dissertation notes: Violence and Art and the puzzled looks I get…

.. So what do you study? An MFA in Fine Art.

so what is your dissertation about? (Here I think the person asking expects something like: “Paintings by women in the Romatic Era” or colour and structuralism .. When I answer “Violence and dehumanization” I see disorientated expressions. Social Sciences, Humanism, Societal interest, perhaps even political science is NOT what they thought had anything to do with art. THEN what has? There lingers this idea (within the Arts and surrounding it) that art concerns art. But IF that was the case or the interest then whatever did we do when we stopped painting patterns? And even those had other meaning than the one located within art within art within art within itself…

Violence and Art go way back. Cave paintings must have depicted murder, if it didn’t then it nevertheless showed hunting scenes and for those you need weapons which are no strangers to violent acts..

Where to begin, or where to look, or rather where not to look for clues of violence and art. I am not saying art that inflicts violent, I am not interested in the volatile moods of artists either, not even in the speculations that the horrible man from Bodyworlds has people contract killed for his pseudo scientific pseudo artistic manipulations of human flesh, involving a plasticizing compound that renders flesh plastic and preserved.. Not even this is object of my investigation if you can call a journey into the unknown by someone unqualified that.

Why Violence? I must ask why not? The world we live in is carefully composed to exhibit violence as a money spinner in movies while we shut our conscience to any understanding at all that the luxuries that nourish our throw-away-yesterday’s-fashion, dispose-off-half-the-gone-off-groceries-in-the-fridge and  i-pad totting lifestyles are won on the broken backs of sweat and bonded labour. To make a point: sweat labour is molly cuddling the actual reality. People’s ignorance is phenomenal in it’s scale, the understanding that minerals necessary to make an android-phone work include Coltrane, some 80% of which is mined in the Congo, the trade of which fuels the militia who fuel the prolific rapes of anyone with an orifice to rape, in the process of which countless thousands of internal organs get ruptured, limbs torn, broken, severed… No anesthetics used.

Why Violence? Why would one not want to know how the world functions and try to search for some sense or hope in the madness?

For centuries artists depicted Violence, principally War and the threats of Hell. Suffering has always been blockbuster business.

What I am finding is that I am only ever skirting the outskirts of the subject violence. I can’t actually take much more than a distant view of the centre of subject. What stops me from traveling further inwards are fear or trauma, a supervisor would be fantastic. Someone to guide me where I need to be. You might feel the urge to argue that I should find my own way and if I am interested then why shy away from certain areas. I think the primary answer to that is because it is too hard to bear too much reality without a strong guide. Perhaps that is what Virgil was for Dante through their journey through Purgatory and Hell (of Dante’s Divine Comedy). Without my personal atheist poet I can only find the going tough and foggy.

Speaking of Dante, a prime example of Violence and Art. Not visual, not fine art, but literary Art.

And here is like I could never put it, a most wonderful example of WHAT has ART got to do with Violence?  

I also want to make a quick note of intention: Quoting from the following link I want to change the term and notion of racism for sexism


so here goes it somewhat bumpy to begin with:

It is instead a generalized exotica, an experience of vague sensuousness. But do racist acts require intentionality? And what are the implications of Renn’s deracialization of a practice that was so clearly racist to so many people? “Eating the Other” Renn’s understanding of this “transformation” is reflective of a broader cultural logic in the mainstream fashion industry that has historically viewed and engaged with racial difference as a depoliticized and dehistoricized aesthetic. Racial difference, evacuated of its history and politics, becomes a set of design elements and sartorial flourishes (a kente pattern here, a frog closure there, a Native headdress on the weekend – why not?) that are absent of meaning and context. Fashion’s depoliticization of ethnicity and race rely on and reproduce what Nirmal Puwar calls “the amnesia of celebration.”

Bodily transcendence through sartorial and cosmetic play is enacted by the consumption of otherness – a “courageous consumption,” in hooks’ words – because it is about “conquering the fear [of racial difference] and acknowledging power. It is by eating the Other,” hooks explains, “that one asserts power and privilege.”

But Renn wasn’t “even think[ing] about [race] on the shoot . . . it didn’t even cross [her] mind.”

Here, I want to return to my earlier question: do racist acts require intentionality? The obvious answer is no. A well-intentioned compliment about how well I speak English or a clumsy flirtation that begins with a deep bow like I’m the Dalai Lama (both have happened to me) are meant to be friendly gestures that close the gap of racial difference. (“Don’t worry – I’m culturally sensitive.”) Yet, these examples are clearly born of racist ideologies about what “real” Americans look like and what are “real” Asian cultural practices. Racism is so deeply entrenched and pervasive in many societies (the U.S. context is not exempt but neither is it exceptional) that everyday racism, the kind of racism that is experienced in civic life (through social relationships, media, interpersonal workplace dynamics, etc.) is often unintentional. On the other hand, what is always intentional is anti-racism. The struggle against racism resists the pervasive ideologies and practices that explicitly and invisibly structure our daily lives (albeit in very different ways that are stratified by race, gender, class, and sexuality).  Anti-racism requires intentionality because it’s an act of conscience. 

This kind of post-racial consumption of race in which the historical violence of racial difference makes no difference at all denies the ongoing reality of racism in the age of postracism. It is conditioned by the many privileges of whiteness (first and foremost among these privileges, a racially unmarked body).

[not for dissertation BUT careful with future projects: “It is precisely because white female bodies occupy the universal empty point which remains racially unmarked that they can play with the assigned particularity of ethnicized female bodies.”]

[It is about consuming Otherness, it’s about making racial difference commodifiable and palatable through whiteness, it’s about reproducing and securing white privilege. To quote hooks again, “eating the other” – hooks’ term for the consumption of difference – offers:]

Rich Benjamin:

“Americans love to reduce racial politics to feelings and etiquette. It’s the personal and dramatic aspects of race that obsess us, not the deeply rooted and currently active political inequalities. That’s our predicament: Racial debate, in public and private, is trapped in the sinkhole of therapeutics.” {from Searching For Whitopia, Rich Benjamin’s book about the recent waves of white flight from diverse cities and neighbourhoods into [segre]gated communities.}


“Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto”. “I am a human being and nothing human can be alien to me.”  

…. “global economy, in it for self”… “pleasure designed to take over your mind” … (2:03) Lauryn Hill

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