Forensic Aesthetics London College of Communication 31 October 2018
Wednesday 31 October
Lecture Theatre B
London College of Communication
Elephant & Castle, London
Free and open to all
This talk is in association with Art & Reconciliation: Conflict Culture and Community, a major collaborative project between King’s College London, University of the Arts London and the LSE, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council under its Partnership for Conflict Crime and Security Research Programme and the Global Challenges Research Fund. The project has explored the politics of reconciliation across the Western Balkans and beyond from a wide variety of perspectives in three strands: History, Discourse and Practice.
From 1 November – 1 December 2018 artwork commissioned by the project will be showcased in The Exchange at King’s College London and at The Knapp Gallery at Regent’s University. Alongside this, LCC is holding a series of events, including artists’ talks, seminars, and performances.
Artist Vladimir Miladinović will discuss his work from the project Rendered History, which deals with wartime and post-war trauma of the former Yugoslav societies. The project deals with the media, forensic, political and moral identification and presentation of war crimes and the current transitional ideologies of their denial and erasure. The work questions how the media and institutions in the post-Yugoslav societies create public space, and thus shape collective memory. The goal is to work with art as a form of counter public sphere that raises questions of war media propaganda, manipulation, historical responsibility and intellectual engagement.
In addition Dr Paul Lowe will present his paper: Traces of Traces: Time, space, objects and the forensic turn in photography.
Images of atrocity are deeply problematic, in that they potentially create a tension between form and content and are often accused of re-victimisation, aesthetisation of suffering, compassion fatigue and exploitation. The media coverage of conflict, disasters and human suffering is full of ethical problems. As an alternative, therefore, there is considerable potential in examining images associated with atrocity that do not depict the actual act of violence or the victim itself, but rather depict the material presence of the spaces and objects involved in such acts. As an alternative to graphic images of violence an approach to documentary photography has emerged that focuses on the traces of war and conflict rather than its direct effects on the human body. The temporality of the photograph is also fluid in this type of approach, with Bahktin’s idea of the chronotype a valuable concept to understand how the photograph can fuse time and space together into an image nature of time in the photography. Images of the absence of visible violence can lead the viewer into an imaginative engagement with the nature of atrocity, and the nature of those who perpetrate it. The spaces in which atrocities take place are often nondescript, everyday and banal, and that the items used in such violence too are often nondescript. Photography, with its optical -mechanical process, is adept at recording such banal facts of the scene, and by inviting the viewer to scan the image for minute details, often generates a tension between such mundanites and the audiences’ knowledge of the potential import of the situation garnered via a caption. Photographers such as turn their attention to the objects and detritus it produces. By photographing these ‘still lives’, and deploying an aesthetic drawn from human rights investigation and forensic images, they deal with the complex issues of the ethics of representation whilst simultaneously opening up an imaginative space in which the viewer is invited to engage in a performative interaction with the situation. They also explore alternative vehicles for the dissemination of their work, including books, exhibitions and the web. By exploiting the presence of absence in objects, they offer an alternative and powerful route to the documentation of violence. This paper explores the work of Gilles Peress, Gary Knight, Simon Norfolk, Zijah Gafic, Edmund Clark, Ashley Gilbertson, Shannon Jensen and Fred Ramos in this context.