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Fathoming the Unfathomable: Gertrude Kearns and the Visual Representation of the Genocide in Rwanda

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Fathoming the Unfathomable: Gertrude Kearns and the Visual Representation of the Genocide in Rwanda

Oliveira, Claudia (2011) Fathoming the Unfathomable: Gertrude Kearns and the Visual Representation of the Genocide in Rwanda. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

The visual representation of genocide demands a response to many thought-provoking questions. For instance, how should one consider the use of mass murder as the subject for a work of art? How does one confront the ethical dilemma of aestheticism in artworks that depict human suffering? How can an artist avoid exploiting its human subject or sensationalizing genocide?

The following text aims to consider the ethics of visual representation of genocide and apply this theoretical framework in the consideration of a series of works, UNdone: Dallaire/Rwanda by artist Gertrude Kearns, which concerns the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Through her use of camouflage-patterned nylon canvas, Kearns has produced a powerful yet subdued depiction of the atrocities committed by the génocidaires. This text suggests that the artist has incorporated former Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire in her work in order to, in part bypass the challenges of secondary witnessing and encourage viewer identification and projection; a notion based on Marianne Hirsch’s theory of ‘Postmemory’. Drawing from various email exchanges, an extensive interview with the artist and research material (Holocaust and Rwanda-related), the following text will consider the UNdone: Dallaire/Rwanda series as a defiant example of contemporary art; one which serves as a testament to our common humanity and the horrors of our complicity.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Art History
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Oliveira, Claudia
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Art History
Date:14 September 2011
Thesis Supervisor(s):Mackenzie, Catherine
Keywords:Rwandan Genocide Gertrude Kearns Holocaust theory on visual representation Romeo Dallaire UNdone: Dallaire/Rwanda Portraiture Genocide Theodor Adorno Rwanda
ID Code:35840
Deposited By:CLAUDIA OLIVEIRA
Deposited On:17 Nov 2011 15:35
Last Modified:17 Nov 2011 15:35
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