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solo exhibition 2015

“WHO IS AFRAID (RGB) deals with contemporary iconoclasm as a sociopolitical act of communication. In the context of the exhibition “killing images” and “erasing identities” are examined as an intersection point between iconoclastic processes and BDSM-practices, in particular sadomasochism. Several works refer to the politics of historical iconoclasm where artistic representations of human bodies were considered subversive of God’s authority in the sense of image-veneration. In the context of early Islamic societies, for instance, offending images were not physically destroyed or erased. Rather, they were symbolically killed – marked with a line across the necks of the depicted figures, removing all religious or evocative power. “Killing the image” thus became a ritual gesture in itself, leaving its own trace and creating symbolic content as a by-product. The thesis of this project turns on how ISIS’ destruction of living human bodies with a literal cut across the neck resonates within this historical context.

In the context of historical iconoclasm, killing images is perceived as an act of destroying their “life” and meaning, while in contemporary iconoclasm (e.g. ISIS decapitation videos), images are being destroyed in order to produce new images. In this sense, a single image of suffering and terror becomes a motive, an icon and a frame for other images. Current visual footages of terror interleave in a massive mesh of image-data, with no clear lines. In this “clouding of terror”, intertextuality is a core aspect, which has long ago gone beyond the field of linguistics and is not just a characteristic of any text, “constructed of a mosaic of quotations; any text [...] the absorption and transformation of another” (Kristeva, Julia. Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980: 66), as the linguist and poststructuralist Julia Kristeva argues.


In the tension between violence/pain and power/domination (fetish), the works aesthetically examine the image politics of groupings such as the current Islamic State (ISIS) in the context of visual propaganda that both makes and destroys images. In the sense of the interleaving and the intertextuality of imagery, the lust element in the “killing of images” is explored by the artist’s referencing of BDSM practices. On the edge of sexual “aberrations”, pleasure, pain and suffering, fixed power structures of dominance and subjugation, the relation to political propaganda seeks to explore shared choreographies, roles, hegemonies. Self-perception becomes a defining capacity, given that we define our modern reality through images. Showing the “open wound”, everyone gathering around (the graves), has a mysterious force of attraction, as Mark Seltzer argues in “Wound Culture: Trauma in the Pathological Public Sphere” (1997): „the mass attraction to atrocity exhibitions [...] takes the form of a fascination with the shock of contact between bodies and technologies: a shock of contact that encodes, in turn, a breakdown in the distinction between the individual and the mass, and between private and public registers.” (Seltzer 1997: 3). Seltzer talks about the fascination of exhibiting, showing images of terror, where the act of showing becomes an endlessly reproduced screen (ibid.), so that the addressee becomes a spectator, an observer, a voyeur, a protagonist. In the connection between the historical symbolic “killing” of images with the current discourse of the ISIS decapitation videos the artist explores the gesture of power on her own body, and fetish as a man-made object with mystical/supernatural power(s) to dominate others.

Yet, Hyldig Dal’s works don’t seek to exploit or scandalize images, but instead to establish the ISIS decapitations, prisoners wearing Guantanamo-Bay-look uniforms and the artist’s body as hyper-symbols. These are all multi-referential and intertextual constellations in a discourse in which Religion-based iconoclasm has been replaced with iconoclasm as an act of political communication, addressing an international spectatorship instead of a specific, localized community of faith. The distinction between amateur and professional footage is increasingly challenged: the ISIS-vid- eos are professionally produced, as a visual upgrading of terror (images) take place and violence is subject to dramaturgy now more than ever. Through the visual staging and parallel representation of BDSM and public violence, Who’s Afraid? creates ambivalent realms of experience, that explore the clash between trauma and aestheticization in the very moment of their simultaneous and immediate formation.”

                                                                         Curatorial text by Sandra Moskova, LEAP

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