Interesting New Book: Seeing Witness

Seeing Witness

Visuality and the Ethics of Testimony

Jane Blocker

Table of Contents

Seeing Witness

$25.00 paper
ISBN: 978-0-8166-5477-2

$75.00 cloth
ISBN: 978-0-8166-5476-5

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

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction: Imagery Specialists

I. History
1. A Promise Always Disappearing: The Ethics of History in Ulay and Abramovi+’s The Lovers
2. Peoples of Memory: James Luna and the Production of History
3. Binding to Another’s Wound: Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Ross McElwee on Weddings

II. Technology
4. A Cemetery of Images: Photography and Witness in the Work of Gilles Peress and Alfredo Jaar
5. Machine Memory: Digital Witness in Dumb Type’s  memorandum

III. Biopower
6. This Being You Must Create: Transgenics, Witness, and Selfhood in the Work of Eduardo Kac and Christine Borland
7. The Shame of Biological Being: Microbiology and Theories of Subjectivity in a Project by Ann Hamilton and Ben Rubin

Conclusion: A Mysterious Picture of God

1 thought on “Interesting New Book: Seeing Witness

  1. 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?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s