On images, war and propaganda

Thanks to this interesting article published by Owni (in French), I`ve just discovered the amazing work done by Foundland, an artists` collective based in Amsterdam. One of the founder, Ghalia Elsrakbi, is a Syrian from Damascus and she works in graphic design and visual arts. She has curated a very interesting artistic project on the Syrian revolution called  Watching revolution through a hole in the wall, where she reflects about the reality and fabrication of the events in her home country. She “personally experienced her Facebook account transform into a battleground of political opinion and a vehicle for propaganda, both pro and against the Assad regime”, and that`s when the project started to come into a shape. Ghalia has re-built a narrative of the Syrian revolution using an archive of images and footage personally selected from her Facebook account.

Another very interesting work focused on Syria is the most recent video installation and  book publication:  Simba, the last prince of Ba`ath country, which is described as an “ongoing investigation into pro-regime propaganda images, which are created by the Syrian Electronic army and distributed on Facebook and social media”.

The collective`s members say: “We are interested in tracing the digital content and context of the original stock images transformed by the Syrian Electronic Army, in order to better understand the way propaganda rhetoric is created and understood. We consider our investigation as artists and researchers a contribution to the fantastic work and endless energy which is being invested by activists around the world in the struggle against the Syrian regime”.

The images that have been collected and discussed by Foundland in the publication are just amazing. Here is one example:

picture by Foundland

Media war, propaganda and manipulation of news are a widely discussed topic especially in the Syrian case. Few days ago, Jess Hill published an interesting recap of the info war over Syria, while Margaret Weiss provides us with the latest news concerning the mysterious Syrian Electronic Army.

Artists also are increasingly reflecting on the Syria propaganda war issue and the coverage of the events through social networks. Lebanese Rabih Mroue` is exploring the topic in his controversial brand new lecture-performance ” The pixelated revolution” .

“To take what’s happening in Syria and place it alongside a cinematic manifesto was for some people unethical,” he says (in al Akhbar piece), “because people are still dying and suffering and I’m doing this cold reflection. But when I’m making art, I’m not an activist, and I refuse to be an activist in art. I try not to take a political position in my work, but if I do – and in this case, it’s very clear that I’m with the protesters – then I try to deconstruct and reflect on my position and provoke myself. Of course, all of these questions came to my mind. Am I allowed to talk about the protesters when they are still being killed? Am I allowed to take them out of these events? Is it okay? Is it possible for an artist to make a work about something that is still going on? When I ask myself such questions, I tend to think I’ve pinpointed something I should pursue.”


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