Recently Read: Beclouded Visions

September 4, 2008

Kyo MacLear’s main focus in Beclouded Visions: Hiroshima-Nagasaki and the Art of Witness is the intersection of art and collective memory in relation to traumatic events. Artwork that attempts to represent the atomic bombings raise questions including, “How are we implicated in our looking?” and “How can we create a living context for memories and meanings generated through art?”

The images included in Beclouded Visions are largely artistic representations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are depictions of the “mushroom cloud” as well as of the suffering of those affected by the bombings, the hibakusha. For MacLear, artwork provides a more productive way to deal with memory than does photography.

Arguments about image-saturation of past events and their relation to more recent collective traumas, including Bosnia and Rwanda, are raised early in his writing, setting the stage for a study in both historical responsibility and current practices of witnessing. He links imagination with the act of witnessing and posits that witnessing is an act that requires a constant gaze and vigilance. Witnessing trauma, both directly and through art, MacLear reminds us, is a participatory act.

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