Trauma, bodies, and performance art: Towards an embodied ethics of seeing

  • Oliver S
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Abstract

The question of how to be an ethical witness to the suffering of distant others is one that has long been a preoccupation of trauma studies scholars. This paper addresses the problem of (un)ethical spectatorship of the traumatized body by engaging with the theory and practice of contemporary performance art. Rejecting the fantasy of the ideal moral witness, the author turns to models of embodied spectatorship suggested by performance-body art to propose ways of seeing that acknowledge and accept the necessary ambivalence of the distant spectatorship of suffering, while at the same time promoting a sense of ?response-ability? and self-reflection.
The question of how to be an ethical witness to the suffering of distant others is one that has long been a preoccupation of trauma studies scholars. This paper addresses the problem of (un)ethical spectatorship of the traumatized body by engaging with the theory and practice of contemporary performance art. Rejecting the fantasy of the ideal moral witness, the author turns to models of embodied spectatorship suggested by performance-body art to propose ways of seeing that acknowledge and accept the necessary ambivalence of the distant spectatorship of suffering, while at the same time promoting a sense of ?response-ability? and self-reflection.

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Authors

  • Sophie Anne Oliver

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