In the arena where our champions fight, everyone watching is now also bearing witness, and with a recording device. We have flipped the ratio of watchers to watched. Your photographer is no longer a solitary self astride a landscape, with all of the problematic power relations that formula invites.
Instead, documenting is now evidently a social act, in a way that was once harder to see. Bearing witness: the self-assigned moral stance of the documentarian, the conflation of presence with virtue. That debate once seemed to matter. Now that seeing and documenting are nearly aligned, now that we all clamor to record, it is clear that the meaning of witnessing depends upon the context of the act.
Armies watching champions, or armies watching armies. It is all the same. Tie this idea to cameras that map, predict and project violence: the development of sighting devices to facilitate the aim and accuracy of our weapons. What it means to see like a gun. What we mean when we say – the violence of the gaze.
We feel watched, and that changes our behavior. This is the essence of surveillance, and also of force control. In such an atmosphere, witnessing can also be a form of control, or a warning: a shot across the bow.
In my misremembered version of the Goliath story, the parable is all about aim and sight. About the startling accuracy of the stone’s trajectory. I somehow recall Goliath was blinded by the blow, and that without sight, he is unable to fight. But no, that is the story of Ulysses and the Cyclops. Goliath was struck on the forehead, his seat of power, his third eye.