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  • A witness's gesture

Lass, Julian, 2020, Thesis, A witness's gesture PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

At least since Aristotle, Western culture has been dominated by a certain figure of the witness, the subject who sees and knows. The witness of seeing and knowing reckons only with what is useful and productive, deals only with what can be apprehended as matter of fact. This study seeks to challenge the dominance of this figure, if the modern witness is indeed to be understood in terms of a subject that presumes to know what it sees and hears.

In order to uncover new interpretations of the witness in the present, I turn to the past to investigate figures of the witness found in ancient Greece in Homer’s Iliad, in classical Athens in the speeches of the Attic orators, in the plays of Aristophanes, in the writings of Plato and Aristotle, and, if this alternative witness can be thought of poetically, in more recent examples of poets, writers and artists. In all these figures I find possibilities to rethink the dominant formulation of the witness constituted in the historical process of modernity. This alternative witness suggests a way of wandering or erring, a kind of ‘unknowing’ that occurs when one does not confine oneself to the merely actual and apparent, without reference to facts, perhaps without reference even to meaning, but remains open to possibilities, gives thought to what is hidden and unseen, to what is inapparent. Its gesture begins with close reading, with writing, with photographing, which waken one at the threshold of a mysterious dream.

The research is developed through writing, through photography, which seek to invoke this gesture, seek to call into being movement toward action rather than identification with the actual, matters of facts of one’s life, one’s identities, activities, successes and failures, but where life and form of life are neither separate nor coincident, and the recognition that between them lies both a mystery and a way of keeping them in touch.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art
Creative Arts and Design > W600 Cinematics and Photography > W640 Photography
Creative Arts and Design > W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
Date Deposited: 30 Jul 2020 11:43
Last Modified: 30 Jul 2020 11:43
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/4456
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