There is a certain plasticity of meaning inherent in any use of language. If that weren’t the case, poetry and literature would not exist. There would only be contracts, scientific formulas, shopping lists, and so forth. Journalism would be properly factual—there would be no fake news or disinformation. All utterances would document isolated events, never evoking larger patterns or tapping into hidden desires. But then the question arises: Even if language could be cleansed of all ambiguity and spin, what role would images play?

If language is the problem, images can only be worse. Against a backdrop where postmodern slippages in language and image have been so efficiently weaponized by right-wing populists, it would be a huge mistake to imagine a good old time when language was honest and images just showed what was there. Not only because this time never existed—and would be a lucrative right-wing fantasy to concoct on its own—but because all of the creative power of language and image lies precisely in this fold. Even by 1919, Dada was in full swing. Now, just as then, the perversion of autocratic power triggers a kind of absurdist, perverse artistic response…

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