This is a post to help me to think about truth & art; about information and misinformation.
Because I have been thinking about them this week, I am going to show you in the direction of a group of creatives who were nominated for the Turner Prize (for Contemporary Artists) in Britain in 2018 – called Forensic Architecture.
Forensic Architecture don’t call themselves artists or creatives. They call themselves a ‘research agency’. They do often choose to exhibit their work in art institutions and museums. Which is really interesting, because they are very very political. They speak about the need, when they show their work in those kind of art settings, to take care, to avoid trivialising the violence about which they speak. Which is also interesting, because it implies that that there is a potential for triviality in our galleries and our museum settings (in our art).
The practice of Forensic Architecture involves co-operation between experts in various creative disciplines: architecture, film-making, software development, law, sound engineering, and so on. The focus of the co-operation is evidence-based examination and reconstruction of acts or systems of state or corporate violence. The moral space delineated by these creatives is very clearly stated and set out:
“We want also people to know that art is not only a license to fictionalise, that the aesthetic practices could be very useful, that there are things we could do with the very basic tools and techniques we have as architects, as filmmakers, as artists. The software that we all have on our laptops could be very powerful tools in confronting state and government lies.” Examples of their work, from the top of their website: an investigation and compilation of data on the systemic crisis of justice in the US; an investigation into discrimination against migrants from sub-Saharan Africa at the Spanish / Moroccan borders of the EU.
What I think is perhaps most interesting, is that the work of this ‘agency’ is a practical extension of the notion of ‘commons’ – the investigative practice of Forensic Architecture is premised on ‘truth’ being a part of our commons. Commons meaning that which is collectively owned by everyone, for example we have common grazing land, here on the mountain in Llangyndeyrn. This takes the idea of ‘commons’ into an area where we have not been accustomed to place it. The organisation’s Director, Eyal Wiezman says:
“In my understanding, truth is something that is like a common resource. The truth is just like air or water, something that we all need in order to understand our position on earth… “
This in turn is interesting, because if truth is a commons, we need to do work, the same sort of work that needs to be done with the commons on the mountain (and the air and the water for that matter). We need to figure out ways of valuing our treasure, of tending it, allowing it to be itself, looking after it by respecting it, avoiding polluting and destroying it.
(quotes from Tate Shots Video).