The Affect of Absence: Rebecca Belmore and the Aesthetico-politics of “unnameable affects”


  • Elisabeth Otto Université de Montréal


Aesthetics and ethics of performance, affect of absence, native art


This essay discusses Rebecca Belmore’s work as a form of protest against violence and a memorial for native cultures and compares her performances and their documentation with later installations in galleries. Her work overcomes the dichotomies of presence and absence, of speaking out and silence, and that of image and language with affect that transgresses genres, media, and material. 

Cet essai traite de l’œuvre de Rebecca Belmore comme une forme de protestation contre la violence et un mémorial aux cultures indigènes et compare ses performances et leur documentation avec des installations ultérieures dans des galeries. Son œuvre surmonte les dichotomies de la présence et de l’absence, de la parole et du silence, de l’image et du langage et est chargée d’un affect qui transgresse les genres, les médias et le matériel.



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Author Biography

Elisabeth Otto, Université de Montréal

Elisabeth Otto is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Université de Montréal where she is preparing a thesis on Art Histories of Unlearning: Emily Carr (1871-1945) and Gabriele Münter (1877-1962). In 2013 she had been Research Fellow in Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada working on Emily Carr’s early artistic production. Currently she is scientific coordinator of the SSHRC funded research project "The Convulsive collections" directed by Johanne Lamoureux. Her main interest lies at the intersection of the fields of aesthetics, feminist theory and gender studies as well as anthropology, here especially with regards to modernist Primitivism.


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