The right to look confronts the police who say to us “move on, there’s nothing to see here.” Only there is, and we know it and so do they. The opposite of the right to look is not censorship, then, but “visuality,” that authority to tell us to move on, and that exclusive claim to be able to look. Visuality is an old word for an old project. It is not a trendy theory word meaning the totality of all visual images and devices, but is in fact an early nineteenth century term, meaning the visualization of history.
This practice must be imaginary, rather than perceptual, because what is being visualized is too substantial for any one person to see and is created from information, images and ideas. This ability to assemble a visualization manifests the authority of the visualizer. In turn, the authorizing of authority requires permanent renewal in order to win consent as the “normal,” or everyday, because it is always already contested. The autonomy claimed by the right to look is thus opposed by the authority of visuality. But the right to look came first and we should not forget it.