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This essay is an exercise in a form of looking from a distance. It is prompted by the desire to explore the connection between two stunning objects, namely, Ken Jacobs’s Capitalism: Slavery (2006), a digital animation of a stereoscopic card picturing slaves at work in a cotton field, and Nick Hooker’s 2008 digital video for Grace Jones’s song Corporate Cannibal. This is not an essay directly about Ken Jacobs and even less about Grace Jones, but rather an attempt to show how, for me, these two works belong to the same set. The set I am thinking about is defined by the intersection of three (big) things: race, photography, and capital. The magnitude, but also the totalizing, all-encompassing, and elusive qualities of such large-scale formations require necessarily an analytical and theoretical gaze that beholds its objects at a distance. More precisely, these formations require a double look: one that holds the object closely and another that is distant enough to observe formations such as these that, in turn, travel the distance.


This article was originally published in the journal World Picture. Copyright © 2012 World Picture.

The version of record is posted here with the permission of the publisher and author.