Final Visuals Colloquium Asks What Images Seek

Ranciere’s “The Future of the Image,” a radical manifesto for the future of art and film. Photo from Verso Books.
Mitchell’s “What Do Pictures Want,” a critique of our responses to images. Photo from Oregon College Library.

Alex McGuire

Dozens of students and faculty members gathered at Tawes Hall Friday afternoon for this semester’s fourth and final colloquium on theories of the image and visual culture.

The colloquium featured various readings of works by W.J.T. Mitchell and Jacques Ranciere, leading theorists and lecturers in the field of visual arts. The featured works focused on one question: what do pictures and graphics aim to evoke from us?

“There’s that cliché that pictures say a thousand words,” said senior Nevin Kerr. “That’s what the readings try to address because visuals usually bring much more than words do.”

Mitchell’s work, entitled “What Do Pictures Want,” argues that we need to regard images not as inert objects that convey meaning but as animated beings with desires, needs and demands of their own.

“What Do Pictures Want” particularly highlighted the film “Bamboozled,” which was directed by Spike Lee and deals with racism in regard to blackface and minstrel shows.

“The use of blackface and other racial images really show how racism is one of the most visually present concepts in our culture today,” said freshman creative writing major Jon Reymann.

The second set of readings was from French philosopher Jacques Ranciere’s “The Future of the Image,” which claims that art and other visual fields in academia will soon become more and more radical due to today’s evolving state of politics. Ranciere’s work also discusses how images can be measured in the rhythmic frequency of spoken words that are reactions to a visual or picture’s implications.

“The new common term of measurement is rhythm, a vital element of each material unbound atom which causes the image to pass into the word,” Ranciere wrote.

While most of the students have not had much theoretical experience with images and visuals, some claimed that the readings revealed pretty obvious truths.

“Topics like racism are clearly more emotional when images are used to define them,” said senior journalism major John Fiocco. “Plain old words can’t do them justice like pictures can.”

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