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10/02/2010

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Michael Robinson

I take your point on this: no culture is above the use of the artifice of the image. That being said, I think that the western media use these images not simply because they stand in stark contrast to the reality of North Korea, but because they are so easily identifiable in the West as the socialist-utopian-fantasy advertising that we saw so much of as kids (in posters of Stalin, Lenin, etc). In other words, these images are part of the western visual economy as much as the N Korean visual economy. They bring back memories of grainy videos of military parades through Red Square, adaptations of George Orwell's 1984 and the Manchurian Candidate. To the jaded western consumer of visual propaganda, the N Korean images seem almost hilariously naive and baldly manipulative. We don't even need to know what N Korea is really like in order to reject them out of hand.

Philip Hatfield

I think you are quite right on this and it is interesting to note how well trained we in the West are in critiquing this mode of propaganda. This is particularly striking as I am from a generation educated in, as oppose to having experienced directly, the use of the propaganda you listed.

This is why I find it so striking that there is often not the same level of public awareness regarding the manipulation we can be subject to through our own image world of advertising, celebrity and the press.

Michael Robinson

I tend to think we are more savvy in judging straight advertising than previous generations(though I have absolutely no evidence for this). I'm imagining a modern 20-something audience watching early tv commercials for GE and laughing hysterically. What would the inverse obtain? What would a group of 20-somethings from the 1950s do if subjected to a modern Nike commercial? Hard to say but my guess is that they would find it dazzling, disorienting (such quick cuts), and rather inscrutable (where's the product, the voice over?). Where we are not so savvy (and I think there is some data on this) is in discriminating sources of information, much of which comes with a push or a slant that is ignored when combing headlines on Google News or Yahoo.

Philip Hatfield

These are good points and I think they also illustrate something of a situational bias on my part (in fact, your last few comments have got me thinking about this even more...). Some of Unfinished Worlds is influenced very heavily by living and commuting in an image saturated modern London - and I should maybe engage with this more critically.

In this context I am inclined to agree with your comment, especially in line with younger audiences. But I often feel that within the group I spend a lot of time with (20 - 60 something commuting and working Londoners) the image and news saturated world they live in creates the exact problem you highlight - an inability to discriminate between sources. This creates particular dynamics when adverts are, say, displayed in a paper a reader may have fondness for and then reproduced in a different context, say on a train platform. I think this can remove critical engagement with images in particular contexts where they may have been opened up to greater critique if only viewed through one source?

This is a bit of an incoherent reply, so apologies. You have, however, given me plenty to think about!

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