THE REPRESENTATION OF THE VIOLATED BODY AND ITS SPECTATORSHIP: THE NEGATIVE APPROACH (1970s to 2016)
PhD thesis URL in EThOS: https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.856458
This study explores the representation of the violated body and its spectatorship, focusing on the 'negative' approach in the period from the 1970's up to 2016. This thesis argues that any censorship either the state/military/media or self-inflicted ('forced' and emphasised absence) has a potential to provide important cause and vital stimulus to rethink and reformulate traditional assumptions about the photographs of the violated body and their function in society. The research and analysis of the case studies demonstrated that visibility is a complex and unstable system of permissions and prohibitions. That it is a shifting process, where some bodies are brought into the frame and others are left and kept outside, and/or brought back into the frame to make them socially and politically visible and significant. The findings demonstrated that photographic depictions of the violated body are regarded as important, relevant and necessary. It was repeatedly shown that their status as evidence - for instance for journalists/media, US army and government personnel, European officials, and artists, was essential. Nevertheless, it was also highlighted that worst things were not documented or their depiction and evidence was destroyed, or there were atrocities that could not be documented photographically. It was argued that Western democracies have developed stealth torture after the WW2, with an aim to avoid detection, therefore often there would be no visible sign to document and show as the evidence. Thus, the context of seeming abundance and importance attributed to the photographic image of violence, prompted me to focus on the 'negative' approach and explore artworks where the image of the vulnerable/violated body is withheld either by artists themselves or it has been censored by the state, military and the media. At the end of my thesis I consider issues raised by Paglen's (and Crawford's) research on machine vision and AI and Zuboff's research on surveillance capitalism that I find essential to the field of violence representation and particularly for the 'negative' approach. Their findings reveal tectonic changes to previous modes of thinking and action and indicate a need for a further study on the representation of the violated body and its spectatorship in the digital realm.