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Laub, D. Podell, D. (1995). Art And Trauma. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 76:991-1005.

(1995). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 76:991-1005

Art And Trauma

Dori Laub and Daniel Podell

The authors of this paper attempt to show that ‘the art of trauma’, because of its indirect, unaestheticised and dialogic nature, may be the only possible medium for effective representations of trauma. The real witnessing presence created in the art of trauma can act as an antidote to the annihilation of the internal ‘other’ that occurs in the traumatic experience and to the resulting absence, which both constitutes the core of trauma and precludes its representation. Important elements of the art of trauma are illustrated using the work of Paul Celan, Anselm Kiefer, Claude Lanzmann, Art Spiegelman, and Anne-Marie Levine and texts by Aharon Appelfeld. Examining more closely what Holocaust survivors say in their testimonies, the authors contend that survival itself should be considered as a type of art of trauma when it is made possible by a creative comprehension of reality analogous to that which characterises more conventional forms of the art of trauma. The authors proceed to explore both the possible limits to the extent that trauma may be represented and the continuous struggle involved in attempting to ‘know’ trauma. They also discuss how art dealing with trauma may circumscribe a double locus: one of witnessing as well as one of emptiness or execution.

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