Link to What's New This Week Exprssing Terror through Art

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Shared Reading, Terror

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: July 14, 2004
Latest Update: November 1, 2005

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Index of Topics on Site Expressing Terror through Art: Valid?

  1. Introduction Why I chose to share this reading.
  2. Focus: Main point of this reading.
  3. Reading Full identification of source for reading AND excerpt.
  4. Concepts: Concepts and Key Words.
  5. Discussion Discussion questions.
  6. Conceptual Linking to Substantive Courses What this has to do with our class.

* * *


  • I chose to share this reading because the newspaper photo of the Botero image that so reminded me of Picasso's Guernica was lying on my desk. I think that's probably because my not-so-little gray cat knocked down the toy Cuban chicken, and with it the clipping from the New York Times. I had just set up Hypertext Poem 4: Restorative Practice, with some of the images of the New York Policemen who had died on Septemer 11 in the Twin Tower Explosion.In that frame of mind, I noticed the Botero, and realized how art serves equally well to express terror and beauty. jeanne


  • I would like you to come away from this reading with a sense of the complexity introduced by the interdependence of the artist and the infrastructure and social context in which he/she functions. Notice that each of these could be described as art, and that in each the acceptability of the art, as fine art, as souvenir, as an artist's impression detached from the contextual reality, includes groups of human bodies.

Concepts and Key Words:

  • the author
  • the text
  • the real - a different definition: the object or idea of our focus, without all the ramifications and connotations that have developed over time, like rules of art, or rules of rhetoric, or rules of fiction, or rules of theory. The "real" in this sense would be what's back at the root of it all.


  • Artists Against Torture on Kara Art. Art works online.

  • Hal Foster, The Return of the Real MIT Press, 1996. pp. 2-5
    "In 'What is an Author?', a text written in early 1969 in the heyday of such returns [to the real], Michel Foucault writes in passing of Marx and Freud as 'initiators of discursive practices,' and he asks why a return is made at particular moments to the originary texts fo Marxism and psychoanalysis, a return in the form of a rigorous reading. (Fn. omitted) The implications is that, if radical . . . the reading will not be anoter accretion of the discourse. On the contrary, it will cut through layers of paraphrase and pastiche that obscure its theoretical core and blunt its political edge." . . . more soon. jeanne

    Picasso's Guernica

    Botero, photo by Carlos Villalon for the New York Times
    Botero's painting of the terror of oppression.

    From the
    CBS News Site Photo

    From the CBS News Site
    CBS News Site

    Jeanne's revisioning of one of the images.

    Repainted digitally one of the "bodies piled up" thinking of the impressionist scenes of nudes bathing, so I added a waterfall, rocks, a forest. Can I paint the terror away? or is that denial and complicity?

    If you remove the terror, the beauty of the body remains. Now we deal with the conflicting emotions of what may be used as art. If the young man and the young women display entertainment and celebrity at the torture in photography, is that acceptable. If I paint away the terror, is that acceptable?

  • Humanist / Universalist Botero as Social Critic Because he is from Colombia, there is terror and oppression for him to have seen. Botero, like other great artists, paints it. Backup. Full site and paintings on Botero.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How did I remove the terror from the torture photograph?

    By removing the feet that indicated the kneeling position, which must have hurt. By removing the arm that showed the pressure under which that body was. By removing the hooded head on the body at the right. By removing all traces of the prison floor walls, etc, that added structural context to the scene. All were removed by abstract color.

    Does that effectively remove the terror if you have already seen the original photograph?

  2. Why?

    To the extent that the original viewing in context affected you, that will provide retroactive interference in your visualizing the work from a fresh perspective. To the extent that the author or artist understood the original context, would he/she want to produce from it a work of art? Is the dark side NOT-beauty? Is there a comforting message in the dark side if that message is the one given prominence? Closeness of terror and art - Christ on the Cross - that was no way a beautiful scene. But beautiful memories are drawn from it.

    Is turning one of the images into something beautiful, like bodies viewed abstractly on their own, more acceptable that photographing such a scene as a souvenir? What about Christ on the Cross? What about Andre Serrano's Piss Christ?

    Andres Serrano's Piss Christ
    Andres Serrano's Piss Christ

Conceptual Linking to Substantive Courses:

  • Agencies:
    Sample linking: Ways in which underlying assumptions of assimilation affect services offered and clients' ability to access and use those services. How does this reading illustrate the need for social agencies, for more generalized agencies, for what Bolman and Deal would call "leadership" AND "management"? How does this reading suggest ways in which we could be more effective in rendering help, and what is the reading's relationship to a "safety net" for those who need help?

  • Criminal Justice:
    Sample linking: Ways in which some groups are underrepresented in the unstated assumptions of our theories. How does this reading serve to illustrate adversarialism, mutuality, retribution, revenge, illocutionary understanding, the definition and operation of the criminal justice system?

  • Law:
    Sample linking: Extent to which laws are made on the assumption that we are all essentially assimilated to the dominant culture. How does this reading help us see the need for contextual readings in law? How does it relate to our natural instincts to seek some kind of natural law? What facts and principles does the reading offer for discourse that could clarify for Others validity claims presented by an Obscure Other?

  • Moot Court:
    Sample linking: Ways in which to make validty claims of harm understood by those who have never experienced many of the world's different perspectives. How can this reading enlighten our praxis in terms of different kinds of discourse, like instrumental, illocutionary, governance?

  • Women in Poverty:
    Sample linking: The culture of poverty and assimilation. How does the reading deal with our underlying assumptions about poverty, especially poverty of the exploited, the NOT- male? What does the reading suggest of the interrelationship between our society and its children, generally cared for by women, often poor?

  • Race, Gender, Class:
    Sample linking: The extent to which silence has been imposed by these affiliations so that domination and discrimination have entered our unstated assumptions in interpersonal relations and the structural context arising from them. What does the reading tell us about exploitation and alternative ways to deal with one another? What does it tell us about institutionalized -isms and our denial of complicity? What does it tell us about our common humanity?

  • Religion:
    Sample linking: The spiritual component. Humans are spiritual creatures, creatures that recognize moments that go beyond ourselves to God, Allah, Isis, Gaia, the Universe, or a deep sense of responsibility to create our own meanng. How does the reading fit into our ability, our need to create such meaning in life?

  • Love 1A:
    Sample linking: What's the aesthetic link in this reading? How does it bring us closer to one another as humans? What does it tell us about our need for love, unconditional love, not rewards for doing well or being well, but caring and acceptance for being who we are?

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, June 2004.
"Fair use" encouraged.