Visual transactions: image, theory, new media art and cross-cultural exchange
De Jesus, Angela Vieira
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Encounters between the Portuguese explorers of the fifteenth-century and the people living on the southern tip of Africa initiated interaction and trade between Europeans and Africans. My Portuguese heritage within a family of shopkeepers has provided me with a selective point of view from which to investigate the complexities involved in cross-cultural exchange, visual perception and image interpretation. The analysis of appropriated surveillance footage collected from CCTV cameras installed in the shop and the investigation of my own videos captured with hidden digital hand-held video camcorders, elucidates concerns related to intercultural interaction and exchange. In the shop the exchange of goods occurs, concomitantly with an exchange of vision and cross-cultural perception; the video camera surveys this exchange and translates it into images. It is argued that visual and intercultural processes have, with the aid of visual technologies and mediums (such as the panorama and digital video), become central to the ways in which cultures are perceived. This study proposes that interpreting images (for example in the photographs of Pieter Hugo and Zwelethu Mthethwa), like intercultural exchange, is paradoxical and ambiguous, as often these images evoke associations with conflicting meanings. It is argued that iconoclasm complicates image interpretation and visual perception further, as it is related both to destructive strategies and the vulnerability of the image. While the study argues that visual exchanges are by nature inconsistent and distorted, they still expose a common reciprocity and human vulnerability.
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