|dc.description.abstract||This thesis engages with surveillance as a pervasive theme presented in several modes of modern visual culture and is approached with particular reference to Guy Debord’s theory of the spectacle. Through an historically contextualized analysis, I locate the centrality of surveillance in Western culture as a visual regime that institutionalizes spectacle. This is revealed in a number of prominent events between 1920 and 2008 that illustrate ethical shifts in the historical subject in which the presence or the absence of the witness becomes a meaningful consideration. Surveillance is thus linked inextricably to two main discourses regarding the spectacle and the witness, a theme that is expanded upon through the analysis of specific films and other representations of modern visual culture, including painting and television. The spectacle within our ocularcentric society has, as I see it, not enhanced the world so much as it has separated us from it, and has thus consistently obscured instances of moral reflection by the individual in the form of witness. I link this concept to the thinking of Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Martin Heidegger and others.
Starting with the 1920’s, the progressive destruction of the witness has been exemplified in Western visual culture. The problems of detachment are derived in part from Anton Kaes’ reading of Ernst Jünger’s theoretical concepts of the development of a “second consciousness” produced by the camera, the new technical “evil eye”, and Michel Foucault’s reading of the “panopticon”. The thesis draws on Thomas Mathiesen's expansion on Foucault by revisiting “the viewer society”, further addressing the distancing effects of surveillance. The second section is devoted specifically to a discussion of the Holocaust through the analysis of selected “Holocaust films”. My analysis of these films centres on their relation to memory, representation and the distinction of the embodiment of pain beginning with the witness/ survivor. The over-arching concern of the final section of this thesis is with the digital transition in visual culture and the shift away from its tradition of conceptual and contextual materiality to what is now a predominantly Internet-based digital mode, conceptualized by Katherine Hayles' work on the “post-human”. As a result, I argue that this produces further distancing between the witness and the subject. From this I conclude that the further distancing between the witness and the subject has enabled the facilitation of what appears to be a society of surveillance, a society which, for ethical reasons, needs to reinstate the witness.||