Project 1.

The ways that we remember the 800,000 of death – Rwandan Genocide in 1994 and the representation of it.
Here is my plan for my Blog experiment. Roughly speaking, my blog will be focusing on the ways this civilization re-presents its cultural trauma in forms of art. By saying forms of art, I specifically mean the media based forms of art such as photography, film or web art. I want to pay more critical attention to the visual rhetoric that those artistic forms employ in order to reveal or conceal the traumatic events or disaster.
Again, I am interested in the rhetorical nature that the representation of a certain disaster relies upon, and its allegorical or ironical aspects in which images start ramifying into various cultural contexts. The disaster that I chose for this project is the Rwanda Genocide that occurred about 15 years ago in a remote corner of Africa. Following is a brief outline of the disaster.

The disaster – The Rwanda Genocide was one of the most horrible human tragedies that took place in our own time. More than 800,000 people, including innocent children studying at refuge tents, were killed during 100 days of 1994, a year that the Rwandan civil war culminated in the assassination of Hutu president, Juvenal Habyarimana. The Hutu believed the assassination was done by their old enemy, the Tutsis, one of the two Rwandan ethnic groups that had long ruled the country under the sanction from Belgian colonialists. When the Hutu began the merciless revenge to clear out their enemy by simply killing them all, a death toll reached almost 1,000,000. Even though the genocide originated from the long history of Western Colonialism, most Western societies remained indifferent; UN thought the situation was “too risky to attempt to help.” The mass killing went on even after the 1994 massacre while some political efforts to bring peace into Rwanda had been initiating. It ended up leaving thousands of refugees who still get killed by mad militants somewhere in their refugee camps.

As Blanchot says, a disaster bears a certain awareness or fear in the milieu of “the end of culture.” (41) However, the fear, I assume, does not directly come from a historical event; rather it has something to do with a particular sensibility that would be imbued with the rhetoric of the event. In other words, we experience the end of our culture only in the rhetorical structure that has nothing to do with the actual presence of the event. But it is inevitable nature of human experience and knowledge that they always have to be mediated by language, which is disastrously destined to speak or write its own absence. Blanchot keeps articulating this ironical nature of language throughout his book, the Writing of the Disaster. “The impossibility of writing – a disaster of writing. (64)”
In this sense, media representations on a particular historical event may end up in disastrous rhetoric because it always conjures up the event only in the absence of the event; it re-presents rather than presenting or bringing up the actual presence of the event to us. It is the disastrous nature of representation. Like writing, visual art also employs a feeling of disaster in order to show not an event itself but a sensibility of our disastrous cultural crisis. For example, Andy Warhol had produced some great silk-screens on various car accidents and entitled it “the Saturday Disaster.” In the dizzy repetition on the horrible images of death bodies, he obsessively reveals perhaps the fact that our culture finally comes to an end; if those images are beautiful or aesthetically pleasurable, then there is no more beauty in our culture, as Susan Sontag says in her “Regarding the Pain of Others (2003)”
I chose the Rwanda Genocide not only because the disaster may reveal the signs of the end of Western culture which is deeply involved with Hegelian historicism and the violent nature of knowledge, but also because it seems to be re-presented, not by themselves but by others, as a form of desperate or more precisely disastrous absence. So many rhetorics have been made in order to attenuate the fear of the traumatic disaster; a movie, Hotel Rwanda, Bill Clinton’s political gesture to bring peace to Rwanda and so on. Triumph of Humanism, Kantian common sense judgment of what happened in the middle of the Genocide, heroism that saved only several people in the 800, 000 death tolls are the list of the disastrous rhetoric. Here, we should recall what Blanchot said about this; “There is a limit at which the practice of any art becomes an affront to affliction. Let us not forget this. (83)”
In my blog experiment, I will keep updating the category of these disastrous representation. And at the same time, I will try to experiment the possibility of the interactive criticism that would take place in my blog. At this moment, I am thinking of an artist who works on the Rwanda Genocide as an object of my web-criticism. The artist is Alfredo Jaar ( and find more information of him in my blog). Like Mallarme who left his notebook blank in order to express the perfect blankness of his poetic struggle, he leaves nothing except for the eyes, thousands of a girl’s eyes that are frightened by watching her imminent death, in order to express the fear, or the hideous absence of fear. I will keep updating how this new kind of criticism would be working on my blog.
My blog –


~ by cjc128 on January 27, 2009.

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