A Premediation of Brexit: Genesis, Circulation and Naturalization of an Emblem

  • Matteo Treleani
  • Dario Compagno
Keywords: visual representation, digital visual methods, audiovisual archives


How does an image become an emblem representing an event? What is the process that allows a visual form to incarnate and reduce the complexity of an event? The paper explores the transformation of a stock shot (the lowering of the Union Jack in front of the European Commission) into a visual form representing the event of Brexit in its entirety. The image circulated widely on TV and on the Web between 2016 and 2021, as observed in the database of the research project CROBORA. We traced the genealogy of this sequence, employing diverse analytical perspectives and methods, including video detection tools. A Sherlock Holmes-style indexical investigation–as Carlo Ginzburg would say–that enabled us to study the path going from genesis to naturalization. Particularly, the circulation of the image is associated with the emotional effects it triggered. Interestingly, the sequence of the Union Jack that circulates most often in the European media is not that of the recording of a ceremony intentionally designed to decree the exit of the UK from the EU, but a generic shot realized several month before the Brexit referendum itself, thus anticipating the event and “premediating” it by waving its specter in front of the public. We show how its circulation creates an emblem by its vast mediatization through the screens.

Normal Paper (no special issue)