Darkness Encountered in Light
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The old axiom that history is doomed to repeat itself seems to be true in the contemporary world. Ideologies of hate and division are having something of a resurgence, despite our common cries of ‘never again.’ We can trace these divisive identities from our archaic sacrificial rituals, through the horror of colonialism, and into the genocides of the modern age; apparently violence is here to stay. While there is generosity, compassion, and empathy that surfaces alongside this destruction, it seems to be swept aside all too readily in favour of division, blame, and separation. It is in this context that I ask what role our presentations of societal violence play in the perpetual emergence of divisive ideologies. Drawing on the work of Girard, Kristeva, Sen, and Arendt amongst others, I argue that our presentations of past atrocity should focus on the presence of violence within our familiar, normative realms. This unseen presence can be revealed through creative praxis, which frames our sense of orientation with the world. As forms of creative expression, art, architecture and literature can work to actively undermine the divisive cultural ideologies that justify atrocity by reframing how we relate to extreme societal violence. Through three case studies of memorial architecture I show how our creative expressions can both undermine and perpetuate the divisions inherent to the violence they discuss. My written and made analyses of these spaces explore how the stories and methods of storytelling contribute to the revelation of the uncanny presence of violence, altering our understanding of normalcy. By presenting violence without the space for improvisation that fosters life’s capacity to grow, architects risk obscuring our ability to empathize, limiting our understanding of humanity. An embrace of uncertainty carries the potential for a future that affirms life, a future where divisive ideologies are acknowledged as illusory remnants of a more violent past, no longer dominant in our visions of the world we all share. It is my hope that through refocusing how we express mass violence, we can better guard against the incendiary ideologies that justify it. Within light there is darkness; in darkness, light.
Cite this version of the work
Nicholas Forrest Frayne (2020). Darkness Encountered in Light. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/15466