Beclouded Visions

Hiroshima-Nagasaki and the Art of Witness

By Kyo Maclear

Subjects: Art Theory
Series: SUNY series, INTERRUPTIONS: Border Testimony(ies) and Critical Discourse/s
Paperback : 9780791440063, 213 pages, October 1998
Hardcover : 9780791440056, 213 pages, October 1998

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations



1. Atomic Visions

Because There Were and There Weren't Cities Called Hiroshima and Nagasaki

2. Art from the Ashes

3. The Art of Witnessing

4. Strange Gaze

5. Mourning the Remains

6. The Limits of Vision

7. Witnessing Otherwise

Conclusion: Memory Matters


Works Cited


The trauma of Hiroshima and Nagasaki demonstrates the limits of dominant visual models, such as photography, for providing adequate historical memory. The author argues that collective traumas suggest the need for a prolonged gaze, such as can be provided by expressive art.


Beclouded Visions is an exploration of the many and varied ways in which atrocity has shaped the requirements of art, vision, and collective memory in the twentieth century. The atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki serve as a starting point, but what begins as a study of visual culture related to the atomic bombings soon generates questions that can be applied to multiple sites and practices of communal remembrance.

Drawing on a diverse array of images—ranging from military photographs to survivor paintings—Maclear asks what it means to see such representations. What does it mean to put a face to horror? Does "seeing everything" make us more humane? Is it possible to become inured to images of violence? She probes the nature of our fascination with images of horror, and she questions our attachment to pictorial realism and graphic memory. Placing philosophers such as Jacques Derrida, Walter Benjamin, and Theodore Adorno in the context of ongoing debates about history and memory, Beclouded Visions provides a refreshing perspective on art, remembrance, and mourning.

Kyo Maclear is an independent writer and visual artist based in Toronto, with a special interest in the issue of historical memory in twentieth-century art.


"This is an exceptional and compelling piece of scholarship. The book works its themes across a number of disciplinary concerns, touching on what is both the common experience in attending to commemorative and witness art, and the most profound philosophical issue of the limits and functions of horror's representation. " — John Willinsky, University of British Columbia