal. The opening image begins with the burying of the dead. This is meant to shock the audience into uncertainty. Before they can rationalize about the argument, they are jolted into speculating about what was buried beneath this flower. There are no faces just hands and the rawness of the earth. This scene is intended to evoke a compassionate questioning and search for meaning. The audience wouldn’t know if the person being buried is one of “us” or “them.”
The next photograph is of a Libyan funeral. This is intended to evoke sympathy This image is meant to further evoke feelings of exigency and sympathy. Now the audience is given a bit more context, but it shows a larger group of people who are feeling upset. The audience will identify with the sorrow on their faces and feel likewise. Seeing the entire group of family and friends should make the audience interpret the image as meaning there is a larger amount of violence that is done beyond the discreteness of an individual body.
The next two photographs are pictures of Gaddafi and Obama striking an uncannily similar pose in speeches. The two photos are not meant to equate the two figures with one another but just show that what we think of as diplomacy has dissolved into finger pointing. The first two sets of pictures are place upside down in relation to each other to make the point that they are opposed to each other. This should provoke uncertainty in relation to the audience’s previous views because there is a form that presents the photographs as opposed yet the content reveals a striking similarity.
The next image shows the aftermath with a Libyan civilian standing where his house formerly was. His demeanor is solemn and he is holding a large photograph of Gaddafi. This is meant to evoke a contradictory response on the part of the audience. On the one hand they should feel sympathy for this person whose home was just destroyed. On the other hand the audience may feel that since this person is a Gaddafi supporter he deserved it. The interpretation or conclusion intended is that the airstrikes are failing to persuade Gaddafi loyalists. Perhaps the person here is a friend of those that the funeral was mourning for. The audience is made to think about why this person could support an authoritarian figure in the face of such violence. Yet juxtaposed to the fragility of a funeral the audience is forced to undergo a calculus that can’t be rationalized. The audience here should be feeling a larger sense of guilt and uneasiness about how easy the question of Airstrikes seemed to them before. Whether they were for or against them, they are forced to delve into the complexity of the ethical issue. 
After the funeral, one observes the violence from through a broken window. This is meant to show the audience that even if one was someone distant from these people, seeing the devastation from the ground makes one rethink the scenario. The images are meant to challenge some of the mainstream conceptions of the middle east, while some think of deserts and villages, when one sees a modern metropolis in ruins the scene hits home. This photo’s purpose is meant to further amplify the magnitude of the situation and show the larger effects it has on environments that are unfit for a war scene.
The next photograph shows an image of an actual explosion from ground level. This is meant to shock the audience when faced with actual destruction. It illustrates the feeling of fear that is instilled in people when running from completely unexpected bombs from nowhere. The next photograph shows another image of an explosion yet it is further away. This escalation is meant to cause unease in the audience. It shows that there is no such thing as a casualty free war. Showing visual images of the violence exerted by coalition forces challenges the audience’s understanding of the airstrikes. Instead of viewing the violence as completely contained to military targets the images show its extension directly into everyday life of civilians. It further shows that the violence is not as contained as one could have thought.
The image of the airplanes flying is meant to show the power disadvantage between the Libyans and the coalition forces. A quick zoom out to the air shows the displacement between those doing the violence and those who feel it. The audience here should have their conception of the idea of U.S. military advantage challenged.
From the realm of actual violence, the argument jumps into the realm of diplomatic violence. The next two images are pictures of Ghaddafi and Obama. These two images are almost mirror opposites of each other. The argument as a whole flips upside down because we have also shifted from the realm of actual material violence to what is dispersed and shown. There has been a paradigm shift in perspective from that of the actual to its virtual stand in from just bodies, to the realm of nations. Finally, there is a picture of a man watching the news of the Libyan Airstrikes on a television from the comfort of his leather chair. This scene should consummate the audience’s experience because it shows the exact position they are most likely in. This third person perspective forces self-reflexivity and questioning of the audience’s position to make such rash claims about the nature of war and violence in the Middle East. Its meant to make people leave the question open for interrogation and slow down rather than rush head on into easy solutions. The audience should be feeling an entire range of emotions as they recall what they’ve just been exposed to from guilt and shame to outrage and a state of unknowing.

Pictures Cited:

ghadafi pointing

flower mourner

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