Art as Evidence: Artistic Representation, Memory, and Curation in Post-Conflict Societies
This paper focuses on the work of several artist-witnesses from post-conflict societies in order to develop a theory and methodology about artistic representations in the aftermath of violence in a comparative analysis. The principal theoretical argument underlying this study is that art, as a form of communication that witnesses and recounts, may help us understand historical narratives of experience in “limit events,” a phrase that refers to extreme societal violence. By expanding the historian’s and social scientist’s scope of inquiry to include artistic representations as a form of “truth‐telling” in the aftermath of violence, this paper presents an innovative analytical model for the study of memory, truth, and violence, and tries to address some of the silences left in the wake of more official forms of inquiry, such as truth commissions and trials, and more “traditional” methodologies, such as textual analysis and oral history. Thus, this paper calls for an expansion of the archive to include other repositories of memory and history (LaCapra, 1998; Milton, 2014; Stern, 2004; Taylor, 2003). Furthermore, this paper questions how art may witness and represent human rights violations, crimes against humanity, and genocide, and how this art may contribute to the curation of difficult pasts in exhibitions and regional museums (Lehrer, Milton, and Patterson, 2011), and the implicit goals of such spaces as fostering democratic values, human rights, and national reconciliation. By choosing to focus on artistic/visual memory, with an eye to comparisons from other world regions, I hope to illuminate the ways in which art can recount the past, and indeed how venues of art can have an impact upon memory discourses in the public sphere, that is, the ongoing memory battles that take place within the cultural domain.