WJT Mitchell, Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago lectures at Concordia University.

On Thursday, 17 January 2008 I attended WJT Mitchell's public lecture at Concordia University organized by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture. WJT Mitchell, Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago, presented in the lecture entitled 'Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9-11 to Abu Ghraib' some of his recent work.

First, he introduced the conceptual structure of his book. The iconographical image of the plane entering the world trade twin towers and its thousands of repetitions is an example of the endless production of images to traumatize the world. These so called 'Metapictures’ are aimed to promote the 'War on Terror', and to generate emotional material as opposed to the term itself which does not contain emotions. The term 'War on Terror' is chosen with the intention of an indeterminate ending and conclusion to be established in an endless and permanent war.

The global War on Terror is new and the nature of images as well. Walter Benjamin claimed that mechanical reproduction technologies had the potential to revolutionize society. Thus, the new generated digital imagery allows evolving to new forms through an infinitive number of reproductions. Those images are used to generate propaganda, triumph and moments of victory.

Furthermore, WJT Mitchell gave more detailed information about the chapters of his book:

1. War, Terror and the image

Hopeful and/or hopeless images?

Images by freewayblogger were presented featuring a bridge on which was written 'The war is over'.

Images that show a moral turning point

US is destroying villages instead of saving them.

Images of triumph

Taliban army destroys Buddha statues in Afghanistan.

Propaganda images

The Ground Zero Memorial Monument with twin tablets showing the 10 commandments. Note that the second commandment is especially controversial as is says: You shall have no other gods before me. War on Terror sold as a holy war with a connection to religion as it was the case in the middle ages' crusades.

Images of power:

Photo of the Preparation of the Destruction of the Statue of Saddam Hussein.

After capturing Saddam Hussein. The image of his teeth examination was aired all over.

Many images are stages for the camera, for sure under these images is Bush dressed up in military uniform.

Images of constructing the 'concept of the enemy'.

Images are featuring a bridge surface in Iraq containing paintings of suicide bombers. Though there was never a suicide bombing before the U.S. invasion.

The Phantom Track Powell of Mass destruction – an imaginary construction. This image was sufficient to be able to sign up on the resolution for invasion.

2. Biopictures

Interpreting 'war' as a metaphor for maximal effort creates a conjunction to cloning that seems to provide infinite supply.

Cloning images were first seen within the animation movie 'Jurassic Park' where dinosaurs were cloned.

Clone and Terror were united in a photo collage containing ruins of the world trade centre and DNA code.

Volunteers helping to clean up in the ruins of the World Trade Centre inhaled toxic dust, which for sure contained also human DNA.

On freewayblogger slogans like 'Go to Iraq for a beach Party' came up.

Forkscrew created an anti advertising to Apple ipot commercials.

The iraq guerilla posters series popped up all over Los Angeles in 2004. Posters were also offered for download. The poster is automatically generated using the latest casualty statistics from www.iraqbodycount.org and www.icasualty.org.

Torture is not ended it is continued in commercial stream. The torture victim in its own pain is opposed to the ipot figure in its music stream.

3. Cloning Terror

Mitchell mentions that headlines in the NY times around the 9/11 event were all about cloning. The two icons Terror and Cloning were from now on resembled together.

4. Clonophobia

Clonophobia, which has its roots in homophobia, was also question in Mitchell’s talk. Clonophobia's goal is to breakdown masculinity. An example image was shown featuring a couple of stripping naked man in front of only one woman.

There is an existing taboo on cloning; in a few cultures twins are seen as something evil. It is also controversial, because only God is can make life, otherwise it would be against the second commandment.

Images become idols, which start to take on life and become fantasies. The arising clone is a model/metaphor for homosexuals. Same sex couples would reproduce: If it is woman clone, the male is threatened, because it will be unnecessary.

The novel on cloning Never Let Me Go (2005) by British author Kazuo Ishiguro was mentioned in this context.

5. The Abu Ghraib Archive

6. Ecce Home Tortured Victims look like a Jesus.

7. State of the Union

Image from Iraq: Statue of liberty and a tortured victim hooked up to electricity, added is the following comment: 'The US was supposed to give us liberty. We did not expect it in this form.'

8. Last Chapter

An image published on title of the the German magazine 'Der Spiegel' entitled 'Augen zu und durch' features an illustration of the statue of liberty, with the US flag bound around the face and covering the eyes.

Mitchell's talk ended with many questions from the numerous public. To the question, what he hopes to achieve with his research he said he hopes one day to become proud of his country.

Brigitte Schuster
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