I’m putting together my presentation on ‘Seeing like a military‘ for the AAG Conference in Tampa next week, but – prompted in part by my interest in forensic architecture (see also here and here) – I’ve also been thinking about other ways of seeing (perhaps ‘re-viewing’ would be better) military violence.
So I’ve been interested to read a report over at rhizome on Forensis, an exhibition and installation curated by Anselm Franke and Eyal Weizman at the Haus der Kulteren der Welt in Berlin, on ‘Constructions of Truth in a Drone Age':
Any act of looking or being looked at is mediated by technology. This is true of any scientific process too, where each tool or method of looking is developed with a purpose in mind which influences the data that it produces. This is precisely what forensic investigation reveals: not only the reality of an event, but also the intention of a viewing mechanism and the political weight of that intention once made visible. Representations of warfare illustrate this as successfully as any art object.
As part of the exhibition Forensis, now on view at Haus der Kulteren der Welt in Berlin, Forensic Architecture and SITU Research investigate drone strikes in situations where state-mandated degradation and pixelation of publicly available surveillance footage is a legal regulation rather than a visual constraint, and drones are designed to evade the digital image. Missiles are developed that burrow through targeted buildings, leaving holes that are smaller than a low resolution pixel. Attacking at “the threshold of visibility,” the legal, political, and technical conditions equally attempt to remain invisible. The job of forensics is then to recover them.
Anselm and Eyal traffic in the roots between forensics and the Roman forum, which they envisage as a ‘multi-dimensional space of negotiation and truth-finding in which humans and objects participated together in politics, law and the economy.’ The underlying argument of Forensis, the report suggests, is that ‘the object of forensics should be as much the looker and the act of looking as the looked-upon’ – which will be precisely my point in Tampa.