Fractured Narratives

“Imagine the simultaneous viewing / of multiple time…” Amar Kanwar

“…A desire to push through incomprehension and an irreplaceable will to make sense of fragments. . .” William Kentridge

“There can be a deliberate scrambling, or at least a heaping of many messages. Sometimes the messages are conflicting, and other times the language and the messages will be blunt and to the point. I routinely invite the reader to sort through the offerings and complete the thoughts, and to echo, amplify, or shrink from the feelings the work elicits. I tie the language to the visuals as an assist, and as a take-away gift.” Jenny Holzer

Think about how at least two of the works exhibited as “Fractured Narratives” to reflect on the following:

  • Narrative (a story told by a narrator or conveyed by a narrative point of view, alternative to polemical or didactic approach)
    • What are the stories of these works of art?
  • Fracturing / fragmentation
    • How do they break down narrative structure? What other forms of fracturing are on display?
  • What meaning can you make from these works? How does the interplay of narrative and fracturing affect your experience of the pieces?

Make some observations/reflections/contextualizations in your post, then transform them into a discussion question to end your post with and to bring with you to class on Wednesday.

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43 thoughts on “Fractured Narratives

  1. I personally felt that by fracturing and interweaving the narratives of Brik’s life and Lazarus and Olga’s lives I was able to draw connections between the two more easily. It was like I was having someone whispering in my ear to remind me that there was more than one story at play. I think we began the book with a seemingly senseless piece of violence, and we ended the book the same way but with a different person. Here I was able to draw some sort of comparison between the two acts of violence. I was also able to draw comparisons between those who were grieving for the dead. In the end we are left with the understanding that violence happens, death happens, grief happens, and everyone experiences it in one way or another. I think as far as world literature is concerned I would like to talk about how the themes of relationships, grief, and violence are translated across different cultures. We have more than one reference in this book alone.

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  2. The fractured narratives in this novel include Brik’s life and the story of not Lazarus, but the story of how Lazarus’ death affected Olga. After Lazarus passed away, Olga felt as if she were a walking corpse. She felt hopeless and did not seem to care much about anything anymore. Along the same lines, Brik comes to the realization that all life ends in death. He figures this out during his travels. However, I feel as if this realization was emphasized to him when his companion, Rora, passed away. By the end of this novel, Brik becomes a walking corpse just as Olga did. Overall, I believe that the theme of death is what brought these two stories together to create a fractured narrative.

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  3. By fractioning the story the author is able to tell two stories at one time my interweaving them. As we read we could easily connect a person from each story to someone from the other story. I feel like a theme in this book is simply “history repeats its self”. Even thought the stories didn’t quite end how i wanted them too, i feel like each story had an ending and we really aren’t left with to many questions. Olga starts to feel like a walking corpse and after burying her brother chooses life over death, and Brik has to essintialy make the same decision. Does he go back to America and die or stay here and live? Discussion question- Does Brik make the right choice?

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  4. There are several fractured narratives in many characters’ storylines throughout the novel. Brik and Mary’s relationship unravels as a fractured narrative as the reader slowly begins to understand the depth/absence of depth of their relationship over many years. Different aspects of Rora’s life are given away in bits and pieces throughout the novel, and the reader must put them together into a coherent timeline while separating truth from fantastical stories. Lazarus and Olga’s past is revealed bit by bit as we see just who these characters are and gain respect for them. The whole entire structure of the novel I would actually say is a fractured narrative, as we constantly jump back and forth between Brik’s point of view and Lazarus’ story. I think that the question of whether or not the structure of the layout of chapters helped in furthering the main points of the novel to its readers would be an interesting discussion for class.

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  5. I really enjoyed the aspect of The Lazarus Project that was a fractured narrative. I thought it was different to see the story during the time of and after Lazarus’ death and when Brik was retelling it. I think it breaks down the narrative structure because we get to see two different narratives but how they connect and are about the same thing. I think this changed how I read the story because while we were reading about how things were happening after Lazarus was killed we were also reading about how Brik was trying to put all of the pieces together so many years later. It was such an interesting perspective and this story really was easy to keep my attention and I think it is because of the fractured narrative aspect. I was kind of disappointed at the ending because I hate not knowing what happens to the characters (even though that happens in pretty much every book). I just felt that this could almost be a repeat thing happening for Brik at the end of the story. Will he now write about trying to figure out Rora’s life and his murder like he did with Lazarus? Will Brik now be killed? Will he stay with his wife or will he be with Azra?

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  6. The Lazarus Project was enjoyable as a fractured narrative. What I believe gave the work more meaning is the mirroring of two different narratives simultaneously as, especially int his story, it best brings out character emotions and literary themes that the reader may not catch with one story alone. The themes that were already realized in the Lazarus arch, such a racism, justice, and loss, weren’t fully realized in Brik’s narrative arch. However, we were able to follow him on this journey to how these feelings and narrative themes came to be in Lazarus story. This idea also brings to the importance of timing in this story. We jump into Brik’s narrative arch before his journey to Russia, however we tune into Lazarus’ story after his death and instead jump back and forth in parts of Lazarus’s life.

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  7. The pieces of art that struck me most were the ones centered around the understated violence that we are constantly exposed to. However, the one that stood out to me most was one of the first photographs we were shown. In it, two generations of African American women and men were placed in the same building, mirroring each other. The picture symbolized the lives that the children could have lived, who were killed during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Through these fractured narratives, the photographer was able to capture four stories at once, weaving them together through images. In a similar stance, fractured narratives aided Hemon in his construction of The Lazarus Project, in that he was able to tell Brik’s story, while consecutively giving insight to Lazarus’s past. The images I saw today helped me to better understand the motive writers and photographers have behind capturing symbolism within their pieces.

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    1. (Revised Post/Addendum) An additional piece of art that spoke to me yesterday was the one that demonstrated the censorship that the government is placing on printed materials such as textbooks and novels. The simplicity of the piece spoke volumes because of the message it carried. My discussion question is as follows: What do the photographs that were staged/re-created (Vietnam War/California Desert Picture) have to say about the truthiness behind photography as a whole? (Real-time vs. staged photography)?

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      1. In class, your question was the one that really stood out to me. I went back and looked at the two pieces of art that showed the war zones. I think the recreating of such pictures and ideas presents a sense of history for those who know nothing about what has happened and what is happening over the seas. I don’t think the recreating of the pictures does anything with the “truthiness” of the situations. I feel like the artist is paying tribute to those who have, or still are, fighting in these wars, along with the ones who have lost their lives. The pictures are the stories of those who gave up everything to fight for our country. We may not understand why someone who recreates a picture like those you talked about, but other’s do. It’s personal to some. It’s confusing to others. But, nonetheless, those pictures tell a story we all need to hear.

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      2. At first glance one would have believed that these pictures were actual photos taken from the time period, but upon further analysis and understanding of the photographs, we gain more of a sense of closeness. The fact that these pictures were re-created makes it known that issues such as these were real and not just products of a simple photograph. The staged re-creation also makes the point that issues such as these are still very real in today’s society, and that past issues and/or conflicts such as these should not be forgotten simply because they happened in the past, or before our time.

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    2. I really enjoy your comment about how we are constantly exposed to violence, but we don’t always focus on how understated it is. By using the two children paired with adults, I believe the photographer spoke volumes about how hidden and public violence can be. Today, we are faced with war constantly on the news, while issues with racial difference are sometimes ignored. However, we have seen more racial differences on the news recently, which I think makes this piece both very relevant and very powerful. Another aspect of the piece I found extremely powerful, which I hadn’t yet thought about, was the thought of how many people we pass today on the street and in stores who experienced this violence when it was most prevalent. How many people do we hold open doors for or do we speak to in, perhaps, church settings who have these memories and these losses? We do not always realize what people have gone through so I think it is important, as we discussed in class, to not only face people and situations at surface level.

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    3. I really agree with your thoughts on the pieces of art referring to the understated violence we are constantly exposed to. I think that this happens way more often than people realize, way more often than even I realize. I think the pictures of the children and then the older individuals really speaks to this, as you said. I also think that this relates to discussing the Lazarus project and how random acts of violence killed him and he could have had a bright future but we will never know. I really enjoy literature or art relating to the Civil Rights Movements and this particular piece I think can leave a lot of room for interpretation while understanding the real meaning.

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  8. The first piece of art that I really appreciated was “The Birmingham Project”. I remember reading a book when I was in middle school about the church bombings, and this project was able to bring back that entire story for me. The images were small glimpses with a deeper connotation. This project broke down narrative structure by showing two gender and time period view points side by side. It was like looking at four lenses, or four outcomes, all at once.The piece itself was not all that interesting to look at, but when you consider the fractured narrative that it represents it brought beauty to the composition. Without the fractured narrative this piece would have much less of a meaning, but with it we can imagine the last fifty years through the eyes of each person. The second piece that I really enjoyed was the piece with the censored CIA document. In this piece we are only getting a small part of the content, but we are aware that we are missing out on something. Had the piece just been “water-boarding” without all of the black censor boxes, it wouldn’t have meant the same thing. We needed to see that there were parts that we could not see in order to bring the meaning of the piece to the surface. I wouldn’t say this fractured narrative broke down any structure, but in a way it created a narrative because not showing us everything may say more than showing us everything.

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    1. I also thought that the Birmingham piece was especially powerful when taking into account all of the history behind the artwork. I agree that it felt as though we were looking through four different lenses, and when pairing the photographed faces to the terrible incidences in Birmingham, I found their expressions to be much more meaningful as I thought about what they might be thinking in those moments. I also appreciated the artist’s idea to take the photograph in the museum on a Monday, as African Americans used to only be allowed in museums on Mondays. When reading your post, I thought of a connection between the two pieces you wrote about, thinking about how the government might have censored many things during the uproar in Birmingham. By making this connection, I think I better understood the intensity of both these pieces.

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  9. The piece of art that stood out the most to me was the Birmingham Project pictures. When I first saw the pictures of the old man/little boy and the old woman/little girl, I thought it had something to do with generation gaps. I was surprised to hear that these two simple pictures had so much meaning behind them. This picture is meant to show the lives that these African American children could of had if they had not been murdered during the Civil Rights movement. They could have grown old and lived fulfilling lives. The pictures themselves were so simple, but giving them that shocking story is what made them so powerful and heavy. These two pictures showed me that a person can look at a piece of art, but understand nothing about it if they do not know the story behind it. I believe that that’s what fractured narratives are.

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    1. While the tour guide took a slightly different stance on what the pictures meant, I totally agree with your interpretation of the Birmingham project pictures. When I first saw them I thought it portrayed a Grandparents and a grandchild pair. Once the guide told us the name of the piece I felt that there were not related but it was meant to represent that young people grow up and have lives. It made me think that the children in the church would have grown up to be the elderly person in the photographs if they had lived. Thus the Ferguson comparison was not as relevant. I believe this piece was about potential life and not racism. I would like to see this piece become a memorial instead of a critique on our past. Either way it was a very heavy piece that I will remember for a long time.

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  10. A lot of the art pieces tries to convey message the story telling and depicting world issues. The video we watched at the beginning of the tour talked about oil raping country. The picture of the younger and older African Americans was portraying racism issues. The girls picture was talking about how on Sept 16,1963 4 African American girls were killed in bombing at church. I fell the photograph was trying to convey the life the young girls could have lived, the picture was actually taken at a Birmingham church that was very active in the race rally’s. I have never thought about conceptual art till I experienced this, I never knew art could show a message with great meaning. The photograph that recreates war could be trying to convey the point to remember are wrong doings or try to stop the Glorification of violence. I found this to be interesting, how do we not realize how much violence we let slip by that our children take in.
    The painting I found to be most memorable was the painting by Jenny Holzer painting called Water-boarding. Everything was blacked out but a few words and it really makes you think about things that are hidden from our society and how gets to decide what information we truly need to know or what information is valuable.

    What is truly valuable? How do you know what to value? What information is important to access?

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  11. The first piece of art that I found the most interesting was the River of Thames in England by Maya Lin. I found it interesting because it tells the story of industrialization in England, along with the storytelling of pollution in the river, as well as all other rivers. I also like the idea of the art piece being silver, making the River of Thames pure and clear. Not only that, but I love England, and want to move there some day, making the art piece even more beautiful.
    The second piece of art that I found interesting is the dictionary one by William Kentridge. I found it interesting because, not only did the words just off the pages, it told a story inside of a story. The man walking throughout the video is the artist himself. The idea behind it is the contrast of black and white in Africa a long time ago. Flipped photography is used for the man walking and the people waving the flag things. Not only that, but the tree can be a symbol for freedom.

    Discussion question: Two different countries are mentioned for these two different art pieces. Why should we care about what happens in other countries?

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  12. “It is not exactly humor that interests me, but playfulness. Perhaps… in comic books or cartoons, you can be distracted and miss the political implications of what you are reading, seeing, or interacting with in a work. But the political implications are there, between the lines.” — Rivane Neuenschwander, from ‘Fractured Narratives’

    During a second trip to the museum to investigate William Kentridge’s piece from the ‘Second-Hand Writing’ collection, I came across the above quote in a book laying on the bench in front of the exhibit. Given the opportunity to contemplate that passage whilst the loop of Kentridge’s piece was playing, I pondered my first interpretations of many of the pieces that our guide had shown us. Prior to learning of the historical and cultural context surrounding the pieces, my interpretation was that the pieces argued from a philosophical standpoint, in an attempt to demonstrate immoral actions, or questionable ethics. The image with a white circle and a red outline for example, I interpreted as a statement on general censorship. However, after examining it with the relevant cultural context, I learned a much deeper and more significant thesis which the composition was arguing.

    My first question is, how does the lens of “World Literature” intensify the meaning and depth of fractured narratives?

    Being attracted to the beauty and complexity of Kentridge’s composition, I chose to spend much of my time in contemplation of this piece during my second visit. Focusing on the questions of duality and paradox present in the piece, I wondered from that basis, how the piece would have changed in meaning if the beautiful music (The name of the composer, unfortunately, I am unable to recall) had been removed–how would this removal affect the fractured narrative? Would it fracture it further, removing it further from its historical statement on apartheid in South Africa? The music at a quick sample contains tones of melancholy, laced with continual failures and revelations. I guess my question here, regarding the nature and composition of fractured narratives is, do less fragments in a piece create a less successful fractured narrative?

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  13. The two exhibits I’d like to mention have a similar theme. First, the photo with the huge white dot in the middle. The message this sends is that there is information that is not worth knowing. We are only getting the part of the story that the artists or media is wanting us to see. Second, there was a photo next to the chalkboard paint squares. In this photo, there was a woman sitting in a chair, peeling potatoes. The only thing was, the woman and her clothing had been photoshopped out. Only her hands and the potato peeler was left in front of the black figure. The kitchen behind her was modest and bare and her figure suggested she was wearing a frumpy dress and a head covering. Again, we do not see the entire picture or know her entire story. The artist might have been trying to convey that the woman’s story was not told or did not matter. Whatever the meaning, it is still clear that we do not have the full story. This gives rise to an interesting question that has been a part of the political landscape since the beginning. Should we always know the full story? What knowledge is gained when information is withheld?

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    1. I went back to the exhibit and looked at the picture of the woman who was peeling potatoes because I did not see it the first time I was at the museum. I too found both this piece and the other piece you mentioned to be intriguing and a bit puzzling. Your question asks should we always know the full story, and I think the best answer I can give is no. In the cases of these two photos, it is more beneficial for the viewer to not know the whole story. The creators of these two pieces did not want the whole story to be shared, because a more important point is made when there are things hidden. The knowledge of interpretation and additional thought is gained when information is withheld. Instead of simply seeing a story, the viewer of each of these pictures has to think and analyze in a thoughtful way. By hiding certain aspects of the images, the creators are leaving the meaning of the photos to the viewers. When I looked at these pictures, especially the one involving the woman, I was able to imagine what I thought she looked like and who I thought she was. Had I been able to see her, my imagination would have been limited.

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  14. and to add my discussion question: In what ways does censorship or missing pieces add to a narrative? Are there instances where it is beneficial to a narrative to be missing pieces?

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  15. One piece I particularly enjoyed was the Comic Strip piece (I can’t remember whom it was by), but it really stuck out to me because of what the tour guide pointed out about it. “The piece is constantly changing.” Just like the lives you and I all live around us, the piece of art was constantly changing, constantly moving forward. When she ushered us to write something, I was hesitant at first (that’s the introvert in me), but then I prompted myself forward when she said, “Tell us your story.” Well, my story can be stated simply, but goes much deeper than just words. I wrote “Music Means More,” because music has been the one thing in my life that has not once let me down, and has even saved my life on numerous occasions.
    Another piece I found very interesting was the piece that had the big white oval in the middle of it. At first, I thought this could’ve been a representation of how we constantly take and take from the world and never seem to give back; but the tour guide revealed that behind the big white oval was an extremely violent occurence that had happened in Mexico. This totally changed my perspective on the piece and had me pondering on how much violence is actually out there in the world. It also had me revisiting the fact that I never really watch the “news” because it all seems to be fueled and loaded with violence, discrimination, and hate…not that all news is like that, but it feels as if about 85% of it thrives off of displaying and laying out all of the violence and hate in the world. I feel as if, with time and deliberation, we as a generation can slowly begin to weed out the violence and hate; but we have to stand up and try. That is what the piece reflected to me.
    That being said, I am on to my discussion question:

    “Why is it, do you believe, that media puts such a heavy emphasis on the violence of the world?”

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  16. I really enjoyed touring the David Owsley Museum during class. That is a place on campus I have never visited and probably never would have if it was not for this. The first piece I really enjoyed was the censorship painting. I think this left a really strong message in that so much of fractured narratives are left out and even taken away and we are left to deal with and understand what is available to us. It was such a simple piece of art but created such a powerful message. Another piece I was intrigued by was the pictures in the last room we were in with the children under the table and war in the background. The picture next to that one featured a destroyed room with a woman spraying it with Febreeze and that picture really stood out to me. It showed us that people try to cover up war and the bad things with something else, but we still see the bad underneath it all. I have a lot of thoughts about fractured narratives after visiting this exhibit. A discussion question would be why did what we have read in The Lazarus Project get included and what could have possibly been left out for what reasons? Why does the public try to ignore or hide some of our serious problems? (going along with the pictures I previously mentioned)

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    1. I was trying to decide which of these two works of art were my favorite, so I’m glad you chose them both also. I am always very intrigued by documents that are blacked out and I would have never thought of something like that to be an art piece. It wasn’t beautiful, it wasn’t bright and fun, it was simply the truth. I didn’t look closely at the fabreez painting but I did notice it and thought something similar as you about covering up war. I thought the piece with the children was so powerful. Having a 4 year old daughter of my own, I know how kids are not supposed to see things and yet still pick up on them. It is very easy for my daughter to know if I’m upset or had a bad day even if I don’t say anything because children are very good at perception and pick up on things, even if you try to keep them from those bad things.

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  17. The pieces of art that struck me the most were the Birmingham project, the blocked out violence in Mexico, and the water-boarding piece. The Birmingham Project struck me because for a second I just thought it was comparing generations, but as the guide told us more about the background of the stories and where the pictures were taken I realized that I only had a shallow understanding of the story behind the work. The same goes for the Mexico piece. I know there is a lot of violence in Mexico, but it wasn’t until the guide told me the artist was Mexican that I understood what the blotted out part was for. I understood the water boarding piece right away because of what I have seen on the news. I thought that this fitted the idea of ‘fractured narratives’ because I only understood a small part of what the art was trying to convey. How does culture have an impact on art?

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    1. A comparison in our understanding of these pieces also revealed some intriguing insights about myself; I too had no troubles identifying what was being communicated in the Water-boarding piece, because of how familiar I am with the topic (thanks, Vice News). The Birmingham piece, however, I had more difficulty discerning a structural, more solid message. At first, I thought that it was merely some statement on aging in relation to a general civil rights movement: ‘how the times have changed’ sort of statement. After learning the context of the piece, not only did I feel remorseful for my uneducated prior thoughts. But I also had a better understanding of what ‘fractured narratives’ means in relation to ‘weltiliteratur’. It is a method of communication that can be understood by different backgrounds–a tool used to communicate important elements of cultural backgrounds and experiences cross-continentally and cross-culturally; the use of imagery to convey meaning does not have the same restrictions as language does.

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  18. I really enjoyed the opportunity to visit the museum as it was a nice change of pace from our normal routine in the classroom. One of the pieces that spoke to me the most would be the photographs of the African American young girl and boy paired with the would-be fifty year old images of themselves. When I first saw the piece, I simply thought it was a testament to aging or progression of time, however, the backstory to the piece was much more powerful. The fact that the photos were a representation of both the murder of a young boy as well as the church bombings that killed four girls in 1963 made me understand and appreciate the artist. I also though it was great that the artist researched the fact that African Americans were not allowed in museums except for on Mondays, so the photos in the museum were taken that day as well. Another piece I found particularly intriguing was the Listening Bench made from the wood of organs. I wish that the audio had worked at the time that we had visited, but I thought that the presenter explained the general concept pretty well. I loved the fact that many people had the chance to share their stories with others through this piece of artwork, and it was so unique that it stood out to me.
    How does one’s cultural background either help or hinder their ability to express the violence in history through art?

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  19. Two pieces of artwork stood out to me in particular at the exhibit we saw. The first piece was the Burmingham Project photos. This narrative only gave us one source of information, and that was sight. With this piece, we could visibly see four different people and decide on our own who they were. The photographer had a certain story in mind, but it was up to the viewer to either find that story or interpret his own. The second piece, my favorite one, was the video that we unfortunately did not get to see in full created by William Kentridge. It was the video with the flip book photography. I appreciated this piece because, like the Burmingham Project, it was somewhat left up to interpretation. However, one difference is that the video offered us multiple sources of information. Much like The Lazarus Project, Kentridge’s video gave us words, photos, and memories. In addition, we also heard beautiful music by Neo Muyanga as well. Our tour guide told us that Kentridge was the main character in his own video, and he lived the childhood of the son of apartheid lawyers. I did not pick up on this story strictly from the video, which poses and interesting question. The Burmingham Project only offered one story telling tool and was therefore difficult to interpret in the correct ways, but The Lazarus Project and William Kentridge’s video exhibited many of the same story telling tools, yet one seemed to be much simpler to understand than the other. Why do you think that is?

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    1. I was also very taken with William Kentridge’s piece. I understand the similarities that they have (words, pictures, memories, etc.) I think the reason why Kentridge’s piece was more difficult to understand than The Lazarus Project was because of the different ways to interact with the medium. For Kentridge’s piece, we watched the flip-book change, and we had to understand it through the quick changes and page flips. Whereas through The Lazarus Project the information we needed to understand was presented to us, and if we felt lost we could just turn back a page and reread what we have already read. We can watch Kentridge’s piece over and over again and still feel lost until we look up the artist’s background to understand why he made this piece of art.It reminded me of Janmohammad and how with written word we can go back and review. Even though we can still go back and review Kentridge’s peice, it was more like an oral performance, (people dancing/moving to music). Also, the art was more personal to Kentridge because of his background and experience with South Africa.

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  20. I was struck by the comic book squares on the wall that we were asked to write in. Though I really believe that the reason that seemed so intense to me is because the tour guide asked us to write our life in a sentence. On the spot. In front of everyone. That seemed like quite a big, scary task for such a nonchalant request on her part. Maybe that’s because one sentence is not enough to get our stories across. No matter what the sentence is, it will only be a fraction of our whole story.

    The work of art that really struck a chord with me was the pictures representing Birmingham, Alabama victims and who they could have grown to be. These simple, two-panel scenes create an impactful narrative about the loss of life and the horrible tragedy that the children’s deaths were. By cutting out the middle years-a full fifty years-the viewer is left filling in 50 years worth of a person’s life. This is very powerful as the viewer imagines all of the events and potential one human life can have. By fracturing these pieces of art, the viewer really has to become a part of the story. Without the viewer’s own additions to the artwork, the narrative would remain fractured and incomplete. This necessity of viewer participation and inclusion makes an individualized experience for each viewer possible. This means each person can make his or her own meaning out of these works. What you take from a piece of art may vary slightly or greatly from what I take from it.

    Considering the artist’s meaning behind the Birmingham, Alabama photos as well as the tour guide’s interpretation (having to do with Ferguson and police brutality), what do you believe is the most important story being conveyed by the photos and why?

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    1. Katie I really enjoyed your comments in class so I wanted to continue this conversation. I think the interpretation of the tour guide, intentions of the artist, and our own personal interpretations are all probably very different. For instance, the artwork was entitled “The Birmingham Project”, so I am correct to assume that it is has some relation to Birmingham and likely to the racism and horrible attacks in Birmingham. I am not sure if the interpretation from the tour guide that the photos are meant to represent being denied access to the museum or that they are to show the lives that could have been. I know that when I looked at the photos and listened to her interpretation I thought myself that these were happy photos. I saw these as a representation of the things black people can do now that they couldn’t do in Birmingham in the past. I especially do not think that these images had anything to do with Ferguson and police brutality, I don’t buy into that negative reading and honestly I think it was a little simple to be comparing the two just because the people are black, violence against black people has been around for hundreds of years, in that interpretation I could see all of said violence at once in these images (and that is certainly a possibility). I didn’t see anything in the description from the artist that had to do with Ferguson and police brutality. However, I do see how a fractured narrative could allow for someone to make those comparisons based on their personal experience of the black narrative. In the end, everyone will bring in their own interpretations because this style of art and narrative allows for that. Nothing is blatant and nothing is prescribed. I have actually heard that sometimes writers and artists say things through their work that they didn’t even think of themselves. The artist can be wrong about their interpretation because that is how art works! We bring meaning to art from our own knowledge and that is the beauty of it.

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      1. Kate, I agree. I may have liked having a tour guide more if she had simply chosen to give historical background to the pieces or biographical information about the artists instead of pushing her own opinions and interpretations onto the pieces. I think that the experiences and ideas that each individual brings to their interpretations of each work of art is important. Isn’t that a big part of fractured narratives, that each person is invited to participate and fill in the story with what he or she knows? The tour guide seemed to ruin the point of the fractured narratives for me. She was filling in the stories with her own interpretations, telling us what each photo means. However, I think that the pieces wouldn’t be in the fractured narrative exhibit if they only have one straightforward interpretation or story. At the end of the day, what matters most is what each individual takes from a piece of art, and that should not be tainted by someone telling you what the piece ‘means’.

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    2. I think the most important aspect of most art is to evoke some sort of feeling. The artist may complete that work with a set feeling in motion, but what the viewer brings to that may be completely different than the intent. I think in this case, it was a piece I really enjoyed before and after knowing the authorial meaning behind it, knowing the background made it even more impactful. I mean, our story of discovery on this piece about Birmingham is incredible. We see these two sets of pictures: a youthful image mirrored exactly next to an adult image. The two people could be the same, and that’s the point. We see a person’s journey through age and how incredible that journey can be or look. Then the guide filled in the missing piece for us. This was supposed to represent a life that could have been; a life cut short. This takes the initial narrative of a full life and flips the viewer on their head. We imagine a full set of life experiences when we see someone age from young to old. But in this case, we imagine a whole set of missed opportunities cut short by death. The feeling goes from warm to cold in the way that the narrative is expressed. I think comparing it to Ferguson was a mistake by the guide. Sure they both recognize violent acts about a race, but the narrative behind the two is very different. I think just letting this piece stand as what it is makes the most impact to the viewer. Whether or not the background is known, the viewer can still create this full narrative behind a fractured story presented.

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  21. One piece of art that struck me was Plate 4, which was the piece emphasizing how little we know about the world around us thanks to the help of censorship. We are faced with a world full of endless possibilities, which means there is a multitude of actions happening around us, and we know very little about them. The government hides actions from us, and, if we bring it to a smaller scale, even parents and friends hide smaller pieces of information because they think that is more beneficial to us. This depiction of a fractured narrative is important because it is telling a story, but, at the same time, it is broken.

    Another piece of art I found interesting was the Thames River piece. Here, Maya Lin used silver, which is a symbol of purity, to demonstrate the importance of preserving our natural resources. By simply using silver, we think of the Thames as this valiant river, but, in reality, it is being harmed every day by harmful substances. This represents a fractured narrative because on the surface it looks like a well-preserved river, but when you know the meaning behind the use of silver, the river is actually in danger.

    Discussion question: How can our experiences with fractured narratives be used to focus on how little we actually understand about pieces of literature? Does this emphasize the importance of analyzing literature and not just looking at its surface?

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    1. I don’t know why this posted as my random obscure WordPress username because I am not even active on WordPress. Anyway, this was my post. Sorry for the mishap!

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    2. Cross –

      I reacted similarly to the piece on censorship, especially because of how applicable literary texts are to this topic. When I was analyzing this piece, before the tour guide gave us information on it, I immediately thought about “Where We Once Belonged” and the banning it has received because of its content, much like novels like “Huck Finn” and other texts of the sort. The historical relevance, as well as prevalence the novels have cannot be read if the texts are censored. Furthermore, I thought of the news media and the censoring the government does to protect the American public from hearing about the world’s problems. This piece of art reflects the unknown and the power the we have in knowing the truth about the “blacked-out” sections of the piece. I find your reflection intriguing as it analyzes the benefits that the government sees in this censorship.

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  22. I really enjoyed the art exhibit. The way that those artists were telling their stories was very interesting. Also, the idea of a fractured narrative is even more interesting. I loved the idea of viewers of the exhibit bringing prior knowledge to the experience to make a fuller meaning. I really liked the pictures about Birmingham and the lives that could have been. That’s a really interesting concept to take to a tragic event. I also really enjoyed the artist who recreated war scenes. I appreciated the fact that she took the beauty of the world into account and juxtaposed that against the war narrative.
    My question for discussion is:
    What are the strengths of a “fractured narrative?” or What do we gain from adding our own perspective to a text to complete the story?

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    1. I believe that the strengths of fractured narratives is that the person viewing the narrative, as in the instance of the museum, can interpret it in whatever way they want to. Because the narratives are fractured, the viewer can add in their own perspectives or stories. This is similar to what we talked about in class in relation to whether or not we would have preferred a tour guide or not. The tour guide told us her opinion first, not giving us a chance to interpret it how we wanted to. This took away the “fractured” part of the narrative because she told us the story. The tour guide telling us these stories and not letting us figure them out for ourselves made them only narratives. Through adding our own perspectives to complete the story, it makes the story more relatable and personal to each viewer. It ultimately adds to the meaning of the narrative.

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  23. (Extra Credit Post – Eric Gottesman Talk)

    After hearing Eric Gottesman speak about not only his photography and personal past, but also his views on the the impact of photography on a nation, I wish I could have heard him speak before I had written my paper on the use of photography in “The Lazarus Project.” Gottessman traveled the middle east and Africa, spending most of his time in Ethiopia with a photography fellowship beginning in 1999. He explained that he was a history and political science major in college, but was intrigued by the one photography class he took his senior year. While in Ethiopia, he worked with children who had lost their parents to AIDS, and created the group “Sudden Flowers,” which also became the title of his newly published book. Gottesman expressed that his interest in photography peaked when he was able to be physically present with the subjects he was photographing. In Ethiopia, Gottesman said that the government banned the use of cameras for a considerable amount of time because outsiders were coming in and revealing the governmental violation of human rights on citizens of the country. The government opened a studio in which people could go to get their photos taken, solely as a measure of family tree preservation. However, after the ban was lifted, Gottesman explained that he started taking an interest in taking pictures of people, but that these people did not want their faces to show in fear of exposure. Hence blossomed Gottesman’s project that illuminated the beauty in simplicity. Perhaps the one thing that stuck with me from the talk was his reflection on how photography “reunites time.” It has the ability to not only preserve, but reunite those who could never meet because time was too short. The AIDS epidemic in Ethiopia and other African countries often prevents ancestors from meeting, but photography does that job through images.

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  24. The piece of art that really made an expression the second time through the museum was the Birmingham Project photograph. When I originally encountered the photograph of the older and younger African American older woman & younger girl and older man & little boy; I assumed it was referring the big differences in generation. I was shocked to discover that these two humble photographs had so much significance portrayed in them. This photo is intended to show the lives that African American children could of had if they had not been killed. The girls picture was talking about how on Sept 16,1963 4 African American girls were killed in bombing at church. Picture was actually taken at a Birmingham church that was very active in the race rallies. They could have mature and grown old. The photos were very meek, but having them portray such an alarming tale is what gave them some much girth. These photos showed me that art could convey real meaning and have a real purpose in life.

    Monday class

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  25. So I looked up the term “Oromaye” and it means “it is pointless”. And after watching the video “Oromaye” it made me question the credibility of not only the speaker and the novel but it also made me question the credibility of the way we get information in our current times and the sources we get that information from. Someone mentioned in class as their discussion question about what other kinds of information are our current sources hiding from us and I feel this point is definitely illustrated in this video. Though the book Oromaye is described through a cynical account, it still allows us to wonder whether who or what we should actually listen to when it comes to information about military campaigns in Africa.

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