A Pedagogy of Witnessing: Curatorial Practice and the by Roger I. Simon

By Roger I. Simon

Explores the curating of “difficult wisdom” in the course of the exhibition of lynching pictures in modern museums.

This remarkable comparative examine at the curating of “difficult wisdom” specializes in museum exhibitions that provided an analogous lynching photos. via a close description of the exhibitions and drawing on interviews with museum employees and customer reviews, Roger I. Simon explores the affective demanding situations to idea that lie in the back of the various curatorial frameworks and the way audience’ reviews at the exhibitions practice a selected dialog approximately race in the United States. He then extends the dialogue to incorporate contrasting exhibitions of images of atrocities devoted by means of the German military at the japanese entrance in the course of international battle II, in addition to to images taken on the Khmer Rouge S-21 torture and killing middle. With an insightful mixing of theoretical and qualitative research, Simon proposes new conceptualizations for a modern public pedagogy devoted to bearing witness to the records of racism.

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Additional info for A Pedagogy of Witnessing: Curatorial Practice and the Pursuit of Social Justice (SUNY series, Transforming Subjects: Psychoanalysis, Culture, and Studies in Education)

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55 PEDAGOGY AND CURATION Given this combination of faith and doubt regarding the promise of photography to ameliorate the violence that it documents, it is no surprise that there is an extensive commentary on practices that attempt to mobilize this promise. This is a commentary that continues to struggle with the question of what might reasonably be the hope of or for the photographic display of suffering and death. The stakes in the photographic representation of suffering are high, not only because the issues in the world beyond the image are as large as life and death, but also because of the consequential and difficult choices involved in the determination of the mise-en-scène in which such images make their 28 A PEDAGOGY OF WITNESSING appearance.

Yet, in the context of exhibitions of human suffering, Bal is concerned with precisely the opposite possibility, that the multiplication of images (and the danger of their thematic overdetermination by always-present contextualizing discourses) actually reduces the possibility of any such photographic language adequate to its subject. What is at issue in the tension between the differing positions of Burtynsky and Bal is the question of how an exhibition might offer traces of a singular life, subject to violence and pain, while also making apparent something of the particularity of any given image.

Given the underlying aim of exhibitions of lynching photographs, if witnessing simply devolves to the act of refusing to turn away, of looking straight-on at events that are difficult to face, what constitutes an act of witness might remain relatively impoverished. This certainly would be the case if an exhibition of lynching images was to be grasped as a “sad past,” but one that has no currency in the present. Most significantly, Willis argues that a moral discourse for apprehending the past must be accompanied by an ethical political discourse capable of bridging past and present without reducing one to the other.

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