AHVS121 WINTER 2020 Abbreviated Summary of Material for Week 11

Home Last Updated: Thu Nov 29, 2012 23:42 pm (KSA) 20:42 pm (GMT)

A view seen though a sniper’s scope held for the photographer by a Free Syrian Army fighter shows a Syrian

flag fluttering in an area controlled by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. (Reuters)

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Internet blackout across Syria reported amid Damascus fighting Thursday, 29 November 2012

Two U.S.-based Internet-monitoring companies say Syria has shut off the Internet nationwide.

Activists in Syria reached Thursday by satellite telephone confirmed the unprecedented blackout, which

comes amid intense fighting in the capital, Damascus.

Renesys, a U.S.-based network security firm that studies Internet disruptions, says Syria effectively

disappeared from the Internet at 12:26 p.m. local time.

Akamai, one of the firms which monitors global traffic, said traffic stopped from 1026 GMT, and that

this supports the observation from another IT firm, Renesys, “that Syria is effectively off the Internet.”

However, Syria’s minister of information said that “terrorists,” not the state, were responsible for a

countrywide Internet outage on Thursday, a pro-government TV station said.

“It is not true that the state cut the Internet. The terrorists targeted the Internet lines, resulting in some

regions being cut off,” he was quoted by al-Ikhbariya as saying.

State TV quoted the telecommunications minister as saying that engineers were working to repair what

he said was a fault in the main communications and Internet cable.

Syria has partially cut Internet connections during the 20-month uprising against President Bashar



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THURSDAY, 29 November 2012


Al Arabiya English AlArabiya_Eng

AlArabiya_Eng Here are the Al Arabiya English headlines at 12am. english.alarabiya.net pic.twitter.com/YsENqyxT 24 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

AlArabiya_Eng No return to #Assad’s old #Syria: U.N. envoy english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/… 27 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

AlArabiya_Eng LIVE: United Nations to vote shortly on historic Palestinian bid english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/… #Abbas #UNbid #Israel #Palestine pic.twitter.com/RgGvYfVa 29 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

AlArabiya_Eng #Damascus airport road

Internet blackout across Syria reported amid Damascus fighting http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/11/29/252513.html

1 of 4 12-11-29 1:43 PM

We don’t always control access to images/

information. We might not even know it.

Censorship, Expurgating, Expectations & Alternative Facts

Note: Treat this first section — all the stuff on the grey background — as if it’s in-class lecture.

The questions are like clicker questions. Ones that aren’t clearly rhetorical (i.e. answered on the same page) you should think

through, because they will come up again later. But you don’t necessarily have to include them as part of your assignment, which is a separate thing (on white background)

at the end of this document.

Keep in mind this is a summary of the material from several classes & tutorials. I hope there aren’t too many missing

links, but this should give you the key issues.

Which has more people? Why do you think that? (Hint: this is not a trick question)

Going to start with a story:

This is Whistler’s painting

Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket.

It was exhibited in London’s Grosvenor

Gallery in 1877.

Take a moment to decide if you like it

and why or why not.

An art critic named Ruskin hated it.

He published a letter describing the

exhibition in which he said: ‘I have … never

expected to hear a coxcomb ask two

hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.’

It wasn’t about the abstract style.

Ruskin was a strong supporter of Turner – part of what he didn’t like here was

similar effects used to beautify an industrialized

modern landscape. He saw industrial pollution as symptomatic of moral

degeneracy, while Whistler thought aesthetics was

something independent of subject matter.

It’s also not about the cultural status quo:

Ruskin was a socialist – much more

politically progressive than Whistler. He

strongly believed that art should be for

everyone. Whistler despised this idea – he believed that art was for the intellectually


So many people accepted Ruskin’s

point of view, Whistler went bankrupt and

decided to sue Ruskin for libel. There was a

long court case, widely reported in the press,

with many discussions about art, how to

define it, and what it is for. But at the heart of this was Ruskin’s idea

that the painting wasn’t worthy to be


And then there’s Hector Charlesworth, “Pictures That Can Be Heard,” Saturday Night, Mar. 18, 1916 saying: “… The chief offender seems to be J. E. H. MacDonald, who

certainly does throw his paint pots in the face of the public …. Rock and Maple … might just as well have been called “Hungarian Goulash” and “Drunkard’s Stomach.”

Jackson Pollock, #1 (detail)

And of course one of the main criticisms of Abstract Expressionism, was that it was just paint being flung around.

If you think back to the film Side by Side, it’s clear that despite decades of opening up, of expanding the boundaries,

of changing art history to visual studies — the concepts of high art/low art are still prevalent, still carry status, are still

contentious. The argument over what is worthy of our attention, worthy of being seen.

So: WHY?

It’s because images carry meaning. And people and cultures want them to:

a) tell stories b) tell stories they approve of.

Which is the point about the suppression of images.

Where someone, for some reason, doesn’t want other people to see something.

Egyptian c14thC BC

Erasure of a deity fallen from favour.

c1-2nd C copy of 4thC statue. Both versions are repaired. Left 16thC restored and censored version. 21stC version (right) removes all 16thC additions

Reformation (16th&17thC) religio-political destruction in Utrecht

Michelangelo’s Pieta after suffering damage by a man wielding a hammer. (note broken arm and nose) 1972

Curator cleans off anti-war- slogan spray- painted across Picasso’s Guernica. 1974

6thC Buddha at Bamyam, Destroyed by the Taliban using dynamite. 2001

In Sweden October 2007 a group of individuals broke into a gallery with crowbars and axes and damaged a series of works by Andres Serrano. They posted their video on YouTube, which referenced their rationale, stating: “We don’t support this” and “Against decadence and for a healthier culture”. It is assumed that the explicit sexuality of the images was their target.

Every news report I saw called this vandalism; most did not address the issue of censorship (ie. the group’s assumption of the right to control what other people see)

Statue of Marianne (19thC symbol of democracy from the French Revolution) damaged during political protests 2019.

Thus, the question of ‘acceptable imagery’ is not separate from that of power. Who gets that control and how we

define these actions are important issues.

And there are serious implications.

In 1930s and 40s Germany, the Nazi party regulated what was acceptable in the arts. The Nazis preferred more

traditional, accessible arts which were easier for conveying state messages, ‘positive’ messages. Many

examples of ‘degenerate’ images were considered to be critical of the government, or to contain messages that

were counter to state ideologies. These were then banned, suppressed, and destroyed. You were either ‘with’ the

program, or you were against it.

Nazi Exhibit of “Degenerate” Art

Otto Dix’s War Cripples is an example of what the Nazis considered ‘degenerate’. It shows veterans of WWI with

damage that they suffered as a result of the war emphasized by the artistic style. Works like War Cripples were considered to be

demoralizing and thus unpatriotic and therefore ‘bad’ for people; not ‘positive’ like the example of their ‘acceptable’ state

art on the right.

Nazi Book/Art/Music-Recording Burning Event

Mid-century concepts of the future of phones

We make our future.

Some people want to control what that is and who it is for.

Sometimes it’s done in the name of protection.

Not always clear about what you’re being protected from.

(Note: I’m skipping over a section here on respecting sensitivities, for example in not showing people’s deaths in media reporting. Nor am I suggesting image

suppression is NEVER a good idea. This is about general concepts.)

Non-violent, non-sexual films. R-rated because the word “fuck” is used more than once.

Not R-rated. Way over my personal limits;

& I only watched the (MPAA approved) trailer for Mirrors!

This was overt. But plenty of films are self-censored in order to get the PG rating; you’d never even know.

One of the case-studies in this documentary explained how the film Boys Don’t Cry was denied a general release not for the violent

rape/beating/murder scene, but for the one that showed a woman’s face

while she had pleasurable sex.

Scenes of those identified as women being ‘punished’ were socially acceptable to the MPAA board.

Reference to female orgasm was not.

It’s because images carry meaning. And people and cultures want them to:

a) tell stories b) tell stories they approve of.

And if you remember back to the class on Reception Theory.

People don’t just see with their eyes.

They are filling in all kinds of detail around the images. Personal and cultural.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.

But sometimes it means people don’t see at all.

What is happening here?

It seems pretty clear, right? You’d expect 100% to answer B. Back to our original image:

Nope. Here’s the results to the survey in 3 groups of people.

Some people chose their answer based on political affiliation.

They also made assumptions about which

event was shown in each photograph

Study was reported in The Washington Post if you want

to go look at it.

Why did this happen?

Because their personal identities are bound up with their political allegiance, to the point where they will ignore what is in front of their eyes if it

contradicts their inner vision.

And their inner vision was shaped by political directive.

The National Parks Service, which photographs all events on the Washington Mall Park, was censored.

Note: “mistaken”

The White House went to great

lengths to argue against the photos.

There was also the deliberate misuse of other images to reconstruct what “should” have happened (in their minds).

This sparked a lot of discussion about empirical evidence, truth and ideology. And a lot of memes about what the White House

was trying to say. This is one of my favourites.

The reference comes from a Star Trek NG episode (Chain of Command) which in turn is based on George Orwell’s 1984. It’s

about being psychologically tortured until you no longer believe the evidence of your own senses.

The day after the 2017 inauguration there was a big crowd in Washington, DC.- for the first Women’s March.

That’s the context for this image. Even when the image Luntz took clearly doesn’t show what he says it does; he can’t see the message he’s putting out. (This looks like any Starbucks on any

afternoon before last week.)

From a 2017 discussion about why there were so many false photos and interpretations circulating.

The point about cognitive dissonance is my main purpose here.

Note: cognitive dissonance is not limited to any particular political affiliation, but affects any strong

sense of identity or validity.

And the implications go far beyond crowd size photographs.

Note: I don’t think ANY of these numbers are high enough

Even though visuals of the data have historical precedent well outside of present day politics,

some people only see what they want to.

Footnote/disclaimer for previous page:

I ‘m not suggesting Mr. Clarke had seen the specific image I show from earlier that same day. But similar images about flattening the curve had been circulating for well over a week and anyone on Twitter or following the news on most channels would have been hard pressed to miss them.

Further to my argument there were some USA news channels actively describing the diagrams as “a hoax”. Empirical (measurable) evidence not being actually looked at for political purposes. So he’s not alone.

The final point here is if the information can’t be hidden or ignored, attempts will be made to overwrite its narrative by those who don’t want you to “see” it for what it is.

End of the ‘lecture’ part of the material.

Thanks for getting this far 😉

AHVS 121 Understanding Visual Communication Winter 2020 Assignment 8

Through the course, we’ve been looking at images, their creation and their reception as processes of that involve choice (what to create, how to create it, how to think about it when you see it). But there are a lot of underlying factors concerning what we actually get to see.

Different vocabulary words with specific definitions get used for this situation (for example: censorship, iconoclasm, vandalism, suppression) but essentially they all mean that someone did not want other people to have access to certain types of images. (or that specific images communicated the desired narrative “better”). And all of those circumstances can be self-perpetuating as well as imposed by outside forces.

This week, I’d like you to think about how conformity is shaped and presented through image selection as outlined in the case study on the following three pages. You should also consider the some of the other issues touched on in this week’s material.

The broader goals of the assignment are to:

1) consider how individual identity is influenced by the types of images we see and how deeply we chose to engage with them.

2) comment on the levels of image control through various types of access to images.

3) discuss how cultures express ideology through the selection of what images are deemed “appropriate”; what are the pros and cons?

Reminder: You are not expected to do any further research beyond what is here in the assignment. This is about your critical thinking on the issues, not anyone else’s.

Write a short paper, minimum 750 words, due to me by email ddudley@uvic.ca Before Monday March 30, 2020 at 3:30PM. Please see course outline for important details on how to format & submit assignments. And PLEASE title your documents correctly. The document should be titled: YourNameAssign8 (mine would be: DennineDAssign8)

Start with this image:

What do you see?

The caption reads: Feminine vanity still demands attention –

even in the nation’s aircraft factories. At the plant in Wichita,

Miss Mina Tabor takes a quick time out for a facial repair using

a gleaming sheet of aluminum in the stock room as a mirror.

The photograph belongs to a series of images taken of women

working in the aircraft industry during WWII. Despite its

“snapshot” casual appearance, it has been carefully staged and

angled so the photographer does not appear in the reflection.

Out of numerous images, this was one that was selected to go to

national publication (hence the original caption show here). It

was deemed the most suitable and appropriate for the purpose.

(Note: I’m not sure if it did get published in the end, but it was

intended to be).


Here are some other examples taken as part of the same wartime effort and documentation. Any captions with these are modern captions and had little reference except location in their original form.

Most of these images ended up directly in archives and were not seen by the public at the time.


What narratives are being told, through the selection of images that are being shown or not shown? Note that this does not have to have been a calculated decision even though it had to be a deliberate decision.


What impact does this have on our understanding of the past?

Of the present?

What do these choices tell us about how ideologies are perpetuated?

What are the implications of limiting representational imagery?

(You might want to think back the the Arts and Humanities lecture when we talked about how historic images shape how we feel about those eras).

Consider the broader goals of the assignment as well.