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Maximalism as a Cosmopolitan strategy in the art of Ruth Novaczek and Doug Fishbone

Garfield, R. S. ORCID: (2016) Maximalism as a Cosmopolitan strategy in the art of Ruth Novaczek and Doug Fishbone. European Review of History, 23 (5-6). pp. 961-977. ISSN 1350-7486

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/13507486.2016.1203880


Ruth Novaczek and Doug Fishbone: Cosmpolitanism, Jewishness and Art This paper looks at the work of the experimental film-maker Ruth Novaczek and the artist Doug Fishbone to think through the relationship between the cosmopolitan imagination, Jewishness and the visual arts. I suggest through my analysis of their art work that both artists proffer a cosmopolitan subject that arises out of their Jewish subjectivity. I will do this in different ways, discussing the art- works both in their various forms as well as the subject matter within the films. I will think through two recent publications on the cosmopolitan and art by Marsha Merskimmon and Nikos Papastergiadis to discuss what is at stake in the cosmopolitan in relation to the two artist case studies. Central to my argument is a maximalist tendency that goes against the usual current paradigmatic trend of the “long look” that was first articulated by the influential André Bazin as more real than the dialectical editing techniques argued (and performed) by Sergei Eisenstein. But neither am I arguing for a return to Eisenstein. Maximalism, as offered by the work of these artists signifies an excessive overloading that allows the viewer to insert themselves into the narrative of the work through the editing, the collage, and in the density of the range of the material. Finally, I will be bringing the formal discussion into dialogue with the explicit meaning developed by the art-work. Each of these artists proffer an unstable subject that is profoundly formed out of their Jewish and Diasporic subjectivity. This arises not just out of the formal structural scaffolding of the work but in terms of the subject matter within the work. They both explicitly use Jewish cultural references as a normative navigational tools in the work and as a way of forming their cultural worlds. These references range from dialogues of Jewish characters in cinema, to Jewish jokes and use of Yiddish or Hebrew. Importantly Jewish religion or ritual is absent. For both of these artists the Holocaust is a backdrop but not as way to valorize a victim status but as a way to reach out to a wider humanity and to understand its legacies. This is done through multi-positionality and the questioning of what a ‘home’ might be outside of an attachment to a nation state or a singular geographic location and embracing that estrangement. In sum, I will argue that the work offers a reiterative provisionality as a refusal to judge or to know the world; instead there is an attempt to incorporate its complexities and range into the vision of the work, challenging the viewer to identify what is at stake in the work and in the subject.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Art > Fine Art
ID Code:66101
Uncontrolled Keywords:Maximalism, Lens based Art, Experimental Film, Jewish Identity, Cosmopolitanism,
Additional Information:Special guest edition of the journal, edited by Cathy Gelbin of Manchester University and Distinguished Professor Sander Gilman of Emory College of Arts and Sciences.
Publisher:Taylor and Francis


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