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

Liljefors, Max LU (2013) In Transvisuality: the Cultural Dimension of Visuality. Volume 1: Boundaries and Creative Openings p.185-206
Abstract
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,... (More)
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. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding
publication status
published
subject
keywords
atrocity images, holocaust, trauma, abject, visual media, visual culture, war
in
Transvisuality: the Cultural Dimension of Visuality. Volume 1: Boundaries and Creative Openings
editor
Tore, Kristensen; Anders, Michelsen and Frauke, Wiegand
pages
185 - 206
publisher
Liverpool University Press
ISBN
9781846318917
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
d5a99db3-0118-4175-beec-fb19d0ff1a04 (old id 4017921)
date added to LUP
2013-09-09 10:03:11
date last changed
2016-04-16 09:54:22
@misc{d5a99db3-0118-4175-beec-fb19d0ff1a04,
  abstract     = {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.},
  author       = {Liljefors, Max},
  editor       = {Tore, Kristensen and Anders, Michelsen and Frauke, Wiegand},
  isbn         = {9781846318917},
  keyword      = {atrocity images,holocaust,trauma,abject,visual media,visual culture,war},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {185--206},
  publisher    = {ARRAY(0x940fbf8)},
  series       = {Transvisuality: the Cultural Dimension of Visuality. Volume 1: Boundaries and Creative Openings},
  title        = {Atrocity Media: Negotiating the Abject in Images of Torture and Death},
  year         = {2013},
}