Issues of Visual Representation in Genocide and the Holocaust

Dr. Stephen Feinstein,
Dionne Haroutunian,
Gagik Aroutiunian,
Marty J. Kalb,
Robert G. Barsamian
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Representation of political themes that may be highly didactic are always a subject of debate within the artistic community. At the same time, the lack of direction of some aspects of modern and evn post-modern art has raised the question of the necessity of artists to confront some of the more violent issues societies of the past and present, including war and genocide. There are many precedents for this engagement: European artists responded significantly to World War I battlefield conditions and a critique of the political world, followed by satiric art about the rise of Fascism, use of art and artists by authoritarian regimes especially in Communist societies. A special intensity of representation has developed as a response to the Holocaust (destruction of European Jews) and other genocides, especially art by 2nd and 3rd generation Armenians and both survivors of the Rwandan genocide and independent artists. The session will focus on issues in this discourse and representations by academics and studio artists.

Keywords: Art in Response to 20th Century Genocidal Violence
Stream: Art and Human Rights
Presentation Type: Plenary Presentation in English
Paper: A Double Absence

Dr. Stephen Feinstein

Director, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Stephen Feinstein is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where he taught from 1969-1999 and is now Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota. Feinstein has been teaching the History of the Holocaust since 1975. He was curator of the traveling art exhibition, “Witness and Legacy: Contemporary Art About the Holocaust,” at the Minnesota Museum of American Art, which toured in 17 American museums from 1995-2002. In 1999, he was curator of a 7,000 square foot exhibition at the University of Minnesota's Nash Gallery, "Absence/Presence: The Artistic Memory of the Holocaust and Genocide. Feinstein is the co-editor with Karen Schierman and Marcie Littell (eds) Confronting the Holocaust: A Mandate for the 21st Century-Proceedings of the 27th Annual (1996) Scholars' Conference on the German Churches and the Holocaust. (1998, University Press of America) and author many articles about post-Holocaust art. His latest publication is Absence/Presence: Critical Essays on the Artistic Memory of the Holocaust. (Syracuse University Press) 2005 and is also in the process of writing a monograph Spaces with Ghosts: Installation Art About the Holocaust. Feinstein also serves as guest curator for the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg.

Dionne Haroutunian

Art Center Director, and Independent Artist, Printmaking, Sev Shoon Arts Center

Gagik Aroutiunian

Artist and Assistant Professor of Sculpture, Department of Art and Art History, DePaul University
Chicago, USA

Major solo exhibitions: New York, Washington DC, Orlando, Cincinnati, Toronto, Rome. Participant in many group shows in the US and Europe, Aroutiunian's work includes performances, mixed media video installations, sculptures and paintings. His work deals with memory, transience and their implications on the individual and society.

Marty J. Kalb

Artist and Professor of Art, Ohio Wesleyan

Marty J. Kalb is the Frank L. & Eva L. Packard Professor of Fine Arts at Ohio Wesleyan University where he has taught since 1967. Kalb's paintings and drawings have been exhibited extensively and are included in major museums through out the United States and in Europe. Notable are the collections of: the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Cleveland Museum, the Columbus Museum of Art, the Detroit Inst. of Art, the Klutznick National Jewish Museum, Washington D.C., the Library of Congress, Wash. D.C., the Museum of Tolerance, LA Cal. Yale University Art Gallery, the Skirball Museum in LA. CA. Spertus Museum in Chicago, Illinois the Florida Holocaust Museum St.Petersburg FL.and the Joods Museum van Deportatie en Verzet Mechlen Belgium. Kalb has presented lectures about his artwork at numerous art museums and educational institutions and been a panelist, and presenter at international and nation conferences.

Robert G. Barsamian


Robert Barsamian is a Dallas based artist of Armenian descent, who during
the 1980s decided to work through the questions of the Armenian genocide
through art. The process has been time-consuming and obsessive, but also
rewarding. Barsamian, like many 2nd and 3rd generation Armenian-Americans,
deals with a past, as in the Holocaust, was hidden by the victim
generation. It was only in the 1960s and 1970s that Armenians began to
speak openly about the massacres of 1915-1922, now referred to my most
academics and some governments as a "Genocide." Raphael Lemkin, the
Polish-Jewish emigre who coined the word "genocide" became interested in
the subject because of the stories he heard from his mother and
grandmother, in his native Poland in the early 1970s, about the
destruction of the Armenians.

Ref: A06P0359