Tales of ash: phantom bodies as testimony in artistic representations of terrorism

Lavi, T 2007, Tales of ash: phantom bodies as testimony in artistic representations of terrorism, Masters by Research, Creative Media, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Tales of ash: phantom bodies as testimony in artistic representations of terrorism
Author(s) Lavi, T
Year 2007
Abstract This paper delves into the realms of tragedy, memory and representation. Drawing upon the phenomenon of the Phantom Limb and extending it towards a theory of Phantom Bodies, various artworks - literary, theatrical and visual - are examined. After the conflagration of the terrorist attack, how are these absences grieved over and remembered through artistic representation? The essay examines this question by positioning itself amongst the scarred landscapes of post-September 11 New York and suicide bombings in Israel (2000-2006). Furthermore, it investigates whether humanity can be restored in the aftermath of an event in which certain individuals have sought to eradicate it. The fragmentation of the affected body in these scenarios is understood as further complicating processes of grief and remembrance.

Artists who reject political polemic and engage with the dimensions of human loss are seen to have discovered means of referring to the absence caused by the act of terrorism. Three such recurring representations present themselves: ash and remnants, presence/absence and memory building. Phantom Bodies are perceived as simultaneously functioning as a reminder of the event itself, insisting upon the response of bearing witness, and as a symbol of the overwhelming power of humanity. Challenges arise when individuals or sections of the affected society deem these artworks to be inappropriate or explicit.

Works considered include: Neil LaBute's play The Mercy Seat, Sigalit Landau's art installation The Country, Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Spike Lee's 25th Hour, Daniel Libeskind's architectural plans for the World Trade Center site, Eric Fischl's sculpture 'Tumbling Woman', Honor Molloy's autodelete://beginning dump of physical memory and A.B.Yehoshua's A Woman in Jerusalem.

The accompanying play, Tales of Ash: A diptych for the theatre, is set in Melbourne, New York and Tel Aviv and deals with life in the face of and after terror. It veers between naturalism, poetic monologue and the epic. Tales of Ash contains two plays. The first centres on Mia, a young sculptor living in New York, who loses both her lover and her creativity on September 11. Upon returning to her home in Melbourne, she finds familial bonds still entwined with guilt and family trauma. The second play revolves around Ilana and Benny, two people living in Tel Aviv, who find themselves suddenly thrust together after a devastating bombing. As they attempt to resume rhythms of life, in the face of all the inherent ferocity of a modern existence in Israel, the struggle between The Ash Woman and The Ash Takers escalates.
Degree Masters by Research
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Creative Media
Keyword(s) September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001, in art
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Created: Thu, 17 Feb 2011, 11:26:17 EST
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