Photomontage – Ghost Props of Iraq



This image’s primary investigation is of visual rhetoric in contemporary American popular politics. Thus I’ve used the James Foley “cut-out” as the embodiment of a reactionary political culture, most of which relies on the virtue of “testimony” and the witnessing of the abject. In this sense, the image echoes Gregory Ulmer when he writes, “Ours may be the age of testimony, but this is not to say that anyone knows how to witness” (xxvii, Electric Monuments, my emphasis). The image sets out to right that wrong, to exemplify the type of understanding necessary to create a witness worthy of the title, one who is able to transcend the status quo political imagination and form a new collective of political “martyrs” (literally, the witness, or, for our sake, the radical viewer). With Foley at the center, this montage takes a wider view of the historical (left) and visual-cultural (right) signifieds tied up by the central signifier. In casting images of Saddam Hussein (in iconic statue form) and Osama bin Laden as two-dimensional props now tossed aside and haunting the present of American intervention in Iraq, the image calls for a re-examination of the history of America’s vilification of its political enemies. The camera crew is representative of the behind-the-scenes of American foreign policy, it rendering even Foley himself as a prop on the set of a much larger theater act.


Associated Press (photographer anonymous). Osama bin Laden. April 1998. Accessed September 29, 2014, from: navy-seals-arrived-book-reveals-article-1.1146861

Clipart accessed September 29, 2014, from: facebook.jpg

Tomasevic, Goran (photographer). A Statue of Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein Is Pulled Down By US Troops in Central Baghdad. April 9, 2003. Reuters. Accessed September 29, 2014, from: of-iraqs-president-saddam-hussein-falls-as-it-is-pulled-down-in-central-baghdad-april-9-2/

TomoNews. Screengrab from video report, “US journalist James Foley beheaded by ISIS militants.” August 22, 2014. Accessed September 29, 2014, from: journalist-james-foley-beheaded-by-isis-militants/