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Poetic Thinking 2016 | February 17, 2020

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Salcedo and Celan: softened eyes, attention and sensitivities

Salcedo and Celan: softened eyes, attention and sensitivities
Conor Lauesen

I attach this link thinking of our discussion most generally yesterday. The article written by Cathy Park Hong is called ‘Against Witness.’ It puts the visual artist, Doris Salcedo, and the poet, Paul Celan, into an explicit dialogue. Regarding our conversation about attention, writerly perspective and genre, and authentic expression, I think the idea of witness–or rather the futility and perhaps now vacuous pathos of this loaded term–is evocative. Hong discussed Celan as a visionary poetry, and also ‘a vengeful one.’ She writes: ‘Celan was full of what Nietzsche called ressentiment — which is a slave’s sensibility of grievance, paranoia, and defiance — and turned it into a fecund creative force.’ Again, an interesting intertwining of material and thoughts we have discussed throughout the term. Hong wants to see Salcedo as voices and artists who ‘ignite silence.’ Salcedo and Celan alike seem to be fostering certain times of perception and keen awareness–perhaps we think of this as some kind of generous empathetic vision–historical consciousness, consciously expansive sensitivity, a way of Heideggerean ‘Being’ immersed and vulnerable in the body. Hong asks, “But is it enough that a poem “remembers” when we are now entrenched in an era of total recall? Andreas Huyssen wrote, “Everything is stored in the cloud. There is endless memory. From the point of the view of the archive, forgetting is the ultimate transgression.” Coincidentally again–or maybe not so much so–the archive, memory and poetry are invoked.I think of Becca’s astute points about the archive yesterday in class. Salcedo and Celan in both implicit and explicit artistic, poetic and aesthetic dialogue seem ideal conduits and figures for ‘poetic thinking.’ Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 12.43.22 PM


  1. Thanks, Conor. Salcedo seems like an appropriate artist to bring into our conversations, especially surrounding systematic violence. Her use of poured concrete in domestic objects seems relevant to the images and rememberances of the Holocaust. I am reminded as well of a Yale MFA who is Israeli, and makes work around issues of home and homelessness using materials reminiscent of Salcedo. Check out her work here:

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