The Politics of the Face: Manifestations of Che Guevara’s Image and Its Collage of Renderings and Agency

Abstract. My interest in this image of Guevara and how it worked was rooted in the perception of its performative capability to gather people and sanction action that was inherently productive and powerful at a grassroots level.

I became curious about vernacular (non-institutional) visual communication. Through this work I ask what are the critical visual sociological affordances and limitations of exploring visual events through a non-reductive constellation of qualitative approaches cohering around emergent themes. Thus I mix and transgress visual sociological approaches using phenomenology, semiotics, and ethnography with a collage approach centered in Indigenous Research Methodologies. The final product (6′ x4′ collage & set of scrolls), can also be considered an art/ifact. Thus, I present the dissertation as hybrid because form and content are only artificially extricable, and propositional form is not always able to articulate what is knowable. Rather than striving for finite understandings, or to achieve “mastery,” I create a space for play, a structural possibility for understanding something about the image of Che Guevara’s face, an image that so many feel they understand and resonate with powerfully, and yet so few are able to account for. And thus we move from guerrilla warfare, to guerrilla artfare, while recognizing that the same processes and forms I use to open spaces can be used equally by others wishing to close them. Still my focus is on art as something that can create and critique “or ironicize manifestations or expressions of hegemonic political or religious power” (Preziosi, 2009, p.12). The limits of language are not equal to the limits of our cognition. Many academic traditions promote the view that knowing something requires its formulation in words. But is it really the case that we cannot know what we cannot verbally assert?

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  • Before I became a film major, I was very heavily into social science, I had done a lot of sociology, anthropology, and I was playing in what I call social psychology, which is sort of an offshoot of anthropology/sociology – looking at a culture as a living organism, why it does what it does.

    George Lucas

  • We never really know what’s around the corner when we’re filming – what turn a story will take, what a character will do or say to surprise us, how the events in the world will impact our story.

    Barbara Kopple

  • I believe that we face incredible obstacles in our attempts to see the world. Everything in our nature tries to deny the world around us; to refabricate it in our own image; to reinvent it for our own benefit. And so, it becomes something of a challenge, a task, to recover (or at least attempt to recover) the real world despite all the impediments to that end.

    Errol Morris

  • So it is my firm belief, that if you want nowadays, to have a clear and distinct communication of your concepts, you have to use synthetic images, no longer words.

    Vilém Flusser

  • Give us adequate images. We lack adequate images. Our civilization does not have adequate images. And I think a civilization is doomed or is going to die out like dinosaurs if it doesn’t develop an adequate language for adequate images.

    Werner Herzog


    Sometimes one picture is equal to 30 pages of discourse, just as there are things images are completely incapable of communicating.

    William S. Burroughs

  • Watching a documentary with people hacking their way through some polar wasteland is merely a visual. Actually trying to deal with cold that can literally kill you is quite a different thing.

    Henry Rollins


    If it’s far away, it’s news, but if it’s close at home, it’s sociology.

    James Reston


    For any picture, ask yourself what question or questions it might be answering. Since the picture could answer many, questions, we can decide what question we are interested in.

    Howard Becker


    Visual culture is now the study of how to understand change in a world too enormous to see but vital to imagine.

    Nicholas Mirzoeff


    There are dignified stupidities, and there are heroic stupidities, and there is such a thing as stupid stupidities, and that would be a stupid stupidity not to have a camera on board.

    Werner Herzog

  • If you want to tell the untold stories, if you want to give voice to the voiceless, you’ve got to find a language. Which goes for film as well as prose, for documentary as well as autobiography. Use the wrong language, and you’re dumb and blind.

    Salman Rushdie


    Every photograph promises more than it delivers and delivers more than it intended.

    Steve Harp


    The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden.

    Pierre Bourdieu


    Reality changes; in order to represent it, modes of representation must change.

    Bertolt Brecht

  • Photographers learn to interpret photographs in that technical way because they want to understand and use that ‘language’ themselves (just as musicians learn a more technical musical language than the layman needs). Social scientists who want to work with visual materials will have to learn to approach them in this more studious and time-consuming way

    Howard Becker


    The task for sociology is to come to the help of the individual. We have to be in service of freedom. It is something we have lost sight of.

    Zygmunt Bauman

  • You try your hardest to give people their space, but at moments you know you’re capturing their image in ways they may or may not be okay with. It’s that rocking back and forth between respect and betrayal that I feel like is at the heart of the film.

    Kirsten Johnson


    One advantage of photography is that it’s visual and can transcend language.

    Lisa Kristine


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