Is the representation of violence also violent?

Is the representation of violence also violent?

The French poet Eugene Guillevic, whose ‘Charnel House’ (1947) is one of the first, and finest, poetic responses to the Shoah (Jewish, meaning Holocaust), once wrote,

“Yes, even horror can be lived out in poetry. This is not to say that poetry weakens or diminishes horror – what it perhaps means is that poetry translates horror to that level where, lived out through poetry, it is no longer degrading.”

How does one be unflinchingly neutral in the face of unprecedented violence? How do we look at a photograph or a video of violence and conflict without identifying a victim or a perpetrator? Without either condemning or condoning, without judgment or a feeling of aligning ourselves to either side? Do our placement within our respective cultures affect our perspective and understanding of an image of violence? Is such a culture specific reading desirable or does it further cultural alienation? Do images of violence emphasize the tragedy of loss or do they inflame feelings of hatred and vengeance? Can we measure our understanding of conflict and violence through the lens of moral righteousness; based on the validity of the cause as we understand it?

Is any of it real?

IS/NOT: Sculpture for the Post-Truth Era

Aalto University Learning Centre, Helsinki

'Is the representation of violence also violent?', sandcasted aluminium, 2017