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Playing with history: negotiating subjectivity in contemporary lens based work

Garfield, R. ORCID: (2014) Playing with history: negotiating subjectivity in contemporary lens based work. In: Valman, N. and Roth, L. (eds.) The Routledge Handbook to Contemporary Jewish Cultures. Routledge, London. ISBN 9780415473781

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Contemporary artists exploring Jewish identity in the UK are caught between two exclusions, broadly speaking: an art community that that sees itself as ‘post –identity’ and a ‘black’ art scene that revolves around the organizations that emerged out of the Identity debates of the 1980s and 1990s, namely Iniva, Third Text, Autograph. These organizations and those debates, don’t usually include Jewish identity within their remit as Jewish artists are considered to be well represented in the British art scene and, in any case, white. Out of these assumptions, questions arise in relation to the position of Jews in Britain and what is at stake for an artist in exploring Jewish Identity in their work. There is considerable scholarship, relatively speaking on art and Jewish Identity in the US (such as Lisa Bloom; Norman Kleeblatt; Catherine Sousslouf), which inform the debates on visual culture and Jews. In this chapter, I will be drawing out some of the distinctions between the US and the UK debates within my analysis, building on my own writing over the last ten years as well as the work of Juliet Steyn, Jon Stratton and Griselda Pollock. In short, this chapter aims to explore the problematic of what Jewish Identity can offer the viewer as art; what place such art inhabits within a wider artistic context and how, if at all, it is received. There is a predominance of lens based work that explores Identity arising out of the provenance of feminist practices and the politics of documentary that will be important in the framing of the work. I do not aim to consider what constitutes a Jewish artist, that has been done elsewhere and is an inadequate and somewhat spurious conversation . I will also not be focusing on artists whose intention is to celebrate an unproblematised Jewishness (however that is constituted in any given work). Recent artworks and scholarship has in any case rendered the trumpeting of attachment to any singular identity anachronistic at best. I will focus on artists working in the UK who incorporate questions of Jewishness into a larger visual enquiry that build on Judith Butler’s notion of identity as process or performative as well as the more recent debates and artwork that consider the intersectionality of identifications that co-constitute provisional identities (Jones, Modood, Sara Ahmed, Braidotti/Nikki S Lee, Glenn Ligon). The case studies to think through these questions of identity, will be artworks by Susan Hiller, Doug Fishbone and Suzanne Triester. In thinking through works by these artists, I will also serve to contextualise them, situating them briefly within the history of the landmark exhibition in the UK, Rubies and Rebels and the work of Ruth Novaczek, Lily Markewitz, Oreet Ashery and myself.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Art > Fine Art
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Art > Art History
ID Code:31185

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