Ethics and Images of Pain
Edited by Asbjørn Grønstad, Henrik Gustafsson
Routledge – 2012 – 238 pages
Few phenomena are as formative of our experience of the visual world as displays of suffering. But what does it mean to have an ethical experience of disturbing or traumatizing images? What kind of ethical proposition does an image of pain mobilize? How may the spectator learn from and make use of the painful image as a source of ethical reflection? Engaging with a wide range of visual media--from painting, theatre, and sculpture, to photography, film, and video--this interdisciplinary collection of essays by leading and emerging scholars of visual culture offers a reappraisal of the increasingly complex relationship between images of pain and the ethics of viewing. Ethics and Images of Pain reconsiders the persistent and ever pertinent nexus of aesthetics and ethics, the role of painful images as generators of unpredictable forms of affect, the moral transformation of spectatorship, the ambivalence of the witness and the representation of afflication as a fundamental form of our shared scopic experience. The instructive and illuminating essays in the collection introduce a phenomenological context in which to make sense of our current ecology of excruciating images, one that accentuates notions of responsibility, empathy, and imagination. Contributors trace the images of pain across a miscellany of case studies, and amongst the topics addressed are: the work of artists as disparate as Doris Salcedo, Anselm Kiefer and Bendik Riis; photographs from Abu Ghraib and Rwanda; Hollywood war films and animated documentaries; performances of self-immolations and incidents of police brutality captured on mobile phones.
Introduction I. From Voyeurism to Visual Politics 1. Do Not Look at Y[O]our Own Peril: Voyeurism as Ethical Necessity, or To See as a Child Again Mark Ledbetter 2. Associates in Crime and Guilt Frank Möller 3. Painful Photographs: From the Ethics of Spectatorship to Visual Politics Mark Reinhardt II. Looking In, Looking Away 4. The Violence of the Documentary Image: Errol Morris's Standard Operating Procedure Stefano Odorico 5. Visual Irruptions, Mediated Suffering, and the Robert Dziekanski Tragedy: An Inquiry into the Efficacy of the Image Tara H. Milbrandt 6. Tuning Out, Turning In, and Walking Off: The Film Spectator in Pain Mattias Frey III. Performances 7. Imaging Pain Mieke Bal 8. The Unsettling Moment: On Mathilde ter Heijne's Suicide Trilogy Oyvind Vagnes 9. Gulag Follies Jody McAuliffe V. Mimetic and Mnemonic Frames 10. Imag(in)ing Painful Pasts: Mimetic and Poetic Style in War Films Holger Pötszch 11. The Sanctified Fallen: The War Film as Witness Tonje H. Sørensen 12. Medical Horror: Visual Documents From the History of Lobotomy Jon-Ove Steihaug
Asbjørn Grønstad is a film scholar and professor of visual culture at the University of Bergen, and director of the Nomadikon Center at the department of Information Science and Media Studies.
Henrik Gustafsson is a film scholar and post-doc fellow with the Nomadikon Research Group at the University of Bergen.