2017-19: Speech, Image, Spectacle



In 1967, Guy Debord wrote in The Society of the Spectacle, “all that once was directly lived has become mere representation.” Fifty years later, his claim seems both remarkably trenchant and ripe for revisiting. In our boisterous world, we are saturated in sound and image, and the boundary between life and representation has become increasingly porous. Technology has intensified our capacity to conjure and circulate speech and spectacle in ways that envelope and interrupt, entertain and offend, enlighten and obscure. In such a highly mediated context, how should we conceive the very act of communicating?

SPEECH/IMAGE/SPECTACLE invites inquiry into the politics, aesthetics, technologies, genealogies, and epistemologies of contemporary public discourse. Over the course of two years we will explore the ways we generate, encode, and circulate meaning through representation, inquiring after the nature and effects of speech, image, and spectacle on the senses, on human subjectivity, and on politics and sociality.

How should we understand shifting relations between speech (in the guise of words, languages, speech acts, free speech rights, and so on), performance, and spectacle, both now and historically? Has speech now been spectacularized? What is the relation between spectacle and identity, authenticity, or truth? How do image and spectacle translate or channel power? How should we assess calls to regulate or repress publication and circulation of troubling speech and images, or conversely to expand their scale and reach? What ways of perceiving and practicing politics does a spectacular society demand or allow? How does the very domain of representation change as the global circulation of text and image compresses space and recalibrates time?