Thresholds of the Visible. Activist Video, Militancy, and Prefigurative Politics

The formation of a Peoples’ Assembly and occupation of the city of Oaxaca (Mexico) in 2006 has been widely considered a rebirth of the Commune and was also one of the first widely video-recorded uprisings of the 21st century. As media practice, activist videos approximate an identity of creative art/work and socio-political change but also warrant consideration of their formal aspects. How do stylistic choices help or hinder reflecting on the not-quite-here-yet of prefigurative politics? In contrast with video art, graffiti, and performance protest, activist videos overwhelmingly adhere to evidentiary forms. Carefully edited, they invite viewers to view crowdsourced footage as indexical traces of what “really” occurred in front of the lens but draw little attention to contingency or to the artifice of cinema. Activist videos’ politics of truth and reliance on interviews underscore lingering, more hierarchical visions of revolution and risk inscribing what is there to the detriment of equality and potentiality. Even so, some activist videos playfully invoke a future already arrived.

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