A Witness’s Gesture

Julian Lass

PhD Viva completed 2019-2020

Julian Lass: A Witness’s Gesture


At least since Aristotle, Western culture has been dominated by a certain figure of the witness, the subject who sees and knows. The witness of seeing and knowing reckons only with what is useful and productive, deals only with what can be apprehended as matter of fact. This study seeks to challenge the dominance of this figure, if the modern witness is indeed to be understood in terms of a subject that presumes to know what it sees and hears. An alternative, poetic witness suggests a way of wandering or erring, a kind of ‘unknowing’ that occurs when one does not confine oneself to the merely actual and apparent, without reference to facts, perhaps without reference even to meaning, but remains open to possibilities, gives thought to what is hidden and unseen, gestures to the inapparent. Its gesture is found through movement ‘toward’ action rather than identification with one’s activities, identities, successes and failures. For in the witness’s gesture, life and form of life are neither separate nor coincident, and between lies both mystery and a way of keeping them in touch.
The research is developed through writing, through photography, through close reading.