‘The war of images’

Pictures may be worth a lot more than a thousand words.

Want proof?

In light of the recent Abu Ghraib scandals, award-winning scholar and professor William J.T. Mitchell will present “Cloning Terror: The War of Images – 9/11 to Abu Ghraib” tonight at 7 in room 101 of the Visual and Performing Arts Building.

Mitchell is a professor of English and art history at the University of Chicago. He is also the editor of Critical Inquiry, an interdisciplinary journal that focuses on critical theory in the arts and human sciences, and has written numerous books on the power of images, such as Picture Theory, Landscape and Power, Iconology, The Language of Images and The Politics of Interpretation.

“He is one of the leading scholars in the field of what is now called visual culture, which is the study of images, not just of art images, but images across the board,” said Riccardo Marchi, an assistant professor at the School of Art and Art History and the Stuart S. Golding endowed chair in modern and contemporary art at USF.

Marchi said the lecture will focus on cloning and terror, two subjects that can be considered related.

“Both are hotly debated topics in today’s society that are fraught with religious, moral, ideological and political anxieties,” he said.

The clone and the terrorist are viewed as “cultural icons linked by the fear of the ‘uncanny double,’ the mirror image of the self as its own worst enemy,” according to Mitchell’s homepage on the University of Chicago Web site.

According to Marchi, Mitchell thinks that the war on terrorism ends up producing more and more terrorists – who are human beings – but at the same time perceived as dangerous as clones. So in a sense, the war on terror is actually “cloning terror” by creating more terrorists.

Mitchell will also analyze the way in which the image of the terrorist is presented in contemporary culture, with a focus on the notorious Abu Ghraib photographs, Marchi said.

“Increasingly your, our world, is driven by and dominated by visual images, and the speaker will discuss or analyze the impact of photo images and really just the depth of what cloning is about, beyond what that means,” Marchi said.

The Abu Ghraib prison scandal erupted in 2004 when graphic photos of U.S. military personnel abusing and torturing Iraqi prisoners were leaked to the public. On Thursday, more than a thousand images of torture were released on Salon.com.

Wallace Wilson, the director of the School of Art and Art History and a professor of art, believes the topic of cloning touches upon many religious and ethical issues.

“I can’t imagine that there aren’t a lot of students here at USF that wouldn’t be concerned about that,” he said.

This lecture is open to the public and is part of the Samuel S. Golding Lecture Series.