Without Insight: Survivor Art and the Possibility of Redemption

Jane Kilby

in Violence and the Cultural Politics of Trauma

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780748618163
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653041 | DOI:
Without Insight: Survivor Art and the Possibility of Redemption

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This chapter aims to push for a less redemptive reading of incest survivor art, exploring the relationship of art, trauma and viewing subjectivity based on readings of incest survivor art. The author positions herself between the romanticism of someone such as Alice Miller, for whom trauma always gives birth to creativity, and the cynicism of certain post-structuralist writers for whom popular trauma art is symptomatic of a morally simplistic discourse on violence and victimisation, as well as a simplistic view of representation as realist. In particular, she advances a critique of their turn to conceptually based art, which in one way or another requires a logic of inspiration. Key then to the chapter is the idea that a politics of viewing incest art might look for a subject not inspired by what they see. Indeed, it presses for a logic of how little we get in return when viewing trauma art, how precious little we get to see. The chapter argues that we must counsel our desires to expect less: truth is not the picture of reality we expect, and in the end we have learn to be poorer and not richer for ‘knowing’ when contemplating the translation of pain into paint.

Keywords: redemptive reading; incest survivor art; trauma; viewing subjectivity

Chapter.  11000 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cultural Studies

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