The clutch of late 2013/early-2014 ISIS videos have been near-unanimously accepted as being real—mostly out of fear that they might be real. Yet the videos employ multi-camera set-ups, pixel-tracking, void-compositing, particle effects and diffusion plug-ins which are utilised in Hollywood, television advertising and video art production—all of whom ape cinematic effects for various purposes.
The contemporary dilemma is not whether one believes the videos to be real or unreal, but how one distinguishes their divination from the consternation of Zero Dark Thirty, the hysterics of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, or the rhetoric of Harun Farocki’s Serious Games. Each voids the others’ effects through mimicking, adopting and transplanting each other’s desperate drive to evidence reality, and thereby transform the world in its image.
‘Institutional critique’ thus runs rampant, supplying an endless demand for symbolic intervention. Lo-fi terrorist tracts, ethical Hollywood movies, and large-scale museographic commissions all subvert and re-route language codes from one channel of cultural address to then re-broadcast it as liminal or oppositional information. All effectively terrorise their language of address. For the intelligentsia, this involves acts of ‘decoding’ and ‘exposing’. For ISIS, it involves recoding and posting. The question to be begged: if it is socially acceptable for the intelligentsia to mount critiques of ‘the State’ deemed responsible for inducing terrorist acts, why is it ethically unacceptable for a terrorist cell to engage in identical critiques by using identical artistic and linguistic operations?
Narratives of the ISIS Phenomenon
Narratives of Political Art
Islamic Non-Image Semiotics
Orientalism & Counter-Terrorism