Monday, September 25, 2006

The Atrocity Exhibition, the Death of Affect, Vogue Italia and Terror Porn

Terror has become a self-replicating media virus. Al-Qa'ida snuff movies inspire imitative acts of barbarism. It's hardly surprising that the sadism of Abu Ghraib has been appropriated by terminal hipsters hard-wired into the Apocalyptic Zeitgeist. This month's Vogue Italia testifies to this rapidly-metastasising culture of cruelty. It features an, ostensibly, incendiary photoshoot from Steven Meisel. State of Emergency recycles, at least one of, the truly shocking images from Abu Ghraib (themselves "inspired" by violent pornography) into fashionably fetishistic soft core porn that both trivialises terror and de-sexes sex. Stark sadism eviscerated, re-configured and re-branded as a slick, hyper-sexualised advertising campaign featuring emaciated models subjected to imagined ordeals at the hands of faux-sadists. As Mark Fisher (k-punk) observes at "The overt sexualisation and compulsory carnality of postmodern image culture distracts us from the essential staidness of its rendition of the erotic." In our celebrity-obsessed, consumer culture the "banalification" of evil is, seemingly, endemic. Atrocity rendered anodyne. "The atrocities of September 11th and Abu Ghraib mimetised in the alternate death of Paris Hilton."

Meisel's photos can be found here.

Synchronously, I'm re-reading J.G. Ballard's perversely prescient and prophetic 1960s' novel, The Atrocity Exhibition right now:
Dr. Nathan gestured at the war newsreels transmitted from the television set. Catherine Austin watched from the radiator panel, arms folded across her beasts. "Any great human tragedy - Vietnam, let us say - can be considered experimentally as a larger model of a mental crisis mimetized in faulty stair angles or skin junctions, breakdowns in the perceptions of environments and consciousness. In terms of television and the news magazines, the war in Vietnam has a latent significance very different from its manifest content. Far from repelling us, it appeals to us by virtue of its complex of polyperverse acts. We must bear in mind, however sadly, that psychopathology is no longer the exclusive preserve of the degenerate and the perverse. The Congo, Vietnam, Biafra - these are games that anyone can play. Their violence, and all violence for that matter, reflects the neutral exploration of sensation that is taking place now, within sex as elsewhere, and the sense that the perversions are valuable precisely because they provide a readily accessible anthology of exploratory techniques. Where all this leads one can only speculate....

Sex, of course, remains our continuing preoccupation. As you and I know, the act of intercourse is now always a model for something else. What will follow is the psychopathology of sex, relations so lunar and abstract that people will become mere extensions of the geometries of situations. This will allow for exploration, without any trace of guilt, of every aspect of sexual psychopathology. Travers, for example, has composed a series of new sexual deviations, of a wholly conceptual character, in an attempt to surmount this death of affect. In many ways he is the first of the new naives, a Douanier Rousseau of the sexual perversions. However consoling, it seems likely that our familiar perversions will soon come to an end, if only because their equivalents are too readily available in strange stair angles, in the mysterious eroticism of overpasses, in distortions of gesture and posture. At the logic of fashion, such once-popular perversions as paedophilia, and sodomy, will become derided clichés, as amusing as pottery ducks on suburban walls."

The "logic of fashion" currently compels the following conclusion: Terror Porn is "hot."

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