Pierre Saurisse
Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London, United Kingdom

Art and the Discourse of Fear during the “War on Terror”
Dedalus 19 (2015), pp. 87-107. Download PDF

Since 2003, the formal rhetoric of the US government to denote their fight against terrorism has focused on an emotion, ‘terror.’ This has given shape to a discourse which describes life as unsafe and frightening. Visual signs of threats such as the ‘terror alert level,’ which was introduced in 2002 to assess the risk of terrorist attacks, or a MTA campaign on New York public transport, were disseminated in the public. This article examines artistic responses to the sense of overwhelming danger that has pervaded society through a political agenda dominated by fear. The artistic actions taken in response to the discourse of fear at the beginning of the 2000’s, for example by Susan Silton and Fulana, mocked or subverted this discourse in the tradition of counterpropaganda. As the discourse of fear gradually emerged as a distinctive element of the many components of the war on terror, artists such as Antoni Muntadas, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle and Goshka Macuga highlighted how fear was constructed, in the political arena and in the media, through colour charts, slogans, and specific rhetoric developed by members of the government.