Thresholds of the Visible. Activist Video, Militancy, and Prefigurative Politics – ARTMargins – article

Thresholds of the Visible. Activist Video, Militancy, and Prefigurative Politics

Freya Schiwy | ARTMargins


The formation of a Peoples’ Assembly and occupation of the city of Oaxaca (Mexico) in 2006 has been widely considered a rebirth of the Commune and was also one of the first widely video-recorded uprisings of the 21st century. As media practice, activist videos approximate an identity of creative art/work and socio-political change but also warrant consideration of their formal aspects. How do stylistic choices help or hinder reflecting on the not-quite-here-yet of prefigurative politics? In contrast with video art, graffiti, and performance protest, activist videos overwhelmingly adhere to evidentiary forms. Carefully edited, they invite viewers to view crowdsourced footage as indexical traces of what “really” occurred in front of the lens but draw little attention to contingency or to the artifice of cinema. Activist videos’ politics of truth and reliance on interviews underscore lingering, more hierarchical visions of revolution and risk inscribing what is there to the detriment of equality and potentiality. Even so, some activist videos playfully invoke a future already arrived. © 2019 ARTMargins and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Freya Schiwy Freya Schiwy is Associate Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside. She teaches in the Media and Cultural Studies Department and in the Hispanic Studies Department. She is the author of Indianizing Film: Decolonization, the Andes, and the Question of Technology (Rutgers University Press, 2009) and of The Open Invitation: Activist Video, Mexico, and the Politics of Affect (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019). Together with Byrt Wammack Weber, she recently co-edited Adjusting the Lens: Collaborative and Community Video in Mexico (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017).


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