Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts


Art History


Professor Joy James


The central question of my investigation is: how do artists present the unpresentable when presentation itself is impossible? Concentrating solely on Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s artworks Opera For a Small Room (2005) and The Killing Machine (2007), I redevelop Jean François Lyotard’s concept of the sublime as put forth in his The Inhuman: Reflections on Time, in order to ask how Cardiff and Miller give shape to the unpresentable in their work. Opera and Killing are works that dynamically problematize and play with ideas of presentation, subjectivity, memory, and time. Thus, I explore my central question of presentation or present/presence outlined in my first chapter through three key themes: memory, time, and subjectivity, which correspond to chapters two, three, and four. I argue that Opera For a Small Room and The Killing Machine by Canadian installation artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller answer this question of presentation by provoking us to experience the sensation of present/presence and enabling us to rethink the sublime as space without memory.