militarism; national identity; visual art; visual culture
This study attends to the relation between images and frames of vision in the contexts of militarized Israeli national identity and Israeli contemporary art. It unpacks the way in which art and visual culture contend, not with the military itself, but with its foundational impact on Israeli identity, culture, and society: its influence on bodily images and national affiliations; its impression on landscape; its authority as an coercive glue that encompasses collective memories; and, most importantly, the acceptance of those numerous militarized aspects and elements as unproblematic parts of civilian life. The attention to a variety of artworks and art-related objects and events is meant to answer two separate sets of questions. One set belongs to the politics of visual culture, and questions the militarized aspect of its Israeli incarnation. The other belongs to the politics of visual art more generally, and examines its potential to expose and comment on its own construction. Both sets of questions start off from locating the power of images in the awakening of a contradictory desire to see what they actually cannot show (Mitchell, “Pictures”). This tendency of visual art to reflect on its own premises, limitations, and power structures, it is argued, may lead viewers to reappraise their modes of perception more generally. The critical image as it is outlined in this study, then, does not attempt to clarify confusions or to solve misunderstandings, but to complicate matters on aesthetic, social, cultural, and political levels alike.