Images of violence are perhaps the most dramatically divisive and manipulative subset of consumed visuals. We are both attracted and repulsed by conflict, and the most “real” (i.e., physical, visceral, or tangible) manifestation of conflict is violence. We refuse to condone “real” violence, and act appropriately shocked when violent images are labeled “real,” but when they are “fake,” we devour them with an insatiable appetite. Violence terrifies us, but also seduces us.
Engaging this issue requires examination of the process by which images are perceived as violent — those particular components which make up a “violent image” and how visual definitions of violence are constructed, as well as issues of responsibility. What cues do image consumers use to identify what they may enjoy, versus what they must show empathy for?
Violence by necessity has a perpetrator and a victim. As image consumers, do we play one or both of these roles? What is our responsibility, and if we cannot in fact distinguish for ourselves between reality and fiction, can we be immune to both harm and culpability?
Matt Weed (Wynnewood, PA) is a multimedia artist & musician. He recently completed undergraduate work at the University of Pennsylvania , concentrating in visual studies and currently plays in the experimental band, Rosetta, with whom he will be touring both nationally and in Japan & Europe in 2007.