Parallex Error: The Aesthetics of Image Censorship

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Journalism & Mass Communication Department

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Ronnie Close

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Research Article

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Parallax Error is a found photographic image collection scavenged from well-known art history publications in bookstores in Cairo between 2012 and 2014. What makes the series distinct are the forms and styles of censorship used on the original images ahead of sale and public distribution. The altered images involve some of the leading figures in the canon of Western photographic history and these respected photo works enter into a process of state censorship. This entails hand-painting each photograph, in each book edition, in order to obscure the full erotic effect of the object of desire, i.e. parts of the human body. The position of photography within Egypt and much of the Arab world is a contested one shaped by the visual formations of Orientalism created by the impact of European colonial empires in the region. This archival project examines the intersection of visual cultures embedded behind the series of photographic images that have been transformed through acts of censorship in Egypt. This frames how these doctored photographic images impose particular meanings on the original photographs and the potential merits, if any, of iconoclastic intervention. Parallax Error examines the political and aesthetic status of the image object in the transformation from the original photograph to censored image. The ink and paint marks on the surface of the photograph create a tension between the censorship act and its impact on the original. These hybrid images provide a political basis to rethink visual culture encounters in our interconnected and increasingly globalised contemporary image world.

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