Griselda Pollock  Lecture

17 July 2018
Fox Lecture Theatre, Arts Building, UWA
General Public, Faculty/Staff, Students, Alumni

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Book cover: Charlotte Salomon in the Theatre of Memory

The Nameless Artist in the Theatre of Memory: the challenges of writing on the artworking of Charlotte Salomon (1917-1943)

A public lecture by Griselda Pollock, Professor of Social and Critical Histories of Art and Director of the Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory and History (CentreCATH), University of Leeds.

It took Griselda Pollock sixteen years to complete the monograph on an artist whose single monumental art work -  Life? or Theatre? - comprising 784 paintings and 320 transparent overlays, using image, text and music was created in one year in 1941-42, before being placed in hiding in 1943. First exhibited in 1961, this work is still finding its place in the histories of modern art. Where can we situate a single work by an artist exiled from her own country and living under the threat of effacement from life itself? Why did she undertake this project? How has it been interpreted in ways that further exile it from being considered art historically? What resources are needed to makes its project and its work legible to us now?

Professor Pollock first encountered this work in 1994. Some elements of it were exhibited in Perth in 1997 as part of the benchmark feminist exhibition Inside the Visible curated by Catherine de Zegher. Why has writing this book taken so long?  What challenges had to be met theoretically and art historically before she could resolve, in however preliminary a fashion, the issues posed by a single work created in one year in the darkest of European fascism by an artist who was murdered by her own government at the age of twenty-six and who created an unprecedented artwork as grand in scope and as deep in psychological penentration as a Thomas Mann novel, as edgy and sardonic as a Brechtian operatta, and as affecting and sonorous as an opera by Gluck?

This lecture will explore the challenges posed to art history by the artworking of Charlotte Salomon and reflect on the ethics of writing on this work and on journey to its completion.

Committed to creating and extending an international- postcolonial- queer-feminist analysis of visual arts and cultural theory, Griselda Pollock has written on trauma and aesthetic transformation using Aby Warburg’s concept of the pathosformula for the study of art since 1945: After-affects /After-images: Trauma and Aesthetic Transformation (Manchester University Press, 2013) and Art in the Time-Space of Memory and Migration Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud and Bracha Ettinger (Freud Museum and Wild Pansy Press, 2013). Since 2007, she has been researching the political aesthetics of concentrationary memory using an Arendtian analysis of totalitarianism: Concentrationary Cinema (Berghan, 2011) Concentrationary Memories: Totalitarian Terror and Cultural Resistance (I B Tauris, 2013) and Concentrationary Imaginaries: Tracing Totalitarian Violence in Popular Culture (I B Tauris, 2015) and, forthcoming Concentrationary Art: Jean Cayrol, the Lazarean and the Everyday in Post-war Film, Literature, Music and the Visual Arts, (Berghahn, 2018), all edited with Max Silverman. She is currently writing on the cultural memory of feminism with specific reference to feminist interventions in art and art history: Is Feminism a Bad Memory?, (Verso, 2018) and writing a feminist Warburgian reading of the agency and image-making of Marilyn Monroe at the intersection of  art, cinema, photography, visual arts and cultural memory (Monroe’s Mov(i)e: Class, Gender and Nation in the work, image-making and agency of Marilyn Monroe). Just published is a monograph on, Leben? oder Theater? (1941-42) by Charlotte Salomon (1917-43): Charlotte Salomon in the Theatre of Memory (Yale University Press, 2018).