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Laliv Melamed

Optics of Opacity: The Cultural Life of Operative Images

Laliv Melamed’s research project is dedicated to the study of the ‘operative image,’ broadly defined as an image that facilitates processes of knowledge production in the fields of science, state bureaucracy, and security. More specifically, tracking the circulation of images taken from optical systems such as satellites, closed-circuit cameras, drones, biometric data, infrared, x-ray, and GoPro cameras, Melamed argues for an emerging visuality that taps into a political ontology grounded in secrecy. In this study, the category of the operative is offered as a form of convergence of media cultures with the state modus operandi, and as a way to think the fraught intersection of power and mediation in societies of security.

Fig. 1:
Screenshot from One Night in Ansariye (Omri Asenheim, 2017).
Fig. 2:
Daniel Mann, Untitled, 2018.


Laliv Melamed is a postdoctoral researcher at the Graduiertenkolleg “Configurations of Film” at the Goethe University, Frankfurt. Her forthcoming book Sovereign Intimacy: Israeli Homemade Video Memorials and the Politics of Loss, is based on her dissertation with the same title that was the recipient of the 2017 SCMS Dissertation Award. She had published in English and Hebrew on topics of non-fiction media forms, Israel-Palestine, and the militarization of everyday media practices. Her most recent publications appeared in American Anthropologist Review and New Cinemas. She is the co-editor of the “Screen Memory” issue of International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society and a special issue on documentary infrastructures of the journal World Records, entitled “Ways of Organizing.” She is the director of the 2020 edition of Visible Evidence, the international conference for documentary and non-fiction film and media to be hosted by Goethe University, Frankfurt. In addition to her academic work, Melamed is a film curator and a programmer.