Atrocity Media: Negotiating the Abject in Images of Torture and Death

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This essay discusses the dissemination of atrocity images in contemporary mass media, from the photographs of mass-graves in the Nazi concentration camps to the pictures of torture of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib. The central question is one of distances: the distance between the image and the event, between the picture and the beholder, and between the destroyed human body and the cultural forms through which it is represented. These distances, their upholding and overcoming, are analyzed through the works of three visual artists that have dealt with atrocity imagery in their art: in 1945, an Italian artist encountering the Nazi camps in 1945; a Holocaust survivor merging mass-grave photographs with pornography in the 1960s; and in 2002, a Taiwanese video artist re-enacting a century-old photograph of Chinese torture. The article interprets these artworks as reflecting processes of abjection at work in the mediatization of atrocities throughout late modern society. Julia Kristeva's theory of the abject underpins the argument, that the media, while bringing atrocities to the public’s attention, also establish a reassuring distance to the scenes of atrocity, and enthrall the viewer in a fascination with the images themselves. In the end, this tension between distance and proximity may open for critical reflection and political action.
Titel på gästpublikationTransvisuality: the Cultural Dimension of Visuality. Volume 1: Boundaries and Creative Openings
RedaktörerKristensen Tore, Michelsen Anders, Wiegand Frauke
FörlagLiverpool University Press
ISBN (tryckt)9781846318917
StatusPublished - 2013

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Konstvetenskap


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