Jill Bennett’s Empathic Vision analyses contemporary visual art produced in the context of conflict and trauma from a range of countries, including Colombia, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and Australia. It focuses on what makes visual language unique, arguing that the “affective” quality of art contributes to a new understanding of the experience of trauma and loss. By extending the concept of empathy, it also demonstrates how we might, through art, make connections with people in different parts of the world whose experiences differ from our own.
The book makes a distinct contribution to trauma studies, which has tended to concentrate on literary forms of expression. It also offers a sophisticated theoretical analysis of the operations of art, drawing on philosophers such as Gilles Deleuze, but setting this within a postcolonial framework. Empathic Vision will appeal to anyone interested in the role of culture in post-September 11 global politics.
A/Prof Jill Bennett is Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts, UNSW, and Director of the Centre for Contemporary Art & Politics.
What others have said about Empathic Vision:
“This is an insightful, timely book. Innovative, courageous and unashamedly attempting to push the analysis of culture onto ‘new ground’… It is indeed, as the back-cover proclaims, ‘written at the highest level’… Bennett makes a powerful case for her central thesis that visual arts practice is generative rather than representative… Thought-provoking and at times startling, Empathic Vision opens up new ideas that stay with you long after you have closed its covers.”
Alex Rotas, Leonardo Digital Reviews (UK)
“Bennett extends trauma studies into new territory and imbues visual cultural analysis with meaty aesthetics. Refusing to shrink from the challenges that a politics of affect confronts, Bennett boldly proposes empathic vision as a criterion for aesthetic judgement… Hers is a politics of possibility, and in this respect, her book is itself in important ways also a creative project, with all the intellectual provocation, aesthetic compulsion, and open-ended experiment that this implies. Bennett has a wonderful talent for articulating, with clarity, erudition and subtle moral feeling, what particular artworks do for her, and by extension, for us. She introduces her readers to an astonishing variety of illuminating viewpoints onto the ways trauma inhabits contemporary art.”
Helen McDonald, Art Journal (College Art Association, US).