Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts


Media Studies


Dr. Amanda Grzyb


The mid-2000s brought rise to significant shifts in the field of trauma studies, most notably the suggestion that a survivor’s trauma can have meaning when it is shared with others through creative representation and storytelling. Despite these critical changes in the field, there is a dearth of research outside of clinical art therapy that examines the role of creativity in the processes of working through past traumas for survivors, and in the processes of bearing witness to the trauma of others.

In an effort to address these issues, I use a framework of relational psychoanalysis and feminist philosophy to explore a visual art exhibition in Harmęże, Poland entitled The Labyrinth, which wascreated by Nazi concentration camp survivor Marian Kołodziej. This thesis reveals how the creative process can help genocide survivors “mend” by rendering their traumatic pasts visible to themselves and others through visual art. I conclude that acting out when filtered through the creative process can lead to mending and working through for the survivor.

This thesis also unpacks the witness function of survivor art—that is, the power of visual art in the process of bearing witness to traumatic events that are so often described as unrepresentable and incomprehensible. I conclude thatsurvivor art is a medium with the unique ability to awaken witnesses to their insomniatic responsibility to bear witness “beyond recognition”—a process Kelly Oliver asserts is essential for the restoration of subjectivity for the survivor.