The Arts in Society’s Updates

Sally Cloke – Winner of the International Award for Excellence for The Arts in Society Journal Collection, Volume 11

The Arts in Society Research Network is pleased to announce the selection of “Between Two Earthquakes: Gazing Beyond Kant’s Sublime in Humanitarian Disasters” by Sally Cloke as the recipient of the International Award for Excellence for Volume 11 of The Arts in Society Journal Collection.

This article was selected for the award from among the ten highest-ranked papers emerging from the peer review process and according to the selection criteria outlined in the referee guidelines.

Sally Cloke, Postgraduate Student, University of Newcastle, Australia

In her words:

I was honoured to learn that my article had been given the Arts in Society’s International Award for Excellence. The piece, “Between Two Earthquakes”, developed out of the presentation I gave at the Arts in Society conference in London in 2015. This was my first international conference and so in itself a milestone in my academic career. The conference came at a time in which I was moving from an academic discipline I knew well—theology—into what was for me a new and uncharted field: design research. This change was prompted in part by a desire to break out of the rarefied ivory tower of academic theology and engage more with people and their daily concerns, as well as a personal need to move from a purely reading-and-writing based research practice to one that included doing-and-making. So, I was particularly pleased to have a conference paper accepted that bridged the two disciplines of theology and design research. It confirmed for me that many of the questions I had pursued in theology (where is meaning to be found? what can we hope for? how can human dignity be upheld?) could be explored through the lens of aesthetics. Since the article’s publication, I have changed the field of my PhD research at the University of Newcastle, Australia, from theology to design, and I have successfully completed the confirmation stage of my candidature. My research topic is on the role of ritual in how human beings interact with their possessions, a question which combines concerns that are both spiritual and material.

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As the number of natural and other disasters world-wide increases, so too does the variety of platforms that produce, distribute, and display images of catastrophe victims. Are compassion fatigue and disaster voyeurism inevitable consequences of the networked society or can a new understanding of art, aesthetics, and representation be employed to help shape a more ethical and engaged viewing self? Using the image of the earthquake in history, art and sacred text as the paradigmatic catastrophe, and drawing on the research of aesthetic theorists and theologians, this paper investigates the shortcomings of the West’s prevailing visual paradigm for representing victims of natural disaster, the Kantian sublime and its Romantic developments. As an alternative, it posits the framework of the “eschatological” as a more creative and productive lens. In doing so, it uses the work of Australian war artist George Gittoes as an exploratory case study.