Tactical Response: Art in an Age of Terror
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This dissertation takes as its point of departure the crisis of perception that photojournalism cannot adequately take into account the problems of representing atrocity without repeating the violence and considers the position of art in expressing the ineffable. I present the work of three artists: Hans Haacke, Krzysztof Wodiczko, and Alfredo Jaar; each has struggled for decades to resolve the issues of confrontation and presentation, offering a vantage point from which viewers can critically address the causes, consequences, and representation of suffering. What purpose does the aesthetic serve in rendering atrocity visible? Can we visualize suffering without perpetuating abuse? What are the ethics behind the icons? Within the context of the art historical tradition of representing tragedy and the persistent vernacular obsession with visualizing abuse, this dissertation considers Haacke's, Wodiczko's, and Jaar's counter-strategies to the practice of witnessing trauma by confronting the ethics of witness and by creating an aesthetics of response.