Critical Writing Index

The internal and the instant

by Steven Eastwood

Moving Image Review & Art Journal, 2016, v. 5, no. 1&2, pp. 26-42

Non-fiction filming involving death and dying has taboo status in terms of what western society can and cannot sanction – the image of dying is not something we should see, or even want to see. As a consequence, there is very little film-making done with the consent and collaboration of the dying person and there are few moving images of natural or good deaths. The documentary film-makers and artists who have navigated this difficult ethical territory, engendering a space where dying and death can be given images, have done so by adopting a way of seeing, and being with, the terminally ill person that has some confederacy with the practices of the palliative care professional. Drawing upon the writing of Vivian Sobchack and Ernest Becker, as well as Giorgio Agamben’s theory of bare life, and particularly Emmanuel Levinas and his concept of alterity, the article concentrates on art and film that turns to face death and dying. Moving through narrative cinema, observational documentary and artists’ film, and examining specific film works by Stan Brakhage, Sophie Calle, Kirby Dick, Allan King and Bill Viola, among others, the complex area between ethics and aesthetics is explored, suggesting that in the context of film and death there can be an ethics of aesthetics.

ITEM 2016.022 – available for viewing in the Research Centre

Videos, Artworks and Artists Cited

Silverlake Life: The View from HerePeter Friedman

Silverlake Life: The View from HereTom Joslin

Sick, the Life and Death of Bob Flanagan Super MasochistKirby Dick

Dying at GraceAllan King

Pas Pu Saisir La Mort/Coudn't Catch DeathSophie Calle

Nantes TriptychBill Viola

The Act of Seeing with One's Own EyesStan Brakhage

Demonstration 50.15Anna Lucas