Suffering, as observed by every sage and human alike, is abundant the world over. It occupies our thoughts and rouses our emotions. It drives our actions even when painful memories are repressed. Alleviating and avoiding suffering yet to come, whether our own or those with whom we empathize, is the focus of many of our activities in the present. Moreover, suffering spurs attempts at healing as well as the martial “arts.” It is a stimulus for humanitarians and activists, as well as a subject wrestled with by theologians, moral philosophers, political theorists and psychologists. This volume investigates the relationship between art and suffering. In short, the contributors to this volume collectively demonstrate that suffering is an undisputed and shareable motivating experience.
This collection features original essays that focus on the subject of art and suffering, including topics such as the representation of violence and the intersections of art and human rights. Some of the key questions explored are as follows:
This volume brings together a group of scholars and artists that cross both disciplinary and national borders. It covers three major areas of study: approaches to art and suffering; the question of artistic expression and suffering; and a final section that offers creative reflections by scholars on the subject matter at hand. Contributors from a variety of fields meditate on the relationship between art and suffering, including cultural historians, philosophers, literary and religious studies scholars, psychologists, jurists, and cultural theorists.
Each essay is complemented by full-color reproductions of artistic works that illustrate the concepts being discussed, including a graphic essay on the topic of “comfort women.”
Mark Celinscak is the Louis and Frances Blumkin Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He is a historian of twentieth century Britain and Europe, specializing in war, Holocaust and genocide studies. He is the author of Distance from the Belsen Heap: Allied Forces and the Liberation of a Nazi Concentration Camp.
Curtis Hutt is an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He is the Founding Executive Director of the UNO Goldstein Center for Human Rights, He is the editor of Jewish Religious and Philosophical Ethics and the author of two books – John Dewey and Ethics of Historical Belief and The Sorrows of Mattidia.
List of Figures
Preface: Art and Suffering – Mark Celinscak and Curtis Hutt
I. Approaches to Art and Suffering
1. Human Rights and Art - Hurst Hannum
2. Art History and Human Suffering: Pasts, Pedagogies, and Possibilities – Adrian Duran
3. Creative Interventions: Art against Trauma - Jen Webb, Jordan Williams, and Anthony Eaton
4. A Life’s Work: John Dewey on Art and Education for Democracy – Curtis Hutt
II. Art and Suffering
5. Suffering and its Defeat in Renaissance Art: Reading Titian and El Greco through Kierkegaard and Maimonides - Nehama Verbin
6. Representing the Unseen: The Primacy of Visual Testimony in Official British War Art – Paul Gough
7. Beyond Redemption: Käthe Kollwitz and the Tragedy of War - Jay Winter
8. The Anguish of Liberation: War Artists and the Holocaust – Mark Celinscak
9. The Bloody Divide 1947: Facing Trauma through Art - Mehnaz M. Afridi
10. The Art of the Arpilleras - Marjorie Agosín
11. Art and the (Ir)resolution of Suffering - David Tollerton
12. Just Is After Human Rights: Beauty, Barbarity, and the Artwork of Samuel Bak - Gary Phillips
13. Reflecting on the Current State of International Criminal Justice through Art - Richard Goldstone
III. Creative Reflections
14. A Theatre of Play and Death: Staging the “Mad Jester” of the Warsaw Ghetto - Henry Greenspan
15. Comfort Women and the Human Rights Documentary - Julia Alekseyeva
16. vignettes from the fire – Michele Desmarais
IV. About the Contributors
Artistic Representations of Suffering takes readers on a journey that is painful and ethically complex. It is a book for readers who want to move beyond despair.
For anyone interested in the intersection of human suffering, human rights, and creative practice, this collection of essays assembled by professors Celinscak and Hutt provides an important and timely overview of the state of the art in scholarly thinking about what art and artists have (and have had) to say about the experience of traumatic violence during war and genocide. Contributors draw deeply from many different disciplines and sites of interdisciplinary production, artistic genres and cultural traditions, theoretical perspectives, historical periods, and conflicts. In doing so they grapple with some of the thorniest questions complicating our understanding of what it means to represent others’ suffering, how such representations have and should practically be undertaken, and what purposes they might and do serve. The contributors represent a compelling ‘who’s who’ of leading thinkers in this area – established as well as emerging scholars, artists, activists, and scholar-practitioners. At a time when the struggle to defend human rights and secure social and political justice has intensified globally in the face of armed conflicts, growing right-wing extremism, and illiberal nationalisms, this volume’s contributions speak loudly for art’s power to illuminate the lives of others, heal wounds, and foster reconciliation and mutual respect.
What does it mean to respond to atrocity with creative talent, be it photography, art or drama? Thought-provoking and wide-ranging in scope, this readable volume offers case studies of interventions undertaken by those whose imagination and skill provided hope, empathy or resilience. An important collection offering new insights into the healing potential of the arts.