Law and Disorder

Realism Materialism Art. Eds. Cox, Christoph, Jennifer Jaskey and Suhail Malik. Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2014.

JUDGE: Do you think this tape has been doctored in any way or does it represent what you saw at the scene?

Amongst the more than 90 million court records that compromise the archives of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) are two videotapes shot by Liri Loshi (and Sefedin Thaqi) in the aftermath of the massacres at Izbica and Padalishte, Kosovo in March 1999. These tapes form part of its material evidence archive and were entered as exhibits during the war crimes prosecutions of Milosevic and Milutinovic. Whilst human eye-witness testimony has, since the late nineteenth century, been aided by photographs and other visual materials such as drawings and models, court proceedings are increasingly being shaped by a forensic account of events in which materially encoded ‘truths’ are narrated by experts. Forensic blood-work, such as comparative DNA analysis, offers an exemplary marker of this shift in juridical culture. Yet in order for a material object or an entity derived from a computational database to bear witness legally, given that it can’t swear to tell the truth, it must move through a sequence of bureaucratic stages that address its relevant features or structurally recompose it. The extended legal debates around the videos shot by Loshi expose the degree to which the tensions between what is captured on tape as visual information and what is captured on tape as incidental inscriptions starts to play an increasingly significant role in the narration and production of the law.


Izbica sequence1b Video frame-grabs from Liri Loshi’s footage shot in the aftermath of the Izbica Massacre, Kosovo, March 28 1999 Source: ICTY Case No. IT-05-87: Milutinovic