This work in progress consists in image-research I am conducting in the “lifestreaming” of Israeli soldiers to their profiles on Facebook. For the past three years, I have analyzed thousands of images and videos posted by soldiers to their profiles between 2005 and 2016, across social networks spanning all six districts of Israel, settlements in the West Bank and Golan, and Druze communities. What emerges through a systematic study of the images and videos posted by soldiers across hundreds of profiles--moving geographically from network to network, battalion to battalion, across regions, and across time--are recurrent cultural image-patterns, consistent across time, geographic location, ethnicity and class. The self-curated, living image-archives of soldier profiles on Facebook open windows onto the intimate relations of everyday life in Israel, windows that offer the visual critic unprecedented access to the broad field of social relations at play across private and public spheres in Israeli society. A number of discernible cultural Image-patterns recur with astonishing consistency across soldier networks over the past decade to reveal processes of socialization within the institutions of home, school, and army, as well as within uniform social spaces and rites of passage such as proto-military youth camps, state-organized school trips to Auschwitz, army-base and barracks culture, military training camps, activity on the front during military operations, and at invariable travel destinations on the “grand tour” soldiers traditionally take upon completion of their service.
Demonstrating a cultural pattern visually, through images alone, illuminates aspects of social reality and culture that have proven resistant to conventional methods of, say, sociology, ethnography or cultural analysis. For example, homoeroticism & patterns of intimacy between men that are central to constructions of masculinity and homosocial relations—not only in in Israel, but in the Middle East more generally—have not found adequate representation in existing scholarship. Discursive representation proves an inadequate medium for revealing the libidinal circuits undergirding relations between men in regions, such as the Middle East, where male relations assume patterns of intimacy that are not readily subsumed under available heteronormative categories. The inadequacy of discursive representation, I believe, lies not in repression, social stricture, or unconscious prejudice in the viewpoints of both observer and observed; the inadequacy stems rather from the simple fact that what is visible to the outside observer is, because locally normative within the desiring field of male relations itself, virtually invisible to the participants and the surrounding culture. Because normative, naturalized, and thus expected everywhere, these relations do not present sites for the inscription of particular cultural significance. Confronted with unfamiliar patterns of intimacy between men, patterns that do not conform to heteronormative expectations and categories of experience, the outside observer may apply invented classifications, such as "homosocial" or "homoerotic." But the forms of intimacy and desire that pattern relations between men in Israel, forms of intimacy so strikingly unfamiliar to the outside observer, are not "problematized" in Israeli society, in Foucault's sense, and thus simply are, without serving as bearers of significance, without being in any way remarkable.
At this point in my image-based research, I have downloaded thousands of photographs and videos from IDF Facebook networks and stamped them with the soldier’s name, his hometown and the date he posted the image to his lifestream. I’ve systematically catalogued these images by cultural pattern, by geographic region and by date of posting. To present each of these patterns visually, I am producing a series of collage panels that juxtaposes stamped images from a discernible cultural pattern, moving geographically region by region, from north to south --"From Dan to Be'ersheba"--and chronologically from 2005-2016. Video clips are accessed by scanning QR codes integrated into the collage. This is a work in progress, and this gallery consists merely in a sneak preview of the material I am working with.
To access videos, scan the QR Code using any free QR Reader/Scanner app on your smartphone.