The Aesthetics of Stealth

The Aesthetics of Stealth


Toni Pape (UvA)

Project Link: What role do imperceptibility and opacity play in our contemporary political culture? To what extent are they strategies of resistance?


The research project “The Aesthetics of Stealth” looks at mediated performances of imperceptibility. One starting point for the research are so-called stealth video games, in which the player is tasked to accomplish a mission without ever being detected. The goal is thus political action without representation or transparency. I am interested in this from both an aesthetic and a political angle. Regarding aesthetics, my research investigates the ways in which stealth is articulated across various media, e.g. in the return of the espionage genre in film and TV, but also in photography (Liu Bolin, Desiree Palmen) and video art (Hito Steyerl, Lee Yong Baek). As for the political context, I wonder in which ways the mediated performance of stealth influences our political culture. Does it, for instance, attune us to and legitimize state-sanctioned surveillance politics and stealth warfare? Or is it a strategy for resistance as can be observed in collectives such as Anonymous or the Invisible Committee?