2014-09-09

The Threat of the Symbols

Undoubtedly one of the characteristics of the symbols of nations today, as it is the case of flags, is their tendency to become more abstract. To varying degrees, all flags have been getting rid of their more explicit references to violencecastles and towers, armors, shields and weapons, eagles and lions... And yet the fact that the flags manage to completely omit these explicit references to violence does not mean that these cease to work, although in a latent way, in the symbolic mechanism. For we consider that the symbols function according to a logic of "threat" of violence, in a similar way as Walter Benjamin showed for the law (Critique of Violence, 1921).

We should note that the flags never appear isolated. They are always represented attached to other symbols of power with which they exchange or share their power, as they would be contagious. The symbols are not only a sign of power, but they also can, that is to say, power is essentially symbolic as much as the symbols are
powerful. This, that seems to be a wordplay, is in fact something elemental that most people who know how the power works, although intuitively, recognize. Therefore flags, even when they have been purified from explicit references to violence, are charged with such power. A power that "threats" due to the context in which they are performed.  

Symbol are anything but neutral. For this reason they must be treated with the utmost care, especially those that seem harmless. 

Image after Hermann Nitsch's Action #130 (2010) [fu/fd] and United States' flag [pd-fu/fd].