Avant L’Existence (Before Existence)
Susana de Sousa Dias
Over the last 20 years, the number of fortified physical barriers separating states has more than quadrupled. The act of delimitation generates violence which resorts to different optical regimes, and through them, is itself propagated. Cartographic, satellite, and surveillance images captured by drones, infrared cameras embedded in the helmets of the military and police forces, as well as images produced by machines for machines and recognized only by them, constitute a wide spectrum of elements that give optical and epistemological advantage to those who possess them.
Satellite images of Israel and Gaza, for example, are publicly available through Google Maps at a much lower resolution than normal. The degree of blur is such that it is impossible to monitor attacks with precision. The normal resolution, however, is already beholden to a limit of visibility, even though the images exist in high-resolution: all elements that are below the dimension of 50 square centimetres (corresponding to a pixel in the image), become undetectable. This is the case of human beings and can be the case of the results of a drone strike.
This programme presents five works that operate at the intersection between art and politics, exposing these constraints and addressing ways to overcome them, making visible and audible what is intended to be kept hidden.
Two works by the investigative group Forensic Architecture, a term that also designates the group’s operating method,open the program. Drone Strike in Miranshah (2012) and Herbicidal Warfare in Gaza (2019), the latter with great relevance today, display the results of a counter-forensic practice based on an investigative aesthetic. Through the heightening of the senses (aiesthesis), as well as the use of innovative technologies and methods, such as image-data complex, to deal with the lack of complete datasets, Forensic Architecture produces evidence that goes against official narratives, repositioning the field of truth through public accessibility (“Public Truth”).
The third work presented, Walled Unwalled (2018), is directed by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, an author who has collaborated regularly with the group Forensic Architecture in the field of sound research. The film reveals how any physical barrier can be permeable and transposable through its physical properties, provided that one has the power to obtain the required technological devices. It also shows how acoustic research can be used in the production of evidence.
Rossella Biscotti’s Disorientation Notes (2020), with footage shot in an ancient proto-city in Turkey the day after the failed 2016 military coup in the country, reminds us that even possessing the geo-terrestrial location data we can feel disoriented due to the non-recognition of space. The artist relates the impermanence of our landmarks of orientation in space, such as stars, clouds, and waves, with the impermanence of the space that surrounds us.
The last film in this programme, Youssef, le vent, la Rage, avant l’existence (2017) is by Sylvain George, a filmmaker whose work has focused on migrants, particularly those trying to cross the border at Calais. Following Youssef, who wanders along the French coastline not far from England, as one with the natural elements, the film returns to us the human gaze of those who are in situ.
Susana de Sousa Dias