Sean Snyder b. 1972
Compression/Propaganda (Department of Defense/Al-Qaeda), Video 1 (2007)
Duration: 3 minutes
Compression / Propaganda (Department of Defense / Al-Qaeda), 2007, is a series of photographic images obtained both from still and moving images, which are publicly available on the internet. Although Snyder avoids a direct comparison, the selection consists of iconographic subjects shared both by the US Department of Defense (DoD) website and Jihadi media material. The work uncovers the visual vocabulary and the conventions of the production and reception of current war propaganda. The resolution, size and compression of images are crucial not only with regards to the level of details and information attainable from them but also to the political message implicit in its producers' access to high or low technology.
One of the paradoxes of current war propaganda is the acknowledgment by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld of the failure and unreliability of the American government's high-tech imaging politics, while the proliferation of amateur photography produced by soldiers and contractors during the Iraq war is perceived as having more direct access to reality. Here the DoD is caught in a conflict made apparent by the Abu Ghaib case: whilst being conscious of the limitation of official photography propaganda, it cannot sanction soldiers' reportage of the Iraqi war as "official truth". Conversely, the images seem to satisfy the desire for photographic authenticity: the low resolution, amateur style of the Jihadi videos appears less 'professional' and therefore closer to reality. The Jihadi's use of a Sony MiniDV camera, which Snyder identified by closely analyzing the video frames, appears in contrast with the low-tech standard of the videos and brings into questions issues related to the constructions and conventions of technology use.
As a byproduct of the work, a series of archival material, art, photographic and cinematic references disclose the procedure of production and inevitably interfere and elide with the 'objectivity' of information.