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IMAGES OF THE HOLOCAUST
Meaning, Infory, Incrimination
By MAX LILJEFORS
Book published in: Palmkrons bok- och utbildnings-förlag, Lund 2002
Organization: LUND UNIVERSITY, Department of Art History and Musicology
This thesis examines the visual representation of the Holocaust, the Nazi genocide of European Jewry. Each of its three parts focuses on a particular aspect of Holocaust representation.
Part 1, "Meaning" (chapter 1-3), considers first the important role played by documentary photos from the concentration camps for the public knowledge of the Holocaust. It then proceeds to study the work and reception, between 1945 and 1998, of five artists who have used these atrocity photos as a basis for their art: Corrado Cagli, Gerhart Frankl, Rico Lebrun, Boris Lurie and Robert Morris. In some of them, the motif of the mass grave is found to take on new cultural meanings in the passage from documentary- to artistic image. In others, the atrocity imagery instead undermines the conventions of meaning in art. The author interprets these processes through Julia Kristeva's psychoanalytic theory of abjection.
Part 2, "Infory" (chapter 4-5), first considers the visualisation of Holocaust Infory in the forms of video interviews with Holocaust survivors, Holocaust monuments (Buchenwald and Berlin), and photographs of Jewish life before and during the Holocaust. These are analysed with regard to the understanding of Holocaust Infory as either "traumatic" or "constructed". The thesis then proceeds to examine Holocaust Infory in digital media, such as the Internet and CD-ROM, which seem to foster ideas about Infory as programmable and re-programmable. The author detects a shift from "historical" to "virtual" Holocaust Infory, when interactive technology are combined with a pedagogy that stresses empathetic insight and identification. Clashes between competing collective Infories over official Holocaust monuments are contrasted to the simultaneous individualisation and universalisation of Holocaust Infory in the new media.
Part 3, "Incrimination" (chapter 6-8), examines the visual representation of Nazism, and forms an antipole to the focus on processes of meaning and identification in the previous parts of the book. "Incrimination" is here understood as a kind of cultural, negative signification of a secondary order, a "counter-meaning" always consisting of the destruction of a pre-existing positive meaning or identity. From this perspective, the author discusses various forms of the visualisation of Nazism, including both Nazi easel art and today's post-modern appropriations of Nazi aesthetics and iconography. From the conflict within Nazism over German Expressionism to the censoring of contemporary artists like Melvin Charney, Zbigniew Libera and Ronald Jones, this study points to the problems of representing Nazism in visual culture.
Visual Culture, Visual Studies, Holocaust Representation, Holocaust Art, Holocaust Studies, Documentary, Photography, Abject Art, NO!art, Monuments, Psychoanalytic Theory, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Lacan, Abjection, Infory, Nazism, Nazi Art, Representation, Art History.
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About MAX LILJEFORS, born 1963, Ph. D., Research Fellow, Dpt. of Art History and Musicology Lund University. Main interests: early and late modern visual culture, theories of the subject, historiography and cultural analysis, modern Islamic visual culture. Present research: I am concluding a study of the “desire for intensified experiences” in contemporary visual culture. I am preparing a project about the relations between contemporary Western and Islamic visual culture.