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Something to See Here: Staged Violence in Contemporary Art

Scalissi, Nicole (2019) Something to See Here: Staged Violence in Contemporary Art. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation focuses on artists working in the United States who, during the 1970s and beyond, stage violence against women, Latinx, Afro-Latinx, and Black/African American people—marginalized identities with which the artists themselves identify. In so doing, they call attention to the prevalence of disproportionate violence committed against women and people of color in the United States at a broader societal level. I examine how women, Black/African American, Afro-Latinx, and Latinx artists perform or stage scenes of violence as a means of making visible, palpable, and inescapable the effects of the real victimization their communities disproportionately face. Through surprise encounter, reality effects, and viewer participation, artists such as Ana Mendieta, Harry Gamboa Jr., and Shaun Leonardo convey the feeling of looming violence to viewers who, by perception or statistics, feel themselves to be safely outside of threats of identity-based violence. These artists take up and re-deploy violence, often in live or embodied artworks, to counter stereotypes about their communities, challenge their own historical exclusion from mainstream art networks, and open up affective space for viewers themselves to confront the disparities of violence in the US. Throughout, I put forth a theory of Permanent-Potential-Victimhood, a traumatic identity unique to marginalized communities in the United States. I characterize this condition as a kind of future trauma, the pervasive feeling that you are never far from being victimized on the basis of your visual presentation of racial, ethnic, and/or gendered identity—actual or presumed, and over which you have no control. By implicating viewers as witnesses, perpetrators, and/or as victims in scenes of violence against bodies of color, these artworks activate feelings of being equally close to the type of brutality in question, as a means to impact upon the viewer-participant’s feelings about actual violence.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Scalissi, Nicolenfs14@pitt.edunfs14
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairSmith, Terrytes2@pitt.eduTES2
Committee MemberJosten, Jenniferjej40@pitt.eduJEJ40
Committee MemberMcCloskey, Barbarabarbara.mccloskey@pitt.eduBMCC
Committee MemberDoyle,
Date: 25 June 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 8 April 2019
Approval Date: 25 June 2019
Submission Date: 12 April 2019
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 302
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History of Art and Architecture
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Contemporary Art, American Art, Performance Art, Violence
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2019 21:50
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2021 05:15

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  • Something to See Here: Staged Violence in Contemporary Art. (deposited 25 Jun 2019 21:50) [Currently Displayed]


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