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POLITICAL VISUAL COMMUNICATION IN OUR AGE OF INFORMATION

By Rolf Aamot

NOVEMBER 1989. The fall of the Berlin wall reveals the essence of political visual communication: Encountering human intensity. We see and feel the corporeal intimacy of the Berlin wall. Europe being the televised image, the image our body. The electronic nervous system conveying a nameless anxiety – a nameless joy. For any individual the world merely exists by visions given through the ego structure. The body the only fact of the objective world belonging to the ego. The wall of shame confronting our embarrassment – loneliness of the body. Striving towards the urban TV-culture to achieve a freedom without loneliness. Political visual communication attacks our limits and feelings of physical organization. Space and time breaking open. Warning signs of sensations attacking our body image. Capable of blowing into tiny pieces. Agile particles as with a will of their own. The TV image our body. Political visual communication a play on our deepest fear – death. This fear an image, latent, known by all as the foundation of our experience implying, if failing, our real death. Straining against death, we are seeking the intimacy of other human beings. «The other» becoming symbols of the intimacy of our first attachment. The TV-spectator returning to original symbiosis. The camp fire and TV screen symbolizing womb and mother. Intimacy and death becoming one. The pulse of the data image directing our return to the origin of life, Womb – Garden of Eden, of survival, companionship, intimacy and meaning. A communicative evolution made to explode by contemporary information technology. The new media and strong tendencies within the old suggest a movement in the major forms of experience. Visual political communication becoming «pulsating image and sound», its origin in «rock video». Intensity and intimacy being the message.

During presidential elections in the USA the parties spend about 90% of their budgets on TV. The electorate – the viewers, perceiving a political poetics of the image. The linkage of images being the founding principle of this form of experience, juxtaposed within the given unity and axis of time. The interlinkage not dynamic-causal but a static succession of, primarily, contextless (maximal intensity) «climaxes». Unity dissolved and replaced by adjacent scenes of exaltation and anxiety. We have got chains of experience. Breathless and disintegrated forms.

Economic and institutional forces underlie this form of expression. Adaptable within a commercial structure; the practical juxtaposition of saturated highlights of experience harnessing the viewer and catching others arriving from other channels. This construction works in the context of a willingly interacting viewer, the arrangement answering to an already existing apparatus of experience. The founding principle of the intensity of experience: Intensity of experience attracts intensity of experience. Emptiness repels, creating further emptiness. The totality developing along spirals, whether ascending or descending. The profusely varied and exciting attracts, becoming even more exciting; the dull repels, ending up even more boring. Intensity of experience blossoming and dying as from spiraling branches. Importantly, spirals of experience reaching above a certain level tends to strengthen and maintain themselves.

We are confronted with communications constructing a world with time and causality dissolving, and in return, scenes of anxiety and desire linked in a freer, looser structure. Contemporary political visual communication resembles nocturnal dreaming. This form of political expression residing somewhere in the dream process, psychic material visualized and brought to the surface. The image has become a priviliged location of the subconscious and of the primary process. The static or the dynamic image seems – as with our dreams of nighttime – to be processing the subject matter of desire, formulated through a process productive of meaning, dominated by the underlying primary process. The political image and the dream sharing its form of visual expression. The subject matter of the dream and of the political image being the interior hallucination, mimicking the perceptions of the «normal» visual world. The exterior image always differentiated from the interior imagery – and never to be confounded. The typical, collective fantasies and desires being the fuel of the political dream factories. The context resting on the commonality of the processes productive of meaning: The primary process oriented work of displacement and condensation.

Political visual communication, influenced by information technology, founds or reveals certain novel relations between the viewer and the media. Facilitating a different kind of mental activity than the traditional array of images. In non-narrative – non-causal (pulse-rock video format) political visual communication there are no points of reference, the viewer compelled to search for context, meaning, forced into shifts of mental gear, displaced from the stable universe of secondary process and reality control into the drifting stream of signification. We have a visual form organized by the logic of the dream. A universe closed to identification in a traditional sense – unstable, participants isolated from another – empathy impossible: On this level a distanced observation, a titillated diversion of the viewer. Actor and audience affected as if by tiny disconnected quanta of pleasure. This particular form of political visual communication, characterized by the developments within information technology, contains another kind of meaning. An experience of interlinkage among separated elements of signification, beyond the stable, reality-oriented image of the waking mind – an access into a universe, not as organized by human acts and processes in a continuous dynamic, but still organized, concatenated into static configurations founded upon perceptive identities. A distinct form of political visual expression, offering rewards of pleasure corresponding to a layer and pattern of subjective experience on the part of the viewer. The massive breakthrough of the language of pulse-rock video, and its powerful effects on other media, mark a fundamental embarkation, a social-psychological displacement onto another plain.

Political visual commnication is a form of acting. It should be directed towards a goal. The purpose of communication the upholding of social relations, the strengthening of social community and of social opposition. We are communicating in order to confirm values and attitude, furthering our views of social reality. Our privatized ways of life making us increasingly vulnerable to the forms of communication of «privatized» media. We are longing for a life among fellow human beings. The camp fire of television can never be: The human being. But we can see and feel the human beings. Without the mediation of culture, symbols and community shared by others our interpretation of ourselves would not be possible. Good media transcends the axis of I and we, by offering social affiliation and security combined with individuality and variety. The requirement being media culture and social organization. We see and feel in the public space.

Translated from Norwegian by Olav Arnold Lødøen

   
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