IMAGES Journal for Visual Studies

events: Visual studies today: The power of images


Noa Hazan
Toward a Responsible Theory of Visual Studies in Mass Media Era

Mitchell's seminal essay Orientalism and the Exhibitionary Order (1992), brought attention to the links between modern display practices and national oppression. Since then, visual culture theorists have marked museum exhibitions as fertile subject material for research, revealing hidden power relations through visual technologies. Twenty years after Mitchell's work, recent essays and books dedicated to museum inquiries reaffirm these links while pointing out the progress brought about by the evocation of multiculturalism and visual culture critique. In my lecture I wish to re-examine museum theory and to investigate the methods used by museums to maintain relevancy in today's competitive visual conditions. I will highlight the penetration of mass media practices into museum displays, and show how popular culture images invade elite museums. Focusing on central motives in fashion, design and ethnography exhibitions displayed in Israel this year, I will show how up-to-date commercial images and practices have been adapted to the traditional national narrative, veiling old prejudices to create a hybrid quasi-new display. My lecture seeks to demonstrate the need for a responsible cross-medium theory in visual studies, a theory that embraces but is not blinded by hi-tech visual manipulation.