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Dangerous Knowledge

The JFK Assassination in Art and Film

Art Simon

Publication Year: 2012

Fifty years ago, the assassination of John F. Kennedy shocked the world and focused attention to the 8mm footage shot by Abraham Zapruder. The event fueled conspiracy theories and repeated viewings of Zapruder's film as seemingly everyone in the world searched for motive and conclusive proof of a single gunman.

In his new Preface to this edition of Dangerous Knowledge, Art Simon discusses public fascination with celebrity deaths and recent assassination-related media-from documentaries to scholarly books to the scandalous video game JFK Reloaded-to show that the assassination continues to inspire writers, artists, and filmmakers.

Dangerous Knowledge examines the seminal works of art associated with the assassination, including Andy Warhol's silk screens, the underground films of Bruce Conner, and provocative Hollywood films like The Parallax View and JFK.  Simon's investigation places assassination art and images within a historical context-one that helps us understand what the assassination has meant to American culture.

Published by: Temple University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

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Preface to the New Paperback Edition

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pp. ix-xix

Since Dangerous Knowledge was first published, scholars of film and cultural studies have found the JFK assassination and its representation an ongoing source of fascination. Outstanding books have been written...

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pp. xxi-xxii

Many people have played important roles over the course of my work on this project. My greatest debt is to Robert Sklar. I have benefited immeasurably from his teaching and counsel, influenced by our friendship and dialogue over the years...

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Introduction: The Assassination Debates

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pp. 1-27

In March of 1992, underground rock poster artist Frank Kozik created a dazzling and outrageous advertisement for the punk bands Helmet and L7. Silkscreened in fluorescent blue, green, and gold is a blown up, grainy image of Lee Harvey Oswald, a closeup of the alleged presidential assassin at just the moment Jack Ruby...

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Part One

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pp. 29-33

Over the course of three decades, the visual representations produced around the JFK assassination have proven fundamentally unstable. Indeed, to theorize the epistemological status of such imagery is not just to insist on its instability but to register its shifting movement, its negotiation...

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Chapter 1: The Zapruder Film

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pp. 35-54

The fluctuating status of photographic imagery in the assassination debates is best illustrated by the history of the Zapruder film. It is a history punctuated by faith in the film's revelatory power and by a crisis of interpretation, by movement between epistemological certainty and anxiety over not only readings of the film but also the narratives constructed to accompany its social exposure. So central is Zapruder's film footage that it loops continuously over this entire project. Even where ...

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Chapter 2: The Body

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pp. 55-69

If the assassination debates were challenged by the shifting legibility of the film evidence, they were in fact haunted by a further, perhaps more troubling crisis of representation: the problems posed by Kennedy's autopsy. In the years immediately following the assassination, both the Zapruder film and the images produced in connection with the president's autopsy remained sequestered texts, yet not in the same way. The ...

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Chapter 3: Images of Oswald

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pp. 71-93

On June 3, 1960, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sent a memo to the State Department: "Since there is the possibility that an impostor is using Oswald's birth certificate, any current information the Department of State may have concerning subject will be...

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Part Two

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pp. 95-99

In 1964 California artist Wallace Berman created the last issue of his mail art magazine, Semina. First sent to friends and acquaintances in 1955, Semina consIsted of a large envelope containing poetry, photo graphs, verifax images - an assemblage of paper documents, some times wrapped in twine. As a collaged communique...

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Chapter 4: The Warhol Silkscreens

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pp. 101-118

These remarks by Andy Warhol aptly characterize one of the dominant features of the long debate over the death of JFK. In recollectmg his near-death dream, the pop artist suggests the degree to which the images of Dallas had become deeply...

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Chapter 5: The Pop Camp

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pp. 119-130

Andy Warhol's cover for Flash - November 22, 1963 was a characterisncally pop deformation of news imagery. A newspaper headline declaring "President Shot Dead" is overlaid with a pattern...

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Chapter 6: Bruce Conner

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pp. 131-144

A long with Andy Warhol's silkscreens, Bruce Conner's work represents the most compelling formulation of assassination discourses to come from alternative art practices during the sixties. A sculptor, assemblage artist, and collagist...

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Chapter 7: Assassination Video [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 145-157

The public debate over Kennedy's assassination once again intensified when in 1975 the Ant Farm video collective collaborated with the group T. R. Uthco to produce The Eternal Frame. 1 Invigorated by events that had challenged government...

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Part Three

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pp. 159-163

In Libra, his brilliant work of assassination fiction, Don DeLillo illustrates t1us often-remarked-upon incident of October 19, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald, watching television with his wife on a Saturday night, sees...

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Chapter 8: Executive Action

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pp. 165-181

Before the issues of the assassination debate were featured as cen tral narrative elements for a Hollywood film, they were deployed parodically in Bnan De Palma's Greettngs in 1968. There is an extraordinary scene partway through this film: Lloyd, one of the lead characters, is obsessed with the Kennedy assassination. In an attempt to verify or disprove the findings of the Warren Commission, he maps the ...

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Chapter 9: The Parallax View/Winter Kills/Blow Out

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pp. 183-203

The final image of Executive Action comprises a postscript: the eighteen photographs that appear on the screen are the faces of mate rial witnesses to JFK's murder who died, many under mysterious viewer that the odds of these people's dying during this time, as calculated by Lloyds of London, were one hundred thousand trillion to one. After its opening scene of political assassination, this is precisely where the narrative of The Parallax View picks up: with the fear of an eyewitness...

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Chapter 10: JFK

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pp. 205-219

Few contemporary AmerIcan films have attracted the attention and animosity directed at Oliver Stone's fictional reconstruction of the late sixties' New Orleans conspiracy trial. Though JFK was not released until December...

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pp. 221-222

This project really began when I saw Bruce Conner's Report for the first tlme. For years I had been reading about the assassination of JFK, casually studying its imagery and keeping pace with emerging developments...


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pp. 223-257


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pp. 259-265

E-ISBN-13: 9781439910450
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439910443

Page Count: 284
Publication Year: 2012