<p>Joanna Rajkowska, <em>Suicides,</em> March 22-June 10, 2018, solo exhibition at TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. Photo:<span> Andrzej Golc</span></p>
<p>Joanna Rajkowska, <em>Suicides,</em> March 22-June 10, 2018, solo exhibition at TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. Photo:<span> Andrzej Golc</span></p>

No. 26: Empathic Images

Managing editors: Agata Zborowska, Magda Szcześniak

Joanna Rajkowska, Suicides, March 22-June 10, 2018, solo exhibition at TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. Photo: Andrzej Golc

This issue was supported by the Polish Minister of Science and Higher Education, from the funds of the program "Support of academic journals" in 2019-2020, and by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, from the Fund for the Promotion of Culture.

Table of Contents


  1. Empathic Images

    ”Empathic Images”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2167

    Introduction to issue 26 “Empathic Images”.

    keywords: empathy; representation; empathic images; affective relations


  1. Empathic Vision. Affect, Trauma, and Contemporary Art

    Jill Bennett, ”Empathic Vision. Affect, Trauma, and Contemporary Art”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2174

    Fragments of chapters On the Subject of Trauma and The Force of Trauma from Jill Bennett's book Empathic Vision: Affect, Trauma, and Contemporary Art, published in 2005 by Stanford University Press (pp. 1–12, 21, 48–69).

    Copyright (c) 2005 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Jr. University.

    keywords: Sandra Johnston; Doris Salcedo; affect; trauma; contemporary art

  2. Empathy: Primal Scenes

    Paweł Mościcki, ”Empathy: Primal Scenes”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2181

    The article is a constellation of readings and references, which are meant to bring closer not so much the definition of empathy in the context of images as to reconstruct its conditions of possibility; to trace the dynamics of its generation in and through visual works. The hypothesis around which this essay unfolds is the conviction that in every contact with an image, the key role is played by something imageless, which refers primarily to the other senses, but also structurally relates to an experience in which the ethical and aesthetic component are inseparable from each other. By analyzing specific texts that refer to this structural dimension of the empathic experience, the author concludes his argument with an analysis of selected visual works that shed additional light on his deliberations.

    keywords: empathy; philosophy; aesthetics and politics; the gaze; the Other

  3. Encountering Others through Graphic Narrative. Layers of Empathy in Hanneriina Moisseinen’s "The Isthmus"

    Aura Nikkilä, Anna Vuorinne, ”Encountering Others through Graphic Narrative”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2120

    In this article we analyze Hanneriina Moisseinen’s historical comic The Isthmus with in the framework of empathy. By focusing on the role of multimodal storytelling – the combination of drawings, text, and photographs – we explore the ways in which The Isthmus invites the reader to empathize with the marginalized others of the past, both human and non-human. We propose that empathy should be understood as a multidimensional phenomenon of imagination, feeling, and understanding. To discuss how Moisseinen’s comic elicits empathy, we apply Elisa Aaltola’s theory of varieties of empathy, which provides a nuanced account for understanding how living beings relate to and understand each other. We argue that comics storytelling has the possibility not only of fostering the reader’s capacity to imagine the lives of others, but also to invite them to attend to the experiences of others through affect, embodiment, and reflection.

    keywords: comics; photography; drawing; empathy; non-human actos; history; evacuees

  4. Blowing Glitter Through Straws. Revolutionary Moods in Lizzie Borden’s "Born in Flames" and Jill Godmilow’s "Far from Poland"

    Magda Szcześniak, ”Blowing Glitter Through Straws”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2135

    The article analyzes two ‘genre-bending’ films – Lizzie Borden’s Born in Flames (1983) and Jill Godmilow’s Far from Poland (1984) – as unique spaces of reflection on the temporality of revolution and revolutionary politics of emotion. Drawing on Jonathan Flatley’s work about creating and refreshing revolutionary moods, the author shows how both films worked against the dominant ‘structure of feeling’ of the mid 1980s – feelings of fatigue, hopelessness and exhaustion with political engagement. The author also examines how both filmmakers use different visual mechanisms and aesthetic tools to generate oppositional moods and revive revolutionary spirits. Instead of trying to establish a straightforward emotional identification of film viewers with the presented movements (the actually existing Polish Solidarity movement in Far from Poland and a fictional multiracial and cross-class radical feminist coalition in Born in Flames), both filmmakers reject what Bertolt Brecht called “crude empathy” and instead insist on the necessity of an ambiguous emotional relationship with diverse political subjects.

    keywords: Jill Godmilow; Lizzie Borden; independent film; revolutionary moods; empathy

  5. On Cinematic Voracity: Cannibalism, Masochism, and Unbearable Images

    Aleksander Kmak, ”On Cinematic Voracity”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2132

    Contemporary theory of cinema of discomfort shows that unbearable images make us feel and think about le dispositif and our gaze itself, its sensual and engaged features. With an example of Caniba, an experimental documentary about a cannibalistic murderer, I point out its self-reflexivity and relations between cannibalism and cinematic masochism. Reflecting on Freud’s, Lacan’s, Deleuze’s work as well as and McCormack’s concept of ‘cinemasochism’, I extract the latter’s sensual dimension of iconophagy – the process of devouring images and letting to be devoured.

    keywords: film studies; contemporary cinema; experimental cinema; cannibalism; masochism; sadomasochism; sensuous film theory; psychoanalysis

  6. Civic Voyeurism. Józef Robakowski’s Aerial Views of the Commons

    Eliza Rose , ”Civic Voyeurism”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2171

    In 1978, Józef Robakowski moved into the “Manhattan of Łódź:” a complex of five high-rises located at 19 Mickiewicz Street. From his ninth-floor kitchen window, he began recording footage of the courtyard below – a practice he maintained over the next two decades. The product is From My Window: a collection of black-and-white footage shot on sixteen-millimeter film and video between 1978 and ’99 and edited in 2000. Using the device of an offscreen voiceover recorded in hindsight yet seeming to narrate the footage in real time, Robakowski resets the contemporaneity of the last two decades. In this article, I discuss the film’s flexible temporality and the resultant lines of empathy binding window watcher, courtyard subject, and viewer. I make the counterintuitive claim that Robakowski’s observation of his neighbors is a form of engaged empathy. Through his past-yet-present-tense voiceover, he refunctions voyeurism into a kind of civil service.

    keywords: Acousmetre; voyeurism; real existing socialism; built environment; public space

  7. “Nurse! I Want My Mummy!”. Empathy as Methodology in the Documentary Film "A Two-Year-Old Goes to Hospital" (1952)

    Justyna Wierzchowska, ”“Nurse! I Want My Mummy!””, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2187

    This article analyzes A Two-Year-Old Goes to Hospital, a documentary film made by James Robertson in 1952. The film records the 8-day hospitalization of 2.5-year-old Laura as she goes through the phases of protest, despair, and detachment (Robertson and Bowlby 1952, Bowlby 1960) from her mother, who is only allowed to visit her briefly once a day. A Two-Year-Old Goes to Hospital forms part of Robertson’s decades-long campaign to promote changes in hospital regulations concerning parental presence in pediatric wards. During that time, it was commonly believed that such visits were unnecessary and disruptive, alleviating excessive maternal anxiety rather than serving the needs of the child. Robertson, who strongly opposed this belief, decided to use a visual medium rather than advance academic arguments, convinced that “visual communication pierces defenses as the spoken word cannot do.” This article argues that A Two-Year-Old Goes to Hospital, even though it follows a conventional documentary format, employs a set of formal devices which are geared to appeal to the viewers’ empathic abilities, arising from their common experience of early childhood.

    keywords: James Robertson; John Bowlby; empathy; A Two-Year-Old Goes to Hospital; attachment theory; mothering; primary bond

  8. To Reclaim Einfühlung: The Search for a Formula of Radical Empathy in Harun Farocki’s Early Work

    Michał Piasecki, ”To Reclaim Einfühlung”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2147

    Beginning with a close reading of Harun Farocki's Einfühlung, the author analyzes the formation of this tradition of empathy and the critical attitude towards it, with particular emphasis on the sense of failure and the retrospectiveness of the postulate of regaining the Einfühlung by the critical tradition. The author looks at the role of photographs of suffering bodies in the process of shaping the German public sphere during the Vietnam War. He tries to show the complexity of strategies critical of the mass media by reconstructing Farocki's polemics with terrorist movements. He analyses parodying the use of television aesthetics in Inextinguishable Fire (1969) and includes it into the tradition of fighting the tabloid media. He is interested in the reevaluation of the relation between the body and image, which enables reaching beyond the pattern of empathy by means of identification and the idea of “Einfühlung, which has caused the alienation effect.”

    keywords: Harun Farocki; Vietnam War; Einfühlung; The Inextinguishable Fire; brechtian cinema; visuality of terrorism; satire; capitalist realism; Karl Kraus; negative dialectic

  9. Empathy (Einfühlung)

    Harun Farocki, ”Empathy (Einfühlung)”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2158

    Translation of the text by Harun Farocki, Einfühlung, published in 100 Jahre Hebbel Theater. Angewandtes Theaterlexikonnach Gustav Freytag, edited by Christiane Kühl, Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin 2008.

    keywords: Harun Farocki; empathy; Einfühlung


  1. Sourcebook | Fragments

    Liliana Piskorska, ”Sourcebook | Fragments”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2191

    Presentation of Liliana Piskorska's Sourcebook/Książka źródeł project.

    keywords: feminism; lesbian; sistering; women's genealogies

  2. Useful Ties: Liliana Piskorska’s “Sourcebook / Książka źródeł”

    Gabriela Sułkowska, ”Useful Ties: Liliana Piskorska’s “Sourcebook / Książka źródeł””, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2192

    A critical commentary on Liliana Piskorska's work in progress project Sourcebook/Książka źródeł

    keywords: queer; non-normative female sexuality; Polish literature; contemporary art; Liliana Piskorska

  3. Disaster Cruisin’

    Ada Zielińska, ”Disaster Cruisin’”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2189

    Presentation of Ada Zielińska's Disaster Cruisin' project.

    keywords: picturing catastrophe; anthropocene; posthumanity; catastrophism; disaster tourism

  4. Necrotic Landscape: On Visualizing the Necrocene

    Marcin Stachowicz, ”Necrotic Landscape”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2140

    Critical analysis of Ada Zielińska's Distater Cruisin' photographic series.

    keywords: necrocene; photography; Ada Zielińska; anthropocene; catastrophe


  1. Theory of the Quasi-Object

    Michel Serres, ”Theory of the Quasi-Object”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2142

    A fragment from Michel Serres's book La parasite [Parasite] published in 1980. The key question posed by Serres concerns the collective, whose functioning is based on parasitism, living at the expense of other organisms, both human and non-human. The community is formed in the movement of exchange (vicariance), in giving oneself to others, in the chain of transfering the „I”. Serres similiarly understands subjectivity – as an unfinished process of getting rid of oneself, requiring abandonment of the concept of being in favour of relations.

    keywords: posthumanism; collective; parasite; subjectivity; quasi-object

  2. Spiritual Self-Education as Resistance. About Urszula Broll's “Mandalas”

    Justyna Balisz-Schmelz , ”Spiritual Self-Education as Resistance”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2152

    The article offers an analysis of the so-called Mandalas by Urszula Broll, an artist associated with the group of Katowice artists called Oneiron. The genesis of Broll's nomadic identity, which transcends geopolitical and cultural boundaries, lies in her biography, in which her origins from Upper Silesia, her creative practices outside the main art centres and the perspective of the woman-artist were equally significant. Since the 1960s, the pathways of Broll's spiritual, intellectual and artistic explorations have been marked by the C. G. Jung's writings and the religious traditions of the Far East. This radical turn towards an individual psyche should not be considered as a form of internal emigration or escapism, but rather as a form of emancipation. The adopted theoretical framework focuses on the perspective of altermodernism: both in the occult/esoteric and Buddhist versions. Both of them focus on the dialogical and reactive nature of individual spiritual practices.  Broll's resistance was articulated not in direct criticism of reality, but in the unbreakable consequence of expressing one's own subjectivity through self-knowledge. This was facilitated – or even made possible – by Mandalas. The authenticity of Mandalas, which was created long before the marketization of Far Eastern spirituality in Poland and under difficult political conditions, only reinforces the standpoint that meditation and breathing can constitute micro-politics of resistance.

    keywords: Urszula Broll; Mandala; self-education; resistance; Carl Gustav Jung

  3. Inscribed Canvases. The Emergence of the Textual in American Painting

    Filip Lipiński, ”Inscribed Canvases”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2169

    Using Craig Owens’ argument about the repression of the discursive in modernist art, the article provides an analytical and theoretical account of the complex and changing relationship between the visual and the textual in American painting since c. 1950. The article focuses on the status of verbal inscriptions on a canvas, their function, meaning and relation to the medium of painting. In the introductory section of the text special attention to the poststructuralist, expanded understanding of such notions as “text” and “writing” and its consequences in visual arts as well as the unresolvable dialectic of looking and reading and its theoretical implications addressed in more recent art theory. The analytical part starts with the discussion of the paradox of Pollock’s drip paintings as both the epitome of modernist autonomy and a figure of “arche-writing” (a potential script); than it focuses on more specific cases of textuality in C. Twombly’s, J. Johns’ and E. Ruscha’s works, and finally deconstructive modalities of “writing in painting” in works by Ch. Wool, G. Ligon, K. Aptekar and M. Tansey become the object of interpretation. In conclusion it is argued that latter artist’s work – Reader – epitomizes the differential superposition not only of painting and writing but also of the modern and the postmodern, the past and the present experience of “reading” images. As a result, the long perspective on the process of the emergence of the textual in painting described in the article does not so much operate with the logic of binary oppositions between modernism and postmodernism or exclusion of text and its subsequent inclusion, as allows us to look at it in terms of layers of signs, always already there, coming to visibility at different historical moments.

    keywords: painting; image; text; textuality; poststructuralism; American art


  1. To Give Solidarity an Impulse

    Dorota Ogrodzka, Igor Stokfiszewski et al., ”To Give Solidarity an Impulse”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2114

    A conversation with Dorota Ogrodzka and Igor Stokfiszewski. The starting point of the conversation is their report Kultura i Solidarność [Culture and Solidarity] (2019) on the international research project Culture for Solidarity.

    keywords: solidarity; ethnoanimation; action research; Culture and Solidarity; activism; Culture for Solidarity

  2. re-considered escape ways

    Katarzyna Bojarska, Miriam Cahn, ”re-considered escape ways”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2163

    Conversation with Miriam Cahn on the occasion of her exhibition at the Modern Art Museum in Warsaw. 

    keywords: painting; feminism; history; activism; art


  1. Disease States of Emancipatory Communities vs. Exhibitions about Chronic Diseases

    Ewelina Jarosz, ”Disease States of Emancipatory Communities”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2126

    The text offers a critical cultural analysis of the inconsistencies and contradictions in the functioning of emancipatory communities in the field of art, culture, and science. It is also a review of two relevant exhibitions organized in Poland, dedicated to the systemic nature of sickness. In the first part of the essay, the desired emphatic and affirmative image of emancipatory groups and their cultural politics are challenged and viewed both through the lens of  authors' personal experience and issues such as conditions of employment, overproduction, feminist postulates of care and female solidarity. This part also exposes the critical moments of tuning the logic of the cultural process of emancipation to the logic of the capitalist system. After reviewing the nuances of the economic and social situation of the culturally emancipated, who tend to link the current disease states of our societies with late capitalist exploitation of marginalized groups, I move to the exhibitions in order to focus on how community impulses are activated by curatorial strategies and through artistic research. The author analyzes the exhibitions Creative Sick States: AIDS, HIV, CANCER held at the Arsenal Municipal Gallery in Poznan, and HIVstories: Living Politics, organized by Warsaw Biennale in cooperation with EUROPACH, and the Institute of Sociology of the Jagiellonian University.

    keywords: emancipation communities; cultural workers; healthcare in Poland; systemic sickness; art based research; exhibitions; Creative Sick States: AIDS, HIV, CANCER; Municipal Gallery Arsenal; HIVstories: Living Politics; Warsaw Biennial

  2. A History of Architecture that Makes a Difference

    Alicja Gzowska, ”A History of Architecture that Makes a Difference”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2157

    A review of Łukasz Stanek's 2019 book Architecture in Global Socialism. The author draws attention to Stanek's innovatory methodology and wide-ranging research in this volume devoted to socialist architects working in the Global South. According to Gzowska, Architecture in Global Socialism examines architectural phenomena virtually absent in historiography, ones that are crucial not only for the urbanization of the Global South, but also reverberate globally until today.

    keywords: architecture; Cold War; global socialism; worlding

  3. Social Photography and the Dialectics of Digital Dualism

    Witek Orski, ”Social Photography and the Dialectics of Digital Dualism”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 26 (2020), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2020.26.2184

    Review of Nathan Jurgenson's The Social Photo. On Photography and Social Media (Verso Books, New York 2019).

    keywords: digital photography; social media; selfie; Nathan Jurgenson