The Disobedience of Seeing

Steyerl, Foucault, Butler


  • Jan Bierhanzl Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences



ambiguity, aesthetics, ethics, politics, Hito Steyerl, Roland Barthes


This paper addresses the subject’s relationship to visual culture and its norms. I start from the fact that contemporary visual culture presents itself as a constant circulation of images that always bring with them a certain ‘politics of truth’, which includes a normative framing of what is and is not considered human. I propose the possibility of an ethico-political resistance to this framing on the part of the perceiving subject, who is simultaneously shaped by this framing. First, I focus on the problem of the disobedience of seeing as an ethico-political stance towards the ‘politics of truth’ in the framework of Foucault’s thought as it applies to several of Hito Steyerl’s artworks (‘Politics of Truth’ and ‘The Courage of Truth’). I next discuss the tension between the circulation of images and the agency of the seeing subject with reference to Judith Butler’s ethical and political approach to visual culture, arguing for an ethics of photography that transcends the Foucauldian framework.



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