Art after atrocity: post-Holocaust representation and affect

PhD Thesis

Elborne, Dan. 2019. Art after atrocity: post-Holocaust representation and affect . PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

Art after atrocity: post-Holocaust representation and affect

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorElborne, Dan
SupervisorJenkins, Kyle
Akenson, David
Tacey, Alexis
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages267
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

The thesis investigates how to effectively address (through visual art) events of war and traumatic memory, with particular focus on the Holocaust and its subsequent visual representation. Through critical analysis and interviews with artists, theorists, historians, philosophers, writers and curators as well as the studio-based outcomes: the research creates a detailed analysis of traumatic, memory based visual representation and effective memorialization, and its purpose in contemporary society. The PhD advances the role, positioning and association of memory within the representation of horrific experience, and how this affects the creation, presentation and affecting qualities of art based on perpetrated atrocities and near incomprehensible human experience (Art After Atrocity). Accompanying the written research is a single, large-scale artwork produced in parallel to the written research. This artwork, Deathgate, consists of an individually handmade ceramic ‘stone’ for each of the 1.3 million people detained in the Auschwitz network of concentration camps creating an immersive installation environment.

The thesis involves the examination of memorialization, remembrance and traumatic memory in the context of visual art. The written research responds to 3 distinct research areas: firstly, German philosopher, Theodor Adorno’s suggestion that there can be ‘no poetry [art] after Auschwitz’, which opens discussion into the problematics of post-Holocaust representation. Secondly, ideas established by French philosopher, Jean- Francois Lyotard regarding the sublime as a way of visually and physically ‘presenting the unpresentable’, and lastly, German Jewish philosopher, Walter Benjamin’s theory concerning the transcendental qualities or ‘affective dimension’ of art (‘aura theory’) in order to establish and position the new term ‘aura of atrocity’ within the field of art theory. This term is directly associated to art with implications of traumatic memory and extreme, seemingly incomprehensible human capability and experience. The investigation of these three research areas will demonstrate the historical, and continually changing function, necessity for, and ongoing role of memorialization and the importance of visual art in relation to the continued representation, legacy and relevance of historical events such as the Holocaust.

Keywordscontemporary art, post-Holocaust, representation, affect
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020360699. Visual arts not elsewhere classified
500299. History and philosophy of specific fields not elsewhere classified
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Arts and Communication
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