Reporter 440, 11 October 1999

Jonathan Whitehall

Jonathan Whitehall is a graduate in Fine Art of Goldsmith's College. He joined the Department of Fine Art at the University of Leeds in September 1998 to complete an MA in Feminism and the Visual Arts. His major interest lies in theories of trauma and representation and he has made a prolonged study of the work of Marguerite Duras while also writing on Andrea Fisher. During his M A he also took a course titled From Trauma to Cultural Memory: The Unfinished Business of Representation and the Holocaust., in which he focussed on the current debates about the disjunctive relation between representation and the missed encounter with traumatic real. He has had a series of exhbitions in London in the 1990s.

His new installation is based on a press photograph from the war in Kosovo. This will be projected onto a specially constructured wall that interrupts the classical symmetry of the central court of a major urban educational institution, the University of Leeds. This floating screen incompletely captures the obiquely projected image that spills onto the surrounding walls, floors and columns. The war photograph becomes massively enlarged from the tight framing with the newspaper, creating a radically different moment of encounter with a victim of war/violence/ murder - the spectator can never be sure exactly of the traumatic event thus introduced into these 'hallowed spaces' of the academy. Flung out on this floor and illuminated by the shaft of light from the projector is an expanse of white silk with the same dimensions as the screen. It sets up an excess that operates, sensuously, in the immediacy of the present time and space, outside the economy of the reframed news image. The projected image contains layers of violence: the actual event of which the image struggles to speak; the violence of the taking of the photograph; and the violence of the cropping and distortion through projection. The spectacle of violence inherent in the media is displaced by the translation into an art work that combines both the monumentality of sculpturein its architectural setting and the transience of cinema that uses light to interrupt and undo those structural certainties. Perversely the distortion in relation to its media of light and silk creates a shocking beauty that takes the work to the heart of contemporary debates about the aesthetics of trauma. Jonathan Whitehall will be giving a seminar on this work with a panel of invited guests, art historians, critics and curators on Wednesday 20 October at 2.00 in the Parkinson Court of the University of Leeds.

Further information from:
Griselda Pollock
The Department of Fine Art
University of Leeds,
Leeds LS2 9JT

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