Tracing Liquid Evidence

Why is it necessary to develop new visual vocabularies that help us to detect slow violence, that is, violence which operates outside of the legal frameworks legitimised by dominant politics or that take place in geological time exceeding human understanding? When can we speak of a ‘navigation-image’ with an operational capacity to articulate the constellation of amnesia and denial in relation to geo-liquidities, environmental rights, and the human condition? Charles Heller & Susan Schuppli will engage in a public conversation around forensic evidence, dispersed violence, and complex forms of causality. 

The session will depart from two different forms of visual research: Susan Schuppli will present an excerpt from the Trace Evidence video trilogy, a new work exploring the geological, meteorological, and hydrological appearance of nuclear evidence. It focuses upon three events: the unearthing of ancient nuclear reactors at the uranium mine site in Oklo, Gabon in 1972, the discovery of Chernobyl’s airborne contaminates at the Forsmark power plant in Sweden in April 1986 and the 7,600 kilometre, five-year journey of Caesium-137 from Fukushima-Daiichi through the waters of the Pacific Ocean to the west coast of Vancouver Island. Despite its radical and covert nature, the unique signature and behaviour of radioactive isotopes allows its lethal traces to be tracked directly back to their source, re-connecting, in effect, the evidential links that planetary phenomena have seemingly torn asunder. Charles Heller will present Liquid Traces, a video co-directed with Lorenzo Pezzani, which offers a synthetic reconstruction of the “left-to-die boat” case of 2011. During the NATO arms embargo off the coast of Libya, 72 migrants fled the country on board a small rubber-boat and headed in the direction of the island of Lampedusa. Their boat faltered and they were left to drift for 14 days in NATO’s maritime surveillance area in the Mediterranean. As a result, only nine people survived. Contrary to the vision of the sea as a non-signifying space in which any event immediately dissolves into moving currents, this investigation demonstrated that traces are indeed left in water, and that by reading them carefully the sea itself can be turned into a witness for interrogation. 

In the framework of the transversal POOL.CH, the session corresponds to the CCC-Curriculum-related alliance with the Harun Farocki Institut for exploring the notion of ‘navigation’ with the objective towards a new political understanding of image-regimes in the 21st century, moderated by Doreen Mende.

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