‘Shock and awe’: the memory of trauma in post-9/11 artworks

Document Type

Book chapter

Publication details

Rall, DN 2017, '‘Shock and awe’: the memory of trauma in post-9/11 artworks', in J Gildersleeve & R Gehrmann (eds), Memory and the wars on terror: Australian and British perspectives, Palgrave Macmillan, Switzerland, pp. 163-182. ISBN: 9783319569765

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Artists have memorialised war since ‘time immemorial’ but the collisions between artists and war did not begin with the modern era. This chapter reconsiders the various ways that anti-war artists have reframed public conceptions of war and heroism and loss and pain. War memorials and protest artworks in Australia and the United States are reevaluated here through the exploration of how the evocation of trauma is activated within public and private memories. The mechanisms of trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is often considered a private concern. A better understanding of how trauma works with public or collective memory will elucidate how a few anti-war artists have found traction for eliciting protest in their post-9/11 artworks. The ongoing commemorations of 9/11 anniversary events in the US and throughout the world will continue to challenge artists to reconceptualise issues that arise from the wars on terror, including social injustice, the powerlessness of women and children, the world’s refugee crises, and the difficulties of all civilians residing in war zones. Artists need to continue their work and reclaim public memories against the dominance of the media conglomerates during these anniversary events.