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Cinematic Encounters with Violent Trauma and Its Aftermath: A Pulic Screening and Discussion of The Act of Killing (2012)
Saturday 20 February 2016, 12:00pm - 06:00pm
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Contact Noreen Giffney at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

he Irish Forum for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, in association with Science Gallery Dublin's TRAUMA Exhibition and Psychoanalysis +, presents 
Cinematic Encounters with Violent Trauma and Its Aftermath:  A Public Screening and Discussion of The Act of Killing (2012)   
Date and Time Saturday 20 February 2016 @ 12.00 pm-18.00 pm  
Venue Paccar Theatre, First Floor, Science Gallery, The Naughton Institute, Pearse Street, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2.   

Symposium Description

Mass violence. Genocide. Pogrom. Human rights abuses. Ethnic cleansing. Holocaust. State-sanctioned terror. These are all terms we associate with acute trauma, and are devastating for the communities who live through them and in their aftermath. We hear reports of mass violence from a multitude of geographical locations with depressing frequency. There are countless stories of people being killed, tortured, raped, beaten and imprisoned in state-sanctioned acts of violence. We see photographs and videos, with increasing regularity, of thousands of people fleeing for their lives to escape from regimes that have made it impossible for them to live safely in their own lands. Perpetrators are labelled monstrous, evil, mad, psychopathic, in an effort to explain why such horrendous events have occurred.  

Keeping in mind the theme of Science Gallery Dublin’s current exhibition, this symposium takes as its subject, violent TRAUMA and its aftermath, its cinematic representations, and the emotional responses of viewers when watching such representations. The purpose of the event is to help us to think about the impact of trauma, how trauma works psychically and socially, and the possible effects of watching visual representations of trauma. The event also specifically looks at acute trauma arising from the perpetration of violence over an extended period and on a mass scale by political regimes in power in a region when the violence takes place.1 In a recently-published book on Everyday Life and the Unconscious Mind, psychoanalytic psychotherapist Hannah Curtis tells us that ‘The word trauma comes from the Greek word “wound”. Originally it would have referred to a physical wound but is just as often now thought of as a psychological wound ... It is trauma, large and small, that needs to be remembered in order to be worked through rather than repeated’.

This symposium takes one particular representation of violent trauma as its focus: The Act of Killing (2012), a documentary film about mass killings in Indonesia during the 1960s, and their aftermath. This film has been chosen because of its approach to its subject matter and because of its focus on the psychosocial impact of sustained trauma on a mass scale. The directors of the documentary offer the perpetrators of the genocide in Indonesia an opportunity to tell their stories. They take the directors up on their offer but instead of agreeing to be interviewed, they want to ‘act’ in a film about what they did. It is almost surreal. This film makes for difficult viewing. It is full of people who show no remorse or empathy. They have committed unthinkable acts unthinkingly. It is the audience who are left to wonder about why they did what they did and why they do not appear to feel remorse, regret, or guilt.  

This symposium begins with a screening of The Act of Killing, followed by short responses by professionals working in the clinical, creative arts, and academic fields of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, film studies, visual culture, race and ethnicity studies, creative arts practice, curatorship, clinical psychology, forensic psychotherapy, neuropsychoanalysis, and horror studies. An interdisciplinary panel of respondents has been invited to come together, to look at this documentary film from their positions of expertise, in an effort to help us to reflect upon the disturbing scenes presented before us. Speakers’ responses will be grouped under three headings: (1) The Unconscious Dynamics of Trauma, (2) Living in the Aftermath of Trauma, and (3) The Aesthetics of Representing Trauma. Each respondent will have five minutes in which to make one or two brief points to facilitate us beginning to think about the multi-dimensional aspects and impact of this film. There will be ample time for audience participation during the discussion period.  

This symposium hinges on three main questions, though we expect many more will emerge for us throughout the day: (1) What long-term psychological impact does mass violence have on its surviving victims? (2) How does an engagement with victims and perpetrators of mass violence affect those who are involved in such work? (3) How might we reflRegistration  Early registration is advised because places are limited. Registration is on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Delegates are reminded that this event is strictly for persons aged 18 years and older.   

Registration fees:   €25 waged or €10 unwaged/senior citizen/full-time student [This option is without lunch]  (excl. online booking fee)  OR  €30 waged or €15 unwaged/senior citizen/full-time student [This option includes a light  lunch] (excl. online booking fee)  

Registration will be via Science Gallery Dublin’s events page: 

If you have any queries about this event, please contact the event organiser Noreen Giffney: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.    


Location Paccar Theatre, First Floor, Science Gallery, The Naughton Institute, Pearse Street, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2

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