Seeing Witness: Visuality & The Ethics Of Testimony - Paperback

Seeing Witness: Visuality & The Ethics Of Testimony

Blocker, Jane

Unearthing the meaning of witnessing in contemporary art and politics

The act of bearing witness can reveal much, but what about the figure of the witness itself? As contemporary culture is increasingly dominated by surveillance, the witness—whether artist, historian, scientist, government official, or ordinary citizen—has become empowered in realms from art to politics.

In Seeing Witness, Jane Blocker challenges the implicit authority of witnessing through the examination of a series of contemporary artworks, all of which make the act of witnessing visible, open to inspection and critique. Considering such artists as Marina Abramović, James Luna, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Eduardo Kac, and Ann Hamilton, Blocker investigates the artists and spectators who look, the technologies they look with, and the forms of power and moral authority that permit their viewing.
Going beyond particular traumatic or sensational events, Blocker contemplates the politics of witnessing and argues that the witness represents a morally unique—and even problematic—position of privilege. Separating Seeing Witness from previous literature on the subject, she finds that the visual is inherent in witnessing and asserts that contemporary art is integral to questioning and understanding how witnessing is mobilized in culture today.