A Double Absence: Chantal Akerman’s "D’est: Bordering on Fiction" and "Alfredo Jaar’s Let there Be Light"

By Stephen Feinstein.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Representation of political themes that may be highly didactic are always a subject of debate within the artistic community. At the same time, the lack of direction of some aspects of modern and evn post-modern art has raised the question of the necessity of artists to confront some of the more violent issues societies of the past and present, including war and genocide. There are many precedents for this engagement: European artists responded significantly to World War I battlefield conditions and a critique of the political world, followed by satiric art about the rise of Fascism, use of art and artists by authoritarian regimes especially in Communist societies. A special intensity of representation has developed as a response to the Holocaust (destruction of European Jews) and other genocides, especially art by 2nd and 3rd generation Armenians and both survivors of the Rwandan genocide and independent artists. This is one of the five papers presented at the Edinburgh Conference session
and deals with issues of representing the Holocaust in the work of Chantal
Akerman and the Rwandan Genocide in the work of Alfredo Jaar.

Keywords: Art in Response to 20th Century Genocidal Violence

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 1, Issue 7, pp.201-218. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.927MB).

Dr. Stephen Feinstein

Director, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Stephen Feinstein is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where he taught from 1969-1999 and is now Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota. Feinstein has been teaching the History of the Holocaust since 1975. He was curator of the traveling art exhibition, “Witness and Legacy: Contemporary Art About the Holocaust,” at the Minnesota Museum of American Art, which toured in 17 American museums from 1995-2002. In 1999, he was curator of a 7,000 square foot exhibition at the University of Minnesota's Nash Gallery, "Absence/Presence: The Artistic Memory of the Holocaust and Genocide". Feinstein is the co-editor with Karen Schierman and Marcie Littell (eds) "Confronting the Holocaust: A Mandate for the 21st Century-Proceedings of the 27th Annual (1996) Scholars' Conference on the German Churches and the Holocaust." (1998, University Press of America) and author many articles about post-Holocaust art. His latest publication is "Absence/Presence: Critical Essays on the Artistic Memory of the Holocaust." (Syracuse University Press) 2005 and is also in the process of writing a monograph "Spaces with Ghosts: Installation Art About the Holocaust." Feinstein also serves as guest curator for the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg.

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