Voicing of “Other” in history

Again it comes down to a definition of Truth – see previous blogs on Truth and its nature by various contributors to this blog.

Any notion of the truth is absolutely dependent on an interpretation of the “known facts” and thus is dependent not only on the how comprehensive our knowledge of the facts is but also specifically which of those facts are known and finally on our system of reference (historical, cultural and personal experience that constructs our semiotic framework and references) which influences how we interperet information (the facts).

History, as taught in our educational establishments, even as recently as only several decades ago, was purely the oversimplified and institutionally approved version of past events. As such therefore it was the product of the usual single-minded institutional view of things that is full of biases: national, political, and economically driven in some instances. One positive effect of the post-modern society where anything goes and there is an absence of absolutes and acceptance of complex multiple truths that are difficult to articulate in a simple unilateral narrative, is the undermining of this oversimplified and biased view of history and the inclusion therefore of the experiences and views of previously unheard minorities. In particular national propagandalead official versions of historical events (including those of Britain and Western civilisations), which deviate or completely rewrite the truth, are increasingly threatened by the globalisation engendered by the massive progress of information technology and communication methods. Hence attempts by various regimes to control the access of its citizens to the full power and breadth of the internet.

[Image online]. Avaliable at <http://www.onesproutatatime.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/logo_propaganda.jpg&gt;. [Accessed 21/02/11].

A greater and more complete understanding of history is important for the society of today since historical knowledge provides an important reference point for notions of identity: personal, national and cultural. Contemporary artists are not only highlighting little known, covered up or ignored facts about historical events but are also beginning to significantly contribute to our knowledge and understanding of history by providing entirely new perspectives and versions of history.

An exemplar of artists who have contributed to our understanding of history by highlighting the experiences of groups of peoples who have been previously marginalised in the official versions of history is Roger Shimomora. Shimomora (an American citizen of Japanese origin), highlighted the contrast between the pan-national embracement of the American Dream and American Society with the plight of the Japanese-American citizens who were forcibly interned for over 2 years during World War II. In this work entitled the American Diary series, he created images that contain the semiotic language of American popular culture and contrast this with images from Japanese cultre and his grandmother’s daily recordings of her incarceration. He adopted a style that was reminiscent of American comic books (similar to Pop art). In these works the two culture’s iconography coexist: superman and sumo wrestlers. All showing the combination and coexistence  of, or simply one’s existence within, two distinct cultures.

[Image online]. Available at<http://26.media.tumblr.com/aHyNHMV3lp6ockjz5GGyapKVo1_500.jpg&gt; {Accessed 19/02/11]

Addendum: In my research around this subject I came across an event that may be of interest to those interested in looking at propaganda, history and globalisation is “Magnificent Maps, Power, Propaganda and Art” run as a free event by the Historical Society at the British Library in May.


Desai, D. and Hamlin, J., 2009. Artists in the realm of Historical methods: The Sound, Smell, and Taste of History. In: D. Desai and J. Hamlin eds, History as Art, Art as History. New York: Routledge, pp 47-66.

Zammit Claire, 2010. T is for truth: absolute, biased or multiple. [blog] . 14 Dec. Available at

<https://thinkingpractices.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/t-is-for-truth-absolute-biased-or-multiple/&gt; [Accessed 2/3/11].

Zammit Claire, 2011. Photographs: object, document or art. [blog] . 11 Jan. Available at

<https://thinkingpractices.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/photographs-object-document-or-art/&gt; [Accessed 2/3/11].

El-Tantawy Laura, 2011. Who’s truth is it anyway. [blog] 11 Jan. Available at

<https://thinkingpractices.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/whos-truth-is-it-anyway/. [Accessed 2/3/11].

Teh Kelly, 2011. The art of truth, history and memory. [blog] 23 Feb .Available at

<https://thinkingpractices.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/the-art-of-truth-history-and-memory/&gt;. [Accessed 2/3/11]

The University of Kent. 2010 [Online]. Available at <http://www.kent.ac.uk/history/centres/propaganda-war-society/&gt; [Accessed 23/2/11]

The Historical organisation. 2008 [Online]. Available at <http://www.history.org.uk/news/news_654.html&gt; [Accessed 23/2/11]


About clairezammitart

Multi-media fine artist Based in London
This entry was posted in archival and historical art, tp1011 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Voicing of “Other” in history

  1. paula roush says:

    Claire, Roger Shimomora’s work is an interesting reference when discussing artists working in the realm of historical methods; thanks for the info on the BL’s event! re: networked aspect of writing, i would hyperlink the urls you include in your post and then include the reference at the bottom alongside other sources.

  2. Thanks Paula, have done – I’m afraid it wasn’t one of my better blogs this week as had to do it in a bit of a rush because of having to complete urgent projects for my job. Thanks for everything,

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