Sontag Chap. 2- Reading Response

In chapter two of Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag explores the history of photojournalism specifically war photography. Photography was used to show the trench warfare on the Western Front and in WWI but The Spanish Civil War was some of the first moments of war captured by photojournalists in the field. Sontag of course discusses Robert Capa’s Fallen Soldier, one of the most famous and well-known photographs of war. She cites the shocking nature of this photograph, capturing the moment of a soldier being shot, as it’s reason for standing out in history.

In this chapter Sontag also discusses a photo exhibition that happened in New York after 9/11. Entries were open to anyone who had a photograph that they felt connected to the 9/11 attacks, creating an exhibition of amateur photographs that could be next to the work of a famous photographer but all were priced the same.

Photojournalism became such a primary source of reporting because images were able to create a lasting impression in people’s minds that text didn’t. It was perceived at first that a camera could capture a completely unbiased moment of truth but Sontag makes the argument that because there is someone behind the camera, photographs still have a strong point of view.


Necessary Violence: The Rectification of Goya by the Chapman Brothers

For me, the opening paragraph of this article was powerful right from the statement that states that being “Caught between categories, the grotesque momentarily robs of us of language, of any kind of agency that we would assert against the unspoken paradoxes and hypocrisies of culture”, specifically referencing horror and humor.

I find this incredibly relevant as a coping mechanism as well as a way to make people pay attention to real world issues. The amount of issues that then communicated in a joking matter is incredible, especially in our world of memes and other forms of social media gags.

The article covers the Chapman Brothers, who manipulated Goya’s prints on war. The article shares “The brothers’ “rectification” of the 82 prints, aptly named Insult to Injury, made its first appearance in a 2003 show called The Rape of Creativity at the Modern Art Oxford (Jones). It drew widespread criticism for “vandalizing” and “defacing” an Old Master’s work while simultaneously garnering praise for bringing to light the true horrors of war. These “enfants terribles of the art world,” continued to be labeled as either adolescent narcissists or the champions of humanism.”


Jake and Dinos Chapman: how we made Hell-Kate Abbott-Schuyler DeMarinis-Reading #7

The project Hell created by Jake and Dinos Chapman plays off of many aspects of the grotesque. They look at the grotesque, as something needed to appreciate what we have. It is there for us to be able to laugh at as well as be disgusted by. It is about everything bad about being human. There is freedom when you use the grotesque in your work. Hell is a fascinating experimentation of this.



   In another interview with the brothers, you learn that they work off of Goya’s work. I remember we spoke about Goya using the grotesque at the beginning of this class. I thought of him using the elements of the carnivalesque, the combination of man and animal, a mutation of sorts. There are elements of the carnivalesque in much of the Chapman Brothers work. The Unameable is an excellent example of this mutated human form.


The Unameable

Watch the video below!

Maya Lin

Maya Lin’s Design for the Vietnam War Memorial originated from a class she took while attending Yale University. As she says, she designed it for her, or what she believed the design should be. The design derived out of a class she was taking on funeral architecture, which focused on how people through buildings express their attitudes towards death. After studying other monuments, Lin realized most memorials resemble larger, more generalized messages about the nation or particular leaders victory and accomplishments rather than a tribute to those who lost/gave their lives.

She felt memorials should be honest to the realities of war, loss of life and remembering all who served. Interestingly enough, she chose not to do any background research on the war, because she felt the politics surrounding it had completely “eclipsed the veterans, their service and their lives.” A memorial at Yale University left a impact on her, based on a quietness and reverence that surrounded the names described on the memorials. In the actual design process, Lin describes that she had a simple impulse to “cut into the earth.” She describes how she imagined “taking a knife and cutting into the earth, opening it up, and instal violence and pain that in time would heal. The grass would grow back, but the initial cut would remain a pure late surface in the earth with a polished, mirrored surface, much like the surface on a geode when you cut it and polish an edge.” The need for names on the memorial would literally become the entire memorial, and there would be no need to continue to push the design, and the simplicity of their names on their wall would itself be the entire memorial that is cut into the Earth.


Memorial. (Accessed April 29, 2017)


Shot that nearly killed me: John D McHugh


This picture is the last picture that John D McHugh was able to take before he had been shot while photographing the battle.  He had been embedded with the US soldiers in Nuristan for several weeks when they had gone to help a fellow unit of soldiers who had been ambushed.  He recalls seeing bodies on the road with people who were already dead, while there were also people writhing in pain.  All of the sudden the Taliban started shooting from the mountains and he quickly jumped behind a rock panicking.

As soon as the shots kept firing, they all retreated behind a Humvee where bullets were swarming from everywhere, and at this point he had already acknowledged the chances of him getting shot.  He recalled the bullets flying through the air sounding like a swarm of bees.  Eventually a bullet went through his ribs and out of his lower back.  He explained the entry wound was the size of a penny, and the exit bigger than the palm of his hand, while he was convinced he was about to end up dying on the battlefield while trying to photograph the war.  He kept thinking the worst, like, “what if i don’t die, and i’m paralysed for the rest of my life?” It had been 25 minutes before anyone could get to him, and as he was being picked up he reached to grab the camera he had fallen on the ground.  The medic joked to him about his injury, saying “hell I can see right through you,” he then at this point knew he would recover.  “I love my job but getting shot made me think about life beyond work.  I proposed to my girlfriend two months later, and we had a baby last year.”  This near death encounter help shape Johns photographic and family career.

The shot that nearly killed me. (Accessed April 28, 2017)

Richard Cork A Bitter Truth: Avant-Garde Art and the Great War

In Richard Cork’s A Bitter Truth he seeks to compile all the artworks and artists who responded to the Great War. He begins this book with his introduction explaining how often these works about war had been backdrops for writings about the war, but never been fully examined on their own. Studies of these artworks were previously grouped by country, show or commissions, but never allowed to be in conversation with each other on the same plane. Cork discusses the initial motivations for creating art in response to the Great War, and states that the unprecedented amount of loss and destruction was enough to cause anyone to need to respond. This response happened to fall into the hands of a generation of incredible artists.

In the prewar years the avant-garde movements were producing work with a quickening pace and under the principal of extreme renewal. This attitude was diminished as many of these artists were enlisted into battle. However many artists on the battlefield were resourceful and created charcoal etchings, or used war materials to continue to produce work. As for artists working from home, they were confronted with how to represent the grimness of the battlefield. Samuel Hynes pointed out that “to represent the war in the traditional ways was necessarily to misrepresent it, to give it meaning, dignity, order, greatness.. But there was as yet no other way to represent it.” Cork goes on to argue that “advanced modernist abstraction was an inadequate starting point for developing a viable approach to the conflict.” In the case of Mondrian he made the choice to not address the war within his work, and instead to crate scenes that were purist in nature. Picasso began to bring the war into his cubist paintings in discrete ways, because there was also a heightening tension between the avant-garde and the desire to renew connections to the past. Because avant-garde art was gaining traction at the same time the modern destruction of war was terrorizing Europe, there was an International desire for a nostalgic return to the past.

Cork’s analysis of the influences, approaches, and circumstances that influenced artists working during the Great War show just how difficult it was to create art that could encapsulate that feeling. The same issue was found in writing, and shows how the expression of such a traumatic war was not easily done. In my opinion I found Cork’s discussion of Dix’s work to be the most successful reaction to the Great War, because his fusion of modern and traditional expose the brutality of war in a way that is far more successful than most artists of this period.