Creative Qualities of Mourning: Artists Responding to Loss Today

By Kira van Lil.

Published by The Arts Collection

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

In response to the many conflicts around the globe, some visual artists have dealt with loss in ways that suggest new ways of mourning. In western societies we have unlearned mourning as a consequence of having banned death and dying as much as possible. I will look at works of artists such as Lida Abdul, Emily Jacir, Marina Abramovic, Emily Prince, Juan Manuel Echavarria and Dinh Q. Lê who engage in practices of mourning that draw on different cultural traditions. While their practices are rooted in personal affectedness by war and loss, they perform mourning in place of us all and we all can universally relate to their practices.

I propose that these new practices of mourning aim beyond the traditional Freudian concept of resolving and overcoming grief; instead, they exemplify new ways of mourning based on a re-evaluation of Freud’s melancholia. Eng and Kazanjian have characterized it such: “Mourning in the 21st century presents a creative instead of negative quality in dealing with loss, active rather than reactive, prescient rather than nostalgic, abundant rather than lacking, social rather than solipsistic, militant rather than reactionary.”

Keywords: Mourning, Loss, Death, Melancholia, Abdul, Abramovic, Jacir, Echavarria

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 6, Issue 6, pp.141-156. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.552MB).

Kira van Lil

Department of Art and Art History, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA

Kira van Lil received her PhD from Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität in Munich. Since 2008, she is Assistant Professor of Art History in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA. He research focus is Modern and Contemporary Art, with publications on Otto Dix and Neue Sachlichkeit as well as Minimal Art and Arte Povera. She is currently writing a book on “Visualizing War. Diverse artistic strategies in the last two decades”


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