Art as Transport-Station of Trauma? Haunting Objects in the Works of Bracha Ettinger, Sarah Kofman and Chantal Akerman

  • Griselda Pollock
Part of the The Holocaust and Its Contexts book series (HOLC)


The notion of art as a ‘transport-station of trauma’ was created by artist and feminist philosopher of psychoanalysis Bracha Ettinger (2000, p. 91). Ettinger explores the processes by which an aesthetic encounter — what she names ‘aesthetic wit(h)nessing’ — can become a site of transformation of the traces of trauma that inhabit an individual or a culture in post-catastrophic histories. In this chapter, I want to consider the aesthetic and the psychic economies involved in enabling such a transformation when using objects that remain as material indices of persons or worlds destroyed by racially-targeted genocide.1 The philosopher Sarah Kofman wrote about, and wrote because of, the pen of her rabbi father murdered in Auschwitz. Chantal Akerman made a film, finally, about her grandmother’s diary, the only trace of a life destroyed at Auschwitz. Bracha Ettinger made an installation in Sigmund Freud’s home in exile using her father’s ghetto diary and a spoon surviving from his maternal family. 2 What is the significance of the object and these varied positionings within the process of aesthetic wit(h)nessing that Ettinger has theorized on the basis of her own practice between memory, the archive and transformation through artworking?


Original Italic Radical Alterity Jewish Child Oedipus Complex Christian Woman 
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© Griselda Pollock 2013

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  • Griselda Pollock

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