• Landscape, war trauma, explosion: re-membering the moment before

Wachsmann, Shira, 2024, Thesis, Landscape, war trauma, explosion: re-membering the moment before PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This practice-led PhD focuses on the role of the trauma of war. It argues that trauma circulates, takes shapes and forms, manifesting itself as a landscape which is both dynamic and emergent. War trauma can be seen, felt and expressed as a particular set of scars shaped by memory, fear, identity and politics. A re-positioning and materialising of these scars through a practice of corresponding moving image not only reveals how their intensity operates in discourse but also sheds light on the mechanisms of power that help shape knowledge, identity and meaning.

The practice is composed of three ‘moving-image-correspondences’, each with its own protagonist: the cactus (sabra), the human, and the tank; all of these are haunted by explosion in some way or another. The research shows how the effect of trauma requires a different approach to linear time: of moving through different times, territories, and traumas that materialise in the moment of correspondence, whereby the past is projected into the future and comes back to create the present. This temporal redistribution establishes the role of correspondence as linkage, a feedback loop which perpetuates the feeling of fear of the moment before (the explosion). This moment before is understood as a collective trauma, responsible for the interwoven socio-political structures that allow for different shapes of trauma to emerge and circulate. Thus, the creation of repetition and patterning forms the ways in which a site/reality is both established and conceived.

The notion of correspondence is developed both as material method and theory in its broader sense: not only in words, but as video collages. These collages embody the collective materialisation of seemingly disparate elements, through a process of rubbing matter, images, rhythm, colours, sounds and theory against each other, trying to understand their ability to create emergence, to re-member, re-materialise, re-reproduce and circulate. This research therefore allows for a plurality of narratives to exist at any given moment – an affectual zone where memory, silence and trauma are embodied, preserved and circulated as landscape. The battle is always over the narrative that constantly reshapes the landscape and its history. The sabra (cactus), used to demarcate the borders of Palestinian villages, is transformed into a living testament of lives lived there before 1948. The war of 1948 and its aftermath marked a dramatic change in the social and cultural role of the cactus, appropriated by Israel as a symbol of its people and ultimately leading to the popularisation of the term ‘Tzabar’ (sabra) to refer to an Israeli-born Jew. In 2005, the term morphed once again, and also began to refer to a tank, continuing its transformation from a border marker/symbol of defence to an attacker and occupier. This thesis therefore thinks of the sabra/tzabar as an event that unfolds in multiple directions, taking on different shapes, narratives, histories and time periods. Importantly, the circulation that emerges as landscape (the landscape's ability to shape-shift) also allows for undecidability as a crucial part of the equation of the moment before, through which curiosity, hope and change can also emerge.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
School or Centre: School of Arts & Humanities
Funders: ELES
Uncontrolled Keywords: war trauma; correspondence; landscape; Israel-Palestine-Germany; temporal circulation; encounter; network; mycelium
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2024 09:17
Last Modified: 30 Apr 2024 09:17
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/5828
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