Rebecka Thor

Beyond the Witness: The Speaking Image

In the aftermath of Shoah, countless testimonies have been collected, recorded in visual media and formulated through literary accounts. Thus, many historians have perceived testimony as the primary form of remembrance of Shoah. The important role of the witness could stem from practical circumstances such as the outspoken attempt by the Nazis to destroy all evidence or from the Jewish command to remember, which is at the core of the religious law. Regardless, one cannot think of commemorations of Shoah without taking the witness into account. Scholars have of course written extensively on in these topics in regards to literary tropes, visual art and as a means of historicizing. The advent of the “era of the testimony”, as Annette Wieviorka formulated it, was during the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem 1961. Wieviorka, amongst many others, have argued for the key role the witnesses played during the trial, since it was the first instance for survivors to give their testimonies. Of a hundred witnesses, ninety were survivors from the camps; Eichmann’s trial can be understood as the beginning of the testimonial narration of Shoah. Since then such diverse institutions as Yad Vashem in Israel, the American Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive, films like Lanzmann’s Shoah and almost every museum dedicated to Shoah, have relied on collections of oral history as the major mean to communicate the events. The trial functioned as a setting for such construction of a narrative of Shoah based on survivors’ testimonies, and it can be read as a part of the formation of Israeli identity and collective memory, since Shoah hardly was discussed in Israel before the trial. Yad Vashem, Shoah Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, was established in 1953 by an act of the Israeli Parliament, and its first exhibit opened in the administration building in 1958. However, a permanent exhibit was not established until 1965 in a museum building. The early sixties was an important period for the Israeli state in positioning itself as having the agency to determine how Shoah should be judged and remembered. The Israeli Prime minister at the time, David Ben Gurion, even stated after the trial that he wanted it to achieve three things: to inform the world’s opinion about Shoah, to educate the unknowing Israeli youth, and to gain support for the Israeli nation state. Whether or not this was achieved remains to be investigated; however it illuminates the close connection between the commemoration of Shoah and the building of the Israeli nation state. However, my focus is not the “era of the witness”, I will rather try to trace and understand the shift from it to more disruptive narrative forms. In the context of my research the speaking object would be the image itself – how it is managed, what it includes and excludes and how words (spoken and written) are posed against the language of the image. I have chosen four specific video works because I see them as proposing such shift and an alternative way to understand the role of the witness, both in terms of the image production and as a source of truth in relation to the historical event. In order to discuss questions of witnessing and commemoration in relation to Shoah and the contemporary conflict in Israel/Palestine I will, probably, divide the text into two and each section contains two subsections dedicated to a work each. The first section The Archival Image will investigate the role of archival footage in the two accounts, to discuss how they address the question from opposite angles. In the first film, The Specialist by Eyal Sivan, the role of the witness is heavily questioned when he returns to the filmed material from the Eichmann trial and creates a two hour long film with almost no witness testimonies included. By doing so he breaks with the conventional narrative of the trial and creates a counter story where the perpetrator is in focus. This shift foremost takes place in the narrative structure and its political implications. In the second film, Respite by Harun Farocki, the focus lies on the image and it is the witnessing aspects of images that are called into question. The film is made up by archival footage from the Westerbork transit camp and the images that were once meant as internal Nazi propaganda tells a different for a contemporary viewer of Farocki’s montage since he questions the truth value of the image as such. The second section, which would be something like, 6 mar 2013. buy zyban online without a prescription ————- no script zyban without a presciption canadian perscriptions zyban zyban xr  The Re-enacted Image addresses the unstable position of the witness and asks if any witness is a reliable source. The two works, in this section, both disrupts what a witness can be and who can be a witness of what. In the first work, Speilberg’s List, Omer Fast stages a situation where testimonies are presented about seemingly real atrocities and a story unfolds, not about the Shoah as the viewer might expect, but of the filming of the Schindler’s List. Fast plays with the presuppositions of the audience and their knowledge of the established narration of Shoah, were one might recognize the accounts given but senses that there is something faulty in terms of age and setting. The second work, Z32 by Avi Mograbi, transports the discussion to contemporary times and the witness account is here concerned with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The film depicts a young ex-soldier giving a testimony to his girlfriend of an attack on the occupied territories; the oral testimony is paralleled with a re-enactment of the event and intersected with songs performed by the artist commenting on the event. The face of the protagonist (and his girlfriend) is digitally blurred; the narrator seems to be no one, or anyone, and this might call for a reevaluation the very role of the witness. By being one, no one and anyone simultaneously his account becomes both invalid, in the sense of one witness as no witness, and generally true, since he embodies the role of any young Israeli after their obligatory military service. In Representing Reality, film scholar Bill Nichols creates the notion of “intellectual montage” and argues that it can constitute the visual representation of the world and I believe this might be a fruitful way to look at the works. Nichols states: “since there is no fictional world to be intruded upon, intellectual montage in documentary emphasizes the overt or constructed quality of an argument, based on representations from the historical world, rather than the constructed quality of an imaginary world. ” Nichols acknowledges that the structure itself is a crucial part of constructing an argument, and even if none of the films are documentary in a classical sense they all have in common that they display their constructed nature – be it by editing archival material, juxtaposing images or by digital alterations. By accounting both for the singularity and commonality of the works I hope to be able to research the aesthetic sensibilities at stake and a politics of representations.



For lack of a better term, I will use the term Shoah instead of the Holocaust, a choice based on Giorgo Agamben’s discussion of the term; he finds it insufficient by its bound to a Biblical punishment. He has a similar dismissal of the historic Christian anti-Semitic use of the Holocaust. His choice seems to be to use neither, to call places by their names and avoid overarching concepts. However, for me such concept is necessary and thus I prefer Shoah. Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: the Witness and the Archive, p. 28-31

Hausner, Gideon. Justice in Jerusalem, London New York, Schocken Books 1968, p. 452-453

Yad Vashem, website

Sadakat, Kadri, The Trial: Four Thousand Years of Courtroom Drama, New York, Random House 2006 , p. 239

Wieviorka, Annette, The Era of the Witness, where to buy phenergan 100/50 buy phenergan online Cornell University Press 2006 (Originally published as L’ére du témoin, PLON 1998)

Nichols, Bill, what is (valacyclovir)? (valacyclovir) is an antiviral drug. it slows the growth and spread of the herpes virus so that the body can. Unlike the other tools in this www.phonetrackingapps.com/whatsapp-spy-software/ article, handbrake by its own definition is not a dvd ripping software solution. Representing Reality, Indianapolis, Indiana University Press 1991, p. 131-133

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