Criteria of participation
In Palestinian Wildlife Series, where images are decontextualised and set against a political backdrop that is not itself pictured, my project has had to ask: Is fluency with this background required for participatory spectatorship?
My research has led me to the idea that participatory viewing of a work like Palestinian Wildlife Series is often – though not exclusively – contingent upon viewers having a working knowledge of the subject, as well as their relationship to dominant visual media. What can be just as important is a viewer’s sense of generosity and/or empathy, which can inform the patience necessary for enjoyment.
Whether these thin images merely annoy or engage the viewer depends on what stakes the viewer has in the image. Similarly, it seems that recollection-images would prompt deeper reflection on the part of viewers who feel acutely the disturbance they create. Someone who is curious, who aches to know about the stories hinted at in these grainy images, scraps of archival footage, and maddeningly silent protagonists will be more likely to search the optical image and attempt to bring it to life. Personal (and collective) history informs the liveliness of the engagement with the optical image. (Marks 2000: 53–54)
She adds that there is also a cultural dimension to this investment.
We bring our own personal and cultural organization of the senses to cinema, and cinema brings a particular organization of the senses to us, the filmmaker’s own sensorium refracted through the cinematic apparatus. One could say that intercultural spectatorship is the meeting of two different sensoria, which may or may not intersect. […] For example, when a work is viewed in a cultural context different from that in which it was produced, viewers may miss some multisensory images: many viewers will miss the implications of references to cooking, dance, and hairstyle […] that are more likely to be clear to an African diasporan viewer. (Marks 2000: 153)