In recent months, high-impact journalistic images have been used for their media reach. This was the case in recent Berlin Biennale, from the controversial exhibition by French artist Jean-Jacques Lebel, soluble poison. The work, created in 2013, is a maze of cropped and enlarged images of the torture suffered by Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. As a result, 15 Iraqi artists withdrew and removed their works from the Biennale, accusing the curators of misusing the images.

Just to remind you of the fact: in 2004, in the midst of the Iraq War, the world was stunned when the front pages of newspapers showed Iraqi prisoners being tortured by American soldiers. The Abu Ghraib prison complex was 32 km from Baghdad and was run by the Americans. What shocked the most at that moment, besides the barbaric fact itself, is that the soldiers had recorded those scenes with an aesthetic that was very close to holiday albums: they, smiling, in front of the prisoners.

In contemporary times, in which museums are increasingly working on stories from the past, avoiding historical erasure, spectacularization is not always a sign of success, but often causes the naturalization of an event, such as torture, or even alienation.

In the same month, July of this year, another controversy involving images: Vogue magazine hired renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz to portray the Ukrainian presidential couple, who posed in front of the rubble of war and inside the official palace in which they reside. Immediately, social networks went into an uproar criticizing the attitude of everyone: the magazine, the photographer and the couple. The problem with the article is not the photos themselves, but the context, the publication for which they were made, a fashion magazine. Perhaps, if they had been made for the cover of an information magazine, the debate would not have been so heated.

On Instagram, there were also records made by a teacher, a request from his Ukrainian students, to be photographed amid the rubble of their school on their graduation day. The justification was to make a protest-rehearsal against the war, in an aesthetic of social networks.

It is not new that philosophers and communication scholars talk about the ever-increasing wave of media entertainment. In fact, this process was strengthened at the turn of the 20th century to the 21st century, when the attack on the Twin Towers was presented to us as a cinematographic event.

More and more, the images that daily parade before our eyes on computer screens, or on a smartphone, are more spectacular, sensationalist or scandalous. French philosopher Gilles Lipovetsky and professor at the faculty of Grenoble, Jean Serroy, in their book The aestheticization of the world, from 2015, already warned that we live in a media-commercial hyperculture in which “contemporary art is intended to be 'experiential' providing strong sensations, a visual shock through the spectacle of the disproportionate, the excessive.” A media aesthetic, which does not always intend or seek reflection, but fright.

The placement of the image as a mega-event that baffles us, is not tied to journalistic images. Today we should also think about the “fashion” of immersive exhibitions, which in themselves are quite interesting, but not everything should be immersive. They are shows often created with the sole purpose of distraction, of fun. Not that play is not important, but the way they are presented to us seems more like ready-made scenarios for selfies, or possibilities to create engagement on social networks.

Not every work lends itself to this experience. Some, made at the beginning of the 20th century, were created for a different type of dialogue, for aesthetic and historical ruptures, for questioning the current state of the art and not as fake scenarios of an amusement park.

The controversial and challenging critic of art and culture Camille Paglia, in her book sparkling images, from 2015, takes up an observation already made by many: “Modern life is a sea of ​​images. Our eyes are flooded with glittering figures and blocks of text exploding at us from all sides.” She wonders how we can live in the face of this feeling of vertigo, since we have lost our capacity for contemplation, which is almost synonymous with calm, a feeling that seems impossible if we live in contemporary times: “Amidst such neurotic visual pollution, it is essential to find the focus, the basis of stability, identity, direction of life”, says Camille, in another excerpt.

Faced with this spectacularization of contemporary images, we need to understand the role of art or, as Camille Paglia herself says, “we need to relearn how to see”.

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