Visuality and the Ethics of Testimony
Unearthing the meaning of witnessing in contemporary art and politics
The act of bearing witness can reveal much, but what about the figure of the witness itself? As contemporary culture is increasingly dominated by surveillance, the witness—whether artist, historian, scientist, government official, or ordinary citizen—has become empowered in realms from art to politics.
In Seeing Witness, Jane Blocker challenges the implicit authority of witnessing through the examination of a series of contemporary artworks, all of which make the act of witnessing visible, open to inspection and critique. Considering such artists as Marina Abramovi?, James Luna, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Eduardo Kac, and Ann Hamilton, Blocker investigates the artists and spectators who look, the technologies they look with, and the forms of power and moral authority that permit their viewing.
Going beyond particular traumatic or sensational events, Blocker contemplates the politics of witnessing and argues that the witness represents a morally unique—and even problematic—position of privilege. Separating Seeing Witness from previous literature on the subject, she finds that the visual is inherent in witnessing and asserts that contemporary art is integral to questioning and understanding how witnessing is mobilized in culture today.
Jane Blocker is associate professor of art history at the University of Minnesota Press and the author of What the Body Cost: Desire, History, and Performance (Minnesota, 2004) and Where is Ana Mendieta? Identity, Performativity and Exile.
192 pages | 30 b&w photos | 7 x 10 | 2009
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Imagery Specialists
Conclusion: A Mysterious Picture of God
It does look interesting, a curious typo there in the bio where she is a professor at the University of Minnesota Press – a Freudian slip by someone working at the Press and desperately wanting to be a professor?