Ghost Stories for Grown-Ups: Pictorial Matters in Times of War and Conflict

Aulich, Jim and Ikoniadou, Maria orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-6572-9148 (2020) Ghost Stories for Grown-Ups: Pictorial Matters in Times of War and Conflict. Humanities, 9 (2). ISSN 2076-0787

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This introduction takes as its central armature Karen Barad’s agential realism to provide a framework for understanding the essays brought together in this Special Issue under the rubric of pictures of conflict. The intention is to move the discussion with regard to picture making forward to more fully embrace the pictorial and the physical, the historical and institutional processes within apparatuses of picture-making. The attempt in ‘Ghost stories’ through the concept of a visual apparatus, is to shed new light and thinking on pictures as material objects; how they act and feed into our subjectivities, experiences and realities and to account for their currency, duration, affectivity and authority beyond transparent representation or symbolic meaning. In order to achieve this, Barad’s agential realism is inflected by insights from Malafouris’s (2013) material engagement theory; W.J.T. Mitchell’s (2005) image theory; Jens Eder and Charlotte Klonk’s (2017) image operations; Mondzian’s (2005) understanding of the economy of the image, as well as the ontological concerns of new German art history and image science exemplified in the work of Hans Belting (1996, 2011) and Horst Bredekamp (2017), for example. In this framework, the worlds pictures create, and the subjectivities they produce, are not understood to precede the phenomena they depict. The picture, as the outcome of the apparatus which produces it, makes an ‘observational cut’ that simultaneously excludes and includes certain elements from its frame. As such, it has to be comprehended as party to processes which are both ethical and political. A fact which is particularly important during times of conflict and war.

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